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SINKING SHIP: The Cranky Foreigner on our great leader

Reflecting on journalist and satirist H.L. Mencken, the Cranky Foreigner wonders if America didn’t get exactly the leader it deserved. Photo via Unsplash


Scene 1:  2017—The Oval Office: The president sits at his desk. General Kelly passes the open door.

DT: Kelly! Get in here.


DT: I was watching Nickelodeon last night. I think we need a Space Force.

KELLY: Well, with all due respect, I think the Air Force deals with stuff that comes from the general direction of space.

DT: Yeah, I know, and the Army … wait, tell me again?

KELLY: They do the dusty, dirty stuff, sir.

DT: And the Navy … whatever is left: wet stuff, right? Anyway, I want a Space Force, and I want the office right here in the West Wing. I want to be able to stick my head in the door and use that old Buck Rogers line, “Make it so.” I loved it when he said that.

KELLY: We’re a bit short of office space, sir.

DT: What’s in that office near the women’s washroom. Empty that out.

KELLY: That’s the Pandemic Response Coordinating Team.

DT: Do we have a pandemic going on right now?

KELLY: We’ll have one sooner or later. The idea is—

DT: Forget it. Rudy said they look like spies for George Soros. Kick ‘em out. And I told Ivanka she could design the uniforms. She’s thinking camouflage—not that sissy spandex most aliens wear. And Jared likes matching camo ray guns. Make it so.

The strange thing, in these weird times, is that bit of dialogue isn’t so unbelievable. But, in the interest of journalistic integrity, and to set the record straight, Trump got rid of the pandemic team because he thought it was an “Obama thing.” Actually, George Dubya set it up after H1N1 and SARS, and Obama beefed it up after Ebola.

Still, despite his stupid move to eliminate the pandemic team—and every other stupid move along the way—Trump gives himself 10 out of 10 for effective leadership. The American people, applying all their considerable critical thinking skills, give him a more reasonable 60% approval rating.

Trump’s form of leadership looks like offering help to his best bosom buddy, Kim, over in North Korea, while telling U.S. governors to fight among themselves to see which one of their overburdened healthcare systems gets much-needed ventilators. Trump’s leadership style comes in the form of telling citizens they can get a coronavirus tests with a nod from their doctors, nevermind the fact he’s never talked to medical professionals about the lack of tests in the U.S. Fear not, though, he will get those Target and Walmart parking lots up and running as testing sites soon enough (still waiting). At the very least, during one of his press conferences, he can pass on unwarranted medical advice about the chloroquine miracle cure … then a few days later refuse to take responsibility for the couple who ate chloroquine algae-killing tablets normally used in their fish pond.

I hope the White House remembers to send flowers for their funerals.

It has been a long road that got us where we are now: decades of believing TV entertainer pundits who pretend to know everything. Who wants boring experts when we can get talking heads with great hair? We’ve been enthralled by proselytizing “Christian” con artists who know all too well science is the biggest obstacle to overcome in getting their second private jet. We have endlessly re-elected politicians who realize a well-informed population would mean the death knell of their careers. No surprise, really. We are a nation that thinks World Wrestling Entertainment is real, after all.

It would be great if this pandemic became a George Washington-crossing-the-Delaware moment. After a brutal winter, against all odds, written off by many, Washington took the helm and steered his followers toward a noble cause—or, to be more exact, New Jersey. We, on the other hand, find ourselves in a heavily mortgaged lifeboat in serious need of repair, with no idea where to set our compass.

As for our leader, I leave it to H.L. Mencken, who explained almost 100 years ago how we were bound to eventually get the captain we now have. “As democracy is perfected,” he wrote, “the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

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