There is a scene in the latest remake of Godzilla where Ishiro Serizawa, played by Ken Watanabe, is standing on a shoreline staring out at the sea. He is surrounded by bustling soldiers. Behind him, two giant “MUTO” creatures are beating the living hell out of San Francisco. Somewhere in the distance, a huge bulge of ocean approaches at dizzying speed: The King of the Monsters is coming. The commanding general asks if there is any hope that Godzilla can defeat the menace shredding the city. “The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in our control and not the other way around,” replies Serizawa. “Let them fight.”
This is how I’m feeling about Donald Trump and his buddies within the Proud Boys these days.
The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol building is not Trump’s only problem on that particular front; six Capitol police officers are suing him for sparking the Capitol riot, during which they were viciously assaulted, and recent court papers filed by Trump’s defense team indicate they plan to lay responsibility for the whole thing at the feet of the Proud Boys and other right-wing groups.
“Former President Donald Trump is seeking dismissal of a suit accusing him of sparking the Jan. 6 Capitol riot,” reports Bloomberg News, “arguing that speakers at political rallies don’t have a ‘legally enforceable duty of care’ to adversaries or others ‘who might find themselves in the path of impassioned supporters.’ Trump, sued in August by eight Capitol Police officers who claim they were assaulted that day, argued in a court filing that the lawsuit should be tossed out because Trump isn’t ‘vicariously liable’ for the actions of people who heard him speak at a ‘Stop the Steal’ rally before the siege.”
It ain’t “Stand back and stand by,” that’s for sure. Trump and his newest band of legal superchamps seem to be arguing that he can, in fact, yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, and if you get your face stepped on by someone fleeing the room, well, that’s your problem. This is far less theoretical than that old legal saw. With these filings, Trump is handing the bag directly over to groups, including the Proud Boys, which have been his staunchest and most menacing allies.
This appears to be yet another crossroads moment featuring Trump trying to put some wind between himself and the hardest of his hardcore allies. This split with the Proud Boys is nothing less than cold-blooded political calculus seen in hundreds of courtrooms a day: It was them, Your Honor, not me, and under the bus they go (the standard-issue fate of nearly everyone foolish enough to hitch their wagon to his star).
Last week, it was Trump parting ways with the anti-vax brigades, a move that went over with them about as well as a pole-vaulting sack of cement. Sitting for an interview with right-wing commentator Candace Owens, Trump pushed back hard on her suggestion that the vaccines were somehow flawed or dangerous. “Oh no, the vaccines work,” he replied, “but some people aren’t the ones. The ones who get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones that don’t take the vaccine. But it’s still their choice. And if you take the vaccine, you’re protected. Look, the results of the vaccine are very good, and if you do get it, it’s a very minor form. People aren’t dying when they take the vaccine.”
Vile conspiracy monger Alex Jones immediately spoke for many within the anti-vax brigades in a scathing Christmas Day message. “But now that you know that [Anthony] Fauci signed you onto a fraud, you must extricate yourself from this lie, or you will be forever known as the M.V.V.P., the Most Valuable Vaccine Pusher, and the name Trump will be associated with pure evil,” ranted Jones. “Do not go down history as Josef Mengele 2.0. Your legacy will be that of a monster. Your legacy will be that of a eugenicist. Your legacy will be that of a child killer, using medical tyranny.”
Meanwhile, the House 1/6 committee prepares to move into a more public phase of operation, sweeping in new testimony and evidence left and right, while Trump’s efforts to stop them have finally reached the Supreme Court. This is a perilous moment fraught with uncertainty: Yes, the 6-3 conservative bent of the court, including three justices he personally nominated, would seem to be a safe harbor for the embattled former president. Yet that same court had a number of opportunities to involve themselves in Trump’s favor during the post-election chaos, and they very deliberately wanted no part of it. There is no way to tell where they will come down on this.
Donald Trump seems to be running out of friends at an accelerating rate, and it is his own behavior that is creating the distance. It’s a strange decision tree he’s climbing, and puts one in mind of the old saying: What do you call a leader with no followers? Just a guy taking a walk.