It is indisputable that we are at the dumbest moment in our (honestly always kind of dumb) nation's history, but the shape of that dumbness can be protean and hard to know. It changes shape from moment to moment, and while it is clear and rarely disputed that things are somehow getting worse—more egregious and more ungovernable and more unreasonable and more unreasoning—the descent has a lot of weird switchbacks and unmarked detours. On Tuesday evening, the new shape of our moment hove rudely into view on Fox News Channel. It took the shape of a tag-team colloquy on Russia and North Korea between disgraced Republican political operative Karl Rove and Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath.
Why did this happen? The obvious reason is because Fox News is a television channel dedicated to keeping a certain demographic cohort—older American men who are regarded warily by their grown children, a tranche that marketers call The Reverse Mortgage Havers—in a constant state of uneasy and vaguely disgusted titillation, and because Joe Namath and Karl Rove are both available for this sort of thing as a general rule. Neither one of these men has anything much or anything new to say about the current administration's policies regarding North Korea and Russia, although points to Namath for studiously bringing a pad and pen with him to the table and gracefully handling an awe-inspiring AFC East-related foreign policy metaphor* from co-host Eric Bolling. Having Something To Add is not really the point here, anyway; it's not why co-host Eboni K. Williams says "I want to hear what Joe Namath thinks about this." Both Namath and Rove are recognizable faces to the network's audience, and neither is going to say anything surprising or run off to go do something else during the programming block between five and six. That, fundamentally, is the point.
The less obvious reasons for all this are less obvious, but also legible. Joe Namath has some vaguely opinionesque thoughts on issues of the day and also some symbolic resonance to Fox's demographic tranche, given that he was famous when the network's viewers were young; New York Jets quarterbacks are uniquely qualified to hold forth on obvious looming catastrophes; Namath is at the point in his public life when a pivot into reverse mortgage salesmanship is the next logical step, which means getting some Fox News reps is a decent idea.
But the most obvious reason why this happened, why Broadway Joe Namath and Karl Rove sat at a table and talked about North Korea and Russia on America's most-watched cable news channel, is that we are living through the dumbest time in our nation's history. When Lisa Ann and Wade Boggs go on Fox and debate replacing SNAP funds with copies of Rich Dad, Poor Dad on Wednesday, or Thursday, or Friday, the shape of that dumbness will necessarily be different. This is what it looked like on Tuesday. Joe Namath and Karl Rove.
* VICE Sports cannot be held liable for any cognitive damage that reading this will cause but for posterity's sake: "Can I bring Joe in? Joe, look at it this way. The Jets, right? You're about to go to the playoffs, but those pesky Patriots are right on your heels. You need the Ravens to beat the Patriots. You don't love the Ravens but you want them to jump on board. We need China, we even need pesky Russia who we don't necessarily love, to jump onboard to deal with things like North Korea and Syria."