Monster swamp vs. swamp monster: A D.C. allegory

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Politically speaking, Iím caught between a rock and a hard place, or more appropriately between a monster swamp and a swamp monster.

The swamp is the bipartisan disaster known more formally as the federal government. The monster is President Donald Trump, whose out-sized self-caricature approach to life makes him more of a tormented DC Comics superhero (or supervillain?) than a D.C. politician.

There is no way I am going to support the swamp and its bureaucratic morass, which has a bottomless national debt and the moral code of a toothy gator. But accepting Trump on his own terms means you have to accept him as a ďmuck-encrusted mockery of a man,Ē as the original Swamp Thing was characterized. Sure, he means well, but he is so elemental and so alien from what we are familiar with that he is terrifying not just to the Fake News Media whom he battles for control of the swamp, but also to the rest of us who are just distant observers on dry land.

No one likes the Twitter bombs that Trump dumps on the unsuspecting swamp creatures every morning. They are untidy and reckless. But no one liked the real bombs dropped on Dresden, Berlin or Hiroshima either. They were anything but tidy, but they got the job done.

If you know anything about Trump, it is that he is at war, and like Gens. George Patton, Ulysses S. Grant and Douglas MacArthur, he cares less about winning a popularity contest than winning the war.

The swamp creatures in Congress and the media pretend they like things nice and tidy, but thatís only because they are so deep inside the mud that they have no idea just how dirty they are. I guess weíd all like things nice and tidy at some level, and thatís why the swamp has survived so long. By keeping our eyes closed, we can pretend the muck doesnít stink. We can pretend that senators and congressmen are statesmen instead of power-grubbing pigs living in the muck and feeding at the public trough.

It would be awesome if someone would clean the mess up, we tell ourselves, but we forget that cleaning up a swamp means getting your hands dirty. In some measure, Trump disappoints us not because he fails, but because he makes us confront our own part in allowing the swamp to exist.

To reference a superhero who pre-dates comic books by a couple millennia, it was Hercules who was tasked with cleaning up the filthy Augean stables that housed 3,000 head of cattle. According to Greek mythology, the stables had not been cleaned in over 30 years, a strangely fitting number since it also closely approximates the time period since Ronald Reagan tried to clean up Washington in the 1980s.

Hercules used his strength and his cunning to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of cleaning up the stables. It remains to be seen whether or not Trump will have similar success in draining the swamp, but it should be pointed out that Hercules did not get credit for his remarkable labor. Nor may Trump, but I venture to say that he will leave Washington, D.C., a fresher place than when he found it.

Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana. He can be reached at

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