We seem to be finding new levels of absurdity every day. We're living in a cartoonish bizarro world that none of us would have recognized — or could have predicted — four years ago. Events and actions that would have dominated the news cycle for weeks are big news one day and forgotten the next. The overload is taking a toll. COVID-19 is killing thousands of Americans, and instead of pulling together, we're all fighting each other about how to deal with the situation. Everything is tribal.
On Fox News there is a constant stream of rhetoric urging Americans to not be afraid to take risks. “It's time for all of us to get back to normal. We can't live in fear,” they urge, hour after hour, show after show. Of course, all of the Fox hosts and guests are broadcasting from their homes, since, apparently, going back to work is mainly for the rest of us. Chin up, America, say the likes of Ingram, Hannity, and Carlson. Masks are for losers and libs! We'll be here at home, rooting you brave folks (morons) on. Go get 'em, patriots!
Fox has been putting out poisonous blather, propaganda, and misinformation for years, but since President Trump came into office, they've taken it to new levels. It's funny how having as president a shallow, name-calling, lying, tweeting narcissist with no coherent plan — for anything — will enhance that media strategy. We're all in constant reactive mode to Trump's pop-goes-the-weasel “management” style. Round and round the mulberry bush we go.
Case in point: On Monday, the president casually mentioned he was taking hydroxychloroquine, which has recently been found to be worthless for treating COVID. This got the news cycle spinning for, oh, a good six hours.
“Will this drug harm the president?” the pundits wondered, since it's dangerous for folks with underlying conditions such as, well, age and obesity. Or, is it possible that the president was lying (gasp!) about taking the drug, perhaps to divert attention away from other matters — such as the continuing rise in the national death count from COVID, or perhaps the suspicious Friday night firing of the State Department's inspector general?
So the dividing line for the media — and soon, the rest of us — became: Is the president lying about taking hydroxychloroquine or is the White House physician really letting his most important patient endanger his health by ingesting an ineffective, possibly dangerous drug? A statement released by the president's doctor was evasive and inconclusive. The president's press spokesperson would only confirm that “the president said he was taking it.” Duh. That we knew.
So who the hell knows anything anymore? When it comes to the hydroxychloroquine brouhaha, I'm going with “the president is lying” — which is almost always a safe bet.
State Department inspector general Steve Linick was fired Friday night. The initial story was that the IG was looking into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's use of U.S. Secret Service agents to run menial errands for him — picking up food and dry-cleaning and walking the family dog. The agents purportedly referred to themselves as “Uber with guns.”
When asked about the situation, Trump escalated his sensitive and nuanced campaign to win the women's vote by saying: “I'd rather have [Pompeo] on the phone with some world leader than have him washing dishes because maybe his wife isn't there." Smooth.
But it turns out that the actual issue in question probably wasn't Pompeo's egregious use of his protection services to pick up the occasional KFC family bucket. The firing came just as Linick was near the completion of an investigation into Pompeo’s approval of a quiet little multibillion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia that appeared to end run Congress, and the IG wanted to interview the secretary of state about it.
Oops. Sorry, pal. We can't have any of that pesky oversight around this administration. Enjoy your retirement. Buh-bye.
Meanwhile, the president continued to push for an investigation of former President Obama for what Trump calls “Obamagate,” which he has been unable to define thus far. We do know it has something to do with twice-confessed felon Michael Flynn, whom Obama warned Trump not to hire because of his sketchy Russian connections. Trump immediately hired Flynn anyway. Now, Trump is saying Obama used Flynn to set him up? Whatever.
It's all nuts — a cartoon world where strippers wear masks and gloves and Alice in Wonderland logic prevails — and we all appear to be headed down the rabbit hole.