Sean Spicer walked into the East Room Monday afternoon, spoke with General McMaster and then turned to look. I caught his eye.
“So are you staying?” I asked him.
He smiled. “Are you asking me if I’m standing?”
“No. Are you staying?”
He laughed, shook his head and then turned around and sat down for a Medal of Honor ceremony celebrating a Vietnam veteran’s valiant self-sacrifice for his country.
I had just heard Anthony “The Mooch,” Scaramucci had been deep sixed by The Don. “What’s so funny about me? What am I clown. Am I here to amuse you,” Scaramucci was apparently here to amuse us and nothing more.
I had to stifle a laugh, as did a few others, when we found out about the Mooch’s imminent demise. About a half hour earlier, as a hundred reporters and technicians stood outside the East Room baking in the sun, dozens of phones began buzzing. Trump had sent the Mooch back to whence he came. Perhaps, after all, he should have taken a leaf from Steve Bannon’s hymnal.
Some reporters were stoic and steadfast – this wasn’t funny. “The White House is in chaos!” One of them told me. I thought maybe he was going to set himself on fire he was so upset. “This is insane!”
I think we at the White House may have lost the ability to laugh at ourselves. When things get as crazy as they’ve gotten, I like to vent with a joke.
Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to restrain my laughter in the West Wing. Everything is a study in outlandish and bizarre behavior. It’s a simmering parody basted by hypocrisy and seasoned with a great deal of anger.
But no one wants to laugh. I don’t think the President laughs much. I rarely see him smile. He tweets a lot, but I haven’t seen any attempt at humor unless he’s way more self-aware than anyone believes.
In Monday’s press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried her hand at some humor but no one laughed at her condescending and off-putting joke. “Tough room,” she said. Maybe, but she’s a horrible standup comedian.
She claimed there was no chaos at the White House and that if we wanted to see chaos we should see her at home with her preschoolers every morning. I certainly thought that was funny. I avoided asking her why she was often comparing the White House to preschoolers.
As for the President’s stalwart base of supporters – they are too stunned, overwhelmed, angry and raw from defending the president to offer anything resembling a laugh. Then there are those former Trump supporters already in withdrawal, too numb to laugh and too filled with self-doubt and lingering denial to be able to offer a laugh for a long time. Liberals seem equally beat-down, save the odd spasm of Scaramucci jokes on Twitter.
I am not denying there are serious issues this country needs to address. Russia is a perfect place to start. But we also would do well to learn to love one another. There isn’t one resident of this great nation who couldn’t benefit from friending someone who thinks differently than they do.
You are not getting there without laughter. What do you say when you see a movie or a show you like? “I laughed, I cried – it had everything.”
That’s life. But lately we’re doing a lot of crying and not so much laughing – both sides are rubbed raw.
Here’s why: President Trump gave a speech to Long Island cops in which he encouraged police brutality. He tried to indoctrinate the Boy Scouts into a weird Trump Youth group with his speech regarding loyalty. His latest communications director is now a punchline to the question – how do you define a New York minute?
The answer: The time it takes Trump to throw Scaramucci under the bus.
Trump called Scaramucci’s antics last week “inappropriate for the situation.” But tell me how we balance that with a President who mocked a disabled reporter, encouraged his supporters to violence, “joked” about sexually assaulting women and is so despised that police departments apologize after he visits?
Those are but some offenses by a man who relishes his bad behavior and shows no desire to curb his basest instincts. He is mean-spirited, bombastic, manipulative, cunning, insecure, a bullying kind of guy who loves playing golf almost as much as he loves dictating false statements about involvement with Russia. Hell, he’s a comic’s dream.
There has never been a president so easy to parody and one so necessary to find a bit of humanity via humor in his performance in order keep from projectile vomiting.
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you there has never been so much angst among the general public. This makes me laugh more than anything. Here’s why:
In June of 1995 a Newsweek poll asked this question: “Was there a time when people in this country felt they had more in common and shared more values than Americans do today?” Eighty six percent said yes and the feeling of anxiety in society led to this:
“I want you to turn that anxiety into energy. We will create a better future and renew America only if enough people decide that there is a problem and that we can something about it. If we can take the energy aroused by danger and opportunity and channel it into useful efforts, we may be astounded at the excitement and progress in the 21st century. If we do our job right, the 21st century could be an age of freedom, an age of exploration, an age of discovery and an age of prosperity.”
That quote is from the July 10, 1995 edition of Newsweek .
The person who wrote those words could’ve been talking about today.
The guy who wrote them? Newt Gingrich.
Now you know why we need comedy.