We’re trying to think of something nice to say about 2020.
Okay, here goes: Nobody got killed by the murder hornets. As far as we know.
That’s pretty much it.
In the past, writing these annual reviews, we have said harsh things about previous years. We owe those years an apology. Compared to 2020, all previous years, even the Disco Era, were the golden age of human existence.
This was a year of nonstop awfulness, a year when we kept saying it couldn’t possibly get worse, and it always did. This was a year in which our only moments of genuine, unadulterated happiness were when we were able to buy toilet paper.
Which is fitting, because 2020 was one long, howling, Category 5 crapstorm.
We sincerely don’t want to relive this year. But our job is to review it. If you would prefer to skip this exercise in masochism, we completely understand.
If, however, you wish, for some sick reason, to re-experience 2020, now is the time to put on your face mask, douse your entire body with hand sanitizer and then — to be safe — don a hazmat suit, as we look back at the unrelenting insanity of this hideous year, starting with …
… which begins with all of Washington, as well as parts of Virginia and Maryland, gripped by the gripping historic drama of the impeachment of Donald Trump. Remember that? How gripped we were?
To set the stage: Back in mid-December, the House of Representatives passed two articles of impeachment, after which Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, handed out souvenir signing pens. Everyone expected that Pelosi would then send the articles to the Senate. But as of early January the Senate has not received them. People are wondering if Pelosi, what with her various official duties and hairdresser appointments, simply forgot to send the articles. Or maybe she tried to send them, but because of a bureaucratic snafu they wound up at a different federal entity, such as the Coast Guard.
Eventually, however, the articles arrive at the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch “The Undertaker” McConnell promises that the impeachment issue will receive full and fair consideration. He is of course joking, but this is not obvious, because even when Mitch is in a jovial mood he looks like a man passing a kidney stone the size of the Hope Diamond.
Meanwhile in other political news, all eyes are on Iowa as it prepares for the caucuses, which are closely scrutinized because they are the first opportunity for a tiny group of unrepresentative voters to engage in an incomprehensible and deeply flawed process by which they anoint presidential candidates who traditionally go on to fail. This year, in an effort to modernize the caucuses, the Iowa Democratic Party has upgraded from its old-fashioned manual reporting procedures to a modern, state-of-the-art “app” based on the same software used in the Boeing 737 Max airliner.
In international news, the big story is a U.S. targeted drone strike, ordered by Trump, which kills Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani, thereby triggering World War III and forcing the United States to reinstate the military draft, at least on Twitter. Iran responds — this is a good indicator of what kind of year it will be — by shooting down a Ukrainian airliner.
Elsewhere abroad, Chinese news media report that a man in a city named “Wuhan” died of a mysterious virus. This is not considered a big deal in the United States, since it has nothing to do with either impeachment or the Iowa caucuses.
A much bigger international story concerns Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who announce via Instagram that they are sick and tired of being part of the British royal family and want to just be regular normal everyday hard-working folks making millions of dollars solely because one of them was born into, and the other one married into, the British royal family. This plunges Great Britain into a crisis the likes of which it has not been plunged into since “Brexit.” The crisis finally ends when, after a royal summit with Queen Elizabeth II described by participants as “frank and heartfelt,” Harry and Meghan are beheaded.
In sports, Major League Baseball is rocked by scandal with the release of a report concluding that the Houston Astros engaged in an elaborate multiyear cheating scheme, which critics charge enabled the team to win the 2017 World Series as well as six congressional seats in the 2018 midterm elections. By way of punishment, the league — sending a clear message to would-be cheaters — rules that all players involved in the scheme will continue to play baseball in exchange for enormous amounts of money.
Speaking of scandal, in …
… Washington and its suburbs remain gripped by the U.S. Senate’s historic impeachment trial of President Trump, with Democratic prosecutors arguing that Trump illegally pressured Ukrainian leaders to benefit himself politically, while the Republican defense team, employing an alibi strategy, claims that Trump was playing golf at the time. Under the watchful eye of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who is kept from nodding off by a law clerk armed with a pellet gun, everyone, in accordance with Senate rules, repeats everything 127 times, after which the Republican majority, to the surprise of anyone who has the IQ of sponge cake, acquits the Republican president. Washington and its suburbs immediately start looking around for a new historic thing to be gripped by.
In the midst of the impeachment drama, Trump delivers the State of the Union address, an awkward affair that begins with Speaker Pelosi refusing to use the traditional “high privilege and distinct honor” introduction; then Trump refusing to shake Pelosi’s hand; then Pelosi tearing up her copy of Trump’s speech; then Trump hocking a loogie onto Pelosi’s suede pumps.
Okay, the loogie part did not happen. As far as we know.
In other political news, Iowa Democratic Party officials sense that there may be a problem with their new “app” when it declares that the winner of the state’s caucuses, with 43 million delegates, is Walter Mondale, followed by the Houston Astros (who also win the Super Bowl). This fiasco does not sit well with the Democratic presidential candidates, who realize they have wasted an entire year trudging around Iowa eating fried objects on sticks and pretending to care about Iowans.
Things go more smoothly for the Democrats in the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucuses, with Bernie Sanders emerging as the clear front-runner, which only seems to make him angrier. A new challenger emerges in the form of charisma-impaired billionaire Mike “Mike” Bloomberg, who uses his personal fortune to hire a vast army of consultants to supply him with a powerful arsenal of focus-group-tested policies, retorts, memes, jokes and humanoid personality traits. Nevertheless he struggles in the debates, the low point coming when Elizabeth Warren, during a heated exchange about nondisclosure agreements, pulls the waistband of Bloomberg’s underpants over the top of his head, a debate tactic known as the “atomic wedgie,” first performed by Lincoln on Douglas in 1858.
Despite all these exciting political developments, the No. 1 concern of the American public, based on the amount of passionate debate it generates on the Internet, is the burning issue of whether it is, or is not, okay to recline your airplane seat.
Remember? Those were good times.
As February draws to a close, 2020 seems to be shaping up as a typical election year, in which the political-media complex is repeatedly engulfed by raging apocalyptic dramas that the regular human public pretty much ignores.
And then, unfortunately, comes …
… which starts off calmly enough, as the Democratic Party, desperate to find an alternative to 132-year-old White guy Bernie Sanders, settles on 132-year-old White guy Joe Biden, who cruises to a series of primary victories after replacing “No Malarkey” with a bold new campaign slogan: “Somewhat Alert at Times.” Biden is endorsed by most of his Democratic opponents, including “Mike” Bloomberg, who spent more than $500 million on his campaign, which seems like a lot of money until you consider that he won the American Samoa caucuses, narrowly edging out Tulsi Gabbard, who spent $13.50.
And then, sprinkled in amid all the political coverage, we begin to see reports that this coronavirus thing might be worse than we have been led to believe, although at first the authorities still seem to be saying that it’s basically the flu and there is no reason to panic, but all of a sudden there seems to be no hand sanitizer for sale anywhere, which makes some sense although there is also no toilet paper, as if people are planning to be pooping for weeks on end (ha), and then we learn that Tom Hanks — Tom Hanks! — has the virus, and now they’re saying it’s a lot worse than the flu and we need to wash our hands and not touch our faces and maintain a social distance of six feet and use an abundance of caution to flatten the curve (whatever “the curve” is), but they’re also saying we don’t need face masks no scratch that now they’re saying we DO need face masks but nobody HAS any face masks but hey here’s a funny meme about toilet paper but ohmigod look at these statistical disease models WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE but Trump says maybe this hydroxysomething medicine will work no it won’t work yes it will work no it won’t and now they’re saying there won’t be enough ventilators or hospital beds or PPE and Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx are saying everybody has to shelter at home or else WE ARE ALL DEFINITELY GOING TO DIE hey here’s another funny toilet-paper meme but seriously what is PPE and is that different from PPP and where will we get the ventilators and there won’t be enough hospital beds and there is still no hand sanitizer and I keep touching my face and they just canceled the NBA can they even DO that wait now they canceled ALL the sports and closed all the schools the colleges the stores the restaurants the bars the theaters the hair salons the parks the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and now they’re saying we need to stay at home for HOW LONG what about the toilet paper I can’t stop touching my damn face are you seriously telling me all this is because somebody ate a freaking bat maybe Amazon has toilet paper ohmigod they’re sold out too WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH THE TOILET PAPER not another Zoom meeting I am so tired of shouting at people in little boxes maybe I should take a shower but what’s the point hey here’s a bunch more funny memes ohmigod look at the stock market the price of oil maybe I’ll just take a peek at my 401(k) oh NOOOOOOOO and WHAT ARE PEOPLE DOING WITH ALL THIS TOILET PAPER and how long do we have to keep being abundantly cautious what did Trump say about the ventilators and what did Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci say about what Trump said about the ventilators and what did Trump say about what they said about what he said about the ventilators ventilators ventilators LOOK AT THESE MODELS WE ARE STILL GOING TO DIE but do we really want to go on living in a world where there’s no toilet paper and every single TV commercial sounds like “as we navigate these difficult times together, the National Association of Folding Chair Manufacturers wants you to know that we are committed to running these TV commercials with a somber narrator voice telling you how committed we are” and WHY WOULD SOMEBODY EAT A DAMN BAT these memes are getting old hey do you think that Carole Baskin woman actually fed her husband to a tiger maybe we should order pizza tonight wait I think we had pizza last night are you sure it’s Tuesday because it feels more like Thursday no please God not another freaking Zoom meeting stop already with the memes if the tiger ate her husband shouldn’t there be a skeleton somewhere are we flattening the curve yet Dr. Fauci Dr. Birx because we’re in a recession no wait maybe it’s a depression look at the unemployment numbers we are never going to recover from this if the virus doesn’t kill us we will starve to death we need more money from the government we need billions no we need trillions no we need MORE trillions where is this money coming from we have to open the economy up but if we do WE WILL ALL DIE hey I found some toilet paper oh no it’s one-ply which is basically the same as using your bare hand thank God I also found some hand sanitizer and speaking of good news Bernie Sanders is endorsing Joe Biden so apparently they’re both still alive if I see one more meme I am going to puke in my face mask I’m afraid to get on a scale my thighs are basically two armadillo-sized wads of pizza dough hey Dr. Birx Dr. Fauci when will we have a vaccine when will we have herd immunity when can we go outside when can we go back to work what is the “new normal” good lord what did Trump say about disinfectants DON’T INJECT CLOROX YOU IDIOTS what about the food chain what about reinfection what about the second wave hey they’re showing the NFL draft and Georgia is opening the tattoo parlors and holy crap now it’s …
… and we are, as a nation, exhausted. We are literally sick and tired of the pandemic. But amid all the gloom, there is a ray of sunshine: As we go through this harrowing experience — affecting all Americans, in both red states and blue states — we are starting to realize that our common humanity is more important than our political differences.
Ha-ha! Seriously, we hate each other more than ever. We disagree about everything — when to reopen the economy, whether to wear masks, whether to go to the beach, whether it’s okay to say “China” — everything. Each side believes that it is motivated purely by reason, facts and compassion, and that the other side is evil and stupid and sincerely wants people to die. Every issue is binary: My side good, other side bad. There is no nuance, no open-mindedness, no discussion.
On the other hand, there is starting to be more toilet paper.
President Trump continues to provide leadership during the crisis by repeatedly pointing out that he knows an incredible amount about viruses — more than most medical doctors! — and is frankly doing a terrific job. For its part, the White House press corps, seeking as always to be fair and objective, asks the president many probing questions, all of them variations of “Why are you so despicable?”
Somewhere in here the president goes on Twitter to suggest, without evidence, that MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough committed murder, but we have reached the point where this falls into the category of “ho-hum.”
Meanwhile, in a basement somewhere in Delaware, Joe Biden and his campaign team have managed to procure a “webcam,” which they intend to use to “log on” to the “Internet” so that Joe’s campaign message can go “viral,” just as soon as Joe decides what it is.
In scandal news, the Justice Department moves to drop all charges against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. Outraged Democrats claim this is a travesty of justice; outraged Republicans claim it is proof that the “deep state” tried to stage a coup. And thus we are back to arguing about the 2016 election, which we are going to keep arguing about until everybody involved has been dead for 50 years.
On a more uplifting note, America cheers the first piloted space launch from U.S. soil in nine years as the commercially built SpaceX Dragon, carrying two NASA astronauts, blasts off for the International Space Station, only to discover upon arrival that it has been closed since 2014.
Here we should at least mention the arrival of the Asian “murder hornets.” In any other year they would have been a huge story, comparable to famous celebrity pests of the past, such as the killer bees or the cast of “Jersey Shore.” But in 2020 there is simply too much competition, and the murder hornets end up living in a cheap motel near the Canadian border, their dreams of fame shattered.
In sports, Major League Baseball tries to come up with a plan to salvage the 2020 season, a task that becomes more urgent each day, as the Houston Astros have already won 137 games, all of them no-hitters. The National Football League is also trying to adapt to the pandemic, exploring the possibility of a season with no fans, no coaches and no players. “We’re thinking of just showing 60 minutes of referees throwing penalty flags and peering at replay monitors,” says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “So it won’t really be much different.” Meanwhile the National Hockey League admits that it stopped playing games in 2003, but nobody noticed.
Toward the end of the month the economy is starting to open up, the virus numbers in many places seem to be improving and people are starting to venture out of their homes. For a few minutes, the nation seems to be groping its way, an inch at a time, toward relative calm. And then ...
WHAM, 2020 strikes again, this time in Minneapolis, where the horrendous killing of George Floyd at the hands of police ignites a protest movement that quickly spreads across the nation, sometimes mutating into violence. In the past, such movements tended to lose energy, smothered under a thick cloud of politicians’ platitudes, but this one has legs, and as we enter ...
… the protest movement grows in size and passion with frankly not a whole lot of social distancing. In Washington, D.C., large crowds gather in front of the White House. President Trump, angered by reports that at one point he retreated to an underground bunker, states that in fact he was merely inspecting the bunker, this being a responsibility explicitly assigned to the president by the Constitution, right after where it says he’s in charge of foreign policy.
To demonstrate that he is not the kind of leader who hides in bunkers, the president courageously goes outside (after the protesters have been cleared away) and personally walks several hundred feet to historic St. John’s Church, where he holds up a Bible. Or possibly it is a thesaurus. The important thing is that it is a serious-looking book and a strong visual, at a time when what this wounded and divided nation needs, more than ever, is strong visuals.
For their part, the Democrats, fed up with the long-standing pattern of systemic racism and police misconduct in major U.S. cities, vow to bring about real reform, just as soon as they can figure out who, exactly, is in charge of these cities. One much-discussed reform proposal is defunding the police, which is clearly defined by its proponents as “taking the funding away from the police” as well as “not taking the funding away from the police.”
Meanwhile covid-19 cases are rising alarmingly, especially in the South. Trump, having apparently decided that the best way to deal with the pandemic, as chief executive, is to occasionally tweet about it, focuses his efforts on getting reelected. He holds a rally in Tulsa, where, addressing an issue of concern to all Americans, he explains in detail that the ramp he had to walk down at the U.S. Military Academy graduation ceremony was slippery and steep. The president gets a big hand from the crowd when, displaying leadership, he drinks from a water glass with one hand.
During this period the Biden campaign focuses its energies primarily on being in Delaware.
Also during this time important news events are occurring in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and possibly even Canada. But we frankly do not have time to think about those places.
In sports, Major League Baseball owners and players, faced with the very real threat that the Houston Astros will win the World Series unopposed, reach an agreement to hold a shortened season, with a few covid-related rule modifications:
⋅ The “batter’s box” will be an actual plexiglass box completely enclosing the batter.
⋅ To minimize airborne saliva droplets, umpires will call balls and strikes by shouting into their elbows. Also players must limit infield chatter to fewer than 10 syllables.
⋅ In the event that a batter gets on base, all players on both teams will immediately be tested for the coronavirus.
⋅ At the end of nine innings or one week, whichever comes first, the team with the fewest positive tests will be declared the winner.
Speaking of positive tests, in ...
… covid-19 cases continue to rise sharply in some Southern states, accompanied by what the World Health Organization describes as an “alarming” spike in smugness in some Northern states, notably New York, where Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo unveils a poster, for sale at $11.50, commemorating, in a cartoony manner, New York’s pandemic experience. Really. It is as if the White Star Line sold whimsical souvenirs of the Titanic.
On July 4, despite all the bad news and the gloomy outlook, Americans pause to celebrate the independence of their nation by reducing entire neighborhoods to smoking rubble with illegal fireworks.
In a decision that outrages Democrats, President Trump commutes the federal prison sentence of his longtime friend and political operative Roger Stone. The White House states that imprisoning the 67-year-old Stone would be inhumane because he has a medical condition that requires him “to roam free at night seeking fresh human blood.”
Meanwhile in Delaware, Joe Biden’s team continues to ponder the question of who should be Joe’s running mate, the goal being to find somebody who (A) is a woman and (B) has a name that Joe can remember.
Kanye West announces that he is running for president, representing the Birthday Party. In any other year this would seem ridiculous, but in 2020 a lot of people are like, “Why not?”
In other political news, the coronavirus continues to disrupt both major parties’ convention plans. The Republicans, having already moved Trump’s acceptance speech from the Spectrum Center in Charlotte to the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., announce that they are now considering the Roll ’n’ Shoot Bowling Alley & Gun Range in Elwood, Okla., contingent on the availability of “a long enough extension cord.” The Democrats have also downsized plans for their convention, which was originally to be a four-day event at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee but is now going to take place mainly on Instagram.
On the diplomatic front, the Trump administration announces that, after tense high-level negotiations, it has reached a peace agreement under which U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Portland, Ore., where for many weeks protesters have been seeking social justice via a combination of peaceful demonstrations and arson.
By far the month’s most disturbing event occurs on July 15 when Twitter, responding to a cyberattack, temporarily suspends many verified blue-check accounts. Within minutes emergency rooms in Washington and New York are overwhelmed by media thought leaders whose brains are literally exploding from the pressure of unreleased insights. Meanwhile in the rest of the nation, nonelite Americans wander the streets aimlessly, with no way to know what they should think. Fortunately this situation lasts only a few hours, but it highlights the urgent need for a federally maintained Blue Check Media Emergency Tweet Reserve, similar to the National Helium Reserve, but more gaseous.
In sports, the Washington Redskins, bowing to mounting public pressure, announce that they are changing their name, which critics say is insensitive. They will henceforth be known as the Pittsburgh Redskins. In Major League Baseball, the teams begin a shortened season with stadium seats occupied by cardboard cutouts representing fans, except in the case of the Houston Astros, who use live human snipers.
Speaking of threats, in ...
… President Trump escalates his attacks on TikTok, a Chinese-owned social media app that threatens our national security by causing millions of Americans to learn stupid dances while Chinese people are making useful products to sell to Americans. The president wants to force TikTok to be sold to Microsoft, apparently in the hope that Microsoft will render it unusable by means of “updates.”
In other foreign-policy action, Trump brokers a historic Middle East peace agreement, which, along with the estimated 45 previous historic Middle East peace agreements, brings the Middle East one step closer to potentially being on the verge of reaching the brink of what could someday become a steppingstone to lasting peace, although you should not hold your breath.
Meanwhile at home the nation’s mood is increasingly tense and angry as Americans are bombarded all day, every day with a constant stream of news about protests, boycotts, disruption, despair and rage. And that’s just on “SportsCenter.”
California, as it traditionally does at this time of year, bursts into flames. Adding to the citizens’ misery are rolling electrical blackouts, possibly related to the fact that the state legislature has banned all sources of electricity except windmills and 9-volt batteries.
In politics, controversy swirls around the U.S. Postal Service, which until now most Americans have viewed as a non-sinister agency whose function, as authorized by the Constitution, is to faithfully, rain or shine, deliver vast quantities of bulk mail to us so we can discard it unread. But now there are reports of USPS mailboxes mysteriously disappearing from the streets, which Democrats charge is part of a sinister Trump administration plot to sabotage mail-in voting, the theory being that voters, having no place to deposit their mail-in ballots, will give up in despair and, we don’t know, flush them down the toilet or something.
While this alleged conspiracy is being debated, Steve Bannon, a former influential Trump aide with the uncanny ability to always look like he just woke up in a dumpster, is arrested by — this cannot be a coincidence — agents of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Bannon is charged with fraud in connection with a GoFundMe project called We Build the Wall, which is supposedly raising money for Trump’s largely imaginary wall between the United States and Mexico, although according to prosecutors a better name for the project would be We Basically Keep the Money.
In other legal developments, Trump pardons Susan B. Anthony, calling her, in impromptu remarks delivered as aides hustle reporters away, “a terrific person who I look forward to inviting to the White House.”
In election news, Joe Biden makes history by choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate; if elected, she would become the first U.S. vice president whose name can be rearranged to spell “I Alarm a Shark.” During the Democratic debates Harris leveled some harsh criticisms at Biden, but a Biden campaign source says that “Joe has forgotten all about that. Literally.”
For his part, Trump dismisses rumors that he might change running mates, telling reporters, “I’m very happy with whatshisname.”
Because of the pandemic, both parties hold their conventions virtually, which means that instead of endless hours of repetitious blather, the TV broadcasts consist of endless hours of repetitious blather but without the entertaining visuals of delegates in stupid hats. The Democrats adopt a sweeping platform filled with bold policy initiatives that nobody will ever look at again. The Republican platform consists of, quote, “whatever was in the president’s most recent tweet.”
Speaking of principles, in ...
… the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg triggers a classic display of Washington-style ethical consistency as both political parties, addressing the issue of when the vacancy should be filled, passionately embrace positions diametrically opposite the ones they passionately embraced in 2016. Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat, arguing that she is “perfectly qualified” for the high court because she is “a woman, but not like super hot.” Critics allege that Barrett belongs to a dangerous religious cult that subjugates women by forcing them to become Supreme Court justices. Everyone prepares for a cordial and informative confirmation process.
In other political news, the New York Times, in a politically devastating career-ending bombshell report, reveals that an analysis of Trump’s tax records shows that pretty much his only major success, as a businessman, has been playing the part of a successful businessman on a TV show. Coming on the heels of two politically devastating bombshell reports earlier in the month — one alleging that Trump mocked the military, and one that he lied about the seriousness of the coronavirus — this brings to an even 500 the total number of times Trump has been devastated by bombshell media reports.
Joe Biden leaves Delaware briefly to give a campaign speech in Philadelphia, where he makes the following statement: “If Donald Trump has his way, the complications from covid-19, which are well beyond what they should be — it’s estimated that 200 million people have died — probably by the time I finish this talk.” Then it’s back to Delaware for Joe.
The biggest political event of the month is the much-anticipated Trump-Biden debate, a lively affair featuring a frank and open exchange of sentence fragments highlighted by a heroic but ultimately unsuccessful attempt on the part of moderator Chris Wallace to silence the president with a Taser. Biden inspires his supporters by appearing, most of the time, to be fully aware that he is participating in a debate. For his part, Trump displays presidential leadership by firmly yet calmly reassuring an anxious nation that the election will be a complete fraud. When it’s over both sides declare victory as Wallace retreats to his dressing room to ingest Xanax pills through a funnel.
In other domestic news, there are these alarming developments:
⋅ The federal deficit reaches $3.3 trillion, as the government continues its unchecked descent into horrendous, unsustainable levels of debt, with neither political party even seriously acknowledging the danger, let alone taking meaningful action to prevent future generations of Americans from being permanently screwed.
⋅ The Kardashians decide to stop making “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”
Meanwhile as fires continue to devastate the West, the California legislature, meeting in emergency session, votes to ban lightning.
Abroad, the Middle East moves a step closer to eventually being on the verge of approaching the threshold of what could someday become a pathway to lasting peace as the Trump administration announces yet another historic agreement, this one involving Bahrain, which the president says “is apparently a country over there.”
In other foreign-policy action, the president orders an airstrike on TikTok.
In college sports, both the Big Ten and Pac-12 vote to resume playing football, citing the improving covid-19 situation and the fact that the Houston Astros are leading both conferences with a combined 179-0 record. Conference officials say they will implement strict medical protocols to ensure that the athletes can safely resume violently injuring each other.
The pandemic continues to dominate the news in ...
… when the White House announces that President Trump is infected with the coronavirus, as are the first lady, White House staffers and others who have been near the president at events where many people did not wear masks or observe social distancing. This seems to suggest, crazy as it sounds, that the virus — who could possibly have known this? — is an infectious disease that you can catch from other people.
In an effort to keep the nation informed on the president’s health without creating confusion, the administration employs a two-pronged communications strategy:
PRONG ONE: The president’s doctors hold a press briefing in which they say that the president is doing fine.
PRONG TWO: Immediately thereafter, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tells reporters that the president’s vital signs are “worrying.”
While hundreds of certified Twitter users without medical degrees offer their insights on this situation, the president begins a course of treatment at Walter Reed that includes an antibody cocktail, an antiviral drug, a steroid and — this really happened — a motorcade ride around the hospital. Trump’s doctors describe the motorcade as “a totally standard medical treatment that is not insanely irresponsible at all.”
Meanwhile the virus continues to spread through the White House, eventually infecting everyone in the executive branch above the rank of custodian. But never mind those people: The important thing is that the president recovers quickly and announces that covid-19 is frankly no big deal for anybody who has a large team of doctors, 24/7 access to a world-class medical facility and a helicopter. Then, having learned an important lesson from his experience, the president resumes holding massive rallies where many people do not wear masks.
The Senate confirms Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court after she successfully completes the traditional Judiciary Committee hazing ritual, in which she must answer questions for three consecutive days without saying anything.
Joe Biden enters the final stretch of the campaign with a schedule that sometimes has him doing as many as one appearance per day. Also taking a brutal toll on the former vice president is the fact that he must repeatedly, day after day, deal with the grueling physical strain of not telling reporters what he thinks about packing the Supreme Court. At one appearance, when asked about this, Biden says (this is an actual quote): “The moment I answer that question, the headline in every one of your papers will be on the answer to that question.” While reporters wrestle with the Confucian profundity of this statement, Joe is whisked back to Delaware.
In other political action, vice-presidential candidates Mike Pence and Kamala Harris square off in a debate, and the only thing anybody remembers about it 10 minutes later is that a fly landed on Pence’s head. Two weeks later Trump and Biden have their second debate, during which Trump accuses Biden of wanting to force Americans to have “little, tiny, small windows” and Biden says “Come on!” roughly 200 times. They say many other things as well, but at this point none of it makes any difference.
In social media news, Twitter blocks a New York Post story about incriminating emails allegedly found on Hunter Biden’s laptop, on the grounds that the story is of questionable origin. This is of course a violation of Twitter’s extremely strict accuracy policy, under which every single tweet that Twitter does allow to be published is 100 percent vetted and legit.
In sports, the coronavirus causes major disruptions in the fall football schedule, the result being that on a single afternoon the New York Jets wind up losing to both the Kansas City Chiefs and Vassar. On a happier note, the World Series, for the 11th consecutive year, does not in any way involve the New York Yankees.
The month comes to a close with Halloween, a spooky, scary time when the nation is haunted by a relentless onslaught of political attack ads in which basically every candidate for public office is depicted as a hideous, bloodsucking ghoul. Voters universally detest these ads and the toxic political climate they create, but highly paid campaign consultants continue to produce them, for a sound, data-derived, poll-tested reason: These consultants are scum.
With October finally over, a divided, weary nation trudges into the crucial month of ...
... when finally, after all the politics and the platitudes, the debates and the demagoguery, the rallies and the riots, the allegations and the alliteration, it’s time for the American people to do what they have done since the founding of the republic: Eat all their leftover Halloween candy. There’s a lot of it this year because there were few trick-or-treaters, leaving many Americans with no choice but to snork down the weight of an adult male cocker spaniel in mini Snickers. But we do it, because we are Americans, dammit.
Then, at last, it’s Election Day. Millions of voters lurch to the polls, unless they already voted, in which case they remain on the sofa, burping up chocolate fumes and anxiously watching the cable-TV network of their choice. Political experts are confidently predicting an easy Biden win, possibly a landslide, based on input from professional pollsters armed with conclusions derived from sophisticated statistical analysis of data obtained via surveys of the seven Americans still willing to answer the telephone.
But the actual race turns out to be much closer, and several days pass without a clear winner as the various states count ballots via their individual methods under our quirky, zany electoral college system. Florida, which has totally screwed up in previous elections, surprises everybody by reporting the vote count almost immediately, thanks to an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis to “just go ahead and reuse the results from 2016, since we counted those already.” But the process is much slower in states such as Pennsylvania, which uses the base 17 numbering system, and Arizona, where by law votes must be tabulated on cowhides.
It is not until Saturday that the news media call the election for Biden. President Trump accepts the defeat with the calm, mature grace and dignity that have become his trademark as leader of some imaginary nation that we are fantasizing about in this sentence.
In reality Trump claims that he won the election BY A LOT, but it is being stolen from him via a vast, sophisticated, malignant and purely hypothetical vote-fraud scheme. To combat this fraud, the president forms a crack legal team headed by former sane person Rudy “Rudy Three i’s” Giuliani, who presides over what future scholars will view as the single greatest event in the history of America, if not the world. This occurs when the president announces via tweet that his lawyers will hold a news conference at “Four Seasons, Philadelphia.” Everyone assumes he means the Four Seasons Hotel, but in fact — and here we have definitive proof that there is a God, and He or She has an excellent sense of humor — the event takes place in the parking lot of a company called Four Seasons Total Landscaping, which is across the street from a cremation center and down the block from Fantasy Island Adult Bookstore.
We are not making this up. Nobody could make this up.
The Four Seasons event turns out to be a good indicator of the competence of the Trump legal team, and it eventually becomes clear to everybody not living in the White House that Trump will not successfully challenge Biden’s win. But it is also clear that, just as in 2016, the media elite greatly underestimated support for Trump, who somehow got more than 74 million votes despite the fact that the media elite doesn’t personally know any Trump supporters, and in fact has devoted four solid years to declaring that anybody who doesn’t hate Trump as much as the media elite does has to be a racist idiot. So who on Earth could these 74 million Americans be? It’s a mystery that probably will never be solved, at least not by the media elite.
Meanwhile on the coronavirus front, there is good news and bad news:
⋅ The good news is that several drug companies announce they have developed promising vaccine candidates, while Budweiser reports “significant progress” on a hard seltzer that also can be used as hand sanitizer.
⋅ The bad news is that the number of cases, in what feels like the 37th wave, is spiking once again, and American consumers are once again creating shortages of toilet paper by buying enough rolls per household to wipe every butt in Denmark for a year. Many states impose tough new covid restrictions, most notably California, which bans “all human activity not personally involving the governor.”
Speaking of states taking action: On Nov. 12 the nation pauses to observe the 50th anniversary of the date that the Oregon state highway department attempted to dispose of an eight-ton dead whale on a beach by detonating a thousand pounds of dynamite under the carcass, the result being that vast quantities of putrid whale flesh were blasted into the sky, and then, because of gravity — which apparently nobody had told the Oregon state highway department about — it came back down all over the crowd of spectators gathered to watch. Historians agree that this was the greatest thing that ever happened in the world prior to the Trump legal team’s news conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping.
In arts and culture news, Guinness World Records announces that the most watched video in YouTube history, with over 7 billion views, is “Baby Shark Dance,” which was created by a South Korean company called Pinkfong that for some inexplicable reason we never took out with a nuclear missile even though the entire world would have thanked us.
Trump, carrying on a cherished White House tradition, pardons turkeys named “Corn” and “Cob” and a former national security adviser named “Michael Flynn.” “Corn” and “Michael Flynn” were convicted of making false statements to the FBI; “Cob” was serving a four-year sentence for tax evasion.
Joe Biden, preparing for a historically difficult transition to a presidency that will be confronted with a daunting array of critical challenges both at home and abroad, fractures his foot playing with a dog.
As the month draws to a close, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving as the Pilgrims did, by gathering with their loved ones for a communal meal in the basement with the lights off so as to avoid detection by the authorities.
And then, at last, the finish line of this wretched year looms ahead as we stagger into ...
... which begins with good news and bad news on the economy:
⋅ The good news is, holiday retail sales are strong.
⋅ The bad news is, most of these sales are online purchases of Four Seasons Total Landscaping T-shirts.
The other hot holiday wish-list item is the coveted Sony PlayStation 5 gaming console, which is nearly impossible to find in stores due to the fact that it does not, physically, exist. “We made a bunch of cool commercials for it,” states a Sony marketing executive, “but as for an actual device that you can plug in, nah.”
Long term, the economic outlook remains troubling, with the U.S. economy being kept afloat mainly by consumers making monthly payments to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, CBS All Access, HBO Now, Peacock, HBO Max, Discovery Plus, Starz, Chickadee, Eyeballz, Amazon Super Deluxe, HBO Medium Rare, Chickadee Plus, Disney Extra Special, Amazon Supreme Unleaded, HBO Gluten Free and a bewildering array of other streaming services that consumers rarely watch but keep paying for because they can’t figure out how to cancel their subscriptions.
“These people are pumping millions of dollars a month into the economy,” states Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. “God help us if they ever remember their passwords.”
In other national news, President Trump, faced with soaring coronavirus cases and a congressional stalemate over a desperately needed relief package, devotes his energies, as chief executive, to tweeting approximately once per hour that the election was RIGGED. The Trump legal team, alleging that there was a massive organized conspiracy to commit vote fraud, files multiple lawsuits but achieves basically the same legal outcome as Hamilton Burger, the stupendously ineffective district attorney on the “Perry Mason” TV show, who went to court week after week for many seasons and almost never won a case, WHICH ONLY PROVES HOW MASSIVE AND ORGANIZED THIS CONSPIRACY IS.
While the president continues to insist that he was reelected, members of his staff quietly prepare for the transition by updating their résumés and conducting a search for the briefcase containing the nuclear launch codes, believed last seen in the back of a golf cart in Bedminster, N.J.
As the curtain gradually descends on the Trump administration, it becomes Joe Biden’s turn to take center stage and face the harsh scrutiny of the Washington press corps. Leading the way is CNN, which broadcasts a hard-hitting two-hour special report on the incoming Biden administration, featuring a panel of eight journalists who unanimously agree that if George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln were alive today, they would definitely fracture their feet playing with dogs.
In business news, Amazon (founded by Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos) pays $237 billion in cash to acquire Four Seasons Total Landscaping.
In the arts, Rolling Stone magazine declares that the No. 1 song of 2020 is “WAP,” which is an abbreviation for something that we cannot publish in a family newspaper, but suffice it to say that if any year deserved to have this declared as its best song, that year would be 2020.
Finally, after 12 nightmarish months, 2020 draws to a close, and ...
... and here we must interrupt our narrative to let you, the reader, in on a little secret: Because of magazine deadlines, we have to turn in our Year in Review in mid-December, before the year is actually over. Normally this doesn’t matter, because the holiday season tends to be a slow news time.
But this is no normal year, and we’re nervous. We worry that something major, by which we mean bad, will happen after our deadline — something involving the presidential election, or the virus, or some awful thing we cannot even imagine. Like, for example, maybe astronomers will announce that because of the human race snacking at historically high levels during the pandemic lockdown, the Earth has gained a huge amount of mass, which has slowed the planet down in its orbit around the sun and, as a result, to make the calendar work out, we have to add an ENTIRE MONTH to 2020. This month would of course be called ...
... which you probably think can’t possibly happen, right? What a crazy idea!
As crazy as masked Americans fighting over toilet paper.
Our point is, we don’t know what else will happen this year, including when it will end. We’re just hoping that it eventually does, and that next year is nothing like it. In that spirit, we’ll close with the wish we always offer at the end of our annual review, although this time it’s more of a prayer:
Happy new year.
Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist and author.
Illustrations by Gel Jamlang. Design and art direction by Clare Ramirez.