Subscribe to the IHARE Blog

Maximus and Milley: The Fight to Preserve the Republic

Maximus and the Republic (

Political thrillers are not merely fiction. On January 3, three days before the assault on America, I blogged about political thrillers mainly from the 1960s (Seven Days in January: This Time It Is Not a Movie). These stories tell of the efforts undertaken by people in power to maintain or increase their power through illegal means. They generally involve the President and the American military. In some cases the President may be the one reaching for power; in some cases the President may be the one seeking to prevent a military takeover.

These thrillers were written and made into movies during the height of the Cold War. The stakes were high as control of or use of nuclear weapons might be involved. There also was the real shadow of the showdown between President Truman and General MacArthur looming in the background. There even was the example of a military hero leaping directly to the presidency as General Eisenhower did after a short stint at Columbia. All in all there were plenty of ingredients for crafting a suspenseful story.

The genre was not limited to the United States. One prominent movie made along these lines was “Z.” In this story set in world of Greek politics, all the features of political intrigue were present. It almost seems quaint now that the weapon of choice for the assassination of a political challenger was a drive-by clubbing. There was nary an automatic weapon in sight. In that story, the military was the agent of power. In a time of military juntas both then and now, the common expectation is that the military undermines democracy, it does not protect it.

In the movie Gladiator, these same forces are brought to bear in the story about the Roman Empire. Maximus is a fictional character. He is contrasted with the Emperor Commodus, who attained power through assassination of his own father. Clearly based on merit, Maximus is the superior candidate. He had proved himself on the field of battle. Commodus is well aware of his shortcomings as a true warrior and leader and wisely has Maximus killed … or so he thought. Hence the story.

A telling scene in the story of these two individuals occurs when Maximus returns from the dead. He competes in the gladiatorial games. He does so quite successfully and upstages the planned performance of the second fall of the Carthage. The Emperor is expecting the barbarians to lose as they had in history but instead they succeed against Rome. Since this rewriting of history is entertainment, Commodus is not upset, he enjoys the surprise. He expresses a desire to meet the gladiator known as “the Spaniard” who effectuated the unexpected result.

The moment of truth occurs when the Emperor goes into the arena. Teddy Roosevelt’s phrase is fulfilled cinematically. The two protagonists face each other, one masked, the other “crowned.” Maximus then turns his back on the Emperor and starts to walk away. The Emperor orders him to identify himself. Maximus removes his mask, turns towards the weak insecure ruler and says:

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the TRUE emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.

Words alone are insufficient to convey the power of the moment. There is the tone, the body language, and the context. It is a defining moment in the movie. The contrast between the two figures that has been building throughout the movie explodes in this scene.

So why didn’t Commodus kill Maximus? When the moment of truth arrived, Commodus had the power to have Maximus killed on the spot. The gladiators had dropped their weapons. They were surrounded by Roman soldiers. They were outnumbered. Commodus clearly had the physical power. Yet he let Maximus live. Why?

Commodus could not have Maximus killed because he felt who had the real power. Commodus knew that Maximus was the real warrior that he was not. Commodus knew that his own soldiers knew Maximus was the superior warrior. Commodus knew that the people supported the charismatic Maximus. Finally, he knew he would have to kill Maximus Putin-style when no one was looking. Maximus had exposed the short comings of the Emperor. He was not wearing any clothes and everyone could see his weakness.

The movie uses words American audiences traditionally like. There is a ‘Senate” like the one which had confronted Joe McCarthy and “republic.”

Maximus: Quintus! Release my men. Senator Gracchus is to be reinstated. There was a dream that was Rome. It shall be realized. These are the wishes of Marcus Aurelius.

One must ignore the actual history of Rome at this point and instead consider the message being delivered through the staging of this event.  The movie asks us to understand that the fate of the Roman Republic was at stake. We are to realize that regardless of our historical knowledge, we are to support the continued existence of the Republic.

Although we did not know it at the time, the existence of the American republic was at stake after the election of November 3, 2020. We are slowly learning about what had happened. We are slowly learning that the battle is not yet over. We have yet to address what we need to do to prevent a reoccurrence of the threat so we celebrate our 250th birthday.

Milley understands the stakes. He said the same thing about the American President that Maximus did to the Roman Emperor. His precise words obviously differed. The exact circumstances were not identical. The message was though. He was and is as aware of the shortcomings of the American President. He understood that the existence of the American republic was at stake. He had no illusions about the seriousness of the situation. For the first time in American history, an American President was considering extra-illegal actions to maintain his position of power.

Years ago Michael Cohen warned us that “Mr. Trump” as he calls him would not leave the White House voluntarily if he lost. There was a lot of talk about whether or not there would be a “peaceful transition.” Task forces were created to map various scenarios. Mike Pompeo’s “joke” that there would be a peaceful transition to a second Trump term was taken as the words of a loyalist seeking to be a Presidential candidate one day. Little did we know what was going on behind the scene. The peaceful departure only happened because by then he had run out of options to remain in the White House.

We would be wrong to over exaggerate his prowess at launching a coup. At heart he remains a simpleminded immature child with the emotional maturity of a three year old. People should take Mary Trump seriously. He lacks the management and administrative skills to organize a coup just as he has lacked those skills in all his business failures. As the adult world pressed down upon him labelling him a “loser,” he responded as one would expect a child when told that playtime was over.

Commodus: But now, the people want to know how the story ends. Only a famous death will do. And what could be more glorious than to challenge the Emperor himself in the great arena?

Maximus: You would fight me?

Commodus: Why not? Do you think I am afraid?

Maximus: I think you’ve been afraid all your life.    

Despite all the posturing, Macho Macho Boy has been a sacred little boy all his life.

Putin knows this and so does Milley. The alpha male wannabe loved playing with his action figures. He loved parading them around including at Lafayette Square. The generals were Hollywood cast which is the limit of his mental necessities. Then he discovered that they were more educated than he was, that he was not the smartest person in the room when they were there, that they talked down to him because he was so simpleminded and ignorant.

His only victories were in rigged performances in the professional wrestling arena. His domination of Lafayette Square was a sham. He threatened execution for the White House worker who leaked the truth of his bunker stay. His demand of governors to dominate their cities followed the failure of the military to obey him and open fire on American citizens. Milley was the one who informed the American President of the difference between Lincoln who faced an actual revolt with the present protests. It was a signal of what was to come following the election.

One day there will be a movie about November 3, 2020 to January 6, 2021. We are learning more and more about. The movie may end with the House Commission exposing the perpetrators one-by-one as they are shown on the screen. Kevin McCarthy will not tell the truth even under oath; General Milley will tell the truth. In this political thriller, it will be the military which saves the Republic from the Republicans who cower before Donald Trump and who still protect him.

Gladiator Senate versus American Senate: We Are on Fifth Avenue Now

Derek Jacobi as a Roman Senator in Gladiator

The movie Gladiator was an action-packed blockbuster back in the time when human beings still could be heroes. Physical action leapt from the screen in some high paced rock-em-sock-em scenes. Many of them abounded in high energy in the tradition of Spartacus and Braveheart.

One of the subthemes in the movie was the role of the Roman Senate. Supposedly, the Roman Senate would provide a check and balance on the unhinged emperor. It would return Rome to being a Republic and end the excesses of personal rule by people who thought they were gods or at least above everyone else.

Although the movie dabbled in actual history, it did not create an alternate reality. There was no resurgence of the Roman Republic. Rome continued on its imperial way until it couldn’t and then the Roman Empire was no more.

Senate has a special ring to it. It sounds more august than being the member of the House, an Assembly, or a Legislature. The stature of the Senate has endured in the centuries since the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire.

Certainly the Founding Fathers of the United States had high respect and great hope for this body. It wasn’t elected by the mob. It was supposed to be a place of one betters (just as the Electoral College was). Once the era of the Virginia Presidential Dynasty ceased, the Senate did achieve the heights once anticipated by the Founding Fathers. Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Daniel Webster were giants who dominated national politics for decades regardless of what one thinks of any individual policies. Truly they were larger than life figures in American history. There even came a time when Daniel Webster could go face-to-face with Scratch, the Devil himself, and win despite a rigged jury.

George Bailey Triumphs in the Senate

Around the same time, the future George Bailey went to Washington and showed that a John Doe or Smith could prevail in the Senate with the truth on his side even against the corrupt.

The Senate today bears no resemblance to that Senate or the vision of the Founding Fathers. Quite the contrary. It has become a very small chamber devoid of any sense of the grandeur that the very word “Senate” once connoted.

Consider the words of Jeff Flake and Rick Wilson. According to the latter, the Republicans in Congress can be divided into three groups: Trumpican loyalists, Trumpican opportunists, and intimidated Republicans. Flake estimates that 35 out of 53 Republican Senators would vote to remove Little Donnee Waney if there were a secret ballot. These people know what world leaders know: the American President is an impulsive, immature, ignorant child who should be laughed at except for the power he commands. Supposedly, however, they would never vote in public to remove the Impeached One because of the hell there would be to pay from the infamous Trumpican base once their lord and savior, the chosen one, blessed be his name, unleashed them against the disloyal traitors.

True, there is no secret ballot for removal, but there are secret caucuses. Senators do meet in private. In theory, such meetings provide the opportunity for Trumpicans-in-name-only (TINOs) to voice their opinions. Presumably the TINOs know that not only should there be witnesses but that the Impeached One really did attempt to extort the Ukraine for personal gain, did attempt to cover it up, and has not told the truth. In numbers there is strength so the 35 TINOs should pack a powerful punch in the caucus. As best I can tell without being privy to “sources,” the TINOs have done no such thing. They have been cowed into submission. There are no profiles in courage. John McCain is dead.

The search for a few good men and women continues. Attention has been focused on Lamar Alexander. This senior senator is about to retire so there is nothing the Impeached One can do him. And in the roll call, he comes at the beginning. Couldn’t he get the ball rolling with a courageous vote?

Henry Fonda in Twelve Angry Men

It’s sad watching the desperate search for someone to be Henry Fonda in Twelve Angry Men, someone who through strength of character and firm resolve will resolutely lead the jurors to a just verdict. In the example of the movie it was to exonerate the innocent; in real life it is to convict the guilty.

Dream on! Consider Alexander’s fellow Tennessean Senator, Marsha Blackburn, who replaced Bob Corker. She is a far cry from Howard Baker.

American Hero and Trumpican Senator

When she attacked the patriotism and loyalty of Alexander Vindman who was living the American Dream and dared to tell the truth under oath, she unleashed the standard invective of the Impeached One. Truly she is a worthy recipient for the Nasty Trumpican of the week. She is more typical of the Trumpican Senators than the cowed TINOs.

Consider for example the actions of Mike Pompeo. He already has launched his candidacy to succeed the Impeached One in 2024. He has chosen loyalty over fighting for the people in his department. He has chosen loyalty over telling the truth about his role in the attempted extortion and coverup. He has chosen loyalty in attacking the press, especially a female reporter, in classic Trump style. And he has chosen loyalty by being stupid by choice: when the President said he would bomb cultural sites he did not really say he would bomb cultural sites. Once someone has publicaly become a stupid-by-choice Trumpican there is no turning back.

By contrast, Secretary of Defense Mike Esper has told the truth. But then again, he has no political ambitions so the Impeached One has limited leverage over him. What would he do? Fire him so he could write a book!

Speaking of which, let’s compare two bombshells: Bolton and Iran both telling the truth. As one would expect, Iran naturally trumped (lied) when the Ukrainian airplane was shot down. Then there came of moment of truth when they could live the lie no longer.

Mr. Rouhani briefed a few senior members of his government. They were rattled.

Mr. Rabei, the government spokesperson who had issued a denial that morning, broke down…. Mr. Rabei was crying. ”Everything is a lie,” Mr. Rabei said, according to Mr. Abdi [a prominent critic of Iran’s clerical establishment]. “The whole thing is a lie. What should I do? My honor is gone.”

Mr. Rabei said the government’s actions had gone “far beyond” just a lie. “There was a systematic cover-up at the highest levels that makes it impossible to get out of this crisis, he said. (“Iran’s 72-Hour Lie, From Jet Crash to Confession,” NYT January 26, 2020, print)

Compare that reaction to the White House that has been sitting on the Bolton bombshell for weeks. They lived the lie and encouraged the Trumpicans to do so while knowing full well that sooner or later the truth would come out.

The state propaganda apparatus also was having a moment of truth.

Fallout over how the plane crash was handled also spread to the official news media…with several prominent state television and radio hosts quitting their jobs, saying they could no longer lie for the government…..”Forgive me for believing it too late. I apologize for lying to you on TV for 13 years.

The journalists’ union…also issued a public apology for helping spread the government‘s misinformation about the cause of the crash. “We are currently holding a funeral service for public trust,” the statement said. “The first coffins are for state broadcast company and all media and websites.” The union called on all Iranian journalists to no longer “amplify the coverups of officials” and to conduct their reporting with skepticism and independent investigations. (In Iran, Growing Indignation and a Push for Accountability,” NYT January 14, 2020, print)

Now compare these reactions to those of the Trumpican Senators (and Fox). You have seen the clips. The eagerness of Trumpican Senators to be stupid-by-choice on behalf of the Impeached One will define them for history. In an article about the last impeachment, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz who had testified on behalf of that Impeached One, recalled a line from Congressman John Lewis about his work in the 1960s: “history just tracked me down. History tracked me down.” (“Bill Clinton’s Impeachment: The Inside Story,” by David Graham and Cullen Murphy, The Atlantic [December 2018]). Now the TINO’s face the same judgment of history. Will they be stupid-by-choice for this Impeached One? Is that how they want to be remembered?

The same article quotes James Rogan, one of the House Judiciary Committee members chosen as a manager for the Senate trial:

Trent Lott did handsprings trying to make it go away…”We don’t care if you have photographs of Clinton standing over a dead woman with s smoking gun in his hand. I have 55 Republican senators, seven of whom are up for reelection next year in very tough races. You [Republican] guys in the House just jumped off a cliff. We’re not following you off that cliff.”

Sound familiar?

Even Saturday Night Live makes an appearance in the article with Darrell Hammond who appeared as a triumphant Clinton saying:

[He was] sort of a scallywag, but only on about a Daffy Duck level. He was the kid who’d been sent to the principal’s office but now was back, and he’s okay. He didn’t get a paddling, he didn’t get a suspension, eh didn’t get after-school suspension. He was sprung free.

And once that happened, the first thing we did on the show was have him walk out there and say, “I am bulletproof.”

Sound familiar?

Here we may also observe why our immature child president was so attracted to Slick Willie as someone he could be like before he later became submissive to alpha male Vladimir Putin.

Pelosi’s gamble has paid off contrary to the wishful thinking of Scott Jennings. Time has permitted additional evidence to be exposed. That exposure may lead to witnesses being called, but in the end the TINOs will be stupid-by-choice because fear trumps integrity even in the Senate.