I vowed not to write about Donald Trump this week. I’d done it two weeks in a row, and I knew three would be too much. Trump sucks all the oxygen out of any room, and then the nitrogen, and then the argon and carbon dioxide and water vapor and all other incidental components of air, leaving an outer-space-like vacuum that causes everyone’s bodies to floop inside-out so they become disgusting blobs of dangling, slimy, pulsing organs and viscera. My point is, the smart journalist limits his mentions of Trump.
And then I woke up this morning, fired up my computer and discovered I was news. The night before, on Twitter, I had jokingly challenged the president to a duel in a place and with weapons of his choosing. Didn’t really think about it much — I just wanted to make a statement about the over-the-top state of war between the media and our prickly, combative commander in tweet. But my challenge blew up all over the Internet, leading to widespread (and joyful) speculation that I’d soon be visited by the Secret Service. I also got several offers from people volunteering to be my “second,” including Edward Lefrak, the dean of Washington-area heart-transplant surgeons. Lefrak said he would also have to bring along a medical ethicist for emergency advice in the event that I won and his skills might be needed to save not me, but Trump. I did not press him on the nature of that dilemma.
I wasn’t really worried about the Secret Service because I felt it was pretty clear this was a joke, particularly because, when the White House didn’t respond, I switched my Twitter duel challenge to William Shatner. Cap’n Kirk and I spent a half-hour delightedly trading insults and manly stare-down threats in a back-and-forth so bizarre that at one point — and this made perfect sense in context — he declared that his behind was much shapelier than Vin Diesel’s.
Alas, now I am faced with a journalistic problem. I created a story that I need to address: Specifically, what sort of duel would the president and I have? Once I concluded it would not have to be to the death, several possibilities arose:
1. Dueling SATs. We would each take the next regularly scheduled college entrance exam. That’s it. If Trump declines, as he well might, my second offer would be an eighth-grade civics exam, or a simple single-elimination spelling bee. Or a crossword, or even one of those tedious “word find” puzzles you see stupid people doing on the Metro. I like my chances in all the above.
2. Diaper changing. Points awarded on speed, style and skill.
3. Tax-return “chicken.” We would each bring copies of our filings for the past 10 years and present them publicly, faceup, page by page, like the kids’ card game of war, until one of us blinks and refuses to go on. I suspect Trump goes out early on this one, somewhere around 2007 when he hits his deduction for money-laundering expenses in Omsk... and folds.
4. A Miss Universe-style beauty pageant. Right up his alley. There would be a swimsuit competition (I’d win on points by being a “one and a half” to his “one”) and a talent portion (I can juggle three small raw chickens), and the whole thing would culminate in that excruciating segment where the contestants are asked questions about, like, how to make the world a better place in 15 minutes. We’d write each other’s questions. I would ask him to name the eight continents, just to watch him squirm and try a desperation guess for the last one. (“Brooklyn”?)
5. Hand-to-hand combat. We’d be challenged to palm balls of increasing diameter, starting with a golf ball. I’d crap out on the basketball, but I’m betting Trump would be already long gone, eliminated by a regulation softball.
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