Tragi-comic weirdness all around. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Because things weren't weird enough, Tuesday saw the shabby, surreal spectacle of President Turkey congratulating Corn the Turkey - "Look at that beautiful, beautiful bird. Oh, so lucky. That is a lucky bird" - because he gets to live another day in the hellscape the guy pardoning him created. The always peculiar tradition of the presidential turkey pardon - in this case made even more peculiar as an attempt to appear normal in wildly abnormal times by re-enacting an event that never felt normal - was reportedly a muted affair, with no jokes, few cameras and a loser vibe devoid of the usual, requisite showmanship. The Guardian's David Smith wrote that Trump seemed like "an ageing comic" desperate for a spotlight that's already moving on, for us uncannily summoning up Laurence Olivier's music hall has-been Archie Rice in John Osborne's bleak "The Entertainer." The context brought it all into even sharper, weirder focus: The event came after Trump had spent the day wildy babbling on Twitter - "I CONCEDE NOTHING!!!" - and even as Joe Biden was introducing what Smith called "the brainy grown-ups of his government-in-waiting."
In contrast, there was Trump - “Ladies and gentleman, the President of the United States" - and Corn, chosen over Cob to survive in a Twitter poll that prompted apt questions: Is he trying to avoid COVID or the election, will the winner be the one who offers the biggest bribe or the chance to grab his crotch, isn't there anything else he should be doing? But the reality-TV host gamely if wanly stepped up to the task. Last year, during impeachment hearings, he made bitter jokes. The year before, he wisecracked about "a fair election" in which Peas the turkey beat Carrots: “Unfortunately, Carrots refused to concede and demanded a recount...Carrots, I’m sorry to tell you, the result did not change." This year, he just boasted about the Dow Jones and the vaccine - which he discovered after long hours in the lab - before offering his reprieve: "Thank you, Corn. What a bird." Tawdry stuff. Yet Trump had seemed to imagine a presidency "more closely resembling a rolling turkey pardon," the Times noted, in a world "amenable (to) his binary whims: This bird is spared. Those birds are not." Now, alas, reporters were rudely shouting, "Will you be issuing a pardon for yourself?” "Answer there came none," writes Smith. "The man who could never stop talking to reporters has now taken a vow of silence." Or maybe, in truth, the sins are simply unpardonable.
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Turkey press conference at their hotel. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty