I like football and this is the week I get my fill of it. I like the long pass and the big plunge. I like the tactics and the coaching strategies. I like the diversions: the quarterback’s eye to the left before he passes to the right, “flooding the zone,” the double shift.
But, considering what’s going on, I have to take my mind off football.
Diversions? The man in the White House lives on diversions.
Donald Trump realized long ago that he could lie and get away with it. And he does, more than 6,000 times in his presidency so far. His lies — say one thing, do something else — are the clothes pins that hold up all his other sleights of hand, while his dirty deeds are getting an airing.
“I’m not doing anything with Russia,” he said, again and again while he was signing letters of intent to build a Trump Tower in Moscow with a posh penthouse for Vladimir Putin — free! — and his henchmen were sweating blood to make the deal that would have brought him millions.
“I don’t know anything about paying hush money to women. You’ll have to ask my attorney, Michael Cohen.” Trump was in the driver’s seat, telling Cohen to pay the women — how much and when.
Two weeks before the November elections: “I’m gonna put in a middle-class tax cut.” Since then, not another word about it.
Also before the election: “There’s an army of migrants headed this way! They’re animals!” Even though the number of immigrants at our border with Mexico has been declining every year for the past five years.
Now, as a tangle of investigations envelops him, his family and his presidency, Trump is relying on his sleight-of-hand to try to extricate himself. It’s an old trick: Keep public attention diverted away from the really important issues — and captivated by matters of no real importance.
He has packed the federal appellate courts, opened our pristine national parks to mining and drilling, clouded indictments and guilty pleas connecting him with Russia, with corruption, with money-laundering, with obstruction of justice and other crimes and let once-controlled power plants belch out poisonous smoke. As the New York Times pointed out this week, “In just two years, President Trump has unleashed a regulatory rollback with little parallel in the past half-century. The trade-offs, while often out of the glare of Washington, are frighteningly real for the health and safety of people around the country.”
His distractor of choice, of course, is Twitter. He has launched literally thousands of tweets at Hillary Clinton, “fake news,” the now-departed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former president Obama and Obamacare, the Robert Mueller investigation, “Rocket Man,” “Pocahontas,” and on and on and on.
Looking at a string of tweets, the Boston Globe calculated that if Trump spent only a minute on each tweet they would add up to more than 40 hours on the tweeter — a solid week of work for most of us. We know that Trump doesn’t work on much else; he spends one out of every three days on the golf course.
Let us say our prayers for a better year ahead.
(Bomboy has written for more than 60 national magazines and is the author of six books. He taught for more than 30 years in colleges and universities.)