Op-ed: Of storms and morons

  • By Bob Franken
  • Wednesday, October 11, 2017 9:39am
  • Opinion

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called his boss, President Donald Trump, a “moron,” but we are the real morons — certainly those in Washington, D.C., who allow Trump to so easily mess with our minds.

He’s at it again by calling in media types for a photo op at a White House dinner he was hosting for his seniormost generals and their spouses. It looked purely social, just a group picture for souvenirs. That is, until the Trumpster threw out this little bit of provocation: “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

Whoa! What did he mean by “the storm”?

Good journalists that the White House pool reporters are, they asked that very question. Repeatedly. And repeatedly he refused to explain himself, brushing off requests for an explanation with a cagey “You’ll see.”

When the commander in chief starts talking about a “storm” in a room full of generals, “You’ll see” is just not going to cut it. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the spokesperson whose job it is to keep White House correspondents in the dark, was her usual helpful self, which is to say not helpful at all. Of course, that led to the obvious question: Was the chief executive simply messing with the press? “I wouldn’t say that he’s messing with the press,” she said, which means he definitely was messing with the press.

He’s been known to do that. In fact, it’s nonstop. He’s made “Fake news” his contemptuous go-to dismissal of any story that doesn’t praise him to the high heavens. He also runs a never-ending guerrilla campaign against the media. His latest Twitter onslaught to leave us ink-stained wretches all atwitter, to say nothing of the hair-sprayed wretches on TV, was his tweet “Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up — FAKE!”

Of course, that would be seriously unconstitutional. Presumably Trump is familiar with the Constitution, but it doesn’t matter. His base probably isn’t. Besides, Senate Intel is a bit preoccupied right now, investigating whether Trump and/or his campaign sold out the country’s election to Russian comrade Vladimir Putin.

He’s also sticking it to all the late-night-show hosts, comedians who consider the Trump presidency the gift that keeps on giving. “Late Night host(s) are dealing with the Democrats for their very ‘unfunny’ &repetitive material, always anti-Trump!” he tweeted. “Should we get Equal Time?”

Absolutely, he should get equal time on the late-night shows, on all of them. What fun that would be, particularly if any of the hosts was willing to thoroughly question him and endure all the death threats and hateful spittle that certainly would follow. That truly would be a “storm.” A spittle storm.

In the meantime, we will just simply have to wonder what POTUS was talking about when he declared that it was the “calm before the storm.” It already has set off a bombast of speculation on cable news, as every pundit imaginable (who also consider this president a tremendous gift) is slithering on set to pretend to have some special knowledge. Is he talking about some significant development concerning North Korea or Iran, or maybe he was talking about Nate, the latest hurricane to wreak havoc? Who knows? Among those who might not even know is Donald Trump himself. I understand that this might seem to be astonishing, but sometimes he shoots off his mouth because he just wants attention. Apparently, the band playing “Hail to the Chief” when he enters the room isn’t enough.

Perhaps he really does have some specific turbulence in mind. To a great extent, he does control the climate. Maybe, just maybe, he’s aware that it would create quite a storm in Washington if he fired Rex Tillerson. Then again, he’s moved on from Tillerson. His newest Twitter trash-talk target is Sen. Bob Corker, who has responded in unkind by calling the White House “an adult day care center.” Adult?

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

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