Don’t get your hopes up, but a truck loaded with oxygen cylinders pulled through the front gates of the White House on Thursday at 1 p.m. It already had been a gaseous day for the noble, neon 45th President; an hour earlier, Donald Trump had been on Capitol Hill, inhaling what members of the Republican Party caucus of the House of Representatives described as “a celebrating moment” punctuated by “a lot of applause and cheering.”
“All that noise you were hearing from inside the room was pretty upbeat,” a Congressman from Staten Island told a Maclean’s reporter crushed in a stone-walled basement corridor.
“Unbelievably engaging,” echoed the chair of the Freedom Caucus.
“Everybody’s happy to see the President of the United States,” said the Staten Islander. “He’s the leader of the Free World.”
“We’ve got some pretty happy Republicans,” another member said.
“I love you, go vote!” commanded the Commander-In-Chief. And so they did.
Trump was not seen again in public Thursday after the tanks of O2 rolled in, but there was no indication that the jet-lagged 71-year-old was anything but in the pink on his second full day in Washington following his five-nation, election-anniversary victory lap—“Made many good friends!”—with assorted Asian emperors, commissars, strongmen and lapdogs.
“The President,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the daily White House press briefing, appearing no less disgusted with the press corps than usual despite the triumph on the Hill, was confident that “We’ll bring back our jobs, we’ll bring back our wealth, and as the President has said many times, we’ll bring back our great American dreams.”
Indeed, on Thursday afternoon, the House did pass Trump’s long and breathlessly vaunted revamp of the impenetrable Internal Revenue code (now named “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” after originally having been dubbed “The Cut, Cut, Cut Act” by the president himself) by a vote of 227 to 205, capping the first week of the season of holiday magic, a time when coloured lights sparkle, the stock market never goes down—the Dow was up 187 points on Thursday—and fat men fly with reindeer.
On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions performed an extraordinary feat of legislative legerdemain at a House committee hearing, escaping alive and un-indicted for perjury after describing under oath how he righteously and abruptly shut down a Trump campaign meeting that he once swore he did not recall attending in the first place. (The parley that Sessions un-mis-disremembered was the one at which rookie statesman George Papadopoulos offered to hook up The Donald with Russia’s gentle leader, The Vladimir.)
On Tuesday, Trump departed Asia—“Thank you Asia!” he tweeted—having freed three American college-basketball shoplifters from a probable semester of re-education in a Chinese laogai camp, and congratulated himself for a Rasmussen Presidential Tracking Poll that reported that his approval rating had rocketed all the way up to 46 per cent.
On Wednesday, the President managed to survive yet another day without a single public comment on the case of Judge Roy Moore, the teen-idolizing candidate for the Senate from the God-fearing Heart of Dixie.
And now, on Thursday, a few hours after the Congressional Budget Office calculated that the Senate’s parallel reform plan would actually raise taxes on everyone except millionaires—and after liberal paragon Al Franken, the comical Minnesotan (or “The Giant of the Senate,” as he is entitled in his latest book) confessed to having groped and forcibly kissed a woman in 2006—Trump was said by Huckabee Sanders to be consigning the fate of Judge Moore to the people of Alabama themselves.
“The President is not disagreeing with anybody,” the press secretary insisted, when asked if Trump agrees with his daughter Ivanka’s assertion that “there is a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”
“He’s saying that he finds the allegations to be extremely troubling. He doesn’t know any more than you do on this fact, other than that these are something that should be taken very seriously and that the people of Alabama should be the ones to make the decision on whether or not to support Roy Moore.”
Untouchable by unseemly scandals in the Old Confederacy, hailed and haloed by a narrow plurality of the House of Representatives, and un-dis-approved-of by 46 per cent of the population the oxygenated helmsman sails on.
Yet to come are negotiations between House and Senate conferees as they move toward turning the truly remarkable economic double play of lowering taxes by raising them and reducing the federal deficit by making it even larger. The last time such a monumental re-write was undertaken, three decades ago, the painstaking process included two full years of public hearings. This time, the lawmakers plan to have the folio on Trump’s desk—or slipped under the rattan portal of his cabana at Mar-A-Lago—by Yuletide.
“Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!” Trump tweeted to the liberated basketballers. But the message could have been directed at the same Pretty Happy Republicans who have failed to enact every other major piece of legislation they have introduced since the Reagan administration.
Thursday’s briefing concluded as darkness fell, leaving America’s whiplashed millions to wonder what Friday could possibly bring. By then, the oxygen truck had departed the North Lawn. But a few blocks away, another van, festooned with posters and slogans, was parked on Constitution Avenue.
“RETURN TO ME,” blared one of its placards, above a portrait of Jesus Christ. “VOTE FOR JUDGE ROY MOORE. MAKE AMERICA GOOD AGAIN.”
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