How a News Junky Keeps Up with the Peripatetic President’s Adventures

Thucydides: The Historian and the Bird

When I was growing up in a small mining town in Western Pennsylvania, about 28 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on the road to Wheeling, W.Va., the Paris of the Tri-State Area, as the polluted air blew, I heard stories about how miners would take canaries to the mines. When the canary would stop singing, or lie flat on the bottom of the cage, they would know it wasn’t just resting. It was time to get the hell out of there.

I have a canary in my screening room, as I call the TV den.

His or her name is Thucydides IV, named after one of my favorite historians who chronicled an earlier declining democracy (Athens). He or she, if it’s not transgender, is known around the house as The Fourth, the previous three of that hallowed name having perished in the line of duty while serving as an early warning safety device during my coverage of the first Trump administration. Birds in this line of work have the life expectancy rate of Kamikaze pilots in the Imperial Japanese Navy during the War in the Pacific.

Thucydides, or T-bird, as I also call my research assistant, although it answers to all three of its names, is a Chinese canary, the best kind, as I was told in the pet store, although some believe the Formosan or Taiwanese are even more reliable. The costliest and most treasured are those descending genetically related to birds of the Kuomintang era, which sang when Chiang Kai-shek vowed Nationalist troops would be retaking the Mainland some day soon.

Thuc is especially good at responding to false claims, exaggerations, true facts or other noxious odors, such as lies. I kept bringing him or her or transgender back to the pet stores for a mysterious voice problem, until I figured out what triggered responses.

Apparently, the breed (taxonomical name serinus canaria) has low tolerance threshold for prevarication. A lie can stop Thuc mid warble. Since the president is lying every time his mouth is open, Thuc tends to sing less than most canaries kept away from the TV news.

I should explain Donald Trump, who looks like he has a bird’s nest on top of his head, to go with what some authorities called a birdbrain, is not Thucydides’ favorite president.

By trial and error, I found its problem warbling was a bad reaction to both the sight and sound of the president, a disadvantage in watching the news, which these nights seems to consist of all Trump, interrupted by some commercials.

As he became increasingly silent during the president’s 2020 campaign speeches in the guise of news, our pet store vet suggested it would be better for his health to keep the cage covered, except for the commercials.

A very wise bird, probably more so than the average American who voted for the president in 2016, we have had some fine conversations about the electoral college and the dangers of allowing inexperienced unqualified citizens becoming commander- in- chief and Leaders of the Free World (LFW).

Some would say this was tantamount to talking to myself, but I have had some intelligent conversations, as crazy as it sounds.

We had an especially interesting time last week watching the president’s version of Dwight Eisenhower’s Crusade in Europe. Like a rock star on concert tour, with big noisy crowds, fighting with police, balloons being released, media panels pontificating, every day he seemed to be in another capital, bashing our friends and allies.

In Brussels, he performed his Top 40 hits, calling the NATO partners shmucks. Not clear whether he meant them or us, as he demanded more defense spending—or else! What a great way, I was telling T-Bird, to make our Military Industrial Complex great again!

He banged away at EU with threats of escalating the tariff wars with friendly nations.

In London, he made it seem like he didn’t know about our special relationship with the Mother Country. Even before landing, the prime minister was labeled a loser on Brexit. He was12 minutes late to pay respects to the Queen, before escaping to Scotland. The whole trip may have been an infomercial for his wee money-losing golf club in the Highlands. The sun never sets on the Trump Empire!

Wrecking alliances, sowing distrust amongst our allies, undermining a united front that worked for the last 70 years…

Well, that was a concept, I explained to Thuc, who was unusually quiet during the remarkable insights about US foreign policy our friends were getting from POTUS.

The highlight of the concert was the president’s performance in Helsinki, the two hour, one-on- one duet with Super Tsar, Vladimir the Great.

That was the one in which he threw our national intelligence agencies under the bus, telling the world-wide audience he trusted an ex-KGB thug so-called president more than our own revered institutions like the CIA and FBI.

Presidents sometimes act in mysterious way, I mentioned to Thuc the Fourth, who must have been sleeping.

While panelists on the news shows were calling the remarks our commander-in-chief, who might be leading us into a war he accidentally created by shooting from the lip, “treasonous,” I was asking T-Bird why the rush to judgment?

In the secret no-notes behind closed doors session, did he ask if USA could join the Soviet bloc of nations? So we could all sleep better at night?

Did his partner in the greatest diplomatic love story of all time advise our boy that next time he should try the Russian way of electing a president? Jail the serious opponents.

As I went on with my analysis of this turning point in political history, I lifted up the cage cover to see how Thuc was doing. The bird was stretched out on the bottom.

Was he dead? Or just sleeping?

It occurs to me I shouldn’t be telling you about my analytic secrets as a pundit. Subjecting a canary to the president may violate animal cruelty rights.

I have taken Thucydides IV to the vet, and will let you know the prognosis.


Marvin Kitman,
July 17, 2018

Marvin Kitman is the author of “The Making of the Preƒident 1789.” “George Washington’s Expense Account” by Gen. George Washington and Marvin Kitman PFC (Ret.) was the best-selling expense account in publishing history.