John Oliver and his Last Week Tonight team, sensing the all-or-nothing stakes of Tuesday’s election, went big on Sunday, with a longer-than-usual episode featuring not one, but two main stories. And since we’re all exhausted at this point, here’s a brief rundown of the second one. Attorney General Bill Barr is a lifelong ass-kiss to authority figures everywhere whose dream to put any elected president completely above the law was too extreme even for former boss George H.W. Bush, but who’s found an ideally empty vessel in, as Oliver puts it, “white nationalist with an authoritarian streak,’ Donald Trump. That’s terrifying, and you should watch Oliver’s singularly cogent and funny take on Barr below. Warning: Does contain bagpipe music.
But, for all his henchman’s toadying, Barr himself is not up for reelection tomorrow, while Donald Trump is. So let’s focus on Oliver’s main story, a comprehensive rundown of just how egregiously Trump has bungled, mangled, and deliberately throttled America’s response to the coronavirus. You know, that deadly airborne disease Trump is clearly bored with talking about at his packed-together hate rallies filled with followers believing their COVID-infected leader’s ever-implied message that masks are for pussies. Oliver lays out his usual, lockstep, three-point dissection of the Trump administration’s complete failure to respond to this health crisis at the start, but he hardly needs to be so meticulous. That since simply playing Trump’s statements about COVID-19 in chronological order (up to this very week where he accused frontline doctors of loving COVID because they get rich off of it?) serves to remind those wacky undecided voters out there, of the “massive fuckups you may have already forgotten.” (Did you remember that time Trump wanted to leave an infection-ravaged cruise ship filled with American citizens to die on the waves because he didn’t want the statistics and liked “the numbers where they are”?)
Now, again, we’re all so very tired, but watching Oliver dig deep into just how appallingly awful Trump’s been every step of the way when dealing with literally every detail of a governmental response to an infectious outbreak is enough to, well, make you sick. There are the usual lowlights, like Trump using a racial slur every time he mentions COVID, or how he told Bob Woodward, on February 7 of this benighted year, that he was fully aware that COVID was airborne and deadly and then did a presser that very day telling the country that this was “just like the flu.” And that day that Trump took three weeks to accept a meeting with HHS Secretary Alex Azar about the coronavirus, and then spent that meeting instead railing about flavored vaping products. There’s the time that Trump, the same day his CDC advised everyone to wear face masks for COVID protection, doing another press conference where he stressed you don’t have to if you don’t want to, and he’s totally not going to wear one. (Spoiler: Trump got COVID, as did seemingly everyone who works within spittle distance of him.)
But Oliver spared his most acid contempt for stuff we didn’t see. Like the raw footage shot during the Oval Office taping of a feel-good PR video about everything being fine, where we see Trump browbeating a visiting nurse who dared suggest medical professionals didn’t have enough protective gear to keep them from getting sick while treating the sick and dying. And the following moment when, after a Black doctor in attendance tries to get Trump to show one dram of human empathy for the PTSD dangers of medical workers who are having to put overflowing dead bodies into refrigerated trucks in hospital parking lots, Trump, barely listening, interrupts the man to hand out some shitty souvenir White House pens. There are jokes throughout, as is Oliver’s way, but, in response to that clip and the cliché that comedians are sure gonna miss having Trump to make fun of once he’s gone, Oliver spat, “Not really, this has been a fucking nightmare.”