While the markets cratered and America stood on the brink of a pandemic, the president soothed himself with a little theater, a private meeting at the White House with Dean Cain and Kristy Swanson, the “stars” of FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers (get it?), a play consisting of them reading Peter Strzok and Lisa Page’s text messages.
Yes, your tax dollars brought the worst Superman and the worst Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the White House to entertain the president. Think of all the minutes of Fox “news” he missed.
And Trump loved the play, according to its stars. “He said he wants to play a part,” Swanson said.
“He said he’d be my understudy,” Cain said.
I wasn’t invited to the White House, but I happened to already be at CPAC where I was able to see the play performed (in truncated form, according to Fox’s rave review) over 50 mind-numbing minutes later on Thursday.
Why was I at CPAC? Because I’m kind of a masochist. It’d be hard to exaggerate just how perfect a venue CPAC is for FBI Lovebirds, a play about two of Trump’s favorite foils starring two MAGAlebrities. Years ago, CPAC was a policy conference that featured conservative policymakers but in the time of Trump it’s equal parts conservative freak show, propaganda lab and grifter convention—a place where Laura Loomer, Jacob Wohl and Gavin McInnes can mingle.
Pledging allegiance to the mango god-king has become a plan B for some washed-up Hollywood actors (think Scott Baio and Jon Voight). Cain may have been small-screen Superman once but after that he was the guy who played Scott Peterson in The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story and shows up on Fox News. Kristy Swanson, who wore a dress to the performance that looked like the dress Lisa Page wore to her hearing, may have been big-screen Buffy once but she’s been in a lot of made-for-TV movies since.
The curtain opened on the pair an hour and half late, maybe because the White House meeting scheduled for 15 minutes went on for 45 minutes because Trump “loves it. He loves the play,” playwright Phelim McAleer told The Daily Beast, adding that the president hasn’t, you know, actually seen it.
Trump loves it, sight unseen, because the play is supposed to mock and demean Strzok, the FBI’s former No. 2 in counterintelligence, and Page, a former FBI lawyer. I interviewed Page in December and since then we’ve become friends, so I hated the idea of watching my friend be mocked. But FBI Lovebirds is actually just a reading of the text message the pair exchanged in 2016 while conducting an affair, interspersed with some of their later congressional testimony. While it’s hard to imagine a more amenable place to stage that show than CPAC, it turns out that listening to people’s text messages being read out loud is actually pretty boring, even if the readers are rather attractive people.
The crowd tittered when Cain read aloud the emojis that Strzok had used, “Smiley face, winky face” but the only real laughs came when Cain read Strzok’s “Hi. Watching the post-debate commentary. Vaguely satisfying to see Megyn Kelly (who had botox and looks HORRIBLE) utterly going after Trump.” and, earlier in the debate message, “Chris Wallace is a turd.”
The president may be obsessed with Strzok and Page but the audience at CPAC wasn’t.
What was funny about hearing the messages read aloud is that most of them are pretty intelligent and even sweet. There were moments of pathos. “America will get what the voting public deserves,” Strzok writes at one point, and Page replies “That’s what I’m afraid of.” The desperation feels very much like the texts I sent my husband in the fall of 2016. The whole point of the play was to further humiliate Strzok and Page but it actually humanized them.
It was strange to think that the president of the United States took time out of a work day to watch this. With the markets in freefall, COVID-19 multiplying in Europe and the Middle East , the leader of the free world was watching two low-rent TV actors reading text messages he’d already committed to memory. Rome is burning and Trump is fiddling.