When Sean Spicer made a somewhat self-deprecating appearance on last Sunday’s Emmy Awards, I had a sickening thought that all the lines we’d crossed and concessions we’d made in the past eight months were mere preludes to the final capitulation: there was nothing we could do to stop Trump, so we might as well just laugh along until the end comes. (If it’s difficult for us to do so, just insert a laugh track: it’ll lift your spirits.)
This week’s comedy is coming almost faster than we can assimilate. One of the first instances was the “president’s” vow to destroy North Korea. That kind of bon mot is not what one usually hears at the United Nations which, though it may be toothless at times, is supposed to bring nations together in peaceful accord. Of course there’s no way Trump could have known that because he doesn’t know anything, a situation that allowed his speechwriters to make him appear an even bigger buffoon than he is…and that’s no small feat.
It’s hard to follow one humorous foray into the world of nuclear destruction with something even more amusing, but reneging on the Iran deal is a step in the right comedic direction. Iran has complied with the terms of the agreement, and in so doing has won at least begrudging respect from the other signers: the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, Germany, and the European Union. For the U.S. to go its own way risks alienating those countries, but worse, opens us up to a renewal of Iran’s nuclear project and an enhanced risk of nuclear conflicts. Funny stuff.
Then there’s all the comedy that our weather is providing. Unprecedented used to have some meaning in meteorological circles, but now we hear that adjective once a week. Houston, Florida, Antigua, Barbuda, Cuba, Puerto Rico—all have been pummeled by unprecedented storms since the end of August. We really need a new word, one that serves the same purpose but includes the fact that man is directly responsible for the violence of these storms and for the impact they have had. It should be a word that encompasses our fear to admit that this is not normal and touches upon our blithe acceptance of an administration that refuses to lift a finger to deal with one cataclysmic event after the next. Visiting a disaster and playing aid worker is one way for a president to react; firing fossil-fuel lackeys like Scott Pruitt and embracing scientific facts would be another. Or maybe that isn’t funny enough, though I promise I would laugh.
And while all this is happening and we’re sufficiently distracted, the same comedy troupe that brought us Neil Gorsuch is hard at work removing health care from millions of Americans, punishing the states who have done the most for its residents’ health and well-being, and rewarding those (red states, of course) whose only “achievement” has been to vote Republican. (Here’s Jimmie Kimmel’s take on the new health care proposal.)
A half-century ago in a complicated and abstruse song called “Surf’s Up,” the equally enigmatic Brian Wilson lamented “the laughs come hard in Auld Lang Syne.” Those lyrics—it’s taken a while, but I think I finally get them. These days the laughs keep coming harder and harder: ask Mr. Spicer.