The Joker We Deserve: Unmasked Power and Our “Slicey Dicey” President

“I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen.”

Donald Trump attempting to apply intense gaslight to disinfect asinine statements he made about how to kill the coronavirus

Sarcastic: using remarks that clearly mean the opposite of what you say, in order to hurt someone’s feelings or to humorously criticize something.

–Cambridge Dictionary

Donald Trump has done it again. Will wonders ever cease? Trump, who is not a doctor but is, in his own words, “like a person that has a good you know what” as he plays at being one on TV, attempted to shed new light on the coronavirus by “jokingly” suggesting Americans inject themselves with bleach and, in the process, exposed himself to ridicule and renewed doubts about both his credibility and his sanity.

In her defense of the child-king, Dr. Deborah Birx told CNN’s Jake Tapper:

So, I think as a scientist, a public health official and a researcher, sometimes I worry that we don’t give the information to the American public that they need when we continue to bring up something that was from Thursday night. So, I think I’ve answered that question. I think the president made it clear that physicians had to study this. I think I’ve made it clear that this was amusing, as you describe, but I want us to move on to be able to get information to the American people that can help them protect each other and also help them understand how devastating this virus is to different age groups and different symptoms and different co-morbidity.

Birx does not seem to realize that the president’s commandeering of the daily briefings severely compromises their effectiveness in helping the public understand the virus. She is also amiss in describing Trump’s statement as “amusing,” unless you get your jollies imagining anxious Americans ingesting Clorox. Instead, she blames clickbait media and an inattentive public. Trump, she disingenuously informs us, was merely publicly “digesting” the information he had received from the experts. In the end, it appears his mental exertions produced a cerebral fart so potent that the one who dealt it was compelled briefly to curtail the briefings in order to clear the room of the gag-inducing stench of his incontinent cognitive flatulence.

In a better world, one might have hoped that Birx’s comments were her own veiled attempt at sarcasm. Instead she has opted to defend the rambling, word-salad tossing man-child who in 2019 delivered this choice entrée before cheering crowds at a Turning Point USA rally:

We’ll have an economy based on wind. I never understood wind. Ya know, I know windmills very much, I’ve studied it better than anyone I know. It’s very expensive. They’re made in Jainah [China] and Germany, mostly. Very few made here, almost none. But they’re manufactured – tremendous if you’re into this – tremendous fumes, gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know, we have a world, right. So, the world is tiny compared to the universe. So, tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint – fumes are spewing into the air, right? It’s spewing, whether it’s in Jainah, Germany. Its’s goin’ into the air – it’s our air, their air – everything. So, they make these things and then they put ’em up and if you own a house within vision of some of these monsters, your house is worthy 50% of the price. They’re noisy, they kill the birds. You wanna see a bird grave yard? If you just go – take a look, a bird graveyard? Go under a windmill someday. You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen ever in your life…

Yada yada yada, for over three, count ‘em, minutes in which we learn nada about windmills but plenty about windbags and Trump’s capacity to stretch a moronic opinion into a protracted discursive monologue not unlike the fetid loads he now dumps during his coronavirus briefings when the adults in the room are not speaking at the podium. I have quoted Trump at length if only to press the irony of Birx’s defense of him. Asked by FOX News’ Jesse Watters if she thought the “media had been fair [to Trump] through the pandemic,” Birx replied:

I think the media is, um, very slicey and dicey about how they put sentences together in order to create headlines. I think, you know, we know from millennials and other studies that some people may only read the headlines and that if there’s not a graphic, they’re not gonna look any further than that. And I we haveta be responsible about our headlines. I think often the reporting may be accurate in paragraphs three, four, and five, but I’m not sure how many people actually get to paragraph three, four, and five. And I think the responsibility the press has is to really insure that the headlines reflect the science and data that is in their piece itself (emphasis added).

Birx appears to have confused the “Fake News” media and the benighted, dyslectic masses with the president, who has confessed he does not like to read intelligence briefings and prefers “killer graphics” to text and gaslit press briefings to effective policies to combat killer viruses.

However, it is more likely Birx is not confused but reluctant to confront power, both presidential and vice presidential, something, judging from recent events, she shares with not a few of her professional colleagues who seem to have a weak spot for authoritarians, organic and robotic. Vice President Mike Pence visited the Mayo clinic without wearing a mask despite apparently being informed of its masking policy prior to his arrival. Pence, who chairs Trump’s coronavirus task force, claims he was unaware of the policy, though The Washington Post reports that according to a tweet from Voice of America’s Steve Herman, one of the journalists travelling with the vice president, they all received notification from Pence’s own office informing them that the clinic required them to wear masks.

Still, this begs the question: Didn’t anyone on the hospital staff suggest Pence wear one after he arrived? I guess no one there felt any need to tell him. The perks of unmasked power. Of course, Trump, our other Impervious (or is it Oblivious?) Leader has stated that he would not be wearing a mask lest he be mistaken for a mere mortal and perhaps because he thinks that the ultraviolent light emitted by his tanning bed makes him invulnerable to the virus.

It may be that these medical experts are refraining from publicly correcting the president out of the fear that should they do so, they will be replaced by obsequious incompetents who will place the nation further at risk. Like the haplessly entrapped small-town denizens in the classic Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life,” they live in fear of a petulant child who will banish to the cornfield anyone who thinks bad thoughts about him or the bizarre fantasy world he has conjured into existence around them. Still, given the gravity of the pandemic, it would be refreshing if instead of worrying about hurting Trump’s feelings and triggering his wrath, they confronted him. What we need is Star Trek’s irascible Dr. McCoy to stand up to Trump and declare, “I’m a doctor, Jim, not a babysitter!” And if Trump goes all apeshit, then so be it. All the more reason to invoke section four of the 25th Amendment, providing, of course, we can find anyone in his cabinet and the congress with the testicular and ovarian fortitude to take the initiative, an highly unlikely prospect given the Teflon Don’s Houdini-like penchant for escaping accountability no matter how voluminous and compelling the evidence against him.

Now, some four months into the pandemic, the evidence further confirms that, in the words of erstwhile Trump enabler Mika Brzezinski, Trump is a “moron,” “an idiot,” and “a joke.” But we have known this all along. Every day we witness his preening narcissism, his arrogant rejection of facts and denial of truth, his incoherent tweets and bombastic public statements, and unending stream of ex post facto “jokes” before – including the knee-slapper about the Panhandle permissibility of shooting immigrants crossing the southern border, a hilarious invitation to Putin to find Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 missing emails, that side-splitting jape about police brutality, and the uproarious old chestnut about journalists returning their Nobel Prizes. (It is only a matter of time before he tells the one about Obama returning his Pulitzer.) Nothing new here, except that he now drops his one-liners at a time of grave, national crisis.

Trump once infamously boasted he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and he wouldn’t lose any voters. Well, his coronavirus response (or lack thereof) has resulted in the death of tens of thousands, yet as of April 28th his approval ratings have not substantially fallen and according to some polls have actually risen. (According to a Real Clear Politics Poll, Trump’s approval rating peaked at 47.4 percent on, appropriately, April 1st.) Nonetheless, there has been no serious effort to oust him from office, even as the death toll climbs pass 66,000.

A Huffington Post compilation of Trump’s jokes compiled during his impeachment ends with what has turned out to be a toothless warning: “Trump better enjoy his jokes while he still can because ‘I’m joking’ is not a valid defense for obstruction of justice.” Well, he’s still telling them, so I guess the joke – and its deadly consequences – is on us. If we continue to enable Trump, we deserve those consequences, though sadly it will be those on the margins of our society who, as always, will ultimately pay the price.