There have always been people who cannot stand the thought that somewhere, someone else is having a good time. This leads to a lot of bad public policy by scolds and busybodies.
In the 1970s, when Barney Frank served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, a conservative colleague railed at him over his liberal bills: “If it’s not prostitution, if it’s not fornification [sic], if it’s not support for the rights of the Homos, then it’s legalizing dope. When, in the name of all that is holy, is the gentleman from Back Bay gonna stop? When?? When??”
Barney replied, “Mr. Speaker, it’s true that I’ve introduced bills related to pornography, gambling, prostitution, adultery, homosexuality, and now, marijuana. But I will make this commitment to my colleague: I’ll keep trying until I find something that he likes to do.”
This characteristic zinger is included in Eric Orner’s graphic novel, Smahtguy: The Life and Times of Barney Frank, a terrific blend of storytelling and detailed drawings. On June 8, Orner and Frank headlined a breakfast book chat I attended on Capitol Hill. Several of Frank’s former staffers and friends in Congress were there. One of the latter, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, has gained prominence as another smart and scrappy advocate like Barney.
The need for fearless fighters like them has not diminished.
I have been writing this as Washington’s Capital Pride parade passes below my apartment window on 17th Street. The pulse of music and cheers rising up from the crowd, like the friendly police officers I greeted earlier on my way to breakfast while the Pride block party was being set up, feels far away from the violence threatened by MAGA Republicans after Donald Trump’s indictment by special counsel Jack Smith.
The 37 criminal counts Trump faces — including making false statements, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and violations of the Espionage Act — are an historic first for ex-presidents. Yet they are not the only problem he poses as he seeks a second term.
Trump openly envies murderous dictators. In December 2022 he called for termination of the Constitution to reinstate him to power. If he is sworn in as president again on January 20, 2025, he will be hell bent on revenge against all who crossed him. And millions of Americans are cheering him on.
That last point is most crucial. A crazy person ranting paranoid delusions in a city park prompts people to keep walking and avert their gaze. The pathology in this case belongs to the 45th President of the United States.
Right-wing demagogues have gone nuts since the indictment was announced on June 8. Kari Lake, apparently eager to pull the country apart because she lost an election, said: “If you want to get to President Trump, you’re going to have to go through me, and 75 million Americans just like me. And most of us are card-carrying members of the NRA.”
That was cute, but I doubted that 75 million people would show up to prevent the former president’s arraignment. The threats against Jack Smith have me a bit more worried. It only takes one lunatic with a gun to commit murder and mayhem. The events at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 may be over, but the incitements continue.
From the June 9 Semafor Flagship newsletter: “A senior Congressional Republican, Elise Stefanik, issued a defense of Trump in a fundraising email in which the vast majority of donations were directed to Stefanik.” Grifters gonna grift.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy dares to invoke the rule of law while defending the most flagrantly criminal president in our history. It would be hilarious were it not so shameful. He and other members of Congress all took oaths to defend the Constitution. Good citizens must hold them to account.
America’s insurrectionary mood was echoed by Capital Pride’s Friday and Saturday night parties titled Riot and Revolution, though the riot alluded to here is Stonewall. It’s too bad they neglected to add a Sunday brunch called Rubble. There was of course a drag brunch.
On June 10, the former guy posted on Truth Social, “AMERICA WENT TO SLEEP LAST NIGHT WITH TEARS IN ITS EYES. SOMEDAY SOON, HOWEVER, IT WILL BE ABLE TO WIPE AWAY THOSE TEARS AND SMILE, BIGGER THAN EVER BEFORE.”
Using all caps is equivalent to shouting. Nonetheless, I join Trump in looking forward to the day when America can wipe away its tears. We simply disagree on the cause — which makes all the difference in the world. Happy Pride.