That sound you’ve been hearing for almost five months is the world laughing at America as the rubes from New York bumble around Washington smashing the fine china of governance in a spectacle of political slapstick that recalls the Broadway farce Noises Off.
The global audience can’t look away or stop pointing at the hysterical scene of a sleep-deprived, aging egomaniac stirring up trouble at home and abroad with digital notes about whatever pops into his petty, petulant and self-aggrandizing head.
Surely the planet would be enjoying itself more and the laughter wouldn’t often turn nervous if President Trump’s for-the-birds tweeting didn’t sometimes have serious consequences.
In just the past couple of weeks, there was the orchestrated effort to keep the world on tenterhooks and himself at the center of attention as he, Emperor Donald, decided whether to withdraw from the Paris Agreement -- which he did, further diminishing U.S. leadership.
Then there was his blundering into the dispute between the Gulf States in which he initially sided with the duplicitous Saudis and their allies against the tiny Arab renegade Qatar. He was forced to change course quickly and try to position himself as a peacemaker after one of his court jesters whispered that Qatar is the fabulously wealthy dot in the Middle East – chockablock with troops, bombers and sophisticated electronics -- from which the Pentagon and the CIA run the never-ending wars against ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban.
Of course, there are moments when the laughter stops.
The U.S. missile strike on the Syrian air base in retaliation for a chemical-weapons attack on civilians by the murderous Assad regime caused the world to shut up and America to look strong.
And while two of the military leaders the President has put in place can sometimes seem like the rest of the Trump toads – National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster defending his boss’s big-mouth meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office and Homeland Secretary John Kelly whitewashing back-channel contacts with Moscow before the Inauguration – the unleashed Pentagon led by former General James Mattis, the Defense Secretary, has gone after ISIS with the vengeance that was promised.
Other promises have been kept, too. However ham-handed the efforts have been, Trump has moved to dismantle Obamacare, clamp down on illegal immigration, impose a ban on travel from countries seen as dangerous and tear down Dodd-Frank.
But overall, the young and clueless Administration has made our democracy look like the joke that Russia and other foes of liberty want the world to think it is.
What anyone who watched former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence saw on display was proof that the pillars of the republic remain solid, that there are leaders of integrity in place and that an election mistake has not fractured America.
Washington and its public servants – both elected and civil -- have long been the whipping boys of U.S. politics. But the drama that played out in a hearing room on Capitol Hill on Thursday showed how great America really remains.
A man of honor and honesty who served the country with distinction stepped up and told the truth before a panel of elected leaders conducting themselves with dignity, civility, and thoughtfulness.
But it wasn’t just Comey who impressed. The committee chairman, Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina, and the vice-chairman, Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, distinguished themselves and the Senate with a cooperative approach that put country before party.
While there were certainly political agendas at work, the message to Moscow and other agents of political disruption was clear: There is an underlying fortitude to our democracy that won’t be weakened by hackers or hacks.
What Comey said has been and will be parsed and criticized from both sides of the aisle. His assessment of Trump and his team was harsh: He suggested that the President is a liar and that the people around him who besmirched the reputations of the former director and the bureau itself are not much better.
He threw two former bosses, Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, under two separate busses. He revealed that through an intermediary he leaked memos about meetings with Trump to prompt the appointment of a special prosecutor (although by then he was a private citizen). And he called out the media, tagging one story in The New York Times about contacts between Trump lieutenants and Russian intelligence false and dismissing other reporting “nonsense.”
But that kind of candor is what will keep us strong -- and keep the wolves that would gnaw at our democracy at bay.