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PRICE OF AMERICA: Mark sings the ‘Mar-A-Lago Blues’

Mark sings the blues for America. Stock photo.


“Can you still sign up to sing the blues at the Rusty Nail?” I asked my son.

“Open blues jam every Tuesday,” he answered. “Are you working on something?”


Since November 2016, I’ve listened to a lot of blues. I appreciate the blues more during Black History Month—well, the blues as formed in post-Civil War South. One music historian speculated its unique rhythms, sorrow, humor and hope could only have originated in a country with one foot still in chains and a perverse relationship to power. Once in awhile, I’ll frame out lyrics to accompany a standard 12-bar blues form.

February has given us a lot of reasons to sing the blues. To start, the Senate held an acquittal ceremony for ‘Ol 45. Three of the more moderate Republican senators—Lisa Murkowksi, Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander—voted to acquit. Afterward, they admitted they believed ‘Ol 45 was guilty as the devil; they just didn’t think it was that big a deal. Susan Collins said she was pretty sure impeachment would teach Ol’ 45 “a pretty big lesson.”

Post acquittal, Ol’ 45 intervened in the Department of Justice’s sentencing of Roger Stone, leading to the resignation in protest of four prosecuting attorneys. He continues to seek out and punish disloyal “whistleblowers.” He recalled Ambassador Sondland and removed the Lieutenant Colonel Vindman from his position along with his brother (an NSC ethics attorney). He suggested DOD consider stronger punishment for the colonel, continuing a habit of intervening in military justice. Some of his staff of apologists insist the actions weren’t retribution, but Ol’ 45’s tweets contradict that.

Other staff asserted, as they have since day one, the president has the absolute right to surround himself with people who are loyal to him. “The president is entitled to staffers that want to execute policies he has confidence in,” said Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser regarding the removal of Vindman.

While many prefer a lieutenant colonel adhere to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and remain loyal to the principles of the Constitution, Mussolini and Don Corleone would agree personal loyalty trumps actual patriotism.

The “bigly lesson” Ol’ 45 learned is he can “shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose votes.” The problem isn’t that Ol’ 45 makes such bombastic claims; he’s been spouting shock-jock comments since his Howard Stern days. The problem comes from citizens who voted for and continue to defend him and idolize him—who actually want leaders that spit on the rule of law, seek to out whistleblowers, fire their friends and their enemies, and, if it becomes necessary, maintain power. Ol’ 45 is exactly what they wanted all along—a rising stock market, a strong economy for the 1% and plantation power wielded by a white man in the White House.

It may seem hard to believe for most centrists from either party—perhaps especially for kumbaya liberals, but it’s true. Deep down, a lot of Americans crave exactly this kind of leadership. Their relationship with power is so perverse; to them Roger Stone, the felon, with the Nixon tattoo on his back, is a hero. So is Nixon. To them, Woodward, Bernstein, Mark Felt (Watergate’s “Deep Throat”) and the three Republicans (Senator Goldwater, Congressman Rhodes and Senator Scott) who urged Nixon to resign were traitors. To them, laws are for the weak. The truly strong leader uses power to bend, break, or rewrite laws to their own ends. For the truly strong leader, loyalty to the person always trumps loyalty to principle.

If it sounds like democracy is gone with the wind, it might be time to dust off the guitar and head to the Rusty Nail.

“Well,” my son asked. “Let’s have it.”

I smiled and cleared my throat to sing…

“I used to work at the White House, defending dung-filled lies.

“I used to work at the White House, defending dung-filled lies.

“Now I’m at the drive-through window, ‘Hey, buddy, you forgot your fries,

“I used to work at the White House, and I tried to tell the truth.

“I used to work at the White House, Lord it wasn’t no use.

“Now my babies and I live in a box, and the box ain’t got no roof.

“I got them Mar-A-Lago Blues, I got them aw-llll night long.

“It’s the price America pays: electing folks that don’t know right from wrong.”

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