Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Mar 21, 2017

The Fix's Aaron Blake chats with readers in his weekly politics chat series.

A quick scheduling note: I was going to start doing these chats on Friday, but then I realized I'm on vacation this Friday!

So in order to not deprive everyone of their chat, I pull a late switcheroo and am doing this one on Tuesday again.

NEXT WEEK, though we will be moving to Fridays at noon.

That bit of housekeeping out of the way, let's get to it...

Hi, Chris! Got a question for you: how much easier is it going to be at the Post now that you got rid of Aaron's dead weight? I mean, come on, that guy was dragging down the whole operation until you finally fired him!


Nunes' frequent protestations and premature declarations of "there is no evidence" combined with his own close Trump administration ties, make him, already, a non neutral leader of the House investigation. Is anyone paying attention to this?

I've written about his defenses of Trump repeatedly. It does seem notable that the head of the House intel committee was on Trump's transition team. Of course, he's a Republican, so it's not like he's expected to be a totally neutral observer. But it did seem like he had gone further than even many Republicans to excuse certain things.

Are your new drapes ready for Cillizas office?

Yes. Unfortunately he doesn't have an office. But I will put the drapes up around my desk anyway.

Trump is running a full court press on the House members that are reluctant to back the bill but I haven't heard him of him giving the same treatment to the Senators who are not yet on board. Is he waiting until it gets to the Senate or is there something else at play here?

The House is definitely the more immediate concern -- and for good reason. There is no assurance that it'll pass.

But the Senate is looking extremely tough, and you're right that it will be very difficult to pass it with just 52 GOP senators.

I think they are just taking things in the order in which they will be voted on -- first things first, and all that.

Was the first question from Phillip?


How much longer can he take it. I have a vision of him delivering Trump's ridiculous talking points and in the middle, saying what the #%*, I can't take it any more, ripping off his tie, dropping the mike and walking out of the White House.

He's too invested now. I think it has to be hugely frustrating, but he knows that letting anybody see him sweat would just lead to a feeding frenzy.

Do Democrats filibuster, or vote for cloture and vote against him on the floor? Or what? Thanks.

I think there will at least be an attempt at a filibuster. I don't know if they'll have the votes to sustain it though. As I've written before, plenty of Democratic senators have suggested he should get an up-or-down vote -- which suggests they wouldn't back a filibuster.

Much has yet to play out, of course.

He got ousted for his mayo stance, didn't he?

It's one of his worst qualities, certainly. Rumor is he doesn't even like Miracle Whip.

Does the blatantly misleading comments, tweets etc ever come back to hurt this administration? Not just in polls, at what point does the GOP step away and not follow along?

The base will need to grow tired of it before Republicans will. The GOP is worried of running afoul of a base that is still very much behind Trump. They tried to stop him before and failed.

Like when your kid gets pinkeye at the day care? I look at the current administration and there seems to be a very strong strain of untruthiness infecting them.

I think that at some point you do make a decision that you will do whatever it takes to defend your boss, and you commit. People that were unprepared to do that probably wouldn't have gone to work for Trump in the first place.

Gorsuch is really holding his own this morning. Have you been able to watch any of the questioning?

Yeah it seems to be going just fine for him. He's very prepared. It's a lot of "What do you think of this case?" and Gorsuch responding: "I can't weigh in on specific cases."

Is "I'm going to get you" negotiating?

I wasn't sure how to read that quote -- and how it was taken by Rep. Mark Meadows. Did Freedom Caucus members see it as good-humored/joking or threatening?

Gut feeling? Passes house and dies in Senate after failed joint committee?

Ryan's and McCarthy's level of confidence has me wondering if they know something we don't. But based on public comments, I'm still not sure how it passes the House.

At a time like this?

Long overdue.

Trump should go bold here and replace Spicer with Ivanka. She's suave enough to handle everything thrown at her without sweating at all. And it would drive everybody plum nuts, which is a good thing for Trump to do periodically.

Doing that job takes a specific expertise, and I don't think you can go outside the communications field with it. It's hugely demanding even for studied professionals.

Can you pull any strings with Anderson Cooper? Like on the first official panel Anderson makes Chris eat a BLT with mayo?


How long until the President starts to work on bringing the country together, better than anyone in the history of the universe has brought together people. The greatest.

This has always been predicated on the idea that people would eventually come around to Trump, not the other way around. He's still showing no signs of reaching out.

Yesterday Comey said that the leaking of classified information was unusually active in that time frame. What do you think he was trying to say (since he also said that the leaking was highly illegal)?

I think law enforcement is genuinely perturbed by all of the leaking coming out of the government and intelligence community, and it's a legitimate issue.

I also think Trump has basically tried to use it to distract from other very legitimate issues on Russia.

The constant anti-Trump drum beat by the media has become white noise to Trump supporters. In fact, it intensifies their support of Trump (and their mistrust of the media). Shouldn't the media tone it down in order to be seen as impartial and believable?

The media's job is to point out when the White House says implausible and untrue things. There are many things that fit that description right now. Are there moments when perhaps the media goes too far? Sure. But the reason the coverage is seen as negative is often because the subject matter demands skepticism.

Just wanted to say that your writing has been excellent during the last couple of months. Granted, there are way too many incendiary things to write about, but you are doing a great job of covering the waterfront.

Thank you!

"Bringing the country together" means different things to different people. Democrats seem to think that it means they get to have their way. Can you think of any other terms that need defining because of meaning different things to different people (like: "It's not who we are")?

This is 100 percent true. Americans are generally partisans who believe their opinions are the most reasonable and that everyone should coalesce around their own opinions because they are reasonable. 

The idea of "coming together" is far less attractive when it leads to an outcome you don't like. But as a platitude, it's without peril.

Aaron, One of the main reasons the media coverage of Trump is seen as negative is the way in which the coverage is delivered. Journalists may as well be rubbing their palms with glee as they engage one another in going beyond reporting into unprofessional anti-Trump speculation....peppered with snide remarks. Do they ever imagine what viewers are thinking about this behavior?

This is a fair point of view. I do think people see the skeptical coverage and the snide commentary and think, 'This person thinks all Trump supporters are dumb.' But I also think sometimes people who are predisposed to disliking the media might perceive malice that doesn't actually exist. And when the White House makes baseless claims, they should be covered as such.

Hi Aaron -- I seem to remember Trump and his supporters repeatedly saying during the campaign that we couldn't have a sitting president who is under FBI investigation, and yet here we are. Can we expect the Democrats to make more of that? Or are we so through the looking glass with Trump that trying to point out hypocrisy and double standards really has no meaning or impact anyway?

I would expect, yes.

Rachel Maddow is a prime example of how the media overreaches, displaying off putting arrogance as they entertain each other with group think. Did you see Maddow reveal Trump's tax forms (which indicated that not only did he pay taxes, he paid a higher rate than Obama and Sanders)?

To be clear, Maddow is a liberal journalist. If neutral journalists engaged in her level of commentary and suggestion when it comes to things like Russia, we would deserve the abuse we get.

Really appreciate all your writing and coverage. Thank you, and enjoy the time off.

Thanks again! Glad me vacation time has been approved!

Comey said that stories have been leaked to newspapers that are untrue. Does this mean that the newspapers haven't done their due diligence in checking more than one source?

I'm sure it's been true in certain circumstances. But he didn't say which ones. The fact that shoddy reporting based on anonymous sources exists is not news; it's a question of degree.

It's getting there. How much lower than 33% can his approval rating get? At what point does it tip ruby red districts blue and we get a Democratic Congress?

I'm honestly not sure how much lower than 33% he could get. And those 33% will never join with the left, barring a unifying event of some kind.

If you are moving to the Friday morning chat slot (and we will be very pleased if you turn on the chat at the outset), will there be someone designated to take over your Tuesday morning chat time? Thank you!

I am trying to get others to do chats! Let me keep trying...

I have to say that the comments sections of most WaPo articles on Trump are sewers of hatred. The best thing that the Post could do would be to eliminate commenting on most political coverage articles. It would do a lot to improve the paper's image.

I never read the comments -- ever. It's just not a productive conversation.

Isn't it true that those leaks could have also come from the White House, from the faction that wanted Flynn removed?

I have no reason to believe they did, but you can't really rule out anything. There was certainly plenty of anonymous internal sniping from within the Trump campaign.

you should forget to hit the publish button for an hour in honor of Chris.

Haha. How often did Chris do this? (And BTW, it's a thoroughly Chris-sounding thing to do.)

..that Republicans who constantly criticized President Obama for being too soft with Russia are now dismissing the notion that Russia interfered in our election and Trump associates and (who knows?) maybe Trump, himself, to get him elected? Are Republicans now so glad that they have three branches of the governments they don't really care how they got there even if it means a foreign adversary helped them? Also, if Mitt Romney is reading, I would like to apologize to him. He said that Russia is our #1 geopolitical foe. I laughed at the time but he was right.

Point Romney!

Judge Gorsuch is a master of Congressional hearings. It's clear that he will be confirmed. Who do you think will "stand on principle" and vote no?

I think the vast majority of Democrats will vote no. The base just won't abide yes votes after Garland.

The question should be - how often did he not do it?

That bad, huh? Well, I guess you take the good with the bad.

Is there internal sniping in all workplaces.....yours included?

Of course. It's certainly much more prevalent in some campaigns rather than others.

Uh here in the reality based community, if you click on the most liked comments on the Washington Post, they are always exceptionally GREAT.

I didn't even know there was that option! I shall try this.

Democrats have displayed a LOT of hypocrisy re confirming Supreme Court justices. Shouldn't the media cover that more?

Just so you guys know -- when I don't take a question like this, it's because I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to! Please be specific!

How can the Democrats be so indignant about Garland....after what Biden and Schumer said?

I think Biden's recent comments make it more difficult, certainly. There is a recognition that they won't be able to stop him, and they don't want to overplay their hand on this one.

I am a liberal and you are right, Maddow is liberal as well. But even I agree that Maddow went overboard with that tax form leak. There was no there there. That was the most boring hour of my life!

It wasn't handled well. I think that's the consensus.

Say goodbye to the Tuesday chat ... and hello to the Friday chat!

Next chat will be Friday, March 31, at noon. And we'll do it every Friday from then on.

Looking forward to the next time slot. And we'll see you next week!

In This Chat
Aaron Blake
Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes and edits for The Fix. A Minnesota native and graduate of the University of Minnesota, Aaron has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and The Hill newspaper. Aaron lives with his wife, baby son and trusty dog, Mauer, in Northern Virginia.
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