Federal prosecutors asked former President Donald Trump for footage from a security camera that could have held classified documents and was outside a Mar-a-Lago storage room. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
By Michael Leppert
I often wonder where idioms like “a bridge too far” originate. This phrase comes from the title of the 1974 book of the same name, by Cornelius Ryan. The book tells the story of Operation Market Garden, the Allies’ plan of attack to conquer several bridges in the Netherlands in September of 1944. The goal was to establish a route over the Rhine River for an invasion into Germany.
The Allies never captured that last bridge at Arnhem, and the mission ultimately failed.
For Americans who possess apparently unrelenting fealty to former President Donald Trump, the bridges in front of them are also numerous. Trump’s influence, his top position in Republican party politics, relies on a constituency that will seemingly follow him anywhere.
Trump famously said in January of 2016, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”
In June of 2023, the zombies who support him would apparently applaud such a thing. What would the cadre of elected officials, who desperately want this crowd of voters to see them synonymously with the indicted former president, do? They might claim the NYPD is simply an arm of the evil Democratic Party, or even the sinister Biden campaign, and that arresting their dear leader for murder is merely a political stunt.
It sounds ridiculous, but it isn’t. The federal indictment that was released last week, and the arraignment scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, challenges the seriousness of murder. What!? How could an editorial writer write something so offensive? Trump just “mishandled” some paper! All politicians do it!
First of all, no they don’t. No American, a politician or otherwise, has ever done what Donald Trump is accused of here. He took sensitive, classified, dangerous documents from the White House that he was not authorized to take. That actually does happen with alarming regularity. The difference here is that the government knew he took them and went through great pains to get them back. That’s when the unprecedented and unforgivable crimes started piling up.
Secondly, it isn’t just “paper.” Behind the paper that we keep seeing pictures of on TV and social media are American lives. The reason these documents are so important is because they contain information of value to people who want to kill us. In this case, that hypothetical somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue is more likely an American armed service member stationed in the Middle East, or the Pacific, who is from Wabash or Madison, Indiana.
That paper contains national security information that has value to our enemies. It is presumably why Trump has gone through so much to keep it, though that is the primary thing missing from this saga: the reasons why. Whatever those reasons turn out to be, it certainly won’t be grounded in goodness. If it were, we would have heard about that goodness by now.
Finally, for a man who famously doesn’t read, it is suspicious to desperately cling to so much reading. His devotees don’t seem to even question this aspect. America couldn’t get him to read anything when he was president, but now he’s willing to go to jail for it.
What bridge will be too far? If it isn’t defrauding the nation’s government and endangering its people, what will it be?
Imagine Trump abruptly announcing that he now supports comprehensive LGBTQ rights, or broad abortion access. Imagine him admitting that guns are at least part of the problem with gun violence. Imagine him confirming that Vladimir Putin is a war criminal and an enemy of all humanity.
Would his following follow him over any of those bridges?
This irrational devotion is so ingrained in his minority segment of the voting public, even the former president’s intra-party political opponents have joined the club. Of the nine Republicans running against Trump for the GOP nomination, no more than two of them are even comfortable disagreeing with him.
So, why bother running? The only reason is that they are betting Trump will go too far.
The indictment that was released is damning. It is detailed, full of documentation, and profoundly serious. And here’s a tip for those not taking it seriously, the story here will get worse, not better.
Trump’s brand only exists because he believes he can never go too far. Those who worship him agree. But this craziness will end one day, like it or not. “Fealty” is defined as “fidelity to a lord.” Fidelity to lords always ultimately ends.
For most Americans, the bridge too far is way behind us. Trump and his subjects, one way or another, will reach theirs too. It’s only a matter of when.
Michael Leppert is an author, educator and a communication consultant in Indianapolis. He wrote this column for the Indiana Capital Chronicle, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where it first appeared.
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