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Opinion Some totally non-sarcastic praise of Trump’s comic genius

President Donald Trump listens to a question as he speaks about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, Monday, April 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Your president is so funny.

How funny is he?

President Trump is so funny that after he speculated at a White House briefing that ingesting disinfectants could cure covid-19, the Maryland governor said that hundreds of people called a state hotline asking whether they should drink bleach!


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That’s almost as funny as the time Trump told everybody to take chloroquine to stop the coronavirus — because “what have you got to lose?” — and a guy in Arizona died because he ate fish-tank cleaner containing chloroquine.


One of the many benefits of the pandemic is to be reminded how amazingly humorous the president is. He has the best jokes! But because he’s a very subtle comic genius, his wit, sadly, is frequently lost on others.

When he said he had asked federal scientists to study whether household disinfectants could be taken internally to fight the virus, he later explained “I was asking a sarcastic, and a very sarcastic, question to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside.”

Without a hint of sarcasm, I say: I am currently doubling over and slapping my knee.

In conventional usage, sarcasm, from the Greek “sarkasmos,” or sneer, means to use irony in a cutting way — often enthusiastically stating the opposite of what one means. But like all pioneers in the field of comedy, Trump has shifted the boundaries so that “sarcastic” means, roughly, “a term applied retroactively to something I wish I hadn’t said.”

For example, when Trump asked Vladimir Putin’s help in 2016 hacking Hillary Clinton’s email (“Russia, if you’re listening . . .”) his joke was so nuanced that nobody knew it was a joke until Trump disclosed it much later. “I made the statement quoted in Question II(d) in jest and sarcastically,” he (or his lawyers) declared in his written deposition to special counsel Robert Mueller.

What a cutup!

Likewise, Trump said during the 2016 campaign that “I love WikiLeaks” because it released Democrats’ emails. But he was so bone dry that we did not learn until three years later that Trump had been joking — and then only from his press secretary.

The incorrigible wag fooled us again when he publicly called on China to investigate the Bidens. It was all a lark!

Likewise, his deadpan wit went over everybody’s head when he announced: “We’re building a wall on the border in New Mexico and we’re building a wall in Colorado!” Calling Colorado a border state, he subsequently informed us, was done “kiddingly.” Upon learning this, I enjoyed a retroactive-but-hearty LOL.

Because there is no statute of limitations under Trump’s definition of sarcasm, it would be natural for his predecessors to proclaim, ex post facto, that key mistakes of their presidencies were also humorous exercises:

Barack Obama’s claim that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”? Medical sarcasm.

George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” moment on the aircraft carrier? Military sarcasm.

Bill Clinton’s “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is?” Sexual sarcasm.

Before long, descendants of Neville Chamberlain will make the case that “peace for our time” was misunderstood cynicism.

But Trump’s sarcasm is so cleverly inscrutable it fools even him. Of his claim that Obama was the “founder” of the Islamic State, Trump said, “obviously, I’m being sarcastic . . . but not that sarcastic.”

By trying to reassign seats in the White House briefing room, the Trump administration is attempting to stifle real journalism, says media critic Erik Wemple. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford / WP/The Washington Post)

The rubes in the fake news media have repeatedly missed the joke when the droll Trump said he could get away with shooting somebody on Fifth Avenue, proposed “Second Amendment people” stop Hillary Clinton, said Americans should “sit up at attention” for him, mused about being “president for life” and serving “at least for 10 or 14 years,” called Democrats “treasonous” for not applauding his State of the Union address, encouraged police brutality, applauded a congressman’s assault on a reporter and offered to pardon aides who break laws.

It was all, he and aides later asserted, in jest. False claims by Trump University? Sarcastic. That day he looked heavenward and called himself “the chosen one,” after sharing a tweet proclaiming him “the King of Israel” and “the second coming of God”?

“I was kidding, being sarcastic,” Trump said — later.

Get it?

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After he expressed disappointment in 2016 that his speech on the Mall was not as well-attended as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington, he later clarified that “everybody knew I was being sarcastic.”

And the president has inspired imitators. The new White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, told the New York Post over the weekend that Trump works so much that “the biggest concern I have” is making sure Trump “gets some time to get a quick bite to eat.”

Trump working so hard he can’t find time to eat? Now that’s funny.

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Read more:

Eugene Robinson: Trump’s bizarre ranting isn’t good for the country — or for him

Michael Gerson: Trump’s words during the coronavirus crisis have been a monument to his mediocrity

Max Boot: How did we get a president who advocates injecting disinfectant? ‘Mrs. America’ offers an answer.

Henry Olsen: Republicans have to run the campaign that Trump won’t

Coronavirus: What you need to know

End of the public health emergency: The Biden administration ended the public health emergency for the coronavirus pandemic on May 11, just days after WHO said it would no longer classify the coronavirus pandemic as a public health emergency. Here’s what the end of the covid public health emergency means for you.

Tracking covid cases, deaths: Covid-19 was the fourth leading cause of death in the United States last year with covid deaths dropping 47 percent between 2021 and 2022. See the latest covid numbers in the U.S. and across the world.

The latest on coronavirus boosters: The FDA cleared the way for people who are at least 65 or immune-compromised to receive a second updated booster shot for the coronavirus. Here’s who should get the second covid booster and when.

New covid variant: A new coronavirus subvariant, XBB. 1.16, has been designated as a “variant under monitoring” by the World Health Organization. The latest omicron offshoot is particularly prevalent in India. Here’s what you need to know about Arcturus.

Would we shut down again? What will the United States do the next time a deadly virus comes knocking on the door?

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