What’s interesting about Washington is how the first rule for its leaders has always been to make sure they don’t have to follow many rules. Members of Congress have their “speech or debate” clause of the Constitution, meaning that no matter how they slander someone during their official proceedings, they won’t be held legally accountable. Presidents can’t be criminally prosecuted while in office without first being impeached and removed.
What would normally be called “bribes” are “campaign contributions.” Normal standards don’t apply here. Nevertheless, there are a couple of commandments that must not be violated, at any cost. First and foremost is “Thou shalt not get caught.” That one is obvious: Perps can get away with anything unless it’s found out. There’s also the law that applies to everyone -- the Law of Gravity: What (or actually, who) goes up always comes down. What’s unique about Washington is that some fall faster than others.
For example, Donald Trump has flown above behavior that would normally cause anyone else to crash and burn. But now there are indications that even he has started to slow down because the accumulated weight of his conduct might finally have begun to be a drag.
Yes, we have heard that one before, but this time even this demagogic Houdini might not be able to escape. There are glimmers of activity from the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation suggesting that Mueller is compiling a bill of goods against Mr. Trump, who will now have to pay the full price. Michael Flynn has re-emerged as a threat: The former three-star general, then candidate Trump cheerleader and briefly (24 days) White House national security adviser, was busted for being dishonest about his contact with Russian government higher-ups. Remember, it becomes a sin in Washington only if you get caught. Flynn got caught. He copped a plea with Mueller, admitting that he lied to FBI investigators, and since then has apparently been, uh, “cooperating” with prosecutors. While President Trump has been able to fast-talk or fast-tweet his way out of one corner after another, sooner or later everything is a corner and anyone is squeezed in, even the Trumpster.
Braggadocio based on outright lies can sustain one only so long. Harsh reality catches up. When the financial markets implode because of administration policies, when his way of doing personal business is fully exposed -- and it will be -- when the facts seep out about his sleazy side deals with Vladimir Putin and the Saudis, at some point they will become too much for even part of his so-called base, the ones who are not really “deplorable,” and who are becoming uncomfortable realizing they’re consorting with genuine fascists.
Even though he’s elevated by feckless opposition Democrats who are hellbent on self-destruction, some candidate might emerge from their crowd who can dodge all of Donald Trump’s slime and take him down.
If that happens, in “go with the flow” Washington, the cowardly lions of the Republican Party, who have held their noses and timidly played along with and embraced their president, will flee the moment the tides turn against him.
He’ll learn another law deeply ingrained in the D.C. jungle: “Loyalty is for suckers.”
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.