He is touching himself and being touched. He is sneering at the camera but also seducing it. He is Dionysus in the midst of frenzy. He is Jesus Christ dying for America’s sins. He is Russell Westbrook surrounded by his people. He is Sid Vicious in rimless glasses. He has transcended Jeb completely, while also hinting at an inner facet of Jeb that has yet to be discovered. Who is Jeb Bush, anyway? We may never know, but this photo almost makes me want to find out.
While insisting it was “for practice purposes only,” Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin led progressive activists in a characteristically nerdy chant at a town hall on Sunday night in Silver Spring: “Stop Trump! Stop Pence! Impeach them for emoluments!”
It doesn’t have quite the same ring as “lock her up!” But the crowd gamely kept it going even after Raskin left the stage:
After the town hall, Raskin told me he isn’t calling for impeaching President Donald Trump right now—at least not in the legal sense. But he also made clear he isn’t ruling anything out.
“We are actively impeaching Donald Trump and his administration every day in terms of exposing the lies,” he said. “In terms of the legal impeachment process, that’s obviously something on a lot of people’s minds, but one thing we know about it—looking at it historically—is it’s a totally political question. I don’t think people should fetishize it. I don’t think people should obsess about it. But I think it’s a tool in the toolkit we need to be aware of. It’s absolutely on the table.”
Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen, who represented Raskin’s congressional district before he switched chambers in Congress last year, was more restrained on the subject. “I’m not calling for impeachment,” he told me.
When I pressed Van Hollen on whether he’s leaving the option on the table, he changed the subject. “We’re going to hold Trump accountable in every way,” he said. “We’re actively pushing for maximum investigation of potential collaboration with the Russians in the election. We’re going to pursue the conflict of interest laws and violation of the Emoluments Clause vigorously, which means we’ll continue to push for the release of tax returns.”
As Politico recently reported, “Democratic officials in Republican-dominated Washington view the entire subject as a trap, a premature discussion that could backfire in spectacular fashion by making the party appear too overzealous in its opposition to Trump. Worse, they fear, it could harden Republican support for the president by handing his party significant fundraising and political ammunition when the chances of success for an early impeachment push are remote, at best.”
As long as Democrats keep trying to rhyme with “emoluments,” their chances of success are closer to nil.
Press secretaries are almost always the least-loved members of any presidential administration—their entire job is to do stuff that makes you hate them, like lie and yell. But even for a White House press secretary, Spicer is hated—and not just because of the lying and yelling but because of how pathetic the lying and yelling is. Spicer seems to do everything—tan, dress, lie, and yell—to please his boss, and yet nothing works. Spicer has not yet escaped Donald Trump’s dog house.
“Last week, after Spicer became aware that information had leaked out of a planning meeting with about a dozen of his communications staffers, he reconvened the group in his office to express his frustration over the number of private conversations and meetings that were showing up in unflattering news stories, according to sources in the room. Upon entering Spicer’s office for what one person briefed on the gathering described as ‘an emergency meeting,’ staffers were told to dump their phones on a table for a ‘phone check,’ to prove they had nothing to hide. Spicer, who consulted with White House counsel Don McGahn before calling the meeting, was accompanied by White House lawyers in the room, according to multiple sources.
This is bad not only because it’s intrusive and pathetic, although it’s certainly intrusive and pathetic. This is bad because, after a week in which many pundits were praising the Trump administration for not crashing and burning with the usual intensity, targeting one’s own staff like this suggests that the White House is still gripped by turmoil and uncertainty. That this meeting also leaked is hilarious and fitting and only makes that point clearer. Finally, surprise investigations like this undercut the White House’s (obviously dishonest) defense when responding to leaks, which is that the stories are “fake news” invented by journalists.
Then, Navy secretary nominee Philip Bilden withdrew. Normally this would not reflect poorly on a press secretary except:
This, as Matt Yglesisas wrote over the weekend, perfectly encapsulates Spicer’s credibility problem and the many problems with the administration’s strategy of lying about all things, big and small. If that wasn’t bad enough, around the same time, Spicer decided to kick up some shit because the New York Times got his birthplace wrong. But, as usual, there was a problem:
And finally, on Monday morning, Axios Presented By Enron reported that Spicer arranged contacts between members of the intelligence community and Congress and the media to push back on reporting alleging that members of the Trump campaign were in constant contact with Russian intelligence officials during the election. Spicer arranged for CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr, and House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes to defend the administration to the press. The administration then used their comments as proof that the Russia story was concocted by the media and their political opponents. In some cases, Axios reports, Spicer even stayed on the line during the call—the Trump administration’s defense of the Russia scandal is now tainted by Spicer’s heavy breathing.
A wild finish saved the Oscars from being almost completely forgettable.
Jimmy Kimmel tried for a bunch of “Ellen moments” and ended up with one (Gary is the new Ken Bone). But otherwise he was a replacement-level Oscar host: He veered into Seth MacFarlane territory without being too boorish, but was also topical without being relevant. The best thing about the 89th Oscars was its diversity: By the two-hour mark it was already the first with more than three black winners.
Then the major awards were given out. After being shut out early, the charmless La La Land began to pick up steam. It won twice for music (it has the curious distinction of being a musical with zero memorable songs) and Damien Chezelle won for direction. That set the tone for what seemed like a descent into familiar #OscarsSoWhite territory. Casey Affleck, who has been sued by multiple women who have accused him of sexual harassment, won for acting. Notable non-Asian woman Emma Stone won for La La Land. And then, after bumbling for a few moments, Warren Beatty announced that La La Land had also won Best Picture.
It was a classic Oscar moment—defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, the old bad ways raining on the progress that had been made earlier in the night. But then something fucking insane that I still don’t quite understand happened. Midway through the speeches, the producers of La La Land asked for the people behind Moonlight to join them on stage ... because Warren Beatty had read the wrong card. Moonlight, the only truly deserving Best Picture, not La La Land, had won Best Picture. (To their credit, the La La Land people handled this as gracefully as humanly possible.)
It was simultaneously a deflating and a triumphant note to end on. But at least the right movie won.
What will Donald Trump tweet about tomorrow morning?
No one has ever wanted Donald Trump to tweet at him as much as Jimmy Kimmel wants Donald Trump to tweet at him right now. “Two hours into the show and Donald Trump hasn’t tweeted about us once,” Kimmel said with evident distress and self-satisfaction as he hosted the Oscars. (To be fair, Kimmel is always smug.) So Kimmel baited him:
This lame-ass flirtation characterizes Kimmel’s confused approach to Trump. As I wrote earlier in the evening, he clearly wants Trump to tweet about him, but isn’t willing to do anything controversial enough to actually get Trump to tweet about him.
Thankfully for Kimmel, Trump is obsessed with the Oscars, which is maybe his most underrated disqualifying characteristic. This 2012 Oscars recap would have been more effective than 99 percent of Hillary Clinton’s ads. She would have won if her campaign had simply aired this unedited clip in Michigan and Wisconsin.
So Donald Trump almost certainly will tweet about the Oscars tonight, but what will he tweet about? Some early guesses:
The standing ovation for Meryl Streep, who was barely in one movie
La La Land, which he presumably loved
Jimmy Kimmel calling him a racist or Kimmel being terrible (this would be funny and good, unless he praises Billy Crystal in the process)
The fact that most of the movies nominated didn’t make any money
That Salesman director Asghar Farhadi was exactly the kind of person he is trying to keep out of the country
The president of the United States eats his $54 steak with ketchup.
We already knew that Donald Trump likes his steaks well done. (“It would rock on the plate, it was so well done,” his longtime butler at Mar-a-Lago revealed.) But Benny Johnson at Independent Journal Review has discovered that Trump regularly commits an even greater culinary crime: He eats his desiccated steaks with ketchup. According to an anonymous waiter at BLT Steakhouse at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., Trump on Saturday night “ordered a well-done steak. An aged New York strip. He ate it with catsup as he always does.”
As he always does. This man is a child. Why bother ordering a ridiculously expensive dry-age steak? What difference could the dry-aging process possibly make when you’re just going to slather it with child’s sauce? And why is this sauce referred to as “catsup,” instead of “ketchup”? To think people used to give Barack Obama shit for eating his burgers with mustard.
Jimmy Kimmel is the wrong Oscar host for this moment.
Last year, the story leading up to the Oscars was the Oscars—specifically the lack of people of color nominated for major awards. But Chris Rock was the perfect host for that moment. While he would ultimately undo much of his good work with an extended Asian joke, Rock’s monologue was fire. For ten minutes, Rock hit Hollywood again and again for its worthless self-adulation and its undeniable racism, which was also indicative of a broader racism. “Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood is racist,” Rock said. Addressing the criticism that there weren’t #OscarsSoWhite protests in the 1960s, Rock joked, “We were too busy being raped and lynched to worry about who won best cinematographer.” It was an uncomfortable monologue, but it was also a funny one. More than anything, it was the right one.
The host of the 2017 Oscars is Jimmy Kimmel, but the story surrounding the 2017 Oscars is not the racism of the Oscars, but the racism (and misogyny and general lack of mental stability) of the president. Kimmel, both in his monologue and in his between-award banter, acknowledged Trump plenty. He insisted that the crowd applaud Meryl Streep, who was attacked by Donald Trump after bodying him during the Golden Globes. He winked at a Trump tweet when he said, “If you work for CNN, the New York or LA Times ... please get out. We have no use for fake news.” And, in his most revealing joke, he said: “I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when we thought the Oscars were racist?”
But his heart doesn’t really seem in it. Kimmel wants to make jokes about Mel Gibson—and his Gibson jokes have been most pretty good! Kimmel is a roast guy, in other words, and his few good moments have almost exclusively been his mean ones, like when he ripped on O.J. This only makes his anemic Trump material even stranger. Kimmel seems to simultaneously desperately want Trump to tweet about him without actually saying anything that would be worth tweeting about.
The main problem with Kimmel hosting the Oscars isn’t that he doesn’t seem to have a point of view on Trump, even though he is probably the only person in the country who doesn’t. It’s that Kimmel is hosting the Oscars like it was just a bigger, live version of his late night show, which is just as forgettable.
Sean Spicer turns the White House into a safe space for conservative media.
At CPAC on Friday, President Donald Trump reiterated his belief that press outlets spreading “fake news” were “the enemy of the people.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer took this to heart, blocking reporters from CNN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, and other outlets from attending an off-camera press gaggle at the White House. Conservative outlets like Breitbart, the One America News Network, and The Washington Times were allowed to attend.
Donald Trump’s CPAC speech was a message to the global alt-right.
The president made a series of odd remarks about European countries becoming increasingly unsafe due to immigration, citing “what’s happening” in Sweden, Germany, and France. He then regaled the crowd in a most un-populist way: Citing a friend of his, “Jim,” who used to take annual trips to Paris. But no longer, because “Jim” found that “Paris is no longer Paris.”
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, was quick to respond with this tweet, posted in both French and English versions:
Trump’s habit of picking fights and badmouthing longtime global allies may seem odd. But one thing these countries all have in common is the presence of vocal alt-right/pro-Russia political parties. There is the UK Independence Party, formerly headed by Trump’s friend and CPAC attendee Nigel Farage; Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France; Alternative for Germany; Geert Wilders’s Party For Freedom in the Netherlands; and the Sweden Democrats. There are even two different alt-right parties down under in Australia, One Nation and the Australian Conservatives.
Nigel Farage may have given the game away during his speech: “What happened in 2016 is the beginning of a great, global revolution. And this will roll out across the rest of the West. We’ve got some very exciting elections coming up: in the Netherlands, in France, in Germany, possibly even in Italy. And believe me, I don’t yet know whether the results in 2017 will be as dramatic as the results in 2016. But what I do know is that even if the challengers don’t get over the line this year, what they will do is shift the center of gravity of the entire debate.”
It sounds like Donald Trump is excited by the prospect, too.
The legislation would take down the foundation of Obamacare, including the unpopular individual mandate, subsidies based on people’s income, and all of the law’s taxes. It would significantly roll back Medicaid spending and give states money to create high risk pools for some people with pre-existing conditions.
The untitled bill also defunds Planned Parenthood, as well as any other publicly funded clinic that provides family planning services. It converts Medicaid to block grants to states, and allows states to determine which “essential benefits” those grants will cover. Insurers would be allowed to charge consumers more based on age, and women would have to purchase extra “abortion coverage” if they want insurance that covers a full range of reproductive health care options.
Its provisions are particularly dire news for chronically ill and disabled Americans. It replaces the ACA’s subsidies with age-restricted monthly tax credits. This assumes that young people are healthier than older people: that is true in a broad sense, but as a policy it excludes individuals with congenital or childhood-onset disease or disability.
The results would be deadly. An infant born with a hereditary condition usually requires extensive medical treatment after birth. That’s fine if it’s born into a wealthy family. But if it’s born into a low-income family, it’s in trouble: The monthly credit allotted for people under 20 won’t offset these expenses. And since the bill also allows states to determine which benefits it will cover, the credit allotted for people of child-bearing age also may not offset the cost of the high-risk pregnancy care and genetic counseling necessary to safely bring that child to term. Matters won’t improve much for the child as it ages, either: The bill relies on high-risk insurance pools to cover people with chronic conditions. In practice, these pools have proven insufficient to meet the needs of sick Americans.
Now take it further: Are you a poor teenager who requires medical equipment or a lengthy hospitalization? You’d better hope your state chooses to cover it, because your subsidy won’t be enough. Are you a female college student who needs family planning services? Better hope you can afford that too, because a party packed with zygote-obsessives has decided that your ability to control your reproduction is a luxury. Also hope there’s nothing wrong with the resulting baby, because you definitely can’t afford that either. Child with cancer? Parents will have to fire up the GoFundMe and hope for the best.
This bill, if ever implemented, would enforce life-shortening discrimination against the disabled and the chronically ill. It’ll reduce the number of Americans who can access health care, and it’ll penalize anyone who suffers from the traditionally deadly combination of poverty and illness.
The whiff of anti-Semitism at the White House just got stronger.
Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, was already a controversial figure as a key ally of Steve Bannon in the administration’s nationalist, Islamophobic wing. But now Gorka is controversial for another reason. Lili Bayer reports at the Forward that Gorka has extensive ties with anti-Semitic politicians and journalists in Hungary, the land where his parents were born and where he lived in for many years:
[A]n investigation by the Forward into Gorka’s activities from 2002 to 2007, while he was active in Hungarian politics and journalism, found that he had close ties then to Hungarian far-right circles, and has in the past chosen to work with openly racist and anti-Semitic groups and public figures.
Gorka’s involvement with the far right includes co-founding a political party with former prominent members of Jobbik, a political party with a well-known history of anti-Semitism; repeatedly publishing articles in a newspaper known for its anti-Semitic and racist content; and attending events with some of Hungary’s most notorious extreme-right figures.
In a normal administration, these revelations would be scandalous, and might force a review of Gorka’s security clearance. But given all the other scandals engulfing the Trump administration—not to mention the president’s weak condemnation of anti-Semitism, plus Bannon’s continued use of anti-Semitic dog whistles—this story might not cause more than a ripple.