Column: Grab your sanitizer and face masks — it’s Republican dirty trick season

Donald Trump
President Trump boards Air Force One to visit a Ford plant in Michigan.
(Alex Brandon/ Associated Press )

Grab your swimsuits, soggy face masks and social distancing yardsticks. It’s beach time in a plague year!

In the intoxicating swirl of corn dogs, benzodiazepines and blank terror — I mean fun in the sun — don’t forget to mark another great American occasion, one we get to enjoy only once every four years: Dirty Tricks Season.

That’s right, with the presidential election coming in November, it’s time for the williehortoning, swiftboating, pizzagating, birthering and butheremailing that passes for Machiavellian wizardry among the Republican sweathogs.

There will be some unsavory cloak-and-dagger by Democrats, sure, but history shows us that the slopsuckers of Trumpworld will set the seasonal tone.


They’re the snickering bully boys who still get the giggles putting rats on the teacher’s chair. They’re happy to infest the whole school with vermin from the Kremlin if that’s what’s on offer. (“I think I’d take it!” as President Trump said of any filth peddled by Russia.)

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has powerful cards to play in his showdown with the president in the Michael Flynn case.

So prepare for months of hashtag contrivances designed with increasing desperation to recast lifelong square Joe Biden as Lucifer himself and mark all Democrats with the sign of the beast. President Trump has been rehearsing at least one vapor word he hopes will do the trick: Obamagate.


The pile Trump dips into for his smear jobs keeps getting bigger and more rank. But his recent claims about his enemies are kinda ... weird. Recently he suggested that cable news everyman (and Never Trumper Republican) Joe Scarborough murdered a woman who died of natural causes 20 years ago. Scarborough didn’t.

In the last few days, Fox News has been trying hard to squeeze a scandal out of a snoozer email memo by Susan Rice, former national security advisor to President Obama, memorializing that her boss told James B. Comey, then the FBI director, to do things “by the book” in running down Trump appointee Michael Flynn’s Russia contacts.

Still awake? Not exactly crack pipes or Chappaquiddick, is it? But the dirty tricksters want you to believe it is sure and certain proof of a cover-up of deep state crimes against Trumpworld.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) condemned this kind of ruthless politicking by Republicans in a speech during an Intelligence Committee hearing last year: “You might think” all the ways the Trump campaign made common cause with Russians “is OK,” he said. “I don’t.”


Schiff was right: The entire Republican Party, including warhorse Karl Rove, who as of Thursday is advising the Trump campaign, evidently sees collaboration with Russia and the whole deck of dirty tricks as “just what you have to do to win.”

Admittedly, some of the marquee tricksters from the 2016 effort are ... indisposed. Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Julian Assange are convicted felons. Flynn, popularizer of the empty threat “lock her up” among other sins, is deep in the barrel.

The howling madness of Infowars, Milo Yiannopoulos and even Breitbart has been muted. Cambridge Analytica, purveyor of the greasiest of greasy data tricks on Trump’s behalf, has been dissolved (at least by that name). The reliably Trumpite gunslinger the NRA is in financial free fall. Antiabortion forces even took a hit this week when it was discovered they paid Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” in Roe vs. Wade, to pretend she’d fully converted to their cause in the 1990s.

Plenty more are lined up to take their place. Rove’s decision to get back into the game suggests he’s thrown over any loyalties to his old meal ticket, the Bush family. His reported stock in trade as an operative has always been the sicko insinuation — this one’s a pedophile, that one has a love child, she has brain damage. Expect some creepy and hazy Biden innuendo from Rove’s corner to choke the air all summer.


And remember that Robert S. Mueller III — the man who ran that investigation into the president’s Russia ties that netted 199 criminal charges, 37 indictments or guilty pleas, and five prison sentences — warned us that the Kremlin’s “thoroughgoing and systematic” attack on American democracy wouldn’t stop.

“It wasn’t a single attempt,” Mueller said in July 2019. “It’s happening as we sit here.”

And it’s happening as we sit here, nearly one year later. As Franklin Foer recently reported in the Atlantic, Vladimir Putin is on his way to stealing the 2020 election for Trump. This time, according to Foer, the Kremlin has sharpened its focus on rigging voting machines. (Shudder.)

Such highly skilled hacking will dovetail nicely with classic Republican dirty tricks. Expect Trumpites and Russians and of course the president himself to prime public outrage over fictional voter fraud. The biggest dirty trick of all? Allowing Trump an opportunity to reject the whole election as illegitimate.


This is the weekend summer starts. It’s going to be long, disease-ridden and Trump-campaign-poisoned season. Your job till Nov. 3 is to protect yourself from contagion — and then vote.

Happy Memorial Day.