After last week's return from hiatus, John Oliver clearly would have preferred to focus on anything but President Donald Trump on Last Week Tonight. But like all of us, Oliver didn't have the option to avoid the man — because "Trump dominates the news cycle like a fart dominates the interior of a Volkswagen Beetle." That's right, as Oliver makes clear, "There is simply no escape from him."
And not even if you're all the way in Sweden — Oliver noted that Trump's Sweden incident spread incredulity across continents and took over the news cycle, even though nothing happened in Sweden on Friday night to start with.
Maybe you're already aware that Trump brought up the Nordic nation at a rally in Florida. Among his usual talking points — "The media is fake," "Chicago is a nightmare," "I'm the greatest," as Oliver described them — Trump mentioned Sweden in reference to refugees.
You look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden? Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.
Yikes! That sounds pretty bad, right? Well Oliver said what you're probably thinking: "Oh no! What happened there? Did someone blow up Sweden's most famous landmark, and if they did, what was it?" The satirical host went on to summarize the problem by playing a clip from CNN. Anchor Fredricka Whitfield introduces the topic saying, "We start this hour with an urgent plea from Sweden to the U.S. government, asking, 'What is your president talking about?'"
Oliver knows you're concerned. He responded:
Yeah, it turns out there was no terror attack. And, look, just a quick message to all other countries on earth: In the future, you're going to find yourself wanting to ask, "What is your president talking about?" a great deal. And the answer is almost always going to be, "We have no f*cking idea!"
Now of course, Trump probably doesn't believe he misled people at all. He saw "what happened" on Fox News. That's what he wrote on Twitter Sunday.
That sounds less-than-informed, but Oliver has a new plan for understanding what Trump is talking about. "Sifting through Trump's brain to see why he said something is now like examining a shark's stomach to see what it ate," Oliver said. "'Oh, OK, there's a sea urchin, a decomposed dolphin skull, oh a Fox News segment on Sweden. That's what did it, it's stuck in his throat'."
And that's the scary thing, Oliver would argue. Trump can get the entire news media to talk about him for a week, even when he references things that didn't even happen. This week there were lots of stories that would normally dominate the news — Oliver pointed to North Korean murders, Target bombing plots, and Theresa May's grimace — but when Trump holds rally after press conference, those other events tend to go largely unnoticed.
Thus that will be the challenge — from here to Sweden — to stay focused on the issues, not controversies Trump makes up from thin air.
Image: HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver