Obeidallah: Jokes about Trump accusing Obama of tapping his phones were everywhere
But his demand that Congress investigate this baseless claim means it's no laughing matter
Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM’s radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @deanofcomedy. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
On Saturday morning, most of us laughed off President Donald Trump’s Twitter storm accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his phones during the campaign. After all, as noted widely in the media, Trump had offered zero evidence for his bizarre claim.
Soon, the jokes were flying at Trump’s expense. That evening, on “Saturday Night Live,” the show’s “Weekend Update” co-anchor Michael Che said it best – with a bonus reference to Ivanka Trump: “Well, this Saturday morning, while his nurse was at temple, Grandpa shuffled out of his room and got into his Twitter again.”
All I could think do is wonder is what’s next: Trump accusing Obama of being the one who gave Warren Beatty the wrong envelope at the Oscars? Or maybe, even, Trump accusing Obama of killing Tupac?
But come Sunday morning, the jokes ended as Trump began demanding that the Republican-controlled Congress pursue his conspiracy theory.
As Trump’s spokesperson, Sean Spicer, stated in a series of tweets, “President Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.”
President Trump’s “request” should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who has any understanding of how dictators work. They, too, use the apparatus of government to support their whims. And worse, they also seek to punish their predecessors in office and political opponents – as we have seen in countries from Iran to Zambia to, of course, Russia.
How long until we hear Trump surrogates suggest that Obama might be guilty of a crime?
At this point, we understand that “Trump will be Trump.” He will take to Twitter to vent about everything from politics to Nordstrom to even “SNL”. It’s our new abnormal. That’s why it was so easy on Saturday morning to laugh off his tweets about a story that seems taken directly from the pages of Trump’s state-run media, oops I mean Breitbart.com.
And it’s worth lingering on the point that Saturday’s tweets were truly hysterical – in both senses of that word. They made us laugh but also evoked a tinge of frenzy or madness. In one tweet Trump invoked McCarthyism: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
He also invoked Nixon and Watergate while misspelling the word “tap” and calling Obama a “Bad (or sick) guy”: How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” Why he used a parenthetical to describe Obama as “sick” is anyone’s guess.
While there was little credibility to the story to begin with, any shred of it was lost about an hour later when Trump tweeted a slam of Arnold Schwarzenegger and his ratings as host of “The Apprentice”: “Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show.”
Trump actually wants us to believe that he just uncovered the biggest scandal since Watergate, but that it had such a deep effect on him that an hour later he felt compelled to tweet about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s TV ratings. A short time later Trump’s press office said that Trump, who was again staying at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida over the weekend, “might hit a few golf balls” later that day. Does anyone know if Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein went to the golf driving range after connecting the dots on the Watergate conspiracy?
If this had all ended with some crazy tweets, we could chalk this story up to just another Trump lie or an effort to distract us from the growing scandal with his administration’s ties to Russia. But now that Trump, through Spicer, is demanding a taxpayer-funded congressional investigation into a claim made against his opposition without one single shred of evidence, we are in new and alarming territory.
Add just as alarming, on Sunday, Trump’s spokesperson made it clear that like a dictator, Trump and his administration refuse to answer any questions from the media seeking such evidence: “Neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted.”
It’s time for the Republican leaders in Congress to let us know if they will simply be a doormat for Trump’s diabolical agenda – or will they be patriotic Americans who stand up to this dictator in the making? My hope is that they choose the latter and remain focused on Russia’s interference in our elections and possible collusion between the Trump administration and Russian officials.
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What’s it going to be, Republicans: Trump or America? We await your response.