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Death and Taxes

This Transcript of a Disastrous White House Conference Call Makes Me Feel Insane

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 26: Upon returning from Philadelphia, President Donald Trump walks along the West Wing Colonnade on his way to the Oval Office at the White House, January 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump traveled to Philadelphia for the Joint GOP Issues Conference. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

We have bigger things to worry about. The President of the United States called a substantial chunk of the world “shithole countries,” and he won’t, or can’t, bring himself to answer minimum-standard-of-decency, lay-up questions like, “Are you a racist?” But spare a minute, if you still can, to read one short, delirious CBS News report about a White House-hosted conference call with reporters that started 22 minutes late.

The reason for the delay: Someone on the White House end couldn’t find the “listen only” button to turn the conference into a one-way street. Ostensibly, the call was about Iran policy, but it doesn’t matter. The experience of reading about the 22-minute-late conference call transcends fact and logic. No one is named in the report—it is, of course, difficult to attribute quotes delivered on a wide-open conference line—but also, more to the point, no one names characters in improv. From CBS News:

“This White House can’t even run a f*cking conference call,” a reporter on an unmuted phone line angrily exclaimed to the entire call. “They don’t know how to mute their line.”

“It’s the illegitimate media that doesn’t know how to conduct themselves. They can’t mute their f*cking phones,” an unidentified official said. “Mute your phones.”

Another White House official repeatedly attempted to quiet the noisy line “so the people in charge” could talk.

“I think if everyone had half a brain and common sense and muted their phones, this wouldn’t be a problem,” she yelled in an apparent fit of frustration.

“Hello? Hello?,” one reporter interjected, some 15 minutes after the slated start of the call. “Has the call started?”

“This is Kim Jong Un calling for Donald Trump,” another reporter joked as tensions flared.

Not since Martin Shkreli’s reply-all email has the petty ineptitude and raging arrogance of a white-collar profiteer induced such group-text hysteria. Me, I feel like I live in Brazil.