TOWOIT #320: Slime ball

April 13, 2018 (yesterday, before the announcement of Syrian airstrikes)

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  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thank you, Sarah. The President came out swinging today, calling James Comey a “liar,” a “leaker,” a “slime ball.” Is he worried about what he’s saying? (Sarah calls Comey a disgraced partisan hack and says firing him will be remembered as one of Trump’s proudest accomplishment)
  • And another topic, quickly, if I may. The Deputy Attorney General was here yesterday. Is the President going to fire Rod Rosenstein? (Once again, she has no announcements at this time)
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, the President, a short time ago, issued a pardon of Scooter Libby, the former Vice President’s Chief of Staff. There are many people who believe that Scooter Libby was the victim of a Special Counsel investigation run amuck. The recent statements that we have heard from the White House would seem to indicate that you feel much the same thing about the Mueller investigation. Was the President sending some sort of signal to the Mueller investigation or about the Mueller investigation by pardoning Scooter Libby? (It’s time to quite Fox News, John. You’re a propaganda beard)
  • In the statement, the pardoning statement today, the President acknowledges he doesn’t know Scooter Libby. What was it that convinced him that Scooter Libby deserved a pardon? (Just thought it was the right thing to do)
  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg News) Thanks, Sarah. I have two questions. I wanted to ask about the first — The President, at the beginning of the week, said he expected a decision —
  • Sure. The President, at the beginning of the week, said he expected a decision within 24 to 48 hours on Syria. On Tuesday, he said a decision would probably come that night. But here we are on Friday, and in a statement last night, you said that no final decision had been reached. So I’m wondering if you could walk through why the President hasn’t met his own timeline there, and specifically, if it had anything to do with the, sort of, Syrian troop movement that we saw after his tweet on Wednesday, sort of threatening a missile strike.
  • And then, because it’s Friday, I’m wondering if —

MS. SANDERS: Friday the 13th.

  • Yeah. (Laughter.) You could walk us through exactly what the President has–(Jesus stop laughing at her jokes)

MS. SANDERS: You guys all groan like that’s a bad thing.

(Just a bad joke)

  • — committed to Senator Gardner in terms of both what the Justice Department would do and what the White House would do in terms of supporting legislation on states that legalize marijuana.
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) You mentioned he’s spoken to President Macron. How big a coalition does he have for this expected action in Syria?
  • And is he satisfied now that Syria was responsible for the chemical weapons attack?
  • (Josh Dawsey, Washington Post) It was reported today that Michael Cohen, the President’s personal attorney, helped negotiate a $1.6 million settlement to a Playboy playmate. It also emerged, today, that Michael Cohen is under criminal investigation by the Southern District of New York. Is the President still associated with Michael Cohen? Does he continue to consider Michael Cohen someone he holds in confidence?
  • Is he concerned about these developments? Would the President like to say anything about them?
  • What about Michael Cohen’s actions, though? Does the President have any concern with those?
  • (Jill Colvin, Associated Press) Just a follow-up on that and then another topic. Is Cohen still the President’s personal attorney? (Sarah says she’d have to check) 
  • And I wanted to ask – (then Sarah interrupts to say she can only speak about White House staff) 
  • It looks like Paul Ryan just endorsed Kevin McCarthy for Speaker in an appearance, or an interview, with Meet the Press. Does the President believe that McCarthy should be the next Speaker?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) On the James Comey book, some excerpts came out today. He speaks of the President — writes about the President in very personal terms. Were you surprised by that? Was the President surprised by that? (It’s time to quite Fox News, Jon. You’re a propaganda beard)
  • And just really quickly on the pardon that came out today for Scooter Libby. The President, so far in his time in office, has issued three presidential pardons. One of those was to Joe Arpaio. Is there a commonality, in terms of what the President looks for when he pardons individuals?
  • (Steve Herman, VOA? I’m trying to gauge from the voice and the angle of her gaze which Steve it was.) Yes, Sarah. I’m wondering if the administration has reacted with any message to Moscow after officials there today said that the chemical attack in Douma was faked and staged with Britain’s direct involvement.
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Sarah, what part does the President bringing Russia into the Syria equation now cause for the delay in the strike timeline?
  • (Dave Boyer, Washington Times) Thanks, Sarah. The Justice Department Inspector General came out with his long awaited report this afternoon on former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying that he improperly leaked information about the Clinton Foundation investigation to a reporter, and then lied to James Comey about it and, under oath, to two FBI investigators. Do you have a reaction to that? And does that, in your mind, validate the decision to fire McCabe?
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. You said that James Comey was a liar, that he’s a leaker, that he made false representations or claims. Other than what the President tweeted this morning about lying under oath to Senator Grassley, what exactly has he said that’s false or a lie? (When Sarah responds to Comey questions in this briefing, she reads from a screed instead of answering off the cuff. It’s a total doubling-down on the Trump tweets from the morning.) 
  • Sarah, what about the dossier, though? Sarah, what about the dossier? Did he also lie about the dossier in his conversation with President Trump about that? (She doesn’t really answer this question)
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) Sarah, what about the content of the President’s attacks on Jim Comey, your attacks on Jim Comey? Isn’t all of that a bit unbecoming of the Presidency of this White House to go after him in such a personal way like that. Calling him a “slime ball” and a “liar” and a “leaker”?
  • Sarah, if I could just follow up —
  • Other folks had two questions. If I could just —
  • — ask a second follow-up question because —
  • Well, it’s Friday, yeah. And you’ve —

MS. SANDERS: And you’d probably get really upset, and I don’t need that

  • No, no, no. Not at all. Not at all. (Laughter.) No, but you’ve probably seen this tweet. It was a tweet that you posted before the election in 2016: “When you’re attacking FBI agents because you’re under criminal investigation, you’re losing.” What do you make of that now? Isn’t that —
  • But when you go after Comey and Rosenstein and Mueller, doesn’t that mean you’re losing? (She doesn’t answer, scolds him briefly for trying to ask another question, moves away to another reporter, and… boom)
  •  Following up with that, I mean, one of the themes of Comey’s book is the President’s “disdain” for the rule of the law and his continued efforts to publicly undermine federal law enforcement officials. So how would you characterize the President’s attitude towards the rule of law and things that he said publicly about many of his top federal law enforcement officials?
  • But it’s NOT just leakers; it’s his own Attorney General, it’s his own Deputy Attorney General, it’s Special Counsel, it’s the FBI, it’s judges who make decisions that he doesn’t like. There’s a whole list of federal law enforcement officials that he has undermined. It’s not just people who have proven to leak information. (Sarah rails at the press in general for “praising Jim Comey, propping him up” )

(She broke in to say the second part — Sarah had already called on Charlie from Breitbart. I like this reporter’s moxie but I can’t find her full name — she’s from CBS) 

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  • (Charlie Spiering, Breitbart) Thank you, Sarah. This morning, James Comey admitted that he didn’t tell the President about the political source —
  • This morning, James Comey said that he didn’t inform the President of the political source of the dossier. Was the President surprised to hear that? Did Director Comey ever tell him about the sourcing of the political dossier against him?
  • And a second question, because it’s Friday. Did the President speak to former Vice President Dick Cheney about the Scooter Libby pardon either before or after it —
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Yeah. Thank you, Sarah. Three Republican state senators from Missouri wrote the President yesterday saying that the embattled Governor Eric Greitens should resign from office. He has serious charges of sexual abuse against him, faces impeachment, and refuses to resign. They concluded that, as a former Navy SEAL, he would salute and resign if his Commander-in-Chief asked him to. Did the President receive the letter? What is his response? And will he ask Governor Greitens to step down?
  • (Sarah Sorcher, Washington Post) Thank you, Sarah. So, concerning the summit with Prime Minister Abe next week in Florida, does the President plan to push for a bilateral free trade agreement with Japan?
  • Sarah, does the President have another NSC meeting today on Syria?
  • Will the President be having another NSC meeting today on Syria?
  • (Ayesha Rascoe, NPR) Thanks. I wanted to ask about the pardoning process. It seems like we’ve had these three pardons; they all were somewhat high-profile or had gotten media attention. How is the President deciding when to take action on a case? I mean, with Arpaio, he hadn’t been sentenced yet; the Scooter Libby case was very old. So how are you deciding when to take action on these cases? And can a normal person who feels like they’ve been unjustly convicted, can they get their case to the White House? I mean, there’s a Justice Department process, but it seems like the President is taking special interest in certain cases.
  • (Nadia Bilbassy, Al Arabiya English) Thank you, Sarah. The OPCW is sending inspectors to Syria. Do you think this is a futile exercise, since you already have the evidence that actually they have chemical weapons?
  • (Brian Bennett, LA Times) Thanks, Sarah. I’ll do two. One on Syria and one on the Department of Justice. On Syria, the President has publicly said that he wants to get out of Syria. Has this strike changed his mind on that? And is he considering other options, other than a plan to pull out U.S. forces from Syria? And if you could just —

(I saw Brian’s face way in the back when she called on him, and I was like “and that’s Brian Bennett” — and then I remarked to myself, “wow, you’re getting good at this — how did you know THAT guy’s name?” And then it dawned on me, sort of like horror, that I know his name because I *KNOW* him, because we went to college together. That just bums me out, because I was in classes with so many successful journalists and writers and media people and sometimes I just feel so lame and obscure.)

  • Is he considering other options other than a long-term strategy to get U.S. forces out of Syria?
  • And so I have a question about the Department of Justice. What does the President have to say to Republican lawmakers who believe that firing Mueller would be “suicide,” as Grassley has said, or firing Rosenstein could be the end of the presidency for Donald Trump, as Lindsey Graham has said?
  • Does he have any response for Republican lawmakers who are counseling him not to take an action like that?

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The AP’s Jill Colvin wore a really pretty skirt today. I really relate to her in this picture, an average-looking print journalist sandwiched between the slim, TV-ready ladies down in front. I relate because I work in an office where people look polished and run marathons, and I’m just sort of frumping around the place eating pizza for breakfast. (Apparently self-deprecation is a feature of this post, not a bug.)

 

 

TOWOIT #291: Mere Allegations

February 12, 2018

Just minutes ago I left a train car in which a creep aggressively pressed his whole leg against mine, hip to ankle, even though he had a whole empty seat on the other side of him and even though I was struggling and squirming to get a little space between my leg and his — I inched my leg away to get away from that press of contact, and he smashed further into me. Three times. That’s not an accident.

This happens all the time. It happens to nearly every woman. It has happened to me many times. I don’t think I’ve ever ONCE commented on it before. But I am so sick of it. Don’t use your precious balls as an excuse to invade my personal space. I eventually heaved my bag a little so it kind of rammed into his elbow, and he finally moved over, but then he sort of settled himself so his hips and torso were turned toward me, opened his legs wider, and gave a little smirk. He got off at the same stop and stood RIGHT behind me on the escalator. I just wanted to kick him back down the escalator but the people behind him didn’t deserve that.

Anyway, just letting you know that’s the head space I’M in right now as I head into this recap of today’s 18-minute White House press briefing. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was creepy, robotic, and said things like “MERE allegations” and “the president thinks vic- EVERYONE- should get due process.” These people are so dumb they forget the rest of us have reading and listening comprehension. She read her exact script three times, word for word, so we really got it. We got it, Sarah. We got the over tones… we got the under tones. We got the syntax of how looking the other way and absolving abusers was the actual alpha and omega of your statement. When I hear “due process” out of her mouth all I hear is smug comfort taken in people being too afraid to come forward and closets full of unexamined rape kits.

I also wanted to share this tweet from Jay Rosen at NYU:

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It’s made me think. I have argued that the briefings ARE worthwhile because the questions matter as much as the answers in any administration, and MORE than the answers in THIS administration. Jay Rosen might be right though, and that’s uncomfortable.

Could reporters do a better job in there? Yes, absolutely. And do the red-meat MAGA crowd use Trump as a way to bludgeon liberals, and do they care more about that than they do about Trump himself? Yes, I really think so.

Still, I think it’s worth it to continue. Even though the reporters in the room skew left and right to varying degrees, most of them still show quite a bit of adherence to the basic principles of journalism. And those basic principles are in direct opposition to the way the Trump White House operates. And having that gap on display, on the record, in publicly available White House transcripts, and on TV — that still matters to me. I’d miss it if it were gone.

I wrote “I’ll miss it when it’s gone” first and then I changed it.

And then I told you that I did that.

I ran out of time and have to go into class now — I’ll update this with my usual haphazard annotation of reporters’ questions when I can.

 

TOWOIT #276: Meetings on the Course

January 2, 2017

I only had a handful of regular readers I’ve alienated most of them by writing only about the White House press briefing. There’s a lot I could do to write about the White House Press Briefing with more pizzazz, but I’ve been a little busy and preoccupied with other writing projects. But I still like cataloging those events here, even if only for myself. I always mean to get more insightful and funnier about them, and hey–that could happen at any time!

You get all those reporters in the room, and they have twenty minutes to ask Sarah Huckabee Sanders questions. There are all these competing angles and interests. Left-leaning vs. right-leaning outlets. TV vs. radio vs. print. Mainstream vs. wackadoo publications. Quirky journalists vs. very bland ones. The most essential dynamic though is reality-based, truth-seeking journalists vs. the mouthpiece of a corrupt, lying, obfuscating, incompetent administration.  It’s Orwellian to me, so I watch. The reporters are very human to me, so I listen. We are lucky to have a Constitution and a first amendment, so I pay attention.

I like having my commentary on the Trump administration narrowed down to this one event. There’s four walls to the James Brady Press Room, there’s a set cast of characters, there’s an expected series of events. Within these set parameters, little microdramas unfold at every briefing. Inside this little arena the questions themselves contain a chronicle of what is happening week by week in this country. So, that’s what I pin down.

But just the questions, not what Sarah Huckabee Sanders says. Because her answers are worthless and this is not a place to amplify her words.There’s a lot to criticize about the press briefing and the press corps and the media in general — but compared to the Trump administration, they are champions to me.

Here are the questions from yesterday afternoon, before Trump took to Twitter with his nuclear brinksmanship and freaked everybody out last night.

Continue reading TOWOIT #276: Meetings on the Course

TOWOIT #261: Anniversary? Check.

November 8, 2017

  • 366 days since THAT election
  • 292 days since the inauguration
  • 1 day since another election, that showed a shitload of American decency and enthusiasm.

I thought there would be a press gaggle from the Asia trip that I could write about — since this blog now ekes out a living* near the eructations of the White House press secretary.

However, there has not been a press gaggle posted since October 3 — I’m sure there were some. They are just dropping the ball and being less complete in sharing things with us on Whitehouse.gov. Typical!

But I came here today to say hello and to be joyful and hopeful on this anniversary. I know election night last night was a bright spot and there are still hard times ahead. Who knows what a more and more desperate Trump administration will try to do.

But let’s consider yesterday to be the anniversary — we did the anxiety, the hope, the elections, the going-to-bed-happy. And today, on the actual anniversary, let’s just consider it done. It’s been anniversaried. The anniversary effect came and now it’s gone. Consider it done. Consider yourself on the slide into the 2018 mid-term elections.

*this blog has 57 followers and is not monetized

 

TOWOIT #256: My Gal’s a Corker

October 24, 2017… Day 278

Sarah Huckabee Sanders held a press briefing today. She wore a pink blouse of a shinier, less structured fabric than usual. The neckline plunged a bit, showing some cleavage. I have not noticed her showing cleavage before and I do not like it when she opens herself up to sartorial criticism because then I feel honor-bound to defend her. I wondered if she felt self-conscious, or if maybe it had not seemed at home like the neckline plunged as much as it did indeed turn out to plunge.

Cleavage notwithstanding, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is like a giant damper pedal. Well, that’s not quite apt. But whereas Sean Spicer used to rattle and hum and spice things up by getting all zesty and testy, Sarah Sanders just takes all the energy and life in the room and absorbs it and keeps it. Everything falls quiet and slow. Just slow quiet lies in a deadened room.

Here are the questions they asked her today: 

Continue reading TOWOIT #256: My Gal’s a Corker

TOWOIT #249: The Calm Before

October 6, 2017… Day 260

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The guys I work with think Rex Tillerson is a good, smart guy. Everyone’s waiting to see if Rex Tillerson leaves or gets fired.

Today a friend of mine, a straight white male upper-middle-class Republican said to me, “I’m pissed that Trump’s approval rating has bounced back up — who the fuck are these people who support him?” I wish more people could be like this friend. Personally comfortable but capable of not towing the party/tribal line.

Another friend told me she is waiting to get in with a therapist for the first time in her life. She still has to work out scheduling and insurance. She’d made up a weird excuse to not go to a friend’s funeral last weekend. After that, she’d realized that she can’t live in Trump’s America and do things like go to funerals. She was crumbling, she said. She’s a woman of color who works with at-risk young people.

My hometown went 76% for Trump. There are tons of decent-paying blue collar jobs there. It’s a prosperous, bustling little town. But the white male despair syndrome is happening there. My male schoolmates are dying, one by one by one. All this year. Not waking up. Dropping dead. Found under a dock. Overdose. We lost another one yesterday.

Las Vegas was earlier this week, this same week. It feels like last year. Yesterday I had to listen to a roomful of guys talk seriously about gun stocks. It’ll always be too soon to talk about political solutions, but I guess it’s never too early to talk about making some money. The meeting had already gone on too long at that point, and the room had already been feeling too small.

My sister wrote this today, after seeing the New Yorker cover: Black bullets silhouetted against red, with a name written in white on each bullet. They point every which way.

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I feel the same way. I don’t know if she’ll delete the post soon. Since after all, a lot of her social media friends are from our aforementioned hometown.

I am doing ok. I have been busy with classes and work. I’ve become a person who makes decaf coffee in a real coffeemaker in the evenings now, and puts heavy cream in.

I’m busy enough that I’m missing the first few waves of takes, but I still secretly listen to the White House Press Briefings in my cubicle, when Sarah Huckabee Sanders deigns to grace the podium.

Here’s what the reporters asked her today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #249: The Calm Before