Presidents need to wear many hats. Depending on the circumstances, they may need to be tough-talker-in-chief or cheerleader-in-chief or, when visiting hurricane victims, consoler-in-chief. As we learned this week on The West Wing, President Trump can really only wear one hat, and he sells it on his website for $40. Having wished those in the path of Hurricane Harvey a glib “good luck,” he proceeded to marvel at the size of the crowds of victims, slam the media, and generally make everything about himself. This is typical Trump, but the writers really pushed our suspension of disbelief to its limits in this episode. Let’s break down the damaging effects of Hurricane Trump.
The End(ish) of DACA
In this episode, Trump announced that he will be ending deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), the program that temporarily prevented people brought to the U.S. illegally as children from being deported. Trump said the program would end in six months. It just so happens he also gave the Secretary of Defense six months to submit a plan for implementing a ban on transgender military personnel. These six-month delays seem to be an indication of writers who are afraid to bite the bullet; if you’re going to introduce a poorly conceptualized dramatic twist, don’t promise it’s going to happen 25 episodes later. Can you imagine if Sam talked for an entire season about how he was considering dating a prostitute, and they didn’t go out for the first time until the finale? We’d have been screaming at the TV by that point. Hemming and hawing shows zero confidence in story choices. And that’s the kind of weakness in a show that will cause viewers to jump to The Bachelorette, who at least has the balls to go all in on her bad choices.
The New Ed and Larry
First, Trump pardoned former Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, best known for heat-related deaths in his jails. Then, David Clarke, best known for dehydration-related deaths in his jails, resigned as sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. Trump tweeted a recommendation of Clarke’s book on Twitter during the height of Hurricane Harvey. Is this duo destined to join the regular West Wing cast? Maybe they’ll be like an evil version of Ed and Larry, side characters that no one can tell apart because they’re always together. Except in this case, it will be even funnier when people can’t tell them apart because Arpaio is white and Clarke is black. Great opportunities for comic relief — if only the two weren’t responsible for prisoner treatment that violates international human rights standards. The show has always juggled drama and comedy, but dealing with that juxtaposition will be a real challenge for the writers.
The Arc of Hurricane Trump
Trump attempted to fix his bungled initial response to Hurricane Harvey by returning to the flood zone later in this episode. This time, he tried to at least appear as though he was helping the victims. (The costume designer didn’t get the hint, and again dressed Melania in high heels.) Was this an actual character arc, an acknowledgment that he had been wrong and needed to do better? That would be a big step for the character, something we haven’t seen before. By the end of the episode, I found myself vainly hoping that the climax of this arc would be — much like President Bartlet announcing his MS diagnosis to the press — Trump making his way to a podium, drenched by the elements, for a shocking announcement. Except unlike Bartlet, he would declare he would not be running for a second term. It would have been a satisfying way to come full circle and allow viewers a sigh of relief. But I guess there’s another hurricane brewing in the Gulf (we get it, writers, Trump is a natural disaster!), so maybe there’s still a chance.
Will Trump’s million-dollar donation to hurricane victims also come with a six-month delay? Will the evil Ed and Larry try to open a concentration camp on the South Lawn of the White House? And will Trump’s resignation happen before the end of this season? We’ll continue to follow the action and to wait with bated breath for Robert Mueller’s next cameo.