Some weeks are better than others.
Like when Fonzie took on the California kid and ski-jumped over a shark tank wearing a leather coat on “Happy Days,” President Donald Trump’s attempts to get some of the policies he campaigned on into the daily news cycle have jumped the shark.
One of the running jokes in Washington D.C. Twitter circles includes different takes on Infrastructure Week. Trump campaigned on America’s need to invest more in its infrastructure — roads, bridges and water and sewer plants.
Anyone who ever worked in politics or for the government can tell you that these projects are among the most important but least sexy projects you can get done for your constituents. People take clean water for granted and no one gets excited about it. Infrastructure projects aren’t flashy like a new arena or park, but they affect everyone’s quality of life.
Trump is right to try to get some focus on these issues. Like a school board getting a roof fixed or a city commission making improvements to a sewer plant, Trump pushing Congress to invest in these projects is thankless but important work.
Unfortunately for Trump, his many scandals have interfered with his multiple attempts to highlight Infrastructure Week.
In June 2017, Trump unveiled the idea of Infrastructure Week. Fired FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Not many national news stories chose infrastructure over Comey’s explosive testimony.
Trump rebooted Infrastructure Week in August. Of course, all national news was focused on the racially charged rallies and protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in the death of one protester and the revelation that a lot of people in our government don’t have major policy disagreements with white supremacists. That dark time in American history cast a big shadow on Infrastructure Week, part two.
In his third attempt to shine a light on infrastructure issues, the stories of one of his aide’s spousal abuse accusations once again took the spotlight off of infrastructure.
With the rapidity and severity of the scandals surrounding this White House, Trump may have to be the first president since Franklin Roosevelt to win a third term in office before he can find a way to have infrastructure week dominate the headlines. Yes, that would be unconstitutional, but if Trump is president for eight years, the constitution will be the least of our concerns.
But this week isn’t Infrastructure Week.
It is the 30th installment of Shark Week. Surely Trump administration scandals won’t overshadow the biggest Shark Week ever featuring Shaquille O’Neal as the host for the week’s fishy features.
With the president’s attorney revealing that he recorded conversations between himself and his client when they discussed paying off a porn star with whom Trump had an affair while his third wife was at home with his fifth child, those tapes would cause more damage than a shark leaping out of the water to kill a fake seal carrying a camera on its back.
Comedian and late night television host Stephen Colbert said he saw a convergence of the two stories.
“Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but these Michael Cohen tapes coming out during Shark Week can’t be a coincidence,” Colbert said.
(If you are wondering to yourself if that was perhaps the best and most jarring segue you have ever read in a newspaper column, I would agree. In 25 years, I have written around 3,000 columns. I will proudly admit that the swing from Donald Trump’s White House to Shaquille O’Neal hosting the 30th annual Shark Week is the furthest my prosaic pendulum has ever swung in one piece.)
Just like scandals surrounding the Trump campaign and administration, it is shocking to me that, this far in, there is still fresh content.
After 30 years, they are still finding new angles to frighten and inform people when it comes to this very important and interesting aquatic animal.
Sharks are scary at first glance. They are the perfect stars for horror films. That is why a lot of the Shark Week shows spend a good deal of time trying to prove that Jaws wasn’t a documentary.
There are dozens of species of sharks, but the Great White Shark will always get the most headlines. They are the sex scandals of the shark world.
Millions of people will be watching Shark Week programs again this year. After three decades, viewers still love it.
But perhaps the White House could bring its reality television background into Infrastructure Week and take a cue from Shark Week on how it’s done. You have to use the popular shows with crossover appeal. Shaquille O’Neal, Ronda Rousey and Guy Fieri are all taking advantage of the big ratings to drive their own brands.
But at the end of the week, Shark Week crosses over with another popular Discovery Network show, “Naked and Afraid” to form “Naked and Afraid of Sharks.”
That is brilliant!
Trump should stop letting his scandals overshadow his platform and try to use them to help highlight the work he is trying to do.
Maybe the press conference could be called “Infrastructure Week — How our great highway system allowed Michael Cohen to get around the city to distribute these recordings.” Perhaps another version could say, “Infrastructure Week — Sure the Russians used social media and hacked emails to steal an election, but we still have a better sewer system.”
Bringing the infrastructure into the discussion of scandals might be the only way to get some people to pay attention, in the same way the “Naked and Afraid of Sharks” will bring new viewers to both franchises.
Sometimes you have to embrace new ideas to get things done. Trump has to realize by now that chaos is the new normal. You can ride the wave or let it swamp you.
In these situations, you can grab a bucket or a surfboard. It’s your choice.
During Shark Week, a surfboard isn’t always the best idea, but it might be the only thing that works.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.