National Lampoon's presidential vacation
A tale of America's doddering Clark Griswold and his New Jersey vacation from hell
When the White House announced that President Trump would be hitting the pause button on his unlicensed circus of an administration for 17 days, it was one of the more hopeful moments since inauguration day. What Trump's impending hiatus really said to millions of Americans was: You get a vacation. From me. Seventeen days is plenty of time to have a shower and a nap and come back refreshed and ready to deal with a president determined to unravel American democracy day by dispiriting day.
Alas, it was not to be.
Instead of staying out of the headlines for a few weeks, the president zealously continued his adolescent Twitter feuding, attacking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell repeatedly from his New Jersey golf resort, unleashing his typical tirades against Democrats, sharing random internet polls, and retweeting numerous stories from Fox & Friends, a show that has turned into the president's own private Pravda.
Trump also decided that what would really make his little Bedminster getaway memorable would be if he staged a junior high version of Dr. Strangelove right there on the links, casually lobbing threats of nuclear annihilation at the North Koreans while he telegraphed his regime's total lack of actual concern by staying on vacation. Imagine if Khrushchev had been boating in Sochi during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or if George H.W. Bush had launched Desert Shield from Kennebunkport.
Trump emptily promised to destroy North Korea with "fire and fury" should the regime of Kim Jong Un issue any further threats against the United States. Kim, of course, immediately dispatched another meaningless threat and Trump did nothing. He even bragged that by putting the U.S. territory of Guam in the crosshairs of atomic annihilation, he had increased their tourism revenue. I'm sure the good people of Guam, yoked to America despite lacking representation and voting rights, are super eager to be the next Chernobyl visited by post-apocalyptic disaster tourists. Sounds fun!
The people who work for Trump (and are so terrified of his ignorance and his megalomania that they secretly agreed never to be out of the country at the same time lest the president unwittingly tweet us into oblivion), quietly clarified to America's adversaries that they should not listen to anything the president says. It is now uncontroversial to tell the leaders of other countries that the president of the United States should be treated like a raving lunatic.
Trump even took time out of his frantic North Korea crisis-manufacturing to glibly threaten Venezuela with military action. And why not? There's oil to take down there and he probably thinks long-dead Hugo Chavez is still the president. And because he does not consult with his advisers or even think through the consequences of his actions before making absurd threats, the president was apparently blissfully unaware that he only emboldened anti-democratic forces in Caracas and made the situation worse.
It is a measure of the depths to which the presidency and our politics have been sunk by Trump that casually threatening to plunge us into two wars was not the low point of the past two weeks. That came when the president responded to the ugly neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia with total silence, and then refused to specifically condemn the groups responsible for the mayhem over the weekend, instead opting for a cowardly "all sides" formulation that obscured responsibility. By tacitly aligning himself with the hate groups whose provocations led to a Nazi terrorist plowing his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing one and maiming more than a dozen others, Trump gave succor and hope to the irredeemable scum who hang on his every word and who dream of erecting a white fascist kingdom on the ruins of the United States.
After 48 hours of pressure from GOP elites terrified that America will finally understand that the modern Republican Party is the institutional vehicle of fascism, racism, and white terror, the president glumly appeared before the cameras yesterday with a long-overdue and half-hearted denunciation of the KKK and the various cosplaying cowards who overran Charlottesville. No one who had been paying attention to the timeline could possibly have believed a word of it. What he proved, instead, was that he needs to open Waze just to navigate himself to the corner of Right Thing Street and Bare Minimum Road. This is a man whose administration reportedly mulled eliminating white nationalist groups from its Countering Violent Extremism program and froze grants designed to combat racist hate groups, who set up a hotline to report crimes committed by undocumented immigrants but who clearly gives zero tweets about the milieu of impunity he has created for hate groups and white nationalist terrorists. This is a man whose allies prioritized helping mediocre white kids get into college over the galloping menace of neo-Nazis. His entire presidency has been a long, unbearable, white nationalist infomercial.
Wake me up when impeachment proceedings begin. Wake me up when they promise to sit on all legislation until Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka are out of the White House. Wake me up when they denounce the president's immigrant crimes hotline. Wake me up when they stop abetting white nationalist initiatives like Kris Kobach's voter fraud farce. Wake me up when they fund programs to combat white nationalist extremism with the same gusto they support countering radical Islam. Wake me up when a single elected Republican leader recognizes the party's Jim Crow voter suppression laws for what they are. Until then it's just more empty posturing from a party that will be remembered for generations as the worst set of cowards to stain American democracy since Reconstruction.
As for America's doddering Clark Griswold and his New Jersey vacation from hell: You can have all of our credit card miles if you promise to go much, much farther away and never come back.