Politics & Policy

Stuck in the Soap Opera with You

(Photo: Udra11/Dreamstime)
Just when we thought things were returning to normal, James Comey’s firing brough the ghosts of 2016 back with a vengeance.

I must confess: Deep down, I had hoped things might be veering back to normal.

Scoff if you will, my weather-beaten friends — politically, we’re all a bit “warped by the rain” and “kicked by the wind,” as Linda Ronstadt once sang — but hear me out. More than 100 days into Trump’s presidency, after a long and tumultuous campaign, things were looking . . . well, maybe not entirely normal, but at least headed in that direction.

Behold, a solid list of recommended conservative federal judges! (Thus far, said list is missing the magnificent Justice Don Willett from Texas, but that can still be remedied.) Witness the idea for a gigantic wall, clearly not funded by Mexico, possibly riding off into the sunset alongside the once-promised trade war with China! Not far over the horizon, if you squint, you can see the distant flutter of tax reform. The GOP’s health-care bill, while not exactly a razzle-dazzle showbiz stunner, is certainly still better than the disastrous Obamacare, which is crumbling like an elderly sandcastle before our nation’s eyes.

As you might be muttering to yourself right now, that last clause is not entirely true: No one’s eyes are on Obamacare, are they? Instead, the nation is transfixed — woe unto us — by the unfortunate return of the fabled 2016 dumpster fire. I’m referring, of course, to Operation Stir Up the Hornet’s Nest, the unceremonious and poorly timed canning of FBI director James Comey, which has transported much of the nation, like startled time-travelers in a faulty DeLorean, right back to the trauma of last year’s presidential campaign.

For the media, it’s all there: The minute-by-minute “breaking updates,” the breathless information and misinformation, the obsessive tracking of small details — can you believe that Trump likes two scoops of ice cream each night rather than one? — and nonstop hysteria. It’s the most excruciating show on earth, and thanks to the haphazard Comey firing, it looks like it’s been renewed for a much longer run.

Weirdly enough, almost everyone knows that Comey deserved to go. One hilarious illustration of this truth came from Stephen Colbert’s late-night show, in which a disgusted Colbert announced the firing to his audience, only to be startled by their enthusiastic cheers. (Embarrassingly, after Colbert explained to his supposedly free-thinking audience that the firing was actually bad, not good, they erupted into an obedient chorus of righteous boos.)

How and why the firing was done, of course, is an entirely different matter, and opened up a giant can of worms. By the time I’m done writing this column, in fact, at least 67 contradictory news stories on this same topic will have emerged, the administration will have released at least three conflicting press statements, Sean Spicer will have craftily ridden over Niagara Falls in a locked barrel to avoid the press, and approximately 87 percent of Americans will have wandered off into the wilderness just to avoid any potential contact with a scrolling CNN chryon.

“Reality TV,” wrote Daniel Henninger in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, is an “apt metaphor” for “everything the dazed public is reading and hearing now about James Comey, the federal investigation into a Russian connection with the Trump campaign, and reveries about Watergate.” Like most reality TV, it’s a loud, tedious production. Like most reality TV — even despite the mix of bumbling and shouting and carrying on — it could also end up being a show about nothing. We’ll have to keep tuning in to find out.

When it comes to today’s politics, the other channels aren’t any better. Look to the far leftward side of the political aisle, and it’s a show dominated by scary clowns, all shouting about Marxism and body parts and identity politics and panicking over an opening of that terrifying and infamous oppressor, Chick-Fil-A. Even the political Left’s smoothest representatives — and here I’m thinking of Barack Obama, who has taken to telling “wasteful” Americans that they need to eat smaller steaks to fight climate change, even as he’s literally flown around the world on a private jet and island-hopped on a 450-foot private yacht — have rocketed into La La Land.

For all of the ponderous think pieces examining the rise of “Trumpism” — the latest, from The Nation, labels it a type of “fascism” that comes from the “petit-bourgeois American suburbs,” and no, I am not making that up — few have asked a fairly simple question: What if there is no such thing? What if, dear friends on the hardcore left, most of the people you imagine to be your political enemies aren’t even devoted Trump fans, but simply relieved the president isn’t one of you?

As for me, I remain part of a small and apparently shrinking political tribe that, to paraphrase Texas governor Rick Perry’s words from what seems like light years ago, wants the federal government to be as inconsequential in my life as possible. I know, I know: Silly me. We’ve all got a real-time soap opera to follow. On with the show.


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