Chatological Humor (July 10)

Jul 10, 2018

You asked for it and you got it. Gene will now be holding weekly mini-chats, where he takes your questions about what's happening in the country -- and anything else you want to discuss.

Take the pre-chat poll! Vote here today.

Greetings.  Very short intro.  

I was discussing Trump with a friend and asked her, seriously, what is the most positive thing she could say about the Donald Trump administration. 

She thought about this for a while, and then said, "That, if things go well,  it might destroy the Republican Party forever." 

So, there's that. 

We start at noon sharp. 

Also, a rather simple but elegant inaptonym submitted by Andy Busch.   Courtney Straight is the organizer for Let's Go Birding Together, an LGBTQ birdwatching group.

You have said that you would consider leaving the U.S. if TheRump is re-elected. Have you actually looked into that? Where would you move, and how would you do it?

Haven't looked into it.  I am not that pessimistic, yet.  But mebbe Mexico?  I like Mexico. 

Does an aptonym have to be published to be valid? I found this memorial bench in the Brookside Gardens rose garden in Wheaton this weekend.

This is indeed very nice. 

Dear Gene - Fifteen years ago, we moved to Canada for my spouse's job (academia). We never thought this was permanent; however, over time and having no success getting jobs back in the US, we realized we likely were not moving back home until after we retire. After two years, we became Permanent Residents (i.e. Green Card holders), which is good for five years. We soon realized the application for citizenship was actually less arduous than applying for Permanent Resident renewal -- so, we became Canadians, and currently are dual citizens. Spouse had no issue becoming Canadian, while I was and remain ambivalent. It was really a decision of convenience, not conviction. Regarding your poll, I believe the country is in crisis - EVERYthing has been even worse than I feared. Every day I see stuff I never would believe could happen in this country. I am wracked with guilt living in Canada, both because I feel ashamed I'm not there to fight (although we still vote in the US), but also because I am relieved I'm here and not there. I can turn off the news and avoid the internet and pretend All is Fine. Until, that is, a friendly Canadian wants to tell me how terrible Trump is, wants my opinion on how Americans can be so stupid, and then remarks how lucky I must feel that I live here, now. Which enrages me, and then I start the guilt spiral again. (really, the next person who calls me lucky will get punched) Until this latest issue with SCOTUS, I actually was telling myself the US hadn't fallen so far that we couldn't recover. Now, I am not so sure. And, now, I am not even confident I will ever move back. This devastates me.

It shouldn't devastate you.  You are voting with your physical lack of presence. 

On the one hand ... 1. There hasn't been a war. 2. Reporters haven't been tossed in jail, and newspapers haven't been shut down. 3. The economy hasn't gone south (yet), which is better than I expected. When it happens I think the administration will be completely lost. 4. Trump has not become popular, scoring win after legislative win, with Democrats defecting. On the other hand ... 1. Congressional Republicans have completely caved in to Trump. Completely. 2. People have quickly adapted to Trump as quasi-normal, and I think his prospects for re-election have improved to at least one in three. 3. He's far less competent and far more corrupt than I imagined possible.

To me, the scariest thing is your second Number 2.   As it were. 

This, right here, is why a lot of us held our noses and voted for Trump. We'll see if his other accomplishments hold up -- but this and the accompanying moves at the circuit level are the most important steps in restoring our constitutional republic. Let the legislature do the legislating.

I see.  

So, like, if Gorsuch and this wild conservative wind up reversing Roe, you won't see that as legislating?

I am not a Chicken Little; I am a guy who has said since the stunning election that our country will find a way to muddle through the presidency of this cretin. We've had morons in the office before, and we will probably have morons in the office again. But it's been worse than I thought. It's dreadful. And the damage that Trump has done will be enduring, unless he departs in the very near future.

My biggest puzzlement -- and I fear the answer -- is how the country doesn't understand, at a deep and disturbing level, that our president is a petulant, ignorant, absurdly egotistical, particularly immature, not very bright 12-year-old boy. 

I'm on Mountain Time and my local supermarket starts serving fried chicken with mashed potatoes at 10 a.m. in their deli. How unhealthy is it to have that for breakfast every morning? I'm planning on it today . . .

It is fine.  The President of the United States endorses it, so how can it be wrong?

How likely is it that a PEZ dispenser can be appointed to the Supreme Court instead of Kavanaugh? I think several of the My Little Pony ones look pretty intelligent.

This is unrelated, and I feel vaguely guilty mentioning it, but one of the funniest images I have ever seen is pony-tail butt plugs.  

Given the many pieces of evidence pointing to a long relationship between President Trump and Vladimir Putin - much of it laid out in a New York magazine article Ilinked in today's Daily 202 - - how can people keep saying there's nothing there? Really at this point I would like to find something funny in this but - sigh - it just gets worse Thanks for your cheerful chats! You are helping keep me sort of sane.

This gets to the center of an issue I have talked about before.  It's troubling, to say the least.  I think the media -- the responsible, mainstream, competent media -- has been reluctant to confront what seems to me to be a pretty apparent truth: Russia delivered this election to Trump. 

I understand why this has happened: We can't prove it, and the possibility is so horrifying that absent proof, it is almost unsayable.   But how much more evidence do we need?  It was a very close election -- Trump actually lost the popular vote by an unprecedented margin for an electoral college winner -- and it was decided by tight races in states Russia specifically targeted.  You know?  

(My topic has nothing to do with my question; I just copied the helpful example from the Post.) Re the poll. I assume you deliberately left out "he's been just as bad as I thought he would be"? I think that's where I would come out, although as I'm writing this, I'm thinking that it's (maybe) more nuanced. It's not that he's as bad as or worse than I thought he would be, it's that he is being ALLOWED to be that bad -- both by Congresspeople and other politicians AND by what I'm afraid is a growing number of Republicans who seem to be going from "he isn't Hillary" to "he's not so bad plus he LOVES white people." As an example, my (white, Republican) sister in law, a mother of four young kids, who likes to pride herself on manners, being proper, raising good kids and the like texted me the other day to comment on some of my facebook posts and to tell me that "the whole anti-Trump obsession is getting old." That scares me.

I tend not to include answers like "he's just as bad as I expected" because too many people would opt for that, and it is arguably logically impossible.  He's either slightly better or slightly worse.  Just as bad is equivalent to the DOW closing at zero up, zero down.  Never happens. 

Gene, Hate when a paper like the Post gets caught using Clickhole or the Onion as a source. Just gives more ammunition to the real enemies.

Have we DONE that?

do you have any? if you don't, would you ever get one? what would you get?

I would never get a tattoo, for the same reason I would never buy a pony-tail butt plug.


Every day there is a new video of white racists calling the police on (or otherwise harassing) people of color. Do you think there is any validity to the theory that some right-wing talk show hosts or racist organizations are stirring these idiots up to go out and assert their "right" to this country and to tell others they're not welcome and they should go home? These people often end up shamed on the internet, lose their jobs, lose clients, etc. Is it just that they are stupid, drunk or mentally ill? Or is it something more calculated?

I think they feel empowered by the current Administration.

I love that Elon Musk tried to save the Thai kids with an impractical solution that wasn't ready in time and the Thai rescuers didn't want anyways, but when they politely declined his assistance, he shipped it over anyways. It's like Mitch Hedberg's joke about receipts. "Here you throw this away."

It reminds me of Alexander Graham Bell trying to save Garfield with a machine to "find the bullet."

Or was it McKinley? 

Garfield, I think. 

Do the questions that senators ask Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing matter at all given that he will effectively answer nothing?


Do you remember when the narrative was that Trump just wanted to be "President Trump" and had no interest in carrying out the duties of president? Remember when he purportedly offered to give John Kasich responsibility for both domestic AND foreign policy, if only Kasich agreed to be Trump's running mate? I thought (perhaps hoped) that the narrative of a passive president was correct. I thought Trump would prove to be a decent negotiator. None of this panned out. Worse, on all of the things I found faulty with the Obama administration, Trump's is worse. He magnified Obama's failings and added more of his own. I don't know how anyone can select anything other than it's worse than imagined.

Well, there's the person a few posts ago who thinks Kavanaugh was a brilliant choice. 

I just expected an incompetent, blathering idiot to assume the White House, but I hadn't considered the fact that he'd surround himself with such petty & pernicious people.


Gene, when Republicans exercised the nuclear option to confirm Neil Gorsuch, you said it would come back to bite them in the ass. Now that they've got the opportunity to confirm another Supreme, do you still hold that opinion?

I do not.  I think this is disaster.  The best hope here now lies, as it so often does, with the girls.  The Republican women.  

I didn't realize he wanted to be a TV President and say whatever got him ratings.

With all due respect, I don't think there was any reason to believe he would read or be normal.  He is pretty much an ignoramus.  

When I hear arguments about abortion, it's often about liberal politicians' support of late-term abortions (they do, but for medical/health reasons) or what-if designer baby questions (liberals support the right to an abortion, so have a hard time answering this conjecture.) I think this leads a lot of people to think about abortion in connection with little babies, and moderates find themselves uncomfortable with the liberal position. In truth, 90%+ of abortions take place before/during the 13th week, and a tiny fraction happen after the 20th week. (I don't have data, but expect those are entirely health-of-mother or fetal abnormality issues.) Elective abortion is already illegal in 43 states after 20 weeks. Anti-abortion activists wish to change the existing law so that the women who take abortion pills or have early abortions will have no legal option to do so. Surveys suggest that's out of step with 70% of Americans. But still abortion is discussed as a 50/50 issue. How do abortion-rights folks emphasize the latter without getting stuck focusing on the "icky" exceptions that anti-abortion activists turn to?

I think you have supplied a template for how.  

It is possible to fight ignorance and misconception.  You do it with reason and logic and facts.  

I think it's been worse than I could have expected and every day it's a new atrocity. But, I also think it's a wake-up call that has shaken the entire country out of its complacency and is going to end up causing a lot of progressive change for the good in the long run. Am I trying too hard to see a silver lining?

I fear you are, though I share your hope, as does the woman I quoted in the intro.  

Last week, Trump falsely tweeted that Obama gave citizenship to 2500 Iranians in the nuclear negotiations in 2015. The Washington Post ran a fact checker article with an appropriate headline: "Trump falsely claims Obama gave citizenship to 2,500 Iranians during nuclear deal talks" ( but at one point it was linked from the Post's front page as 'Did Obama give 2,500 Iranians citizenship during nuclear deal talks?' I think that's irresponsible on the part of the WaPo's editors; if I hadn't read the article I might have thought that Obama perhaps gave 2000 Iranians citizenship, or that it's at least possible. Instead, it's another 4 Pinnochio tweet from Trump. (Meanwhile, in Foxland, there's this: "Obama administration granted citizenship to 2,500 Iranians during nuclear deal: Iran official." Which is a great example of purposefully misleading an audience with a headline.)

"Nats manager Martinez not concerned by recent losses."

A type of headline that happens all the time, and is a 100 percent lie.

It’s not been as awful as I’d feared because I thought there would be a nuclear attack by now. So, you know, severely lowered expectations helped.

Understood.    I have to admit, to my embarrassment, that I thought it vaguely possible he would surround himself with really good people and defer to them.   I misunderstood his idiocy and megalomania and immaturity. 

If by some insane series of events I got elected president, I would hire the best people available, and spend all my days watching TV and/or getting stoned.   Sort of how I became a successful editor.   That's the secret: Hire people like Achenbach and Shroder, who are smarter than you.  

I’d like to hear from those who voted that the Trump presidency has been worse than they feared. How so? I’m shocked every day how despicable he is and how much he lies, but thus far, I he hadn’t achieved much IMO so it is not worse than I thought it would be.

It's worse than I expected, because I didn't expect him to get two Supreme Court picks, or to destroy the lives of children. 

Gene, you often say that you're terrible at small talk. How do you go about establishing rapport when you begin the work for a feature article, especially one about a difficult subject, like kids in hot cars? Doesn't that require some basic conversation before plunging in?

You chose an unrepresentative subject.  That one was relatively easy, if excruciating, because I had almost killed Molly, as a baby, in exactly that way.  It was the perfect way to introduce myself.  It made every conversation instantly deep and emotional and real. 

But in a larger sense, there is a more complicated answer.  I think people tend to gravitate to occupations (some people, anyway, and particularly journalists) that force them to overcome their dysfunctions.  I am painfully shy. I am, as you say, awful at small talk.  I hate parties, and mingling.  So I wound up in a profession that forces me to mingle, inquire, bull my way into situations.  It's terrible, but it also helps you confront your weaknesses, and overcome them.

I'm still painfully shy.  I still hate parties.  But I cope, professionally.  

Who suggested we all acknowledge Trump people are right about some things, such as free trade not working for everyone, and it would help heal America or get Trump people to vote Democratic, or something. The problem is that Democrats do admit free trade doesn't work for everyone, and Democrats come up with solutions that would be difficult and/or not better for 100% of everyone. Trump proposes magical thinking, and when that doesn't work, he yells at/punishes minorities. Trump people love him to bits, whether they realize all he ever does is yell at minorities or not. Are Trump people wrong about everything? Maybe not, but they certainly put all their hopes in a man with zero solutions. Everyone who knows anything about, say, immigration, or MS-13, say what he says and wants to do are useless and unworkable and wrong. People who claim to care about immigration just want him to yell at the brown people and screw up their lives. I can't even imagine what a compromise with that looks like.

Honestly?  There are things that defy compromise.  They approach appeasement.   Though I wish to avoid a Godwin's Law scenario. 

Great, now we're sending them our best people.

I'm not one of our best people!  I am a tired old hack.  They deserve me. 

Hitler didn’t start out as Hitler. Just saying.

You know what?  

Hitler DID start out as Hitler.  He made his plans abundantly clear, as early as the publication of Mein Kampf in 1925. 

Okay, he wasn't yet Hitler here. 

The poll had basically three choices: what I hoped for, not as bad as I feared, and worse than I feared. It did not have an option for, as bad as I expected. I chose worse than I feared, but nothing really surprises me.

Again, I would argue he is worse than we could have imagined.  There are unimaginable things that have happened.  I could not imagine -- seriously -- separating children from their mothers, then losing track of them, for the crime of being brown. 

Do you really think your life would/could be better in a violence-riddled Third World country than the U.S.? I might have expected you to say Canada, the UK, France etc. But Mexico? (And you really should look into it. It's not easy.)

I like a little excitement, and speaking Spanish. 

this isnt to you but to the chatter who is pleased with Trumps judicial appointments. Was it worth destroying the country's international alliances? was it worth having a president who goes on about..of all things.Elton John at a rally? was it worth embarrassing all fo us in front of the world when he tosses candies at th eladr of one of our major allies at a nato conference, and then turns around and kisses the butt of a dictator?

To be fair, I think the answer would be yes.   Even conservatives who dislike Trump have to love the violence he has done to the Supreme Court. 

I am seriously trying to be fair to them.  If Obama had been a terrible president in all these ways, but skewed the court to the left for the next 25 years, I might say it was worth it. 

his pardon today of the ranchers who were convicted of arson on public lands enrages me more than most of what he's done. Its an attack on the idea of the commons, that certain things belong to all of us. And of course, it would never had happened if the ranchers were latino or black.

As the parent of a petulant, ignorant, absurdly egotistical, particularly immature, not very bright 15-year-old boy (who was twelve when this all began), I feel a little bit bad for him (the boy, not the president). There is far more urgency in breaking him of his petulance, immaturity, lack of brightness, etc. than there might have been had this dolt not been elected president.


I know that comparing Trump (or anyone) to Nazis is pretty extreme, but I just returned from spending 5 days as a tourist in Berlin, Germany. Of course, there are many museums and memorials related to WWII. One exhibit, called the Topologie of Terror, described in chronological detail how Hitler slowly took over, shut down the opposition, and ramped up his campaign against the Jews. Here, we see an intensifying campaign against immigrants (both legal and illegal, asylum seekers, refugees), being called animals, thugs, rapists, gang members. I am very, very scared.


I think what you're asking is that if the SCOTUS confirms the 10th Amendment reserving those rights to the states which are not expressly granted to the federal government, I won't see that as legislating. If that's what you're asking, then yes, that's not legislating. Abortion won't be illegal throughout the land with this court; it will be a state issue and you and yours will be free to kill babies at will in the states where you and yours tend to live.



It was McKinley and it failed because he was lying on a bed that had metal springs that interfered with the x-rays. He basically died from the blood loss and from the doctors continuing to stick their hands up the bullet hole looking for the bullet- which cause an infection and then gangrene.

Ah, thank you.  

The thing that infuriates me the most is that if IT hires someone who turns out to be competent, rational, and understands how the world REALLY works (re: Tillerson), IT will fire them and get another petty, small-minded sycophant in their place. These people don't have the first idea how our government actually works and they shout over those who do. The one who scares me the most is Andrew Wheeler at EPA. Pruitt was an idiot and everyone could see him for what he was. Wheeler is smart and knows how to work the system. My fears for the environment have escalated exponentially.

Snidely.  Whiplash.  Administration. 

You and I both know that the Post and the rest of the left would have been protesting the PEZ dispenser just because this president appointed it.

This is a good point. 

I'm a Democrat but please stop bringing up the popular vote. It just makes you look dumb. If the election would have been decided by the popular vote winner, the Republicans would have had a massive get out the vote campaign in California. They would never have won California, but they would have lost it by much less.

Unfair.  I have never protested that this election was illigitimate because of the popular vote.  I have, at great risk, argued in favor of the electoral college system.  I still believe that, and debate it all the time. 

Have you read the story about Trump aides who are being criticized while they're out in DC? Stephen Miller got carry-out sushi and the bartender gave him the bird after he left the store. Hard to feel sorry for a guy who ran for high school government with gems like this: "Am I the only one who is sick and tired of being told to pick up my trash when we have plenty of janitors who are paid to do it for us?!" It's the price of his behavior, right?

I am conflicted on this.   

I believe in civility.   But I really detest these people.  I have not found a clear middle ground. 

If you like speaking Spanish, I highly recommend Barcelona. And you have the whole Catalonian independence thing to keep you entertained politically.

That would be choice number two. 

Madrid is one of the coolest cities I've ever visited.  And everyone tells me Barcelona is even cooler. 

It seems obvious that your job gives you cover. You might not make idle chatter to a stranger at a party, but you can walk up to anybody in the world and say "I'm Gene W. from the Washington Post. What's going on here?" It's no different from a shy, timid actor playing an action hero: You adopt the role.

That is exactly correct.  

Very early in my so-called career, I once asked the Lieutenant Governor of NY state if she was a lesbian.  I cannot tell you how hard that was to do.  But I did it.  BECAUSE I WAS A REPORTER. 

It was certainly Garfield.

let's nail this down, people! 

I'd like to think that's the way to promote being pro-choice on abortion, but I don't really think it is. My favorite part of the horrible Borat movie was when he tried to say something to a guy on a sidewalk in NY who immediately started angrily yelling at him. That person was the most effective person in the whole movie at shutting Borat down. I think maybe tons and tons of women need to angrily yell at all men to get out of our faces and make it abundantly clear that we have the final choice regarding what happens with out bodies.

Yep, I can see this argument. 

Trump inexplicably pardoned Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion who was convicted of a crime for dating white women. I'm still not sure how it happened, unless Trump thought it was a different Jack Johnson.

He thought it was Andrew Johnson, who liked slavery. 

You keep saying the women will save us, but the majority of white women apparently voted for him. Who are these women and are they now sobering up to reality? Are they changing their minds or digging in? I am a white women who has hated him from the start, and can't believe the country I have to wake up to every morning (usually at 4:11am in abject despair). I'm honestly afraid to look at the paper each day.

I think it will be very hard for any GOP female to vote for Kavanaugh. 

Any issue requiring a backbone from Susan Collins is doomed to failure. She loves to be seen as a great centrist stateswoman but consistently caves whenever the stakes are real. See also: Snowe, Olympia. Don't have a good enough bead on Markowski to form an opinion.

I am perhaps a horrible naive person, but I think Kavanaugh is going to have a rough ride.  There is something creepy about him. 

I can imagine a withering series of questions from a democratic senator about his memo urging Ken Starr to ask Clinton about the location of his ejaculations.   We all know about this, right? 

Trump is much worse that I expected. He brings new horrors every single day. However, I think that Hillary’s presidency would have been a disaster. The Repubes would have taken all the hatred and energy they used to stimey and thwart Obama would have been thrown at her by a geometric level. She wouldn’t have gutted science, the environment, healthcare, or torture babies. But ALL of her time would be spent defending herself from all the specious spew the Right and their minions could fling. I believe that we would already be in impeachment hearings. And I don’t think she would be able to win a second term, opening the way for a a smart Repube and they would have cemented their majority in both houses for generations based on the hatred of Hillary. She would have been able to nominate respectable justices, but they wouldn’t have been able to make it through Congress.

I like "Repube."   Which google keeps trying to change to "repute."

"violence-riddled Third World country." Ugh. Y'all, Mexico is fantastic. Would you consider the entire US a violence-riddled nation just by some news reports out of Detroit and what Trump says about Baltimore? Consider never getting caught in an ice storm again, reasonable medical costs, paying $600/mo in rent for an opulent penthouse, and incredible restaurants at $5/meal. Sure beats retiring to The Pines At Vanilla Towne Commone down in Florida somewhere.

yeah, agreed.  Some of my favorite vacations have been in the Yucatan. 

No! It was Garflled

Right.  I guess we have established this.  

His reasons are obvious, once you consider Trump through the lens of Trump. Pardoning Jack Johnson got him positive press and it cost him nothing. Period, end of discussion. That's his reasoning. He "won" against the news media, and let's not forget that what he really cares about is "winning".

I agree.   See, he LIKES black people!   Just DEAD black people. 

If an administration official is going to say bigoted things, or propagate or defend bigoted acts, he or she has lost the right to be treated with civility in public spaces and should be subject to verbal challenge. What is going on now is different than having a good-faith disagreement on, like, tax policy. These people need to know that not everyone believes that what they are doing is normal or acceptable. I think that the woman's confrontation of Pruitt at Teaism was particularly thoughtful and well done - better than just calling names.

This is a reasonable argument, but so is the one that follows. 

We seem to be lowering the bar for acceptable political behavior more and more, claiming that circumstances are particularly bad right now. Assuming that a Democrat wins in 2020 and begins immediately undoing everything done under this Republican administration, how can we reasonably claim that Democratic administration figures shouldn't be subject to the same level of vitriol? You can't argue on the basis of the policies they're pursuing, which Republicans would likely see as proactively evil. Are we doomed to a downward spiral into regular political violence?

As I said, I am conflicted. 

Recently, with a coworker, I was discussing how my brother is a conservative and voted for Trump. This led another coworker (supervisor, sort of) to state that she had voted for Trump. I was shocked. She said she picked the lesser of two evils. Blah blah blah. We didn't talk about it more because we are coworkers, not friends. Later, I remembered her stating a few years ago that if she got pregnant with a third child she'd have an abortion. I guess she never considered how Trump's SCOTUS picks might curtail such freedoms. How do you feel when someone you like voted for Trump? How does your opinion of them change? Does it?

This is my last answer here.  Gonna end the chat a little early. 

I know exactly one person who voted for Trump, and yes, I understand this puts me waay out of the loop. 

This is a guy who I pay significant money to to do a service for me.  He is highly competent and intelligent.  We recently discussed it.   He thinks Trump is a silly buffoon, and hates the tweets and whatnot,  but that his financial policies are going to save this country and usher in a new era of American supremacy, basically. 

I have tremendous problems with this attitude, but I do understand it.   

Next week.  Thanks. 

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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.

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