Gary Horton | Late-Night Comedians in a World of Hurt

Gary Horton

The Donald Trump years will be known for many things, but perhaps Trump’s most notable achievement was writing every late-night comedian’s nightly scripts – for free. Free of course, except for the $5 trillion deficit Trump saddled America with during his profligate four years of binge borrowing…

Every day for five years has been Trump day. Trump, the news, and these nightly comedians had symbiotic relationships. Trump fed the news with constant, never-ending Twitter twaddle; the news dutifully reported his babbling, and the late-night guys took Trump’s easy lobs and knocked ’em out of the park every night. And for five years this echo chamber of babble and rabble was a constant invasion into the peace and sanity of virtually every sentient American – and likely half the world.


“Birth certificates.”

“Good people on both sides…”

“We love you” to Capitol insurrectionists.

“Fake News.”

“Biggest Hoax.”

“Landslide victory.”

“Largest crowd.”

“Rigged System.”

I could go on forever with the tripe and outrage Trump spewed 24/7 right in our faces with no possible escape. Trump played the press and PR like a pro. Good coverage, bad coverage – none of that particularly mattered – what mattered that everything was about Trump. Trump, 24/7.

But along the way to Trump’s Imperial Royal Multi-Generational Trump Family Presidency, mistakes were made. “Good people on both sides,” and stoking racial discord and whipping up neo-Confederate crowds. This hate mongering worked fine for Southerners, but others were aghast. His comments about Mexicans, about “s—hole countries,” about the Proud Boys standing by; lying straight up over election results and finally in desperation, egging on the Capitol insurrection and, and, and… all this finally crossed lines and the Social Media Gods said, “Enough!” 

Enough lies, enough division, enough promotion of violence, and enough assault on our democracy.

Trump was silenced. Muzzled. Neutered. All but disappeared.…

And then, the sound of silence. Oh, the wonderful, glorious, deep sigh of relief, sound of silence. On Facebook. On Twitter. On TV news. Trump deposed; sanity restored.

I fondly remember the Barack Obama years. “No drama Obama” was the catchphrase for those times. Like Joe Biden, Obama inherited a full-on free-falling economic recession, dangling us over a potential Great Depression II, requiring immediate expert action. George Bush II had left us in ongoing wars, failing banks, Wall Street crashing, housing crisis – everything falling apart. And what we got from Obama was sane action, honest and well-communicated press conferences, a respectful and sane First Family, and quiet action, managed by professionals, that in the end, left each day a little better than the day before.

No screaming. No insults. No incivility. No national running around with our hair on fire 24/7. Quiet competency bordering on … boring. Yes, looking back, the last five or six Obama years were competently boring. And quiet. No tweets, rallies, or incitements to riot and march on state capitals, with war weapons in hand.

And now, four years of hell in a handbasket, here we are again. While not the Obama II Administration, the Biden-Harris team has assembled a cabinet of seasoned, capable professionals. Press Secretary Jen Psaki is a calm, cool, professional voice, who nearly first thing, voiced her commitment to transparency and honesty to serve the U.S. public. No more Orwellian, Alice in Wonderland fake news conferences.

And Dr. Anthony Fauci, now unchained, is both happy and freed to be honest with us. We have a rough road ahead – but we’ve called in FEMA, we’ve got real national plans, and vaccinations are accelerating and will soon be ubiquitous.

And while Biden hosted one of the most profound inaugurations in memory, promising unity, we won’t sacrifice justice and accountability in a false altar of “unity.” America sustained a near coup. The Capitol was sacked, and people died. The president attempted to overthrow a fair election through outright intimidation and manipulation of the Justice Department. White nationalism has been outed for what it is – domestic terrorism – and all these things will be aired out, sorted out, and justice meted out so to preserve democracy for renewed years ahead.

Yet in the midst of so many simultaneous challenges – COVID, recession, poverty, social justice inequality, health care – amidst all this is a professional calmness. Open the papers, watch any news but Fox or alt-right conspiracy peddlers, and you’ll simply hear and see the quiet hum of a professional-grade government going about the People’s business.

“Sleepy Joe” has proven to be not so sleepy but rather, “Steady Joe” — disciplined and determined — and an inspirational inauguration speaker. We won’t get rallies. Few tweets, if any. A site that’s informative rather than propaganda. And importantly, importantly, a return to… quiet.

After the initial hubbub of fixing so much of the government machine intentionally Trump-trashed, we’ll go back to that quiet assurance where each day is a bit better than the day before and the whole nation’s blood pressure eases back down.

Ahhhhh. Quiet competency.

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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