Theater of the Absurd Presents: The Manchurian Candidate

April 17, 2017

Oscar Wilde noted that "Life imitates art fare more than art imitates life."
Leave no doubt. The rabble-rousing Wilde would have enjoyed the theater of the absurd to which the world has been treated since November. One in which the denizens of D.C. and the media have mutually conducted a Vaudevillian display of maniacal conspiratorial proportions.
It would be humorous. Were it not so embarrassing.
For months, the media has obsessed over an alleged connection between Trump and Putin's Kremlin. Much as I once did over my beloved Farrah Fawcett poster. They have incessantly inferred a nefarious relationship in which Russia has been pulling Trump's strings like a populist marionette.
Despite an embarrassing lack of evidence, the narrative has persisted like cockroaches in a greasy spoon. Until, that is, last week's missile strike against Russian ally Syria wholly disrupted the storyline's remaining chance of credibility.
Now, we could follow the tact of MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell. Who brought conspiracy theorists to a cellar-dwelling low. Suggesting that Putin orchestrated the missile strike against the Syrian airfields in order to throw Trump's critics off the scent.
Young men sitting in the parents basements wearing tin foil hats were embarrassed for him.
On occasion, we are treated to a nationally televised theater of the absurd.
As when D.C. and the national media lock onto a narrative like Charlie Sheen does a party. Refusing to back off, moderate or temper its feverish gusto.
Remember when the Washington Post's Janet Cook won a Pulitzer for a story about an eight-year-old heroin addict. One that she made up (the prize, like her credibility, was later rescinded). Or when NBC used explosives to rig a truck to blow up during a story on dangerous gas leaks from GM trucks.
Point is, sometimes the media wants so badly to be right about something that they're willing to go to any and all lengths to see it through. To push the narrative until it gains downhill momentum. At which point, these often trumped up stories - no pun intended - often supersede even the most important, legitimate story lines of the day.
Such behavior should be expected by serious observers whenever the establishment unexpectedly gets its clock cleaned. As did Democrats, Republicans, and the media, last year, in claiming that Trump could never persist as a candidate. Nor win the nomination. Nor the White House. Until he did. Leaving the establishment with no other recourse. And suddenly, Gonzo Journalism reigned supreme.
Members of both parties came out of November's election with guns blazing. Pointing at the Russian hacking of the DNC's servers. And so making the connection to what could only be an odious affair between the improbable new president elect and his alleged Russian puppet masters.
Senators John McCain and Chuck Schumer. Republicans. Democrats. And the media alike. All ascertaining that Trump's unlikely victory could mean only one thing: the Russians had placed a Manchurian Candidate in the White House. And we had better get to the bottom of the plot before they managed to bring down the entire country.
Investigations were launched in the House and the Senate. National media operations put their top investigative journalists on the job. The objective? Interview every contact. Flip every stone. Uncover every shred of evidence pointing to the only permissibly inevitable conclusion: Donald Trump was lock, stock and smoking barrel in the control of Vladimir Putin.
Only, unfortunately, he wasn't. Trump was a neophyte blowhard politician. Apt to make jocular comments that often played hard and fast with the facts. But he was not Putin's plebe. As thousands of man hours, millions of dollars and copious allocations of vast resources have proven, as not a shred of evidence linking Trump and the Kremlin have emerged.
Meanwhile, America's alleged leadership has been so focused on battling fake conspiracies that real stories of actual importance have received scant attention. And I'm certain nobody is more amused that we've been so damn focused on Russia than Putin himself.
Democrats, Republicans and the media have kept the fledgling Trump administration so distracted on the absurdities of the day that important posts remain unfilled. Policy experts continue untapped. Resources that should be monitoring the vagaries of America's geopolitical relationships remain on ice. And this is considered a victory for those who want nothing more than the failure of America's president.
I became highly critical of some of President Obama's policies as they played out on the world stage. But, the night he was first elected and gave his acceptance speech in Chicago's Grant Park? Tears rolled down my cheeks as I recognized how far we'd come as a nation. I wished him the good fortune to become the country's greatest president.
Today, Trump's detractors take the opposite tact. Wishing him ill will and failure long before he has an opportunity to enact an iota of policy. Bogging the administration down in contrivances, conspiracies and controversies. Distracting the administration, and the American people, from the real business at hand.
For instance, consider Egypt. Which saw its president, Abdel Fattah Sisi, visit the White House to little fanfare last week.
Egypt contains the Middle East's biggest population. And its largest Army. It is also a hotbed of incestual politics as a secular government attempts to walk arm in arm with the radical Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt, like its vast deserts, is a hotbed of unrest. And presently, the country is imploding financially.
Were Egypt to lost control of its economy, the Muslin Brotherhood would likely step into the void. Bringing another Middle Eastern nation into the hands of radical Sunni Islamicists.
Egypt needs a friend. Particularly in the U.S. Which is why two Egyptian delegations have already visited D.C. this year. Even though most Americans haven't heard a thing.
Were the U.S. to decisively assist Egypt in this moment of need? It could solidify a long-term strategic partner in the region. And lend some stability to a region desperately needing exactly that.
If the U.S. looks away? Doesn't pay attention? Cairo will go elsewhere. Likely towards the Russian/Chinese sphere of influence. Causing us to miss one of the pivotal geopolitical opportunities of our time.
The Suez Canal makes Egypt a crossroads from Africa to the Middle East. And its secular government makes Cairo a strong counterbalance to the region's radical influences. It is no small coincidence that Egypt's former pro-Western president, Hosni Mubarak, was recently released after six years in prison.
If D.C.'s political class can briefly redirect is attention from Russia, it may discern that Egypt represents the fulcrum point for America's Middle Eastern and anti-radical Islamic policy. And that Egypt desperately needs an ally.
Blow this opportunity? We'll forever view this as the epicenter of one more of history's unintended consequences. One in which the absurdities of political theater prevented us from seeing the world for what it was. Right as the world most needs America.
Alarmingly, Egypt represents the tip of the iceberg.
This nation doesn't have the luxury of losing its focus. The dark calculus of global threats has been in a bull market for eight years. Do hope that our political leadership soon evolves past this absurd political carnival. And returns to the business of the people.

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