When I was a kid, my parents used to tell me all the time that I was lucky to be living in the United States because this was the only country in the world where ‘anyone could become President.’
I didn’t understand what they meant until I got older, and then I didn’t really believe that what they said was true.
What I did start to believe, however, was that the United States was the only country where anyone could wind up in jail, which is something I first realized when I was sitting in a rented car at a red light on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C.
This was back in 1987, maybe in October or November, I’m no longer sure of the exact date. I flew down to D.C. for some business meeting, rented a car, and started driving up Wisconsin Avenue through Georgetown, stopping for a traffic light maybe at the corner of P Street, maybe a few blocks either way.
It was raining, and as I waited for the light to turn green, an elderly man stepped off the curb and began trudging across Wisconsin Avenue right in front of my car. He was wearing an old raincoat and a hat pulled over his ears. His head was bowed down and in one hand he was carrying a paper which looked like it contained a quart of milk. His other hand was holding the leash of some small, mangy-looking dog.
For a second the man registered as just another old guy who had gone out before breakfast to let the dog poop and get some milk for the coffee that was probably brewing back home.
Then I recognized him.
“Holy shit!” I yelled out. “That’s John Mitchell!”
Luckily, the car windows were rolled all the way up so that I wouldn’t get wet from the rain. Nobody heard my shriek, not even Mitchell as he trundled past the front of my car and crossed the street.
Twenty years earlier, John Mitchell was Attorney General and the second most powerful person in the United States. He not only had at least a thousand federal attorneys at his beck and call, he also commanded thousands of federal law-enforcement officers in the DEA and the FBI.
And let’s not forget that Mitchell was working for a President who was ‘tough on crime.’
Meanwhile, after those five putzes were arrested trying to burglarize Democratic National HQ at the Watergate, things began to unravel. Mitchell, who had resigned from the government to manage Nixon’s 1972 campaign, eventually was convicted of both planning the break-in and then covering it up and spent 19 months at a federal lockup before being released in 1979.
Mitchell went from being a big guy to a nobody and when I saw him, living rent-free with some Georgetown dowager in return for walking her dog and doing other chores around the house. He had been disbarred after his conviction, Martha the loud-mouth wife had divorced him, and he was flat broke.
In other words, the former Attorney General of the United States was a step away from being homeless. A year after I saw him, Mitchell suffered a heart attack and dropped dead.
In a couple of years, I can see myself going down to D.C., taking the subway from the airport and getting off somewhere downtown. I’ll walk past the White House and go for a stroll across the street through Lafayette Park.
Somewhere between the group protesting the lack of gender-free public toilets on the Mall, and another group asking me to sign a petition to designate the District of Columbia as a nuclear-free zone, I’ll see a guy sitting there with a sign which says that his photo with his autograph costs ten bucks, the autograph by itself is five.
“Wait a minute,” I’ll yell out. “That’s Donald Trump!”
I wouldn’t recognize him right away because he had to shave off his orange mop while he was in the can. Or as his Mafia buddies would put it, while he was ‘away.’
But just like anyone in America can become President, so anyone can also become a felon. We’re a very democratic country and to quote the boys again, every dog has his day.