Illustration of a mythical kraken devouring a ship at sea

A mythical kraken

By Jacqui Banaszynski

You don’t need insider access, aka paid subscriber status, to the news to overindulge in speculation about the possible indictment coming down from a Manhattan grand jury against former President Donald J. Trump. You also probably don’t need me to recap the news, no matter where on the planet you live, but just in case:

The former occupant of the White House is looking down the barrel of charges that he paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about a sexual encounter he denies. The issue isn’t so much the sex, even in these prudish dis-United States; it centers on whether the payout violated campaign laws because it possibly affected the 2016 presidential election and therefore should have been reported.

Back to this week’s news and insider access to a story by Nate Cohn, chief political analyst. In The Tilt newsletter sent to subscribers, Cohn provided a concise and entertaining guide to multiple investigations closing in on Trump, and whether indictments (unprecedented for a current or former U.S. president) would help or hurt Trump at the polls.

Cohn launched his assessment with what could be glossed over as an easy cliché: “…we’re approaching uncharted waters.” But then, with admirable literary control, he played that out, like an ancient sailor unspooling a sounding line to determine the water’s depth.

Cohn set up his analysis with a clever acknowledgement: Even the most informed of political predictions are  political predictions are more like reading “one of those yellowish, distorted maps from the age of exploration. It offers only a rough guide of what lies ahead.”

Then he was off, in an extended metaphor that never got strained:

This is the blurry corner of the map where we can’t do much more than draw fantastical sea creatures. We know this part of the world is probably ocean, but we don’t know much else. We’re sure it’s dangerous.

We’ve learned a thing or two from previous expeditions by Donald J. Trump into rough, faraway waters. Already, he has survived multiple federal investigations, two impeachment trials and countless predictions of his political demise. Every drunken sailor at the pub knows he can’t be counted out. But if Mr. Trump has defied the odds before, he hasn’t always come back unscathed. It’s not wise to tempt fate too many times.

Cohn then provides an outline of the “map” of investigations against Trump as “we edge toward a possible indictment.”

The rest of the piece draws on polls, history and legal considerations. It wisely reaches no firm conclusion, but lays out the factors at play, including the erratic behavior of Trump, his supporters and his political opponents. Then it wraps back to the metaphor at the very end:

These possibilities lie even farther off the edge of our map. If he’s convicted, that might amount to falling off the map altogether.

Who says political analysis can’t be creative and clichés can’t be made new?

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