Crossing the Rubicon

  • Posted: April 18, 2023
  • Category: Blog
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Where do we go from here? There is an air of cartoon menace about. Not Batman and Marvel Comic menace, but more like Homer Simpson and Mr. Burns. Surveying my country and the world today reminds me of that long running Geico commercial – the one parodying the slasher movie. Four breathless young people, disheveled and dirty stumbling through the woods, running from some unseen horror, come to a ramshackle cabin, lights ablaze. Looking over the house and some outbuildings in the small clearing, the four breathlessly argue over what to do next.

Boy #1 – “Lets hide in the attic.”

Girl #1 – “No! In the basement!”

Girl #2 (pointing to a nearby car with door open, a tiny squeak of a voice quivering in fear) –“Why can’t we just get in the running car?”

Boy # 2 – “Are you crazy? Let’s hide behind the chain saws!” (pointing to a well lit open shed with a wall of hanging chain saws)

Girl # 1 – “Smart!!”


The actors are comic, but the situations are deadly serious. Two of our elite combat units, the 101st and 82nd Airborne, are “deployed on the Ukrainian border in a training and support exercise”. I think we’ve heard that one before. Informed opinion believes our own country executed the terrorist attack destroying the Nord Stream pipelines. The Iranian nuclear enrichment program is in sight of producing nuclear weapons while North Korea is testing ICBM’s. China blatantly maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait – a three day live fire exercise simulating an invasion of Taiwan.

But all this is on the back pages, when even talked about. There is a much more important news story; the District Attorney of New York County’s arraignment of Donald Trump. Ex-President Trump is accused by New York County of paying “hush money” to an aging porn star. Oh where have you gone Monica Lewinsky?

Is this a joke? Is this apiece of the painful gauntlet being endured by Anheuser Busch? It is one of the golden rules of advertising that “Sex Sells”, but my gosh!! Is this even sex? It feels more like a Mel Brooks script for a movie about Sodom and Gomorrah. Just take an evening to watch Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome again. The movie’s characters look right off today’s front page.

The Donald’s co-star in this Keystone Komedy is District Attorney Alvin Bragg, another of those people hailed as the first “something” in a wearisome effort to lift the mundane into meaning. Upon his election, District Attorney Bragg immediately impaneled a grand jury to investigate Donald Trump’s financial improprieties. A previous legal office holder from New York, Sol Wachtler, famously quipped that “a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich” and indeed, Mr. Bragg has duly indicted Donald Trump. I will not draw the obvious line between Sol Wachtler’s ham sandwich and our ex-President.

The common sense of the sober individuals in the room appears to be that of course Donald Trump is guilty of this and innumerable other financial improprieties; but paying “hush money to a porn star” is probably not a crime that can or should be prosecuted. Just the rumor of such a scandal was once enough to destroy a politician’s career. Obviously such time is long past. That District Attorney Bragg’s is on record as opposing the prosecution of fairly serious crimes against property and people has raised eyebrows, even among that large cohort known as “Trump haters”.

Whatever Mr. Bragg’s true motives, cynical bloggers such as myself believe Mr. Trump probably does belong in jail, or at least the doghouse. That Donald Trump was a President of the United States casts shame on our country.

Many of us, myself included, voted for him twice even as we held our nose. I believed it justified as the lesser of two evils in each instance. I thought that as a citizen of the United States, I should exercise my right to be counted. Given the way events have played out since then, abstaining may well have been the more honorable course. I think the Greek playwright, Sophocles, had it right when he said:

“If you try to cure evil with evil

You will add more pain to your fate.”

We voted for the lesser evil Donald Trump to avoid the greater one, Hillary Clinton. And as Sophocles predicted, our pain is most certainly great.

But, indicting a former President of the United States on dubious charges of an almost incidental infraction is a very serious business, particularly for young ambitious lawyers. Why would a District Attorney attempt a feat that eluded Nancy Pelosi twice?

The Democratic Party escaped disaster in the 2022 mid-term elections by making the election about Donald Trump. In many races, Democratic organizations outspent Republicans in support of Republican candidates, i.e. Republican candidates endorsed by Donald Trump. Quarterback Tom Brady became a legend throwing to his tight end, Rob Gronkowski. Why did he return time after time to “Gronk”? Because it worked!

If it worked in 2022, why not call the same play in 2024? By indicting Donald Trump on spurious charges, an obscure District Attorney has recast the Republican primary. D.A. Alvin Bragg, in the service of the progressive hive mind, has done his best to make the 2024 election all about Donald Trump once more.

And like Pavlov’s dog salivating at the ringing bell, Republicans have reacted predictably. Donald Trump’s candidacy was pronounced Dead on Arrival when announced a few months ago. But after his indictment, he is now the odds-on favorite to be the Republican nominee.

The indictment of Donald Trump is an example of the principles of asymmetrical warfare in a political context. A very small expenditure of time and effort by the Campaign to Re-Elect Joe Biden has an enormous negative impact on his Republican opponent as well as blocking his own Democratic primary challengers.

Whether this is a smart move by the Democratic Party or it unexpectedly backfires will be decided at a future date. But the smart move is not always the right move. To paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcolm of the movie Jurassic Park;

“Your politicians were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Back in the day before “Victimology” became all the rage in our educational system, most Americans were familiar with certain cultural touchstones, phrases functioning a bit like memes today. One such, “crossing the Rubicon” conveyed the image of a bold act risking everything, purposefully doing something that changed everything.

“Crossing the Rubicon” came from an incident in the life of Julius Caesar. The Rubicon is a small river in Italy, not too far east of Florence. In the time of the Late Roman Republic, the Rubicon River marked Rome’s border. Any Roman general crossing the Rubicon into the home territory of Rome with troops was committing treason, punishable by death.

But on January 10, 49 BC, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with his XIIIth Legion, ushering in 18 years of vicious civil war. Understanding why Julius Caesar did what he did and its consequences help us understand why prosecuting Donald Trump is such a bad idea.

Our politics increasingly resembles that of the Roman Republic’s last half century, a bitter rivalry between two parties becoming increasingly personal and unforgiving. While modern labels dangerously presuppose similarities not there, the Roman party of Optimates (The Best People) were conservative (Republicans) while their opponents, the Populares (Supporters of the People) were progressive (Democrats). The two parties see-sawed back and forth, winning and losing elections. The stakes growing ever higher, the animosities ever more pointed.

In the Roman system of government, the Office of Consul was the equivalent of our President, with a term of office for one year. After their year in office, a Consul was usually given the title of Proconsul and sent to a province as governor for a term of five years.

While in office as Consul or Proconsul, the officeholder was immune from prosecution. Upon leaving office and returning to Rome, they became an ordinary citizen and liable to prosecution for any and all acts while in office – with no statute of limitations. With the disintegration of the Roman Republic in its final years, criminal prosecution by an office holder’s political enemies after his term in office became the norm. To hold the office of the Consul was a sure invitation to future political prosecution in the courts.

And so on the north bank of the Rubicon River, Julius Caesar faced a choice. He was returning from ten year’s service as Proconsul in the lands comprising modern day France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and England. His career there had been of one success piled upon another. There was no doubt he had become the foremost Roman of his age, if not all ages. His term of office over, he was legally bound to transfer command of his legions to the new Proconsul in accordance with the terms of his office. That new Proconsul, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, was even now riding north from Rome to assume command.

Upon transfer of command, Julius Caesar would become a private citizen. He could then return to Rome and face almost certain prosecution, exile or even execution. Or he could choose to copy some of his predecessors who had simply retired to estates in Africa or Greece rather than return to Rome and be harried by their enemies in Rome’s litigious politicized courts.

But Caesar was an intensely proud man and greatly desired the glory that was his due. He knew that the looming court battles would deny him the thing he most desired and certainly deserved, the crowning glory of any noble Roman’s career – a Triumph. A Triumph was a parade through the City of Rome by Caesar and his men, the Roman equivalent of New York’s ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes on steroids.

Or – on the other hand . . . Caesar had ten veteran legions, some 50,00 men fanatically devoted to him. These men had followed him across Europe from victory to victory. They were a Roman army, but they were “Caesar’s Boys”, first and foremost. The elite core of the army, the VIIIth, IXth and Xth Legions, were Spanish with no particular love for the City of Rome. Without question, they would follow him to Rome itself.

And so Caesar decided to cross the river with his XIIIth Legion. The other nine legions back in the bases in the provinces began their own journey south to Rome in support of Caesar. With no organized military units in their way, they quickly took control of Rome. Caesar’s political enemies had no choice but to flee to Greece where they began to raise their own armies. And so the first phase of the Great Civil War began.

Caesar was a man of immense pride, but even though a member of the Populares he was also a conservative man of his place and time. At this remove, one can only speculate, but Julius Caesar had never shown any inclination of a desire to be a revolutionary; a king or any other kind of tyrant. To upper class Romans of all political persuasions, the idea of a king was anathema.

Julius Caesar simply wanted the respect he deserved, the glory and acclaim he felt to be his due. An immensely wealthy man in his mid-fifties increasingly subject to epileptic fits, he wanted to live out his days as an honored and respected elder statesman, as the Romans called it – primus inter pares (first among equals).

But what Julius Caesar really wanted didn’t matter. He won the Civil War in three short years but was then assassinated. His assassination on the floor of the Senate set off fifteen more years of war over his legacy. While Julius Caesar did not want to be king, his grand nephew and eventual successor, Gaius Octavius did. We meet Gaius Octavius called by his official title in that well known verse from the Gospel of Luke:

“In those days Caesar Augustus decreed that a census should be taken of the whole Roman world.”

And so Donald Trump goes on trial in a courtroom of New York County. Perhaps he will be convicted. If convicted, the United States might conceivably have its first felon as President. Another first!! We just keep finding new categories of the downtrodden whose victories over oppression can be celebrated!

But is there any doubt that a Republican District Attorney sometime somewhere will find it politically advantageous empaneling a grand jury to investigate “the big guy” in Hunter Biden’s woefully sleazy “business deals”? And then there are the Clinton’s – what NATO planners, in reference to an invasion of Europe by the Warsaw Pact, once called a “target rich environment”.

It started out like that in the Roman Republic. Whatever legal consequences fall to the real or imagined malfeasances of Donald Trump, Joe Biden or the Clintons is probably deserving and of minor long-term consequence. But it will be noted by the future seekers of office. And somewhere out there is a future Julius Caesar taking careful note of actions and consequences.

2 Responses to “Crossing the Rubicon”

  1. Gary Dorn says:

    Who does one vote for, a candidates personality or their policies? Go President Trump!

  2. Steve says:

    While former President Trump may have committed crimes and maybe should be punished, this is probably not going to be the one that brings him down. Trump’s appeal, I believe is he is not an insider when it comes to politics. I too, voted for him twice and only because I feel he is the lesser of two evils; but that does not make him less evil.
    I just wonder with people like this Bragg fella why he would go after this high hanging fruit and not go after the Clinton’s or Biden’s? When is there going to be someone going after these people. Trump and his antics pale in comparison to what goes on everyday in the senate and congress. A slush fund of tax payer dollars is used often every year to hush sexual dalliances. Where is the prosecution for those “crimes”?

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