As of this writing, February 2020 is but eight days old and already the drama, excitement, silliness and stupidity of its daily news feed has been exploding like a fusillade of concussion grenades, leaving in their wake ... well, pretty much a big hot mess of widespread disgruntlement interspersed with concentrated pockets of schadenfreude, cynicism, giddiness and glee.
Three of my favorite first-week-in-February highlights follow. Would love to hear yours.
Super Bowl XXXXX4. I went with the X’s because Roman numerals are archaic, pretentious and annoying. Besides, I never learned them all. Plus, Super Bowl’s halftime showgirls, J. Lo and Shakira, also went all X’s when creating the show’s choreography and costuming. The game itself proved one of the better bowls. The beleaguered city of San Francisco saw its gridironers grasp defeat from the jaws of victory as its beloved ’Niners blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the winning Kansas City Chiefs.
The loss was a particularly cruel one for San Francisco, which sure could use a break these days. “The City by the Bay,” once renowned for its sweet vibe, natural beauty, booming economy and defiantly woke attitude, now sadly grapples with rampant homelessness, increasing blight and sidewalks splattered with stuff not meant to be walked on. Anyway, while the ’Niners and Chiefs took a break from blocking and tackling, J. Lo and Shakira entertained with bumping, grinding, grabbing and pole dancing, all while wearing not a whole lot. The oversexed spectacle was better suited for Showtime after hours. And incorporating prepubescents and young teens in the mix of steamy choreography was particularly — how to phrase this delicately — creepy.
Monday, Feb. 3 — A day that will live in Democratic Party infamy. “Snafu” is too weak a word for the unmitigated disaster also known as the 2020 Iowa Democratic presidential caucuses. As the Iowa party’s new but untested vote-count technology crashed, failing to produce any meaningful data (other than “there is no data”), cable news outlets hyperventilated in unison.
In a rare and flummoxed demonstration of unity, Fox News, MSNBC and CNN agreed the debacle was nothing short of a debacle, a critique their anchors and commentators repeated incessantly while gathered at high-gloss conference tables in front of ultra-high-def screens brightly informing viewers that each Democratic candidate for president had garnered a whopping zero percent of the vote.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer was so distraught that, as the evening wore on, he appeared in the throes of a medical emergency. Brian Williams at MSNBC was on his usual high horse, bloviating on the inadequacies of the poor schlubs responsible for the mess. Over at Fox News, they were doing their best to contain themselves but could not resist alluding to the irony of a party seeking to reinvent government being unable to generate a timely, accurate vote count in a small, rural state. After several data-free hours, the candidates deduced that in the absence of data to the contrary, they could try to claim or feign victory, which each did in venues of their gathered supporters and the media before skedaddling to New Hampshire, a state that knows how to conduct primaries the old-fashioned way.
Inarguably, the most contentious, dramatic and entertaining State of the Union address in history was delivered on Feb. 4, 2020. Were it a football game, it would be Ravens-Steelers for the Division Championship. As President Donald Trump presented formal copies of his speech to Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he ignored or missed Pelosi’s offer to shake hands, setting the mood for the remainder of the address.
Trump went on to deliver what many described as his first campaign speech of the 2020 presidential campaign. The address might better be described as a production, featuring a litany of Trump administration accomplishments and objectives, interspersed with a large cast of citizen heroes and role models, each with a poignant and inspirational story. Several of the vignettes also served as unsubtle exclamation points to some stark and contentious differences between Democrats and Republicans, particularly on abortion and school choice.
The former reality TV star was putting on a show and as the rhetoric and cast of heroic characters unfolded, Republicans dutifully and repeatedly stood and cheered while Democrats simply sat and seethed. When the president directed first lady Melania to present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to conservative icon Rush Limbaugh, who has stage 4 lung cancer, both the cheers of Republicans and groans of Democrats could be heard.
Meanwhile, Speaker Pelosi was putting on a show of her own. Seated behind the president and in constant view, Pelosi was a study in dismissive perpetual motion, negative body language and exasperated facial expression. As she constantly shuffled and reshuffled pages of the address, you could almost see it coming. The Rip Watched ’Round the World was something to behold as Madam Speaker purposefully tore the SOTU in half, several pages at a time. If you missed the hissy fit, no worries. It’s certain to be run in campaign ads ad nauseam for the next nine months — by both sides.
Brent Grimes writes from Damascus (firstname.lastname@example.org).