Franken: It’s the foolishness of mortals

RUINS of ancient Rome. Will the political battles of America today turn out better for us than the infighting in Rome? (Shutterstock)?

Latin is supposedly a “dead language,” meaning no one speaks it as their native tongue. Except attorneys, of course, who use it to make law indecipherable so that they can charge exorbitant billable hours to untangle the messes they create. English, in this era of antisocial media and texting, is on its way to being another dead language.

But I digress, which, by the way, is from the Latin “digressum.” Let’s regressum: Back when kids were forced to suffer through a Latin course in high school, we all were required to ponder the Roman forces crossing the Rubicon River in defiance of Senate orders (some things never change). “Alea jacta est,” meaning the “die is cast,” said Julius Caesar, and for more than 2,000 years, “crossing the Rubicon” and “Alea jacta est” have meant “Well, now we’ve gone and done it.”

So it is now, as the Democrats in the House of Representatives roll their dice and cross into impeachment land. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that her members will directly take on President Donald Trump, a wannabe emperor, and investigate him in a coordinated fashion because of his “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”

Pelosi had carefully cultivated the appearance of a Democratic leader who was resisting the wild men and wild women of her crew clamoring for impeachment. But when the Trumpster was caught apparently trying to extort the president of Ukraine to reopen an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, by withholding badly needed and authorized defense aid for that country’s fight against Russian incursion, she saw her opening.

She decided to carpe diem, launching a coordinated investigation to decide whether to proceed with full-blown articles of impeachment. Bet on their doing that by year’s end and bet on the Senate voting next not to remove Donald Trump from office — unless POTUS does something even more stupid or obscene than he already has. Since the House is controlled by Democrats and the Senate by Republicans, it doesn’t take a genius to figure all that out.

But stating the obvious is why I get the big bucks. The Trumpster didn’t even bother to deny the fundamental facts showing he was trying to muscle another head of state to get help smearing his perceived likely campaign opponent. His story changed every hour or two, even implying the whistleblower’s sources were spies: “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? With spies and treason, right?

We used to handle them a little differently than we do now.” Was that an implied death threat? No wonder he gets along so well with the Saudis. So, the obviously frightened president and the suddenly non-timid Democrats are going toe-to-toe over an alleged quid pro quo, as the Romans and the lawyers put it. It’s warfare, which will dominate the election cycle more than a year. “Tanta stultitia mortalium est,” said the ancient Romans. “Such is the foolishness of mortals.”

That’s particularly true of politician mortals. The problem is when our leaders decide they are immortal, like Donald Trump, impervious to accountability. The Democrats will want to change that. It will be a “certare usque ad mortem.”

A fight to the death.

Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN. (c) 2019 Bob Franken Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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