From yours truly in The Spectator two decades ago - February 10th 2001:
I have been on a short vacation. Well, not that short as it turned out. Apparently, I was away so long I missed the entire duration of Jesse Jackson's withdrawal from public life. Citing his need to 'revive my spirit and reconnect with my family', the Reverend Jackson withdrew from public life on Thursday, 18 January. He returned to public life on Saturday, 20 January. I missed the whole thing. Two complete days without the Rev Jackson on TV! No fewer than forty-eight â€” count 'em! â€” hours without the Reverend standing in the street shouting lamebrain anti-Dubya jingles like 'Stay out the Bushes!'
On that latter point, the nation's spiritual leader had failed to heed his own exhortation and had fathered a love-child, as they say in Fleet Street, or, as the Rev Jesse preferred to refer to his unwanted visit from the stork, an "indiscretion". So for two days he "withdrew from public life" - by which he meant his non-stop 24/7 denunciation of Bush as an "illegitimate president". A day or two before the election, the Reverend had noted that the Republican had "stopped drinking at age 40. He drank longer than Dr King lived". After the news of his "indiscretion", Bush, as is characteristic of the GOP, called Jesse to offer his support and very decently forbore to mention that, with rumors of other hoarier "indiscretions" multiplying, it was now entirely possible that Rev Jackson screwed around longer than Bush drank.
I digress. My main point is His Holiness The Most Reverend Jesse's 48-hour withdrawal from public life. I haven't checked the clock, but twenty years later President Trump may just have pipped that record. Late on Friday afternoon he was helicoptered to Walter Reed hospital; by Sunday he was taking excursions from his quarantine to wave to his supporters from the back seat of a touring SUV. So the weekend began with intimations of mortality, including supposedly from the President himself:
Trump has wondered aloud if he could defeat the disease. "Am I going out like Stan Chera?" Trump has asked aides, referring to his friend, New York real-estate developer Stan Chera, who died of COVID in April.
But, within two days, everything's back to normal - the President heartening his hardcore supporters, and the media excoriating him for his recklessness, putting at risk the health of all those Secret Service agents non-socially-distanced into the motor with him. Their concern is touching: One of the slogans of the summer, scrawled on two out of every three empty plinths in America and the walls of various burnt-out precinct houses and looted electronics stores, is #ACAB - All Cops Are Bastards. But it seems we must append an asterisk - *Unless Trump Gives You The Covid.
I want a landslide re-election by 9.47pm Eastern on November 3rd, and, unlike many of Conservative Inc's johnnies-come-lately, I got Trump from the moment he came down that escalator and, in contrast to Jeb and Marco, talked about stuff that actually matters. But, as I said to Tucker on Friday night, I think of this in theatrical terms: Conservative commentators compare the President's "energy", even when hospitalized, with Sleepy Joe's handlers putting a "lid" on the day right after breakfast. So what? For a start, Biden's lid is, as the minders see it, working for him, and ever more so: Don't forget, the other side believes the polls.
More importantly, running around or Tweeting up a storm is not a serious definition of "energy". The late Broadway director Hal Prince was once talking to me about his mentor, the long-lived George Abbott, the master of American farce and peppy musical comedy, and he said Mr Abbott's productions always had "energy", by which he didn't mean running around slamming doors; you could have a man standing perfectly still on stage and, if you did it right, the moment would crackle with energy. Where's the energy in the Jack Benny money-or-your-life gag? In the silence.
That would have been better here - silence for a week; no Tweets, no videos, no misfired spin from inadequate aides. It would have been different, a necessary plot variation. Great stars understand the power of absence; they don't rush back on stage after being shot at the end of Act One: they make the crowd wait. The Covid diagnosis was a major plot development, and the President - and more especially his campaign - would have benefited from a proper timeout. If you want to contrast Trump's energy with Biden's, let Sleepy Joe try to fill the void by himself - as some of us tried to advise the President last week.
[UPDATE: I was, on balance, wrong on this. See the start of today's Rush Limbaugh Show.]
~Among other things, the SUV ride distracted from the emergence of this video from five years ago. Then Vice President Biden is at the Capitol swearing in Steve Daines as a US senator. These are rather tedious events, especially when you've attended half-a-century's worth as Joe has. Fortunately, the organizers have provided him with an eight-year-old girl's nipple to tweak:
Sleepy Joe is, in fact, Creepy Joe - as poor eight-year-old Maria certainly recognizes. The "energy" issue - Sleepy vs Tweety - was won long ago. How about the real trouble with Biden? He's a corrupt man who has enriched himself and his family, and he's a sex predator who thinks "my body, my choice" extends only to your ovaries. The President's car ride stepped all over the toes of Joe's nipple-tweaking.
~I became kinda sorta aware of Mark Gauvreau Judge, as he then styled himself, about twenty years ago when he was kind enough occasionally to cite me in The Washington Post and elsewhere, and my assistant would put it in the morning news round-up to cheer me up amid the libel threats and denunciations of my racism and homophobia. He was a sharp and incisive cultural commentator, albeit one somewhat in search of a bankable theme. Then came the Kavanaugh hearings, when he became casually slandered across the networks as a crazed gang-rapist drug-fiend judge's sick enabler. I doubt that did anything for his writer's income, but I'd vaguely assumed that, as a school chum of Kavanaugh's at "tony" Georgetown Prep, he belonged to that select comfortable stratum of American life for whom downturns never turn that far down.
I was wrong about that:
Of course they hired me on the spot. Nobody else wanted to spend seven hours a day suffocating in Vietnamese-level heat, gagging on a stupid COVID mask, getting soaking wet and wearing your muscles to exhaustion by scraping eggs, chocolate, bread dough and other muck off of trays, plates, soup bowls, assorted cutlery and Tupperware that piled from floor to ceiling.
But there was no choice. I'd become a dishwasher.
Large parts of this society are evil: Comey & Co plot a coup and get book deals and CNN gigs; others get smeared and vaporized and are never seen again. Mark Judge continues:
That night a friend called, and when he heard I was a dishwasher, he said he found my situation "poignant." I'd been a book author, a contributor to places like The Washington Post and The New York Times, and the target of an explosive and well-publicized 2018 political hit. My friend reminded me of something I hadn't thought about since my time at Catholic University in the 1980s. At the end of the Inferno, Dante and Virgil can only escape hell by climbing up Satan's asshole. "You're stuck in Satan's anus," he said. "You just gotta keep climbing."
The Queen famously described her fortieth year on the throne - twelve months of tabloid scandal culminating in the Windsor Castle fire - as an "annus horribilis". It is no surprise, in our faster, cruder times, to find that 2020 has dispensed with that second "n".
~It was a busy weekend at SteynOnline, starting with the weekend edition of The Mark Steyn Show offering my take on the presidential Covid, old-school corrupt Philly Democrats back in the saddle, and a bipartisan commission on who gets to run for election - plus me on NPR, turnout models then and now ...and a jolly song, because we all need one. On Friday night, I joined Tucker as the President settled in at Walter Reed, and on Saturday Kathy Shaidle's movie date walked The Thin Blue Line. Tal Bachman's weekend column saluted a rock colossus, and my Sunday song selection had the blues. If you were too busy Tweeting death wishes this weekend, I hope you'll want to check out one or three of the foregoing as a new week begins.