By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – A lot has happened on the soap opera, “As the Nation Disintegrates,” since we last tuned in.
Just for starters, the U.S. secretary of state apparently has called the president of the United States a “moron” in a Cabinet meeting. This came not long after the president said the secretary of state was wasting his time trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution regarding our differences with North Korea, which has stepped up its testing of nuclear missiles.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
The president wasn’t happy about being called a “moron” by one of his own appointees, but remained undecided about how to communicate his displeasure, torn between tweeting about it or just going into a prolonged pout.
When confronted about it, the secretary of state refused to deny that it had happened, but argued that no one should be paying attention to his or the president’s temper tantrums – and mixed signals to the North Koreans – while we possibly creep toward nuclear war.
The president’s press secretary reiterated that point, calling the reports that the nation’s chief diplomat had called the nation’s chief executive a moron “ridiculous” – which was a clever way of avoiding saying whether they were true or not.
Meanwhile, the chief of staff of the vice president of the United States – cue the melodramatic transitional music – has explored ways to purge moderate Republicans from the U.S. Senate.
These are members of the vice president’s and the president’s own party, but the chief of staff apparently has urged the party’s donors not to give money to these fellow Republicans but even to search for opponents for them.
These GOP senators’ offense?
Well, they voted against a healthcare measure that the president first applauded, then called “mean,” then applauded, then forgot about, then demanded a vote on.
Because these senators didn’t vote for this measure – which polls at roughly the same level of public support as a sexually transmitted disease – the chief of staff said they were “working against” the president and vice president and therefore must be punished.
It’s also possible that, because this is a soap opera and not a serious operation, the GOP senators got confused by all the plot twists or stopped listening after the president called the measure “mean.”
Which it was.
Not satisfied to have hissy fits with his own Cabinet and with members of his own party, the president also has continued his spat with the National Football League, its players and its owners. The president argues that the best way to celebrate freedom is to deny it – in this case, by ordering football players to stand while the national anthem plays or be fired.
The late Janis Joplin once sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”
The president says, “Freedom means doing what you’re told.”
Like all good soap operas, “As the Nation Disintegrates” works to lull the audience into something resembling a state of hypnosis. The absurd, over-the-top melodrama, the byzantine plot twists and the campy performances are designed to distract people so they don’t notice what they’re being sold.
In this case, it’s a new budget bill that moved from the Senate while America was watching the president spat with his secretary of state, the vice president’s chief of staff growl in the direction of fellow Republicans who refuse to kneel and the sworn defender of Americans’ constitutional rights to freedom of speech and conscience tell African-Americans to shut up and salute.
This budget bill shifts the tax burden away from the wealthiest Americans to middle-class and poor Americans and strips away hundreds of millions of dollars of healthcare coverage from the elderly and the poor.
This happened while we watched the soap opera.
“As the Nation Disintegrates.”
If only it were just a show.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.