Opinion: Building a Trump-free barbecue


Our issue for today is: topics to be banned at weekend barbecues.

Or, maybe for the entire month of August. Do you want to take a vacation from politics? From any mention of the word “collusion?” From all discussions about the prospects for the Senate election in North Dakota?

My old pal Arthur Brooks argues that people need at least two weeks of politics cleanse. (“Think of it as ideological veganism.”) I would never want to disagree with Arthur, but this time I think he’s only half right.

I’d say, try sticking to the stuff that isn’t going to come back all over again in September. For instance, there’s a very interesting congressional race next week in Ohio that your friends might enjoy hearing about. For a minute or two. On the other hand, you could skip over Paul Manafort’s trial, given that there will be another one next month.

Wait, a second Paul Manafort trial?

Yeah, they’re just doing tax evasion and bank fraud now. Still have to get through money laundering.

Is there going to be more testimony about the ostrich coat? Or was it lizard? Or python? I honestly did not know people wore any of these things.

This is one part of the trial you could definitely discuss over a bottle of wine on the back porch with the cicadas chirping in the background. Did you even know they made jackets out of pythons? That they were so awful-looking? Is there any kind of snake you think would be better suited for men’s outerwear?

So a little Manafort …

Conspicuous consumption, yes. Cyprus bank accounts — maybe not until the weather cools. And in the meantime, avoid entertaining visitors who are lobbyists for thuglike Ukrainian dictators.

… OK.

This could be harder than you think. It appears that half the people in American politics were making money off Ukraine, including one of Bernie Sanders’ top advisers. When your guests arrive, just drop the name “Viktor Yanukovych” and see if anybody twitches.

A party is sounding better. Could I invite Chris Christie? I always thought it’d be interesting to invite Chris Christie to something.

It’s your house.

I get the idea about not bringing up topics at summer festivities that will cause people to sweat with rage. Anything else?

Even in the best of times there are certain subjects that tend to send good citizens into a state of stupor. So I would avoid, say, the future of John Kelly. Or soybean prices. Or anything involving Congress, which happens to be on vacation all month.

And I can ignore the elections?

Well, except for the one in Ohio next week. The Republicans are spending a fortune trying to protect a seat that hasn’t been Democratic since “Thriller” was a new album.

But when it comes to the rest, even Trump says he won’t be out campaigning every day until September.

Is that what he was doing in Florida the other day when he claimed people had to have a picture ID to buy groceries?

Yeah, it was at a rally for a Republican running in the primary for governor. The guy who has a TV ad showing him teaching his little girl how to build a wall with toy blocks.

The ad where the candidate was reading his baby “The Art of the Deal?”

Yeah. Do you see why you need to be judicious in bringing this stuff up during people’s vacation? Somebody could wind up throwing a barbecue spit at you.

Now that I think about it, that’s how I ruined Thanksgiving.

Writes for the New York Times.



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