And that, dear reader, was one month. One month!
We are just one month into Donald Trump’s presidency which, to put it into context, means that there are another 47 months of these fast-moving unholy cluftersucks to go. If that doesn’t sound too bad, then think of it as 192 weeks or the potential of 1344 daily scandals, leaks, meltdowns, or reasons for the US to go to war with Sweden and/or Australia. Talk about draining the swamp: the only thing left drained are the energy levels of journalists trying to make sense of it all.
Not that anybody should for one moment pity journalists. There is very little to say about the day-to-day business of writing about politics. A news feed, a keyboard, and a supply of caffeine and you should be good to go. The only other requirement is the mental space to think about stories that usually move with the speed of a Mar-a-Lago dessert trolley. There’s always time to consider the fare and ask a few probing questions about the stuff topping the sponge pudding. Or that’s how it worked before the new management came in thirty one days ago…
Under Trump, no sooner does the trolley arrive than you’re simultaneously presented with your main course as another waiter elbows in to deliver a cake fizzing with sparklers whilst a Mariachi band begins to serenade you a moment before ICE kick down the door in order to drag away the horn section on suspicion of visa violations. Stories are moving faster than a sane person’s ability to parse them.
Did you want to talk about the inauguration speech? Well, let’s go, except shouldn’t we really talk about the crowds first? Not quick enough! The real story is now Sean Spicer’s attack on the press, except isn’t the woman’s march more important? Well, yes, of course it is, but did you hear that Trump has cancelled TPP? No sooner do you start reading the small print of that deal than you look up to see Trump walking hand in hand with Theresa May which means it’s time to think about the Special Relationship and America’s role in NATO. Or you would if you’d not been distracted by the travel ban. And did you see what he said about the ‘so called judge’? Let’s grab a copy of the US constitution and see what it says about the separation of powers, but, before we can get that down to a single sentence, he’s announcing his nomination for the Supreme Court, his executive orders about pipelines, and his praise for the work that sprightly 199 year old Frederick Douglass is doing for the inner cities.
Is it time to talk Russia? Not yet. Did you hear what the President said to Malcolm Turnbull? Let’s calm down and write about that. Hit CNTL+N and open a new document. Except, we can’t because, no sooner does one phone call leak, than we hear about another in which Trump threatens to send American troops into Mexico. Or was it Chicago?
Any one of these would normally define the news cycle for a month, a year, or perhaps, even an entire presidency. The most exciting thing to happen during Martin Van Buren’s presidency (1837 to 1841) probably involved his sideburns and nothing about Chester A. Arthur’s time in the White House was as interesting as the event that put him there (the assassination of James A. Garfield). Trump, however, is a 21st century president with a 140 character attention span. There’s always something falling from his Twitter feed into a world dialled up to 10x speed with a Dead Kennedys soundtrack and a dose of Benzedrine.
So, hold the press! There’s now a phone call with China and then the security implications of a president who considers his response to North Korea over dinner whilst being watched (and filmed) by guests. Or should we write about the gung-ho military-cadet president who (at a different dinner) gave the green light to a special forces raid that ended disastrously and with the death of an American soldier and countless women and children? What about the problem with the Winter White House and how a (now pricier) membership grants a person access to the American president? Photo with the nuclear football? No problem. It’s a beautiful thing, folks. Do you want fries with that?
And, at some point, we really do need to stop and talk about the rumours of his links to Russia.
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But not quite yet because the insanity mounts. Steve Bannon is now on the National Security Council and even Mitch McConnell sips at the edge of the crazy bowl when he silences Senator Elizabeth Warren for quoting Edward Kennedy (not, as widely reported, for reading the Coretta Scott King letter). Then there’s Stephen Miller’s glassy-eyed lecture to the media in which he arrogantly proclaimed that the “powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned”. And speaking of the young and glassy-eyed: did somebody mention Milo? But before we can even figure out how to spell his surname, there’s another story developing. It’s Russia and the murky details of Michael Flynn’s telephone conversions…
Except we don’t have time. Did we mention that Iran got a warning at some point in the month? As did Nordstrom, the chain of luxury department stores and newest member of the Axis of Evil. And speaking of evil, we’ve the odd business of the Bowling Green Massacre to not talk about and then the even odder business about what didn’t happen in Sweden. Did the Swedish chef really become the face of radical Islamic terrorism?
Yet before we can dwell on any of these stories, there’s the craziest press conference in presidential history; a President who thinks a black journalist would personally know the Congressional Black Caucus; a President whining about CNN and insulting the BBC; and a President clearly obsessed with Hillary Clinton.
And we’re still not done.
At some point, the month started to resemble the latter pages of James Joyce’s Ulysses, as if Molly Bloom had joined the alt-right. Skip the frills and punctuation: the National Prayer Breakfast feud with Arnold Schwarzenegger and White House statements about Holocaust Memorial Day that failed to mention the Jews and Anti-Semitism and Obamacare and Betsy DeVos and her gun-toting bears and Jeff Sessions and the FBI and the mentally ill buying handguns and the EPA and tax reform and coal dust dumped into rivers and travel expenses costing more in a month than Obama spent in a year and the cost of protecting the Trumps and Melania stuck in Trump Tower and her ongoing litigation against The Daily Mail and the rally held in Florida and Air Force One used as a prop and the insanity of starting a re-election campaign less than a month after being elected…
And, still, how little has actually been said or written. We’ve not even got to the weird paradox: that, despite all Trump’s mistakes, there are some things he’s done well. Not all his appointments are worthy of comedy. On foreign affairs, it’s hard to think of a stronger line up than “Mad Dog” Mattis. On SNL (a show that has itself generated a number of good stories this month) it’s hard to think of somebody better than Alex Baldwin or Kate McKinnon.
And we’ve still not mentioned “fake news” or the “enemy of the people”.
The “enemy of the people”? More like the enemy of relaxation and spending some quality time with the family.
Yet we made it. We’re now into Trump’s second month and there’s not yet been a headline.
But, no sooner than I write that line, I look up to see coverage of Trump arriving at the National African-American History Museum. He’s hand in hand with Ivanka and Ben Carson, who might well be America’s new First Lady for multicultural events. “This building is about love”, whispers the President before shifting back into anti-immigration rhetoric. His speech would be believable if it weren’t so platitudinous. Everything is “very very special”, “great”, “tremendous” or “beautiful” except, of course, for anti-Semitism which is “horrible” and “very sad”.
Deep breath. Here we go again.
And we never did get around to talking about Russia.