Charles Vignola: How the rules have changed


Donald Trump is about a month away from being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, and he’s already teeing up to be the most divisive and destructive president in American history before even taking office.

Whether it’s taunting China by talking to Taiwan, appointing inexperienced people to run agencies they’re openly hostile toward, letting his kids sit in on meetings in violation of every presidential norm, or playing chicken with the Emoluments Clause by making money off foreign leaders staying at his own D.C. hotel, Trump is trolling the country, daring polite society to call him out.

Yes, it’s clear Trump believes that because he ran a dirty, crass and toxic campaign – and won – he can keep pressing his luck, driving more than half the country crazy, doing whatever the hell he wants because there will never, ever be a day of reckoning.

Apparently, Trump has never heard the classic cliché “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” – but it’s a cliché for a reason.

Trouble is, this time the stakes aren’t just a tacky hotel or golf course, but the entire nation – and, in fact, the whole world. Anyone who thinks Trump can’t fail big time here is suffering from an alarming lack of imagination.

For their part, triumphant Republican voters are giddy that their leaders’ long con of unprecedented obstruction and holding the Supreme Court hostage worked so well, handing them control of all three branches of government.

They’re rubbing it in liberals’ faces, gorging on schadenfreude – but they’re also about to be choking on their own hypocrisy.

You see, all of those “rules” they judged President Obama by and decried when he violated them? Well, now that Republicans are back in the saddle, all of those rules are being hastily revised.

Remember when Obama’s historic elections meant Republicans could still show egregious disrespect and dissent, calling him a liar during a State of the Union, claiming he was really born in Africa and therefore an illegitimate president, and even inviting foreign heads of state to speak before Congress and criticize Obama’s policies?

Yeah, that rule has changed: now Democrats have to stop being sore losers, respect the office of the presidency again and “get over it.”

Remember when Russia was the Evil Empire? Turns out they’re not really so bad after all!

It used to be Democrats accused of being pinko socialists sympathizing with our enemies.

How times have changed: Mister “Make America Great Again” has become a modern-day Neville Chamberlain, a Commie appeaser who praises a murderous, country-invading dictator over our own president and throws the FBI and CIA under the bus to provide cover for Russia’s cyberwarfare and meddling in the U.S. election. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

Remember those conflicts of interest that disqualified Hillary Clinton from being president, exploiting her government influence to enrich her family and funnel money to her charitable foundation?

Yeah, those are the “old” rules: now it’s okay for Trump’s kids and son-in-law to serve in his administration in whatever capacity he sees fit while they also run his billion-dollar empire, which has properties across the globe in nations he’ll be dealing with as president, creating an endless string of potential conflicts.

And since Trump still refuses to share his tax returns with the American people, he’s set the stage for an historic lack of transparency for his administration and his business interests.

As a result, the press and the public will have to fight to discover what he’s doing every step of the way.

Remember when Goldman Sachs was the enemy of the working class, and Hillary Clinton was suspect because she got paid to give speeches to them?

Turns out they’re cool now – so cool that Trump has appointed former Goldman Sachs members to be his chief adviser, Treasury secretary and director of the National Economic Council.

Apparently the “Blue Collar Billionaire” has much love for the Wall Street bankers he once cynically denounced to his blue-collar supporters during his campaign.

And there’s a plethora of other rules that have quietly changed: We’ll never hear about rising labor force participation numbers again, nor increasing poverty, deficit spending or the national debt.

And remember those calls for President Obama to reach across the aisle and compromise with the minority party when it comes to crafting policy? Well, you can forget all that … or at least that’s what Republicans would like you to think.

Here’s the thing: Democrats will be exactly as respectful of President Trump as Republicans were of President Obama. And they’ll be just as cooperative in Congress to Trump’s policies as Republicans were to Obama’s.

In the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” veteran stockbroker Hal Holbrook congratulates young maverick Charlie Sheen for his recent string of successes with a gentle warning: “Enjoy it while it lasts, Bud. Because it never does.”

That’s perfect advice for Republicans tempted to overreach with their new-found power: Enjoy it while it lasts. Because it never does.

Charlie Vignola is a former college Republican turned liberal Democrat. He lives in Fair Oaks Ranch, works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.

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