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They ran through the bushes where the rabbits couldn’t go

My dad was into battles. He used to drag my sister and me down to Charleston harbor and point to Fort Sumter and tell us all about how the Civil War started as we climbed all over the cannons and stacks of cannonballs. He knew ever American battlefield from Schuylerville to Shiloh and everything in between. I once spent a rainy weekend at Gettysburg with him ticking off every monument and listening to a play by play recitation of Pickett’s Charge.

I feigned disinterest.

It turns out I kinda like battle strategy. But my genre is medieval battles. Fredericksburg? Meh. Hastings, Crécy and Agincourt? Oooo, yeah.

When I read this piece in WaPo about how Trump is handling his obvious displays of guilt, I got the battle vibe of the “Never Trumpers” immediately. They’re being overwhelmed and running for their lives:

Survivors on the Union side of the bloody battle of Shiloh reported witnessing a striking phenomenon moments before thousands of Rebels came charging through the Tennessee woods at dawn. Fauna in great abundance — rabbits and deer and squirrels and birds — made a startled dash through the Yankee camps. Thus the soldiers knew something alarming was headed their way, even before they knew what it was.

That story came to mind as I noticed a ruckus in the conservative media where President Trump finds reliable support. As a regular reader and occasional watcher of right-leaning outlets (left-leaning ones, too), I have been fascinated by the profound split Trump has caused among conservative commentators. So-called Never Trumpers don’t like him because they think he is the opposite of conservative: a radical intent on upending order and smashing tradition, twin pillars of their political philosophy. Among grass-roots partisans, though, the Never Trumpers appear to be losing sway to pro-Trump voices, if the robust ratings at Fox News are any indication.

But what struck me like the Shiloh field suddenly teeming with startled wildlife was this language of setups and entrapment because, where I come from, only guilty people trot out the I-was-stung defense. Indeed, the most infamous use of this jargon in Washington — the late Marion Barry’s “Bitch set me up!” — followed the mayor’s dismayed realization that his crack-smoking had been caught on hidden camera.

How many times have we heard from the president and his defenders that the Mueller investigation is “a witch hunt,” that “there’s nothing there” and it’s time to shut it down? As the inquiry enters its second year, Trump’s forces now appear to be falling back to a new trench. Whatever Team Trump did wrong, the FBI tricked them into doing it.

The never Trumpers tried to hold back the rebels with their voices of reason. It’s not working. But this battle doesn’t remind me of Shiloh so much as a Viking raid lead by a ships full of drug fueled berserkers screaming and biting their shields.

This is how Trump thinks he’s going to win, by feeding his supporters a PCP cocktail of insinuation and finger pointing and “I was set up! They’re trying to overturn the election!”

But it only makes him look even more guilty. The more he protests, the guiltier he looks to the rest of us and the more vigorously he whips up his base into a frenzy.

Now the whole Republican leadership is doing it, which makes me wonder if that party is implicated as well. Where does all that money lead us to?

They’re coming. It’s going to get noisy and violent. They’re looking for a weak spot in our shield wall. The only thing that’s standing between them and us is the justice department and the battle is imminent.

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