Normalcy seems so appealing.
I ventured out last night for the first time in almost seven months, to a drive-in movie showing in the Arkansas Cinema Society festival.
Three hours later, I returned to this news at 9:25 p.m.:
- CORONAVIRUS: White House aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for COVID-19 and the president was waiting for results of his own test. Early this morning he and his wife were confirmed cases. By then, Internet speculation had already gone crazy in every direction, including that Trump might report a positive falsely as a prelude to a speedy recovery from the virus he’s depicted as overblown. I don’t believe that and I wish them both the mildest cases. The evidence is abundant that it can be devastating, with lasting ill consequences.
- WHITE SUPREMACY: Two days after his debate debacle, Trump talked with Sean Hannity last night and definitively condemned white supremacy and the radical Proud Boys. Too late for a proud publicity campaign by the Proud Boys linked to the man in the White House. Trump insisted Joe Biden must now condemn “Anitfa.” It is no problem to condemn the loosely affiliated people who’ve adopted that label and broken the law, but condemn “anti-fascism”? An admirer of the world’s autocrats wouldn’t want that, would he? One of the bloodiest demonstrations of anti-fascism occurred on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. Thank goodness “antifa” carried the day.
- SEXUAL HARRASSMENT: Another bombshell story from Jane Mayer in The New Yorker, this about Trump’s campaign finance chair (and Don Trump Jr. girlfriend) Kimberly Guilfoyle. Apparently she was forced out at Fox News after multiple complaints of misconduct and a multi-million dollar settlement with a former assistant over sexual harassment allegations. Said the article:
According to a dozen well-informed sources familiar with her complaints, the assistant alleged that Guilfoyle, her direct supervisor, subjected her frequently to degrading, abusive, and sexually inappropriate behavior; among other things, she said that she was frequently required to work at Guilfoyle’s New York apartment while the Fox host displayed herself naked, and was shown photographs of the genitalia of men with whom Guilfoyle had had sexual relations. The draft complaint also alleged that Guilfoyle spoke incessantly and luridly about her sex life, and on one occasion demanded a massage of her bare thighs; other times, she said, Guilfoyle told her to submit to a Fox employee’s demands for sexual favors, encouraged her to sleep with wealthy and powerful men, asked her to critique her naked body, demanded that she share a room with her on business trips, required her to sleep over at her apartment, and exposed herself to her, making her feel deeply uncomfortable.
- THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS: More 2018 tapes of Melania Trump emerged from her former aide, Stephanie Winston Woolfolk, who’s written a book about the experience. Mrs. Trump complained about criticism of the Trump administration for separating children at the border and about decorating the White House for Christmas.
“I’m working … my ass off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a fuck about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?”
She continued, “OK, and then I do it and I say that I’m working on Christmas and planning for the Christmas and they said, ‘Oh, what about the children that they were separated?’ Give me a fucking break. Where they were saying anything when Obama did that? I can not go, I was trying get the kid reunited with the mom. I didn’t have a chance — needs to go through the process and through the law.”
All this. In three hours. The timing couldn’t have been more apt for my movie experience.
It was “The Way I See It,” a documentary about Pete Souza, who was chief White House photographer under both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. He admired both men on a personal level. But he came to deeply admire Obama and has become an Instagram celebrity in private life for commentary on the current administration juxtaposed against scenes from the Obama era.
Before the movie reveals Souza’s political transformation in private life, it is a metaphor for the decency, thoughtfulness and — most of all — empathy of Barack Obama. The unspoken message, until the final minutes, when it becomes explicit, is the lack of these qualities in the White House today.
Three hours. The Obama years look positively blissful in the rearview mirror. Watch this movie if you get a chance.