“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

— Hunter S. Thompson

We’ve gotten to the point where we’re shocked by the predictable: Gobsmacked by the inevitable when it occurs and dumfounded by what we still believe impossible, even as it happens over and over again. The COVID-19 pandemic; Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; the GOP undermining democracy; and now, the death knell of Roe v. Wade at the hands of a politicized Supreme Court, its patina of legitimacy gone, doing precisely what it was hijacked to do — all warned well in advance, all nonetheless met with gasps.

Each of these distinctly separate situations has one thing in common: They have all been exacerbated by a political party so preoccupied with the acquisition and retention of power that they’ve pledged loyalty to POTUS Prior, who still doggedly maintains the fiction of a rigged election and has enshrined that seditious poison as a non-negotiable prerequisite for membership in today’s GOP. And with that membership comes a series of bizarre shibboleths consistently evangelized yet so completely implausible it’s likely none of their strongest proponents believe a shred of what they’re saying.

Obsessed with non-productive toilet flushes; an unhealthy fixation on windmills and the deadly threat of flying fruit, the Former Guy myopically reserves a segment of each rambling tent show to rail against a world that fails to appreciate his unprecedented grandeur, particularly ex-staffers with the audacity to recall either his bizarre behavior or his administration’s perennial dysfunction. As these books of revelation chronicle the frustration of aides closest to ground zero, numerous examples emerge of just how weird it got.

Whether bending a knee to Vladimir Putin, saying COVID “would disappear like a miracle” a million deaths ago or inflicting years of toxic deceit on the nation, we’re learning there’s no shortage of presidential skeletons in the closet, with an ever-increasing cast of characters ready to drag them into the light of day. Rivals for the 2024 GOP nomination, White House insiders looking to set the record straight and wronged associates with a variety of axes to grind, are bringing the mayhem, ensuring this summer’s fireworks will extend well beyond the Fourth of July.

In “Disloyal: A Memoir,” former attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen implicates the free press in the rise of the former president: “Not free as in freedom of expression, I mean free as unpaid for. Rallies broadcast live, tweets, press conferences, idiotic interviews, 24-7 wall-to-wall coverage, all without spending a penny. The free press gave America *rump.” Presidential niece Mary, writing in “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” portrays her uncle as a “dangerous sociopath” with a worldview rooted in a desire to avoid his father’s disapproval.

This assessment is seemingly corroborated by Dr. Deborah Birx in “Silent Invasion,” outlining her experience as the White House coronavirus response coordinator, especially considering the criteria for sociopathy listed by The Cleveland Clinic, such as not understanding right from wrong; constant lying or deception; arrogance and not respecting the feelings of others.

Shocked at how completely unprepared the White House was, you will remember Birx’s classic face palm as the thoroughly out-to-lunch president cited the possible medicinal qualities of ingesting disinfectant. She recalled the moment: “I looked down at my feet and wished for two things: something to kick and for the floor to open up and swallow me whole.” When the president turned to her for comment, her response — ”Not as a treatment” — ensured for the remainder of her tenure she would be marginalized.

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper adds to the compendium of lunacy in a forthcoming book, pointing out The Boss suggested shooting DC Black Lives Matters protesters “in the legs” and believed we could clandestinely launch missiles at drug cartels in Mexico and “No one would know it was us.” As the response for shooting American citizens, even those he described as “F**king losers,” exercising their free speech rights was predictably negative, the Mar-a-Lago rage machine was immediately engaged.

The usual tirade of ad hominem attacks followed, including a not-so-veiled threat from a vengeful Steve Bannon along the lines of “we won’t forget when we come back into power.” Esper was deemed “weak and totally ineffective, and because of it, I (#45) had to run the military … I took out ISIS … Baghdadi … ’did’ Space Force … rebuilt the military” and for good measure, claiming in an evangelical radio interview: “Nobody has done more for Christianity, or for evangelicals, or religion itself.” Yikes … Paging Jesus Christ.

But no matter how much the tell-alls tell, even as more books are eventually written about 45 than he’s likely to ever have read, a high-enough percentage of us most certainly will be surprised by what’s around the next bend even though we should have seen coming. For instance, COVID hasn’t disappeared to accommodate our weariness of it; Republicans don’t believe “The Big Lie” but that isn’t stopping them from using it to rig future elections, and POTUS Emeritus has not gone away. Doling out blessings and endorsements, he demands — and still gets — loyalty from the MAGA faithful and ever-groveling GOP hopefuls.

Walt Amses lives in North Calais.

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