The Trial that Never Was by Thomas Martin Saturday


A 1953 book by Ewen Montagu detailed a World War II British deception operation that wanted to convince the Germans in 1943, that the next Allied landings in Europe would be Sardinia, and even Greece. They were actually going to invade in Sicily.

The British created a man with a fake identity. He was a man who had just taken rat poison; a fresh cadaver. He became “The Man Who Never Was” hence the title of the book. Everything down to the smallest detail was included, even to the point that the man had to be a member of a British Club of the right sort in London. He had Theater tickets for an upcoming performance and they made sure that if anyone made even the wildest inquiries he would check out as Major William Martin, R.M.  He had to be made real and actual. They dropped him in the sea just off the Spanish coast where Spanish authorities could reliably be expected to pass what seemed an intelligence coup on to their German confidants. They did. He carried a briefcase chained to his wrist, complete with documents indicating an invasion of Sardinia and Greece. They made sure that he would be viewed as having drowned due to his plane being shot down off the coast. Doctors informing the Germans confirmed he had drowned. The fake Major Martin had been on his way to a high level invasion planning meeting when he drowned; or so it appeared.  

So when the United States Senate voted not to call any witnesses or to obtain any related documents to those witnesses that book title leaped into my head, and I proclaimed our just concluded Senate trial fiasco of President Donald J. Trump as “the trial that never was.”

And here too, members of the Senate had to deceive themselves not to vote for conviction and removal of a president in which the facts clearly indicated his guilt in abuse of power, and obstructing the Congress from conducting the oversight function of the executive branch; extending even to the actual impeachment inquiry itself.

This modern day cover-up and deception plan executed by President Trump and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell successfully avoided the reality of the situation, and where GOP members had to deceive themselves; even ignoring their oaths to defend the Constitution from an obviously out of control president.

I’ve recently become resistant to running off to my progressive Democratic Party corner, where as in the Iowa caucuses they do just that. I have spent little energy on being always reliably a tribal Democratic liberal. For there are historical currents moving in the nation’s affairs that scream at us to not be so polarized from each other. I’ve sought out Republicans and conservatives who, while differing on most policies, think rationally, and who are willing to entertain the idea of at least limited bi-partisanship.

I’m talking about a bi-partisanship of Americans and not Democrats and Republicans. You know very well what I mean; Facebook discussions that degenerate immediately into the trolling of each other using information from our respective information media bubbles. I find it challenging not to have my head chewed off right away by partisans from that other media world.

I want to rediscover fragments of common sense Americanism we can all recall together. As an American historian, one of the liberal pointy-headed academic variety, I keep a very sharp eye on contemporary events as they make themselves known; a history that has yet to come fully into focus.

I find that my Republican or conservative colleagues, from the general and honest citizenry, are sometimes horribly misinformed, and they hotly project all the latest conspiracy theories.  I’ve argued with them, but not on what they think of a given situation, but of what is reality as to the facts of it. I’ve become an information merchant, and resumed teaching, in bits and pieces, my knowledge of such things as civics and government, the Constitution, American history and our diplomatic history; all things I know a great deal about.

I’ve got a buddy who is a conservative needing a dose of reality and information merchanting from time-to-time. When we get down to a more honest reality and find where we link up as Americans is the sweet spot of our successful friendship. He has a great mind. The guy knows a great deal about theology and paranormal activity. He has traveled much of the world in a kind of Ernest Hemingway lifestyle. He even dresses the part. I admire that.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not always right. That is something my opposing co-respondents would immediately verify; though I am often right. What if we simply listened and probed for those golden nuggets of citizen expertise, and Will Rodgers horse sense to smoothing our rough edges, and actually becoming more fully human to each other?

Two sources I often start the news day with are the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal.  Those media outlets news reporters are right down the middle and are excellent journalists. I often say that the AP has to get it right as they feed a lot of newspapers, who as members of the association subscribe to it. And the Wall Street Journal’s news operation’s high marks are that investors and entrepreneurs of all kinds must remain focused on reality and what affects the use of their money and other investments. They must have good information or they get their investment decisions wrong and lose a great deal of money. Rupert Murdoch understands this well.  Fox News? Not so much. And there are a ton of good mainstream journalists working today in investigative journalism—especially on more liberal minded newspapers and media outlets. Corruption in government seems to produce good bursts of excellent journalism. It can even do it sometimes in conservative media.

About the only commonality I find between the tribals, as I call them; fully partisan Republicans and Democrats, is an intense cynicism about democracy and our government.  As a former civics and government teacher of long standing, I’m still like the young Jefferson Smith who goes to Washington with all those ideals fully intact.   

My comeback to the cynics is that just because many of our leaders are failing to live up to the thrill and promise of the American democratic experiment, does not mean we have to jettison the whole thing in favor of some more authoritarian  destruction of that experiment.

That takes us full circle back to the failure of the United States Senate to hold this president accountable. A great deal has been made of the partisanship shown by Democrats in the House. That cannot be fully denied.

But what of Republicans who uniformly and in partisan fashion refuse to look properly at the evidence, and to grasp the historical enormity of what the President has done? They too must fail to meet the bi-partisan behavioral standard here.

For all the hate poured on to Adam Schiff, he has been making just the argument that ought to be fully heeded. In this case, and at this time, the partisan Democrats arguments on the basis of the facts and the responsibility of legislator’s oaths to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States can be asserted with integrity. It is just the way it is. Generations from now some Democrat officeholder will undoubtedly require removal on both those bases too. And Donald Trump’s sins against the Constitution are many orders of magnitude greater than the stain on the blue dress of the historic Bill Clinton; larger than Richard Nixon’s violations of the law.

Everyone knows Donald Trump cheats, and lies, and steals, and refuses to fulfill norms in his business operations, and that he has continued to act the very same way in his duties as President of the United States. Tax cuts, judges, and less regulation are nice, but are they worth betraying who we are? 2020 confronts every one of us no matter what tribe you belong to, to do the right thing. The removal of an unlawful and out of control president does not reflect badly on you simply because you voted for him or like his policies. Nevertheless, if you fail as a voter to do the right thing this November it will.

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