Maybe this is the approach Donald Trump is taking to the coronavirus. (Then again, would I feel safer and better knowing that he was touching all the decisions, or would I feel better if he calmly agreed to go out of the room for a little bit so that people could use the government without alarming him, like a house cat while you vacuum?)
Anyway, he is keeping busy, and this preamble is by way of explaining that this piece is about what he is busy with. Nothing the president fixates on is too pathetic to be beneath my notice! That is why I went to the Conservative Political Action Conference just outside Washington and watched the play whose team he spent 45 minutes with yesterday in the Oval Office, before hearing from Diamond and Silk. (The people involved in the production seemed, correctly, surprised to have gotten so much time. “We went for a 15-minute meeting that took 45 minutes!”) But they should not have been.
Playwright Phelim McAleer has turned the Peter Strzok-Lisa Page texts and the testimony that followed into a stage production, starring Dean Cain and Kristy Swanson. If you don’t know what these texts are, you have been leading a blessed life and I don’t want you to read any more. I remain firm in my refusal to accept that these are public figures. These FBI employees have been lavishly punished for conducting an affair on their office phones and sharing their personal anti-Trump opinions with one another while simultaneously being professionals in government service. Is three years of bullying and impersonation enough? Apparently not.
Usually a rule of impersonation is that the person you are impersonating has to be more famous than you are, or why bother? Yet here this play was! “Could you all turn this into a Shakespearean tragicomedy series please?” one audience member asked.
“You ARE Peter Strzok,” another audience member told Cain, with wonderment, after the play concluded. Who? I’m sorry, who? “The head, the movements. You don’t even look like yourself, Mr. Cain.”
Who? Who? Why do you all care? Why does the president care? Mr. President, you won!
Maybe that is where the grand Shakespearean tragedy of it all comes in. More than three years later, long after his election victory, Donald Trump is still obsessed with two officials who did their jobs while personally not liking him. They are still the stars of Trump rallies, where the president performs their exchanges, grotesquely.
“These are conversational private texts, not statements for the record,” Strzok testifies at one point in the play, which includes large swaths of real congressional testimony. I guess its inclusion is meant to showcase the grilling of the eponymous “FBI Lovebirds,” but it just serves to remind the viewer that these molehill texts have been the subject of congressional hearings by elected officials who, I guess, also had nothing better to do.
Cain said he had told the president of the United States, in the Oval Office, about his own portrayals of Strzok at his rallies: “Sir, I think you might have been doing a better job.” Imagine flattering the president of the United States by complimenting his impersonation of the personal texts of two civil servants who had and continue to have no power over him! At least Nero was a competent fiddler.
This kind of petty bullying is, I guess, the point. Feeling so powerless that you must continue, after years, to drag these two people through the muck over and over again, gloatingly, with ever-increasing production values! In the Oval Office, no less!
“We’re the elites now,” Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida told conference-goers earlier in the afternoon. But the memo has, apparently, not reached the rest of CPAC: the crowd assembled to laugh with the president at these personal texts.
“I’m a conservative that believes in not mocking our enemies, but outthinking them,” one audience member said, with no apparent irony.
“They mock themselves,” Cain replieds. No, in this case, they don’t. This one is all you.
How you could control the presidency, the judiciary and half the legislature and still feel put-upon and disenfranchised is a neat trick that I would like to learn. It is so much easier to hurt people when you feel put-upon and disenfranchised. I’m glad the president still makes time in his busy schedule for it. It’s not as though he has anything better to do.
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