Ferreting Out White House Corruption

Salman Rushdie

Wednesday

For a while now, various columnists (including ones from Newsweek, Vox and Washington Post) have been describing the Trump administration as the most corrupt in history. Recently it’s been Scott Pruitt grabbing the headlines and before him it was Mike Flynn, Tom Price, Ryan Zinke, Ben Carson, Jared Kushner, and of course the president.  And then there’s Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, whose shady practices are finally drawing the attention of the FBI.

We need Salman Rushdie’s Storm Baby to save us.

Storm Baby is an abandoned child who is found by a progressive New York mayor in Salman Rushdie’s fantasy work Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. The mayor explains that “Storm Doe” has very special powers:

This miracle baby can identity corruption, and the corrupt, once she has fingered them, literally begin to show the signs of their moral decay on their bodies.

This leads to satisfying scenes such as the following:

Baby Storm reentered City Hall like a tiny human minesweeper or drug-sniffing Alsatian. The mayor enfolded her in a big Brooklyn-Ukrainian hug, and whispered, “Let’s go to work, baby of truth.” What followed instantly became the stuff of legend, as in room after room, department after department, marks of corruption and decay appeared on the faces of the corrupt and decaying, the expenses cheats, the receivers of backhand payments in return for civic contracts, the accepters of Rolex watches and private airplane flights and Hermes bugs stuffed with banknotes, and all the secret beneficiaries of bureaucratic power. The crooked began to confess before the miracle baby came within range, or fled the building to be hunted down by the law.

Even a white lie, we learn, will cause one’s face to itch. Trump wouldn’t last five minutes.

In real life, of course, polygraph tests, human or otherwise, are dangerously unreliable. That’s the difference between fantasy and real life. There would also be the risk, as the #MeToo Movement is learning, of failing to distinguish between egregious crimes and lesser ones.

If Pruitt were subjected to the Baby Storm test, however, an old Danny Kaye line would be appropriate: “Order flowers for the widow.”

It so turns out that Washington is currently experiencing its own Storm Baby. Former Trump fling Stormy Daniels is insisting on full disclosure of the her liaison with the president and the hush money paid to her. Like Rushdie’s bureaucrats, Trump’s lawyers are panicking.

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