Just about the time the fever on the nut left seems to be subsiding there’s another outbreak of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Normal-looking folk who sound like they escaped a Marx Bros. movie fall into a relapse.
The bombshell that Susan Rice, Barack Obama’s chief source of intelligence, was guilty of “unmasking” Trump campaigners identified in intelligence findings, unhinged several commentators on the television networks. Colleagues and bystanders couldn’t decide whether to call security or medics.
The Chicken Noodle Network demonstrated why it has fallen on hard times, saying it would not report bad news about its favorite political personalities. “Let us be very clear about this,” said Don Lemon, one of CNN’s star news readers and part-time house dick. “There is no evidence whatsoever that the Trump team was spied on illegally. There is no evidence that backs up the president’s original claim. And on this program tonight, we will not insult your intelligence by pretending otherwise, nor will we aid and abet the people who are trying to misinform you [with] a diversion.” Mr. Lemon’s viewers who want to know would have to go to another channel for another investigator.
At MSNBC, the leading television network on Planet Pluto, Chris Matthews was more than willing to talk about the bombshell but first he had to find someone to help him get a grip. The bug that crawls up his leg when he thinks about Barack Obama was biting again.
When he thought about it, he was sure that the Rice bombshell, with the implication that whatever U.S. intelligence sources had picked up about the Trump campaign had been passed on to the Insurrection, was fake news the new president was pushing to distract attention from the investigations into contacts, if any, between Mr. Trump and the Russians.
“Why is [the president] going after Susan Rice?” he demanded of no one present. “It’s like he pulls out — he’s like an old [disc jockey]. He pulls out old records from 20 years ago and plays them again.”
Then he played video clips from three Republican senators — Rand Paul of Kentucky, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — raising questions about Miss Rice’s behavior, and read a tweet from Mike Huckabee speculating about Susan Rice in an orange prison jump suit. Sen. Cotton called her Typhoid Mary, for showing up every time there was a scandal or shame in the Obama administration.
“Oh, God,” cried David Corn, a guest panelist.
“I mean,” said Chris, “Huckabee has no shame. These guys are trooping along, like camp followers of Trump.”
Piped up another guest, one Simon Marks: “They’re looking for a pinata. They found one in Susan Rice. I do think — “
“Well, said Simon Marks, trying to get back in the conversation, “that’s true. That’s also true. But I do think she slightly played into her hand — into their hands.
“Typhoid Mary?” asked Chris.
“Susan Rice’s job is to watch national security,” Chris said, apparently unaware that Susan Rice hasn’t had that job since America changed presidents. There’s not only a new president, but a new adviser with the job of “watching national security.”
But then Chris wanted to talk about the movies. He suggested that Susan Rice, or maybe it was Tom Cotton or Mike Huckabee, he wasn’t sure, had been living in the Bates Motel, with a deranged killer from the famous Alfred Hitchcock movie “Psycho.” Chris watches a lot of movies and sometimes has trouble keeping the characters straight.
Then it was off for a history lesson. The Trump family, particularly First Daughter Ivanka Trump Kushner, reminds him of the Romanovs, the Imperial Russian family slain by revolutionaries in 1917. Trump Derangement Syndrome apparently encourages fantasies about assassinations. A columnist for The Washington Post seemed to observe not long ago that assassinations often put an end to unhappy eras.
Treating Trump Derangement Syndrome is not easy. Dr. Quackenbush, the celebrated physician would tell you that we must be patient, because there will be episodes of intense derangement, and then the affliction subsides, only to flare again. The confirmation this week of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to unhinge Chris, David and Don again.
Dr. Quackenbush, who achieved celluloid immortality in the Marx Brothers movie “A Day at the Races,” was trained to doctor horses, and he would know which end of Chris and the guys to examine. If only he were here.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.
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