This week was notable for its lack of coronavirus briefings, which have held us in their grip for more than a month. Once a source of pride, they were exposing President Donald Trump, he discovered finally, as a figure of fun. In their place, the White House arranged a series of well-orchestrated events for him, away from the pressroom. The method suggested a discipline and sobriety unseen from this administration since the pandemic began—since Inauguration Day 2017, for that matter. This week seemed (my fingers tremble to type the word) normal. At least as normal as can be mustered in these troublesome times.
Yet more than once, my mind, what’s left of it, went back to an anecdote involving George S. Kaufman, the great playwright of the 1920s and ’30s. He was talking with friends one evening backstage at a performance of his latest Broadway hit. The show starred the Marx Brothers, who were famous for their endless improvisations. Suddenly, Kaufman hushed his companions. “My God,” Kaufman said in shock, “I think I just heard something I wrote!”
Having long ago served as a speechwriter myself, that story returns during those delirious moments when I imagine the plight of Trump’s speechwriters. Putting words in the mouth of a man whose mouth already overflows with words of his own must make for a life of constant frustration. Consider Wednesday afternoon, when the president met in the White House with business executives to discuss the plan for “opening up America again.”