I bring you glad tidings. The BBC is reviving one of the greatest historical dramas ever: "I, Claudius,” a 12-part dramatization of Robert Graves’s classic and lusty account of the reign of the Roman Emperor Caligula and his successor.
The BBC’s production, starring Derek Jacobi, is great television, because, as the Evening Express critic notes, “You don’t need to sex up the Rome of the Emperors; they did that for themselves.”
The Rome of the Caesars was a full blooded (very) riposte to those who want to make ancient history dull. It really was sensational. The bit about Caligula intending to make his horse a consul: that’s in Suetonius. Or Livia, Augustus’s wife, poisoning candidates (and there were lots) who stood between her son, Tiberius, and the throne; in the sources.
The Caligula revival also seems timely, don’t you think?
On Monday, a federal judge reiterated his ruling that the former president of the United States raped E. Jean Carroll. In a ruling tossing Donald Trump’s countersuit against his victim, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote that the verdict in the original civil trial “establishes, as against Mr. Trump, the fact that Mr. Trump ‘raped’ her, albeit digitally rather than with his penis. Thus, it establishes against him the substantial truth of Ms. Carroll’s ‘rape’ allegations.”
Meanwhile, the GOP frontrunner continues to lash out with promiscuous abandon.
He . . . attacked Tanya Chutkan, the federal judge assigned to hear the case. He delivered angry speeches in Alabama and South Carolina. He jeered the U.S. Women’s National Team, blamed President Joe Biden for its early exit from the World Cup, and unintelligibly ridiculed former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (“She is a Wicked Witch whose husbands journey from hell starts and finishes with her. She is a sick & demented psycho who will someday live in HELL!”).
“In some ways, Donald Trump’s mental state is more transparent than nearly any public figure’s,” writes David Graham. “He has no shame, little discretion, and ample channels to broadcast his feelings in real time.”
Even so, the former president’s public behavior since Special Counsel Jack Smith indicted him last week suggests a man feeling cornered. This isn’t to say that Trump is cornered—his ability to escape tough situations makes him the envy of every house cat—but his handling of the case suggests a man rattled in a way he seldom has been before.
Rattled he may be, but he’s also intent on burning it all down. And he is not alone.
Today’s NYT reports that as Trump amps up his attacks “on the justice system and other core institutions, his competitors for the Republican nomination have followed his lead.”
Several have adopted much of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric sowing broad suspicion about the courts, the F.B.I., the military and schools. As they vie for support in a primary dominated by Mr. Trump, they routinely blast these targets in ways that might have been considered extraordinary, not to mention unthinkably bad politics, just a few years ago.
Does this sound familiar to any of you?
Eight years ago, Steve Bannon, the many-shirted, hygienically challenged prince of grift declared: “I'm a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment.”
Well, they are all Bannonists now. It has become the GOP agenda.
Old and Busted Republicanism: Party of Law and Order.
The New Bannonism: DEFUND THE FBI.
To point this out is not Trump Derangement Syndrome — it is what Trump himself is promising rather explicitly. And he is bringing his entire party along.
The GOP now faces “a decision that has dramatic consequences for the rule of law.” Republicans, Baker writes in today’s paper, “must understand there is no turning back in the war between Mr. Trump and the Democrats on the battlefield of so-called justice—one he will prosecute with gusto if he is elected. There will be those who say that this is the inevitable path the party must take—a ruinous course, in my view. But Republican leaders should stop pretending they don’t know the consequences and decide whether they want to follow this perilous path.”