It used to be, back when I first started in politics, that I subscribed to every newspaper I could, and I had read them all before anyone was even at the office. I didn’t even consider it optional.
When I moved back to Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, I wondered how I would possibly keep up without The Washington Post, but life went on. In Boston, everyone read the paper because the two sports were sports and hating politicians. Which paper you read was another thing: “fancy” people read the Boston Globe; people who read on the subway favored the Boston Herald. Perversely, I favored the Herald because my mother’s old friend was the gossip columnist and always promised me a favorable mention if I could find someone. No luck.
But I could as much imagine going a day without reading the paper as I could imagine going a day without brushing my teeth. It was ingrained. Who I am.
When I was sick last year, overeager interns at the hospital decided to ignore the senior physicians, who were aware of the phenomenon called “ICU delirium.” Instead they burst into my room, turned on the lights, and started hurling questions at me that I could not answer. All I could think of was the advice I regularly give to my students in criminal law: What professional criminals do when they’re in detention is not to try to talk themselves out — which might introduce minor inconsistencies that will be shoved down their throats later. No, they shut up. That’s what I did. Finally, the interns made the critical mistake and asked the one question I would know even at the edge of life (back then, anyway): “Who is the president of the United States?”
I had them. My own name I didn’t know. Where I was I didn’t know. Why I was there I didn’t know.
“Barack Obama,” I knew. I spit it in their faces and threw them out.
God help me if I have a similar incident in the future. I might get it wrong.
For the first time in my life, I am disciplining myself to not get lost in the political gloom and doom, not get caught in the fog of misery, and most of all, to keep as far away as humanly possible from the excitement and frivolity and speculation and fun of the upcoming Inauguration Day.
I’m not doing protests. I believe in the Constitution. What I said when the smart money was on Hillary Clinton has to apply with equal force now, or the rule of law becomes an utterly meaningless concept, and that, my friends, would be far more dangerous than anything a Trump presidency presents.
So he will have his days in the sunlight. I just can stay inside. He is entitled to his parade; I just want to be ready when it ends. The one rule that the new media has only expedited is that what goes up will come down — and maybe go back up and down again. Trump will be smarter than my friends think; he will move fast to get American companies a tax break to move their money home, keep the economy revving, Janet Yellin notwithstanding.
The Democrats, who were supposed to be united, are divided in so many groups I can’t count, from the Bernie Sanders liberals to the old Clinton conservatives. Anyone who consoles herself by saying that we also didn’t see Obama or Bill Clinton coming is wrong; we did.
But for now, it’s Trump’s time. I’m not in denial, far from it. As one cabinet appointment after another is announced, it becomes clearer and clearer that this time the issue is both ideology and competence. But a president with a majority in both the House and the Senate ultimately wins most of these fights, at least until he starts losing. That, too, shall come. It always does.