“Never argue with idiots,” goes a phrase adapted from the Book of Proverbs and usually wrongly attributed to Mark Twain. “They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”
And as Donald Trump held what he and he alone described as a “celebration” of his impeachment acquittal in the White House East Room, its wider purpose was to ask America the question it now has almost a year to ruminate over.
Has the president managed to drag the United States down to his level?
Is America shocked anymore? Was it ever shocked? Here was its president, taking an unhinged procession around the litany of shame that has built up around his presidency, and the question, really, was whether anyone cared anymore.
“Russia, Russia, Russia, that was all bulls***,” said the 45th president of the United States of America. His audience let out a little gasp at that one. They’d been handpicked. Loyal Republicans, all of them, but it even took them by surprise.
So many of the world’s most remembered words have crackled into history in that house. It was here, of course, that Reagan lamented the Challenger astronauts who had “slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God”.
What did Donald Trump have to offer, here at his own little moment of history? “Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person,” he said. “Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person.”
He rattled through the lies that he hopes will see him return to this place in nine months’ time. Of how, but for his election victory, “the stock market would have crashed”.
This had been billed as a “celebration”. If such was the case, one has to hope never to be invited to a Trump family birthday party. We can only assume that, after the candles are blown out, a rambling litany of hatred is then read out, old scores settled. There was time for digs at James Comey, the Bidens – and Hillary Clinton, obviously.
If it had been the Oscars, the orchestra would have been rapidly turned up on around the ten-second mark.
Meanwhile, the TV news channels all carry it live, of course they do. If you need a broadcaster to broadcast your own propaganda for free, just make sure you do it all live.
Anyway, we’ve all heard all this before. It’s becoming normalised, we’re becoming inured. This is the way of things now. You are feeling sleepy. Your eyelids feel like lead.
The question is whether America is still awake enough to rouse itself from the hell dream it is being anaesthetised into.