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Katy Burns: Adventures in these United States

  • President Donald Trump meets with rapper Kanye West in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday. At left is White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner. AP



Monitor columnist
Sunday, October 14, 2018

It’s been an interesting few weeks.

For starters, Kanye West – yes, the real Kanye West, along with a motley collection of groupies and hangers-on, White House staffers and reporters – brought his incoherent act to the Oval Office, spending at least 10 minutes babbling inanely while a bemused (or bewildered?) Donald Trump stared at him.

At one point, Kanye leapt to his feet, ran around the Resolute desk and grabbed the sitting president’s head in a bear hug.

He was lucky the Secret Service didn’t shoot him, and he made Elvis Presley’s visit with Richard Nixon look downright statesmanlike.

It was one of the rare moments when the president was actually in the Oval Office. He seems to spend much of his time these days giving marathon rambling rant sessions – calling them “speeches” deceptively dignifies them – to self-selected audiences of rapturous Trump groupies throughout the hinterlands.

His rhetoric is a florid collection of tried-and-true Trumpisms, and he’s sure to include at least one reference to the execrable woman whose mere name – Hillary – is guaranteed to send his audience into gleeful shouts of “Lock her up!” while the ostensible leader of the free world grins like a self-satisfied funhouse clown.

While Trump is basking in self-admiration of his extreme wit, his beautiful and pampered wife, Melania, is apparently basking in her own self-absorbed pity, complaining to all within earshot that she is “one of the most bullied people in the world.”

Uh huh, Melania, if you say so.

At least Mrs. Trump is so photogenic that photographers can’t get enough of her chic self, so she doesn’t have to resort to taking selfies. Selfies can lead to bad things, as witness the fact that at least 259 people worldwide have died snapping photos of themselves.

According to someone who tabulated these things – the world is filled with people eager to keep track of other people’s stupid antics – among the leading cause of selfie death so far has been drowning, followed by misadventures involving transportation (for example, people, do not take a selfie in front of an oncoming train) and falling from heights.

Other common causes of selfie death were (duh!) animals, firearms and electrocution.

Other news amused or horrified us recently. Brett Kavanaugh, for example, became a household name.

Unless we’ve been stranded on a remote desert island, we now all know Kavanaugh, who seems to have led a charmed and privileged life. Born into comfort, he attended the best private schools, investigated Bill Clinton for Kenneth Starr, worked at a prestigious law firm and served in the W. Bush administration before being appointed a federal judge. Along the way, he acquired a lovely and supportive wife and two charming daughters.

Recently, he was appointed by President Trump to the U.S. Supreme Court. He survived an (admittedly) contentious Senate hearing to become one of merely nine people who serve for life – likely for decades – on the nation’s top court who ultimately have the final say on every law that governs all 320 million or so residents of the United States. Yeah, you, me and even the proverbial guy behind the tree in far-off northern Montana.

So what’s the catch? Aha, that unpleasant and raucous hearing, we are solemnly told, ruined his life.

C’mon! It may well have ruined the life of the brave woman who brought her story of her assault by Kavanaugh before the hearing, where she was savaged by the judge’s defenders. But Kavanaugh’s life? Why, his life is as charmed as ever, this time with the additional prestige of being one of just nine judges who have an almost life-or-death power over their fellow Americans.

Also in the news is a landmark United Nations report from its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists it convened to guide world leaders.

As summarized by the New York Times, it “paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”

The report, the Times continues, “describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 – a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.”

The guidance provided to our very own world leader didn’t make much of an impression. President Trump, who before taking office insisted that global warming is “a hoax” and is currently in the process of pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord (which it was instrumental in writing, by the way) was far from convinced we face a crisis.

In fact, he suggested that the world’s climate might actually be “fabulous” and insisted he’d seen reports backing up such a position.

And so, with that pearl of wisdom echoing in the air, our leader was off to yet another rally of his worshipful fans as the world burns. And as we, his captive subjects, wait to see what news the new week brings.

(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)