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The sun didn’t dance much the last couple of days in Sundance, Utah, but the outlaw spirit of the resort’s bank-robber namesake – Robert Redford’s Sundance Kid – did seem to permeate the place and our mood in the late-March, pro-Trump, post-Mueller America we now live in.
While most of our fellow Vailites kicked off their late spring breaks in Moab or Mexico, we chose to continue celebrating the ski season that keeps on giving – packing Nordic and alpine gear for Sundance, Yellowstone and Bozeman, Montana.
Fittingly, we arrived in Utah the evening after Sundance owner, actor, Oscar-winning director and film festival founder Redford introduced Watergate investigative reporter and author Bob Woodward for a brunch and lecture as part of the resort’s ongoing seasonal author series.
It would have been fascinating to hear his read on the late-Friday document dump of special counsel Robert Mueller’s “investigation” into the Russian hacking and influence attack on our 2016 presidential election and whether President Donald Trump conspired with the Russians.
But we just missed Woodward the way it feels as if the country is just missing Woodward, his Washington Post partner Carl Bernstein and even Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein in their roles in “All the President’s Men” – the 1976 film about Watergate and the scandal that took down President Richard Nixon.
If you grew up with Watergate as I did – a kid in the 70s largely overwhelmed by all the details of the Democratic Party break-in of the Watergate apartments and subsequent coverup by Nixon – then you know that those were the most tumultuous of times. Vietnam War protests, riots in the streets, economic turmoil. This feels very different.
And not because it’s any less scandalous. In fact, publicly inviting a hostile foreign power like Russia, led by a brutally authoritarian president like Vladimir Putin, to hack the emails of political rivals, as Trump did on the campaign trail, and all the convictions of Trump’s advisors and indictments of Russian hackers, and all of the lies by Trump and attempts to thwart Mueller’s probe seem in many ways far more consequential than Nixon’s crimes.
The difference now is no one seems to care nearly as much. Republicans certainly don’t give a damn what role Russia played. It got their man elected. Most Americans could care less as long as the stock market continues to go up and the great recession of 2008 gets farther and farther in the rearview. And even our endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq seem to be so much less significant than Vietnam, which nearly split the country in two. Just the price of “progress.”
On Sunday, Trump loyalist and recent appointee Attorney General William Barr told us all that he’d gone over the Mueller report and there was nothing to see here – that the former FBI director had found no evidence of a conspiracy between Trump and Putin. Other than the obvious stuff like Trump lying to us all about the fact he was still negotiating to build a luxury tower in Moscow while he was campaigning to be president … of this country.
And we’re all supposed to just take Barr at his word and move on blissfully about our existence of conspicuously consuming and not caring about the rule of law and the constitution and the fact that we elected a reality TV star who only thinks taxes, rules, regulations, laws and the truth apply to other people. The suckers like us.
It started raining Saturday evening in Sundance – a ski resort set so low in elevation (base area around 6,500 feet) that Redford knew he needed cultural events like film festivals and author’s series to fill in the longer shoulder seasons. But up high on the mountain Sunday it was snowing hard – a creamy cover of fresh snow that washed away the stench and cynicism of the real world.
And then there was a brunch at the Foundry Grill in the stuck-in-69 Sundance base lodge that would take anyone’s mind off the swamp overflowing in Washington and threatening to sweep all the way across the underwater Midwest to the base of the Colorado Rockies. A couple of night’s in the cozy, Storybook Stone Cottage straddling a mountain creek, and all is forgotten.
Even if it feels like we’re all fiddling while Rome burns.