As Lee Harvey Oswald inched through a throng of cops and reporters in the hallway of a Dallas police station hours after his arrest for the murder of President John F Kennedy on November 22, 1963, he said something that resonates today in connection with another president.
“I’m just a patsy,” the small, dishevelled and bruised accused assassin shouted above the din.
Oswald never got to explain what his cryptic message meant since he would soon be dead, shot by a local nightclub owner as he was being paraded before the press like an impish trophy in an underground parking lot.
Was it a curious way of declaring his innocence? Was he suggesting that the police needed a “fall guy” and he, conveniently, was it? Or was Oswald saying that while he indeed was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy, he was the sacrificial “patsy” who would allow other, more powerful co-conspirators, to escape justice?
For what it’s worth, I believe Oswald shot Kennedy and he did it alone.
Still, Republican and Democratic presidents know that in order to protect the commander-in-chief from fatal political jeopardy, a White House stocked with loyal patsies – ready, willing and able to serve the “greater good” – is ideal.
No one rivals Donald Trump’s ability to fashion an assembly line of patsies that has so far allowed him to get him out of stiff jams before, during and after his presidency.
Look, I detest Vladimir Putin’s bestie, but you have to marvel at “Don” Trump’s facility to convince oodles of largely capable people to swear allegiance to him at the risk of losing their job, reputation and freedom.
They include lawyers, accountants, wives, family, paramours, grovelling TV executives, cable news personalities, newspaper editors and reporters, politicians and violent insurrectionists, all prepared to do his sinister bidding – whatever the legal consequences.
In Trump’s “patsy” calculus, gender, age, income, education, even politics are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is unquestionable fidelity to Donald J Trump.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former go-to consigliere and self-confessed patsy was sentenced to three years in jail for a bunch of crimes, most notably making hush money payments during the 2016 presidential campaign to keep two women from talking publicly about having sex with the married candidate.
In August, Allen Weisselberg, the Trump organisation’s veteran money man, pleaded guilty to 15 felony counts ranging from grand larceny to tax fraud while acting as the taciturn chief financial officer of the family’s byzantine business.
The latest to join that hall of patsies is Christina Bobb – whether she is prepared to admit it or not. The 39-year-old decorated marine turned lawyer leveraged her staunch conservative credentials into a gig as a political commentator on an obscure cable outfit – One America News (OAN) – that treats Trump more like a celestial saviour rather than a terrestrial train-wreck.
While there, she also parroted his lies about an election he lost. So, he hired her to join his “team” in the midst of the Department of Justice (DOJ) probe into why the 45th president hoarded top-secret documents at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.
More experienced lawyers politely rebuffed Trump when he asked for their help to ward off an encircling DOJ. They likely noticed that serving this president usually translates into being stiffed, smeared or landing in prison.
So why would Bobb say “Aye, aye, sir” to Trump, when a library of memoirs by burned ex-patsies exists, describing his foul history of disloyalty and discarding once true “believers”?
I suspect that, like those who were used and jilted before her, Bobb’s life was unremarkable. Trump was the route out of anonymity.
After leaving the Marines, she reportedly landed a job as a “junior lawyer” with a California law firm, working on patent infringement cases.
In 2014, she ran as an independent for a House of Representatives seat in a safe Democratic district in San Diego. She finished last. By 2019, she was a cog in Washington, DC’s sprawling bureaucracy. Her glamorous title: executive secretary. Her prospects for promotion: zero.
A nobody looking to become somebody, Bobb began her “reporting” career at OAN, when, shortly, Trump’s impressed surrogates came calling.
It is, I am convinced, this intoxicating combination of position and being shoulder-to-shoulder with someone close to power that feeds the delusion among patsies that Trump is seized by any motive other than how the latest dupe can be of use to him. Bobb may have discovered Trump’s cynical modus operandi a touch late to avoid possibly going to jail too.
At the urging of another Trump lawyer, Bobb signed a statement last spring insisting that all the president’s men and women who made up his “legal team” had conducted a “diligent search” of Mar-a-Lago and had found only a few more sensitive documents the DOJ wanted back. According to the New York Times, neither Trump nor any other member of that “legal team” was prepared to sign the document.
Bobb added the following caveat before the sworn statement was delivered to a top-tier DOJ official on June 3, 2021: “The above statements are true and correct to the best of my knowledge.”
Turns out, the sworn statement wasn’t “true”, nor was it “correct”. It was false.
On August 8, 2022, the FBI raided Trump’s tawdry Florida facsimile of Xanadu and unearthed hundreds more hush-hush records.
It looks like Bobb got played. That’s what happens to patsies who want to get near to the spray-on-tanned face of an old, accomplished grifter they want added to Mount Rushmore.
Now, Bobb is the focus of federal prosecutors investigating whether “her actions constitute obstruction of justice or if she committed other crimes.”
Of course, every president has had his patsies. Richard Nixon relied on them to help him survive Watergate for as long as he did. But, eventually, he ran out of them. Nixon understood that he had two choices: resign or be impeached by both chambers of Congress. He quit.
Unlike Nixon, Trump will never quit so long as he can continue to cajole and persuade a host of people to volunteer to take the fall for him.
So, while Bobb faces the DOJ’s heat, “Don” Trump continues to skate – figuratively speaking. He may well skate back into the White House – with a little help from his patsies, er, friends.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.