OPINION

OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Crooks, cowards, or couch


"Donald Trump seems more sincere about his lies than Joe Biden does about his truth."

--Charlemagne Tha God

That's not his real name. His real name is Lenard Larry McKelvey. But Charlemagne Tha God is what he goes by in his professional life as an "influencer" reaching millions through his broadcasts on iHeart Media about politics and culture.

As it turns out, "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on ABC on Sunday mornings is always better--in terms of my viewing interest and purposes--when Jonathan Karl sits in as host. Karl immerses the show in politics via his own personal fascination, which serves the show's energy, relevance and insight.

On Sunday, Karl did a groundbreaking segment interviewing Charlemagne Tha God, a young Black interviewer, comedian and commentator who had never appeared on a network news show. His podcast, "The Breakfast Club," has become a must-do interview for Democratic politicians and the occasional Republican, like Nikki Haley, who also was on Karl's "This Week" declining to say she'd support Donald Trump as the GOP presidential nominee.

What was groundbreaking was that mainstream media was giving time, and giving in, to the powerful relevance of new media, relevant in its diversity and fragmentation.

I quickly took Charlemagne Tha God seriously--respectfully and admirably so. He was saying things that I agreed with and doing it in a way that I found clear, clever and relatable.

In fact, I quickly anointed him one of my three current favorite national political commentators, joining the acerbically brave Bill Maher and the thoughtful Republican columnist for The New York Times named Bret Stephens--Republican in the pre-Trump context.

Two of the three are unconventional and non-mainstream. All three warn of the grave danger of Trump. Maher and Stephens find the new "illiberal liberalism" of the left stupid and disdainful. Charlemagne Tha God laments that Joe Biden has "no main-character energy" and may not have what it takes to save a mentally tired nation from Trump.

No one has summed up the current political dynamic as effectively as Charlemagne Tha God. He told Karl that the fight in 2024 is between the crooks, meaning Republicans; the cowards, meaning Democrats, and "the couch," meaning the place where Americans are stuck in fatigue with the political choice they're handed when in fact the decision is epic, compelling in its stakes if not its characters.

He said the couch was winning but that he didn't know which of the woeful options was hurt more by the fatigue. I do. It's Biden. He won in 2020 because people were up off the couch, fired up to rid the nation of Trump. If they stay potato-ed deep in the sofa through November, Biden doesn't win big in the suburbs in battleground states, and loses, no matter a nationwide popular-vote advantage.

Charlemagne Tha God longed for the return of the Kamala Harris who burst on the scene as a piercing, prosecutorial questioner in the Senate confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. He thinks she's lost relevance since then and doesn't seem to know why. I think it's that she had a good script in the beginning but has been revealed as of lighter weight by broader exposure since.

So, let me suggest how Charlemagne Tha God's wisdom plays out.

Trump got extemporaneously wound up in ego gratification at a rally in South Carolina and essentially invited a Russian invasion of any NATO ally not paying its fair share for mutual defense. He seemed so sincere that his isolationist base loved it while thoughtful Americans, deep in their couches from depression that a man saying such a thing could be a serious contender for the presidency, shook their heads.

Biden gave a speech in response saying Trump's demagoguery was "dumb, shameful, dangerous and un-American," and that, while he was president, America would come to the aid of an attacked NATO ally and keep the faith that those allies would rally for America if it were attacked, as was the case after 9/11.

Mainstream media commentators called Biden's comments "feisty." But it was the handler-written words showing on the teleprompter that were feisty. Biden's careful reading of them was not feisty; the lack of extemporaneous inflection driven by true emotion eroded conveyance of sincerity.

The president, alas, lifted no one from the sofa.

Meantime, my imagined No Labels third-ticket candidacy of Joe Manchin and Larry Hogan has gone kaput. Manchin said rightly that No Labels stood only a chance to be a spoiler, which was not his intent. Hogan announced as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, where, at best, he'd give the Republican caucus a numerical moderate replacement for Mitt Romney, to join with the mighty two--Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.

But we do have what amounts to a three-option race--those corrupted, those cowards and that big lumpy sofa risking a denizen nap on election day.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected]. Read his @johnbrummett feed on X, formerly Twitter.


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