Editorial: The art of the cliffhanger
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It seems like all of politics and everything it touches is just our most expensive live soap opera now.
Donald Trump, who came to the presidency as a bona fide reality television star, tends to get all of the credit for this, but that’s not really fair.
Anyone who has ever watched a soap opera can tell you there are no heroes or villains. Today’s victim is tomorrow’s outlaw. America’s sweetheart can easily turn into a pariah.
And thus it is with the unfolding kaleidoscope of drama that has become our national pastime. Like professional wrestling, it is promo-ed with chest-beating and trash-talking, and both sides get their turn at the mic.
It used to be ugly, sure. It used to be less about why this side’s idea would work than why that side’s idea wouldn’t, but it has devolved not-so-slowly into a free-for-all where ideas are incidental and what is really important are individuals.
When the people making the decisions are more important than the policy driving the decisions, everything becomes personal, and when that happens, everything is a mud fight and nobody walks away clean.
Over the last years, the surest way to see someone leave an office, whether elected or appointed, is not that someone with a better idea steps up to the plate. It’s that someone is tarred with a scandal that feeds a million sound bytes, or that someone becomes the target (or perpetrator) of a Twitter war.
What Trump has taken to new heights is the art of the cliffhanger. What started during the campaign with teasers about speeches yet to come has turned into a regular trailer as he speaks to reporters, especially en route to Marine One outside the White House.
On Friday, that was a coy hint about a new joint chief of staff announcement on Saturday. That came after saying earlier that he would be nominating former Attorney General William Barr to take that seat again, and that former “Fox and Friends” host Heather Nauert would be his pick for ambassador to the United Nations.
All of that was played against the backdrop of more developments in the special counsel investigation, including reporting that Chief of Staff John Kelly had been questioned and was expected to resign. Trump confirmed that resignation Saturday, again dropping hints about more info to come on that transition.
The timing of it all is orchestrated like a screenplay, with multiple storylines and misdirection driving you toward the big reveal. Don’t expect that anytime soon, though. It seems more like we’re just coming up to the midseason finale.
It might be boring, but wouldn’t it be nice to just see things get done for a chance? Wouldn’t it be great if the work that was happening was the work people were sent to Washington to do, rather than stagecraft?
Hold that thought. We’ll be right back after a word from our sponsors.