Meet Trump’s New Fixer: The Attorney General of the United States. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.
Working for Trump is not the first time that Attorney General William Barr has been called upon to clean up a mess. Barr had the very same job of Attorney General under George H.W. Bush where he presided over making the Iran-Contra scandal fade away. Papa Bush, with Barr’s whole-hearted support, pardoned six key people from the Reagan administration who were involved, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger.
If Barr saw no problem in absolving players in Iran-Contra, one of the biggest scandals since Watergate, then he certainly has no problem in helping to somehow make the Mueller report go away; clear Trump & Co. of any and all charges; and just perform his role as a smug little henchman doing his master’s bidding.
Have you ever wanted to just go all Jack Kerouac and do an extended road trip? You’d yell out, “Nothing behind me! Everything ahead of me!” Well, what if you’re also caught up in trying to grapple with America under Trump? Then consider this new graphic novel, Amongst the Liberal Elite, written by Elly Lonon and illustrated by Joan Reilly, published by powerHouse Books. It is based upon Ms. Lonon’s hilarious McSweeney’s column. More on that later. If you also happen to enjoy a regular intake of NPR, MSNBC, and lean left in your politics, you’ll especially appreciate the ongoing quips exchanged by the story’s two main characters, Alex and Michael, a couple of upwardly mobile middle-aged lefties.
The humor is of the razor-sharp rapid-fire Jon Stewart variety. It can sometimes feel like too much of a good thing so everything depends upon the timing and delivery. The characters let loose a bon mot, hold back a bit to engage in self-deprecation, and then repeat. That’s basically the pace of this narrative. If you like the characters, then all is golden–and these two characters are very likeable even if you never really get past their walls of witty retorts. And, hey, maybe you know people like that. What you get here is a very lean, crisp, extra-dry and droll, gluten-free set of misadventures. This sort of political humor tends to be built this way and for good reason. There is only enough character development to serve the jokes and plot. There’s no deep connection nor would you need or care for that. Think Seinfeld. These are fictional constructs here to tickle your funny bone and offer up some finely-tuned political satire. Bravo! It works exceedingly well.
Amongst the Liberal Elite by Elly Lonon and Joan Reilly
To be able to take a popular column made up of clever repartee and turn it into a graphic novel is quite remarkable. I can’t stress enough what an ambitious task that is. Joan Reilly’s artwork successfully sustains this very special blend of political humor. Ms. Reilly is a masterful political cartoonist in her own right so she proves to be the perfect creative teammate to Ms. Lonon. Together, Elly Lonon and Joan Reilly bring to life two super quirky characters with much to say and reveal about our current political state.
The full title is Amongst the Liberal Elite: The Road Trip Exploring Societal Inequities Solidified by Trump (RESIST) and it is a 156-page hardcover published by powerHouse Books.
With great being a relative term and considering all the cliffhanger sequences so expertly crafted by James Patterson (let’s not fool ourselves that Bill is now a master at hardboiled airport thrillers), The President is Missing could quite possibly make for a decent comic book adaptation. The trouble is: are there any takers? All things considered, and there is a hell of a lot to consider, taken as a curious entertainment, the book did its job on me and I read it to the very end. As for passages that I can tell right away were written by Bill, I hit pay dirt at the very beginning (the president names his enemies and his virtues) and at the very end (the president names his enemies and his virtues). And the President Duncan character is so heavily influenced by Bill that he is clearly his alter ego. Tucked within all that is a pretty good spy thriller of sorts. Everything has been simplified to the point where it lends itself well to the demands for brevity and action in your typical comic book.
So, would you really want to read this? Could you even stomach it? A lot depends upon your politics, or more to the point, your opinion of Bill’s character. There are those living in a bubble who chalk up Bill’s abuse of women as simply the missteps of a cad. Everyone in this rarefied group, by the way, still uses the word, “cad” in casual conversation. I recall one talking head referring to Bill as a man of “enormous appetites.” This was all well before #MeToo but there are still plenty of Friends of Bill who simply are not up to calling him out and never will be. Bill is protected by much of the media as one who is too big to fail. Just read the review of this book in The New York Times. Nicolle Wallace, of MSNBC, serves up a fair and upbeat review. That could be a way to balance out the gotcha moment sprung on Bill on the TODAY Show on NBC.
That TODAY Show moment is now part of the experience of reading this novel. It can’t be any other way and that’s a good thing. Maybe Bill could have dodged a bullet if he’d had more presence of mind in that already highly calculated noggin of his. Why did he have a meltdown when NBC’s Craig Melvin asked him about Monica Lewinsky? At least Melvin did not directly refer to Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick or Kathleen Willey. Just the mere mention of Monica was enough. In the dust up that ensued, Melvin focused upon the idea that Bill really should personally apologize to her. Hell no, was Bill’s response. Hadn’t he suffered enough? Those legal bills to defend himself don’t pay themselves. Bill had clearly gone off the rails with his self-destructive response. What a contrast to a novel that depicts a president with razor-sharp dedication to the job. President Duncan is the president that Bill can only wish he could have been.
Hey, let’s do a book!
The novel’s President Duncan is a dashing war hero who, by all counts, is God’s gift to America. He is flawless expect for one thing: he’s just too darn honest and brave! Almost single-handedly, this Prez literally saves his country from the mother of all cyberattacks, one that is so dastardly that it could toss America into the Dark Ages. Dare I say, this is one heck of a superhero-like president.
For her New York Times review, Nicolle Wallace dusted off a handy quote just screaming to be inserted. This is the one by Tom Wolfe that goes: “The problem with fiction is that it has to be plausible.” How often has that old chestnut been used in genteel conversation? But it does make sense here. I can well imagine James Patterson coming to a screeching halt at his typewriter. For some reason, I see him as using a typewriter. And so he calls up Bill to ask him if North Korea is as bad as he’s heard. This, of course, was well before Trump fixed everything up. So, Bill goes over and asks Hillary and they begin to fight over competing interpretations. Bill says he’ll have to call him back. Anyway, Bill, or Richard Clarke, would eventually make “plausible” whatever hiccups occurred in the narrative.
But there’s this one particular moment that occurs right in the Oval Office of all places that may defy plausibility. This highly-twisted plot features Nina, a young woman who creates the computer virus that threatens America, if not the whole world. Again, I can well imagine James Patterson working himself up into a fit of frustration over this. Finally, he calls up Bill with his perplexing question. Bill ponders it for a long while and then replies, “You know, James, I do believe that it is quite possible for a young woman to find a way to discretely enter the Oval Office and be alone with the President of the United States.” The great James Patterson lets that sink in but has to add: “Alright, Bill, but I just have a feeling that someone will take issue with that. Heck, it might even happen on the TODAY Show!”
Donald Trump has been in the news a lot, don’t you think? But why? Such an obvious question and yet it seems like there’s no clear answer. Well, I had the opportunity to interview Donald Trump and ask him those sort of questions and a whole lot more. In the interview, Mr. Trump seems candid. He is certainly confident. I hope you enjoy this fictitious, and oddly insightful, interview:
Henry Chamberlain: Thank you for doing this interview, Mr. Trump.
Donald Trump: Glad to be here.
HC: I wanted to start with an observation I made some years back. It was on an episode of “The Apprentice.” I remember that you fired a team leader over the name of the brand he chose to use. He went with a name that began with a lower case letter like, or example, he used “munchies,” instead of beginning with an upper case letter, like “Munchies.” You said you couldn’t work with someone who would make such a huge mistake. But it wasn’t a mistake. It was a style choice. You insisted that it was a flat out mistake and that you’d never seen such a style choice made before.
DT: Do we use a lower case letter to begin the word, America? I rest my case.
HC: I have friends who support you.
DT: Of course you do!
HC: I don’t question their integrity or anything like that. What I think has happened is that it’s so easy to get caught up in the hoopla of your campaign.
DT: Look, we’re going to be doing great things, really fantastic stuff.
HC: I liked the interview you did with Jimmy Kimmel.
DT: I like Kimmel.
HC: At least, he was able to bring up the fact that the character of Biff in “Back to the Future” is supposed to be based on you.
DT: Sounds like fun.
HC: I think the problem is that the media does not want to be too hard on you in fear of tearing down such valuable entertainment content. At the end of the day, you’re an entertainment goldmine.
DT: Listen, it’s going to take a gold standard in leadership to get us out of this mess we’re in.
HC: Every time it looks like you’ve stepped on a political landmine, you survive. If the media wanted to focus on your outrageous statements alone, they could. But they keep moving on. Just the one statement you made about viewing thousands of Muslims celebrating on September 11, 2001 would be enough to end the career of most politicians. Just the video of you mocking the disability of a New York Times reporter which you don’t like would be enough to end the career of most politicians.
DT: Look, what this country needs is less of your typical politician. Remember, I am not a politician. I am beholden to no one. When you get me, you get one hundred percent me.
HC: It’s interesting how your outrageous proposals, by default of the media’s inaction, are given credibility. It’s like out of a bad movie to propose a wall along the Mexican border. It’s like out of a bad movie to propose to keep Muslims out of the country.
DT: Listen, these are extraordinary times that demand extraordinary vision.
HC: When do you think your campaign will come to an end?
DT: I’m sorry, I don’t follow.
HC: When will you have had enough fun with this?
DT: Believe me, I’m having a lot of fun. People are having a lot of fun, feeling good about America. I’ve only just begun.
HC: Do you really believe you’ll go head to head with Hillary Clinton?
DT: Please, such a low energy person and with a whole lot of other problems, if you know what I’m saying.
HC: Is there a place for Jeb Bush in a Trump administration?
DT: Ah, a little joke. I appreciate that. Well, you know, I think he’s proven it’s time for him to retire.
The pure magic of Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” comic strip defies easy description. It appeared in newspapers around the country and galvanized thought among the thoughtful. His strange and beautiful comic strip was, in its day, “Doonesbury,” “The Simpsons,” and “The Jon Stewart Show” all rolled into one, times ten. Its satirical bite was so effective that newspapers would opt for either the innocent joke version or go for the political version of the comic strip. Has Walt Kelly been relegated to the margins? That is where many an odd genius will dwell only to be rediscovered. Thanks to Fantagraphics Books, the Pogo comic strips are getting their due.
If you are interested in an intriguing movie based on a work in comics besides “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” you will want to see “The French Minister.” This comedy could be your window to offbeat political satire and French comics all rolled into one.
There are a number of reasons why you might be curious about this show. The main reason to see it is because it’s funny. Politics and humor go hand in hand but they don’t always add up to something really funny. Sometimes, it is sent to us by the Gods. What else explains Tina Fey as Sarah Palin? Sometimes, it is sent to us by Garry Trudeau. Yes, that Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist of “Doonesbury” fame. His humor is recognized as rather wry and dry. But for this series, he’s eased up a bit on the drollness. He allows his characters to breathe and, in doing so, has established a good extended rhythm for the small screen.