January 23, 2017… Day Four … Flackery and the Zeitgeist
Well damn, I forgot all my scribbled notes at the office, so I’ll just have to do the best I can for today and update tomorrow. A lot happens in a day in the life of a blossoming dictatorship.
I woke up at 12 am and lay awake for 90 minutes gnawing on the problem of white feminism, the importance of intersectional feminism, and the distrust that black and brown women feel toward white women. The tendency of white women to act as privileged flibbertigibbets in ways they can’t seem to figure out that they’re doing. The fact that they mean well, have core competencies, and we need their (our) bodies, bulk, voices, and skills in an all hands on deck situation. And we need the leadership, experience, wisdom and moral fiber of women of color who have been living this fight. So, I couldn’t get back to sleep for awhile, just lying there with jangled, stabby feelings. These themes have now flooded my Facebook timeline as the “crowd buzz” has worn off and people have come down to earth and reflected. So it’s circulating.
NPR on the radio alarm, going on about Sean Spicer‘s falsehoods and Kellyanne Conway‘s “alternative facts.” Glad to hear this still being harped on. Thank you CNN. They still aren’t using the words lie, lying, liar.
Overheard at work (worried voice): “I hope he doesn’t start a trade war. It looks like he might start a trade war.”
A formerly non-political friend texted me this early in the morning:
At a holiday party a few weeks ago, her step-dad said, “You should just give Trump a chance.” She snapped back authoritatively “That guy? No. I don’t have to give that guy a chance.”
I haven’t unfollowed all my Republicans FB friends, though a lot of them have unfollowed me. A lot of them aren’t very political, so stuff doesn’t come up. A lot of them are Native American, and veterans and/or working as first responders. I have respect for them, partly because they aren’t like my white Lord of the Manor college-educated Republican acquaintances, who voted for Hillary because Trump was clownish and crude. Now that Trump’s in, they are perfectly happy to ride it out and get a tax break. A Republican who is a 90-year old retired nurse and clambers around on her own roof taking care of her own gutters, or a Republican who is a single mom who taught her middleschool-aged kids to shoot, clean, and cook squirrels and birds (!!). Well, I admire them a lot.
Anyway, that’s how I get memes like this one in my timeline this morning. Presented without irony.
OK, I’m basically just screwing around now and I need to cook dinner. I’ll be back tomorrow with more details for posterity.
I watched Sean Spicer‘s whole press conference and scribbled notes down.
I nabbed some great headlines.
And I read a piece from Venezuelan smart guy Andrés Miguel Rondón: “How to Culture Jam a Populist in Four Easy Steps. He says we (coastal liberal elites like me, who literally cannot stop saying vaguely snooty things) are the enemy of the Trumpists and NOTHING we do or say matters because we are necessary in our role as enemy, and that’s right where they’ll keep us. Overcome tribalism or perish. It did vindicate my sense that every time someone starts reeling off The List: homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, racism… it is like a block signal for people on the other side to stop paying attention to what we’re saying. The words stop being words, they become just The List now. I am not for cordoning this stuff off as “identity politics” and minimizing it to woo the white working class. No, no, no. I’m just talking about new word formats and speech patterns. Rule one in politics and life: Don’t be litanous. I imagine how I glaze over every time someone says the word “neoliberal” because to me it is a meaningless insult that correlates to a certain purist leftwing worldview that I find deeply exasperating and yet find myself having to partner with because I believe a broad coalition is necessary. Still don’t want to pay close attention after they drop the “N——–L” word though.
Today was also the day of heartbreaking Melania gifs.
And Trump naming the day of his inauguration, a National Day of Patriotic Devotion.
Everything is terrifying.
New York Times headline: Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting with Lawmakers.
Trump team shutting down agency social media.
By the way, the Smithsonian winkingly replied to a tweet I made about Donald Trump \ today. They replied with a smiley face and a photograph of a marine worm.
(This next part I am typing from the future, 4/4/2018) Today was the first official White House Press Briefing, if you don’t count Sean Spicer yelling at the press about crowd size and then refusing to ask questions. Nobody seems to have transcribed this briefing anywhere. Here are a list of the reporters’ questions at the briefing (after more then 10 tortured, garbled minutes of Spicer reading a prepared statement):
Question they asked Sean Spicer at the first briefing (1/23/2018):
- (Daniel Halpern, New York Post) Sean, thank you. When will you guys commence the building of the border wall?
- When will you start building the border wall?
- What about with Obamacare — are you guys enforcing the mandate or not?
- Yes. The Obamacare mandate?
- (Jennifer Wishon, Christian Broadcasting Network) Thank you, Sean. Of all the actions the President could have taken today, he chose to reinstate the Mexico City policy. What message is he sending here? Does he see the elimination / reduction of abortions as an American value? And also, here at home, can pro-life Americans expect him to put his signature on legislation that will defund Planned Parenthood?
- (Janet Rodriguez, Univision) Thank you, what did Mr. Priebus mean when he said he would work through Congress to get special something — we don’t know what it is — for DACA recipients? When can we expect that to happen? And also, when can we expect the White House Spanish site to be back up?
- (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Thanks Sean, I want to ask you two questions — money-related. The President campaigned on the corporate tax rate of 15% and then today when he spoke with business leaders he had mentioned that the tax rate would drop to somewhere between 15 and 20%. Is he moving the goal posts there in any way? And then my second question is on government spending. There have been reports that we might be looking at $10 trillion over the course of ten years. Is that accurate? And would you be willing to wrap up entitlements to get there?
- (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Sean, I have a couple of questions, if you’ll allow me to take them one at a time. Elijah Cummings, Maryland congressman, confirmed that President Donald Trump talked to him at the luncheon about the high price of prescription drugs. When is this meeting, or is it coming up soon, and will the president be meeting with the full body of the black caucus as well as the Hispanic caucus on issues related to those communities?
- I’m sorry. I want to go back to what the gentleman said about the Obamacare mandate. With the numbers that you talked about, and it’s been in the news , from the inauguration day and the numbers Saturday, do you believe that you have the mandate to be able to force through replacing portions of Obamacare that really subsidize the whole piece of it to help low income people afford healthcare? (I think it’s pretty remarkable that April flat out asked this question — not that many people showed up to inauguration and came out to the women’s march. Do you really have a mandate? Boy those were the days. Who would ask that now?)
- (Julie Pace, AP — a few months after this, she was named bureau chief for Washington, D.C. and stopped appearing in briefings) Thanks, Sean, I’ve got two foreign policy topics that i want to get to. There’s some discrepancy between what the Russians are saying and what the Pentagon is saying in terms of joint action. Can you clarify that? And generally, is the President open to joint action in Syria with the Russians?
- Is he generally open to it?
- And then the second thing is, when he was at the CIA on Saturday, he was talking about the U.S, not taking oil in the Iraq war and that there could be another chance for that. What did he mean by that?
- Was he foreshadowing upcoming action by —
- (John Roberts, Fox News) A couple of things if I could. Does the President plan to take action to green light the Keystone XL and Dakota access pipelines? And on TPP, John McCain says it was a serious mistake to do what the President did for America’s economy and for our strategic position in Asia-Pacific. Why was it the right thing to do to repeal TPP?
- And on the question about Keystone on Dakota Access?
- (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Before I get to a policy question, just a question about the nature of your job. Is it your intention to always tell the truth from that podium and will you pledge to never knowingly say something that is not factual?
- Do you have any corrections that you would like to make or clarifications of what you said on Saturday?
- I don’t want to relitigate the whole issue but just for instance Metro ridership — you made a statement about — (this is more crowd-size tantrum stuff)
- And do you stand by your statement that that was the most-watched inaugural address?
- And then–
- Well, I don’t want to get into numbers, I-I
- More than Ronald Reagan’s in 1981?
- And-and, the approach that you took on Saturday — any second thoughts on that —
- — you didn’t take any questions —
- Sean, did the media invent the feud between the president and the intelligence community?
- But it isn’t a media invention —
- (Unnamed, unseen man with an accent) Sean, can I ask, what is the U.S. strategic interest in moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? And also, in the chat with President Assisi today, was the status of the Muslim Brotherhood discussed?
- (Jon Sopel, BBC) Will there be a detailed discussion when Prime Minister May comes on Friday on the potential parameters of what a trade deal might look like. Is there going to be a joint news conference, and will Donald Trump get a state visit back to the UK later in the year?
- (Trey Yingst, One America News) After the executive order withdrawing the U.S. from the TPP, what specific steps will the president take to expand U.S. trade opportunity abroad? (Trey is standing on the side and seems young and scrappy–he will soon have a regular seat and be old hat)
- (Jon-Christopher Bua, EuroNews) Has the president or will the president have a chat, even an informal chat, with the prime minister before she comes here?
(Sean says sort of shruggingly that there are no plans for that and then goes on and on about how President Trump is talking to sooooo many world leaders and how everyone is soon excited to talk to him. He mentions President Assisi of Egypt… this seems like a real slap in the face to our foremost ally)
- Needless to say this is a big one and it’s the first…. special relationship —
(Sean doesn’t even answer this, is just kind of like yeah yeah whatever and calls on someone else. Amazing!)
OK more to follow. It takes a long time to do these without a transcript — 4/4/2018.
I’m back. It’s 4/7/2018.
- (Margaret Brennan, CBS News) TPP was dead on arrival, going to Congress, so why is this executive order anything more than symbolic? And when will President Trump start negotiating those bilateral deals with the ELEVEN other countries in the Asia-Pacific, because it takes some time, and that would be, some would say, that giving China room to make some inroads.
- You’re not gonna renegotiate? To be clear —
- (Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg) Does the administration feel like you need an executive order to remove yourself from Nafta? What is the —
- Will there still be a North American trade block, or something different, or —
- (Mara Liasson, NPR) Just to follow up on the China question — China actually has a regional agreement and now Japan and Australia, two of our great allies, are talking about joining that. Does President Trump see a national security component to these trade deals and is he concerned that now China will write the rules on Asia-Pacific trade? (It really feels like the press corps is asking leading questions to a troubled cousin who is about to majorly fuck his life up via midlife crisis but may not be beyond reasoning with)
- Really simple. What’s the overall employment rate?
- I’m just asking you.
- Do you accept–
- I know the difference–
- During the campaign, Trump at one point said it was 42%. I’m just trying to see what we are starting with–
I forgot how Sean Spicer RAMBLED for sooooo long, on and on in his answers. What a blowhard. He’s like the least eloquent person who decided to take up the most air space.
- (David Nakamura, Washington Post) Two questions. One, back on DACA. I was just curious about the message from this White House to the young people who may qualify but not yet have the protection. Should they enroll going forward and should those in the program seek renewal?
- (Unshown, unnamed woman ) Thank you, Sean. 2016 was the hottest year on record and the last three years have been the hottest the three years on record. Scientists say we’re getting dangerously close to the point where human civilization is being threatened. How does President Trump plan to address this?
- (Man in the back I don’t recognize — maybe in “Regionals” seat) Sean, what is the President’s message to the millions of people here and around the country who were protesting on Saturday? And a follow up after that.
- How does he reach out to them?
- And a follow up, on the other side of this — another group that’s coming to Washington — you know when we have the March for Life here in Washington, you’ve said this is a pro-life president — what concrete promises is he making? We haven’t heard a lot about what that policy is going to look like —
- Yeah but you’ve had a lot of time to make those promises —
- What should their expectations be?
- (Anita Kumar, McClatchy) I have two questions. First one, at the Congressional meeting today and also at the retreat, you said, talking about his legislative agenda — BESIDES healthcare, can you give us one, two, or three legislative actions the the wants to get to right away — not executive actions, legislation–
- Immigration is not an overhaul though? Not a —
- Then I had a second one–
- I haven’t heard that you have said or someone else has said specifically — has the President spoken to any of the intelligence agencies about the investigation into the Russian connections and will he allow that to go on?
- (Andrew Beatty, AFP) Thanks Sean, a clarification–you said you’re willing to work with anyone to defeat the Islamic State. Does that include Assad?
- (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Sean, will the President release documents showing he has left his businesses?
Sean looks over at the three women sitting to his right against the wall, Sarah Sanders, Kellyann Conway, and Hope Hicks, and you can hear either Kellyann or Hope saying “They are not public at this time.”
- (Unshown man with an accent, far to Sean’s right) (inaudible) political priorities. What would be the message for the Hispanic commune in the U.S. taking into consideration that one of the priorities has been the wall?
- What would be the relation between this administration and the Hispanic community in the U.S.?
Spicer: I think our relationship with the Hispanic community is gonna be great!
- (Financial Times) Sean, Does Mr. Trump agree with Rex Tillerson that the U.S. should try to prevent China from accessing the islands in the South China Sea where it’s building runways and other kinds of facilities.
- Would you prevent China from actually reaching these islands?
- (Jon Gizzi, Newsmax) very simply, there was an earlier question about Jerusalem and the embassy there, and a lot of talk about executive orders. Is this something the president can accomplish by executive orders?
- (Maria Pena, La Opinion) So I have a follow up on the housekeeping question about NAFTA. Are we NOT to expect then an executive order today to renegotiate NAFTA? Or will he wait until he meets with President Pena Nieto next week? And the other question I had is, he didn’t mention Latin America at all in his inauguration speech. Does he plan to visit Latin America this year?
- So it’s not gonna happen today?
- Any plans to travel to Latin America, given that he left them out of his inauguration speech?
- Sir, last week, the log cabin Republicans, the gay Republican group, delivered a white paper to the Trump team urging the president to maintain an executive order from President Obama barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors. President Trump said he will rescind executive orders that are unconstitutional — but will he maintain this executive order?
- The President won’t rescind them?
(Log Cabin Republicans: selfish fucking chumps.)
- (Michael D. Shear, New York Times) On immigration, the chief of staff over the weekend SEEMED to suggest that an executive order shutting down the DACA program had been ruled out. Is that officially ruled out as you go forward and does the President support action in congress that would essentially permanently establish protections for —
- Does he support legislation–
- (An unseen woman in the back seems to have jumped in unbidden, because Sean Spicer had said “Yes Sir, in the back” before she spoke.) What’s the status of the refugee resettlement program?
- (Tall white-haired foreign press guy standing in the very back) Regarding access for American companies to the international markets, will the president try to improve access to the largest market in the world, the European one, by taking _____ negotiations or by other means?
- (Cordelia Lynch, Sky News) Why did the President choose the British prime minister as the first foreign leader for him to meet, and can we take from that that he intends to make the relationship even closer?
Cordelia Lynch asked this question very flirtily. It was a basically just a permutation of a question asked by crusty old Jon-Christopher Bua earlier in the briefing and Sean Spicer to that guy was basically like “Fuck you and fuck the UK, stop asking me questions.” But to Cordelia, who was inexplicably smiley and full of extra warm micro expressions, Sean Spicer was very twinkly and said, “I think we’ll always have that SPECIAL relationship, but we could ALWAYS be a little bit CLOSER.” (That’s pretty close to the actual wording.) Just interesting, that’s all.
- (ChiaChieh Tang, Sina News who seemed to call herself Jane but I could have been mishearing Tang) What kind of relationship is Trump looking for to build with China after he withdraw from TPP? And on Taiwan’s issue, what kinds of stance he is going to make on cross-strait relations?
I suppose there could be something to foreign press as a wing of diplomacy. Look at Jane Tang raising her hand next to Cordelia Lynch, getting ready to ask a question in what was also a very warm, very open-faced way.
But I don’t know. That’s Richard from Montreal in the back there and he doesn’t ask questions like that (And Trey Yingst in front, taking in all the vibes; see it’s not just me).
- (Jessica Stone from CGTN, another Chinese outlet) Welcome. Question following on what she was asking about the TPP. You know, part of the thinking of TPP was to encircle China economically and I wonder if the President has thought a little bit about what kind of bilateral relationships in the region — trade relationships would accomplish a similar goal, and secondly, I heard you talking about NAFTA and a trigger, but I didn’t hear you say you had triggered the trigger.
- (Bob Weiner, Main Street Radio Network) Social security and infrastructure. On social security, the President will be meeting tonight with congressional leaders. What’s he going to do given his campaign promise on not touching social security when Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell send him a bill that includes in a funding package various cuts in social security. And on infrastructure, has it fallen off the radar screen, or is it going to be — stay a priority for the President?
- (Big white guy in the back, might be New York Daily News) Two questions–the sacking of the national security council — when do you expect to have those positions filled —
- To follow up on Jon Karl’s question–are you retracting your claim on Saturday that it was the largest crowd in person at an inauguration?
- Well you said, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.”
- Total audience, but not in person.
- You’re saying those together?
- But you’re saying here, just to clarify, you’re not saying and you weren’t saying on Saturday that it was the largest inauguration crowd in person?
- (Stephen Portnoy, CBS Radio) If we could just go back to one other thing. Those with knowledge of who was in the room in the lobby of the CIA say that senior leadership were not among those “hooting and hollering” and that there were some 40 people who were in the first front rows who were brought in by Trump and Pence and Pompeo. I’d like to give you a chance to respond to that recording. (Sean Spicer said “hooting and hollering” earlier in the briefing)
- So the people in the — the front who were seen on camera, those were CIA employees?
- But the people in the front rows, those were CIA employees?
- Some? So some were not?
- There’s not this rift between the intelligence community and the president? Because senior authorities within the intelligence community are telling CBS News that they are uncomfortable with that portrayal. And then the notion that people within the CIA are applauding —
- (Olivier Knox, Yahoo! News) Has the president formally requested or received pentagon advice on how he could change the campaign against the Islamic State?
- Just to follow up. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse on the issue of the U.S. embassy in Israel–at the end of the president’s first four years, will the embassy be in Jerusalem?
- (Jim Acosta, CNN) First of all congratulations and thanks for taking a question. Getting back to Saturday at the CIA and your statement here at the podium. Why make this crowd-size issue something to talk about at all? I mean, why get into it? Did it bother the president THAT MUCH that he felt that you needed to come out here and straighten that out for us? And why did he choose the CIA as a venue to talk about that?
Spicer pauses and tells Olivier that he was just handed a note saying none of the front row people at the CIA were Trump people. Olivier responds back, “I said the first three rows.” Spicer sputters.
- But — but in terms of the crowd size issue, why bring that up at the CIA? And why did you come out Saturday afternoon to talk about that? Did he tell you, Sean, I’m upset about this, I want you to come out and —
- But isn’t that just part of the conversation that happens in Washington—
- — in D.C., that comes from being president of the United States and working at the White House?
- Isn’t it a fair criticism that you’ve got bigger fish to fry? Why worry about a couple of tweets about crowd size?
- It’s not always going to be positive.
- (Hallie Jackson, MSNBC) So, Sean, a couple — a couple of questions here, if you don’t mind. First one on Russia. The administration was asked about multiple interactions between National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and a Russian ambassador. I believe you at the time — the administration at that time said it’s — the calls were related to setting up a discussion later between President Trump and Vladimir Putin. Were those conversations about anything else other than setting up that discussion? And why has that discussion not yet happened between the president and President Putin?
- Any other conversations between General Flynn and Russian members of the government?
- And one more follow-up on Julie’s questions from here on a statement that the president made on Saturday. Can you — and I just want to clarify your answer here. Can you unequivocally state that this administration will not send more troops into Iraq to, as the president has put it, take the oil?
- (Jeff Mason, Reuters) Where’s the president’s thinking now on the Supreme Court? And in a follow-up to..Narrowing down his nominees, I should say. And at the end of the Obama administration, the number of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay was reduced to about 40. What are the president’s plans for that prison?
- If I could just ask one more. You said that the president disagreed with the characterization of a rift with the intelligence community? Do you dispute, though, his tweet comparing the intelligence community to Nazi Germany?
- (Shane Goldmacher, Politico) Three months ago then candidate Trump was in Gettysburg and he made a list of Day One promises. He called it a contract with the American voters. A bunch of them are not gonna get done today because you said he’s done with making executive orders; labeling China a currency manipulator and imposing congressional term limits or proposing that. I wanted to ask you why not pursue all those on day one, as he promised in a contract with the voters?
- He still plans to (inaudible) that Day One list, though?
- (Dave Boyer, Washington Times) Is the president going to shake up the leadership of CFPB before the director’s term’s up?
- (Kristen Welker, NBC News) One on Obamacare. Has he finished his plan on Obamacare, when will the American people see that…And then on NAFTA, can you just clarify? I know he’s going to meet with the leaders of Mexico and Canada. Has he started to have discussions with them currently about renegotiating NAFTA
- –now that he’s officially in office, don’t they deserve to see — (I think this might have been on DACA)
- (Goyal, the Indian reporter goes on praising Trump until other reporters start saying Question! Question! But then I couldn’t really understand what the question was because it was asked after Sean Spicer said no more questions and other reporters were getting up and grumbling because it had been 80 minutes of listening to Sean Spicer’s strangled soliloquizing)