By the time this column appears in print, I may be in chains and headed to Ryker’s Island or some other federal prison.
That seems like the ultimate result if retired General Michael Flynn has his way and the President declares martial law in his efforts to overturn the election. Critics will be rounded up and issued striped trousers and blouses. Well, that’s OK, I guess, as some great books have been written in prison.
Let’s get this out of the way first: General Flynn is a bat-out-of-the-belfry certifiable lunatic. And President Trump is listening to him, so he’s a cuckoo bird too.
I was one of those who was outraged how the FBI railroaded General Flynn into a bogus confession for a crime that he really didn’t commit. It was one of the most dastardly acts by federal agents I can recall. The President’s pardon of him was entirely justified. It takes nothing away from the injustice of Flynn’s treatment, in retrospect, to conclude that maybe somebody should have just thrown Flynn into a dark, dank prison and thrown away the key, innocent or not. Except, that’s not how we do things in this country, or shouldn’t. We allow people—no matter how loony—to have their say. But since Flynn was Trump’s first National Security Advisor, what he has to say has more impact than most.
This week in a conversation with a Newsmax anchor Flynn suggested it was time for President Trump to “do something” about the supposedly stolen election. To deploy military units to the states where Trump alleges he actually won the election, and to seize voting machines and records. He spoke as if it was perfectly normal for a President to declare martial law.
This week the Arizona GOP chairman urged Trump to “Cross the Rubicon.” He wasn’t talking about fording a stream to do some fly fishing. “Crossing the Rubicon” refers to Julius Caesar’s action that precipitated the Roman civil wars that led to the end of the Republic. Yeah. A party chairman urging the President to start a civil war.
Expressing such lunatic thoughts is OK, I guess. We hear crazy people on TV all the time. But we don’t later find out that they were invited to the White House to share their crazed opinions with the President.
Back in the 1960s there was a scary in its implications black and white movie called “7 Days in May” starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in a tense, taut and relatively short drama about a plot to overthrow the President in a military coup. In those days, the liberals imagined that the military was salivating at the thought of overturning the legitimate civilian authorities.
They had the real life example of the plot against President Roosevelt that was revealed in 1933 when retired Marine General Smedley Butler, a blood and guts genuine hero who won several (several!) Medals of Honor, tore the curtain away from the attempt by some rightwing business leaders to shove FDR aside. They imagined that Butler would be delighted to join them, considering his conversative views. They stunned when instead he turned them in and went before a congressional committee to testify about what they had wanted to do.
Nothing much was made about this incident. No one went to jail, and because so many prominent business leaders were involved, it was brushed under the rug. But it was real, and the author of “7 Days in May” recast the plot into a modern-day novel that was made into a film.
It wasn’t such a farfetched notion, especially since General Douglas McArthur had apparently harbored thoughts of running against Harry Truman at the same time he was defying him about Korean War policy.
General Flynn’s interview, and President Trump’s open the door to such a possibility, however remote.
President Trump should not leave the presidency with such a stain on his career. Our country was founded on a rock-ribbed principle of a peaceful transference of power. The President is endangering that tradition. And endangering the Republic.
Don’t let a real life “7 Days in May” stain our history, Mr. President. And General Flynn, perhaps you’d leave a better record behind if you imitated Smedley Butler instead of Julius Caesar.