CSotD: Comedy, Tragedy and Catharsis

Let’s start with Kal Kallaugher’s response to watching the President break down in front of our eyes.

According to “The Final Days,” Woodward and Bernstein’s follow-up to “All the President’s Men,” Nixon became quite unglued as the prospect of impeachment loomed more and more likely, but I suppose the price we pay for Trump’s “authenticity” is that he doesn’t bother to hide his breakdown behind the walls of the White House, but rather weaves it into the performance art that has been his presidency.

Another difference is that, until those final days, Nixon surrounded himself not simply with the plumbers, whom he kind of kept hidden under his desk, but with normal, capable, confirmed-by-the-Senate people like Patrick Gray and Eliot Richardson.

And, by the way, a correction: I wrote a few days ago that Bill Barr was getting into John Mitchell territory, but I had forgotten that Mitchell’s criminal facilitation — for which he spent a year and a half in prison — happened after he had resigned as Attorney General and was head of the Committee to Re-Elect the President.

He was only a traitor to the nation, not to the office.

In any case, we won’t see another Saturday Night Massacre this time around because Trump has long since trimmed away anybody who opposed his nonsensical Cliff-Claven view of policy. Giuliani is hardly the only Staff Enabler working for him.

There’s plenty of dark humor to be had in watching Trump rage, but the schadenfreude is cut by a cold realization that he may be a lunatic, but he’s a well-armed lunatic and, as Kal’s cartoon implies, it seems clear that neither his own staff nor the tattered remains of the Republican Party are going to step in and try to hose him down.

We may end up with tanks surrounding the White House before this is all over. The question is which way the turrets will be facing.


However, Trump’s lunacy may be our ace in the hole on this. Dave Granlund is not the only cartoonist who lept upon the revelation that Trump asked for prices on adding a moat filled with snakes and alligators to his beloved wall, but he drew the funniest alligator.

I mentioned the other day that, when Woodstock was ascendant, we had hordes of bullshitters claiming to have been there, but that, when our forgotten veterans took center stage, they all shifted their stories and claimed to have served in the ‘Nam.

I would expect, if and when Trump’s glory begins to fade, a fair number of his followers will drop off the bandwagon, but here’s another difference between Trump and Nixon:

Everyone understands burglary and accepts it as a crime. Attempting to get a foreign government to assist with your re-election is equally illegal but much more white-collar and is not apt to provoke the same response.

Nixon and his allies got away with dismissing the whole thing as “a third-rate burglary,” until the rest of their hijinks began turning up, specifically the connection between the burglars and the president himself.

Trump is already denying that he inquired about moats and reptiles, and his most staunch loyalists will accept that, since they’re primed to believe that the press is “the enemy of the people” and simply invents outrageous lies.

But I think, for the great mass of the people, including many who support Trump for the moment, it’s less productive to express rage and certainly less productive to try to explain election law than it is to point out the utterly foolish, toddleresque nonsense that rattles around in that narcissistic, unschooled brain.

Pointing out his dishonesty doesn’t work. Making him look foolish might.

Which brings us to our

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Ann Telnaes)

(Jim Morin)

Ann Telnaes may have the sharpest pen among cartoonists who don’t go flailing off into insane concepts themselves. That is, she makes coherent points in a very nasty, delightful way, and her depiction of Trump’s criminal conspiracy makes me both laugh and shudder.

But I was primed to laugh and shudder. Her piece is cathartic, but I don’t think it’s persuasive in terms of turning Trump followers towards impeachment. Which is not to denigrate catharsis: Those who recognize the unfolding Tragedy indeed need Catharsis.

Morin’s cartoon leads to deeper thoughts. Part of the standard defense of an absurdly over-armed citizenry is that our problem is not guns but a culture of violent entertainment.

That’s nonsense, but we really have become more depraved, and Morin brings up a different element in our coarsening and increasingly amoral society: We made sympathetic heroes of Tony Soprano and his murderous gang, who, after all, were simply a TV version of Don Corleone and his loveable family of killers and bullies.

It’s goddam hard to shock the conscience of a nation that considers Tony Soprano a relatable, likeable character, especially when they prove it by electing a similarly crude, amoral, self-serving punk to the presidency.

Admit it: The only killing you felt bad about was when they whacked Christopher’s girlfriend, and, sad as it was, it was her own damn fault for cooperating with the law.


Which brings us to Bill Bramhalls’ commentary on Trump’s war against Adam Schiff, whom he has accused of treason for having questioned Dear Leader’s right to do whatever he wants, Constitution, chain-of-command, separation of powers and common decency be damned.

Trump also wants to find out who the whistleblower is, and apparently wants to hand out the same punishment for squealing that Adriana got:

I want to know who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information because that’s close to a spy … You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.

If that doesn’t put you in a mood where you need a little catharsis, I don’t know what will.


Adam Zyglis offers a fun graphic, because, if we remove that scarecrow, we’re left with something that has become awfully rare lately.

One thought on “CSotD: Comedy, Tragedy and Catharsis

  1. I could make some glib statement about running out of popcorn at this point and having to substitute nanaimo bars and poutine alongside our higher-alcohol-percentage beer… but the simple fact remains:

    Right now, no one is running the country. Not Congress, God knows not the president. No one’s making any real decisions. The keys are in the ignition, and the door is wide open. Let’s hope the right people — whoever they may be — get in and drive this thing.

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