The way to convert law-abiding people into passionate fans of cheaters, the rich, and the ostrich.
We have a delightful fellow visiting town this summer while doing a sports-related internship. Like me, he is a huge baseball fan, a Yankees fan to boot. He still is grieving over the Divisional race that now seems lost for New York in the AL East; by contrast, I calmly await the Wild Card game that will allow the Yankees a second chance at the World Series. Last Sabbath we got to talking baseball during lunch, and the Rabbi in me wanted to probe a bit deeper into this young man’s character, beyond the superficialities of sport. So I asked him: “Now that we both have established to each other’s satisfaction how much we like the Yankees, what are your feelings about Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) and his legacy? Was it right that he essentially was fired peremptorily, or should he have been given the chance, when he reached 696 career home runs, to play a bit more and break the 700 barrier? And how about a chance to have broken Babe Ruth’s mark of 714? (It really was 715.) And, plain and simple, what do you think of him now?”
The young man cogitated a moment and replied: “Y’know, Rabbi. Initially I was not inclined to accept him back when he returned from his season-long suspension for taking illegal performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) because he had cheated. He had let me down. But then there was this game he played at Fenway Park against the Red Sox. The Boston fans booed him brutally. It made me cringe. And then the Red Sox pitcher started throwing baseballs at him, clearly trying to hurt him severely. At that moment, my allegiances were set: against all my own pained feelings about his cheating, I could not help but start rooting for A-Rod again. I could not just watch those people throw baseballs at him, trying to really hurt him. And he responded with such elegance and dignity — and then showed them his mettle by coming right back and hitting a towering home run to dead-center later that game. I had to root for him. And I have rooted for him ever since. But I am glad the Yankees management closed him down before he reached Babe Ruth’s mark of 714 because, at bottom, he really did cheat — even though he was so talented that he did not even need to.”
As the young man laid out his A-Rod analysis, I thought to myself that I now understand better why a law-abiding guy like me has become the Number One Paul Manafort Fan in America. Yes, I suspect he probably is a tax cheat. And if he indeed cheated, he certainly did not need to. He seems to have earned enough millions to have been set for life anyway. All of us law-abiding stiffs begrudgingly pay our taxes honorably year after year, even though we know that the Government wastes most of what we toil and struggle to acquire, except for what gets spent on defense and law and order. But the vicious Mueller investigation and the despicable way they haled Manafort to his current trial suddenly has me rooting like crazy for Manafort.
Man the Fort, Manafort! Go Paul, go!
Liberals live off the mother’s milk of whining and jealousy. They are bred to be jealous of the “rich”, jealous of the “haves”, jealous of those with “White Privilege”, now even jealous of those with “Pronoun Privilege”. (Don’t even ask.) It is the Hillary toxicity of identity politics, casting half of America into a “Basketful of Deplorables” for the other half to hate. As though African Americans have gained anything meaningful this past half century by lining up behind haters like Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan, with the Democrats persuaded that they have the African American vote in their pockets, so need not concern themselves with them. The Leftist whining and jealousy is reflected among the racists within the Black Lives Matter group and the Antifa types who oppose the police and law enforcement community but do not utter even a syllable of outrage to decry the near-genocide of Black people in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Memphis, and St. Louis. It is the racists at CNN and MSNBC and at the New York Times who whine and define every movement and twitch in racial overtones that exist exclusively in their race-centric minds… and then hire racists and haters like Al Sharpton and Sarah Jeong to fan more race hate and whining and jealousy.
Amid that Leftist whining and liberal jealousy, Manafort’s prosecutors seem intent on gaining a conviction by inciting the greenest envy and showing that he spent millions on exotic clothing, on luxurious topiary gardening, and on other trivialities and superficialities that few of us can afford. So we learn that he spent $1.4 million on his wardrobe, including $15,000 ostrich jackets and $21,000 watches. And that conspicuous consumption somehow is supposed to make his jurors so jealous that they will convict him. Of incredibly bad taste.
But I could not care less how much he spends, nor on what. If a guy has $60 million, he either is the sort who will give tens of millions to charity if he is blessed with the gift of giving — or he will not. If he does not donate his tens of millions, he may as well spend it. It’s his, not mine. What else is he going to do with it? Yet, as we learn from the silly premise behind the novel and movie Brewster’s Millions, it actually can be quite challenging to spend that much money. How do you spend $60 million if you know you cannot take it with you after burial but also have no driving desire to share it with others? I do not know because I still am working on my first million. (I am well on my way, already having accumulated several of the zeroes.) I guess he could have spent it on milkshakes, but that could have killed him before he spent it all. (Burt Baskin of Baskin-Robbins fame died of a heart attack at age 54. On the other hand, his brother-in-law, Irv Robbins, did much better, reaching 90. Less pralines and cream?) Or Manafort could have spent the $60 million on fine steaks, but same problem and same result. He could have spent $50 million on 130 expensive cars, as Jay Leno has done. But Manafort has been too busy flying around Europe and the Ukraine. And it takes so darned long to buy a car, even when you nail down the price online, by the time you finish with the finance guy — excellent practice, though, for adapting to living in solitary confinement. And you cannot wear a Mercedes or a Tesla, although presumably Manafort could have had a jacket made out of a jaguar. And of course he could have bought lots of expensive homes — just like the socialist icon, Bernie Sanders. Ultimately, though, somebody had to buy those $15,000 ostrich jackets.
Just as Hillary Clinton buys $13,000 jackets to be dressed suitably for speeches about income inequality.
None of it matters to me. If the Government takes away his ostrich, I won’t be any ost-richer. If they make him pay his fair share of taxes, that certainly would be righteous and just, but it really won’t help me. It just means that the Government will have more money to waste. In California, where I live, more money sent to the Government means they can build more trains from and to nowhere, can launch more initiatives to ban freedoms, more projects aimed at moving psychologically troubled homeless people into residential neighborhoods, away from the institutions that actually might be able to help many of them towards more productive lives. More welfare cash to dole out to hard-working people from hard-working heritages who now can be taught to stop working for a living and instead to become dependent on Democrats for life at a fraction of what they and their future generations would have if they struggled for it without Government “entitlements.”
To be sure, when the Government catches a tax cheat, that fundamentally is a good thing. Sometimes they snare someone whom we do not like anyway, like Leona Helmsley or Al Capone. In those cases, it is a “two-fer,” a double good. Alas, sometimes it can be emotionally wrenching — like when the tax evader is someone we have come to love like Jesse Owens or Willie Nelson. But at bottom, if Paul Manafort is a tax cheat — and definitive judgment has not yet been handed down — so be it, and then — in the abstract — it is good that he has been caught.
But this is not the abstract. He was not caught fair and square. Rather, a renegade Special Prosecutor directed the full force and unlimited cashbox of the United States taxpayer — me victimized, yet again — to have his seventeen or so attorneys target Manafort solely and exclusively because he ran the Trump Presidential campaign for a few months. That is the only reason they suddenly looked into his ostrich jacket and other spending of ten years ago. Otherwise, Manafort today would be prancing around freedom, gleefully wearing garments made of storks, buffalo or their wings. We all know this to be true. In an extraordinary exercise of targeted political persecution, more suitable for a Stalin-era show trial or a French Revolution guillotine party, Paul Manafort is paying the price for having chosen to side with Donald Trump during a key phase of the last Presidential election cycle.
It is despicable that this guy, possibly a major tax cheat — the jury is out, as of this writing — has been investigated, isolated, prosecuted, and brought to trial primarily because he worked for Trump. And he did a fine job for Trump, by the way, helping steady a then-rocky campaign, overseeing a remarkably efficient and effective effort behind the scenes to secure the loose delegate votes for Trump that avoided a calamitous brokered Republican convention. Manafort then helped convert chaos stemming from the Never Trumpers determined to upend the nomination into a smooth Republican convention that proceeded like clockwork despite all media predictions to the contrary. Manafort did a really good job before he had to be fired when Trump learned of the depth of Manafort’s ties to Ukrainian Government officials. The one thing Trump did not need in his political arsenal was a guy who colludes with Russians.
With each ensuing day of the Manafort trial, I find myself rooting for him more. Next they pulled out Human Ultra Slime, a new product suitable for late-night cable television commercials, in the form of one Rick Gates, a self-confessed super-liar, who testifies not only that he cheated the Government six ways to Sunday, but also that he embezzled hundreds of thousands from Manafort. I actually feel for Manafort. Imagine, that a sleazy, slimy, low-life embezzles a million bucks from you, and then he gets off the hook by promising the Government to tell a jury whatever the Government wants you to tell them in order to lock you up. Grrrrrrr.
And this Gates is the guy whose sworn testimony Mueller’s cronies want us to believe — a guy who is a proven mega-liar, a cheater worthy of being featured for a month on American Greed, who demonstrably has no loyalty to anyone, and who now has cut a deal to say whatever he has to say to stay out of prison. Uh, do you think this guy would lie under oath?
Well, d’uh. Yeah, I think so.
I never fully have worked out my A-Rod feelings. I like him very much as an ESPN baseball announcer, and I even liked him on the Shark Tank panel. Yet I also am glad that the Yankees clipped him before he reached 700, and I am glad he will not be admitted into the Hall of Fame. He never should have done PEDs, not the first time and even more especially not the second time. And then all the lying and denying that followed after he was caught. A-Rod indeed had lost my allegiance. But, like my Sabbath visitor, I came to root passionately for Alex Rodriguez again once the Red Sox started throwing baseballs at his head. I cheered when he responded a few innings later with that mighty blast. It was not that A-Rod deserved my support, but that the vile haters attacking him physically deserved for me to support him. And now that Mueller’s goons are throwing baseballs at Paul Manafort, I am rooting for him, too. Not because Manafort deserves it, but because Mueller’s goons deserve it.
If Manafort gets convicted, as far as I am concerned the President should pardon him at the first practicable moment — and send him an ostrich jacket so that he has something to wear as he strolls from solitary confinement out into freedom. And let Mueller’s goons then bury their heads in the sand.