Readers of a certain age will likely remember the early '60s TV show That Was the Week That Was - better known to cognoscenti as "TW3." Originally created by the late Sir David Frost for BBC television and then imported to the U.S of A., TW3 was an incredibly creative, sassy and on-point lampooning of the week's political events. The American version was home to such gifted writers as Buck Henry, Calvin Trillin, Herb Sargent, Saul Turtletaub and Tom Lehrer, the "Salinger of Satirical Song." Then too, those who appeared in front of the camera weren't too shabby either: Bob Dishy, Tom Boswell, Allan Sherman, Steve Allen, and even Woody Allen. Alas, despite its tart sauciness, TW3 only ran from January 1964 to May 1965 - a mere 24 shows. And yet, it is fondly remembered as a groundbreaking showcase for some of the best, brightest and most perceptive talents in contemporary entertainment.
One wonders what a contemporary, Trump-era version of TW3 would be like. Unbelievably, within the span of a single week, Trump & Co. have provided enough fodder for at least 40 hours of satire and lampooning. Consider that within the past week (168 hours), the president and his people have:
- Issued a travel ban against Muslims seeking to come to the United States from 7 majority Muslim countries. When questioned about the enormity of the ban, both President Trump (via tweet) and Presidential Press Secretary Sean Spicer said “Remember we’re talking about a universe of 109 people. There were 325,000 people that came into this country over a 24 hour period from another country. 109 of them were stopped for additional screening.” Turns out, the number stopped was in excess of 60,000.
- Then, when the ban was overturned by Federal District Judge James Robart (a George W. Bush appointee whom the U.S. Senate confirmed by a vote of 99-0) the president responded with a tweet: “The opinion of this so-called judge is ridiculous and will be overturned!” (Within hours of making this rather breathtaking claim, a federal appeals court in San Francisco rejected the justice department's request for an emergency stay of Judge Robart’s order that the ban be suspended nationwide. The president responded again in yet another tweet: "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!"
- Within a single week, President Trump managed to get into a kerfuffle with Australian P.M. Malcolm Turnbull over vetting - with an eye toward admitting - 1,250 Syrian refugees who are living on islands in detention centers off the Australian mainland due to strict government policies. (The agreement was reached while Barack Obama was still POTUS.) In his phone conversation with Mr. Turnbull, President reportedly insisted it was a very bad deal for the US to take 2,000 (not 1,250) refugees and that one of them was going to be the next Boston bomber, and then he hung up. When news of the conversation was reported, Trump hit back, blaming the entire affair on false reporting by the liberal media.
- In yet another telephone conversation he warned Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto that he was ready to send U.S. troops to Mexico to stop "bad hombres down there" unless the Mexican military does more to control them.
- He had his National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, tell the press "We're putting Iran on notice" after its latest ballistic missile test and several attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen.
- Stated that the failed raid against Al Qaedi in Yemen (which led to the death of an American serviceman and several civilian causalities) was the fault of the Obama Administration which had approved it. According to two highly-placed members of the Obama intelligence/defense team, the former president never approved the plan.
- In attempting to justify President Trump's ban on Muslims from seven different countries, Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that when Obama was POTUS "Two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. … It didn`t get covered" Turns out that Ms. Conway's version of Obama-era history was pure fiction; there never was a "Bowling Green massacre."
- At a Black History Month gathering, the president stated "Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.” From his comments it appeared that (1) President Trump had no idea who Mr. Douglass was, and that (2), he's been dead for 122 years. Attempting to clarify his boss's error, Press Secretary Sean Spicer essentially dug an even deeper hole, asserting “I think there’s contributions — I think he wants to highlight the contributions that he has made,” Spicer said of Trump’s reference to Douglass. “And I think through a lot of the actions and statements that he’s going to make, I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more.”
- Appearing at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump urged those in attendance to pray for former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose ratings on The Apprentice are "down the tubes," as compared to the former host - none other than the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
- And finally, in an early-morning tweetstorm President Trump declared that "Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election."
And this doesn't even count the president's move to gut Dodd/Frank so that financial planners and brokers don't have to put their clients' interests above their own, and the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in a manner more akin to announcing a winner on The Apprentice than the naming of a Justice to the nation's highest court.
Indeed, were TW3 back in business, not only would its producers have to hire 200 additional writers and scores of additional actors; they would have to amend their tagline. Perhaps they could steal the one the late, lamented Westinghouse Broadcasting used: "All yuks all the time. You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the weird." And, they would have to be on at least 5 hours a day, 7 days a week just to cover the most egregious, most satire-worthy acts and statements of this new administration.
Now I know there are still millions of Americans who continue supporting President Trump, believing most - if not all - of what he says, does, thinks, tweets and proposes; who trust him to make the right decisions and surround himself with only the best, smartest and least politically correct people imaginable. These are the ones who continually command that the rest of us "Give him a chance!" Sorry, but as the old saw goes, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Donald Trump is the way he is; what you see is what you get. And what we get is a man-child who is anything but presidential; an unlettered egomaniac who is in thrall to a malevolent Geppetto named Bannon.
At the same time, he and his crew are worthy of vicious satire . . . as well as petitions, protests, phone calls and acts of intelligent defiance.
For those missing the barbs, wit and outright tomfoolery of TW3, might I recommend their closest incarnation? Do become acquainted with The Capitol Steps . . . the people who put the mock in Democracy.
16 days down, 1,444 to go.
Copyright©2017 Kurt F. Stone