Heed the warning: Hamilton is the spectacle to conceal the scandal


Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended the extremely popular musical Hamilton, prompting a representative of the cast to plead with him to represent all Americans. Donald Trump tweeted chillingly about it, with seemingly little regard for First Amendment rights. As this commanded everyone's attention, a story about foreign dignitaries staying at Trump's D.C. hotel has gone largely unnoticed.

This one tweet about the cast of Hamilton addressing Mike Pence has already been shared over 100,000 times:

The message, read by cast member Brandon Dixon, was both respectful and heartfelt:

We have a guest in the audience this evening. And Vice President-elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There's nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen. There's nothing to boo here. We're all here sharing a story of love. We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out. And I encourage everybody to pull out your phones and tweet and post, because this message needs to be spread far and wide, okay?

Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us here at "Hamilton: An American Musical." We really do. We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir.

But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.

But, hours later, President-elect Donald Trump had taken to his Twitter account accusing the cast of "harassing" Pence and asserting they had made the theater unsafe, were "rude," and needed to apologize.

This was clearly false, and yet prominent commentators occupied themselves with discussions of whether the cast had been uncivil to Pence, some outright condemning or shaming them, even as Trump was issuing startling commentary mischaracterizing what happened in order to justify publicly auditing their right to free speech.

Meanwhile, Trump settled three lawsuits brought against his defunct "university," and a story by Jonathan O'Connell and Mary Jordan in the Washington Post revealed a fresh conflict of interest for the president-elect, as foreign diplomats stay and spend lavishly at Trump's D.C. hotel:

In interviews with a dozen diplomats, many of whom declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak about anything related to the next U.S. president, some said spending money at Trump’s hotel is an easy, friendly gesture to the new president.

“Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’ ” said one Asian diplomat.

This is a legitimate scandal: Not only is this a massive conflict of interest for the president-elect, but if many foreign dignitaries treat Trump's D.C. property as the place to be in order to curry favor with the new president, it will create an unstated pressure for others to stay there, lest not staying there send a message all its own.

This concern is nonpartisan:

Commentators from all quarters are rightly raising red flags. Team Trump is engaging in misdirection and obfuscation to deflect attention away from the sort of dirty dealing that will tear apart our institutions.

We must support protest, and we must concern ourselves with Trump's chilling tweets, and we must pay careful attention to the sideshows his administration creates to distract us. The sideshows often may be important in and of themselves, but we have to be aware they are sideshows.

They will throw many balls in the air, and we have to keep our eyes on all of them.