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August 10 2019

… platitudes and bromides, beginning as it did with the murder of 31 people in two mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton—or, as Joe Biden initially had it, in Michigan and Houston. Not to be outdone, President Trump asked that “God bless the memory of those who perished in Toledo.” Meanwhile, Heidi and Ted Cruz were “praying for the victims & their families,” as were Mitch McConnell and his wife, Elaine Chao. (Soon enough, people were presumably praying for McConnell, who fell at home and fractured his shoulder. Rand Paul was also hospitalized, for the removal of part of a lung. No, it was not a good week to be a senator from Kentucky.)

In the wake of the shootings, the president invoked God repeatedly and kept largely out of sight, blaming everyone and everything but guns (“The Media has a big responsibility to life and safety in our Country. Fake News has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years”), before being frog-marched to a teleprompter to recite some of those aforementioned p’s and b’s. He then was airlifted to Dayton and El Paso (perfunctory visits he probably enjoyed even less than the citizens who live there did), immediately resumed hostile, divisive tweeting (“world class loser,” “LameStream Media,” etc.), and finished the week safely back in his element: raising large sums of money in the Hamptons from people who, having reflected deeply on the last two and a half years, have evidently decided that, when all is said and done, they want a whole lot more of this.

Well, a week during which Toni Morrison died wasn’t going to be very good, regardless. Trade tensions between China and the U.S. worsened. A U.N. report predicted that climate change and “unprecedented” exploitation of land and water could result in a global food shortage. And in Dunbartonshire, Scotland, aggressive seagulls have prevented mail from being delivered for weeks; several postal workers have been injured in Hitchcockian kamikaze attacks.

But even Scots mail carriers had it better than chronically tardy presidential candidate/New York City hobby mayor Bill de Blasio. It was reported that the mayor’s security detail had been pressed into service to help move his daughter from her Brooklyn apartment to Gracie Mansion last year, and also that the mayor had received mortgages from a bank founded by the brother of real-estate moguls who’d received $173 million from the city. Awkward. Then, a new poll put de Blasio’s approval rating among New Yorkers at 26 percent, even lower than Donald Trump’s. And when the Rolling Stones performed in New Jersey, Mick Jagger joked—during the encore—“Oh, look, Mayor de Blasio’s just shown up!”

But there was some—arguably—good news this week. Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, “president for life” of Turkmenistan, offered proof that he was not in fact dead, as had been rumored. State TV aired footage of the strongman driving a race car around his country’s Gates of Hell natural-gas crater, playing a synthesizer, and—what says vibrant and alive more profoundly?—bowling strikes. —George Kalogerakis