At a little after 9 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday night, President Donald Trump raised some eyebrows with a tweet: “Something very big has just happened!”
At 11:35 p.m., over on NBC, “Saturday Night Live” aired. One of their skits, in which Trump was speaking at a rally, showed an Islamic State fighter telling him that he was “making ISIS great again.” You know, because he was pulling out of Syria.
I was unaware that “SNL” was so heavily into open-ended military operations, but this is neither here nor there. Hours earlier, on the other side of the world, the United States had carried out a raid that led to the death of the Islamic State group’s leader and architect.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the terrorist who had helped build the group from an affiliate of al-Qaida in Iraq to a caliphate that controlled a wide swath of the Middle East, detonated a suicide vest after an operation by U.S. Special Forces in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, near the Turkish border.
On Sunday morning, Trump confirmed Baghdadi’s death to the world.
“He was the founder and leader of ISIS. The most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world,” Trump said. “The United States has been searching for Baghdadi for many years. Capturing or killing Baghdadi has been the top national security priority of my administration.
“U.S. special operations forces executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style,” the president added. “Baghdadi was vicious and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying.”
“He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone. Baghdadi was vicious and violent and he died in a vicious and violent way”
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) October 27, 2019
Less than 12 hours earlier, though, we were hearing how the president was making Baghdadi’s terror group great again.
In the skit, Alec Baldwin’s Trump asks Pete Davidson’s terrorist if he’s from New Mexico, where the fake rally was taking place.
“ISIS,” Davidson said.
“I was in a prison in Syria until last week when you freed me. So, I just wanted to say thank you for bringing jobs back — to ISIS. And I promise that I will make ISIS great again.”
“Terrific. What a great guy,” Baldwin’s Trump responded.
“ISIS is back in a big way, folks. And we love that, don’t we?”
Well, that was awkward, wasn’t it?
By the way, even by the low standards set by Baldwin’s tenure as Donald Trump on “SNL,” this was still pretty bad. It wasn’t just Baldwin, though.
The gags (get it? Trump makes misspellings when he tweets! His supporters are creepy, brain-dead cultists!) are stale, even by the standards of an administration that hasn’t been particularly fecund for the writers at “30 Rock,” no matter what they might think. Seeing a Trump cold open is almost a sign things are going to go downhill fast, although I confess I might not be the average “Saturday Night Live” viewer anymore.
However, not only was this skit bad, only a few hours later did it become clear Baghdadi had died in a raid — and “died like a dog” and “like a coward,” to use the president’s phraseology.
Again, I don’t remember the folks at “SNL” being so kind about other military operations. Iraq wasn’t exactly viewed with uncritical delight at NBC, although it curiously seemed to disappear during the Obama years. Same thing with Afghanistan. I’m not saying that being against the withdrawal in Syria is wrong on its face, although it’s often misinformed; being against it because Trump did it isn’t exactly a valid reason.
And in this case, that line of thinking led them to air a sketch that, just a few hours later, would be the subject of derision.
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