A reporter called my house the other night. He told me there had been a report that I had removed a tag from a new mattress I bought at Costco, one of those that says, "Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law."
"No way," I said. "I've never removed a mattress tag. Fake news!"
"We have three reliable sources who claim you did."
"Well, I guess it's possible my wife might have removed it. I have no idea."
"We have video of you in your blue pajama pants snipping it off using black-handled sewing scissors made in Hong Kong."
"Okay, I removed it, but everyone does that! This is a nothing burger! I would have been foolish not to!"
That, my friends, pretty accurately represents a sequence of events that has played out over and over in the administration of President Donald Trump.
First step, after a story breaks, adamant lying: e.g. "No one in our administration ever met with the Russians."
Second step, lying partial admission: "Three of us met with one Russian, but we didn't collude or talk about the campaign at all."
Third step, admission and excuses: "Okay, a whole bunch of us met with a whole bunch of Russians and talked about the campaign, but that's standard procedure for all politicians. Nothing to see here."
Fourth step, aggressive pivot: "We would have been idiots not to meet with the Russians. It would have been campaign malpractice."
Fifth step: "Hillary, Hillary, Hillary."
Repeat, ad nauseum.
Look, if you have nothing to hide, you don't lie. You don't cover up. You don't hire lawyers. And you don't have to change your story, because you only have one story: the truth. Something is rotten here. There's a dying whale on the beach.
Now it's "Made in America" week, which is ironic considering the president's own businesses almost exclusively use foreign-made products, as do daughter Ivanka's clothing lines. Further irony came in the form of the administration's move on Monday to allow thousands more seasonal workers to enter the country — the folks who harvest our crops and, not so incidentally, work in Trump resorts and hotels as servers, maids, and lawn maintenance crews.
"Made in America" week? Their own election wasn't even made in America. More like "Hypocrisy in America" week, amirite?
Meanwhile, Sean Hannity denounced the Republicans in Congress for not funding the border wall. Is it just me, or did Trump promise that was going to be paid for by Mexico? It's hard to keep up.
During the campaign, Trump also promised a health-care plan that would ensure "health care for everyone" with no cuts to Medicaid and at a lower cost. That promise has collapsed into a raging dumpster fire, with Republicans — who have the presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress — unable to pass anything resembling a plan that would do any of that.
We are teetering forward from crisis to crisis, from outrage to outrage, from one impulsive tweet to another. Congress is dysfunctional, and the administration twitches reflexively, enduring one news story about Russia after another, while waiting to see what Special Prosecutor Bob Mueller comes up with. Most informed observers believe it will not be good news for Trump and his crew. Which will lead to more crises and more dysfunction and more division.
Trump's approval rating stands at historic lows, as more and more Americans come to recognize the mess we're in — a mess wrought with the help of a hostile power intent on destroying our democracy. Surely, we're near the bottom now (I hope), but Trump was right about one thing: Fighting our way back to some sort of competent, honest government is going to require draining the swamp. For real, this time.