During a scorching impersonation of White House press secretary Sean Spicer on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, actress Melissa McCarthy pulled from a box with the presidential seal a handful of what looked like human feces.
No doubt it was plastic; the joke’s punch line was a pun.
“Our president will not be ‘deterred,’” said “Spicer,” who was portrayed as a shrill, juvenile, playground bully.
The turd prop would have worked well hours later on Fox when Bill O’Reilly interviewed amateur President Donald Trump on the pre-game show before Sunday’s Super Bowl.
That interview’s big scoop—the latest poop—was Trump’s crass comparison of the killings ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and deaths caused by officials of the United States.
“We’ve got a lot of killers,” Trump said, casually. “What, you think our country’s innocent?”
O’Reilly—rarely at a loss for words—seemed shocked by Trump’s callous comment and paused. Trump broke the silence by repeating “You think our country’s innocent?”
O’Reilly recovered enough to point out to The Great Leader that he, Bill O’Reilly, knew of no American elected leader who killed the way Putin kills.
So Trump wised him up by blending this vague assertion into a rambling segue about how the United States went to war in Iraq by mistake in 2003 and lots of people died.
“A lot of mistakes, OK?” Trump said. “A lot of killers around. Believe me.”
Trump’s flippant insult to the nation he now leads—a perverse moral equivalence—was released on Saturday, most of it, and was quoted on most of the Sunday morning current-events shows.
The rest of the 10-minute Fox interview that aired on Sunday was devoted to Trump’s delusions, including one stubborn one about illegal voting and another about his recent ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, a ban put on hold by federal courts.
Trump again said—without evidence—that at least three million votes were cast illegally for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who lost the presidency in the electoral college but beat Trump by almost three million votes in popular balloting.
On this, O’Reilly challenged Trump, delicately, asking him “Is there any validity to the criticism of you that you say things you can’t back up factually?”
Trump swatted this one away with his breezy “Well, many people have come out and said I’m right.”
When O’Reilly gently said Trump would need data to prove that, Trump said “Forget that. Forget all that” and promised that Vice-President Mike Pence would track down the truth about all those illegal aliens, dead people and double-state voters.
“It’s really a bad situation,” Trump lied. “It’s really bad.”
Another delusion expressed by Trump was that his thinly-disguised ban on Muslims was very smoothly executed. He said only 109 persons were inconvenienced in their travels, a figure that underestimated the number by about 99,891, according to at least one government office.
Touching all the bases, Trump again offered menacing words for Iran and insulted President Obama as “so stupid” for making a nuclear proliferation deal with that nation.
Only about 10 minutes of the interview aired on Fox. The rest, Fox promised, would air on The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News Channel on Monday and Tuesday nights.
Also defending Trump was his former campaign bodyguard Chris Christie, the so-called governor of New Jersey.
Viewers must assume the leftovers will not reveal any real news held back by Fox to pump up its cable ratings. Not even Fox would be that cynical.
Near the end of their chat, when O’Reilly asked Trump about the wonder of being president for two weeks, Trump replied: “It’s like a surreal experience, in a certain way.”
He’s not the only one who feels this way.
MEET THE PRESS Host Chuck Todd asked Pence about Trump’s criticism of a “so-called judge”—James Robart—who ruled against Trump’s Muslim ban and about the “fake tears” Trump attributed to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who got choked up while defending Trump’s Muslim victims last week.
“There is a tendency here to not take criticism constructively or seriously,” Todd said. “Is that healthy?”
Pence didn’t answer.
“Well, look,” he said. “The President of the United States has every right to criticize the other two branches of government . . .”
Todd switched topics to Trump’s remark to O’Reilly that there are killers in both the Russian government and the American government, so what’s the big deal?
“Is there moral equivalency there?” Todd asked. “What was that, Mr. Vice-President?”
Pence saw no problem.
“No, not in the least, not in the least,” Pence said. “I mean, look, President Trump has been willing to be critical of our country’s actions in the past.”
He quickly spun the conversation to Trump’s aim to “destroy ISIS.”
Todd persisted, listing the dead bodies accumulated under Putin’s rule, including nine names on screen of Russians poisoned or otherwise made dead by Trump’s favorite world leader.
“What American leader has done something similar?” Todd asked Pence. “That’s what the President seemed to say here.”
“No, that’s not what the president said in the least about it,” Pence said.
TODD: “Then why can’t he say a negative thing about Vladimir Putin?”
PENCE: “He has expressed himself in the campaign, an election that he won . . .”
TODD: “Are you comfortable with that moral equivalency?”
PENCE: “Again, I don’t accept it as a moral equivalency. I really don’t.”
TODD: “Do you think he misspoke?”
PENCE: “No, I truly believe, look, but—but, President Trump has been critical of American policy in the past . . .”
Tavis Smiley, a talk show host from PBS, dominated the following panel discussion. He started by speaking of Pence’s defense of Trump.
“It’s tough to sit here and watch him twist like a pretzel to try to defend a presidency that’s clearly so unprincipled on these issues,” Smiley said.
Later, Smiley added: “Too many of us rushed to normalize a racist, sexist, classist campaign that he ran to win this office . . . We’re normalizing a Muslim ban. We’re normalizing a religious test.”
Another guest was Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader of the House, who didn’t seem convinced of an altruistic nature to Trump’s Putin-worship.
“I want to know what the Russians have on Donald Trump,” she said. “I think we have to have an investigation by the FBI as to the financial, personal and political connections to Russia. And we want to see his tax returns so we can have truth in the relationship between Putin, whom he admires.”
STATE OF THE UNION The first guest of anchor Jake Tapper was Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the slippery Republican leader of the Senate. Even McConnell seemed reluctant to support Trump’s thinly-disguised Muslim ban and his personal attack on a federal judge who ruled against it.
“There is a fine line here between proper vetting and interfering with the kind of travel or suggesting some kind of religious test,” McConnell said. “And we need to avoid doing that kind of thing . . . We need to be careful about this . . . I think it’s best not to single out judges for criticism.”
The front page of the Times, Wolff said, ‘looks like it’s 1938 in Germany every day.’
Another senator—the progressive Bernie Sanders of Vermont—warned “We are living in a dangerous and unprecedented moment in American history.” Sanders called Trump “A president who, I fear very much, is moving us in a very authoritarian direction.”
Reflecting on Trump as a former television performer, Sanders said “He’s a good showman, I will give you that. He’s a good TV guy. But I think he’s going to sell out the middle class and the working class.”
The latter was a comment about the billionaires and Wall Street tycoons who decorate the roster of Trump’s top advisors. Sanders, who lost to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, called the Republicans “an extreme right-wing party which is way out of touch with the American people.”
THIS WEEK ABC host George Stephanopoulos made Pence squirm when he asked him several times about the appropriateness of Trump calling a federal judge a “so-called judge.”
Pence, who often reveals things through body language, averted his gaze, turned his head and shook it side to side while trying to change the subject to national security.
When the issue turned to administration warnings that Iran was “on notice” for its missile test, Pence talked tough while glaring his best hard stare.
“Iran would do well to look at the calendar and realize there’s a new president in the Oval Office,” Pence said. “And Iran would do well not to test the resolve of this new president.”
Stephanopoulos asked if that meant military action.
“Iran would do well to think twice about the continuous hostile and belligerent actions,” Pence said.
This triggered a follow-up question from the host about Russia and the cease-fire violations in Ukraine.
STEPHANOPOULOS: “Are they on notice as well?”
PENCE: “We’re watching and very troubled . . .”
But then Pence changed the subject to the possibility of Russia cooperating with the U.S. against the ISIS terrorists.
Among the guests was Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who seemed less than thrilled about Trump’s “so-called judge” comment.
“I’ll be honest,” he said. “I don’t understand language like that . . . We don’t have any so-called judges. We have real judges.”
As for Trump’s Muslim ban, Sasse said he regretted the “clunkiness” of the executive order issued the previous weekend.
Regarding Trump’s comparison of the U.S. leaders to Putin’s homicidal past, Sasse said “There is no moral equivalency” and said Trump buddy Putin “is a mess. He’s committed all sorts of murderous thuggery.”
The star of the pundit panel was Rep. Andre Carson, Democrat of Indiana, who said of Trump:
“His impulsivity concerns me. He’s fanning the flames of xenophobia and Islamaphobia and the American people are speaking out against it . . . More and more independents, more and more libertarians and more and more Republicans are saying ‘I actually voted for this guy. He does not represent my values.’”
FACE THE NATION In that it was Super Bowl Sunday, one of John Dickerson’s guests on CBS was DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the National Football League Players Association.
Dickerson asked him about the attack by Trump and the Republicans on the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees eligibility for insurance even if a person has a pre-existing medical condition.
Smith pointed out that the NFL has an injury rate of 100 percent and that most retired players have preexisting conditions and they will need “insurance after they leave the game.”
Pence—making the rounds—again ducked questions about the “so-called” judge who dared to contradict The Great Leader over the Muslim ban.
Pence said “The American people welcome the candor of this president.” When Dickerson pressed about Trump’s Twitter insult of the judge, Pence said it was “the president simply expressing a frustration with a judge.”
Then they discussed Trump’s glib comparison of Putin’s killings to those of American leaders and a Twitter message about it posted by Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal.
“Trump puts US on moral par with Putin’s Russia,” the message said. “Never in history has a President slandered his country like this.”
“I simply don’t accept that there was any moral equivalency in the president’s comments,” Pence said.
When Dickerson persisted with “But do you think America is morally superior to the Russians, yes or no?” Pence refused to answer the question directly.
Also defending Trump was his former campaign bodyguard Chris Christie, the so-called governor of New Jersey.
“The President has absolutely no, no hate in his heart for Muslim Americans,” Christie claimed.
On the pundit panel, Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post referred to the judge comment from “a president who fundamentally is not understanding the role of courts.”
As for Trump’s Russia comparison, Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review said it was an “astonishing comment for a president of the United States to make.”
FOX NEWS SUNDAY Of all Pence’s four appearances Sunday, the easiest was with host Chris Wallace, who anchored the show from the Super Bowl site in Houston for Trump’s sanctuary network.
As is often the case with Fox, the agenda is revealed not only by what is covered but also by what is avoided. So there were no tough questions to Pence about Trump’s ridicule of the “so-called judge” or even Trump’s alarming shrug about Putin’s murderous ways.
As for Trump’s attempt to repeal the Dodd-Frank legislation that protects the economy against the Wall Street predators and barracudas who crashed it in 2008, Wallace asked Pence whether Trump’s message to Wall Street is that he’s going to back off on policing their conniving.
“No,” Pence said. “The message that we’re sending to Main Street is that we’re going to pull back this mountain of red tape.”
Another guest, Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, told Wallace that Trump’s first two weeks of reckless orders and proclamations amount to “What they call ‘shock and awe.’”
“The president is not a dictator,” she reminded Wallace.
The show included a tedious panel discussion with four of Fox’s football touts, a conversation filled with false levity and bonhomie. “Ha-ha-ha!” they said, again and again. “Yuk-yuk-yuk!”
On the serious subject of football and its decline in TV ratings, Terry Bradshaw spoke of cultural changes in American families.
“Moms, especially, will not allow their kids to play,” Bradshaw said.
As he did with Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, Wallace mentioned the pace of the increasingly lengthy telecasts of games.
“There are too many darn commercial breaks during the game,” Wallace said.
RELIABLE SOURCES On CNN, guest Michael Wolff of The Hollywood Reporter found fault with The New York Times, The New Yorker magazine and host Brian Stelter.
All, he said, are overreacting to Trump.
The front page of the Times, Wolff said, “looks like it’s 1938 in Germany every day.”
The New Yorker’s editor, David Remnick, “has gone off in fits of bloviation never seen in The New Yorker before . . . the world is coming to an end, in his view.”
As for Stelter, Wolff said “You can border on being sort of quite a ridiculous figure” for his alarmist commentaries about Trump.
A different opinion came from Roger Simon, retiring as a columnist for Politico, who objected to Trump’s insults of Muslims, Mexicans and Jews.
“Are we supposed to pretend this is an ordinary president and that times are ordinary?” Simon asked. “They’re not.”
MEDIA BUZZ Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway stopped by for a lengthy screed against the media. “Selective coverage!” she said. “It’s biased . . . Cherry-picking . . . lot of haters . . .”
As for her fabrication of the “Bowling Green Massacre” to the compliant Chris Matthews last week on MSNBC, Conway said it was merely a mistake that she said “massacre” instead of “terrorists.” (No such massacre ever occurred).
Conway was offered as a guest to Tapper, who turned down the pleasure of a chat. The White House made Pence available to everyone except Tapper as it continues its attempt to isolate CNN from the herd.