On a single weekend in mid-March, the dictator of Russia was reaffirmed in his official estate with 76.77 percent of the vote, after an election characterized by international observers as "overly controlled"; and the dictator of China was awarded a lifetime lease on power by 2,970 votes in the National People's Congress, with just two delegates voting no, three abstaining and one experiencing the disqualification of his ballot.
And wasn't there something else that weekend? Maybe this: The president of the United States drew near-nuclear verbal attacks for authorizing and celebrating the dismissal of the FBI's deputy director.
The disproportion here seems to me plenty plain. While two power maniacs -- un-nice antagonists of the democratic United States and of human freedom itself -- nail down their power and freedom of action, the United States turns itself inside out over... over... um... it's hard to be sure. Which is the frustrating part. And the dangerous part.
An essential point begs urgent acknowledgment before we go further. That point is the contrariness, the childishness, the sheer, whee-look-at-me-everybody vanity of Donald J. Trump. This Robert Mueller-Andrew McCabe-Jeff Sessions-John Brenner-Hillary Clinton business about Russian "collusion" and such like never had to happen.
You want to throttle Trump and jump up and down on him for letting it happen through carelessness, anger, distraction, pride, whatever, rather than waiting for the truth to out: the truth being that few know the meaning of collusion ("secret agreement or understanding for nefarious purposes," according to the Oxford English Dictionary) and fewer, probably, see any imputed "collusion" as instrumental in Trump's election. Donald, Donald, Donald: There's a time to lay on and a time to lie low. Don't you know the difference?
Uhh... no. Our president doesn't. That brings us back to the weekend's events. Two of the three most powerful figures in the world have new powers. The third -- guess who? -- is ringed with new enemies and dangers, less able, as any 3-year-old might suppose, to wield the power of the United States against enemies real and putative.
What will come out of this FBI "collusion" business, no one knows. It cannot be good. That point seems inarguable. Nothing that impairs the effectiveness of the American presidency, in the face of active enemies, can be counted as good. Doesn't the commentariat see this? Doesn't The New York Times? MSNBC? The Democratic Party? Nope. Day after day, we gotta do in Trump, gotta put him through the wringer, prepare the ground for impeachment or disemboweling.
It would be silly enough in peaceful circumstances. Our present circumstances, in terms of foreign policy, are not peaceful in the least. The diminishment of American power to influence overseas events, to aid threatened allies, in Europe or Asia, is the logical end of this whole silly furor. Gee, let's have an impeachment party! We could ask Andy McCabe to bring Stormy Daniels! That's sure to make Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping tremble and stay their hands, fearful of what a united America might do if they took over Ukraine or the South China Sea, or picked off an American ally here or there -- say, Latvia or Lithuania, in the Baltic.
Trump, it's increasingly said, is his own worst enemy. That's correct in the sense of when-silence-is-golden-how-come-our-president-thinks-it's-nickel-alloy? The least he might do is reflect that should he, through too much self-celebration, give his foes the upper hand, it's goodbye to the remaking of the federal courts through conservative appointments and to the rationalizing of Obama-era regulations that reflect the belief that true knowledge begins and ends in the District of Columbia.
Donald Trump's foes, at the same time, need to reflect on what they hope to achieve through their own inability to sit and listen -- and to talk in measured tones, no ranting, no-ripsnorting -- at a point of peril too great for democracy's sincere supporters to ignore.
At just this moment, and beyond, what our self-appointed consciences in the media and the universities and elsewhere should be saying to the country is: Get off your high horses and disengage your mouths for a moment! Except, everybody's talking too loudly to hear, far less take, such excellent advice.