Op-ed: No laughing matter

  • By Bob Franken
  • Sunday, June 4, 2017 10:54am
  • Opinion

I am a huge fan of Michelle Obama, like just about all people with brains in their heads. However, I pretty much disagree with her when she says, “When they go low, we go high.” I’m of the “when they go low, go lower” persuasion. If you aren’t willing to roll around in the mud with your opponents, you still get slimed. And when it comes to down-and-dirty, the man who holds the highest office in the land scrapes bottom. Having said that, there’s such a thing as too low, even when it comes to dissing Donald Trump.

Comedian Kathy Griffin managed to go there when she released a picture of herself holding a severed, mock bloody head whose face resembled Trump’s. She was trying to be funny, I guess, but it wasn’t funny. Even in this world of incendiary ignorant rhetoric, particularly about politics, this was tacky, tasteless and violent. Besides, it allowed the Trumpster to play the victim. He was able to quickly tweet that Griffin “should be ashamed of herself,” and continued: “My children, especially my 11-year-old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!” Melania weighed in. Trump’s strongest critics did too. Chelsea Clinton, for instance, called the picture “vile and wrong.” “It is never funny to joke about killing a president,” she tweeted.

The outcry was crushing to Griffin, who finally posted a video on Instagram: “I beg for your forgiveness. I went too far.” Too far for CNN. Calling the photo “disgusting and offensive,” the network’s management pulled the plug on Griffin’s annual New Year’s Eve appearance with Anderson Cooper, which was either funny or juvenile, depending on your maturity level. Anyway, she had been doing the gig for 10 years. She won’t get an 11th.

Here is the problem with even attempting to ridicule Donald Trump: He does a terrific job of that by himself. His tweets are laughable, or they would be if they didn’t show just how vacuous he is. We don’t need a typo like “covfefe” to demonstrate how ridiculous his Twitter rockets are. But that’s just the sideshow. His slapstick administration is like watching “The Three Stooges,” except there are so many more of them. With very few exceptions, they are a nonstop comedy of errors. His decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord is definitely not an exception.

With that move, Donald Trump has forfeited the United States’ tradition of international leadership. By pulling out, President Trump has isolated the U.S. Worst of all, that seems to be his intent. His ubernationalist advisers have won the day, while we as a nation have lost. Their go-it-alone course is now official isolationist policy. It’s a course to disaster, because on this intertwined planet, you really can’t go it alone. Already we’re seeing adversaries moving in to fill the superpower gap left by Trump. China is being obvious about it. It’s readily apparent why Vladimir Putin and the Russians were so intent on getting Donald Trump elected: When they aren’t manipulating him, they can simply stand by and watch him do us all in.

President Trump’s stated reasons for abandoning the agreement is that it was a bad deal for the U.S. of A., that it severely damaged our economy and well-being. He didn’t mention the damage that a fevered world climate will do. It will be indiscriminate; flooding and ravaging storms will not stop at any borders. Furthermore, without participation by the United States, it’s impossible to stop the planet from overheating, since this country belches an inordinate amount of hydrocarbons into the fragile atmosphere.

So, yes, we can waste our time ridiculing these guys, often going too low to their level. The reality is that it is not funny. What we are witnessing from President Donald Trump is tragedy.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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