Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Nov 29, 2016

Gene Weingarten held his monthly chat with readers.

About this chat:
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Good afternoon. 

A Poem To All The People Who Voted For Trump 

Your business is your biz

And I'm sure you had your reason. 

I'm not sure what it is 

But it sure amounts to treason. 


So.  Welcome to the first chat after the election.  Some of the questions below were submitted BEFORE the election, and we're all going to find that amusing.  I will be publishing them in chronological order, because of the value of pathos. 

As you can see, I am not one of those journalists who are filled with soul-searching remorse over my industry's failure to predict the electoral catastrophe that occurred, nor am I filled with soul-searching remorse over our ability to understand the pain and fear and economic distress of the Trump electorate.  More than anything, I do not accept the conventional wisdom that the media was collectively condescending to a huge swath of American citizenry. 

I think that's, actually, a condescending position.  The people who elected Trump created a catastrophe for this country, and I don't feel they did it because they were too filled with their own pain/fear/anger to make a coherent choice. I have more respect for them than that.   I think they were so filled with their own pain/fear/anger that they made a treasonous choice.   I think they knew exactly what they were doing.   

So.  Where are we now? 

The major media continues to do its job responsibly, which means that here are the headlines today: 

NYT: Plan to Revive Waterboarding Faces Obstacles

Wapo: Trump Unswayed by Loyalists' Revolt Over Romney as Possible State Pick 

and so forth, 

which are all accurate, but not exactly the truth.  The truth is this: The actual headline on all media websites should be -- and should continue to be, day after day -- 


In the last 24 hours, the president-elect of the United States retweeted a post from a 16-year-old girl baselessly alleging voter fraud.  He also baselessly alleged voter fraud, himself.  He also claimed that people who burn the American flag should lose their citizenship, a position that is not only wildly imbalanced, but reveals zero understanding of the Constitution he is about to swear to uphold in a hallowed ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.  (Even Antonin Scalia acknowledged that flag-burning is protected free speech.)

I don't really know where to go with this, so this will be a short introduction. We have elected a child to be president of the United States.  But he is not even a nice, smart child who wants to be a good boy, the best boy in the whole world.  He is a fairly stupid, angry, evil child. 

I wrote this in the chat update a couple of weeks ago, and am reprinting it here: 

I am remembering a 1950s Jerome Bixby short story titled "It's a Good Life."  (You might also remember the two Twilight Zone adaptions.)  The plot involves a very little boy named Anthony Fremont who has godlike powers that he deploys  with astonishing viciousness and cruelty, upon anyone he feels is "bad." Because Anthony is so young and immature, he has zero sense of proportion, or any capacity for remorse, or any real understanding of the consequences of his actions.  He is a petulant, foot-stomping, spoiled kid.   

Anthony causes people he does not like to turn inside out, so their viscera florps to the outside of their bodies, and they gurgle to death in horror as others watch.  That sort of thing.  Then he buries them in the cornfield.  He does all this with his mind.   Some people get buried alive in the cornfield.  It is all very unpleasant.   

Why didn't someone kill Anthony?  Because he could read minds, and would florp you before you succeeded.  Why couldn't anyone get help from elsewhere?  There was no elsewhere.  Anthony had either destroyed the rest of the world, or had relocated his town into its own world.  It wasn't clear which. 

The mind-reading thing was deeply problematical, because it meant that when you were around Anthony you you had to be very happy!  When he florped someone inside-out, or turned someone into a two-headed rat, you could not show any sign of disturbance, or you might risk getting florped or ratted yourself.  To be safe you had to walk around with a smile, and to be extra safe you had to tell Anthony what a good boy he was and what a good thing he did.  (Hence, the title of the story. )

You probably know why I am mentioning this. Yeah, I think it's going to be like that in the White House for the next four years, or however long Trump lasts. 

So that is where we are. 

If you have not take the poll, please do so now.  There is amazing unanimity of opinion on the dire straits were are in.  Even conservatives are desolated. 

We start at noon sharp. 

Pick the version that applies to you
- I lean conservative
- I lean liberal

By the time of your next chat, this may not matter, but: I am a lifelong democrat, never having voted for a republican, but I have come to loathe Hillary Clinton for what she is putting us through. Today is Nov 1, and the Post now says the race is tied. I can't sleep at night. I hate her.


I'm not quite sure what you feel Hillary was "putting us through."  That she was a flawed candidate?  They all are, in some way.  That she was managing to turn a race against an idiot into a close contest?  I'll meet you on that battlefield after you have similarly trashed Jeb and Marco and Cruz and all of those guys.  

Something insane happened.  It wasn't Hillary's fault.  It was our fault.  All of us.   Idiots elected an idiot.  We have established an idiocracy. 

Have you read Cracked's excellent article exploring the mindset of your average, non-hateful Trump supporters? I found it iluminating in a way that made me feel a little guilty for the broad-brush strokes with which I paint them. 

This is an extremely good and illuminating piece, the best I have seen trying to explain the Trump phenomenon without demonizing the Trumpsters.  And it almost does the job. 

There is a problem, though.  It comes at the end, when the author (He is the editor of Cracked, named Jason Pargin, who goes under the pen name David Wong for some complex reason he has tried, and failed, to explain, but he is very good)  basically says that a vote for Trump is a vote for Walter White.  As though that makes sense on some level.  I would understand the idea of voting for Walter White.   I would get a drunken rant about the concept of voting for Walter White.  But I would not think positively about someone who voted for Walter White if Walter White actually had a chance of becoming president of the United States. 

What did you think of this? Petri has done some great work this election season, but this may be the best.

This is my favorite Petri piece of all time.  And it is now kind of chilling, isn't it? 

You said: " do not accept the conventional wisdom that the media was collectively condescending to a huge swath of American citizenry. " I am really curious why you think this. I know you can not prove a negative, but do you have examples of how the coastal media is not dismissive towards "fly over land"?

Well, I think the Wapo and the NYT made real efforts to understand the Trump voters.  Non-condescending efforts.   There is a problem here, and it is hard to state without sounding elitist: There is no excuse for voting for Trump.  I can get to know the Trump voter.  I can understand her state of mind.  But there is not one moment, no sense of connection or empathy, where I can excuse that decision.  

I think Billy Mumy played the kid in the Twilight Zone episode, a year or two before he was Lost in Space.

There were two Twilight Zone episodes, 30 years apart.  

The "Six Differences" in the Sunday comics is now sized so small that it is no longer fun to do. I think that a little kid would find it difficult, let alone an old geeze like me. Any thoughts on this?

I do it. 

Okay, I am now going to reveal a pathetic secret about myself.  I may have actually revealed this before, but cannot recall, which is even more pathetic. 

I stop after finding five differences.  I do it so I can have the ineffable joy of going "aha!" when I read what the one was that I missed. 



It is the Sunday before Election Day and I am still undecided. Not between Trump and Clinton - I was on the #nevertrump train before he finished his announcement speech - but between Clinton and Johnson. Some background: When I turned 18 in the early part of the Clinton administration, there were issues important to me under discussion where I favored the Republican point of view. So I became a Republican despite being a liberal on some issues. I voted for the Republican candidates for President because of those issues and a few others I picked up along the way, even though I had to hold my nose because they differed with me on other issues. With the rise of the tea party, I felt like the Republican party drifted into crazytown, so I left. I did not become a Democrat because I felt that was just a compromise on my principles of a different sort. A pox on both their houses. I began voting Libertarian as a protest. If I vote for Johnson, even though he seems either stupid or high in all his interviews, I could contribute to getting the Libertarian party to the 5% threshold. They might actually get there this year, and that's big. Becoming a minor party not only opens up federal coffers (the irony of which does not escape me) but also grants them prestige enough to make their voice heard better. With both major parties being authoritarian, a libertarian opposition would be valuable. Also with the Republican party fracturing, this might provide an outlet. And I think with a greater voice, they would become a little less extreme in their views. I think both major parties would benefit from the rise of third parties generally, and the idea of a third party will only be taken seriously if one manages to grab a not-negligible amount of the vote. Or I could vote for Clinton. Not because I particularly like her - to me she represents everything wrong with the political system today and the Democratic party in particular - but because Trump is so absurd that I want to quash any hope of future Trumps. One was enough. Let's not continue this flirtation with ego-driven celebrity candidates. I want to see him defeated by numbers large enough to shame the GOP. The prospect of him as President fills me with fear. The best we could hope for with a Trump presidency is that he's so enamored with being "Mr. President" that he doesn't actually do anything except for periodically embarrassing us on the global stage. With Clinton it's more of the same, both the good and the bad. I know this devil. And to add to this, I live in a very blue state. This state is so locked for Clinton that either vote would have the same result in terms of the electoral college. I think if I lived in a state that mattered, my choice would be more clear. So I am undecided. Do I cast a vote for revenge and fear (Clinton) or hope for a better system (Johnson)?

You are a horrible person. 

I am writing this at noon on election day, so obviously I am hoping not to be proven dreadfully wrong, but I am not at all convinced this election is, as you, Obama, and lots of other people have said, the most important of your/my/our lifetime. Within a generation or less, historians will consider it a foregone conclusion, though they will add a footnote documenting our collective anxiety and the media's failure to apply the same degree of scrutiny to both candidates. I am 40, and the most important election of my lifetime so far, I think, is 2008, when the nation achieved something I had half suspected was impossible. Though you had no vote, the most important election of your lifetime was surely 1964, an election that, had it gone the other way, would have ensured that 2008 never happened.

And how do you feel about this post, reading it today? 

I was the one on July 26, the liberal who thought there was more than a 50% chance trump would win. I had rationale like Brexit. This isn't a told you so. (Maybe a little.) I just want to hear your thoughts.

You are a horrible person. 


You are a horrible person. 

ok, cause it fit with what i wanted. but now i;m in the same place, still anguished, but out 13,500

Sorry, remind me what you are talking about?

I find it hard to believe you wouldn't have voted for him. I believe you would have pointed to the Supreme Court, claimed any Republican is worse, used this as justification for voting for Trump, and pulled the lever for him. In the end, this is what so may Republicans did.

I would not have voted for Trump if he were a democrat.  

Listen, this guy is wildly imbalanced.   I don't consider him sane.  I would not vote for that man.   

I'm not sure I would have voted for Cruz, I think I would, but at the very least I wouldn't have voted. 

I can see no path where the republicans have enough of a backbone to impeach Trump, as long as he says he´s pro gun and pro life. Can you?

Yes.  I think there could be enough R votes to make it happen.   Remember that this is a choice: Trump or Pence?  It's not like the alternative is Clinton. 

Looks like your Luanne scenario panned out. I also think a lot of people have some 'splaining to do. That would include pollsters who were way off base (partly from the Luanne theory), minorities and millennials for not turning out to vote, the media for over exposing Trump in the early days, virtually excluding any message of all the other candidates from both sides, the false equivalency given to Trump's statements, publishing of Wikileaks hacks with no verification of editing or context, and last but not least, James Comey. I believe his re-opening of the email investigation 11 days before the election changed the dynamic enough for Clinton to lose. Clinton may have been a flawed candidate and she is not the most dynamic or spontaneous of speakers, but compared to 2008, she ran a great campaign. I just listened to Mrs. Clinton's speech were she said we should be open minded and give Trump a fair chance to lead. I will be as open minded and as fair as all the Obama haters were when he got elected. To say that I am bitter is an understatement.

As a reminder: My Luanne scenario was my pre-election fear that men who secretly supported Trump were lying to pollsters onaconna their embarrassment, but also because they wanted to retain the affections of their wives, Luanne, who were hearing them talk to the pollsters on the phone. 

I'm not sure if this was right. 

Gene- You said (I believe) in 2008 that should Obama win you will wake up the next morning and truly believe we that we now live in a fundamentally different - better, more accepting - country. Perhaps I am misquoting you, or misremembering, or merely recalling only what I thought in 2008 both before and after the election: that we as a nation are better than I had feared for many years. Now we have unvarnished evidence of racism, sexism and xenophobia all across the country. This is a total dumpster fire. So I guess I am asking whether you believe we really ever gained anything in electing Obama or was it basically illusory? It does seem like it everything evaporated last night.

I choose to interpret it the way Manteuffel did:  This is America, and we believe in fairness.  Eight years ago we gave the black guy a shot, now we're giving the racist a shot. 



In one narrow sense Trump ran a traditional politician's campaign: He made a lot of promises. Lower taxes, more factories, more coal mines, a giant wall, etc., etc. It doesn't matter that his promises ranged from hateful to impossible to nonsensical. He gave voters a chance to say, "Yeah, I want that!" Hillary, by contrast, made her campaign about her, not us: "I stand with her!" "If I'm playing the woman card, deal me in!" She put out a lot of policy papers, but she never articulated a clear vision of the future that voters could embrace. Ultimately her message became "I'm not as bad as Trump." That's not a lot to vote for

I think she ran on Obama's coattails.  More of the same.  And I am not sure why that was not enough, but I am a pinko Obama lover.   I also have zero idea how anyone could have found Michelle Obama anything but the perfect, elegant, prototype superb first lady.  And yet some did not.  

That is not exactly productive thinking. In fact, that kind of dismissive divisiveness is going to hand the 2020 election to Trump. It might make you feel good (and superior to all those dummies), but it's not helpful for moving forward.


Seriously, understood.  And if I were a politician I would never have said this.   It's undiplomatic.  

I am counting on a significant number of people to realize they made an awful mistake.  


Flag- burning- beyond the obvious free speech / constitutional protection, did anyone else find it odd (deeply disturbing) that he EQUATES loss of citizenship with one year in jail?


Some 30 years ago, Tropic ran a cover story on the idiot idea (embraced by Bush I) to sponsor a flag-burning amendment.  The cover was a photo of the U.S. Constitution, in flames.  The headline read:  Why a Flag-Burning Amendment Isn't so Hot an Idea.

Story by Achenbach, I believe.  One of his best. 

Hi Gene- I can't think of anyone more aggressively logical in thinking about emotionally fraught situations, so I wonder if you'll help me decide how to process some conflicting instincts following this election. On the one hand... I understand that not all of people who voted for Trump did so bc they are motivated by overt racism or sexism. Some are, but probably most are unhappy with the way things are going, scared for their kids' future, scared about the direction the country is/was heading, etc. etc., and thought Trump was their best bet to fix it. That they were willing to overlook the ABSOLUTELY INSANE AMOUNT OF EVIDENCE that he is a dangerous fraud testifies to the depths of their despair- they were willing to try absolutely anything to change the course of things. So they deserve to be listened to and their opinions deserve to be heard. And, although they're a minority of the electorate, they're a minority with the right geographic distribution and they turned out, so their pick deserves to govern. On the other hand... (and prepare yourself for some Class A East Coast elitist snobbery here) why do I have to respect the opinions of people who brag about being ill-informed? Whose ignorance seems absolutely willful, based on their persistent belief in groundless and thoroughly-debunked conspiracy theories? Who aren't sophisticated enough to see through a totally transparent huckster who uses facile triggers to gin up their emotions? If my ultimate goal is to advance a progressive agenda, and to have an impact in a meaningful way between now, 2018, and 2020, how best to proceed? Do I "break out of my bubble" of educated, worldly people to get a better understanding of the other viewpoint and try to meaningfully engage somehow? Or do I throw myself into my lefty-est impulses and support groups (like the ACLU) or elected officials who will tell the bullies, red necks and hate groups- and yes, the voters who would excuse their behavior and rhetoric - to stuff it? That the old way is gone and their approach is wrong and they need to get with the program? I know your next chat isn't scheduled until the end of the month, but I really hope you'll consider having one before then- a lot of us are really struggling with how to move ahead and I think your viewpoint would be really valuable. Despite your questionable choice in facial hair. Love and panties- Rebecca in DC

Hi, Rebecca.  I think the introduction today probably answered your first question.   I do not yet know where to go with your second question.   I think Immanuel Kant probably has an answer, though.   Kant argued that the moral and ethical way to behave is the way that would create the greatest good for the greatest number, if everyone behaved that way.   (I am paraphrasing fairly stupidly.)

That, for example, is why a "protest" "I'm-pissed-off" vote for Trump was immoral.  

It is also why we must all behave in the way most likely to assure that this disaster will not recur, or will even be reversed. 

Okay, I am on a roll here. 

Would Kant, therefore, suggest that the moral thing to do would be to ... assassinate Trump? 

He would not.  First, because that would legitimize an inherently immoral act.  But also because it would institute chaos as a solution, which would lead to more chaos.   

I think Kant would say that the moral and ethical person is obliged to resist Trumpism in whatever way he or she is most equipped to do so.   I am not sure what that is in your case.  In my case, it is to keep writing s--- like this, dubiously appropriating Kant to spread anti-Trump propaganda. 


Do you think Trump will find himself at the center of a major scandal at some point in the next four years? Maybe even worse than Clinton's? He couldn't even maintain his composure through an entire debate. Once the pressures of the presidency mount, he's going to snap in some way, right? Or will he just go on permanent vacation and leave everything to Pence and Ryan (quite frankly, in terms of policy this frightens me more than anything)?

Agreed, on Pence and Ryan.  

I have been wrong about Trump since day one.  So my opinion is of no utility.  I'll give it anyway.   I think he'll be impeached within two years based on fiduciary crimes.  He is one gigantic conflict of interest, waiting to be prosecuted. 

But what do I know?  I predicted he'd never be elected. 

I spent the evening of November 8 in the emergency room with my husband who was in for the second time with a-fib. As we waited for him to be discharged I kept checking my phone for election results. I'm not sure which was worse- being in the hospital or the feeling of doom that crept over me as I watched the fateful red line inching closer to the required number of electoral votes. My husband is ok but I fear for our country. And I think Trump will be gone in 2 years- if he doesn't get impeached he will get bored or frustrated and do a Sarah Palin.

That would be interesting and amazingly unprecedented.  Just walking away. 

I think it was a Jesse Ventura for Governor event on a larger scale. Minnesota voters rejected Ventura as soon as they could. US voters will reject Trump as soon as they can.

Well, the question is, how soon is that? 

Did you all see that story, an op ed, by a guy who used to work in a nuclear missile silo?   It's about four minutes from the go-ahead by POTUS to actual launch. 

I assume you are thinking of Ms. "A Ape in heels" from beautiful downtown Clay, W. VA. Obviously the short answer is "she doesn't think black people are human." I can't fathom what the long answer is. The kicker, to me, is that she used the word "classy" to describe the mid-level fashion model college dropout who married an uncouth perv for money and now finds herself in the White House, as compared to a successful, civic-minded Ivy League educated lawyer. The whole episode made me want to slit my writs.

That was in my mind, yes. 

Obama became noticeably grayer over his eight years in office, like most presidents before him. What do you think Trump's hair will look like by the end of his (hopefully one) term? Will it even turn gray? Will there be any left at all? He's so vain, maybe he'll sport a toupee!

Sadly, I think Trump lacks both the self-knowledge and the intelligence to understand the grave nature of the job.  He will emerge looking pretty much the way he looks now. 

I am most definitely not ok. I am not sleeping well. I am so terrified of the future. I was a happy person before this. I am happily married, am healthy, have a healthy young son, a successful small business, my husband runs a successful small business, we own our own home in Alexandria that will be paid off in 11 years, we are globally in the top 1%! But the fact that enough Americans chose this narcissistic, short-attention spanned, non-reading, bigoted, sexual assaulting, terrible business person as the leader of the free world with access to nuclear codes, who doesn't believe in global warming has thrown me for a loop. I am gobsmacked that there are so very many stupid, stupid people in this country. What. The. Hell. I told my husband that our liquor budget is going to go WAY up for the next 4 years. God forbid 8. My only solace is that he won less than a quarter of votes from eligible voters, and he lost the popular vote. I would think that Republicans losing 6 of the last 7 popular votes would mean something, but apparently not. I have no doubt that we will at the least end up with another massive financial crisis, if not a major nuclear crisis, i.e. war. I am not being hyperbolic. Help.

Things will be great!  Within four years, all cars will run on solar power.   

Okay, really I can't help you.  I am sort of where you are. 

remember that Republicans voted to impeach Nixon

I think Republicans are very uncomfortable with Trump.  What I don't want to happen is a PRETEXT for impeachment and conviction.  That would hurt the republic.   The congresspeople who voted not to convict Andrew Johnson were American heroes.   If Trump is impeached, it must be for real cause.  

I think there's a tendency to over-interpret why one candidate lost or won, when it probably came down to a statistical randomness. It would have taken only a couple percent of people to have changed the results, many fewer than the total number of people who voted or who failed to vote. Now there are all sorts of articles questioning whether the whole premise of the Democratic party is flawed and out of touch. But, these articles would never have been written if the cosmic dice had come up differently on November 8th.

All true and indisputable. 


This should not have been a close call.  The United States has never elected such an obviously incompetent and unprepared person.  The closest we came was 100 years ago, and Warren Harding at least knew he was incompetent and unqualified.  He privately told friends that he couldn't understand why the country had not been able to find anyone more fitting to serve.   Trump has no such self-awareness. 

Now what? I'm having a really hard time seeing a way back from this. A proudly ignorant racist misogynistic con artist has been elected to be the President of the United States, and the most frequent nondeplorable explanation I've heard is that economically hurting people believed that a businessman who's made a fortune stiffing his own contractors and who had his campaign hats made in China would "bring back our jobs." The most qualified candidate to run in my lifetime has been defeated, even though her election would have been historic, because her decades of learning from her mistakes while actually getting stuff done is, apparently, disqualifying, at least for females. Mitch McConnell and his henchmen have perverted the Constitution and gotten away with it. In the short term, no matter how long Trump lasts, his illegitimate Supreme Court pick will be around for thirty years. In the long term, the Court has been damaged and the Senate's value as a Constitutional institution seriously undermined -- and they suffered no consequence for committing this damage. Obama was crippled but Trump, who didn't even win the popular vote, will be given the full faith and credit of the office. How do we recover from this? Someone in the commentariat pointed to Barry Goldwater's loss in 1964 setting the stage for a conservative takeover 16 years later as a model for us. But I don't see it. Reagan's victory was founded on Nixon's Southern strategy of using fear and hatred to harness the resentment against the Civil Rights movement to support "conservative" (reactionary?) candidates. There is no progressive corollary. I'm 50, and I've never been this depressed. What do we do?

Well, we publish things like this.   

Palace coup waiting to happen. The man is getting closer to a strait jacket by the moment. They tried it with Reagan. Once he starts tweeting about how badly Schwartzenegger is doing hosting Celebrity Apprentice, he'll be gone.

Just lunatic rantings aren't enough. 

Your reference to Kant reminds me of the brilliant line from the brilliant movie Game Show. When Van Doren was contemplating whether to cheat, he said to the associate producer, "I just wonder what Kant would say." The producer replied, "I don't think he'd have a problem with it." Great line. Great movie.

Haha!   Yes, great movie.  

I am the idiot who said this election wasn't as important as '08 or '64. Actually, I still feel that way about '64--Obama would never have been president if Goldwater had won. But what kills me most about Trump is that he is going to reduce the election of Obama--a man I deeply admire--to a merely symbolic action. So, yeah, I was wrong.

That is one of the biggest tragedies. 

Obama deserves a legacy.  He is not a symbol.  He had a fine presidency.  He is a decent man.  He was free of corruption.  But I fear, as you do, that that will all be lost.  The country, in effect, repudiated him. 

I have been thinking about how we go about addressing our [shudder] president-elect. How to oppose him. I think the key is to take a page from his book against Clinton. Pick a theme and wedge everything into it. Luckily there is an obvious one and everything fits it without much wedging: Trump only cares about himself. We simply hit that drumbeat until it becomes acknowledged to be true without debate. Trump's conflicts of interest? Of course, Trump only cares about himself. Trump reneges on the wall? It's hard, and Trump doesn't care, because Trump only cares about himself. Trump appoints an unqualified idiot to XXX? He's currying favors, and Trump only cares about himself. Trump holds rallies instead of doing his job? Rallies make him feel popular, and Trump only cares about himself. Trump fails to resurrect coal? or bring jobs back? What did you expect- Trump only cares about himself. Trump killed Obamacare and now you can't get insurance? So what, Trump only cares about himself. And on and on and on. Remember folks- Trump only cares about himself.

You read it here first. 

A couple of days before the election, I, for unrelated reasons, watched the film version of the Woodstock Concert/Historical Event. I remember the cultural war of that era. A large part of the population thought that long hair, communism, and marijuana were going to be the ruin of the country. I was twenty-one and conservative at the time and had just returned from a tour in Vietnam. The intervening half century has changed me and the country. I think sometimes that we tend to underestimate the major shift in what the "establishment" embraced going into the sixties and what it embraced coming out. In 1969 anti-establishment was Country Joe; today anti-establishment is under-employed steel workers and Bible thumpers following an amoral billionaire with whom they no connection.

Ah, but I think they have a connection with him.  Or I think they think they have a connection.  It is summarized by one of my favorite quotes, often attributed to Steinbeck but apparently much more recent, from Ronald Wright: 

“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

How does this election affect your coolness hypothesis? You said that Trump is not cool. Is he less uncool than Hillary?

Did I say Trump was not cool?   

Trump is WAY cooler than Hillary.     Hillary is a mommy.  Trump is a baaaad older brother. 

I think the news media have a good deal of self examination to do regarding their performance during this election. It seems to me they treated him as a spectacle during the primaries without fully vetting his views , past practices and inconsistencies, thus enabling his success. During the election campaign , there seemed to be the assumption that Clinton would win and the tone of the coverage was pro-Clinton despite harping on her e-mail, with little on Trump's issues. On Election Day itself, every WashPost (and other) pundit predicted a big Clinton win.

I think the media did okay, at least in the final month.  I think the Wapo and the NYT, in particular, did brilliantly.  We led the horse to water.   The damn horse just pooped and walked away. 

To Rebecca: don't look at the Trump voters as one massive group. Despair is real, so let's do something about it. We're not going to change the racists and misogynists, so leave them be and focus on the economic issues. I went to an election post mortem and someone commented that Democrats make no effort at all with rural voters. We concede them to Republicans out of the gates. Focus on the things that can be fixed and do your part. That's the ethical answer.

I'm good with this. 


Thank you. 

So, speaking of Quiz Show.  

When I was a little kid, my older brother was close friends with Robert Strom.  I knew Robert.    Look him up.   He was never implicated.   

""Mitch McConnell and his henchmen have perverted the Constitution and gotten away with it.""" Henchmen? Seriously? And how was the Constitution perverted?

The reader probably meant subverted.  I assume he or she was referring to the simple refusal to due their Constitutional duty and confirm or reject a SCOTUS nominee. 

I just thought of something..... Do you think if Trump gets out of hand, Republicans will just start sort of working around him? I can see a man as ego-driven as Trump being satisfied with just the trappings of power as the government work grinds behind the big desk in the Oval Office, especially if Republican leadership makes it clear that it is either puppet leadership or open rebellion. You know, just let him play with twitter while the real work gets done, then he rubber-stamps it.

Isn't his ego too big for that? 

Sorry, Gene--Luanne voted for Trump.

I think you're right. 

I was too young to be on Nixon's Enemies List. How can I join Trump's Enemies List?

Not sure.  But I am making a real effort. 

I know you are just as distressed by the results of the election as I am. Do you think your colleagues at the Washington Post will keep a spotlight on Trump? Didn't he promise to release his tax returns if elected? When will he launch his secret plan to defeat ISIS? Responsible journalists can't give him a free pass. Oh, and then there's this.

It is reasonable to say, okay, give the man a break here.  He cannot be responsible for fanatics who follow him.  And that is basically true. 

But it is also not coincidence, you know?  There is a reason neo-nazis like Donald Trump. 

Hi Gene, An article in today's NY Times (11/21) about the problems with using the term "non-consensual sex" rather than rape reminded me of a conversation I had some time ago. Someone I was seeing saw the book "The Windup Girl" on my bookshelf and commented that he thought it was a great book and that he'd been put off by the sex scenes at first but then realized that they were an essential part of the story. I was a little bemused because I didn't remember any sex scenes in the book. It wasn't until years later that I realized that he was referring to a series of brutal, horrific gang rapes -- absolutely awful stuff, staggeringly violent and including sodomy with everything under the sun. The graphic depictions really did matter to the story, mostly because it underscored that the rapists saw the victim as something that did not count as an actual person. The passages were awful to read and left me nauseated and distressed, so I was pretty shocked that a pretty nice guy referred to them as sex scenes. It would never have occurred to me to think of it that way, and as I said it took me years to even make the connection. And then I wondered if people generally think of the rape scenes in the television version of the Game of Thrones as sex scenes. And if there is a gender difference in those that say yes vs those that say no. I am guessing that more men than women would say yes, which then made me wonder again.... would they call the rape scenes in Pulp Fiction or Deliverance sex scenes? I'm guessing that 100% of people, male and female, would say no. It's disturbing.

Well, I'm posting this mostly because it is interesting, but it seems aberrent to me.   I would not consider a rape scene to be a sex scene, and I doubt many people would. 

And "non-consensual sex"  sounds like a disturbing euphemism.    I mean, would you call the rape of a child "non-consexual sex"?  And if not (of course not) why would your standard change with adults? 

Whenever the subject of Trump resigning or being impeached comes us, I see liberals saying "It's no use; Pence is worse." And in some ways I agree - he's more socially conservative and seems like he would do a better job of working with congress and actually getting things done. But I don't think he'd be a national embarrassment the way that Trump is, and I would trust him with the nuclear codes. I did a lot of thinking before the election about how I would have voted if it it was the Democrat who was nuts, and I'm starting to think that the "Pence is worse" liberals are as bad as Republicans who voted for Trump knowing how bad he is because they're willing to choose a orange disgrace over someone who would be competent but advance policies they disagree with. Politics over country. However, I also come at this from an extremely privileged position - I'm white, Catholic, straight, married, wealthy, and though I'm a woman I probably wouldn't get an abortion even if they were free on every street corner (I'm pro choice, just in a position to personally accept an unplanned pregnancy). No real question, just curious about your thoughts.

I agree with you completely.  "Pence is worse" is a treasonous position.  Pence is horrible, but he is not an existential threat.  I would happily support the impeachment of Trump, if the grounds were legal and solid.   Pence is not worse. 

You seem to be basing the majority of your angst about Trump on the premise that Obama should have been served better by the American people, that we should have appreciated what he has done by electing his former Secretary of State. You seem to be saying vote for Hillary to vindicate Obama. How is that a good reason for voting for a candidate?

I don't mean to be saying that.   I am saying that Hillary never distanced herself from Obama, believing that the country, in essence, supported him.   She appears to have been wrong. 

What kind of legacy does Obama deserve? I'm a liberal dem, but I don't see all that much. Obviously, being the first black pres is a big deal. He helped the economy recover from the Bush recession. What else is there? Obamacare was a watered down compromise at the start and is doing poorly. What else is there? Sure, the Republicans spend 8 years making sure he accomplished as little as possible, but doesn't change the fact that I don't see Obama being remembered as anything but the first black President.

National health insurance, of any sort, is giant, and it will recover.  Obama rescued our economy at its most perilous moment in 90 years.  Obama got us out of terrible international entanglements.   Obama's presidency was free of scandal.  What more do you want? 

Dear Gene, This month CNN hosted 2 columnists from The Boston Globe and Real Clear Politics to talk about the "Alt-Right". The chyron on the bottom of the screen read "Alt-Right Founder Questions if Jews are People". This seems incredibly unsafe reporting, as if this sentiment (that Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, etc are people) is up for debate. I am really angry at CNN for doing this and for (perhaps inadvertently) giving credence to alt-right sentiments. Is my anger justified here?

Not quite following.  I read that chyron as outrageous; horrifying on its face, and not in any way suggesting this is an "issue" to be discussed.   No?   


It's bad enough that Trump is now the president-elect – & then to have to see photos of His Orangeness above every story in every newspaper in the world. But to open my Post to a headline that reads, "Inside Trump Tower: The epicenter of a presidential transition"? This is just too much. Of course it's possible that whoever wrote the headline & Post editors actually know what an epicenter is. If so, there's a much bigger story here. If Trump Tower is the epicenter, then what I want to know is, where is the center? Any geologist will tell you the epicenter is the point on the surface of the Earth above the actual center of an earthquake, which is below the surface. The epicenter is where the worst earthquake damage generally occurs. But what the headline tells me is that there is a spot somewhere below Trump Tower, probably deep within the bowels of the Earth, where the actual center of the transition is. Down somewhere that hasn't yet frozen over – that's where the real story is. Would you please tell your colleagues to dig a little deeper.

I will.  And thank you. 

because of "farmers" (which they aren't) or something. Do I still have to be nice to them at Christmas? Their son, my husband, is going to give himself an ulcer with all the anxiety he is building up around a Trump presidency (he's also a clergyperson with a congregation that voted for Trump overwhelmingly, so that doesn't help).

Curious: Did he try to move his congregation away from Trump? 

I suppose "non-consensual sex" might make sense for a situation in which consent is verbally given but doesn't ethically count because of circumstance--e.g., if an actor has reason to believe the producer expects sex in exchange for the role. But in a situation in which consent is clearly denied or not possible because of inebriation, age, etc., than that's just plain rape.

At the risk of being pilloried, I would argue that in your hypothetical first scenario, that is consensual sex.   It might be coercive, and it's not good, but it is not "non-consensual."  

Here is what you said March 29:  Trump is not the coolest! He may not even be the second coolest. You cannot be cool if your principal characteristic -- the driving engine behind your personality -- is immaturity. Cool carries self-confidence with it, but Trump is the opposite: desperately needy, desperate to be taken seriously, hungry for praise. Cool is never a braggart. Cool coolly allows itself to be admired. Cool never proclaims that it is cool. Cool is NEVER a braggart, because bragging is uncool. Trump is horribly uncool. Bernie is the cool guy, and no one comes near. You know who was number two cool, until he suddenly became utterly uncool? Christie.

Ah.   Okay, I stand corrected.  

He has gotten a lot cooler, though.  He won. 

I think there is a less than 1% chance that the Republicans would impeach Trump. Unless his own base of supporters start rejecting him big league. If he sunk to something like 25% approval among Republicans then, MAYBE they would do something. At this point Congressional Republicans seems to be perfectly happy to overlook his myriad conflicts of interest. Of course President Pence would be preferable to the Republicans in Congress, but I'm not sure Trump's base would be so thrilled.

Well, as I said, there would have to be just cause.  For the same reason that I feel that a "faithless elector" campaign would be a huge mistake, I think it would be a huge mistake to try to take Trump out on flimsy grounds.   This country is built on legitimacy. 

I actually do not have much of a problem with how the media covered Trump. Because, as a poster above (and my fruitless arguments on Facebook) mentions, no amount of investigative reporting was going to sway people committed to voting for Trump. There was plenty, including the Post's terrific investigations of his lack of charitable giving; numerous articles about his stiffing contractors; attempts to find out ANYTHING that tax forms might have told us that exposed him as a fraud unworthy of the office. People who wanted to believe Infowars headlines instead would not have changed their minds if every reputable media outlet in the country had devoted all its resources for a month to real coverage of Trump.

I totally agree.   

Many people talk about politics as if it's a minor thing, like choosing what color to paint the house. No. Some of us are genuinely upset/emotional because it has real impact. Lives, livelihoods, the Earth's ability to sustain life, etc., are at stake.

This is exactly the reason I have said that I cannot imagine marrying or loving someone with whom I disagreed with politically.   Politics are your central attitude toward life.  It's not like a Yankees fan marrying a Red Sox fan.   Though that would be hard. 

What do you think about the movement to convince electors that putting Trump in the White House is exactly the sort of thing our Founding Fathers meant to avoid with this Electoral College system?

As I just suggested, I think that would be bad.  It would create a feel of illegitimacy about the result, and it might literally lead to civil war.  Unless there is convincing evidence of fraud, you have to concede that Trump won, fair and square. 

Even Richard Nixon understood this.  He conceded to JFK rather than create a constitutional crisis, or worse. 

Yes! Also, he's an Episcopal priest, which nationally is quite liberal--we're just in the deep, deep red south. He and his fellow clergy preached as close to the line as they could for three months leading up to the election. His sermon the Sunday before said "better together" (rather than stronger) and then after the first service someone came up to him and said that they were so sure he was about to endorse Trump because he came so close. People hear what they want (and are now offended when their acceptance of racism and misogyny is brought up).

Interesting !  

November 8: Donald Trump is elected president of the United States. November 16: the city council of the District of Columbia passes legislation allowing physicians to prescribe lethal medications to end suffering. Coincidence? I think not.

Thank you. 

I'm having trouble ending that thought. I have a good friend of some 60 years standing. We have known each other since kindergarten; our mothers were like second mothers to each other's kids; we shared a house when we were in college. We are in touch a few times a month, typically. You know where this is going...she voted for Trump, told me that Obama was a jackass, sent me some garbage statement from Breitbart or some such a couple days before the election. We have talked (via email) since. She voted for Trump because she thinks global warming isn't real and believes "the majority of scientists" agree it's not real, and she doesn't like abortions at nine months' gestation which she said "Hillary is in favor of." I am having a hard time remaining civil. Never in my life have I dissolved a friendship over political differences, and as I said, we have decades of good history together. Tell me, where is there to go from here? I really don't know.

I don't have an answer for you.  Anyone?

I'm sorry, Gene, but Pence IS worse. He's anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-healthcare, anti, well....everything. From a policy perspective for liberals, President Pence is a disaster. And we know this from how he acted in Indiana. Trump no one knows really what he'll do, and I bet it ends up being a whole lot of nothing. And I say this from the liberal enclave of Maryland, where we're safe from pretty much any change in social policy. The Republic has survived worse than this. We'll survive Trump. (However, I do agree with an Italian friend who said we have no right to laugh at them over Berlusconi now.)

Unless you believe Pence is also mentally unstable and literally capable of stupidly launching nuclear war, your argument dies. 

I'm in a long-term relationship with someone from the opposite side of the aisle. We agree on many things. He didn't vote for Trump. Our moral compasses are similar, we just get there using a different route. That being said, we do have many political discussions. We've learned from each other. I think HOW you disagree with each other is important. We are moving to the center together.

Well, then you are solving the problem, aren't you?  There WAS a problem, and you are solving it. 

I had said, waaaay back, well before the primaries even started, that if Trump became president, I'd move to Canada. I said it with a laugh, because I couldn't seriously envision that many people taking Trump seriously. Or anyone taking him seriously outside of weirdos like my landlord who come over to fix the faucet and hold me hostage to conspiracy theories for an hour and a half. (Another vote in the "move to Canada" column.) Now I'm sitting here, actually seriously considering it. And part of me wants to say that's ridiculous, I have a life here, that's a gross overreaction, I'm way too lazy to go through all that trouble to emigrate... And just about when I have myself convinced, I wonder whether the Jews in Germany in the 1930s had similar arguments with their own heads. Tell me I'm being ridiculous.

You are being ridiculous. 

But not insane.  


Hey, we're done for today.  Thanks all.  See you in the updates. 


There is nowhere. I'm sorry. But this friend has revealed herself as a hateful ignoramus, and you have lost all respect for her. It's sad, but it's not your fault.

Many people have answered similarly! 

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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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