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(CNN) —  

Have you heard the latest?

A President walks out onto the White House lawn and says that China should investigate the Bidens because “what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.”

Ba-da-boom.

That’s the punchline, at least according to Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. It was a joke. And we just don’t get it. “I don’t think it’s a real request,” Rubio said. “I think he did it to get you guys. I think he did it to provoke you to ask me and others and get outraged by it. He plays it like a violin and everyone falls into it. That’s not a real request.”

Sure looked real – and it wasn’t really funny. But that didn’t stop other Republicans from breathing a sigh of relief at the fabrication of a new talking point.

“You really think he was serious about thinking that China’s going to investigate the Biden family?” GOP Rep. Jim Jordan said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Yep.

“I doubt the China comment is serious,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership.

It was.

If past is indeed prologue, as they say, the joke alibi will remain. After all, it has worked before for Trump when staff have had to do clean-up after his outrageous comments or claims.

Consider these greatest hits: Remember when candidate Trump said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 (Hillary Clinton) emails that are missing”? When asked about it by special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump’s written answer was essentially “lighten up.” The emails statement, Trump’s lawyers wrote, was made “in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer.”

So there you go.

And recall when he directed aides this past summer to get billions of dollars of construction contracts finalized for the border wall – no matter if it was illegal or undoable. He told staff not to worry. Why? If they broke the law, he’d pardon them.

That, of course, was said in jest, staff said.

Is this President funny? Is there a different man in private that we just never see, aside from the occasional joke about his coiffure?

Dropping nukes on hurricanes. A joke. Calling himself “The Chosen One?” Sarcasm. Buying Greenland? Not a joke – in Denmark and Greenland, at least.

The new Ukranian President actually is a comedian, and I bet he doesn’t think Donald Trump is funny.

I know we’re supposed to take the lesson from the last campaign that we should take Trump seriously but not literally, as journalist Salena Zito pointed out. But how do you take him seriously when he’s such a cutup?

That’s sarcasm, by the way.