If a reality television host isn’t on television, does he even really exist? Few people have longed for love and admiration the way our president has. And for a while the actual duties of the presidency itself scratched that itch, delivered that rush. But as the days have bled into weeks and the president’s horrendous governing has created crisis after crisis, he has needed to get that rush from somewhere else.
Early on in his presidency, after a short break, Donald Trump started doing rallies again, and they were delicious for him. He led chants of “lock her up” directed at any women who got in his way. Every crisis, from the border cagings to impeachment, was the fault of fake news and the far-left Democrats.
But then came the pandemic, and while Trump wasn’t completely sure about the science (he predicted early on that “there’s a theory that, in April, when it gets warm ― historically, that has been able to kill the virus”), he submitted to stopping the rallies.
And so again the reality television host found himself without television, and more specifically without an outlet for his rage. But after a few weeks of climbing the White House walls, he found one: the coronavirus briefings, which were marginally about coronavirus but mostly were an opportunity for the president to voice his many complaints and resentments toward everyone from blue-state governors to journalists. While these briefings largely lacked any actual news, they scratched the itch the president needed scratched.
And then came Bleachgate. During these press conferences, the president would spend hours freestyling on infectious medicine (and perhaps getting a bit over his skis) and pushing dangerous and untested drugs (remember hydroxychloroquine?). But he had never suggested something quite and mind-numbingly moronic as injecting bleach—until he did. It was a stupid that was too big to spin. “And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that."
Of course, the administration tried to spin it because they always do, saying the president was just being sarcastic. Trump said, "I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen."
But it was a demarcation line. Last Friday’s briefing included no questions, Saturday’s and Sunday’s and Monday’s briefings were canceled, until about mid-afternoon on Monday when presidential Fox News blond human press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced the Monday presser was back on. And what a presser it was. It included a slew of corporate overlords (CVS, Kroger, WalMart, and so on), and Trump gave them the mic at first.
But inevitably, as the primetime minutes ticked on, the president grew tired of their careful corporate doublespeak and took the mic for himself, and then it was the Trump show again. “I think we’ve made a lot of really good decisions” (he hasn’t). What happened to Flynn “should never happen again in this country” (it should). And “I built the greatest economy in the history of the world” (he didn’t).
The president’s Thursday went from bleach to worse with a New York Times article that said, “The daily White House coronavirus task force briefing is the one portion of the day that Mr. Trump looks forward to…” despite the fact that many think they are “hurting him politically.” It also said the president spends the entire morning watching television and often “arrives in the Oval Office these days as late as noon.” The president who claims to have cancelled the White House subscriptions to The New York Times long ago was enraged, furious, and, in his own word, “engorged” (I do not think that word means what you think it means, Mr. President).
The Times article and Bleachgate produced an entire weekend of pure presidential nutso, like Lady Macbeth if she had Twitter and were president and not a lady and were real. It was a weekend of tweeting and retweeting a lot of crazy stuff. The president retweeted a conspiracy theory about coronavirus deaths being overcounted, a video of Devin Nunes saying Michael Flynn was framed, an insane Candace Owens tweet, and a “deep fake” video of Biden licking his lips.
On Sunday, the print arm of the presidency, Rupert Murdoch’s very own New York Post, responded with an entire puff piece crafted to respond the allegations of presidential laziness. The headline was inadvertently hilarious: “White House officials say Trump works so hard, he often misses lunch.” The Post puff piece made numerous dubious claims, including that the president might “make five dozen work-related calls a day.” And then weepy Mark Meadows was quoted saying, “The biggest concern I have as a new chief of staff is making sure he gets some time to get a quick bite to eat.”
Really? Because the biggest concern the rest of the world has is that he’s going to put thousands of our fellow citizens in their graves prematurely because he was too dense or self-absorbed or both to take this obviously serious thing seriously when he should have. The idea that Mark Meadows is worried about the TV-watcher-in-chief getting his meals feels like straight satire.
Coronavirus deaths are about to surpass the number of American soldiers dead in the Vietnam War, but the president spent the weekend complaining about Nobel prizes and his own petty resentments. Americans need a leader to lead them through this darkest of American moments, but the president is more interested in trying to figure out ways to express his resentments and grow his brand. Maybe, just maybe, it was a mistake to make a person who only cares about being famous president? Maybe next time we should elect someone who's not a complete rage-aholic.