Is outrage really this dead?

TRAVERSE CITY — Years after Watergate, President Nixon astonished the world when he told interviewer David Frost that “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” The idea is ludicrous, right? If true, that would mean we live in a kingdom not a democracy. At the time, the comment was taken as further evidence of Nixon’s dark soul. And now here we are again. Attorney General Bill Barr testified before Congress that the president can end any investigation of him if he thinks he’s innocent. Think about that for a second. The jails would be empty if the rest of us had that power. No kid would ever be responsible for breaking a lamp. The entire legal system is based on us being accountable to others. And yet here was the land’s top lawyer asserting pretty much the same thing as Nixon — that the president is the sole and final arbiter of what he can do and what he cannot. Doesn’t that mean he could, quite literally, do anything, including declaring himself president for life? Couldn’t he, as Trump has said, “stand In the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody”? Why, yes it does. If Congress doesn’t fight back, what you just witnessed is the passing of the American torch from one form of government to another. And here we sit. Is outrage really this dead?

– You probably aren’t even aware of one of the biggest news stories in Michigan in a decade because we barely have a functioning circulatory system for media anymore since the decline of newspapers. How do I know? Because if you were aware of it, you’d be pissed. The story: A panel of three federal judges has ruled that, yes, the Republican Party did in fact illegally gerrymander the hell out of the state the past 11 years so they could “enjoy durable majorities in Michigan’s congressional delegation and in both chambers of the Michigan legislature for the entire decade.” It was so bad and so egregious that the judges described the gerrymandering as “of historical proportions.” In other words, Republicans did a fantastic job of turning a blue state red by temporarily winning legislative control in a pivotal year (maps are redrawn every 10 years) then using that control to make sure they kept power. The state has until August to redraw them fairly or the judges will do it. Which is great. But the damage has been done. A state this size is like the Titanic. It’s slow to turn. So, Michigan is likely to be saddled with the effects of gerrymandering years after the lines are redrawn. What should happen, but won’t, is that judges should use the new maps to retroactively award state House, Senate and congressional seats. In other words, a do-over on recent elections. Some will say, “Hey, it’s just all part of the game.” But that’s not the case. It wasn’t merely toe-over-the-line illegal. This violated your 1st and 14th Amendment rights. Like I said, you should be pissed. At the very least, this should serve as yet another warning to voters to stop being so damned complacent. This is what Republicans — who position themselves as morally-superior patriots — actually do when they gain power: change the rules of the game.

– A Popular Mechanic story this week had this stunning headline: “60 years ago, a pilot flew a B-47 nuclear bomber under Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge.” What the what? I’d never heard about that before. Had you?

– I just saw a photo of a young woman doing the duck lip thing. I thought that most stupid of fads died about a year ago. Clearly, not everyone has gotten the memo.

– Speaking of lips, have you ever once looked at a person who has had lip enhancement surgery and thought, “That looks good”?

– Last week, I used a Harriet Tubman quote pulled from the internet that said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer.” The Harriet Tubman Boosters of Auburn, N.Y., wrote to say, the quote is “frequently misattributed to Tubman. Historians have found no reference to this quote before the 1990s. If you consider that she was illiterate (yet brilliant) and remember what she accomplished in spite of so many obstacles, you would have to recognize that she would never have spoken in such flowery language.” So, now I know. And so do you. Someone should do a book of great quotes attributed to people who never said them.

– It seems right to close with an actual Tubman quote because she was an amazing human being. So, let’s try this, also pulled from the internet, but from the Harriet Tubman Historical Society (and if they’re wrong, well, talk to them): “I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”

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Andrew Heller, an award-winning newspaper columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Follow him at andrewheller.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Write to him via email at andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com.

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