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This was unprecedented in the long history of the human ego.
Quarantined because he has a serious case of a deadly and highly contagious disease, the president* of the United States on Sunday decided to throw himself a parade. So he arranged to be locked in an airtight vehicle with a couple of sacrificial lambs from the U.S. Secret Service so he could drive around the block and wave to the gathering of unemployables that has gathered outside Walter Reed National Medical Center to stand vigil for their Dear Leader. Now, we expect our presidents to have monstrous egos. Otherwise, no rational person would want that job. Because we are a maddening, inconstant people, however, we also expect the occasional ritual humility, some at least performative bows toward the humble. This is, after all, one of only two people fully capable of blowing up the entire world.
This president*, of course, never got that second part, and he never will. That’s why he may never understand why his little road trip on Sunday may have cost him whatever chance he still had to be re-elected on the square. There was a possibility, slim and evanescent, that he could have played this illness into a surge of sympathy that might have been enough to bring back some of the voters he has clearly lost. (The most recent polls show Joe Biden thrashing him among seniors, a demographic to which the pandemic represents literally a life-or-death issue.) Instead, we get ridiculous dumbshows. The president*, signing blank sheets of paper in some White House pantry. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, a man whose feet have not touched the bottom of the pool since he took the gig, babbling about bringing the notoriously reading-averse president* some “documents” to work on. (On the electric Twitter machine, Soviet emigre Slava Malamud pointed out that “working with documents” was the excuse that Boris Yeltsin’s people would use when Yeltsin was either too drunk or too hungover for real work.) And, finally, the piece d’imbecile, his little jaunt in the SUV.
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And where in the hell is Mike Pence? This is one of the three circumstances in which the country needs a vice-president. (Breaking ties in the Senate and attending overseas funerals are the other two.) As much as I would dislike having The Choirboy—pace Doghouse Riley—as president*, he really needs to step up now. The president* is undergoing heavy steroid treatments for what is a far more serious case of COVID-19 than we have been led to believe. (Those press conference from his incredibly nervous medical team are next to useless.) The 25th Amendment is calling you, Mike. Here is Section 4 of that very useful provision.
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
But who am I kidding? Can you see Pence even calling the Cabinet together for this purpose, let alone whipping a majority vote to set the president* aside out of the likes of Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, and Mike Pompeo? (I’m betting Pompeo is sorry he pissed off the pope these days.) Can you see this Congress getting together to provide “a body” to set him aside? It’s all broken. It needs to be cleansed before its repaired. The country has to go into quarantine.
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