Now and Then, He Coughs Up a Fur Ball.
I’ve always been a cat person. I think dogs are loud, messy, obnoxious, sycophantic suck-ups that crap bigger than me and lavish affection on any undeserving slob that can fog up a mirror. If Osama Bin Laden had owned a mutt, it would have been all waggy-tail and ecstasy incarnate every time the stinking terrorist came home. It takes nothing to earn the undying love of a dog. It’s meaningless.
Plus, the barking, I hate their frigging barking. I live in a semi-detached with a dog on the other side of the party wall. All day long, Bark Bark Bark. Ruff Ruff Ruff. A squirrel climbs a tree outside, and it’s Woof Woof Woof Woof Woof Woof Woof. Same thing when the mailman arrives, or any visitor, or a car goes by, or there’s just about any other goddam stimulus that’s strong enough to register with his dumbass dog nervous system, which is the same thing as saying everything. Oh, and also, if nothing’s going on, but he’s been left alone. With nobody around to suck up to, it’s Arf Arf Arf Arf arf arf arf Arf arf ARRRRF arf Arf Arf arf arf ARF ARF ARF ARF arf. For hours. Like every moment is the first moment of its life. Like every fucking second it’s “HEY! I’M ALONE!!! HEY! I’M ALONE!!!” One time the stupid bastard barked so long that I held out hope it might bark itself to death. Or at least go hoarse.
Cats make more sense in close urban quarters. Cats are quiet, elegant, careful, and discreet. They don’t leave their poo all over. They don’t need to be walked. THEY DON’T BARK. Maybe they won’t go nuts with joy every time they see you, but then, maybe you’re an A-hole and don’t rate a red carpet and a 21 gun salute every time you manage to ingress your humble abode.
Of course, some cats can be pretty dumb. Not all of them – my family owned a former stray that was part Maine Coon, and he was clever and affectionate, a problem-solver, an expert hunter, a real pal who’d sit around with you and enjoy the moment. When he looked you in the eyes, you could see the gears turning. He played games. He spoofed and tormented neighbourhood dogs. He tickled your nose if you slept in too long – too long by his reckoning, anyway. He came when he was called, if he felt like it, which he usually did. He’d sit up with you all night if you were writing term papers – not in any obtrusive way, just quietly present, sitting at his own chair at the table, there if you needed him, because you sure looked like you could use the company. I swear to God, he smiled at you when he was happy. He made sweet little trilling noises to say hello.
Maine Coons are like that. At the other end of the spectrum was this cat a friend looked after for a bit while the neighbour was away, named Rusty. Rusty the boneless cat. He was a beautiful, furry, orange ball of warm fluff, and he thought little Rusty thoughts. He’d look you in the eye, with that penetrating, unblinking frankness that makes a lot of people squirm, like he was sizing you up, like he was your interrogator, waiting for you to crack and admit your shameful sins – you know, like all cats – but then his eyes would get wide and he’d scratch furiously behind his ear. Ooops! Itch! Must Scratch!
He could engage any primate in an epic stare-down because there was nothing going on back there. Nothing. His gaze wasn’t calm, unwavering, and vaguely accusatory. It was simply blank. Rusty had this very composed resting face, like he was Wise Old Owl, like he was all sage, and might just deign to impart some wisdom if you were deemed worthy, perhaps after a lengthy period of contemplative scrutiny and sober evaluation, but really, he was as dumb as a brick. He was a blank canvass. All he did was sit there, expressionless, and you projected anything you were feeling onto Rusty’s white screen.
I once picked him up off the couch and sat him down facing a wall, about five inches away. He just sat there. Looking at the wall. I came back a half hour later and he was still there. Sometimes he walked about aimlessly, just going from room to room, and if he wasn’t lucky he’d do something like go down the basement. Things got complicated down the basement. Where he was staying, a hutch was backed up against the basement stairs, and one step was level with its top, so a cat could just walk right on to it and sit there, King of Hutchlandia. This is something any cat would do. Rusty did too. The thing was, he was then stuck. He couldn’t remember how he got there. Peering over the edge, he reckoned he couldn’t survive the jump down, and he couldn’t muster up any other solution. I watched him, certain that eventually he’d turn around and go back the way he came, I mean, a jellyfish could probably do that much, but nope, he was paralyzed, and started to mew inconsolably. It was sad. He was helpless. Bereft. I rescued him, and carried him back to a sofa. Crisis averted! Then he sat there, looking at me, right into my eyes. Until – oops! Itch!!
Why is this relevant? Well, maybe you haven’t figured this out yet, but Rusty has an office in the West Wing.
I’m absolutely serious here. Jared Kushner is the primate vessel for Rusty, the boneless cat. He has the same aura of apparently contemplative composure, and maintains the same unnerving, virtually unmoving, silence. He looks like he’s thinking about something. Such a good listener! That was everybody’s initial assessment. Experts would come in to brief him, and they’d be impressed by the way he didn’t interrupt, how he seemed to sit there and just soak it all in, nodding his understanding. Jared was thoughtful! Jared was deep! Jared was a good learner!
Jared was just sitting there, thinking little Rusty thoughts. The nodding was a reflex. It was like that great Far Side cartoon – what he was hearing was “Blah Blah Blah Blah Jared, Blah Blah Jared”. His briefers, unable to imagine the truth, projected their hopes onto Jared’s blank white screen, and the press, hoping against hope, obligingly adopted the “Jared is a quiet policy wonk” narrative. Look, he had to be brilliant, why else would he be given the tasks of curing the opioid crisis, reforming the functions of government, negotiating Middle East peace, improving relations with Mexico, dealing with China, and ram-rodding criminal justice reform, while serving as de facto Secretary of State? Dean Acheson and George Marshall would have been crushed under the weight of that portfolio, but not Jared! Look how calm he seems! How self-assured! How very knowledgeable!
How can Jared’s acumen be pure illusion? How can a 36-year-old nobody with half his cerebellum missing in action be given such responsibilities? Simple! His boss is an even bigger idiot. Really, it’s that frigging simple.
The proof is in the pudding, no? The government remains unreformed. Millions remain addicted to opioids, with no hope in sight and nothing being done. Mexico is snarky, and China is unmoved. The only criminal law reform going on is emanating from the office of Jeff Sessions, who wants to bring back the Inquisition and repeal Habeas Corpus. Then there’s the Middle East. When Jared finally made it over there, stumbling from meeting to meeting amid the battle-hardened chieftains of the Levant, he accomplished about as much as you’d have expected if you’d sent fluffy little Rusty. They did send fluffy little Rusty. Meeting with Palestinian leadership, he just read from a list of demands that Netanyahu had handed him, until Abbas threw him out. After that, he probably stood there on the curb for 20 minutes until some passer-by took pity and hailed him a cab. He really needs a little sign pinned to his lapel, like Paddington Bear: Please look after this White House Senior Advisor.
I know you don’t want to believe that. Trust me. It’s just a coping mechanism. You’re afraid of the implications. You hate to go there. Sorry, but I have incontrovertible photographic proof. Look – just look, damn you. Stop fooling yourself and have the courage to compare and contrast.
Here’s Jared at a cabinet meeting:
Here’s a cat at a table:
Which is more nonplussed?
Note how the incredibly life-like Jared has a little unopened bottle of orange juice in front of him, next to a little unused notepad resting beneath a pen that has yet to be uncapped. It’s like they’re props – as if the official White House photographer put them there because an actual human person would have such things at hand.
Take heart. It’s not all bad news. Rusty tires quickly. Rusty gives up if things get difficult. Rusty just wants to sit there. He can’t mess things up, because he isn’t going to do anything. We’re no more at risk than if his office name-plate said “Jared the Idaho Spud”, and there was a baked potato in his swivel chair. Unlike a potato, Rusty will still have his harmless little Rusty thoughts, but that’s no cause for concern. Sometimes he’ll think I’m hungry. Sometimes he’ll think Oh, good, when somebody comes in to change his water. Sometimes he’ll just go to sleep, and later the janitor will turn out his office lights and leave him to stack Zs. Harmless.
If only his bloviating father-in-law was like that, maybe I could sleep at night.