Back in the 1960s when times were simpler, political thrillers were the rage. Two (fiction) books raised the topic of the end of the United States as we know it. These books were not about nuclear destruction like Failsafe and Dr. Strangelove, but were about homegrown threats: Americans acting to overthrow the government as Americans. The two books were:
Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey II (1962)
Night of Camp David by Fletcher Knebel (1965).
Seven Days in May became a “major motion picture” with Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster, a screenplay by Rod Serling, and was directed by John Frankenheimer who had just directed The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Advise and Consent also had been released in 1962. Those years really a time of political thrillers and intrigue without the violence of White House Down.
Seven Days in May was the story of an attempted military coup by a brilliant and magnetic general. It seemed realistic. The book and movie weren’t that many years after the President Harry Truman/General Douglas MacArthur confrontation. Yet in the nearly 60 years since the book, there has been no such military coup or even threat of one. The one military figure calling for one today is no-integrity Mike Flynn who is not currently on active duty. He also is not secretive about his intentions.
The military seems quite prepared to remain out of politics. It deeply resented being exploited when the Commander in-chief dominated Lafayette Park. It deeply resented being called “my generals.” And it is scared about what the immature child in the body of a man with the emotional maturity of a three-year old who has no conscience, no morals, no ethics, and at best, a very limited and simple-minded knowledge and understanding of the world situation, might do. So unlike many countries throughout the world, We the People can rest easy that the military’s loyalty is to the Constitution and not to the individual who happens to be President.
What will the military do on January 6, 2021? First, how many heavily-armed right-wing militias will heed the call of the President to assemble at the nation’s capital? Second, what will they do when they get there? In part the answer to the second question depends on the answer to the first one. It is reasonable to conclude that the more heavily-armed right-wing militia who show up, the greater the chance of violence outside the Capitol where the elected officials will vote. Will they storm the building as they did the Michigan statehouse? Will there be violence inside the Capitol? Will any elected officials be shot? At this point there is no way to know. We will have to wait and see. What we do know is that if things do get out of hand, the military still cannot intervene to restore order since the Commander in-chief who can give that order is the one behind the violence.
A “Seven Days in May” scenario is not possible.
What about Night at Camp David? In that story, a lunatic president gives into to his own paranoia and conspiratorial fantasies. All around him the adults in the room struggle to prevent him going off the rails and acting on his worst impulses. The deranged President rants about the Deep State (to use the current term) political enemies and imaginary plots against him. He continually rails against Fake News (again to use the current term). It is easy to understand why Vintage re-released the book after the 2016 election. The question the publisher promoted was “What Would Happen if the President of the U.S.A. Went Stark Raving Mad?”
The question raised was not about the President’s ineptitude and incompetence as a manager. The same shortcomings that led to his becoming a serial failure in the business world were on the full display in 2020:
1. his failure to manage the testing for the coronavirus
2. his failure to manage the vaccine distribution
3. his failure to manage the COVID relief bill beyond having a last second hissy fit.
If all he were was incompetent and inept, then we should count our blessings that he didn’t wreak more havoc then he has so far. Fortunately, he lacks the mental necessities and cognitive skills to plan and execute anything as diabolical as in a political thriller.
As it turns out, he doesn’t need to. All these political thrillers involve people who are quite secretive about their motives and actions. The storylines are about the hero who uncovers the truth. He does so despite all the obstacles placed in his way. He then must overcome the shock of believing that a president or general in the United States could do what he seemed to be doing. The hero needs to overcome his disbelief that such people in power could launch a coup.
In the real world, no such duplicity is needed. In the real world with this President, everything is out in the open and on Twitter. He wants to be President for life. He lives in an alternate universe befitting the world of an immature child trying to function in the adult world. Which is a scarier prospect – that he actually believes what he is saying about the rigged election or that he knows he lost fair and square, can’t accept it, and will do everything he can not to become a loser and be removed power? I think after weeks of saying the election was rigged, that he is 2-0, and that he won in a landslide, we should credence to the idea that both he and his followers actually do believe all the bull trump. Trumpican elected officials amazingly cite the Trumpican voter concern that the election was rigged as proof that an investigation is needed to determine whether or not the election was rigged.
Previously, it was hard to imagine an open coup openly arrived at by an incumbent President to remain in power. After all, we are not a Trumphole country, are we? However, the Trump Traitors in the House and the Senate are quite open about their attempted coup. They state their intention publicly and proudly. They have done so for the record in a suit taken to the Supreme Court. They will do so for the record on January 6 or 7 depending on when the debate ends. They do so without any qualms, hesitations, or fears that the attempt to reverse the will of the people expressed in the election will led to repercussions. They think they have nothing to lose through this coup attempt and the scary thought is that they may be right.
The political thrillers from the 1960s got in all wrong. In the real world we have an open coup attempt. How violent the attempt remains to be seen. We won’t actually know until the heavily-armed right wing militias show up January 6 and see what they do.
We also don’t know what will happen after the attempted coup fails. The traitors will remain in office without any penalty. The instigator of the failed coup will remain in office for another two weeks. For now, in his own alternate-reality mind, he can still believe the coup might work. After January 7, it will finally start to sink in that his departure from the White House really is going to happen. For the rest of his life, he will believe the lie that he really won because he needs to believe for his own mental health. But he will know finally on January 7, once and for all, that his days are numbered and the number is small. It will be time to start packing for who knows where. The countdown in days, hours, and minutes until he is gone will be displayed for him to see. The Night of Camp David is about a President who loses his mind. Somewhere between January 7 and January 20 that could happen with no adults in the room to stop him and no one to invoke in the 25th Amendment.
Note: This blog was written on Saturday prior to the criminal phone call by the President of the United States to Georgia and prior to the release of the statement from all 10 living former US defense secretaries. Obviously a followup blog is required.