Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Oct 25, 2016

Gene Weingarten held his monthly chat with readers.

About this chat:
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Good afternoon. 

Ode To Ladies

A timely poem

By Gene Weingarten

This is for the Gails and Karens
For the Erins, not the Aarons.
For each Gertie, Faith and Belle,
(And, sigh, for Madison as well.)

For Amber, yes.  Mikayla, too
Shamiqua, Bess and Picabo,
And every Bea and all the Maudes.
This is, you see, for all you broads.

It’s not about your shape and size
It’s not about your mischief eyes
It’s not about your style and grace
Or the contours of your face.

It’s not about the way you smell
It’s not upon your looks I dwell
Or how you walk (or if you swivel)
--- All of that’s just sexist drivel.

It’s not that you’re a shrewd consumer
Or about your voice or sense of humor.
Or how you cook and clean and garden
(For that last line, I’ll beg a pardon.)

It’s not because you know that shtick –
The bra-from-under-sweater trick.
It’s not because you’re sweet and nice
(Some of you are warm; some, ice.)

It’s not about your fragrant hair
(Which I won’t insult with false compare)
It’s not about the way you dress
Or how you sit or, let’s confess:

It’s not about your total worth
Or even that you can give birth.
So why do I oe’r you so dote?
For the luscious, sexy way you vote.


A second poem:

Trump, Rush and Hannity
Flagrant insanity.
Hell-in-a-handbasket time!

Soon ‘twill be ended
The results will be splendid --
Or moving to Amsterdam I’m.


Late but pertinent observation: Ever since roughly 1890, when snot poets first decided that rhyme was confining and unnecessary, every idiot with a pen fancied hisself a poet. The mere act of rhyming was suddenly regarded as a quaint, mannered, and uncool atavism, consigning doggerelists like me to the trash bin of literary history.

Well, rhyme is cool again. It’s because of hip-hop. Bless you, hip-hop.


Here is an urgent communique from Dave Barry. Near as I can tell, it is real.


There are two quiet debates among members of the media arising from this national election. The first is whether we have an obligation to be “fair” to Donald Trump. I am only slightly interested in this debate because really it comes down to semantics. Of course we are obligated to be “fair,” in the sense that we shouldn’t lie about him or disingenuously misinterpret facts to make him look worse than he is. I don’t think we’re doing that. But if you define “fair” as completely scrupulously evenhanded, no, we’re not being fair.  Reporters are not merely recording devices that take down what people say and repeat it in print; we are expected to use our knowledge and experience both for triage – deciding what’s important to cover and what isn’t – and for contextualizing, analyzing and such. You cannot pretend these things don’t exist in the interests of “fairness.” Pretending these things don’t exist would be showing bias against his opponent, who has plenty of weaknesses, which we report, but whose campaign is nothing like the runaway garbage truck that Trump's is. 

The journalistic debate that interests me more, and which is less prominently discussed, involves the rather astonishing fact that in this election, the mainstream media is publishing material stolen by the Russian government -- and made available to a quasi-criminal international organization run by a fugitive from justice -- in an apparent effort to influence our elections.

Back when I was just learning to be a reporter in Albany N.Y., I taught myself a trick. It was something reporters had been doing for generations. It took a while, but I became extremely good at reading documents that were upside down and backwards, while staring across a desk at a source and maintaining a conversation – while reading something on his desk he had no intention of letting me see. It amounted to theft, I suppose, but it was deemed acceptable. I got more than one story that way. 

But we had lines we could not cross. We could not steal things. And if someone offered us stolen material, we viewed that situation gravely and debated it seriously. Essentially, the rule was that you used only stolen material that was deeply important, and in the strong interest of the public, and where we knew the source, and his motives, and could interrogate both the source and his material. The Pentagon Papers qualified, as did the stolen trove of Snowdenalia. This year, my paper and the Times moved the line a bit with Trump taxes. We didn’t know the source, but the info was important – Trump’s failure to reveal his taxes was depriving the public of vital information they needed to make an informed decision about a candidate. 

This Wikileaks thing seems different to me. Are we being used as dupes and tools of the Russian government? In a sense … yes. But I don't know what else we could do.  

Sure, I am biased about this election, and the Wikileaks stuff is hurting my preferred candidate, not her opponent, but I don’t think that’s driving my thinking here. It’s that the nature of the disclosures doesn’t seem threshold-vaulting, or  particularly grave – mostly, just an unseemly look into politics-as-usual and a bit of a disquieting peek into exactly how political foundations operate. We’re not seeing grand or even petit larcenies or malfeasances.  We’re seeing blunt assessments of people and events by folks who had every right to think they were communicating in privacy. If I were John Podesta, I’d be majorly pissed off.

But I also don’t see what else the mainstream media could do. The information is out there, others are reporting about it. You could make the case that the Washington Post and New York Times and such are obliged to write about it, if for no other reason than to assure that the materially is fairly analyzed: We are better capable than most of presenting things in proper context, assigning things their correct importance, etc.

In journalistic debates I am usually the gung-ho guy. I think the default has to be “publish.” But I am very uncomfortable with this situation. I don’t think many of my colleagues are, which is good. Maybe they’re right.


Okay, take the poll. We start at noon. 

Oh, and here's an interesting test. 

This is the people at 538 writing five possible stories that might lead the news on Nov. 9. They're really trying, but they are stat analysts, not journalists.  So their stories feel all wrong. See if you can see why. How would you edit them to make them more believable?

Journalists should consider the value of the leaked material in addition to the motives of the leaker. The problem with Wikileaks, compared to Snowden or Ellsberg, is that almost none of what they have uncovered, and none recently, is actually criminal or even unethical--it's just politically embarrassing. The public had a right and a need to know that the government was conducting a secret war in Cambodia and Laos; we had the right and the need to know that the NSA was spying on US citizens. Something John Podesta thinks or his boss said, however wrongheaded or at odds with their public statements, is not remotely in the same league.

I agree completely. 

The stories need quotes. No quotes = no human involvement = no human interest.

No, it's more fundamental than that.   

There has been much anecdotal data that there are more and possibly worse Trump videos: comments from outtakes/behind the scenes during his years filming the apprentice: misogyny, racism, harassment, you name it. NBC has the tapes (or more appropriately, the producer of the show, has the rights to the tape. I have heard that he has forced everyone involved to sign non-disclosures, with substantial ($5 million) penalties for any leaks. Aren't the tapes newsworthy? Shouldn't NBC be able to just publish the videos? I know you're not an IP lawyer (and neither am I), but this could obviously influence the election. What say you? BTW the rumor is that the producer of the show is also a big Trump supporter and would therefore never release the videos.

I don't know if this is true, but it stands to reason.    

I'm not actually sure any new tapes of the "grabbing pussy" type would have much effect.  The people who are still voting for him after the pussy grabbing would vote for him anyway.  Nothing could shock them enough.    And the rest of us already know. 

You mentioned that you have face blindness. I am tone deaf. It's a real thing named amusia that research scientists began to study starting around a decade ago. About 4% of people have it. I wish someone would write about it. Amusia does have a negative impact on the lives of those who have it. I avoid situations where I might have to sing --- church (hymns), birthday parties at work ("Happy Birthday"), sporting events (the national anthem), etc. In junior high, high school, and college, the music teachers alwaysalwaysalways thought I was being a smart ass because I could not sing any tune (or even a single solitary note) remotely on key. I can't remember or recognize anything musical (unless it's the equivalent of the Wicked Witch of the West), let alone reproduce it with my voice. I dropped out of a college (St. John's in Annapolis, the Great Books college) because it requires all freshman to attend weekly chorus and it was just too humiliating. I have no rhythm and can't dance. I attended another college that required all freshman to take a semester of dance, which was also humiliating. When people try to entice me to sing, I reply that I really and truly am tone deaf and can't sing and they usually act like I'm too modest or want to be cajoled and enticed and flattered. Music teachers sometimes have said they bet they could teach me to sing with just a few lessons. They can't. I do like to listen to a lot of different types of music, though, but I avoided ever taking a music appreciation class in college because the instructors always f*cking wanted the class to sing at some point. I recently took several MOOCs on classical music and enjoyed them, however. Anyhow, I wish amusia were better known and recognized as a genuine deficiency so that students who have it would be treated respectfully.

I demand you listen to this 1930s tune.   The words begin at 50 seconds.   

I am the same as you, with dance.  I won't, because I am deebly self-conscious, and bad.   It is no help when someone tells you "it's easy, just move!"  and "No one will be making fun of you."  

No.  Bull.   It's not easy and yes, people will be making fun of you. 

If the Access Hollywood people sat on the Trump tape until October so that it would have more effect, do you think that's a journalistic ethics problem (er, insofar as those folks count as "journalists")? I recall your interesting discussion of the hypothetical reverse situation: sitting on something bad about a candidate one likes until after an election, which you rejected.

I don't think it's a matter of ethics.  Someone dropping a story on you has one real area to manipulate: When it happens.   


But they have to be smart.   No good media organization is going to drop a blockbuster three days before the election.  There's no time to check it out, and the timing becomes patently unfair. 

Josh Bell's publicist manipulated the time my story came out.  She was doing her job, and wanted it to coincide with his receiving a certain award.  I had no problem with that. 

Gene, Gene, Gene, Gene, Gene. I fear you whiffed it a bit with the double-meaning of "In-N--Out Burger." To those who went through adolescence in Southern California I assure you that the biological implication of the name had nothing to do with digestion. As evidence, I refer to the frequent sight of bumper-stickers where the first and last letters have been lovingly excised from the word "Burger."



This is in reference to this column. 

they need EXUBERANT QUOTATIONS by people on both sides; regardless of outcome, that will make the article feel real.

I'm not sure why people feel this.   I don't think you'll see quotes in the first four grafs of any post election story.   

The problem is more fundamental: Their five "stories" are statistics obsessed.   OBSESSED, including how the candidates performed against various polls, which states flipped, etc.  The real stories will be much more human. 

I can remember ever reading a poem with a semicolon that didn't suck. So take it out and fix the flow, you stupid schmuck.

e e cummings LOVED semicolons. 

I assume that a bunch of people have send you this Geico commercial about the shared border between Tennessee and Virginia. Or this article about the filming of the commercial. Yes, I knew they shared a border. The southwestern tip of Virginia is further west than Detroit.

Yep, I've seen it.     

More important, can anyone explain for me what the hell the Geico commercial is trying to say, with the two kids selling lemonade but every passerby thinks for some reason it is iced tea?  Totally baffles me. 

How do you feel about Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature?

Great.   But I feel even better that he never responded to them. 

The second poll question is interesting. I think you're basically asking how much difference it makes to know the leaker. As in, now that we know Ellsberg leaked the papers, we can write a story about them. To me this suggests that the identity of the leaker gives the press an out, allowing them to fit the story into a template based on who did what to whom. (Was it a disgruntled ex-staffer who got fired for something else? A friend, sad at the desperate measures currently being taken? A political rival? An evil foreign power? The Illuminati?) And oh, by the way, we have to describe the leaked material to tell that story. I don't believe that knowing the identity of the leaker changes the ethical problem, because either way the journalist ends up revealing the stolen material.

Knowing the identity of the leaker helps you analyze the likelihood that the material is real.   Ellsberg worked for a think tank that we knew had access to the material.  That goes a long way toward establishing provenance. 

I can't believe so many people believe that the media is not biased against Trump. I think it's clear that there is bias - look at the number of editorials in the Post alone warning of the dangers of a Trump presidency. But it doesn't bother me; in this case, I think the bias is justified. Trump is a mean-spirited, misogynistic, bigoted liar. His presidency would be an unmitigated disaster. I think the Post and other papers are performing an important public service by pointing this out. If the bias has its foundation in truth, as is the case here, then I'm OK with it.

Well, as I said, I don't think that's "bias." 

Editorials are editorials.  They a supposed to have an opinion, even a very strong one. 

Did you see this brilliant SNL skit? Well, I think so anyway. It speaks to the true difference in our electorate between the "elite" -- or part of the elite ecosystem -- and those left out in our economy. There's more cultural affinity than one might imagine. If there were a Trump-like figure who was a true economic populist (not with Trump's very conventional Republican tax plans), was not a known racist, had an appealing personality, was not demonstrably lecherous, and was not scape-goating immigrants (but who used softly coded nationalist language)...that person would probably be the next President.

It's the scariest thing about this election, now.   

And yes, I loved that black Jeopardy!    Louis CK was sensational.  

Really, Gene? That gent in the background is the rapper Ice T. It's a play on words.

Haha!   Well, thank you.   Six thousand people have just told me that. 

Now that it seems nearly inevitable (fingers and everything else I can cross, crossed) that Trump will lose, how are The Media going to handle The Donald's equally inevitable Sore Loser tour? He will give speeches and send tweetstorms. He will complain that the voting was rigged, that everyone was biased, blah blah blah. He won't have a shred of evidence. He'll make up imaginary evidence, because he can't tell the difference between reality and his own imagination. Are news media outlets going to continue to cover his bleating as though it were actual news? Are they going to rely on the fact that the negative that the system WASN'T rigged can't be proven to go on one of those "questions were raised" quests that treats statements made by Donald Trump as though they'd been made by a sane person? Or will The News Media, collectively, find a way to stand down from the insanity even though it sells ads? I lived in California during the O.J. Simpson trial. I managed to avoid most "news" about it by limiting my TV consumption to the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, which simply refused to cover the trial on the grounds that it was not, in fact, newsworthy. (They did cover the verdict, and the reaction to the verdict.) I realized that ad-driven and for-profit outlets can't be quite that noble but still -- is there any appetite you can see for respected branch(es) of the News Media to stop acting as though Trump were newsworthy once the election is over? That's of course assuming he loses. If he wins, the election will have been rigged.

I think we are all exhausted by, and sick of, Donald.  I think his denial tour will appall everyone.   I think he's going to quickly disappear from radar. 

You pathetic, lox-eating, bargain-hunting excuse for a journalist.  Oy! This country! Should I move to Canada? Israel? Mars?

I didn't even know Jake Tapper was Jewish.  And I know Jake Tapper. 

I have not gotten a lot of antisemitic stuff, compared to these others.  From what I have seen, the Jewish women like Bethany Mandel fare the worst, because they are getting both antisemitic stuff and anti-woman stuff. 

I have been called the antichrist, though, by Nazis.  Google my name and "Jew at the Washington Post."


Any chance of the current series in the Post about the pharm industry selling opioids to sketchy drug warehouses etc. making its way into your comic strip? Does Barney's company make opioids?

We're working on it.  

Cubs? Indians? Don't Care?

I don't think the people of Chicago should be robbed of their birthright to be perennial losers.  I'm for the Indians. 

I do need to point out that the two teams that made it to the dance are the two teams that traded their futures to the Yankees for Chapman and Miller. 

Okay, wait.  Even knowing it is Ice T, why is this an ad for Geico?

So the one place I dissent from the majority responses as of 9:14 is that I do feel some media has been biased against Trump in the sense of picking out his most outrageous statements and highlighting his lies. This has been true with Trump to a greater degree than with Clinton or with prior candidates. It is, I think, justified, both objectively and subjectively, by the extreme danger a Trump presidency would pose, but it creates two problems. It validates the sense among his supporters and others on the right that the media is a unitary entity joined with other elites to deny observed truths (all terrorists are Muslims, etc.) and it does fray the self imposed boundaries between reporting and commentary observed by most journalists. What will the standard be if a less blatant, more circumspect champion of authoritarianism and xenophobia emerges for the next round?

It depends on what he shows us publicly.   If he blantantly lies and so forth.   

That is the real worry.  That someone smart will take the Trump template, peel off the most disgusting stuff, and contribute to the rise of another demagogue.   The horrifying thing is that nearly half of the country seems in synch with xenophobia and race-baiting. 

The good news is their numbers are demographically  dwindling every year. 

Courtney Barnett.  My friends think she's an art school hack. I think she's really gifted. I'm amazed that she can write a tuneful song about anaphylactic shock, while using the word "pseudoephedrine" to boot.

I only listened quickly, but:

1. She's real.  

2. I find her dead-voice shtick annoying. 

3. She's deliberately avoiding rhyme.  I find that REALLY annoying because my brain is seeking rhyme. 

4. I am probably too old and hidebound to understand or intelligently analyze her appeal.   

You could have avoided the ungainly "o'er" in "So why do I oe’r you so dote?" -- and by the way, the apostrophe's on the wrong place, no? -- by using "on," since you dote "on" someone; you don't dote "over" them.

I have to think about that.  I say "dote over."

I can sing and dance, and have been able to do so very well since my earliest memory. I was just born with this ability, as were my brothers, as well as most of their children, so I always assumed it was a genetic trait passed on from my father's side, because my mother can do neither. It stands to reason that some people would just be born without these abilities as well, just as I was not born with blue eyes. What the amusia sufferer has had to go through is just bullying by hard-headed and ignorant people, but I do have a tone deaf friend who embraces it, never more so than when she left me a message of her singing "Happy Birthday". It was so bad it was absolutely amazing.

Dave Barry once described our friend Libby's singing voice as sounding like a turtle surfacing in a septic tank. 

I believe it is very different because a state actor is using our open press to effect the election of our leader. I consider Ellsberg a hero. I believe strongly that our media has a duty to pursue and disseminate leaks and to protect the identity of the leaker(s). I also fear that this sort of manipulation of our free press by, for want of a better word, outsiders will continue and that media needs to find some way to adapt to this. I confess I have no idea how they would do that.

Again, I agree with all of this. 

If the Republicans had somehow nominated Rubio, Bush or Kasich, would they have been way ahead of Hillary right now? Maybe even Romney? I'm assuming that Cruz and Christie would have been losing to Hillary. What say you?

I think Romney would be beating her.   Bush and Kasich, maybe, too.   Remember, though, that neither of those last two had been through the arduous vetting that a long campaign would bring.   I think Rubio could never have recovered from revealing himself to be pathetic. 

Russians or other hackers find a way to skew election results to show Clinton wins with 99% of the popular vote. Mayhem ensues.


That would be smarter than giving it to Trump. 

"It’s not about your mischief eyes" Seriously, Gene? Normally, you uphold high standards in your poetry; even on the rare occasions when I don't find the actual product that funny, it scans and is clever. But this? Wow. "Lyin' eyes" would have fit the rhythm you set up, is grammatically correct and could be seen as chiding him for calling Hillary the biggest liar in history. Or even "pretty eyes" would have been better.

Uh.  No.  

"Mischief eyes" is not cliche.  

But a non-racist, non-sexist, nationalist, true economic populist, with an appealing personality would be nothing like Trump at all. Thats basically just describing FDR.

True.  But I think I know what the person was getting at. 

Nationalism and patriotism are two sides of the same coin, and the most nationalistic / patriotic country in the last 300 years was Germany during the Third Reich. 

I think your anxiety is unfounded, and your mistake is that you're coming at the election from the perspective of someone who lives in a liberal city where it's taboo to support Trump. But across the country, that's not the case at all - polls pretty clearly show that Hillary has support in concentrated urban areas, and Trump everywhere else. Especially among men. There's no reason to think that the man you're talking about is afraid of voicing his support for Trump; I live about 40 minutes southeast of DC, in Democratic Charles County, and even here plenty of people are unabashedly supporting him. If anything, I think you have it backwards. Because let's think about your man's wife, Luanne - she has three kids, is active in her church, and a size 16. She's always voted Republican because that's what her husband, Todd, and her church say to do and she assumes that they know best about complicated national policies. Todd loathes Hillary and would be furious at Luanne if she voted for her, so when the pollster calls Luanne dutifully says she's voting for Trump. But Luanne doesn't think Trump, with the cheating and divorces, represents her church's values. She looks in the mirror and knows that Trump would call her fat and ugly. She wouldn't want to hear his words coming out of her kids' mouths. And in Trump's bluster she recognizes the know-it-all, all-talk-and-no-action tone that Todd and his friends get after too many beers. While she doesn't necessarily like or trust Hillary, she is impressed with how Hillary has held her head high and kept her marriage intact through her and Bill's struggles (isn't that what her church preaches?), and thinks it's shameful how Trump and Todd hold all that against her. And she's a little bit thrilled at the idea of a woman president. So she says she's voting for Trump because she doesn't want to hear about it from Todd. But when she gets into the voting booth, she'll be checking the box for Hillary.

You are not alone.  I got a lot of reactions like this.  From your fingertips to God's ear. 

Louis CK was not in it. The white dude is Tom Hanks.

Sorry, yes.  A brain fart; I had seen Louis in a previous one.  I am now zero for two in pop culture references.   


Exactly. I could even see the "all men are like that" argument- all women fear it is true, all the men who are like that like thinking it is true, the argument that a long line of politicians -Clinton, Kennedy- moved on women "like a bitch" is there. But when he comments on his daughter's body and says it is ok to "call her a piece of ass." No. People accepting that are too vile to find anything else disqualifying.

You know, the one thing I give Trump a pass on -- it might be the only thing -- are things he said to Howard Stern.  

You go on that show, you are graded on how disgusting you are willing to be.     

You understand that 538 is a statistics based website, right?

Yes, but they are purporting to be writing the way daily MSM stories will appear the next day. 

Now that Dylan has won the Nobel, are there other pop or rock composers who should be nominated? (I concede that Dylan is the most worthy, so I'm going with "nominated" instead of "awarded.") My personal choice is William S. Smokey Robinson - a wizard at internal rhyme, Ironic contradiction, and vivid imagery.

Leonard Cohen.  

Your poster with amusia is in good company. President Ulysses Grant is reported to have suffered from the same condition, and allegedly said "I know only two tunes: one of them is 'Yankee Doodle', and the other isn't."

Great quote! 

Let me say here and now, referring to the 1908 Cubs, that Fred Merkle was unjustly accused. #LookItUp

He was not.   He did a stupid thing.   But the batter should never have been called out since the ball that was retrieved and thrown to first was not the ball in play. 

But the thing I love the most is that officially, this play is called "Merkle's Boner."  You can look it up. 

Gene, I recall you saying that there is a wall between the newsroom and editorial in newspapers, and that the owners don't dictate or direct newspaper editorials. In this WP blog post about Trump receiving his first major endorsement from the Las Vegas Review-Journal however, the author states that the endorsement came because Sheldon Adelson, a well known Republican donor, owns the newspaper. Do you think that's true, or a coincidence?

Okay, I'd have to look back at what I wrote, but I don't THINK I wrote that the publisher has nothing to do with editorials.  I believe he does.  I believe he is a member of the editorial board, and I think his vote would matter. 

The total wall is between editorial and newsroom.  And unbreachable barrier.  For good reason.  It doesn't mean the two sides don't talk.  An editorial writer might consult a reporter to see what she thinks, if it is what she covers.  But they are entirely independent. 

I have a close relative -- a generally good, decent person -- who is an outspoken Trump supporter. And I don't mean "At least he's not Clinton," but someone who truly swallows everything he says, however senseless and self-contradictory. Should I cut this person out of my life?

Do you think "good, decent" still apply?  If you do, then no. 

Yeah, this is almost TOO spot on. 

I've been pondering what compulsory voting would do to this election. Make it more of a landslide to Hillary? Or help Trump win because people with absolutely no interest in following news or politics would know his name and therefore vote for him? It's an interesting thought.

It is.  I think it would help Trump because the utterly disconnected will be more inclined to "blow up the system."

Does anyone else think of Tariq Aziz when Trump or his surrogates speak of how well he's doing? Also, I think Living Colour's Cult of Personality's lyrics perfectly describe what's happening on the right (can't link because of work).

I think you are confusing Tariq Aziz with the wonderful Iraqi Information Minister. 

In 2005, you said that the name "Katrina" would not be strongly associated with the hurricane in the long run. In 2015, you acknowledged that you had been wrong about that, and asked if there was anything you had ever been more wrong about. Well, in that very chat, you said that there was zero chance Trump would win the nomination. Does that qualify as your new most wrong opinion?



Then, yes. 

Your little essay in last week’s update helped me make a decision. This may look like a rant, because the Post doesn’t do formatting, but it’s just the explanation you requested. You asked, rather smugly, how I was feeling after the second debate. You said “…if I were still a Trump supporter, but not an avowed white nationalist.” How dare you. It’s not racist, sexist, or any other “ist” to know that Hillary Clinton is a grubby, corrupt, disingenuous harassment enabler who has failed at everything except using her husband’s charisma to mask her own complete lack of appeal. It’s not racist to think that Supreme Court justices who believe in the Constitution are preferable to those whose agenda is legislating from the bench. You can know that Clinton is exhausting and repulsive without having “…some unpleasant political leanings of [your] own that [you’re] not entirely proud of.” So why am I voting for Trump? Here’s why: I’m no longer going to ignore it when people like you denigrate people like me. You can call me racist because I don’t worship Obama. I don’t care. I know that my disagreements with the President are on policy and ideology, no matter how you and your colleagues want to call me “racist.” I’m not even all that conservative, compared to many — and just to save you from saying it: no, I never watch Fox News. People like you devalue the entire culture when you tag anyone who disagrees with you as a fascist or a white supremacist. Trump’s a boor and in no way “qualified” to be president by the standards of people who look at political careerists as role models. I don’t care. Living in a swing state, I can’t abstain and do nothing. If she wins, so be it. I won’t be part of letting it happen. Go ahead, mock me. Make your usual snarky remarks to your echo chamber. God forbid you take an unblemished look at what your party nominated, through the most corrupt primaries in recent history. I don’t care. See ya.

I hear ya.  

But I also hear this.  

And I watch this.  

And so much more.   I am sure there are many people like you among Trump's supporters, but it is not a coincidence that he has attracted white supremacists.  That his supporters inundate Jewish reporters with vicious Twitter rants.   

I'm sorry.  But this is an ugly, ugly campaign. 



When the prize was announced, the first I heard about it was my wife emailing me saying, "Did you hear they gave the literature Nobel to a singer? Can they even do that?" My response: "Dylan, right? Should have been Cohen"

Dylan is bigger than Cohen.   Wider, deeper.   But Cohen is a genius, too. 

It seems to me that Trump is just a sleazy man's Perot. Perot served in uniform and has a strong streak of morality. Unlike Trump, Perot's a patriot who even liberated his employees from the Ayatollah. Otherwise, their talking points are essentially the same, less the xenophobia. Sadly for us, Perot came around 25 years too soon.

Ross Perot was a nutcake.  

But I liked him.   For president?  I think not.  He chose Stockdale as his Veep, for heaven's sake. 

Have you noticed the names of the candidates in the race for West Virginia governor this year? I'm not sure I can think of a better pair of political aptonyms, especially for this particular state:  Justice appears to be ahead in the polls, fittingly.

Very nice.  And you surely want Justice to defeat Cole. 

If I, a stranger to you, called you tomorrow and told you I had an affair with Hillary Clinton in 1996, what would you do? Would you investigate the credibility of my claim before doing anything, tell an editor at the Post, sit on it for two weeks or so, sit on it forever, just put it right out there on Twitter, or . . . ?

If I thought the person was not a nut, and had credibility, I would call Marty Baron and dump it on him.   His judgment is better than mine, anyway. 


Your update last week hit a nerve - I've known from very early on that my boyfriend of many years is waaaay more conservative than I am, but I guess I'm liberal enough to believe everybody has their opinions and if we're not raising kids together then it's a non-issue in the grand scheme. We've tried to calmly discuss the issues but things get heated quickly as this circus has progressed over the last few weeks. He has no plans to vote (he says) since he can't support either candidate, but we still engage in the occasional battle over the issues. During our last argument he declared that Trump's "not that bad" and Hillary's a straight up murderer over Benghazi. So I now think HE's a straight up nutter. Am I wrong to seriously consider ending a relationship over this? Do you think most couples really agree on politics or do they just keep their "real" thoughts to themselves?

I love this question. 

I think politics is everything.  It is how you think about life itself.  I don't think I could ever love someone with whom I fundamentally disagreed, politically. 

I think Matalin-Carville don't disagree, by the way.  They are political machines. 

I'm one of the 3% that voted The Media was unfair to Trump and that it was unfortunate. Why? Because I think in doing so the media was unfair to the people Trump was speaking for. Trump is a lying arrogant disgusting ass and it physically pains me that the party I've supported all my life has devolved to this. But. The people who propelled him to the top have legitimate grievances with disenfranchisement, economic neglect and stagnation, and a true fear of having been written off and left behind by the elites of both parties. Far too often though, it felt like the media amalgamated them as simply pissed off redneck hicks, without giving any though to why they were pissed off. (This is a failure of the Republican elite too. They took for granted that they understood what was driving their electorate and failed badly). I think then, that how the media treated Trump was a disservice to the people who (sadly) used him as a protest vote because it only made them feel further marginalized.

Understood. But do you want this man to be president?

Don't you think the media has the responsibility to tell the voters everything they need to know about this guy?

Here is what you said about Trump, August 25, 2015. Trump will not be the nominee. The odds are zero. The reason is that way more than half the Repubs say they would never vote for him. When the field contracts to two or three, he is toast. What he's got going for him now is that he wins a plurality of an insanely broad field. But his supporters now are the only supporters he will ever have.

Oh, snap. 

Yep, the wrongiest I have ever been!  


Can I briefly use an old flame for illicit purposes if they're voting for Trump? He's not one of the rah-rah supporters. Would I need to turn in my woman card if I do?

Illicit purposes?  Summoning Perot, I am all ears. 

There would be a lot of obvious problems enforcing mandatory voting. But some have suggested encouraging voting by entering every person who votes into a national lottery, or a special drawing of the state lottery. It wouldn't cost much to create a few big-money prizes, and millions play the lotto every week despite zillion-to-one odds. Another suggestion might be to give every voter a small income tax credit ($25?) to make it worthwhile in a concrete way. Thoughts?

I love the lottery idea! 

I was actually thinking about this the other day, from a slightly different angle. I wondered to myself, is Bill Clinton the only person Hillary has ever had sex with? I concluded that I think probably yes, he is. What do you think?

I don't know and I don't care. 

I'm voting for Clinton and then straight Republican ticket. I want a divided government so nothing of too extreme will happen for four years. Then maybe GOOD candidates will be an option, and I can vote happily.

Haven't we had enough of a divided government?  It hasn't worked so good, has it? 

Do you get money or benefit from the ads on GoComics for Barney & Clyde? I usually use an ad-blocker but turn it off for sites I want to support (e.g. The Washington Post) assuming the ads aren't too obnoxious (no auto play videos, popups, etc.). GoComic's ads are annoying, but if they benefit you (either directly financially or by allowing the strip to be renewed) I can put up with them.

They help only in the sense that GoComics pays for carrying the strip.   So anything that makes GoComics healthy is good for me. 

I just finished reading an older Dave Barry book (I need some escape literature. You understand why). He made a reference to his friend, Gene. Is that you?


I negotiate for a living. Its is important for me to be empathetic so that I understand the perspective of the person on the other side of the table. I have tried to bring that experience to understand the perspective of a Trump voter that would not end up with me concluding that they are basically racist. I have failed. Cutting through all their arguments, it always seems to come down to "I don't like those people over there". I am saddened but not shocked that 40% of my fellow Americans fit that description. Regardless of the results of the election, those 40% will still be our neighbors, family members, fellow church members, and work buddies. Your job, if you decide to accept it, is chip away at those 40% so that they don't endanger our democracy. Is it Mission Impossible?

It's horrible, isn't it?  

To be fair, I don't think they are all racists.  I think the deplorables half is racist.   I think there are a good many Trump voters who are sick of government as it is practiced in this country and genuinely want to blow up the system and see what happens.    They are stupid -- or at least unwise --but not necessarily racist. 

But I sing the entire song! Because I can! That seems unduly territorial. My daughter (also an excellent singer, btw) is a student at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, home of the Rockets. (I always wondered why Rockville High wasn't the Rockets, but I digress). They do the same thing when the song gets to "and the ROCKETS!!! red glare," except at certain countywide competitions where their teams are disqualified if the RMHS cheering section does this. I get that it seems to distract from the point of singing Our National Anthem, but on the other hand -- it's such an unsingable song, I feel anything that makes kids feel connected to it is probably a service to the point of singing This Particular National Anthem. What do you say?

I say that if you are singing the entire song, you are not singing the O for Orioles.   That only works if singled out. 

While we're on obscure references, how few people remember Pat Choate?

Wow!  I only vaguely remembered the name and thought it was a woman.  Had to look him up. 

Stockdale wasn't ready for prime-time TV. But he was a war hero, a Medal of Honor winner, a distinguished Vice Admiral, and a college president. He was probably better qualified to be VP -- and president -- than many VP candidates.

He was -- arguably -- senile.  He certainly was not together enough to be president. 

I seem to recall reading that she had a relationship with another guy pre-Bill.

As a person of her generation -- I guarantee it.  She was a cute, smart chick in the 1960s. 

He's the best brown chicken, brown cow I've ever had.

Noted.  You are exciting us, ma'am.  Or sir. 

I failed my first two pop culture tests today.  But I got this one. 

On your third poll question regarding how fair the news media is being towards Drumpf, SNL nailed it when Baldwin/Trump asserted the media was being unfair by showing what he says and does to everybody. Holding up a mirror does not constitute unfair treatment. It finally appears that most media is calling him out on his outrageousness. My fear is that his supporters will believe his balderdash regarding the accuracy of the polls, the idea that people need to watch polling locations for voter fraud, and, really, anything he says off the top of his head. The idea that 39-43% of the country supports this narcissist is truly frightening. I fear there will be incidents of attempted anarchy and/or armed confrontations after the election.

That was a super moment in the "debate." 

Mrs. Clinton's "basket of deplorables" comment wasn't a gaffe, it was an egregious tactical blunder. You criticize your opponent, not his supporters - you want his supporters to change allegiances.

Right.  Obviously.   The real problem was "half." 

Bear with me... You're backpacking in Alaska with a friend. It's been a long day. You're hungry and you evaluate your choices. You've got goddamned-freeze-dried-beef-stroganoff again--just like you've been eating for weeks. And there's also that diseased, rotting porcupine carcass you made jokes about a little ways back on the trail. That's it: freeze-dried beef stroganoff...or diseased, rotting porcupine. There is nothing else. "Pizza!" you happily order. "Sounds great, but that's not happening," your friend says. "Choose one or the other, or prepare for a surprise." -- A trolley is rolling uncontrolled down the tracks toward a rail switch that can divert it to either run over five children cruelly tied to the tracks...or run over a geriatric hamster. If you act swiftly, you can ensure the children are not killed, but you will be actively causing the old hamster's death. It is 100% certain that either the children or the hamster will die, but the currently-selected track is not yet clear. Quick! You must throw the switch to cause the trolley to either run over the hamster or run over the children. But you are highly principled person, totally against all killing and certainly will not take an active roll in killing. So you instead pray for the trolley to sprout wings and take flight. This is the fantasy and irresponsibility of a third party vote this particular election. We don't always get what we want. Nobody said life would always be fair and give us choices we like. I wanted Bernie to be the Democratic nominee--but he isn't--and no amount of wanting will make him the nominee. And completely aside from Gary Johnson's barely vetted presidential incompetence, FiveThirtyEight currently has him polling at 5.6% nationally. That is roughly one quarter of Millard Fillmore's "Know-Nothing" party showing in 1856. Numerically, Jill Stein isn't even irrelevant. If anyone has a dream of "teaching those establishment people a good lesson," it's time they realize nobody cares. A third party vote will be a trivial note on a Wikipedia page some people read every four years. That will be the height of your important lesson, and again, nobody will care. The vote people died to get you will be as influential as if you had thrown it away. You will have done nothing to stop an overtly racist and misogynist charity-embezzling, compulsively lying fascist dictator wannabe with no clue about or interest in our constitution. When the people of this country needed you, you will have intentionally made yourself useless. Please, our vote should not be a selfish act to make us feel good about ourselves. This is so much more important: this is about making the best choice -- from realistic but not always likeable options -- for our country and for the world. (And actually, the only sensible option is looking like it might've been the best one all along at this point.)

I don't consider Hillary Clinton to be the lesser of two evils.  I think she will make a fine president, and (most important) I am comfortable with her making gigantic, momentous decisions.   

I really like your post. 

Gene, This election is rigged. You heard it here first! Oh, yeah, Donald Trump says that too. He participates in what Eric Alterman calls "working the refs" at every step of the campaign. (In the NBA, if a coach whines contantly about the other team's fouls, the refs tend to call one on that other team.) Anyone really paying attention knows that the amount of actual voter fraud is so infinitesimal it's a joke. Of that very, very small group, voter impersonation -- which voter ID laws are designed to prevent - is even smaller. We're talking 1 part per 10 million here. Despite that, when the right wing and the Trumpkins talk about the election being rigged and the prospects of massive voter fraud, how come they never consider the possibility that some fraudulent voting takes place on the GOP side? (Meanwhile, they continue to seek what many consider to be laws that amount to voter suppression of mainly Democratic voters.)

Oh, they'll say that this effort is to prevent voter fraud on both sides!  They've got that lie covered. 

I join you in voting for Hillary, albeit with somewhat reduced enthusiasm. How do you account for the fact that the election remain relatively close despite her low-life opponent? Why does she engender such high unfavorable feelings? It seems Trump is the only Republican she could defeat and she is the only Democrat who would remain close to him.

I've answered this before.  I think there are three reasons. 

1. We are an incredibly polarized country politically.  I think ANY Republican would start out with 42 percent of the vote.  So, close already. 

2. Misogyny.   

3. She rubs people the wrong way, for valid reasons.  

Don't forget the gun nuts, er, owners of multiple guns including automatic and semiautomatic skeet shooters.

I kinda feel the need to discuss Second Amendment Enthusiasts.  But I'll wait till the next chat.   

Hey, this is unrelated but I am giving you all this again because I love you. 


Not only are they angry about the way government works, they recognize that it hasn't worked for them in a long, long time. Globalization took away their jobs, and the Democrats' policy response has been, basically, Go to college. I wish the Democrats would say, We are putting you back to work by giving you a good construction job, fixing our bridges and roads, and we can pay for it by cutting one bomber. I fear that the Republicans will wise up and say, We are putting you back to work by giving you a good construction job, etc.


I am a lifelong Democrat, and I said to my friend (also a Democrat) the other day, "What if the Democratic nominee was the crazy, dangerous one, and the Republican nominee was the more sane choice?" I honestly don't know which way I would vote. I suspect a lot of lifelong Republicans just can't bring themselves to vote for a Democrat.

Interesting.  I tweeted this just the other day: 

If Trump were the Democratic nominee, and Romney were the Republican, I would suck it up and vote Romney. 

You know, the rest of Clinton's comment about "half are a basket of deplorables" was that the other half are people with real concerns about real problems. The "deplorables" part got all the press, but she was trying to make a point about how many of the people who turn to Trump are people with good reason to want a change, and about how she wants to help those people too.

Yep I made this point last chat.   The rest of her quote was quite sensitive. 

Yes, I'm sick of divided government as well. But I would prefer that to EITHER candidate having freer reign over the USA for four years. If we had a Dem Congress, I'd likely vote for Trump with the knowledge that he wouldn't be able to do much of anything. These are both horrible candidates. I want to punt til 2020 and make sure as little as possible changes between now and then. A divided government is the best way to do that. If we're lucky a Dem candidate will appear that makes it worthwhile for Hillary to step down after foru years.

I predict that four years from now, you will say you misjudged Clinton.  

We'll end on this.   Thank you all.  See you next week in the updates.  

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Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

His most recent book, "The Fiddler In The Subway," is a collection of his full-length stories. He is working on a new book, called "One Day," about the events of December 28, 1986, a date chosen at random by drawing numbers from a hat.

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