National Commentary

A Cornered Rat For President

What if a cornered rat had at its disposal more power than any other person in the country? What do you think would happen as his enemies close in on him?

This is not a pretty picture, and if you think that all his allies would scurry to leave him standing alone, think again.

Wishful thinkers and those who always think it is their job to calm the public nerves don’t, of course, want anyone contemplating this. But the Mueller investigation is tightening its noose around the White House, and all those redacted pages in the Cohen documents released this week point to the certainty that, at last, Individual Number One, Donald Trump, is about to have the blinding spotlight of the law shined directly on him and him alone.

We’re already hearing the desperate bleats of a guilty, shaking, bug-eyed rat. His recent tweet barrages are evidence that he’s hearing slow and heavy footsteps moving toward him. He may already know what’s in store, at least in this next phase.

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Normally, we could say without a doubt that Donald Trump will wind up spending his last years behind bars. The evidence of his lifelong disdain for the law, beginning when he effectively signed onto the mob culture in New York, is clearly what special prosecutor Mueller and others have amassed against him. Had Trump not been fingered for serious drug or human trafficking crimes, the law might have left him alone, but he made the grievous error of winning the race for president of the U.S.

However, it is that factor which makes the outcome of all this far less certain, and potentially, at least, horrific.

In times of relative peace and stability, it is remarkable how the human spirit adapts to a mode of optimism and serenity. As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote this week about Yale professor Nicholas Christakis’ new book, “Blueprint,” due out next week, a case can be made that humans are “transcendently good…genetically wired for it, thanks to a process of natural selection that has favored people prone to constructive friendships, cooperation, teaching, love.”

The book appears to have the same optimistic tone of another Ivy League thinker, Steven Pinker, in his recent best seller, “Enlightenment Now,” and admittedly, it is refreshing to hear some better news than what our popular culture provides these days with its blizzard of dystopian, pessimistic visions of our future and the nature of the cosmos (advanced aliens being usually portrayed as purely evil).

It’s true that we humans commonly think of the bright side, due in part to the natural tendency to forget what pain feels like once one is no longer experiencing it.

But the more likely case for us, and for the cosmos for that matter, is that we are neither overwhelmingly good or bad, but capable of a wide spectrum of behaviors and motives, which is why institutions, ideas, art and writings that promote kind spirits and good behavior are so important.

What we need are not books telling us how good we are, but telling us how to cultivate goodness, and what it means in the context of a mixed-up world where good and bad coexist, and there’s no guarantee which will prevail.

Does it matter? Some would say maybe not. Out of the trillions of life-bearing planets around us, if the outcome of ours reverts to lifelessness, then there are plenty to take its place in the universe’s fight against being sucked into an eventually-universe-sized black hole.

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On the other hand, who can know? What we, in the universe’s vanguard of self-aware, reasoning and loving-capable living organisms, do know is that striving for more life, longer life, happier life is an inherently good thing.

People like Trump, and those who may launch a new civil war if necessary to defend them, are embedded in the profound, cosmic error that their gain must come at the expense of another’s loss.

People of good will must contain and defeat this error, and not underestimate its danger, especially when it is commanding the advantage of the White House.

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