A few words on those who serve Donald Trump
Some of the central bad guys in JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings were the Ringwraiths. They used to be kings among Men, who were given Rings of Power tied to Sauron’s One Ring. By accepting those rings, they soon lost all their individuality and morality, bound in service to the Dark Lord. That’s called “wraithing”.
At the beginning of our current fiasco, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo often made jokes about how Donald Trump was able to pull people into his orbit and completely break them of their individual will. He had an uncanny ability to extract odious loyalty from those to whom he would never return that loyalty. Consider Kellyanne Conway, who, when Trump began his run for the presidency, mocked him openly. She’s now turned into one of the chief of his wraiths, even to the detriment of her marriage.
As I’m writing this, Attorney General William Barr is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and perjuring himself openly and nakedly on national television.
Barr is no hero. But he did have a somewhat good reputation among the usual sectors. (How good is debatable, as even arch-conservative the late William Safire called him the “cover-up general” during his first stint as head of the Justice Department.) Watching him take this reputation, crumple it up like used newspaper, and throw it onto a dungheap in order to serve Trump has been a wonder to behold.
When he wrote the memo questioning the legality of the Mueller probe—a memo which was unsolicited—many thought “Oh, he’s snookering Trump into hiring him so that he can protect the investigation.” He was doing nothing of the sort. Before the Adderall Eye of Trump even set its gaze upon him, he was already on the way to being a Trumpwraith.
What power does Trump have over otherwise ordinary people to turn them into his obedient servants? The past two years have presented us with a litany of those who sacrificed honor—and, in some cases, their very freedom—in order to carry out Trump’s directions. What promises has Trump made? What kompromat does Trump have? Why do they so willingly debase themselves to serve an orange charlatan who can offer them nothing in return for their loyalty?
Of course, the secret of the Ringwraiths in Lord of the Rings is that, as mortals, they were already susceptible to Sauron’s blandishments. The same is true about Trump’s lackeys. You don’t hitch your wagon to a man like Trump unless you’re already heading down that road. Trump, with very few exceptions, attracts only the worst of humanity. (I’m thinking specifically of James Mattis, his former defense secretary, who managed to break the spell.) People who willingly serve Trump were already pretty awful people to begin with. Like the Kings of Men and Sauron, they willingly allowed themselves to be seduced and broken.
So, the question really isn’t “What does Trump have on them.” What he has on them is that he knows this type of person: a mark, one with an overweening need to be close to power, however corrupted. Trump is the moron Dark Lord, and his minions are nothing but willing dupes.
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