Trump and the death of satire

Trump at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, July 3, 2020.

This was excerpted from the August 11 edition of CNN's Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.

(CNN)Satire is now dead.

We joked recently that when US President Donald Trump went to Mount Rushmore last month, he probably saw himself up there on the rocky crags with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Turns out it was no joke.
Trump told South Dakota's Gov Kristi Noem in 2018 that he aspired to have his face immortalized on the monument. Now, the New York Times reports that a White House aide contacted Noem's office last year to ask about the procedure for adding new presidents to the mountain. The governor didn't get out her chisel -- but she did offer Trump a replica of the iconic monument with his face staring out.
Trump denies the whole thing, while allowing it seems like a "good idea." And though adding himself to Mt. Rushmore fits into his pattern of life-long self branding, it would be pretty extraordinary for Trump to see himself in such exalted company after struggling to achieve any meaningful legislative or foreign policy achievement. More than 160,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus under his watch.
    On the other hand, the President regularly appears to think he's hitting 'em out of the park. One reason might be his sources of information — he sees fact-based coverage as fake news and relies on conservative channels and commentators who rarely even talk about his failings, like the pandemic.
    An even scarier explanation was reported by the Washington Post this weekend: Trump's advisors have deliberately concocted a fantasy world for the President and his inner circle about the success of his coronavirus response. "You're not supposed to see this behavior in liberal democracies that are founded on principles of rule of law," a senior administration official told the paper. "Everyone bends over backwards to create this Potemkin village for him and for his inner circle."
    And no, that's not a joke.

    'It's in God's hands'

    'They grill burgers in the Senate basement. They wait tables in the senators-only dining room. And they fill coffee for lawmakers rushing to their morning committee hearings. But dozens of cafeteria workers, who make low wages and are an integral part of daily life in the Senate, are now worried about putting food on their own tables,' report CNN's Manu Raju and Ted Barrett.
    Dozens of hourly cafeteria workers in the Senate are facing layoffs by October, if Congress fails to pass a funding package necessary to keep the staff employed. Many live paycheck to paycheck and have multiple jobs -- and are at risk of losing much, if not all of their income. "It's in God's hands," one of the workers told CNN. "You really can't do too much about it but pray and hope they do the right thing, as far as making a decision on furloughing us or laying us off, or if the senators are going to keep us open."'

    Europe's last dictator

    Riot police disperse protesters in Minsk on August 9, 2020.
    Trump recently discovered a passion for human rights and democracy -- at least in Hong Kong, where Beijing's crackdown now fits into his narrative of a tyrannical Chinese Communist Party emerging as Cold War-style enemy. But would he devote the same attention to another apparent attack on democracy unfolding on the European landmass?
    Thousands of protestors were on the streets in Belarus, protesting what they say is a rigged election by a man nicknamed "Europe's last dictator" -- Alexander Lukashenko, who's been in power for 26 years. Aspiring presidents-for-life Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have already welcomed early results awarding Lukashenko yet another term.
      Western democracies like France, the UK and the US have condemned the vote and treatment of protesters, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticizing the election as "not free and fair." You might expect the leader of the free world to say something, too -- Trump has been particularly concerned about cheating in elections lately, at least in the United States, where he's making wild and untrue claims that mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud, especially in Democrat-run states.
      But given the US President's admiration for strongmen leaders -- and his consistent deference to Putin-- we won't hold our breath to hear the same kind of rebuke for Belarus that Trump issues to politically advantageous targets like US Democrats and China.