Another year done, almost. Whew. And what a busy year it has been, packed with newsworthy stuff, So without further ado, the top 100 news stories of 2019:
1. Donald Trump impeached in the House for withholding military aide to Ukraine in an attempt to pressure its president to gin up dirt on a political rival.
2. Donald Trump said at a rally in Pennsylvania: “Our country is full. We don’t want people coming up here.”
3. Donald Trump’s Secretary of Defense resigned.
4. Donald Trump abruptly left a NATO meeting after other world leaders laughed at him.
5. Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Navy was fired over his objections to the president undercutting military discipline.
6-99. More lies, resignations, slurs, boasts, all involving Donald Trump.
Sure, other stuff happened. But even mentioning it seems beside the point.
Do you get tired? Tired of the tramp tramp tramp of Trump Trump Trump? I know I do. His fans seem to love him. They are indignant that anyone could continually pay critical attention to the president of the United States.
So the country is cleft in two: half entranced, half disgusted, both sides belligerent and baffled at each other. Can you imagine a simpler recipe for disaster? Sure, the economy is bright, now, but that’s like marveling at the pretty red glow when your house is burning down.
Speaking of which, No. 100 ...
But first, with the year ending, apologies and thanks. Apologies for so much focus on Washington — it seemed necessary — and thanks for bearing with me.
For those who love Trump, yet still read this, when you gripe—“Why are you so hard on our beloved president? I hate you” — remember that your loving him is what lawyers call “inculpatory” — it incriminates you, round these parts.
It’s like saying as an aside that you eat dirt or have sex with barnyard animals. It undercuts the rest, takes the oomph out of your scorn. Hard to be insulted by a man calling you names while nestled close to swine. And I believe Donald Trump is a swine the way I believe the sky is blue.
Space dwindles, and there is one more 2019 story to mention, because it was an event both enormous and carrying a certain symbolism.
No. 100: The burning of Notre Dame Cathedral. A true shocker on April 15 and rare bad news that didn’t come from Trump (Although ... I should probably claim here that Trump was seen in the cathedral’s attic, spreading gasoline. What’s his base going to do? Accuse the media of lying? Of creating fake news? Ah, ahahahaha).
The world was transfixed in horror, rapt at tragedy strangely symbolic of my 99 Trump lowlights. Notre Dame was what? Anybody? A precious relic and center of our cultural tradition. And it burned down, why? Because those in charge of protecting it were careless. Keeping it from burning was far, far, far far easier than trying to rebuild it will be, which eight months later the French are not sure is even possible.
A lesson. The modern liberal democratic order is in a dire situation. Flames are spreading, smoke pouring out the windows. Conflagration spreading across the globe. British buffoon Boris Johnson just won a big mandate. Israeli crook Benjamin Netanyahu is back stronger than ever. Putin wins every time Trump opens his mouth. And while Trump might lose in November, he also might win. Our country is on fire. Some are pouring water on the flames. Others are dancing around them, laughing.
Housekeeping note: The ongoing global slide toward disaster being parsed, on to personal news. Regular readers might remember the summer spine surgery documented in a four-part series. That was so much fun, on Monday I’m beginning work on a new personal medical story and will be out of the paper for a few weeks, doing the kind of deep, immersive research the Sun-Times excels at.
I wouldn’t mention it, but when I’m gone for a protracted period, readers — bless you all — start phoning the paper, asking if I’ve died or been fired or am back in rehab. It distracts my colleagues from their important work and reminds them that I’m not around to shoulder my share. I should be back by the second half of January. Thanks for reading, have a Happy New Year. Plan ahead so you don’t drink and drive.