Chatological Humor with Gene Weingarten

Jun 30, 2020

You asked for it and you got it. Gene holds weekly mini-chats every Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET, where he takes your questions about what's happening in the country — and anything else you want to discuss.

Here is this week's poll.

Good afternoon.

Betsy Rothstein died on Sunday.   She was, for a time, the editor of FishbowlDC, which was, under her leadership, a scurrilous, kind of disreputable website.  It covered the Washington journalists with the sort of snark some Washington journalists covered other people.  Washington journos  by and large disliked her, understandably if not entirely justifiably.  She could be vicious.  She got some things wrong.  She was promiscuously unfair.  She defined as stories some things no one else would: petty, jaundiced, inexplicably snide takes on the private lives of people whose only real sin was being part of the petty, jaundiced opinionated world of D.C. politics.   Betsy basically held up a mirror to her subjects.   They didn't appreciate it much.  

One of her frequent punching bags was ... me.   FishbowlDC considered me a doddering old hack.  Her news site once illustrated me with a photo of a dog's anus.   I struck back, good-naturedly, I think, in this piece about a lawsuit against Betsy and her paper by an understandably aggrieved publicist whom they had spectacularly, outrageously defamed.  (It was eventually settled for a substantial amount of cash.)

Here's the thing about Betsy: She was the epitome of what is a vicious and unjustified stereotype of journalists -- she was an ACTUAL purveyor of Fake News.  She did it jubilantly, and I think she knew exactly what she was doing.  Stereotypes are effective, and upsetting, and sometimes funny, because they tend to hint at truths, or partial truths, or perceived truths.  And journalists can be a prickly, self-absorbed, bunch of people.  She got under a lot of very thin skins.  One profile of Betsy included a quote from a well-known online journalist, describing her as "the platonic ideal of a complete f---ing moron."  

Betsy wasn't.  Betsy had a plan, and she carried it out splendidly and fearlessly.  She was a happy, irrepressible bomb thrower in a dangerous arena of combat, one where you are bound to make enemies who can, and will, hit back, with excellent spelling and syntax and adroit use of withering rhetorical devices. 

I never met Betsy, except in print.  But I admired her for her pluck and the fact that she simply didn't give a crap about what people thought of her.   I don't think she took herself too seriously, which is a trait too often lacking in the people who practice my craft.  

Yeah, I will actually miss her. 

--

My Sunday column about the poetry of the pandemic got the usual extreme reactions, pro and con, whenever I write poetry.  Some people hate it. 

Here's some more: 

I had also intended to include some timely pandemic rhyme in a Sunday Barney & Clyde, but the six-week lead time and other things worked against us, so we had to spike it.  But with the internet, nothing is ever truly spiked!  For example, there is Chatological Humor.  

Here then the Sunday you never saw.  Cynthia is at her drawing board, and is illustrating a song.  The song is a parody of Johnny Horton's #1 hit from 1959, "The Battle of New Orleans."

In twenty-twenty we all went with the Dope
All the way across the street and down the slippery slope.
We took some clubs and pepper balls and canisters of gas 
And caught them damn old hippies, and then we whupped their a--.    
We fired flashbangs and the people kept a'comin',
We fired once more and they began to run. 
So why the heck by nightfall was we the ones in trouble,
And settin' up a White House wall, just like In Mexico?
 
In the corner, Barney is looking over Cynthia's shoulder saying, "A little extreme, no?  And she answers: "A little too mild, I think." 
--
One last thing: I wonder if a lot of businesses big and small might be persuaded to give their employees Election Day off.   In anticipation of high jinks to disenfranchise voters through long lines, etc. 
Take the poll.  We start at noon sharp.  

A friend has a particularly dark sense of humor, which I love. On a particularly difficult day recently, he said, "I miss 9/11." I'm embarrassed to say how hard and long I laughed at this (though I haven't had a decent laugh in weeks and sometimes the body just takes over to give you the release). Is it funny or does it go too far?

Tragedy plus time.   The humor formula is unyielding, a harsh mistress.  The joke is not funny but will be on Sept. 12, 2021.    Which won't be a problem, because the plague will still be among us.  

I'm really disturbed by the Toles party article. When did it become unacceptable for a person to make a mistake? Aren't we all human? We naturally err once in awhile.

I've been working from home since lockdown. During a Skype meeting a few weeks ago, a meeting attendee used the phrase "n* in the woodpile". I was horrified. For context, I'm white. Everyone in the meeting was white. I'm female, and was the only female in the meeting (I'm often the only female in meetings).

My options: 1. Say nothing. 2. Email the person privately, immediately, and call it out. 3. Call it out publicly in the meeting. 4. Report the person to HR. Are there any other options?

I chose option 2, and have wondered if I should have chosen option 3. But I had only met this person once before and I don't think public humiliation usually serves a good purpose. Based on the Toles story, certain people would have reported this incident to HR (which didn't enter my head at the time). Don't misunderstand me, if this was repeated offensive statements, of course they should be at risk of losing their job. But can't a person have one slip-up? He apologized profusely and said he regretted it in his email reply to me, if that matters. And I've not heard anything like it again.

Protocols have changed, and I am no longer sure of my judgment.  I respect your decision -- I don't like public shaming, either -- but he sort of shamed himself, and put everyone else at that meeting in an awkward position, jeopardizing them for staying silent.  I do think somebody needed to say something, since this was a public utterance, and if no one else did, it probably should have been you. 

I was feeling more sympathetic and empathetic to your choice until I remembered this actually happened to me almost 30 years ago.   I was a mid-level editor.  A writer came up to me in the newsroom and told a racist joke.  Others could hear.   I basically feel sympathy for people who tell edgy jokes, if there is a genuine effort to entertain, but this was public and I reprimanded him -- something I was constitutionally uncomfortable doing.   I'm glad I did.   Someone else had complained to management, and I was complimented for doing what I did. 

As much as it pains me to admit, I do think the media has been biased against Donald. It's understandable and I am intensely biased against him myself so I tend to believe almost everything I'm reading (that is negative). However, my brother is pro-Trump (as opposed to just being a Republican) largely because he feels the media has been 100% unfair to him. My brother feels he's been put in the position where he constantly has to defend Trump. As such, he has become unreachable to the rest of our family; we cannot discuss politics in any form. Knowing my brother, I do not think he is a hateful, racist person like Trump. But, he has certainly been turned off by mainstream media and thus will not heed any of the warnings that may come from it.

Yeah, this is why I did the poll.  And the responses show something interesting.   The audience here is, by and large, left of center, and people dislike Trump and are inclined to say he is not being treated unfairly.  Yet, some qualify that, and, when asked what charges MIGHT be leveled against the media, they are willing to be specific.   

In short, I think this is (to use a mealy double negative) not exactly a non-issue. 

For the record, I disagree.  I think the media are in a nearly impossible situation with this guy, and no response is perfect.  I DO think the protocols need to be different, somehow.  In the past, a certain deference was given to official pronouncements, explanations, etc.   The default position was to believe them, or present them as though we believed them, because, you know, most administrations found some value -- strategic or genuine, or a combination thereof -- in being thought of as truth-tellers.  When we DID uncover a big institutional lie, it was a huge deal, and we MADE it a huge deal.  (Vietnam, Watergate, church abuses, etc.)

This is an entirely different theater.  This administration congenitally lies.  

Isn't it ? I find him a thoughtful and intelligent man, maybe even the smartest guy at the Post. But you know what ? Screw him.

You are refeerring to my friend, in the poll, who thinks Trump is beieng manhandled by the media.  You're ready to screw Von Drehle based on an assumption it is him???  

If it WERE Von Drehle, I would simply not publish your post.  But it's not Von Drehle.   My guy is not a pundit.  Just a friend with whom I work sometimes in a professional capacity.  Smart guy, not hateful, no zealot, not even particularly political.  He's expressing a gut reaction.   And I do think, based on the poll results, there are others like him. 

Hi Gene, For years now, I've been a regular reader of both yours and Heather Armstrong's, so I was intrigued a while back when I'd occasionally see you reach out to (ha!) her on Twitter.

A few days ago, I finally made it to the top of my library's waitlist for One Day, which has explained that mystery for me. After reading your chapter about Heather, I wondered how you had learned of her story - I speculated that she must have written about it on her blog, so I navigated her archives to December 2013, and voila! The story about Leta.

However, one new mystery has arisen. In the book, you say that Leta's game occurred on Friday, December 28, 2013, "twenty-seven years to the day" after Heather saved the princess. But Heather's blog post says it was Friday the 27th.

Ah, I thought, no doubt Heather had mistyped the date, and Gene's meticulous research is correct! Perhaps, even, one of Gene's shout-outs to Heather in Twitter was to tell her gently that she must have had the date wrong, and did she think Leta's game happened on Thursday the 27th, or Friday the 28th?

Nope - you wrote that Leta's game took place on Friday the 28th, but the 28th was a Saturday that year, and Friday was the 27th. The incongruity seems to be yours, not Heather's.

So what gives? Is that an error on your part, or did you choose poetic license because "exactly 27 years" sounds better than "almost exactly"?

Thanks,

A devoted but nit-picky fan

Given my astoundingly poor memory, this is a minor miracle: I can answer both your questions. 

Yes, I found out about Heather's connection to the Date simply by finding it through a general google search of the date.   As to putting the line about the "precise 27 years to the day," no, I would not have fudged facts to allow for a more dramatic line in the chapter.   But I did WANT that to be the date, so, with wretched hope, I checked the date against a 2013 calendar, and discovered, to my delight, that the 28th of that week was, indeed, a Friday.  Heather (and you) seemed to have gotten it slightly wrong.  So (as I faintly recall)  I phoned  Heather and asked her which she was more sure of -- the date or day of the week.  She said the day of the week.  Voila.  

Anyway, here is the 2013 calendar.   If I am misunderstanding, or misremembering, and am  still in error in your opinion, yell.  I'm sure it will not prove to be the only mistake in the book. 

Hasn't quite gotten over that they reported on Trump's racism and sexism and lying and fraud and terrible ideas and he got elected anyway. Do enough people not care? Do enough people not believe anything in a newspaper, really?

This is a mystery I do not understand.  We OUTED him before the election.  Everyone knew exactly what they were going to get.   

I think journalists have gotten to hung up on the idea that fair and equal are the same thing in writing about this lousy President.

Yes, subjects in straight news stories should be treated fairly but the obsessive need to say that both sides are equally at fault (in seemingly any situation) has granted Trump far, far too much leeway for his abhorrent behavior, starting with the campaign in 2016.

BTW, the NY Times has provided many of the most egregious examples of this both-siderism or what-aboutism or whatever tag you want to give it, but there are other MSM outlets that have stepped into this mire as well. I think Trump has benefited greatly from the media's failure to treat the public fairly by calling him out more often.

I have been writing about both-siderism for, literally, 40 years.  It's nothing new.  I  labeled it the "On the other hand, Mr. Hitler condends..." phenomenon.  

The mormon temple off the beltway is going to be open for tours because renovations are finished. Please go on a tour. And write a column about it. That would be amazing. I am sure you can find humor there.

Challenge accepted.  

True story: my dad was in an accident at that left him comatose and brain dead with a near 100% chance of death (we planned to pull the plug after a few weeks if he didn't die on his own, per his wishes). My sister and I (both young adults) rushed to his hospital room from out of state, obviously crushed. When we weren't at his bedside we were sorting out his apartment. It was late October and we discovered my dad had, with uncharacteristic promptness, filled out and signed his absentee ballot but not yet mailed it. We did some quick Googling and discovered that absentee ballots sent by voters who died between submitting them and election day would still have their votes counted. We immediately posted the ballot. Dad died four days later. But the governorship flipped from red to blue and he was a vote in that wave. Now I always vote absentee and turn my ballot around ASAP. I'm sure GOPers would label our actions voter fraud, but then they would say that a brain dead person is still alive, so.

That was some nice judo at the end there. 

I appreciate the idea behind making election day a holiday, but I worry that it will mostly only benefit white-collar workers who are more likely to get paid holidays than service workers at restaurants, stores, etc which wouldn't close. I'd rather see election day move to a Saturday, with long early voting periods and mail voting open to all indefinitely.

You will never get that Saturday idea enacted so long as Republicans are in control of anything.   They are opposed to anything that increases the likelihood of more people voting.  Witness D.C. statehood. 

When a high percentage or even a majority of the public believes something untrue, what do you do? Racism and homophobia are good go-to examples. Like if 55% of Americans believe there is no such thing as systemic racism, and one such person is reporting on BLM demonstrations as if the protestors are deeply confused and mistaken, is that fair? Yet the media got dinged for not including context in protests about lockdowns and maskwearing that the protestors were deeply confused and mistaken. Some things cannot be proven--like that people of every skin color are worthy of respect--but are also correct. Newsrooms tend to move a little faster than the public at large on civil rights issues, but it's uncomfortable to quash opinions that large segments of the public have.

You have to be ready to make that call.  To the best of my memory, long before the U.S. legalized same-sex marriage, the Wapo and other newspapers simply refused to deal with it as an "issue" worthy of debate.  An op-ed arguing that gay people do not deserve the same legal rights as straight people simply would not have been published. 

Are you ok with throwing short jokes into the mix?

Someone on Twitter labeled them "Bonnie and Clod." 

I don't think that anything could deride them more than those ridiculous photos.  I also think they should be prosecuted, if anyone can find a specific statute.  "Menacing" is a crime, no? 

I walk my little dog off leash, early in the morning, in the quiet side streets of our medium-sized city. She stays with me, never runs off, or harasses people or other animals. If we happen across a group, or can't avoid someone, I'll leash her (it is the law here, yes). We just both enjoy our long walks more, untethered. Are you OK with this? I am, of course, a meticulous poop-picker-upper.

I am, but I think I am in the minority. 

There are people who are terrified of dogs, and the mere sight of one unleashed fills them with anxiety. 

Mostly no I don't think they're being unfair, but I also don't think they're guilty of any of the options in question 2. I think they're guilty of finding the least flattering photos of him possible, mid-syllable with his lips stuck out like an orangutan, to publish with the articles they do post.

He is not a good looking man, and he has bad mannerisms.  I love the according thing.  

a funny guy who wasn't afraid to use his own aging for laughs. A few months ago saw a piece about how he and Mel Brooks would watch shows together over Zoom, kvetching while socially distancing. Friendships like that are irreplaceable. May we all be as blessed.

Agreed.   I expect to be watching stuff with Dave Barry when he is 97 and I am 94, ahem.  Neither of us will have any idea what is going on, where we are, who we are, etc. 

Hygie, NE, I hope you and/or your producers have kept a database of the aptonyms and inaptonyms with all the footnote-type data. Surely an intern or volunteer retiree who needs a hobby is on the job already. No?

Sadly, no.   Had I done so I'd probably have been able to make millions on a short, irresponsible impulse-purchase-at-the-cash-register book. 

We have proof that Trump is a ridiculous liar - like, beyond what I could ever imagine. I just don't think the media can or should give him the ability to make outrageous and obviously wrong statements without room to note when he's lied. So, stop airing his speeches live.

That's one solution.   It's not a bad one.   Don't refuse to air it, just refuse to run it without taking the time to fact check.  Of course that is a hostile act, and he will respond in a hostile fashion, perhaps banning the news orgs from future media events.   Nothing is perfect here. 

I answered your poll question "Do you think, in general, that newsroom protocols for covering this president should be different from the rules for any previous president?" as No, because I don't think this president should be held to better or worse standards than any other president. (I think he would fare worse as any/most previous presidents, but I think the same rules should apply.) After I responded, though, I realized that I have no idea what the newsroom protocols for a president are, and how they might be different now, and what that means. Could you give a primer on what you meant by that question?

Previous presidents generally got the benefit of the doubt that what they were saying were at least rooted in truth.   This one deserves no such benefit of the doubt, and gets none except on Fox and Friends or Hannity.  

I am sick unto death of the whole "if we have opinion A, we must put opinion B right beside it in the same font and give it the same amount of space." It was stupid when it was evolution vs religion, it was terrifying when it was vaccines vs scientifically illiterate hysterics, and now false equivalence nonsense is killing us all. No, we do not need delusional fascist fantasies given the same prominence/platform as genuine, informed expertise.

Indeed. 

Hi Gene! Our book club will be meeting in person tonight and One Day was the book we selected. We’ve been doing virtual since March, but folks have agreed to sit 6’ apart in my yard so we can all chat in person again. What questions come up most when you’ve been doing book tour things? Thanks!

Send this question to gene.weingarten(at)washpost.com   I will give you a thoughtful answer. 

Apparently beavers in Siberia are creating many new lakes which in turn contribute to melting the permafrost, releasing methane and making climate change worse. News headline: "Beavers are making things warmer and wetter in the arctic." Do you have a comment?

I do not. 

My take: most of the actual reporting isn't biased, but jeebus the clickbaity online headlines are hideous, especially at the Post. Too many florid, inflammatory adjectives. Too many teasers in place of actual description. Just yucky. I know these headlines are written by the revenue maximizers on the digital side, but it's time for Postie journos to rise up, 'cause this stuff is embarrassing y'all.

I have not noticed rampant hype in the headlines.   I have noticed, and am peeved at, how boring and uncreative and unpunny and just plain dull the headlines are.  SEO requirements militate against cleverness, apparently. 

Gene, You missed the most important aspect of media 'unfairness' to 45. The media amplifies ridiculous, insignificant distractions (e.g. hand size, covefe, skin bronzer, comb-overs, first lady non-hand holding, looking at the eclipse, ramp-and-water glass gate, etc.) that make him look bad but which have nothing to do with policy actions, and inactions, etc. The media bites on the head fake, makes him the butt of the cheap laugh, and the administration pulls off the misdirection. I don't care about his feelings of being mistreated. I care about how the media doesn't hold his feet to the real fire relentlessly on the substantive issues instead of moving on to the next shiny splash.

I think we do  both.   I think the public is more transfixed by the shiny stuff, though.  

What are the odds tRump wants to move the August RNC convention yet again now that masks are mandatory in Jacksonville? If the convention does take place in the city I would hope for a hurricane to hit but I don't want innocent citizens to suffer. I know, that makes me a bad person to even think of it.

I'd seriously never root for a natural disaster.  Bad karma.  It has occurred to me that such a confluence around the GOP convention MIGHT flip some evangelicals.  I mean, if God is working against Trump . . . . 

I said no on unfair. That's because the media has been doing the job they should have been doing in 2015-2016 instead of obsessing on Her Emails. Every outlet, including your esteemed paper, gave Trump millions of dollars in free advertising, treated him like a joke, clickbait, a shiny object, never took too hard a look under the hood. No one investigated anything until it was way too late and the damage done. Don't get me wrong, Gene, I am not blaming the media for Hillary's loss, there is plenty of factors involved. But if you are honest with yourself, you will admit that the media's coverage of Trump, at the expense of all the other Republican candidates and of Hillary, was one of the contributing factors.

I don't deny that.  I think Mistakes Were Made. 

I asked my 17 year old, college bound, kid to answer your poll. I didn't agree with only one of her answers. I submitted her answers. Oh, and now she wants to read your book. So, there's that.

Kids have limited attention spans.  They tend to put books down.  So I recommend you buy one for each room in your house. 

Hi Gene, Love reading your chats but i'm not able to join them live as they begin at 2am local time. So, question submitted in advance: what would Donald Trump have to say or do to lose the support of a significant proportion of his base? I discussed this with some friends and we came up with committing a serious felony (sexual assault, murder, etc) with irrefutable video evidence. Anything else he could just deny or justify and they would stand by him, regardless of reason. It was a disquieting conversation. Thoughts?

I think he'd have to backtrack, dramatically, on gun control.  That's pretty much it.  Murder, depredation, etc. doesn't faze em.  

After years of trying, I’m finally going to be a Jeopardy contestant. I’m elated, but also terrified because I don’t know how to pronounce anything. All my knowledge comes from reading, which is all I needed to pass the written tests. But I don’t actually know how Ta-Nahesi Coates says his name or if the Hermione from The Winter’s Tale is pronounced the same way as the one from Harry Potter and God help me if I have to say which country has Niamey as its capital. Is there a resource you use to get these things right?

I can help you out only with this, but it is important: 

Tahn-a-HOSS-ee.    

I'm glad to see from previous chats that you're a fan of John Oliver. I posit that the (NSFW audio) song at the end of the episode about SLAPP Lawsuits is about the best thing ever. I watched it again recently, and it just gets better with age.

I believe it is, in fact, his best show, and that is saying a lot. 

John Roberts isn't becoming Earl Warren; he presented the roadmap for overturning Casey and Roe. The June Medical case was a rehash of a case four years ago, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. Conservatives thought with Kennedy gone, they could just have the Court overturn its own precedent with Kavanaugh on the bench.

Roberts didn't want to do such a raw exercise of judicial power, so his concurrence was basically "Look, I'm not going to undo a case from 4 years ago just because membership on the Court changes, but if you want to challenge Casey (and by extension Roe), I'm all ears."

Barring an unexpected change in the Court membership, I expect Roe/Casey to be overturned no later than 2023. Then it'll be up to the state legislatures and then probably some referendums before we end up largely back to the same place of abortion being available in the West Coast and Northeast, largely unavailable in the South and Plains, slightly less unavailable in the Midwest, and idiosyncratically available in the Mountain West, except for Utah. There will be no abortion in Utah.

I subscribe to the school of thought that conservatives don't really WANT to overturn Roe.  If they do, they lose it as a pivot, red-meat issue.  They want to be fighting this forever.  Not what the conservative base wants, but what the pols want. 

Poll question #3: "Do you think, in general, that newsroom protocols for covering this president should be different from the rules for any previous president?" I suspect that the fairly even split between "yes" and "no" (at the time of submission at least) is because many of us (or at least me) are not entirely clear on newsroom protocols for covering presidents.

Is general protocol that newsrooms should assume truthful intent from presidential statements, and maintain a friendly relationship with the executive press office? Because if so, the answer should clearly be no: the Trump administration has been repeatedly caught lying and promoting falsehoods and should not be given the benefit of the doubt other administrations might have deserved.

Or is general protocol that newsrooms cover all presidential administrations critically and take nothing for granted? Because in that case, the answer should clearly be yes: hold the Trump administration to the same high standard as others. Basically - Gene, tell me what the correct answer is to this question!

it's not that cut and dried.  Yes, we should question everything, but certain subtle deference has always been extended to official pronouncements.   Can't do that with this crew. 

Gene, my husband and I finally "broke out" and went out past Harper's Ferry to a lovely B&B where instead of our condo, we had nature. While my husband hiked, I read. I'm big into YA novels even as a newly 56yo gay man, but between Greek Gods and other stuff, I finally read One Day.

Man, you can make a middle aged gay guy cry a lot over the course of the day. Thank you for that. Wonderful book, though I had hoped for at least a couple more happier stories with more Disneyesque endings. At least there was the Football chapter and the 1-week speed date. I'm on the fence with the hockey story on just how happy it was, because a lot of it wasn't.

For the poll, Q1&2 I'm in the majority and would be for any president. For 3&4, let me compare to my favorite presidents, Obama and Bartlett. Currently, I'm in the Yes majority as of late Monday afternoon...and that astounds me (only 51 yes to 49). The current resident of 1600 Penn is so off the boards in so many ways, that of COURSE the media has to report that differently than past presidents. That's why I'm glad I'm in the blowout majority of #4 even if that isn't usually how a journalist thinks. We're in such a weird mad anti-Christ world, of course don't give equal weight to that insane man in the mansion.

I bet you put the first paragraph in to force me to publish the whole thing, damn you. 

Back in the 90s, I was a practicing journalist. As is the case when journalists congregate and consume, "philosophical" discussions ensue. One such discussion was about a story that ran in our paper about the volunteer activities of Holocaust victims. An editor demanded a quote from a Holocaust denier in the interest of impartiality.

A friend of mine (a Jew with relatives that died in the Holocaust) defended the move, saying "We have to let [the deniers] hang themselves with their own rope." I (not Jewish, but with Christian German relatives) insisted there was no need for a denier quote.

I think a lot of these questions became moot after the Judith Miller scandal, and they seem positively quaint (or offensive) today. I don't think news organizations should treat Trump any differently, but I do believe there is a greater need for truth telling when covering any administration. The problem with this administration is that the sheer number of lies makes truth telling seem biased sometimes. Maybe that's part of the plan.

You raise an interesting and provocative point.  I think as an editor, I would use the denier quote ONLY if it hangs the quoter in a dramatic way.   That's a form of bias!  Guilty. 

Although I'm politically liberal, I believe in moderation in political debate. I've always preferred reasoned, balanced criticism rather than wild accusations and demonizing the opposition. I think most people, even those I disagree with, are generally well-intentioned, and that their failings stem from misunderstandings or ignorance. Often, with enough consideration, I can see how political differences stem from honest differences in principles.

For example, I respect most people who oppose abortion on moral grounds, though I am pro-choice. I understand libertarian ideals, even as I disagree with them.

So I'm quite shocked to read coverage such as the following, from Sunday's Post: 'President Trump — who has repeatedly downplayed the virus, sidelined experts and misled Americans about its dangers and potential cures — now finds his presidency wracked by an inability to shepherd the country through its worst public health calamity in a century." Then I read it again and realize that every single damn word is absolutely and incontrovertibly true.

Exactly.  I was gonna yell at you, if you had said otherwise. 

Things have changed in how we write things.  They had to.  There has never been anything like this guy. 

Hi Gene, I was looking up an old chat, around fifteen years old to be precise, because I was checking up on the Wikipedia status of "Marrying Irving" (it was wadded in 2005, removed at some point, and then restored along with "Nuke the Fridge" as an alternate term on the "Jump the Shark" entry, I'm pleased to say).

And in that chat (February 8, 2005), there was discussion of Scott Stantis, cartoonist of Prickly City and freelance political cartoonist, and his conservative bent. Curious to see where he is now fifteen years later, it looks like he's... shifted. Or maybe he always leaned center and managed to avoid being dragged to the right with the rest of the Republicans?

Though, he still has criticism for the Dems, he's appears, at least, not to be drumming the Trump-aganda beat like Ben Garrison.... So is there some hope left if conservative cartoonists can see their way to some sensibility and truth in modern times? Or not so much, since Stantis helped lay the groundwork for where we are now, and no amount of promoting mask-use, anti-science-denial, or anti-Trump cartooning really helps now?

You know, I do think Stantis has moved to the center, but I am not sure it has been "good" for the strip.  It's lost edge.  I always disliked the nature of its edge, but it was edge. 

I feel bad for Stantis.  He did the right thing, ethically and morally.  But. 

Not parallel, but when Johnny Hart stopped drinking, it was the right thing to do.  And B.C. got worse. 

This would fit right in with any list of Yogi Berra quotes, but it's Bob Uecker, so you know he knew what he was doing. 

It's good.  

Certainly, the media has not been unfair to Trump the way he would define it: by reporting negative things. That's just a total BS definition of "fair". But I do think there is a kneejerk tendency to automatically be "against" whatever it is that Trump is trying to do or say.

The best news organizations - and the Washington Post is among them - fight admirably against this impulse. But it's still there, and it sometimes comes through. I honestly can't blame the media.

1) When someone declares you, personally, as the "enemy of the people" and bans you from your campaign, it would be a little hard not to take that as an affront.

2) His track record for lying, obfuscating, rewriting the past, and gaslighting are truly tremendous, so the media MUST look askance at literally everything he says and does. If he says the sky is blue, you need an independent source.

The net result is an inherent distrust, which shines through in a great many news stories, even ones that aren't opinion or analysis. The media cannot treat him as every other President. At the same time, they have to. It's a no win scenario.

Absolutely no win. 

I disagree about the first point, though.  Journalists tend not to take things personally.   We do see it as unprofessional.  When he denies us access, that's one thing.  But calling us names?  Eh.  He's the one diminished by that. 

It's a little like some stranger in the street trying to get you riled by dumping on your ma.   It's infantile to get mad over that. 

Trump's latest tweet broadcast to millions of his follower, is video of a guy in Florida yelling "white power" in response to a BLM protest. His staff convinced him to delete it, but he didn't apologize or try to justify it, except for the obvious lie that he didn't hear it. The phrase was shouted clearly in the first few seconds of the video. In your worst nightmares, did you ever expect that such a large share of the U.S. voting population would accept or at least tolerate his racism?

I think I am naive.  No, I didn't.   It's why I keep arguing that defeating him is not enough.  We need to make him the biggest election loser in American history.  We need it to be so emphatic no party will ever go there again. 

Gene, Maybe you can think of a better name than "traffic spacers" but they are No. 3 on the list of bad drivers preceded only by green light ignorers and people who can't drive a manual. OK, maybe No. 4 with people who can't parallel park. These are the people who stop 3 or 4 car lengths behind the car in front. What happens is that they space out traffic so much that people behind them can't access the dedicated left or right turn lanes. These "spacers" also seem to be the ones who lollygag at a green light and then when light turns yellow, they accelerate. So the people behind them stop for the red and have to wait some more. I think the old rule is that you pull close enough to still see the rear tires of the car ahead. But you don't need to see that car and 50' of unoccupied pavement also!

Maybe the worst of all?  People who slow down when they hit an intersection and the light is GREEN.   You know, just in case.  I have noticed this more and more. 

I know!  

He's watching, maybe.   

He did a couple times, right? Proudly announcing he wasn't afraid of the NRA... and then backtracked on the backtrack.

Yeah, he dasn't go there. 

But how fast are you at leashing your dog? My daughter got nipped by a dog recently that was unleashed. Walking on a trail so the owner I guess figured it was ok since it wasn't a city sidewalk. Luckily it didn't break the skin. Years ago I also was nipped by an unleashed dog. I have no sympathy for people who don't leash their dogs. And it's not just people that suffer. Like the Central Park dog- they chase animals, dig up rare plants etc.

Well, the poster said her dog was never a problem.  A dog who will sometimes nip is a problem.  

My dog would never nip, or so I thought until a kid in the street came running up to her, screaming, hands grasping.  I was glad Murphy was leashed.   I mean, they are DOGS, you know?

Hank Stuever has an article on the "Karen's" and apparently their outfit of choice is capris. Do I, who does not ever ask for the manager except to compliment, have to stop wearing capris? I have them on now, I don't want people to fear an adult temper tantrum from me.

Are capris what Laura Petri wore?  If so, I am for them. 

The person who hit me almost pushed me into the fire trucks that were passing in front of us.

Your point?  Are you speaking in favor of the spacers??? 

My suggestion is, just stick to saying things that are true. The headline on the Philip Bump "fact check" a couple of days ago - "Trump keeps claiming that the most dangerous cities in America are all run by Democrats. They aren’t." was a disgrace.

Wait, what?  Why was it a disgrace??  I don't recall the story, but presumably it showed crime rates, and that some of the higher ones had GOP mayors.   

I'm relieved (but not surprised) that you double-checked the date before printing. However, every single calendar I've seen, apart from the one you linked to, says that particular Friday in December was the 27th. I Googled before I wrote my original question, and I checked again just now.

REALLY????????

I shall check!  I think that was the calendar I used.  That would be weird.   

I wouldn't want to wish a natural disaster on anybody, but how about just a nice stretch of rainy weather, which would ruin their beach plans. I mean I just cancelled my one trip because that state has become a hotspot, so if all these numnuts insist on running not wearing their damn masks, then I figure a rainy beach trip is fair.

I would approve of that. 

OMG, is that when he got religion?! You're right, I just don't read BC any more. I've also read that Charles Schulz refused to get therapy for his depression and insecurity because he feared he wouldn't be able to write "Peanuts" any more. Which of course led to the breakup of his marriage.

The Schulz thing was more complicated, I think.  

Johnny Hart has been dead for years, though.  But yes, his strip lost some genius after he sobered.   I spent two days with johnny.  A very interesting, very religiously naive man.   A true Fundamentalist with no room for doubt or questions. 

The lack of traffic has allowed the idiot drivers around here even more opportunity to drive me crazy. Lately every time I’m on a multiple-lane highway, there’s some bozo in the fast lane driving 5 under the speed limit and I can’t take it anymore. I’m ready to move back to NJ.

That won't help. 

Okay, we're down, people.  Thanks.  Next week. 

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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. He was awarded the 2008 and 2010 Pulitzer Prizes for Feature Writing.

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