Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Apr 25, 2017

Gene Weingarten held his monthly chat with readers.

About this chat:
At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

Good afternoon.  

The intro today is an open letter to Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Kathleen Parker, Peggy Noonan, Ross Douthat, David Brooks, and other influential conservative newspaper columnists with the exception of Marc Thiessen of the Washington Post.  

Dear horrible monsters: 

Kidding.  You are not monsters.  All of you have distinguished yourselves, in my opinion, for showing the character and compunction to at times savagely criticize Donald Trump.  You are intellectuals. He is an ignoramus and a boor who is proud of those features, and from the beginning your contempt for him was clear.   I could selectively quote from any of you to make this point, but we'll let this one quote, from George Will, be a proxy for you all:

"Twenty minutes into his presidency, Donald Trump, who is always claiming to have made, or to be about to make, astonishing history, had done so. Living down to expectations, he had delivered the most dreadful inaugural address in history."  

But dear pundits, I have to ask you a question.  Where the hell were you six months ago, when you decided, collectively, that you could not translate your contempt into a truly worthwhile position?  Why did you never swallow hard, wince like Bogie after a gulped-down shot of bourbon, and tell your readers to vote for Hillary Clinton?  

You should have.  It was the only truly moral and ethical thing to do.  And, to my memory, not one of you had the courage. 

Let's consider this a minute.  First, the simple stats:  This election demonstrated what we all knew -- that a vote for anyone other than Hillary Clinton, including a vote for no one, was a vote for Trump.   You couldn't sit this one out, or cast a protest vote.  The stakes were enormous, and the choice was manifest. 

Listen, KWPNDB et al, all of you knew what would happen if Trump was elected: Exactly what has happened.  A man of no intellect, no maturity, no humility, no restraint, no  judgment, no real convictions, and no idea what the HELL he was doing, becomes the most powerful person in the world. 

I suggest that not one of you thinks the current situation is better for the United States than if Clinton had been elected, and that is because you are smart people.   Yes, you would not have gotten Neil Grouch, an autocorrect I am leaving here because it gives me pleasure, but you would have gotten some perfect moderate like Merrick Garland, because when presidents of one party need to work with congress of another party, reasonable compromises get made.  It is a recipe for good government, and always has been. We would not have a president who appoints a cabinet dedicated to destroying the environment and dismantling the public safety net, and enriching the rich at the expense of the poor.  Who will, just today, propose a 15 percent corporate tax, mortgaging the country's future to fatten his and his cronies' wallets.  

You are decent people; you don't favor any of this.   

Would endorsing Clinton have changed the course of the election?  Who knows?  It's not that it would have been a tactically important move; but it would surely have been an ethically important move.  But you held back.  You couldn't pull the trigger. I think it was a failure of nerve, and of character.   


Okay, we're good to go.  Chat starts at noon sharp.  Please take the poll if you have not already done so.  Last time I checked, you all want to be writers.  ARE YOU COMPLETELY OUT OF YOUR MINDS?

Oh, wait.  You conservative pundits are wondering why I singled out Marc Thiessen up there at the top, right?  Because he excreted this egregious thing yesterday.   I'm not talking to him.   Ever.  

- Male version
- Female version

KWPNDB are all opportunists. Their "principles" are fundamentally selfish. They didn't tell their fan clubs to vote for Hillary because they were confident Trump would lose, and they didn't want to have to temper the the columns they were planning to write for the next four years.

In fairness, I should point out that Goerge Will came as close as possible to the bright and shining line, without crossing it. He quit the Republican party over Trump.   He speculated on whether voting for one of the third party candidates would help or hurt Clinton.  But he never made that final step, as far as I know.   

How did Peggy f-king Noonan and her tired, cliched (and probably largely made up) columns in which she chats with the "everyman" [choose from cab driver/show shiner/uber driver] win a Pulitzer? Have you read Peggy Noonan recently? Her columns have become incoherent drivel not so artfully disguised as paeans to Ronald Reagan.

I am breaking sharply from the liberal commentariat here. The liberal commentariat seems to believe this prize was an atrocity.  I think Peggy Noonan won the Pulitzer because she deserved it.  

She is not the most graceful writer, and to many her politics are backward-looking and repugnant.  You can accuse her -- as you could accuse Ed Rogers or Paul Begala or Ana Navarro -- of being more of a political operative than a journalist.  But when you read her ten columns that won the Pulitzer, two things become obvious: 

1. Very, very early on, before most others, she was identifying the Trump phenomenon as very real, and not some curiosity, and explaining why in coherent and intelligent fashion.  Go to her Pulitzer page, and read the first column in the list, about the rise of the unprotected.     She wrote that nine months before the election.  

Reason two why she won the Pulitzer is equally important, or more so.    Peggy Noonan is not as good a columnist as my colleague Kathleen Parker, in my opinion, but they share something related to their Pulitzers.  Kathleen won in in 2010

They won it for a similar reason.  They broke from their crowd, and sprinted away.  They delivered the politically unexpected take, at some peril to their readership.  Parker, a conservative with whom I seldom agree, was appalled by Sarah Palin.  Forget that Palin was a woman and a conservative -- there was a bigger issue at stake, and it had a lot to do with the judgment and cynicality of the Republican candidate for president, and Parker went after it.  Same thing with Noonan.  The last woman on Earth who you'd expect to defy conservative orthodoxy.  She detested Trump and said so in no uncertain terms.  Now go back to Noonan's Pulitzer page and click on "Imagine a sane Donald Trump."  She went there.  And from her, way out on the right, it had particular resonance. 

That crossing is vital.  If Richard Cohen had written all ten of Kathleen Parker's pieces in 2009, or all of Noonan's in 2016, he probably would not have won the Pulitzer.  That context matters a lot. 

As I hope I have made clear way above, Noonan didn't go that extra step that would make me admire her.  But to grump that she should not have won the P is to misunderstand the strength of her columns. 

I am looking forward to the day that "FU" comes up in the DC license plate rotation. Would you turn in your license plate to get one? Or do you think DC will skip right over to FV?

I would have said they'd skip over it, but I also would have said they'd skip over FK. 

Your 2018 scenario already happened to many liberal Chicago Cubs fans. I'm not really a superstitious person, but will admit to having a moment of dread during celebration and amidst the marvel at the curse being broken of, "What if this means Trump is going to win?" Then my rational side took over and I comforted myself in thinking the universe doesn't actually work that way. So if you're asking if I'd take the Cubs win back to put HRC in the White House, the answer is a VERY grudging yes, but only if it means the Cubs win in 2017. And even that doesn't feel good.


Those who just met him (on the national stage) think he's some establishment R who would just toe the line. He's a raging loony who would sign any bill Paul Ryan put on his desk. A fun read -- Excerpt: He began as a talk show host in 1994 in small-town Indiana, fulminating about the global warming “myth,” the perfidy of Washington, and the verities of an evangelical Christianity menaced by cosmopolites. Piety swiftly merged with pragmatism: ambitious for office, Pence learned what worked — an antichoice, antigay agenda served up with reckless rhetoric couched in a pose of rectitude. He informed his audience that Clarence Thomas was being “lynched,” and that “despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.” A quarter-century later, Pence remains as small as his beginnings. Puck Fence.

Nobody has benefitted as much as Pence from the lunacy that is Donal Trump.   Pence gets to be the normal one, and he is not even close.  There are two stories to read here, both good.  The Boston Globe piece and the Rolling Stone piece that it links to.   

Ummm -- why? And did you wish this immediately after his doomed-by-self-righteousness presidency, or later, after he started self-righteously telling other people how to live? I do like how Jimmy Cater redefined the post-Presidency. I give him a lot of credit for that even though he sure went to a lot of trouble to make sure people were watching him be So Good. I get that compared to most politicians, Jimmy Carter looks remarkably selfless. But that's an awfully low bar. He was always, and in some fundamental ways remains, unable to see very far past himself. That's not a great trait in a Justice. A few years back I happened to be at the gym, on a cardio machine I really like and can stay on for a long time, watching coverage of Nelson Mandela's funeral. Jimmy Cater gave a eulogy that was all about the various ways that he, Carter had played a role in Mandela's life. It was painful to watch. He was followed by Bill Clinton, who gave a pitch-perfect speech about Mandela that hardly mentioned anything about Clinton. I turned to the guy next to me and said "That right there is why Carter, for all his saintliness, was a one-term president and Clinton, despite all his flaws, was reelected."

I don't really contest anything you are saying, but I wasn't really making a value judgment about Carter other than that 1) he's a liberal and 2) He's not a lawyer.   I wanted to see a not-lawyer.  It does strike me that, as you say, he is self-obsessed and tone deaf.  He was a tone-deaf president. 

Allowing a non-lawyer to be on the Supreme Court strikes me as a very American thing, in a good way.  Another is that the speaker of the house doesn't have to be a member of congress.  He or she can be anyone.  I'm not sure if James Madison really intended that, or if the wording was accidentally imprecise, but the Constitution, as a recall, simply says that the House shall chuse a speaker.  

If I can't smell one of my own farts, does that mean other people can't smell it either? Seriously. Because this is the sort of chat where one can ask. By way of background, more often than not when I fart I don't smell anything. Sometimes there is a mild odour that dissipates fairly quickly. Occasionally there is the stereotypical yucky smell. The smelly ones usually only seem to occur if I've eaten certain foods that aren't part of my regular diet, but the fact that I can smell those does seem to prove that some are worse than others and that I'm not inherently unable to smell my own. So the logical conclusion is that if I can't smell one then others can't either. Am I just kidding myself?

I know someting about this, having interviewed the world's greatest fart expert for my book on hypochondria  The fact is, most farts have little or no odor, and the proof of this is actually statistical.   We fart on the average of 14 times a day.  Now that seems a little low to me, from personal experience, but this is science here, measured by experts with standard deviations and such.   In the United States, if 350 million people farted 14 times a day, and they are mostly smelly, we'd hardly ever be able to  not smell farts in, say, an office building.    China and India and other population-dense countries would be unbearable, everywhere.   

The main smell culprits of farts are hydrogen sulfide and methane, and, packed together, they can pack a punch, but most of our farts have these in very low quantities.  

I am going to tell two stories now.  They are related.  The first is a poem I learned as a kid from my Aunt Ethel.   It's on the Web, but unattributed, so I'll just have to apologize to the anonymous genius:  "I sat next to the Duchess at tea. / It was just as I feared it would be.  / Her rumblings abdominal were simply phenomenal / and everyone thought it was ME."  

My second story is something that happened to me more than 20 years ago, and I believe I have never told ANYONE.  I just remembered it.   I was sitting next to a coworker, editing her story.   She was a really beautiful young woman.  This embarrasses me to admit, but I was actually a little intimidated by her presence (apologies to women; this should not be a part of any workplace dynamic.)  And suddenly, it happened.  Silent but deadly.  There were only two people in the room, and i knew I was not the guilty party.  I didn't need Sherlock to made the obvious deduction. 

But then something amazing happened.   We were both adults, and neither one of us was rude enough to acknowledge the situation in any way, except she ... did... something.  She slightly stiffened and looked momentarily uncomfortable.  It was as though she was the hapless victim.  And I found myself -- as with the Duchess at Tea, absurdly second-guessing myself.  Could it have been me?   Surely it was IMPOSSIBLE that this lovely young lady..... ? 

I think she was playing me.  I think she knew she had the power to do that.    It was a psychological fart war, and she almost won. 

Like you, I'm your typical enlightened liberal who's evolved above the baser instincts of the hoi polloi. For example, although I can understand the impulse to punish evildoers by killing them, I know that doing do simply demeans us as a society. As least, I did. I recently read in the Post about the creature who took videos of himself sexually torturing young girls - who are the same age as my daughter. Not only do I more than ever instinctively understand the urge to kill him - preferably after a suitable period of physical violence - I can no longer convince myself that the intellectual arguments against capital punishment make sense. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

The emotion arguments make sense.  It is barbaric for the state to kill people. 

But the intellectual arguments also make sense.  It is cheaper and and more hurtful to keep someone in prison for life.  You have taken away his life in a more profound way. 

I swear, if I have to hear another supposedly principled Republican invoke the fact that a Supreme Court seat is held by a young conservative instead of a middle-aged moderate as worth all the harm Trump will inflict in his term(s), I'm going to start channeling Hunk-Ra or something. Leaving aside the breathtakingly unprincipled act by the Senate Republicans that made this outcome even possible -- NO, IT IS NOT WORTH IT. Nothing Garland (or even Hillary's preferred appointee, whoever s/he might have been) would have done or not done could be worth the amount of damage that even one year of a Trump presidency will inflict on the US and the world for generations. Yes, he'll vote to uphold some greedy baron tax plan, and he'll vote to uphold an employer's right to make you choose between your job and your grandmother's life, and he'll make sure that people other than you have the right to tell you what to do with your body and whether you should die a painful, lingering death because "all life has value" according to people who don't have to actually experience your painful lingering death. I'm sure the alternatives to those decisions are just unbearable to your principles. I don't care. It still wasn't worth it.

Angry, are we? 

As I said last week, I have some minor probably deluded hope that Grouchy moves left.   

I'm a late-middle-aged female, and I answered "weight" as the thing I'd most like to improve about myself. I hate that that answer plays into every stereotype of a woman, but it had to be my answer. I have enough ambition to have gotten an engineering degree in a time when only 10% of my class was female, and to rise to management in a large defense firm. I have enough athletic ability to get around, do what I want to do, and climb the steps of the Acropolis just a few months ago. I have enough artistic ability to decorate my home well and create needlework art and quilts. I have enough musical ability to play three instruments and sing in choir. But in the eyes of most of America, none of that matters because I'm female and fat. It's ridiculous and it's insulting. I'm not that much over the average size of an American woman (now size 14-16, depending on what you read), but I can't easily shop for clothes in a store. Sections that have my size are shoved into the back corner. People have looked into my grocery cart and made comments - who does that? And yes, I've dieted. I've exercised. I will not have surgery because I refuse to cut up my internal organs to fit a ridiculous standard. So yes, I'd like to wish away my weight. Better still, I wish other people would stop worrying about it and commenting on it. Thanks for the space to rant.

Thank you so much for writing this.  Several readers wrote some version of this -- all women, I think -- and you said it best.  And saddest.  

I voted for Clinton but will always believe that one of the (many) reasons she lost was that, to people like me, she is Republican Lite. Which is why I could never understand what was not to like about Clinton for true Conservative Republicans like your pundits here. Fiscally to the right of center, definitely to the right of center on wars and foreign intervention. I just don't see much difference between her and GWB other than she is smarter.

She is smarter and more knowledgeable.  She is a wonk.  She knows everything.   George W Bush is a dope.  God how I miss him right now.  

It's hard to believe Thiessen and Gerson worked for the same administration, isn't it?

Has anyone else noticed how sweetly and smartly Gerson has moved left?   

in a choice between x and y, a vote for z neither adds nor subtracts from either x or y

That's not true.  It depends on who you would vote for if you did not vote for y.    

The poll mentions suicide, which reminded me of something I always want to ask you. My company manages real estate, and one of our security workers once stopped someone from committing suicide. Our worker was thanked and celebrated, but it rubbed me the wrong way. I feel like it's a person's choice to take their own life. I appreciate that many who find themselves on the brink of suicide may be depressed, under the influence, or otherwise impaired (all treatable) , but some are making an informed choice. Gene, how do you view suicide?

Answer coming up. 

Q: Gorsuch "But what about all of the negatives he has wrought? What about the EPA guy who doesn't believe in global warming? What about the Energy Dept. guy who wants to kill the agency? What about the plans to give tax breaks to the rich at the expense of the poor?" To clarify the point of view of the Trump voters I know, "1. Abortion is the ultimate evil. 2. Gorsuch is the weapon to destroy Roe vs. Wade. 3. Overturning Roe vs. Wade will save 650,000 babies a year. In light of those core beliefs, well, global warming might be a hoax but even if it isn't, it is not as immediate as 650k babies being murdered now. Energy Department /might/ be important (but it is a piece of Big Government), and it is not as immediate as. . . Poor people might be hungry but. . .Big Government bad, and not as immediate as. . ." Basically, if you believe > 1 baby a minute is being murdered in the US right now, there are not a lot of other issues that will weigh more with you. In a futile attempt to reason with this point of view, I have been trying to assess the risks and impacts of of global warming, pollution, hunger, and heck, even nuclear war in terms of (likelihood) of lives shortened or lost, because I quixotically believe that if I can quantify the human cost and demonstrate its comparable scale, I would stand a chance of making headway in a discussion.

You raise a good issue.  I have raised it before.  I've never understood why, if someone genuinely believes that aborting a 9 week old fetus is "murdering a baby," how any other issue could possibly be even slightly as important.   So that's the question I'd like to see surveyed of Trump supporters.  

If they listed and ranked issues of concern to them, where would abortion stand?  I bet it's nowhere near the threat of furriners.  But I'd honestly like to know.  If it's number one or two, that would open my eyes. 

One of you should google this.  We clearly have the answer, somewhere. 

Most interesting poll. Question one hit me harder last year. I'm a lifelong Cubs fan and got posed the question: Cubs or Trump? Answer: If it were Romney... Question 2. Well, I thought I'd be a writer when I was that age, and things happen. As for likelihood of suicide, I am a chronic depression sufferer who first gave serious thought to suicide(never over the Cubs) at age eight. I'm now 47 and still struggle with depression and it's been worse the last couple years but have this feeling that 'if I haven't done it by now...' so I put myself at 25-50%. And for choosing a quality I lacked I chose ambition, more as a shorthand as the other side of the depression coin than anything else.

I'd answer 25-50 on suicide.  Not because I am depressive but because I don't attach any moral baggage to suicide, and I have no religion to hold me  back.  I think suicide is our right, though I think we need to exercise it with knowledge that it can hurt others.   So my assumption is that if I got a fatal disease, I'd end things before I got really sick.   

...which, other than being an easily-understood metric, is really just a construct that exists because of some sycophant's hagiography of the failed Kennedy administration. That said, I look up and Hillary Clinton is still not president. Therefore, Trump's presidency is -- so far -- a modest success.

Wow.  Interesting. 

The failed Kennedy administration!  


You know,  I am not a particular Kennedy apologist or an awed fan -- I was 12 when he was murdered -- but I have discussed Kennedy with historians.  For his incredibly short tenure, he was a very important president.   Many put him in the second tier, below the big three and surrounded by Truman and Eisenhower.  Kennedy moved our soul.  Changed our thinking about service and governance.  And won big in the greatest (and only)  nuclear crisis of the Cold War. 

I chose over 50% that I would die by my own hand, because I have zero desire to end my days in a horrible, withering state. Rest assured I am not suicidal or have any desire to end things any time soon. My mother died from dementia and watching her last five years was a descent into hell into which I refuse to subject my loved ones. I have talked often with my kids that I plan to have a bag labeled "<my name's> pills". When I forget what they are and take them, it is time for me to go. Either that, or ask you to mention me in a column.

Just give me a little warning.  My column has a three-week lead time. 

The growth of the Bro culture and the cheerful reemergence of sexism in some quarters has left me feeling pretty depressed lately. Oddly, I find this phrase, which was published in the NYT, kind of funny due to its cluelessness and the self-regard of the dope who said it. Is it a sign of how much prejudice women face these days or, as I suspect, proof of just what morons these compensating bro’s are?

I honestly think it's the second.  Most men I know adore women, and I am including gay men.    I think studies on jury selection show that the biggest critics of women -- people less likely to trust their character or judgment -- are women. 

Gene, How the hell do you manage to drive a stick shift car in the city? Most of our fleet is stick shift, but when I have to go into town (Petworth) to visit a client, I borrow my wife's car, which is the one with an automatic tranny. Given that it takes me on average, 55 minutes of stop & go to get to the client, and over an hour to get from the client, the difference between driving an automatic and driving a manual is the difference between heaven and hell.

I consider using a stick shift fun, even in traffic.  

Since we're telling fart stories ... years ago I was in the back seat of a car with three other adults. I let out a reeeeeally bad fart, unfortunately. The first person affected was the other guy in the back seat, who coughed slightly and rolled his window down. Because of that, both people in the front seat immediately thought that the smell -- once it got to them -- came from HIM. Good times.

That was a rookie move by him. 

To the Gorsuch poster who thinks Gorsuch is young and not middle-aged, thank you. Signed, a 40-something woman

I consider 40-something the sweet bloom of youth. 

Has he? It seems to me he is exactly where he has always been, but the right end of the spectrum has moved away from him, resulting in his being further left of it than he used to be.

I don't think that's right.  I seem to remember he had a brush with mortality, and I think it broadened his mind.  

My first attempt got chewed up when you posted the intro, sorry if this is a repeat, The executions in Arkansas have got me thinking about the fact that while I strongly oppose the death penalty, coverage of opposition to the death penalty really irritates me. I oppose the death penalty and would like to see it abolished because it is grossly unfair. My main reason is moral/ethical: It is imposed as a function of an very fallible system for determining guilt, which frequently convicts people for crimes they didn't commit, including capital crimes in which the system is supposedly taking more care. In addition, even when the defendant's guilt is clear or admitted, the death penalty is imposed in hugely racially discriminatory patterns. Black defendants are more likely to receive the death penalty, especially if their victims are white, and the killers of white victims are more likely to receive it regardless of race. For those reasons alone, the death penalty is so grossly unfair as to be unconstitutional. My second reason is really more selfish, I guess: I don't want the state killing in my name. I feel that if my state, or the federal government, executes a prisoner, we are collectively killing that person and I don't want that blood on my hands no matter what s/he did. But that second reason is all about me! I actually accept that some crimes are so heinous that death is an appropriate penalty. In addition, while some people within the set of heinous killers may be capable of what religious people call "redemption", I don't really see that as a reason they deserve to live. Further, within the heinous set there is a subset who really can't be salvaged. They commit outrageously calloused acts against other people because their souls are dead. They are almost invariably themselves the victims of horrific childhood experiences that killed their souls, but nevertheless -- the souls are dead. Sparing them will do no good for them or society, although I still want to spare them for the sake of MY soul. Therefore, when a clearly guilty person is executed for a heinous crime, I don't lose any sleep over that person's actual death. He probably deserved to die. I lose sleep over the effect on the soul of the state/citizenry that we are able to kill other people for reasons other than self-defense. I find the lamenting of religious people over the defendant's soul or the gnashing of teeth over how terrible it is to put him to death after he found Jesus to be really missing the point. It irritates me that opposition to the death penalty focuses on the "death" party and ignores the killing part. And hey, while I'm on the topic -- do any of the folks who now see George W. Bush as a presidential giant compared to Trump remember W making fun of that woman whose death warrant he signed as governor of Texas? I haven't forgotten that. Glee in killing.

The advent of DNA testing, and the number of convictions thrown out, has confirmed that we've put LOTS of innocent people to death.   There need not be any other argument. 

"He conned people. You need to feel some sympathy for the victims of a con." Well sure if they were the victims of the con, but they aren't. The country is. To sum up: They voted for a bomb-thrower because they thought it might improve THEIR situation, but instead it has worsened everyone's. Do I feel sorry? No. They should scorned especially if their only regret at this point is, "wow my situation hasn't improved" and not "whoa the whole country is worse off now."

Well, okay.  I am perhaps being charitable but I think there are a bunch of people out there who feel stupid.  Some will be feeling stupid for stupid and evil reasons -- HEY, HE HASN'T DEPORTED ALL THE BROWN PEOPLE YET -- and some will feel stupid for good reasons, such as that he lied about everything.   But I think being made to feel stupid is damage.  

The "nuclear option" of changing the rules to prevent fillibusters has been in the news lately, but to me as an Australian that just seems the logical thing to do: it seems ridiculous to me that a democratically elected majority can be prevented from passing legislation just because someone opposed to it refuses to shut up. Here in Australia members of Parliament get a chance to speak about legislation that they're not in favour of, but they don't have unlimited time. I have read that US senators are allowed to speak without time limits, but still, eventually they would have to sleep or use the loo, so why can't the rest of the Senate vote as soon as the filibustering person stops? If the idea is that there is no time left in the current session, I would have thought the logical next step is for whoever is presiding to say "OK, the honourable senator from [wherever] just wasted all our time, so we're all going to have to stay back an extra hour to finish voting." Or whatever. Can you explain why filibusters are a good thing, and not a giant waste of everyone's time (and thus in turn a waste of tax dollars)?

Do we have a parliamentarian who can answer this?  The simple answer is obviously that it has been years since it was necessary to literally filibuster until you pooped your pants.   And the IDEA of the filibuster has some merit: It prevents against utter tyranny of the majority.  It's sort of an internal check and balance, the way The Supreme Court exists to tell the majority in Congress that no, they may have voted to keep Jews in cages, but even though the majority wanted that, and duly voted on it, it's not legal. 

It doesn't entirely make sense that if 51 senators are from one party, and they can stick together, they can do whatever they want.   Especially in this age of blatant, shameless gerrymandering. 

I think bad things are going to result from this most recent invocation of the nuclear option.  Can anyone explain this better than I have? 


Oh, wait.  Here is a column I once wrote on the subject!  It's disgusting! 

The Dave Clark Five. Best Song: Glad All Over.

Pretty sure you are trolling here.  But in case you aren't, no.   I like the double drumbeat before the hook line; it's what makes it a good song.  But the lyrics are asinine, and not in a good simpleton early-rock way.   It was appropriate, perhaps, that it knocked "I Want to Hold Your Hand" -- a similarly dumb ass song -- off the top of the charts.  But the Beatles quickly got better.      Of course, what do I know? 

Also, Sloop John B is a way better song than Hang on Sloopy. 

Trump is now selling raffle tickets for an American flag pin that he wore once. Seriously, he is, I am not kidding: "I have so much respect for the American flag -- and for the many men and women who have made sacrifices in its honor. I make it a point to wear an American flag lapel pin whenever I can. And I’d like to offer the very lapel pin I last wore at a rally in the great state of Tennessee to one lucky supporter. Please contribute $100, $65, $50, $35, $20, or even just $5 to be automatically entered for your chance to win the American flag pin. "

Uh, to whom does the money go? 

I thought the 100 days thing dated back to FDR, not Kennedy.

Hm.  that sounds right.   We were a country in a death spiral.  Those first 100 days were crucial. 

I was in a football game after consuming meatball subs and lots of beer. During the game I let out a smelly one ... and three rows back, one guy punched another in the arm in blame. That provided me free reign throughout the game -- every single time, one of that group of four would loudly accuse one of the other guys of the act, making everyone in smelling distance think it was them. It was heaven. Guilt-free farting!!

What ever happened to blaming the dog?  Does that still go on?  

Murphy once woke me with the olfactory power of her fart. 

The fact that they stayed silent during the election means that you got it right the first time. They are horrible monsters. They do not get to redeem themselves now. Too late.

It is a lot to expect of a lifelong combative conservative to endorse a liberal who they truly do not like or trust. 

I just feel is was morally required. 

I never thought I'd agree with Jennifer Rubin on anything, but she's been consistently bashing Trump for quite some time now. Or am I hallucinating?

She has been.   I meant to have mentioned her.  

I like Rubin.  Disagree with her all the time, but, again, I thinkshe has tacked left.  Trump has that effect.  

Remember this column? 

Creedence Clearwater Revival. Best songs: "Bad Moon Rising" and "Fortunate Son." They also did a creditable cover of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine."

I am a fan.  And of Fogarty solo.   

My mother committed suicide, in the later stages of a long and miserable illness. I finally admitted to myself, a couple of years after her death, that I was grateful to her for not putting us through the bitter, inevitable final weeks.

Sure.  And sorry. 

How is it cheaper?

There have been studies on this.   The legal costs of fighting an execution far exceed the costs of incarceration for 40 years.  Not even close. 

Not to target one commenter, but this drives me bonkers -- do people really need that connection to see the inherent wrong in an act? Such sentiments are expressed all the time -- it could be "my sister, my daughter" -- ugggggh. Perhaps I am especially sensitive to it because I am not a parent and parents often engage in this, yet I hope we all understand that a person doing bad things to children is abhorrent.

I agree with you.  It's particularly virulent when the discussion is about rape, and pols feel the need to note they have daughters, wives, etc. 

I usually don't catch this live and, I don't think I like it. The answers aren't coming fast enough. MUSH WEINGARTEN! MUSH!

This reminds me of the first dirty joke every male has heard.  The one about Johnny F---erfaster. 

Mr. Thiessen, the reason that Trump can claim the extraordinary accomplishment of being the first president in modern history to place a justice on the Supreme Court in his first 100 days is because no other party in modern history had ever blocked a prior nomination from going through for a year because they're unethical stupidheads. That's not an accomplishment. That should be a source of shame.

Also, the line was inartfully written.   It seems he is saying that Trump is the first person in American history to have put Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.  Read it again! 

Personally I blame Jim Morrison. I once dated a woman who held a PhD, in English no less, from the Ohio State University and she used the word "enormity" to mean really really big. After breaking up I found out that Ohio State would not repo her PhD. There are places and institutions in America with no standards.

Yeah, enormity really bugs me.  One reason is that because of decades of misuse, many dics now accept a definition as  bigness."

I live in an apartment building. The only sounds I ever hear from above are when She walks on the floorboards in heels (that's rude by the way, always take your heels off if you live above someone) and when He pees into the toilet. This guy has serious firepower. He could pee a rocket all the way to North Korea.

I envy his prostate.  I whisper. 

If you called me that, I'd likely retort something along the lines of "old fart". If you called my grandmother that, she'd retort something significantly ruder. It's an infantilizing term to use on an adult woman, no matter her age. Now, call either one of us a "broad", and the response would range from "damn straight!" to "you betcha!"

Several women have said something similar.  This is in reference to my sometimes calling women of my age "young lady." 

I have never been reprimanded, and I think I know why, and I ask all you ladies to keep an open mind. 

I am an old man.   I am making a joke about both of us.  I think it is taken in good humor.   I doubt if I ever used that term on a lady significantly older than I am.  I just don't think that, coming from me, it's perceived as patronizing.  Could be rwong. 

I am a professional theater director and choreographer. I never use *girls* or *boys* when addressing a group of adult females or males. It feels trivializing to me, and thus disrespectful. I always use Ladies or Gentlemen. Always. Even when working with children--say, in a production of Annie or Oliver!--I use the terms Young Ladies or Young Gentlemen. This is not the norm, in my experience. Many theater professionals seem to cling to the girls/boys tradition. Producers, designers, other directors and choreographers. Even worse, it's not uncommon for females to be referred to as girls, while males are referred to as men. It makes me crazy.

Okay that last thing is really bad. 

Several actors wrote in to say that "girls" and "boys" thing is true of dance, for some reason, but not other theater. 

Agree with update contributor -- when I was a busboy at a pancake house, the women's bathroom was always far worse. Biggest difference was (unused) toilet paper and feminine hygiene wrappings strewn on the floor. I have no explanation for this!

I don't even like to hear it. 

As a writer, I find it amazing that a quarter of all responses (at current time) say they'd want to be a writer if they had it all to do over again. Not sure why it's such an alluring field. Obviously I've been interested in it, but others? I think this mostly is revealing that most people just wish they could write better.

Writing is agony for me.  I wouldn't do it again, in a second career.   With the stipulation that you'd be talented at whatever you chose, I'd choose athlete.   Second base, New York Yankees.  I'd settle for a utility role.    $900 k a year for 13 years.   THEN maybe I'd be a writer. 

I had no trouble answering the poll questions until I got to the last one and realized that I didn't like my honest answer, which is that I wish I had more effortless control over my weight. I am satisfied with my level of ambition -- I'm as professionally successful as I want to be, at least now in middle age. I am moderately athletic, and competitive at my chosen sport, so people choose to play with me. I'm a reasonably skilled musician, enough so that I can entertain my own party guests. I can't draw to save my life, but I don't really care enough to want to spend a magical wish on that. No, the one area of my life that has never felt good is my weight, and that continues to be true today even though I am no longer overweight because I was for my entire childhood and young adulthood. I feel bad admitting this, not because it's true but because I feel it shouldn't be as important as those other things. My health is good (and it was even when I was heavier, because I was always active) so who cares? I guess I never got over the fat slurs of my youth. <sob> Please cheer me up.

I think "weight" is a reasonable answer.   For many people it affects all the rest of the categories! 

I said music.   I love music but am spectacularly unskilled and untalented.   I play one instrument, the harmonica, but without any soul or creativity.   I basically play it like some old fool picking out "Oh Suzanna."

I can see myself dying because of a decision I make -- not trying but not trying, so to speak. I don't think I'm likely to develop anything that would make me want to cut my life short, but I can see myself not trying to postpone the end; I could well stop treatment for something just because even if it went away, something else would be waiting behind to kill me in a few more miserable months. Does that make sense? And that's not dying by suicide, right?

I know exactly what you mean.  My good friend Howard Simons got pancreatic cancer in 1989.   He made a very clear and simple decision: only palliative treatment.  Don't let me physically suffer, but don't take any steps to otherwise prolong this nightmare, for me or my family.    He was 60.  I think he made the right choice. 

Because this is an anonymous forum, gonna tell you something I've never told anyone before. There is a better than 80% chance my cause of death will be suicide. Don't worry- it won't be in this calendar year. But I know when and why it will be. I firmly believe that assisted suicide should be legal and available, and for more than just people in end-stage terrible diseases (see: ALS). For those who are parents of kids/teens, I think it's an irresponsible choice, but otherwise understand and empathize with anyone who makes that decision.

Yes, obviously we agree.    

I also think it's not necessarily irresponsible for those with parents of kids; the circumstances might make it preferable, with the right exit strategy.  

I don't mean to make light of this at all.   It's an enormous responsibility to think of others; they are left with the fact of what you did, with all attendant emotions.  One of those emotions should not be guilt.   You have to make sure that doesn't happen. 


I remember a young man, a professional athlete, who did some very stupid things and was accused of (but not arrested for) sexual misconduct. He became a born again Christian, married, fathered three children, became involved in charities, especially one he is very active in, and is not only respected but LOVED in his community. My husband & I love him, and we no longer live in his city (but our hearts do). If he can change like this, why can't Trump?

Trump cannot change because in his mind, he has ALWAYS been rewarded for his boorish, stupid, arrogant behavior. 

Sexist much, Gene? Every girl has heard that joke, and told dirty ones, too, believe it or not.

I was speaking only for the group I know. 

Easy to confuse those milestones! While on that subject: I normally find Mad King Donald's multiple shifting versions of his positions on issues infuriating, but somehow he and his courtiers are so inept in their pathetic attempts to justify their "accomplishments" that I just chortle. No one but true believers can possibly take his protestations seriously, can they?

I don't think he ever means anything he says.  He is throwing spaghetti against a wall. 

I hope you don't let this chat deteriorate into random, unsupported declarations about which rock and roll band is the best. Save that for a dedicated chat, please, and get back to your stock in trade, which is digestive excretion.

We have ALWAYS dealt in unsupported claims of which rock band is best!  Back to when Chatwoman ran things and stupidly backed Hang on Sloopy. 

How about Alexandra Petri- she was always writing columns mocking liberals but now she is writing really funny ones about tRump.

Alex is not and has never been a conservative, to my knowledge. 

Went to Art Cullen, editor of a small newspaper in NW Iowa. He wrote a series of editorials about how the local politicos connived with big-time agribusiness to fight a lawsuit that would have made Iowa farmers accountable for their water polluting activities. He runs the paper with his brother, son and wife. You'd love him.

I always love it when a small paper wins.   When I was growing up in the Bronx, the editor of the Riverdale Press - a neighborhood rag -- kept submitting his columns for a Pulitzer.  We laughed and laughed at his ego.  He finally won. 

When I first adopted my cat, he was a little anxious and farty. I can't blame him; he switched homes and food. I was laying down on the couch watching a movie, when he came up for a snuggle. He kneaded his little paws up and down on my chest and settled in for a nap. I was so happy because this was the first time he sought me out for comfort! Alas, I had the tail end of the cat and as he settled in he raised his tail and I was forced to confront.... that. And then it opened slightly. I waited in horror, unwilling to dislodge the trusting cat, and sure enough... SBD.

I firmly believe everyone on Earth has at least one good fart story. 

That is so interesting! I'm a female dancer and it has never crossed my mind that "girls" is disrespectful, and I was shocked to find out a few months ago that people find it horrible. I wonder if that's subconsciously why. At first I thought some people were just being hypersensitive, but I've heard it from so many people now that I've realized I'm the odd one out.

At least it's also "boys." But the whole thing is ridiculous. 

Gene, Of all the issues in the political arena that piss me off, the one that is the worst to me, by far, is the theft of the seat on the Supreme Court by the Repubs. The thing that makes it so bad is that they got away with it, they know they got away with it, and there are unlikely to be any repercussions, ever. Your thoughts?

Well, there were repercussions.  Bad ones.   The nuclear option may come back to haunt the Pubs. 

May RBG live to be 115. 

I thought the first dirty joke everybody heard was Blueberry Hill?

Is it possible I do not KNOW Blueberry Hill? 

The first GOOD dirty joke I heard was the one about the Genie and the Middle East.  It was told to me by my uncle. 

My husband always seems to wait until I'm near him and then farts in my direction. He claims it's just an accident and that he can't control his gas, but I'm convinced something nefarious is going on. Also, our dog lets out terrible, reeking farts that have forced us to roll down the car windows in below-zero weather. Whenever she does it, the only way our lab could look sadder is if she became a basset hound. She looks so pitiful that I can't bring myself to blame her for ones she didn't do.

I love the basset hound line. 

You'll recall his disgust when Hillary took a bathroom break during an early campaign debate, which caused her to return late to the stage? Well, yesterday he did a phoner with astronaut Peggy Whitson, who just broke the US record for days in space (on the ISS), and the topic of her urine being filtered for drinking water came up. It was so worth it to see Trump react.

His disgust threshold is ridiculous.  There is reall something wrong with him. 

The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Never felt it.  Never felt why others felt it. 

I have suffered off and on from depression for years (it is well-managed, so I am not in the dark all the time), am an atheist, have no fear of death, and would probably commit suicide but for, and this is huge, the extreme anguish it would cause my spouse. Even imagining that pain makes me cry. Her love for me and the hell it would put her through keep me from thinking about it.

Well, if you actually think she would rather that you wither away slowly, then that is a consideration.  Again, I am not making fun of this, but might suicide not SPARE her some pain, too?

This really ticks me off. People can turn their lives around without resorting to religious mythology. I did: I've been clean and sober for 47 years, and I've been an atheist the entire time.

Not sure why that statement offends you.  Doesn't offend me.  I don't think the writer was suggesting you need religion to be good. 

I'm female. When I was young, I made lentil soup for the first time and mistakenly pre-soaked the lentils overnight. (NEVER do that!) After I ate a bowl of my soup, I went on a date. It involved a long drive to and from a theatre to watch a long play. It was SO embarrassing. Even worse, I described this humiliating experience to a mutual friend (who turned out to be a jerk) who enjoyed bringing this up and discussing it with my date and then telling me that he had done so. I still cringe. I do still like lentil soup, though.

This is a public service announcement, re lentils. 

I'm the original questioner. Yes, I'm well aware that horrible things have been done to millions of people over thousands of years. I'm also well aware of the failure of criminal justice, the racial disparities in implementation, the complete lack of evidence that capital punishment has any deterrent effect, that fact that many criminals have mental disabilities, the fact that it's typically cheaper to imprison people than to have a death penalty phase of the trial, among other things. So count it as a failure of my moral imagination, but nothing has ever hit me with the same emotional immediacy as this case did - which I (again, intellectually) understand is an argument against making public policy based on personal emotional reactions. Still, I'm halfway to changing my mind on this issue.

Stay the course.  

Your first poll question was essentially my predicament in 2016. Even though I have been a lifelong Cubs fan, I would have let them lose another 100 years rather than have Trump be elected. Even with the World Series win, I will still always look back on 2016 as a disaster. My main disappointment is not with Trump but with the country for voting for him. He told us exactly who he was, and we still elected him.

Yep.   That's well put.   I could quibble, though, about whether Trump lied to us.   He SHOWED us who he was, but his promises were ridiculous.  Even he could not have believed them.    A very simple example is his estimate of the cost of The Wall.  He's a builder.  It's the only thing he actually knows.  He was underestimating by a factor of ten. 

If all 44 presidents were to run for election in 2020, who would win? And who would be considered a conservative, a progressive, an independent?

I doubt people would vote for a dead guy, so probably Obama. By a landslide. 

But you want dead considered.  It would be interesting to know whether Linc would lose the south, wouldn't it??? 

Do you mean to say that, along with a lightly lined face and the barest sprinkle of salt atop my pepper, I should regard the strength of my urine stream as proof that I'm not old?


Polls like this always mystify me. I chose hedge fund manager, which at this point, is the least popular choice. Sure, it might corrode your soul, but you'd be a billionaire before you're 30! You can quit and spend the rest of your life trying to improve the world.


But you wouldn't.  You'd want to keep getting richer. It's an addiction. 

Thought you'd appreciate this - seen on

Many, many many years ago I had a job at a newspaper.   When you called the newspaper library, more times than not it was answered by the least senior staffer, and she answered the phone: "Liberry."   People were too polite to tell her.  

Gene-- I'm not warmed yet by the Dem voices I'm hearing in the NEPOTUS era. The Dems have to find someone who can stand up to a bully, someone not cowed by his schmear, someone with the improbable combination of gravitas and energizing fervor to be seen as a real alternative to the coalition of haters that elected The Current Resident of 1600 Penn. It's Bernie. He wasn't nominated by a lot of mainstream Dems last time because he was too far "out there" to be electable... well, that paradigm has been conclusively blowed up. Amazing how Bernie comes across as mainstream, solid, and electable now. Most importantly, he energized the younger part of the party , which HRC did not. He has the sizzle that any other mainstream Dems lack, or are afraid to embrace because they're too wired to traditional valences of electability. Bernie don't care. He may not even need to re-affiliate as a Dem to get the party embrace (and money). Do you see it? Less nutty than someone like Cuban, less dependence on machine than someone like Warren; less obviously a checkbox entho-candidate than someone like Booker. I leaned HRC because she was qualified in the primary, and didn't think Bernie could punch his weight in a traditional November boxing match. Well, the 2020 election will be a streetfight on the incumbent's turf. On those terms, Bernie can laugh in the face of the incumbent and win.

This won't happen.  He'd be 80 years old when he takes office.  This will bother even people who like him.  

1. How can you possibly assert that women have never seen their own urine stream? Do you know how many times I've had to pee in a cup at the gynecologist? Let alone when pregnant and they make you leave a sample Every. Single. Visit. On a related note, sometimes my stream goes every which way. 2. I'm teaching my boys to pee sitting down. Am I doing the right thing or preparing them for a future of ridicule? 3. Re: the women's toilets being more disgusting than men's. YES!!! Women are so gross! There are far too many "hoverers" who spray the whole darn seat with urine and leave it there for everyone else to deal with. It is super gross and my biggest peeve about women in general. Ugh!!

Hm.   I won't comment on your boys.   it will hurt too much. 

So, I assumed women at the doctors pee with the cup close up, no?   I mean, it is VERY easy for a man to aim.   Not so for women, no?   

This is important.  Am I wrong, ladies?  

In reference to how awful it is to call a woman a "girl" during the last update, my wife and I have talked thoroughly about this, and decided that the real issue here is as a society we stopped using the term "gal". When referring to a female person, the term "woman" just seems so formal and odd sounding. If you were casually talking about a 20-60 year old coworker, you would never say, "this man I work with...", you'd say "this guy at my office did the craziest thing...". Isn't the female version of "guy", "gal"? Why don't people use that term more? Are we wrong to think it is way less offensive than the term "girl"?

I think because men have had all the power, and "gal" can be seen as diminutizing.   

Yes the writer did. It was the first thing mentioned on the athlete's turn-around of his life.

Eh.  Didn't bother me. 

One of the defining characteristics of a sociopath is the inability to learn from mistakes. There is no personal epiphany in the wings here.

Yes, but understand: He defines success by money.  He's been rewarded for his behavior, in his mind, time and again. 

The new book about the Clinton campaign says that her staff was so stumped to think of a compelling message that they seriously thought of offering "Because it's her turn!" Smarter heads prevailed, but "I'm With Her!" really wasn't much better, especially against "Make America Great Again!" Clinton started running for President pretty much the day she and hubby left the White House. But she never explained why, except maybe "I wanna be first!" And it turned out that "I'm not Trump!" wasn't enough. Any thoughts?

Sure.  I think this was the central problem of her campaign.  I think it should have stressed competence, preparedness.  It didn't seem to stress ANYTHING. 

Gene: You seem to think that those who voted for Trump would care one iota about what Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Kathleen Parker, Peggy Noonan, Ross Douthat, David Brooks and others would have to say. Having lived in Mississippi for most of my life I can say with certainty that most have never heard of these columnists and those that may have read them couldn't care less what they have to say.

Could be.  But judging from the publicity Geo Will got for leaving the Republican party, I think the collective reaction to a bunch of super conservatives telling the readers to vote for Clinton might have become a thing.  

Blueberry Hill is the story of Johnny, a boy who's always late to everything -- school, dinner, however many other things you want to stretch out the joke for. Whenever he's asked where he was, he always says "on top of Blueberry Hill." One afternoon, his parents hear a knock on the door. When they answer it, it's a girl they don't know who says, "Hi, I'm Blueberry Hill. Can Johnny come out and play?"

Ah, noted.  Never heard it.  It's about as good as Johnny. 

THANK YOU for calling him out. I cannot believe his fawning. Even Jennifer Rubin said this morning that the GOP majorities in both House and Senate need to be voted out.

I don't love criticizing Post people, and usually avoid it if I can.  I could not. 

I live in Georgia, and thought of a great joke about Trump's response to the election in the 6th (Tom Price's old seat). But I don't have a following on any social media. I would like someone with an audience to give it a megaphone (if you think it's good enough). For those who don't know, Trump touted Karen Handel's 20% finish to Jon Ossoff's 48%, as a "HUGE WIN" because it triggers a run-off, which she *might* win. Anyway, here's the joke: "Trump got so confused by the general election outcome that now he thinks the winner of *ALL* elections is whoever gets the second-most votes."


I have to admit that I am entirely intrigued and entertained by this question, and likely will spend far too much time this afternoon pondering it. I wonder, specifically, how the military men (Washington, Grant, Eisenhower, etc.) would poll.

I am seriously curious about how the South would treat Lincoln.  We'd like to think he'd win in a landslide, and he probably would, but... 

Joe Biden.

He'll also be pretty danged old.   But I definitely believe he would have beaten Trump.  I think his decision not to run was historic.   

Okay, we're done!  See you here next week.  And I keep saying this, and will keep on:  I'm here every week so long as you all keep showing up in the numbers you have. 

In This Chat
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.

Gene's latest columns, chats and more.
Recent Chats
  • Next: