America's soap opera becomes more bizarre

John Krull

INDIANAPOLIS — This must be what soap operas look like in “The Twilight Zone.”

Let’s take stock of where we are in America, right now.

The world’s richest man and the CEO of a company that seems to sell and ship everything but human life itself has accused a tabloid of blackmail and extortion. Jeff Bezos, chieftain of Amazon and The Washington Post, said The National Enquirer threatened to expose intimate and revealing texts and photos of him and his supposed girlfriend if he didn’t agree to make a statement that the tab wasn’t trying to smear him for political reasons.

The Enquirer’s publisher, David Pecker, is a close ally of President Donald Trump.

But, to complicate the plot even further, Pecker and his company had agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors as they investigate whether payoffs Trump made to women who said he’d had sex with him constitute violations of campaign finance and other laws.

If true, Bezos’s allegations could imperil that agreement and open whole new lines of inquiry and investigation into the president’s dealings with the Enquirer.

That’s the legal issue.

The drama involves the world’s wealthiest person and this nation’s most powerful politician in a duel regarding their sex lives.

Uplifting, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, in Virginia, the governor, the lieutenant governor and the attorney general — all Democrats — find themselves embroiled in scandals.

Gov. Ralph Northam started this spin cycle. A photo on his page in the yearbook from his medical school days features someone in blackface.

Northam at first acknowledged the photo was him and apologized for it. Then he denied it but acknowledged that he had appeared in blackface at other times during those years.

The calls for his resignation have been deafening.

Northam, though, has gone mute.

Even though he’s clearly dimmer than a single-watt bulb, the governor at last may have figured that running his mouth wasn’t helping him.

The pressure for him to go might have been irresistible, but for one thing. The people who could replace him also have their own problems.

A woman has accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault. Fairfax denies the allegation, but his accuser seems credible — at least as credible as the women who have accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct.

The howls demanding Fairfax leave office also have been loud.

If Fairfax can’t succeed Northam, then the dubious honor of succeeding to the governorship would fall to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. But Herring also has acknowledged that he wore blackface as a joke at times as a young man.

(An aside: Were these Virginia Democrats all denied oxygen for prolonged periods during their important developmental periods or were they just born stupid?)

Not content to watch the Virginia Democratic Party implode all by itself, President Trump and his crew have not been able to resist the temptation to comment on that action.

They’ve attacked the racism inherent in Northam’s and Herring’s blackface idiocies. And they’ve declared Fairfax’s alleged sexual impropriety to be an offense against decency that should be punished by an immediate departure from public office.

Americans who didn’t drink the Trump Kool-Aid and remember that this president and his cronies rarely can bring themselves to say that Nazis and KKK members aren’t nice people roll their eyes at the idea of lectures from that quarter on the issue of race relations.

And the notion that Donald Trump, who has been stonewalling investigation of accusations against him by more than a dozen women of sexual assaults and improprieties, is a credible arbiter of traditional morality is the stuff of farce.

But, while it may be mildly amusing to chuckle at the assorted hypocrisies involved here, it’s ultimately sobering to realize this all isn’t make-believe. These people are the leaders of our nation. When they stumble, states and nations take the fall with them.

That’s why it’s comforting to wish that we were watching not real life, but a soap opera from another dimension.

We even give it a title.

“The Old and the Foolish?”

No, that doesn’t capture the spirit of the action.

“As the Stomach Churns?’

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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