(Permanent Musical Accompaniment To The Last Post Of The Week From The Blog’s Favourite Living Canadian.)
It long has been taken as gospel in this here shebeen that one of the best things about the United States of America is that it is the greatest country in the history of the world to be completely out of your mind. I even wrote a book with that as one of the essential themes. The other was that there are inescapable—and often catastrophic—consequences to believing nonsense, especially in a country that was born of the Enlightenment values of scientific reason.The book’s amanuensis was an erratic 19th century genius named Ignatius Donnelly. He was a lawyer and a politician whose political beliefs were as peripatetic as were his enthusiasms, which were considerable. Donnelly is best known for Atlantis: The Antediluvian World. Published in 1882, the book was an instant sensation. In it, Donnelly produced the fruit of countless hours of research in, among other places, the Library of Congress, to which he would repair when his job as a member of the House of Representatives got too boring. In it you will find almost everything that ever has been postulated in a pseudo-scientific sense about the Lost Continent—from Leonard Nimoy’s old In Search Of show, through the oeuvre of The Most Awesome Man On Television, right up to the lyrics of Donovan’s hit, “Atlantis.” All of these things began with Ignatius Donnelly, a wholly evolved product of American absurdity who, late in his life, gave to that distinct form of human folly that grows out of our Founding Documents as surely as does political liberty its most succinct summation. One day, writing in his voluminous diary, Donnelly declared:
I believe I am right. And, if not right, plausible.
I recalled all of this while watching Friday’s installment of Sean Spicer: Live In Washington, the new hit series. This, I must say, was an episode on which the writer’s room really outdid itself. Spicer broke a lot of rock trying to hang some sort of ratfcking rap on the previous administration based on something a former Obama official named Evelyn Farkas, who left the administration in 2015, said on television in 2017 about something that happened in 2016. (Big props to NPR’s Tamara Keith for posing the question to Spicer in precisely that way.) Actually, all that Farkas did was say that the outgoing administration did its best to safeguard the intelligence data lest the incoming elves make the inconvenient parts of it disappear. Nonetheless, Spicer kept insisting on this point.
Later, while explaining the midnight ride of Devin Nunes to the White House, Spicer explained that there was nothing untoward about the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee—and a former member of the Trump transition team—slipping away for his staff and into the White House in the middle of the night, swapping cars in the process, and then repeating the White House’s own alibis back at it. This whole performance was an absurdity that was an insult to the proud history of American absurdity. It was neither right nor plausible. Ignatius Donnelly would have been embarrassed to see how far we’ve all fallen.
If nothing else, in a little over two months, this administration has pushed the limits of American absurdity, which I always thought were almost boundless. It has done so in a cheap and grimy way. This is an administration of the sidewalk grift, not the big con. It’s three-card monte on the A train, not an epic swindle on the order of Ocean’s 11. For all his alleged millions, and for every one of his gold-plated commodes, the president* is a glorified street hustler. It’s almost a shame that he may have a congressional committee and/or the FBI running him to ground. He should get hooked up by a 60-year old bunco cop waiting out his pension in a leaky precinct house. He is not right. He is not plausible. And that’s beneath even the past crimes of the office he holds.