TOWOIT #308: “Does the president enjoy the drama?”

March 17, 2018

Yesterday’s briefing!

It was 33 minutes altogether. 8 minutes of legislative director Marc Short monologuing about Democrats being obstructionists, 10 minutes of reporters asking him questions, and then 15 minutes of Sarah Sanders Q&A.

Continue reading TOWOIT #308: “Does the president enjoy the drama?”

TOWOIT #307: Bad actors and bowling balls

March 16, 2018

Oddly, yesterday’s press briefing wasn’t transcribed by the White House. Today’s has shown up, but not yesterday’s.

I’ll type out the questions below. Good thing the briefings are so short. I will note that it had been three incredibly news-filled days since her last briefing, she made the reporters wait in the room for an hour after the original start time, and then when she showed up she made them sit there and listen to fan mail for Trump from a ten year old before they could collectively ask 17-minutes worth of questions. This woman. This woman is just like some beastly, ridiculous authority figure out of a Roald Dahl novel.

Continue reading TOWOIT #307: Bad actors and bowling balls

TOWOIT #306: Raj Gaggle

March 15, 2018  

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Well, everything is bananas. Like, turning-into-a-dictatorship level bananas. I don’t think the White House transcriptionist has gotten to today’s briefing yet, and my chronicling life is easier with the transcript. But I did see that Raj Shah actually did a press gaggle yesterday. So I’ll put those questions up. This was before it was announced that there would be sanctions imposed by the U.S. against Russia.

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Questions asked of Raj Shah on the flight to Missouri yesterday:

Continue reading TOWOIT #306: Raj Gaggle

TOWOIT #305: “Reviewing doesn’t count as going strong”

March 12, 2018

  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) The President said Saturday night — he was talking about North Korea — he said, “If the meeting with Kim takes place.” Is there a chance that this meeting won’t take place?
  • And what preparations are being made so far toward this meeting?
  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, a couple of weeks ago, the President said that he wanted to raise the age on purchasing assault weapons. He talked about supporting universal background checks, about taking guns away from those identified as a threat even without due process. What happened to all those proposals?
  • But is there a single thing in this proposal that’s from the President that is not supported by the NRA? Is there anything in here that the NRA opposes?
  • But it’s not as federal policy, right?
  • And why did he name this DeVos Commission less than 24 hours after ridiculing the idea of Blue Ribbon commissions? He says, “All they do is talk, and talk, and talk, and two hours later they write a report.” And then on this issue, a commission is okay? Why?
  • (Phil Rucker, Washington Post) Yeah, Sarah, picking up where Jon left off, with regarding the National Rifle Association: At that February 28th meeting with lawmakers, President Trump sort of made an example of Republican senators who were afraid of crossing the NRA. And he said, “Some of you [people] are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified.” But based on the plan last night, it seems like President Trump was the one petrified of the NRA because he backed away from some of the ideas that he had brought into the discussion and I’m asking why he chickened out. Why he didn’t go forward with what he has proposed earlier?
  • But President Trump — he could have put out a proposal for legislation. He could’ve advocated for universal background checks. He could have called for raising the ages in the states. Instead he’s tabled that after this commission —
  • For federal policy? Just to clarify. For federal policy?
  • (It feels like someone is missing from the transcript here–the black woman reporter sitting next to Kevin Corke in the front row–she asked about California–I need to look at the video again)
  • (Zeke Miller, AP) Sarah, I was hoping you could comment on news out of Great Britain today. Theresa May saying that the British government believes that Russia was behind the attempted murder and poisoning of a former spy with a nerve agent that has a Russian manufacturer. Is that the assessment of the United States government, number one? Does the United States government plan on designating Russia as — like it did North Korea, earlier this year, regarding the murder of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother — of Russia using chemical weapons?mAnd, three, will there be any repercussions for Russia from the United States, in coordination with its British allies?
  • So you’re not saying that Russia was behind this act?

MS. SANDERS:  Right now, we are standing with our UK ally.  I think they’re still working through even some of the details of that.  And we’re going to continue to work with the UK, and we certainly stand with them throughout this process.

  • Theresa May said it was either Russia using it themselves or that it had given its chemical weapons to a third party to murder a British citizen, the latter being highly unlikely, given the nature of this weapon. So —

MS. SANDERS:  Like I just said, Zeke, we stand with our ally.  And we certainly fully support them, and are ready if we can be of any assistance to them.

  • What was the President’s reaction yesterday to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos going on “60 Minutes” saying that she admitted she has not intentionally visited underperforming schools, then went on another network this morning and said that everything was one the table when it came to schools safety as well as guns?  Clearly, it’s not — everything is not on the table.
  • Did he see the interview last night?
  • (Kevin Corke, Fox News) Thank you, Sarah. I have a question about Congress and possibly blocking or delaying tariff implementation. How concerned is the White House about that? And a follow-up on China, if I may.
  • And then on China, if I might. I know the President sort of made a tongue-in-cheek comment about President Xi having the ability to rule for quite some time, perhaps indefinitely. Is there an administration position on something like that? Is that healthy for the relationship between our countries? (She already punted this in a previous briefing, saying it was “up to the people of China” — as if that weren’t exactly what it is NOT!) 

MS. SANDERS:  That would be a determination for China to make, not something for the United States to weigh in on.

  • But is it healthy, from the administration’s perspective, in terms of our relationship, bilaterally, to have, say, a leader in a country that’s going to be there, potentially, indefinitely.
  • (Mike Bender, Wall Street Journal) Sarah, a couple on the guns issue. On the age restrictions, the President has said a couple of times — he’s criticized his predecessors, saying they haven’t shown leadership on this issue. So I wonder, now, how you can make the political expediency argument for his school safety policy and that he’s explicitly backing only things he thinks can pass and not things that may need some additional leadership —
  • Okay, certainly, but the leader of the party — he’s the President of the United States.
  • He can push that policy forward if he so chooses — if he chose to.
  • On the commission, is Commissioner DeVos going to continue to be the face of the school safety policy and this commission after last night’s interview?

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  • (this is?) Sarah. Thanks a lot, Sarah. I have two questions. One on guns, and the other on the President’s trip to California tomorrow. On guns, the President, here in the White House, met with six students from Parkland, Florida and said, specifically, that he would go strong on the age limits.  And this proposal doesn’t have the President stepping forward and demanding action from Congress on those age limits. Why is the President backing away from that promise to those six students that he would go strong on gun age?
  • Reviewing doesn’t count as going strong.
  • (Brian Bennett, LA Times) Can you tell us some more about the President’s trip to California tomorrow? Why is he going to the wall, to see the wall prototypes first? And also, this is a state that did not vote for the President. Is the President going to make an opportunity to reach out to people who didn’t vote for him by going to this state?

This is part of what Sarah Sanders said: “While California may not have — he may not have won that state, there is certainly a lot of support for this President, not just there but across the country. And he looks forward to being there and presenting a lot of the specific policies.” So you see, he is NOT reaching out to people who didn’t vote for him–still all that matters are the people that did, and that she say toward the cameras that a lot of people support him, so that he can see that from the room where he watches the TV.

  • The President — there’s a lot of Republican lawmakers in California that think that the wall would be too expensive and could be a waste of money. Is the President concerned that he might be putting undue political pressure on Republican lawmakers by visiting the wall in California?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. Since Kim Jong-un’s overture to meet with President Trump last Thursday and his proposal to denuclearize, the North Korean media has mentioned nothing. They haven’t referenced the overture; they haven’t referenced this idea that North Korea would get rid of its nuclear weapons. I heard what you said a little bit earlier about how you believe that a meeting will still take place. What makes you think that, based upon the fact that Kim Jong-un hasn’t even mentioned this to his own people, that anything of substance will come out at such a meeting?
  • Being nuclearized is a point on pride, we are told —
  • Being a nuclear country is a point of pride, we are told, for North Koreans. To just simply get rid of their own nuclear weapons, it seems, would be something that would undercut what that country and what Kim Jong-un stands for. Again, why would he get rid of his nuclear weapons?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Two questions. First, following up on what Jon asked, we know that Kim Jong-un has been using a special envoy to Seoul to send messages. Has he sent any special messages through any special envoy to the President?
  • The other thing is that, regarding tomorrow’s election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, the President’s campaign visit notwithstanding, he is reported in several sources today to have referred to Republican Rick Saccone as “weak” and said he’s run a poor campaign. This seems a little unusual in light of what he said Saturday, in light of Mr. Saccone’s praise of him as a friend. Did he actually say that about Mr. Saccone?
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) To double down on your answer to Brian’s question, is it the President’s intent, tomorrow, to pick a winning design for the wall? Is that we he’s going down there?
  • A quick question, there was a report this morning that the Saudi government inflicted physical abuse on the people who were held captive for the time at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Is this something that the White House intends to bring up with the Crown Prince?
  • (Toluse Olorunippa, Bloomberg News) Thank you, Sarah. I have two questions. First, on guns: The President, during his campaign, said “nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” But it sounds like now you’re saying that, because certain things that he supports does not have support in the Congress, that he’s only going to push forward on the things that are already sort of —

MS. SANDERS:  That’s not actually what I said, but — you guys continue to misunderstand and misrepresent the comments that I’m making.

Shades of Spicerian frustration.

  • Let me ask you about the Manchin-Toomey universal background check legislation because it’s not yet clear whether or not the President actually supports having universal background checks. Obviously, in this proposal, he supports the Fix NICS bill, but can you tell us whether or not he does support the idea of background checks for online purchases and private sales?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR News) Sarah, thank you. The President tweeted — he said, “…not much political support (to put it mildly)” for raising the age. I mean, I’ve looked at every single poll, and the support for raising the age is like 78 percent and 82 percent. Rasmussen was the lowest, with 67 percent. So what is he talking about?  There’s tremendous support for it.
  • So he has determined that there is no support in Congress for this?

TOWOIT #304: “You don’t come back from that.”

March 9, 2018

Questions they asked SHS today:  Continue reading TOWOIT #304: “You don’t come back from that.”

TOWOIT #303: “If this is not the definition of chaotic…”

March 7, 2018

Here are the questions reporters asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders aka Literally The Worst:

Continue reading TOWOIT #303: “If this is not the definition of chaotic…”

TOWOIT #302: I don’t know how to title these anymore

March 6, 2018

Yesterday, Sarah had two veterans up in front, sitting quietly on either side of her, and she promo-ed like a circus barker how their limbs got blown off and sewn back on. Sometimes I don’t know when I’m just generally grossed out by the Trump administration and when they’ve done something specifically wrong. But this seemed really off to me.

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Major Garrett had the first question and took the show right into Secretary of VA Shulkin’s corruption troubles.

Questions asked of Sarah Sanders yesterday:

Continue reading TOWOIT #302: I don’t know how to title these anymore


March 1, 2018

There was a White House Daily Briefing on the C-Span agenda yesterday, but it never happened. It stayed on the agenda and even had the little orange “Live” tag on it at the appointed time. But when you clicked on the link it just said “Program Unavailable.”

The White House said they canceled it because they decided to let the press sit in on a school shooting discussion.

I myself have gone mostly numb, but I hear the last two days were a true whirlwind 48 hours of connected leaks and revelations about Trump-Russia and Kushner and Hope Hicks and Sessions-bashing and all the rest of it.

Oh and Trump announced his candidacy for 2020.

I’ll never go into finance, Chad

February 27, 2018

I applied to an MFA program 5 months ago, and I have been chill about it for most of the intervening time. Sometimes defeatist, sometimes vaguely hopeful, sometimes thinking magically, sometimes falling in love with a Plan B just for scuz.

Anyway. Those days are over. I am now obsessing over it all, because we are in “any day now I find out” territory.

So naturally I did some neurotic research online and made a chart that shows roughly what I think I can expect from my would-be university as far as likelihood of getting an acceptance, a rejection, and a waiting list notification over the next several weeks. Hat tip to GradCafe for the raw data and for encouraging my over-thinking by making it seem normal.


(Just TELL me!)

Update: March 1, 2018

Ok, with new info coming in, I’m suspecting that I’ll get a rejection letter next week or the week after. To not even get on the wait list stings, I think most of all because I had wonderful people write me letters of recommendation.

So I put the new info into my chart and I made the rejection bars a more calming color.


Then, because it soothed me, I looked at all the info from all the schools on GradCafe for this admission season.


If you broke the information above into a pie chart of all rejections, acceptances and waitlistings so far this year, it looks like this:


In real life, though, rejection should be most of the pie. People are self-reporting, and reporting their acceptance is much more fun than reporting their rejection. The main reason to report their rejection is to be a good citizen and give other people a data point. Or to leave a funny comment along with your rejection post, like “I’ll never go into finance, Chad.”

If you were REALLY generous and considered the acceptance rate to be 5% (it’s common for acceptance rates to be 1% or 2%. I heard of one that was 7% and that was considered really high), then this is how the pie chart would look:


And it’s in a nice soothing color now. You’re welcome.

(P.S. I’ve been working the last 8 years in finance, don’t @ me)

Update March 2, 2018

No news continues to be bad news, but I’m working on feeling rejected and have started really enjoying the results board as a spectator sport.

This burbled up and then disappeared a few minutes later:


Even as I feel super bummed, I also totally wanted to kick this person while they were down!

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TOWOIT #298: The Wild West

February 26, 2018

Overheard in the briefing room before the briefing started (thanks to C-Span), “You’re too YOUNG to be so cynical! But you’re right” (off-camera) and “Truth be told, Shep, the White House needs the NRA and the NRA needs this White House” (on-camera).

Questions reporters asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #298: The Wild West

TOWOIT #297: Arming Teachers

February 22, 2018

(Update: Correction & apologies to Yamiche below)

Today Raj Shah did the briefing because Sarah Sanders is at the Olympics with Ivanka. He didn’t keep everyone waiting and he seemed like a more decent person than Sarah Sanders again. Then he said some bizarre stuff about how Trump doesn’t like the “branding” of active shooter drills and thinks they should be called something else.

(Ok, this isn’t bizarre. It means, pacify the children who are just preparing for an active shooter. Don’t make them feel like it will really happen. if they don’t think it will really happen, maybe they won’t join the Parkland children in the streets).


Just because I was bored, I graphed Raj’s briefing against Sarah’s on Monday (X is minutes, Y is live viewers on the White House youtube channel).

Here are the questions that reporters asked Raj today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #297: Arming Teachers

TOWOIT #296: “We have a lot of housekeeping to do”

February 20, 2018

Minutes vs. People joining the WH youtube channel to watch the first briefing in a week

Last night Rachel Maddow said the White House Daily Briefing is general a total snoozefest for her — a pointless exercise that is her cue to go out and get a sandwich — but that she would be tuning in today for the first briefing in one week.

I was disoriented all day because it wasn’t on the C-Span schedule and I thought they were bailing again. I cued up the White House youtube channel, which tells you how many viewers on the channel waiting to watch, and I also was listening for 80 minutes to the frustrated reporters in the room, waiting for the delayed briefing to actually started. Then it was 20 minutes of lies. Pretty anti-climactic actually.

Still, hats off to Kristen Welker who wouldn’t let Sanders hide behind the Parkland shooting — the reason they gave for *canceling* the last scheduled briefing, and then the shield used at the top of this one. Welker was given the first question and launched right into a Mueller question.

Sanders only took 20-minutes worth of questions. So there wasn’t very much anyone could do. Here are the questions the reporters asked:

Continue reading TOWOIT #296: “We have a lot of housekeeping to do”