Slack Chat: Shoveling out the Mario Cart

T: Hey J, you ever have one of those days when you wonder if your life is just some weirdly realistic video game? You are the only real thing; everything else is just doors to unlock, bad drivers to avoid, mushrooms to smash and coins to collect?

J: That sounds like Diddy Kong Racing.

T: What? Diddy Kong Racing – is that a real thing? That’s only the greatest video game idea ever.

Diddy Kong … I’d love to throw flaming barrels at Diddy.

J: It’s a great game; I wasted many an hour on it when I lived in Jersey.

T: Does he still go by P Diddy? Pretty soon it’s going to be Pee Diddy.

J: When?

T: It depends.

J: Ding ding ding! And we have our 1,000th slack chat depends joke.

T: Thank you! Send your flowers to imalergic.com.

J: And I’d be all for throwing flaming barrels of shit at Diddy.

T: I always thought those were oil barrels.

J: It was a closely guarded secret. Unless you got the smell-o-vision app.

T: Why in the world would anyone want smell-o-vision?

J: Well, German porn, of course. I mean, duh … but let’s move on.

T: Move on? From what?

J: Life is a big video game. Discuss.

T: Oh, right. Well, my news feed was jammed tighter than Mario Cantone’s colon at Mardi gras this morning, and I want your take on the latest news cycle.

J: Sure, fire away. From the hip, not Mario’s butt.

T: Luigi?

J: Stop it. I know who Mario Cantone is, and he ain’t a painter. Well, maybe interiors.

T: Let’s move on before we get trampled under an alphabet soup pride parade. I’ll give you the stories, one at a time.

J: Fire when ready.

T: Ok, in no particular order:

“Senate panel presses Kushner on ‘Russian backdoor overture”

A Russian national requested a meeting with Donald Trump during the presidential campaign in May 2016.

T: Any fire in here, or just more smoke?

J: I think it’s just more smoke, but the optics are yet again really bad… nothing actually came of this, but you know the fact that he didn’t disclose the contact when he should have is going to get spun like a frigging fidget spinner.

T: Is there any chance Kushner gets indicted? I don’t think either one of us had him high on the list – I think we had him more toward the middle.

J: Not for this, but we don’t know what else there might be. I don’t think this would change my odds of his eventual indictment.

T: Next one:

AP sources: Trump Tower meeting in 2016 draws more scrutiny

Earlier this year, a Russian-American lobbyist and another businessman discussed over coffee in Moscow an extraordinary meeting they had attended 12 months earlier: a gathering at Trump Tower with President Donald Trump’s son, his son-in-law and his then-campaign chairman.

T: Same question. Anything new here?

J: This has a little more juice than the other story, but just a little. The suspicion seems to be that this meeting was taken in order to get their stories straight, which does sound kinda collusion-y – but there’s nothing concrete to say that’s what they were doing, just suspicious timing. I’m sure Mueller will want statements from Junior and the other attendees, but again, there’s no fire.

At least not yet; we’ll see what comes out of the statements.

T: The only thing that strikes me is that we are seeing someone act guilty. Junior’s original claim has been 100 percent debunked, so we can put him on the lyin’ shelf and leave him there until he learns to mind his manners.

Or we could let African elephants hunt him for sport.

J: That would be a good pay-per-view event

T: Too bad there isn’t another one for the elephants to hunt.

Oh wait! There is!

Anyway, ready for the next one?

J: Not much of a challenge, those two. Fire when ready.

T: Is this hilarious, or just sad?

Trump invites Clinton to ‘give it another try in three years’

J: Sad. Trump is clearly just trying to troll Clinton, going back to the well one more time to try and rev up the base.

T: I wish Hillary would shut up, honestly. She can’t keep jumping up like a pantsuited whack-a-mole, giving Trump an excuse to hammer her back into the woodwork.

His base believes everything he says about Hillary, so every Hillary tweet reinforces their feeling that he’s not lying.

J: She’s a politician; talking is what she does. It would probably be better for her to shut up and let Bill do the talking for the family, though. After all, he is a former President.

T: Sure, let’s get the guy who put a face to all the “we can get away with this shit” sexual harassment, and put him out in front right now. Right now, when the women they preyed on for decades are on the warpath.

J: Bill Clinton: the face of creepiness.

T: Speaking of faces, is there a face of the democratic party right now? I feel like it’s Chuck Schumer, sort of, but I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup if he was wearing a Chuck Schumer name tag.

All I know about him is that he’s sort of related to Amy. I’d vote for Amy.

J: It’s probably Schumer as much as anyone else. It’s not Hillary, or Bernie, or Pelosi.

They’re cousins.

T: Hillary, Bernie and Pelosi are cousins?

J: Ba-dum bum BUMP! Pssssssh.

T: Not kissing cousins, I hope. I mean, seriously. Worst. Porn. Ever.

J: Are you through?

T: Sorry. Let’s move on.

I don’t think the democrats can win in 2020 with a Bernieite or a Warren – a hard-left liberal. They need a moderate, but not one with a bunch of baggage. A young, idealistic moderate who can talk business sense and not scream bloody murder about where drag queens go to the bathroom.

J: Answer: anywhere they want.

T: ?

J: The drag qu- oh, never mind. I hate you.

T: The democrats need a Bill Clinton clone, but with his pants zipped.

J: The old order is well and truly dead. They need a younger, fresher face, like Obama was in 2006 or so. Booker would be a good bet, maybe Kamala Harris in California.

T: We need the Clintons to fade into the Bushes. So to speak.

J: That was Bill’s whole problem; too much time in the bushes.

T: Yeah, and they actually h- no, let’s move on. Back to the Kush(ner).

Kushner didn’t recall any campaign WikiLeaks contact

Kushner told congressional Russia investigators that he didn’t communicate with WikiLeaks and didn’t recall anyone on the Trump campaign who had, per a source

J: This one might be more problematic for the Kush. He claims not to recall being told about any Wikileaks contacts, but didn’t forward at least one e-mail that he got from Junior that dealt with exactly that. The obvious question is, of all e-mails not to provide, why that one?

T: This one, to me, is the clearest indication yet that there might have been some organized evading going on.

The problem is, though, that these “revelations” are  coming in at such a dripping pace that we might be gaslighting ourselves. Is there actually anything going on, or are we just digging down so deep that our expectations are out of whack? Is it reasonable for us to expect them to remember every encounter, every email? I’m not sure we aren’t doing a chicken freshness test at this point.

J: A chicken freshness test? I’m afraid to ask.

T: You know, you sniff under the wings, sniff the cavity, and the butcher starts laughing. He says, “could you pass that test?”

J: I’m not sniffing anybody’s armpits, and I’ll kill myself before I get anywhere near a cavity.

T: Fair enough. Will you sniff Hillary’s emails?

J: Literally, sure. Emails don’t smell. Figuratively? Ew.

T: More than fair. German porn?

J: Seriously. I hate you.

T: Is it reasonable for them to remember – a year after the fact – every email they opened?

J: Maybe not every e-mail, but how often do you get an e-mail about your father-in-law’s presidential campaign getting dirt from Wikileaks? You’d think that would stick in your memory.

T: You are right … I assume that would jump out, but then again, all this stuff happened early on in the campaign. If there was any actual collusion, there should be a lot of this stuff; right? If you have a murder scene, you expect to find either evidence of cleaning or a lot of blood. If there hain’t no cleanin’ and all you can pull out of the room is a couple of unidentified fluid droplets, so minute in size that you need an electron microscope and a blacklight to find them – then aren’t you trying a wee bit too hard?

J: Some of the other stuff, particularly things they weren’t directly involved in, things Papadopoulos or someone might have said in a meeting or something sometime that maybe they didn’t hear or didn’t write down, yeah, I could see not remembering that. But this would be fairly memorable.

I don’t think that this bit of evidence establishes collusion, but the fact pattern doesn’t look good. It’s possible that it’s all innocent, but at the very least, the question becomes, “are these people dishonest, or just incompetent?” And right now, that’s very much an open question.

T: I still think it’s all smoke, but that’s because we ignore a lot of what used to be considered fire. These guys are so far from the norms of accepted political behavior … whether they are incompetent or seditious is an open question, but they are miles from the beaten political path.

J: Are they in the Bushes?

T: Um …

White House: Difference between Franken and Trump allegations is that Franken ‘has admitted wrongdoing’

The White House said Friday that the difference between the allegations of sexual misconduct against Sen. Al Franken and those against President Trump is that the senator “has admitted wrongdoing.”

J: Oh, our daily does of Sarah Suckabee Hinders. I find this statement absolutely incomprehensible. It’s absolutely oozing with hypocrisy. Trump has a dozen allegations of sexual misconduct against him, but his sycophant tries to deflect the comparison.

T: My public and private stances on this story aren’t the same. I mean, that’s usually true, but in this case it’s extreme. Publically, I’d address Huckabee-Sanders directly: “Are you NUTS???? Have you not heard the TAPE? How stupid do you think we are??????”

Privately: This statement has Hope Hicks’ fingerprints all over it, which means it proably has an alarming amount of Trump DNA on it.

J: Yes, this is vintage Hope Hicks. She’s a firehose of denial.

T: She is the tooliest of tools, the excusiest of excuse makers. She puts the do me in the alley with a rusty tire iron into politics. I know, that doesn’t fit, but if she can fit the Trump agenda inside her rectum, she can get anything in there.

J: I think Trump requires pliable and stupid in the people around him. He doesn’t do well with people who a) stand up to him or b) can call him out on his bullshit.

T: How long do you think Hicks is going to last, before somebody looks behind the screen and finds out there ain’t a wizard back there, just a bottle blonde with all the skeptical self-control of a Fingerhut client?

J: Pick a holiday… I say before Easter.

T: So far there doesn’t seem to be any heat on her; if she survives this bit, pretending there ain’t any p-grabbing behind the curtain, I don’t know what would oust her. She could outlast Trump, or at least be in the handcuffs next to him.

J: I think it’d take some outside event that triggers a series of bad stories that she can’t control.

T: That event might have already happened, if this is how she’s handling the sexual assault stories.

J: Indeed.

Bannon’s ‘season of war’ on GOP establishment may backfire with first battle

A growing number of Republicans say Bannon’s continued embrace of Roy Moore could undercut his ambitions to play kingmaker in 2018.

J: I agree with the premise that what Bannon is doing is counterproductive; he’s wasting resources and giving Democrats ammunition to use in the general election. And what’s worse is that it seems to be for no real reason, other than just to be a gadfly.

T: If Bannon runs a serious candidate against every GOP incumbent, the Dems will grab the Senate. Those Yosemite Sam candidates would cannibalize the Republican vote, and there ain’t enough truly angry people to lift Bannon’s nuts into office.

J: Bannon’s nu- never mind. You were saying?

T: So I’m all in favor of Bannon’s War. By the way, I think this is exactly who Bannon is. He’s dedicated to his partisan ideology all the way, to hell with humanity.

J: To be clear, I meant counterproductive to the GOP agenda, not for America. Anything that gets Republicans out of the Senate is fine by me.

T: I’m with you. No offense to the GOP, but we can’t let Donald Trump load up the Supreme Court.

J: Bannon is backing a nutjob in Arizona to run for Flake’s seat… I actually hope she wins the primary, that would hand the Dems another seat.

T: I keep saying Trump is Archie Bunker. In the Archie Trumpker scenario, Bannon is Meathead, but with Archie’s value system, and on a mission to get even because Archie lost his job on the loading dock.

J: Trump is from Queens.

 

T: Next on the docket, a blinding flash of the obvious.

Trump often condemns Democrats, defends Republicans on harassment allegations

The president’s decision to wade into the national debate also refocused attention on his own accusers, whom he called ‘horrible, horrible liars.’

J: Yeah, this is one of those “no shit?” things. I’m frankly surprised he said anything at all given his own issues in this area, but the hypocrisy is strong in this one

T: There is an obvious common thread to everything Trump does, but it’s so stupid-simple that it gets buried under the conspiracy theories and all the bullshit “analysis” that assholes like us keep publishing.

Trump cares about his side of everything, like it’s a game of kickball or something. Kick the Can, Donnie’s the Man. Ring Around the Rosie, pocket full of Daddy’s money. Donnie wins.

In kid games, everything is legal as long as you don’t get caught (like baseball). You are obligated to win over all else, even if that means holding on every play and assuming they can’t call it every time (football). Elbowing some guy under the rim so the official catches him when he reacts (basketball) is a tremendous strategy.

So Trump doesn’t understand why the public expects him to own up to anything (baseball), stop trying to cheat (football) and deflect every time he gets in a little trouble (basketball). To torture the analogy to death, his goal is to capture all the marbles, and he’ll use your marbles to help him if he can. Life is a game, and Donnie is WINNING.

J: Well, he tells himself that, and he surrounds himself with people who tell him that

T: In Donnie’s world, truth has nothing to do with anything, because, to Trump, nobody is under the slightest obligation to tell the truth. Nobody is obligated to cooperate, or admit wrongdoing, or to help his opponent up after a tackle. It’s competition, pure and simple. And he is WINNING.

Terry’ “Trump-the-Player” analogy. Patent pending.

J: So the White House, the nuclear launch codes, the Russians … everything is just another game of “red light, green light” to Trump?

Can we tell him it’s hide and seek and it’s his turn to hide, then just not look for him?

T: Sure, it’s worth a try. It’s important, I think, to remember that Trump has always been like this.

 

J: He’s always felt entitled?

 

T: Sort of, but more like he’s playing a game; the game isn’t a kid’s game, but he plays by kid’s game rules. Life, to Donald Trump, has always been governed by the rules of kid games.

 

J: I’ve said elsewhere that Trump seems to be utterly lacking on core principles, that he’s 100 percent about expediency. He’s in favor of whatever is best for him just then, with no regard about whether it’ll be good for him in a day, a week or a year

T: Absolutely.

Last one:

Amid national focus on harassment, Trump moves unscathed

“You can do anything,” Donald Trump once boasted, speaking of groping and kissing unsuspecting women.

T: So, J,; why is Trump getting away with it, while so many others are losing their careers?

J: I think he was ahead of the curve on this; it all came out last year during the election, and was kicked around and chewed over and denied then. If it was new now, instead of a rehash of campaign stuff, I think he’d have a much harder time saying “They’re all liars!” than he did last year, before the firestorm broke.

T: Shannon Tweeden makes a chunk of her money by selling pinup photos of herself. Is that fact fair game, hypocritical, or immaterial?

J: I think that how Tweeden makes her living is immaterial. What Franken did was wrong; even though he’s clearly not actually touching her in the pic, the implication is there.

 

T: Tweeden’s professional use of her likeness matters to me a little, but only a little since she’s not a model or a porn star or a hooker. We can’t hammer her as a hypocrite for selling fully clothed pictures; she was clearly sleeping when this was taken. But if Franken pulls out a picture of them where she’s awake and smiling while he’s grabbing her boobs, what do we do with that? No means no, of course, but yes can’t mean no, or we might as well wrap all women in lead casing.

J: If there were such a pic, it would be very damaging to her credibility. I’m sure she’d just say she was going along because he was  famous, but a lot of people wouldn’t buy it, and I’d probably be among them.

T: There has to be a line where men are allowed to be predatory, as long as they don’t push past a point. To me, the point is the first no, like the woman who pushed Adam Sandler’s hand off her knee, that sort of thing. Also, when there is a clear separation in power, where the person asking for intimacy holds a dominant position, the power can’t be used to enforce engagement. Tweeden and Franken were social and cultural equals, so the power dynamic didn’t exist.

J: How do you deal with women who consented and now, 30 years later or whatever, realize they’ve been exploited and come forward to tell their stories?

T: It’s a mess – and we ain’t going to handle it right. We’ll overreact, underreact, lump felonies in with party fouls, and in general ruin lives that don’t deserve it while the ones who deserve it continue to offend, blissfully above the law.

J: I don’t know that there is a right way. Is there a middle path between “innocent until proven guilty” and “believe the accuser”?

T: Evidence. If we convict without due process, and without evidence, we are screwed.

J: Well, yeah, but what evidence is there in the Roy Moore case except the word of these women, and the fact that the Washington Post has corroborated the fact that they were at least in the same city as Moore when the alleged events occurred?

T: I don’t personally think the Moore case has any merit. If he wasn’t Moore – an unpopular guy already – his scandal would hardly have registered. The 14-year-old thing is being bandied about like the smoking gun, but there is only one of them. The others were 16+, which is only statuatory violation in some states, and in some opinions. He’s a creep, but didn’t we already know that? He’s in Alabama. Loretta Lynn was married at 14, to an older guy. This is purely a liberal-outrage dynamic.

J: I think he’s probably a perv, but just being a perv isn’t in and of itself a crime, and nothing that he’s alleged to have done (with the exception of the 14-year-old) is a crime, either.

T: Yeah, I’m not a big fan of 30 somethings dating teenagers. To me, it’s over the line between predatory and opportunistic; it’s the difference between a lion and a vulture, so to speak.

J: I object to him being in the Senate on plenty of other grounds, but this perving thing is overblown.

T: Yep. Unfortunately, politics is rarely about what we care about. It’s always about what they think we care about, amplified to a volume so high that we have to care about it.