Wow. This is the final mailbag that we'll publish while Donald Trump is President of the United States.
B.H. in Westborough, MA, writes: Thanks for your tireless coverage of this constitutional nightmare we are living through, rooted in the delusions of a mentally ill "leader" and the cult-like followers he's amassed. One thinks a deprogramming might be needed to finally purge Trump from our national psyche.
As divisive as things are right now, I actually think not convicting Trump and letting him run in 2024 if he wants to are best for the country.
Hear me out. As long as Trump is around, the Republican party is in civil war with itself and so divided that it will struggle to gain critical mass support for any national office as long as Trumpism is a factor. If Trump can't run in 2024, this rift heals faster.
The Republicans have shown us the worst in American politics. They have no interest in governing; they exist now only to make their rich donors richer. They are, however, good at marketing fear as to scare followers into believing that any Democrat, regardless of competence, qualification, or policy position, is the devil and to be attacked, verbally and even physically. They enabled the despicable Trump when it fit their agenda and are ready to discard him now that he's stifled and off the reservation. It never had anything to do with what was right or what was best for the country and the people they supposedly serve. Shameful.
With the Republicans out of the way, the Democrats can actually govern. We are already seeing it in Joe Biden's appointments (actual experts, not empty suits and sycophants) and early policy positions. Most Republicans who bought into the Trump con will actually fare better under the Democratic regime they've been taught to hate, in the areas of healthcare, infrastructure, jobs and the economy, and many more. And those results will help heal the country faster than the absence of Trump.
For those worried that Trump's ongoing "leadership" will cause further violence, this is a risk with or without him being in the picture.
P.M. in Makhanda, South Africa, writes: Something that puzzled me about the impeachment debate is that the Democrats did not make the main focus Trump's repeated lies about the election being stolen, which is the justification insurrectionists have given for attacking the Capitol. It takes a gullible person to believe anything Trump says, but a lot of people evidently do.
Harping on this point would also have put the GOP supporters of the insurrection—particularly those who voted against accepting the presidential vote—on notice that their lies were also under scrutiny.
E.S. in Maine, NY, writes: You wrote: "So, Trump's second impeachment is the second fastest, after Johnson's."
Yet another thing where Donny comes in second!
V & Z respond: That's usually the case when Johnsons are involved.
J.B. in Bend, OR, writes: I think a fairly simple way to avoid all of the questions about the impeachment trial you listed is to begin the trial on January 19. Justice John Roberts would be presiding judge, Trump would still be president, etc. Once he leaves office, nothing substantive changes other than incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) becoming the ringmaster rather than outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). To say that Trump's departure changes anything would allow a future president to end an impeachment trial by resigning. No criminal justice system gives such power to a defendant.
Suppose Trump had faced certain conviction in his first impeachment trial. Can you imagine a system that would allow him to resign, thereby ending the proceedings, and then run for re-election?
J.L. in Chicago, IL, writes: It seems to be quite the week for Illinois politics in your blog. You noted:On the other hand, some of them—Newhouse, Rice, Kinzinger, and Gonzalez in particular—really stuck their necks out, and may have ended their political careers yesterday. If there is an explanation for their choice beyond "they voted their conscience," we do not know what it is.
Kinzinger's vote may have been entirely conscience but there is at least an additional theory (and, of course, there could be multiple reasons). He reportedly wants to run for governor next year. Would this vote help or hurt him? Who knows? Depending on the mood of Republican primary voters at the time, whether there is a multi-candidate split, and other factors, it might help or hurt for getting the nomination. If anything, it likely would help in the general election. And, of course, increased name recognition stands to help for both. So, there is at least a plausible political motive—although, again, it also could have been purely a vote of conscience.
D.B. in Oak Beach, NY, writes: Aren't the GOP Representatives voting "no" on impeaching President Trump giving President-Elect Biden license to do whatever he wants, no matter how illegal? After all, if you're unwilling to impeach a president who unleashes a violent seditious mob upon the Congress, then there really isn't any activity you're willing to impeach a President for.
K.E. in Newport, RI, writes: I work in law enforcement and I wrote to you back in October, warning that the US was headed towards a Winter from Hell due to rising COVID19 infection rates and rise in right-wing extremism. I predicted that Donald Trump would lose and spend the next 2 months accusing Joe Biden of winning the election through cheating and it would lead to violence from some of his supporters. I believe my predictions were well-founded and correct based on my current understanding of extremist groups in the United States.
I knew after the attempted kidnapping of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that a new line had been crossed and far-right extremists were becoming more daring and active. The kidnapping plot was a seditionist conspiracy. It is a failure of law enforcement to have not done more to prevent future attacks on our government after they knew of this plot.
The FBI and the Biden Department of Justice are going to have to become much more aggressive at investigating these groups. Extremist groups like militias have switched to using encrypted smartphone apps for communications so it has become much more difficult to monitor them. The FBI is going to have to use undercover agents to infiltrate them and find out what they are plotting, but this is also difficult because many extremist groups require recruits to commit illegal acts to be accepted as trusted members. Law enforcement officers are not supposed to commit illegal acts to assist with an investigation because evidence obtained afterwards is inadmissible in court and doing so is a violation of their oath.
I am also alarmed at the actions of some of the Capitol officers present at the attack. There are videos available online of some officers turning their backs on the attackers. We are trained to not turn our backs on people with weapons because it makes us and our colleagues more susceptible to injury. I believe a DOJ investigation will reveal some of the officers were sympathetic towards the insurrectionists and that is why they did not follow proper procedures in engaging with them. Sympathizing with or supporting insurrectionists is a grave betrayal of our oath to protect the Constitution.
R.M. in Bryan, TX, writes: In considering yesterday's question from D.R.M. in Newton, I can think of no better name for the events of Jan. 6 than "Trump's Insurrection."
P.J.S. in Pacific Grove, CA, writes: I'm lobbying to call the events this month "The Revolt of the MAGAs." I want us to all be able to look back at this period and proclaim that "the MAGA supporters were revolting!"
R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: John Oliver dubbed Trump's flailing about as "Stupid Watergate," followed by "Stupider Watergate," which he defined as "Just like Watergate, except all of the participants are stupid."
I propose we call the January 6 event the "Stupid Coup." I seriously doubt that the media will follow my suggestion, but...
J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: For the Jan. 6 event, you went with "Capitol Insurrection" and noted that it had 6.2 million Google results. I just Googled "storming of the Capitol" and got 10.7 million results. Admittedly, however, I have never considered myself to be one of the cool kids.
As a side note, my Googling of "Capitol insurrection" yields only 5.9 million results. If one factor in Google's algorithm is the user's past searches and/or click-throughs, then the number of results is not observer-independent.
V & Z respond: Clearly it is not observer-independent, because (Z) now gets 8.1 million results for "Capitol Insurrection" and 15 million for "storming of the Capitol."
J.E.T. in New York, NY, writes: In your discussion of using the 14th amendment to bar Trump from future office, you rightly wrote that a law stating "Donald Trump was guilty of insurrection," would be a Bill of Attainder. I believe, however, that the legal way to do this would be for Congress to make a finding that what happened on January 6 was, in fact, insurrection. Such a finding would apply to anyone involved in the events of January 6, and would leave open an opportunity for any individual charged to argue that their actions did not arise to the level of involvement contemplated by the 14th amendment. This would not be a Bill of Attainder, and would allow due process for anyone charged under the Amendment.
V & Z respond: Either way, it means getting the courts involved, with the delays and appeals that entails.
S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: You wrote: "What Trump was trying to do was to cover all his bases."
I think you included a superfluous "b" and "e" in that last word there.
C.B. in Denver, NC, writes: "Congress should stop pallin' around with terrorists that attack their own country."
I forget which Republican intellectual heavyweight and orator first said that. Maybe someone out there can remind me...?
V & Z respond: Perhaps it would jog your memory if we printed "Pallin" as "Palin."
P.S. in Portland, ME, writes: It seems to me that we owe a big debt of gratitude to The Donald. He managed to get all the wackos—the worst of the white supremacists, the anti-Semites, the xenophobes...you know, the folks that think that they are better just because they are white—all together in one place. Then he got them to break a big-time federal law so as to bring in the entire FBI, who "always gets their man" (person), and he got them to break the law in such a way as to get it all on film so as to make the FBI's and the prosecutors' job that follows easy. Plus, as a result of the arrests, we are getting a bunch of AR-15s off the streets.
G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes:
S.B. in New Castle, DE, writes: I really appreciate your comparative analysis of Trump and Buchanan vying for "Worst President "EV-er!" The active vs passive element is what persuades me on this point. I'll add this: Trump has actively, willfully, and deliberately attacked the foundational democratic institution of voting. He was doing so before the 2016 election, did so throughout the 2020 election, put a bellows to that fire starting on Nov 3, 2020, and then intentionally dumped a tank of jet fuel upon it on Jan 6, 2021. Worst. President. Ever. +1.
J.E. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: In this age of divisiveness, we need to eschew hyperbole and cognitive dissonance. You said "Buchanan's disastrous presidency was defined primarily by inaction, as he struggled to tame forces that were substantially beyond his control. By contrast, most of the black marks against Trump (Ukraine Mobilier, 'good people on both sides,' children in cages, the COVID-19 pandemic, the Capitol insurrection) are the product of specific actions taken by the President, and were significantly or entirely in his control." As much as you can find fault with Trump for his COVID response, you certainly cannot blame him for the pandemic itself (which significantly affected and continues to affect every country in the world). How is this not analogous to Buchanan's response (or lack of response) to the growing tensions between the North and the South? I say this not in support of Trump, but in support of intellectual integrity.
V & Z respond: Having studied the Civil War for three decades, (Z) cannot think of anything Buchanan might have done to resolve the serious underlying issues that led to the war, though the 15th President deserves to be condemned for largely not even trying (and for making things worse when he did try, as with putting his thumb on the scale with the Dred Scott decision).
By contrast, Trump worsened the pandemic with both specific actions (turning mask-wearing into a political litmus test) and inactions (refusing to impose any sort of national lockdown). If you would prefer that our original sentence be amended from blaming Trump for "the pandemic" to blaming him for "the extent of the pandemic," then that is fair. But, in contrast to the lead-up to the Civil War, we know for certain that Trump could have done much, much better because other countries did do much, much better.
J.P. in Sudbury, MA, writes: Here's a thought: Might Donald Trump simultaneously be the worst president ever, while being one of the most consequential? Given the underlying shift of the right to paranoia and conspiracy, perhaps having him in office to help bleed some of the crazy out will be beneficial to the long-term prospects of our country. Consider Trump a very unpleasant, but necessary, vaccine against further dystopia that could go full fascist in the arms of a smarter and more competent leader.
V & Z respond: Abraham Lincoln thought similarly about the Civil War, seeing it as necessary penance to cleanse America of its "original sin."
J.W. in West Chester, PA, writes: I wanted to at least attempt to defend Donald Trump's legacy beyond his two impeachments. I think first and foremost, he fundamentally changed the makeup of the courts and despite people's fears that his appointments would cater to his demands around the election, that didn't happen. Secondly, he drove the economy (via the stock market) to its highest level, lost it all, and got it all back. To me, that is an amazing feat. Rolling back burdensome regulations has also been a huge accomplishment. This administration gave the first real prison reform in years, and the Abraham Accords leave a foundation to build off of. I think that short-term, he will be ranked as a very poor president but I think over time he will rise in the presidential rankings and at least not be in the bottom five.
D.R. in Yellow Springs, OH, writes: In your answer to P.S. of Arlington, TN, you described how presidential libraries normally work—there's a museum that's highly favorable to the ex-president along with a scholarly library managed by the National Archives and Records Administration that isn't open to the general public and doesn't have a political skew.
But I would predict that Trump (or his family) won't cooperate with NARA for a library like that. I suspect that with this lack of cooperation, NARA will put out a request for proposals to university libraries to host the archive of documents from the Trump administration.
My best guess for the Trump Presidential Library will be a museum in a rural area that supports Trump overwhelmingly, such as Roberts County, TX, where Trump had a larger percentage of the vote than any other county in 2016. (I'm not sure which county has that distinction for 2020.) Trump's loyalists could easily raise money for a gaudy museum in whatever small town wants to host it; this museum building would also be the new home of the local public library.
This museum would benefit the local economy because it would draw in many visitors from out of town, both fans of Trump and detractors of his who would show up to gawk at the spectacle.
R.H., Santa Ana, CA, writes: There were rumors and reports of Nixon's "October Surprise" for decades.
A few years ago, someone doing research at the Nixon Library found an October 1968 cable from H.R. Haldemann to Anna Chennault wherein Nixon's henchman instructed Ms. Chennault to tell the South Vietnamese to walk away from the Paris Peace Talks, promising them a better deal from the new Nixon administration than the peace treaty that was on the table from LBJ.
Lord only knows what people will find in the Trump Library over the next few decades.
L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: If you need an illustration of the one-way loyalty Donald Trump believes in, this video is short and sweet:
V & Z respond: You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?
H.B. in Toronto, ON, writes: If Donald Trump does become a TV talking head, he wouldn't be much worse than former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, whose brief stint hosting "Friday Night, Saturday Morning" has become infamous in the UK.
The Beatles and Dylan
D.H. in Marysville, WA, writes: To D.E. in Lancaster: I want to thank you for all of your excellent and thoughtful mail to this site, but especially for your thoughts about the Insurrection at the Capitol. Your words had a very profound effect on me and I posted your letter on my social media along with a few of my own thoughts (and the link to electoral-vote.com, of course).
To P.M. in Currituck, NC: I have appreciated your mail and discourse over the last few months. However, as one of the lucky readers of this site who is female (and over 50), I will note that it's not possible for me to be a little bit pregnant. It is also not possible for Donald Trump to be a little bit fascist. He either believes in the rule of law or he doesn't. Expecting it to apply only to his opponents doesn't count. Your support of him means you have supported someone who does not believe in the rule of law. You say that you do not want folks to paint you with the same broad brush—but that's what Trump has been doing to the other side since day 1 as, apparently, we are all Radical Leftist Socialist Communists who hate this country. The fact that Insurrection Day has apparently caused unacceptably negative consequences for you at this late date is something you will have to reckon with. It's not always up to the other side to do the soul searching and reaching out. Take stock of what you need to, and let's start again.
(((R.E.M.))) in Brooklyn, NY, writes: In their comment last Sunday, P.M. of Currituck wrote, in part: "The Trump supporters I know in Northeastern Pennsylvania ... would never engage in or condone any violence. Thanks to the insurrectionists, they too have been damned. That is profoundly unfair, and I fear it will cause others to view all those who support Trump to be cut from the same cloth."
No, their damnation is absolutely fair. While I will accept they would not engage in violence if P.M. says so, they obviously condone violence and the incitements to violence that Donald Trump has been pushing for over five years. One cannot be a Trump supporter and not be one of the following: (1) a violent white supremacist, (2) someone who condones or encourages white supremacist violence (that's Trump), (3) someone who condones and encourages those who condone or encourage white supremacist violence (those are Trump voters).
If you support Trump, if you give him money or wear his swag, if you voted for him, you are saying that you are at, at very least, ok with racism, misogyny, religious bigotry, ridicule of the disabled, child abuse, sedition and fascism. And if you purport to be an American, and you are ok with any of those, there is something seriously wrong with you, a defect of character and/or intelligence.
Now, if my saying that hurts the feelings of P.M. and their friends in Pennsylvania, my feelings are much more affronted by that list two sentences back. Trump supporters/enablers/tolerators are no different from the "Good Germans" who put up with Hitler's anti-Semitism and street violence because he was "good for business," or "good for suppressing the Left," or committed to Making Germany Great Again.
I am loath to be another proof of Godwin's Law, but please also understand that I do not throw around epithets like "Nazi" or "fascist" casually. My paternal grandfather, a Litvack, was shot by Nazis during World War II. My maternal grandparents, mother and uncle escaped fascist Italy in April 1939. My grandparents were Austrian Jews, and their Greater German Reich passports were stamped with a big, red "J." It horrifies me that there are over 70 million Americans who support the Leader who encourages the kind of violence perpetrated by 1930's fascists. They are the "Blackshirt Lives Matter" crowd.
V & Z respond: R.E.M. proposed styling their initials in this manner, and we concurred.
A.A. in Branchport, NY, writes: I've appreciated your publication of P.M.'s letters and applaud them for being so willing to share their views. The one common thread in all of P.M.'s writing is the conservative culture of victimhood.
This was particularly displayed in last Saturday's letter. Rather than examining the causes of the Trump terrorist attack on the Capitol, or expressing any sort of remorse for supporting Trump, P.M. felt it necessary to ask for understanding that they and their family and friends are peace-loving, law-abiding citizens who would never engage in or condone any violence.
Despite being warned about Trump for many years now, P.M and their tribe voted to put him in office. Twice. In my view, that makes them complicit in the actions of this narcissistic, incompetent, racist and violent criminal.
I am very sorry that P.M.'s major concern at this perilous moment is the possibility that they and their friends and family will be viewed as having some responsibility for the Capitol ransacking and will therefore be held in some way accountable. There are much larger issues here that need to be addressed.
I, for one, have gotten tired of the repetition of conservative victimhood.
D.A.Y. in Troy, MI, writes: I've found myself behind many a Trumper in traffic (though they seem to have gotten scarce since the election was called) who cover their vehicles in bumper stickers, and the overall message is a mean one. Along with the standard MAGA slogans, there is a lot about their guns and don't you dare infringe on (specifically their) freedom. While people like P.M. tell Democrats they need to take the time to understand them better, from what I've seen they have no interest in understanding us. They just want us to sit down and let them run things because they'll threaten us with violence if we dare speak up. And on January 6, 2021, they took the further step of using actual violence. We're just fortunate they were not able to find any of the lawmakers they intended to inflict harm on.
Even in the general discourse, it seems like the Right feels they can rest on the position of "Oh yeah? Well, I can shoot you, so there." People running for Congress even utilized firearms and the threat to use them as campaign slogans. I don't know how we are supposed to have a healthy democracy when one of the two major parties feels it doesn't have to negotiate or compromise because they can just resort to violence when the other side doesn't agree. And even those who do not embrace violence rarely speak out against this mentality, while those who do fear for themselves and their families finding themselves at the business end of that violence as "traitors."
I also fear this will not disappear after the 20th. It might just get worse. And I don't know how we put this genie back in its bottle.
B.M. in Indianapolis, IN, writes: I believe one of the longer term results of the attempted coup is that those of us on the left will be done trying to have civil discourse with those on the right. I've always been interested in talking issues over with people I respect but disagree with. However, following the events of last week I don't think I'm capable of doing that with anyone who buys into the lie that this hasn't been the inevitable end to Trump since he declared in 2016 that he wouldn't accept any results where he lost. They are no longer people to be understood or persuaded, they need to be defeated.
S.S. in Detroit, MI, writes: Though I self-identify as a Detroiter—being born, raised and educated there, and living most, and working pretty much all of my life there—a few years ago, my bride of 47 blissful years inherited her parents' house in the wilds of Macomb County (the notorious county that tipped Michigan for Trump in '16, and went for him again this time). Having moved there we found that we have lovely neighbors, with whom we are friends, yet, inexplicably, they are mostly Trump supporters. (I have not surveyed how recent events may have affected that.)
Though sorely tempted to put up a pre-election yard sign deriding and ridiculing our soon-to-be ex-president, the regard we have for our friends gave us pause.
I had this sign made, and it went over pretty well. The consensus was, 2 outta 3 ain't bad:
P.M., if you're ever in the 'hood, we could maybe tip a few brewskis in the back yard.
A.G. in Bensalem, PA, writes: I suppose that the persistence of the subject of Luzerne County deserves my input. I was expecting it to fade away.
I was born in worthless Wilkes-Barre when it had around 76,000 people. I lived in the area for all but seven months of my first 21 years, until I left for State College. I spent six years at University Park, and I was forced to come back. Subsequently, when I tried to get work, my MBA scared every employer there. After the only work I could find were four newspaper routes, I wrote a letter to the editor, asking how I could hide nine years spent at Penn State. Instead of advice, I received verbal onanism and accusations of laziness, a sudden and vicious attack from enemy territory like Shiloh in the Civil War.
I left after nearly two years to suburban Philadelphia, which turned out to be almost as bad with temporary jobs, so I went back to Penn State. After another two and a half years of useless campus recruiting, I returned to Luzerne County. Four years later, I left again for suburban Philadelphia, this time I took my mother, for all her living relatives were left in Bensalem, leaving behind the graves of the other relatives in Luzerne County.
During my lifetime, the area has declined and continues to lose population as the old die off without replacement. The area is stuck in the 1930's, which I ridicule on my website, along with the Shiloh attack. The business owners have suppressed wages for decades, forcing the educated without connections to leave. During this last election, Joe Biden carried the growing counties around Allentown, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, while Drumpf carried the counties losing population (except Lackawana, which includes Biden's birthplace of Scranton). The major anthracite mines closed around 1970, and when I left for the third and last time in 1994, the manufacturing was leaving as well.
As I left in 1994, I wrote letters to both newspapers in which I wished that the employers get what they want: "illiterate underachievers." Since then, I've been there only for my mother's funeral, and the locals have passed "Right To Be Exploited" laws, as if the unions hadn't been weak enough. The place remains a good place to live and a joke for employment. Suburban Philadelphia has not been a joy either, but finally in 1995, I landed a permanent, full-time job. Thirty years after my MBA, I landed another, one that required a high school diploma. I'm seeking better, which would be impossible had I still been in Luzerne County.
D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: In honor of the upcoming transfer of administrations, I thought I would try something a little different to mark the event. As I've stated before, I lived in Washington, DC for 20+ years. Living in the District, one would run into politicians and media figures the way that I imagine one runs into stars in Beverly Hills and Hollywood. In both cases, true natives don't gawk. Sadly, I would show my true transplant colors and act all starstruck when I would run into a politician (from both sides of the aisle, I might add). For example, I found Karl Rove, a man whose politics I detest, to be incredibly polite and friendly; while Howard Dean, a man I voted for, in his literally threadbare coat and stained shirt, seemed somewhat miserly and pinched, to give just two examples.
One summer weekday during President Obama's second term, I was returning home on the Metro to the Columbia Heights Station. On the last escalator to the street level, I was so tired from day's stresses that I didn't even try to climb the moving steps but stayed firmly to the right (If you ever go to DC, there is one rule and one rule only that will make your stay a pleasant one: On a Metro escalator, if you are going to stand still, stay to the right to let inhabitants ascend or descend on your left. If you stand to the left, your visit in the District will definitely not be as pleasant). I looked up the steps and I saw several men in dark suits, dark sunglasses and with the telltale curled phone wire descending from their ears. To me, the Secret Service is completely misnamed because I can spot them a mile away. At the top of the escalators is a little nook of restaurants and the Secret Service was clearly guarding the entrance to Pete's Pizza. I looked in the front windows and clearly saw Vice President Joe Biden inside. Needless to say, I was giddy as any fan could be!
I went over to one of the Secret Service agents and asked him if it was possible if I could just stand somewhere and watch, even for just a few seconds. The agent pointed out an area and said I could stand there as long as I wanted, as long as the way from the restaurant's door to the Vice President's limo was kept clear. He must have seen the look of joy on my face because he added, "You know, if you want, you can go in and meet him. He would love talking with you. This is one of his favorite places and he comes to pick up his pizza as many times as duty allows." I didn't trust myself to make coherent sentences, so I told the agent I would rather just observe. I found a place right near the entrance, so close I could hear the conversation inside. Biden was dressed in a blazer, light blue button-down shirt, no tie, and, of course, his trademark aviator sunglasses and his big smile. He was talking with everyone in the restaurant, from the patrons to the owners to the cooks and even the dishwasher. And by talking, I don't mean he was giving a speech, but instead was asking questions, often personal questions. From listening, I could tell he had talked with some of these people before. Here was the second most famous man in the United States, a heartbeat away from being the most powerful man in the world, asking the dishwasher if he was still in school and if the owners still had plans to expand their business to other locations. With the people that I could tell he was meeting for the first time, he showed a compelling need to get to know their lives, if only for a bit. There was one couple that I think were as star struck as me, and they seemed reticent to join in the conversation. To them, the Vice President just gave a nod of acknowledgment and the open invite to join the conversation or not, if that's what they wanted. I stood there and watched this man engage with so many people with a genuine interest and warmth. As he exited the restaurant, pizza box in hand, he nodded, smiled and said "Hi" to me as he walked to his limo. As much as I tried to be discreet, he had still noticed my presence. And with little fuss, he was back in the limo, seconds before it whisked away.
Now, you might be saying to yourself, "What, that's all there is to the story? He said "Hi" and that's it? What a letdown!" But I think this simple little incident that lasted no more than 10 minutes says so much about Joe Biden's character. Instead of holing up in his residence, and ordering aides to go pick up the pizza, Biden enjoyed getting out into the world, meeting people. Here was a man who was actively engaged in others' lives. A person whose disposition is naturally open and curious about people who are not himself. A man who enjoyed people as individuals and not as means to an end. Sure, there are some cynics who might say that he was just thinking ahead to running for higher office, looking to score future votes. I would reply that in D.C., with about 93% of the electorate voting Democratic, that would be like preaching to the choir. Instead, Biden struck me as someone down-to-earth who sees people not as mirrors to reflect his own self-worth, but as individuals deserving of interest and respect. A man who feels compassion for others and who knows how to judge his boundaries. Without sounding old-fashioned, I found him charming.
I don't see any reason or sign why this would have changed during the intervening years and I expect Joe Biden, the President of the United States to be the same man as Joe Biden, pizzeria patron. And my God, what a refreshing change that will be.
I often laugh at my failures as a prognosticator. So I won't even venture to guess if the Biden presidency will be a great one, a failure, or somewhere in between. But I would be willing to bet that it will be a complete 180 from the living hell we've all been through for the past four years. While there is still much to be pessimistic about there is now a glimmer of hope.
E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, and M.W. in Richmond, VA, writes: My father and I came up with a Bingo-style card for President Biden's inaugural speech that we wanted to share with you and the site's readership. Attached is an Excel spreadsheet that I used to generate the 10 Bingo cards as well as an easy-to-print PDF version.
H.F. in Pittsburgh PA, writes: When swearing in Joe Biden on Inauguration Day, it'll be interesting to see if Chief Justice John Roberts will be able to recite the oath of office correctly, or will he gag at the prospect of a Democrat becoming President like he did when swearing in Barack Obama twelve years ago. Then again, perhaps it was something other than Obama's party affiliation that Roberts found disturbing. I debated adding the previous sentence, although considering Roberts' years of opposition to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, maybe there's something to it.
R.S.B. in Ventura, CA, writes: The biggest gift Chuck Schumer could give President Biden would be to adjourn the Senate to a date at least 10 days beyond the date of the adjournment. By adjourning the Senate for 10 days, it would allow President Biden to appoint all 1,000+ Executive Branch Secretaries and political appointees that require Senate confirmation on the day of adjournment to Recess appointments, with the intention of having the Senate confirm all 1,000+ appointees within 300 days of the recess appointment, or before the current session adjournment at the end of the year. This requires a concurrent resolution with the House, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) can provide, and a majority vote of those Senators present, with no debate allowed. Amendments are allowed but can be easily defeated. Due to the extraordinary situation this country finds itself, as unconventional as this approach would be, it would be warranted to prevent any obstruction by the opposition of any and all appointees Biden needs on the 21st of January.
M.B. in Melrose, MA, writes: While I absolutely agree the Biden administration should prioritize ensuring working adults can make a living wage, I'm not convinced raising the minimum wage is the right solution to the problem. I can't help but feel it doesn't really address the big picture, a challenge that several readers raised two weeks ago about some of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) proposals. The problem is that too much wealth is going to the top 1%. By one estimate, they earn 39x more than the bottom 90%. I don't see raising the minimum wage as fixing that, considering executives will not want to cut into their profits. I fear they will just raise their prices in response to higher labor costs, continuing the cycle of making everything unaffordable for lower wage earners. At the same time, higher wages make it even harder for small businesses to afford staff, especially those struggling to compete with online businesses that already have lower labor costs. The solution may just be hire fewer people, leaving fewer minimum wage jobs for less skilled workers.
Instead of raising the minimum wage, I would rather see the Biden administration work on a plan for a CEO ratio where executive compensation packages can not exceed a certain ratio of the lowest paid worker or the average wage at the company. Then executives paying themselves more than that would be subject to penalties like you describe. Of course, such a plan would quickly get complex, especially considering the make-up of a CEO compensation package, and it would be difficult to understand, but it would be a way to force executives to "share the wealth" with their hard working staff to reduce the income gap.
J.K. in Silverdale, WA, writes: I appreciated hearing from T.F. in Los Angeles about relatives who have gone down the right-wing rabbit hole, an experience that I suspect many readers of this site can relate to. I had been contemplating how to respond to family sending me conspiracy theory e-mails that I find totally guano, and, after much thought and some light research into cult deprogramming, I finally went for it.
My education and professional background are in mental/behavioral health, so I'm trying to use my experience to be as strategic and dispassionate as possible. I know that facts won't help; I will not get anywhere if I am perceived as a threat to an identity that gives meaning to their lives. Everything I send emphasizes my belief that people have a right to their beliefs, and that I don't need them to agree with me. Instead of focusing on specific beliefs, I try to focus on my fascination with the diversity of beliefs and world views that are out there. My interest is not so much in what people believe, but why they believe what they do. Instead of attacking all that is preposterous in the dire warnings, I express appreciation that they are concerned about my safety. Most importantly, I include heavy (and sincere) doses of "I love you and care about you no matter what you believe," along with pleasant reminiscences and tidbits of daily life. My main goal is to be a tether to pull if they are ready to inch towards a more easily shared reality.
Thinking about the deep divisions in this country, I hope that the Biden administration will consult with experts in cults and radicalization for their messaging. In my little microcosm, my initial reach across the chasm has been received as well as I could expect. This gives me a speck of hope for our nation.
Some Jewish Flava
S.C. in Mountain View, CA, writes: As one who celebrates Passover, and has even written a Haggadah, I burst out laughing when I read the question from the son of B.B. in St. Louis, and would like to know if B.B.'s son has equivalents of the other three questions the youngest child asks at a Passover Seder.
K.C. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I recognize what is surely some deliberate Jewish wordplay in B.B.'s question about two impeachments in a single presidency. Clearly, the writer is alluding to the Four Questions that are among the most familiar elements in a Jewish Passover Seder. The third of the Four Questions is: "On all other nights, we do not dip foods even once; why on this night do we dip twice?" The dead giveaway that B.B. is playfully nodding to this religious custom is that in Jewish tradition, the Four Questions are to be asked by the youngest person in attendance who is capable of asking them...hence, B.B.'s son is the one who asked about the two impeachments.
I'm not sure if you'll care to publish this information, as it veers into terrain that is truly beyond the scope of your site—but as a loyal and grateful reader since 2004, I wanted to ensure that you both understood the game that B.B. was cleverly playing. It so happens that I am a rabbi, but any Jew who observes Passover each year would recognize what B.B. was up to!
If you're curious to read more, see this.
V & Z respond: We understood the bit, and regarded it as an Easter egg for our Jewish readers. Oh, and there is nothing that is truly beyond the scope of our site.
J.G. in Louisville, KY, writes: That question is a paraphrase from The Four Questions recited at a Passover seder, better known as Ma Nishtana. The third question is: "How is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights, we don't dip our food even once, and on this night we dip twice."
The traditional answer is that we dip a vegetable into saltwater to represent Joseph's coat being dipped into blood, and we dip the bitter herb into charoset to represent the dipping of a shank bone into blood before the Exodus. Together the dippings represent, paradoxically and simultaneously, the bitterness of slavery and the luxury—dipping is fancy—of freedom.
So might I suggest that the first impeachment represents the foreign collusion that got us into this mess and that second impeachment the fomenting of domestic terrorism I hope ends in 4 short days after 45's exodus from the White House.
Many thanks to B.B. for a great line.
V & Z respond: See below for more.
T.W. in Norfolk, UK, writes: I so wish that in your answer to B.B. you had channeled Oscar Wilde: "To be impeached once may be regarded as a misfortune; to be impeached twice looks like carelessness."
Wednesday can't come soon enough!
B.B. in St. Louis, MO, writes: With apologies to the Haggadah...
Pundits tell us that not all Republicans are alike. Some are very curious and ask lots of questions, others are just as curious but may be shy. In all, the pundits say, there are four types of Republicans, and each needs to be told the story of impeachment in a different way.
This first type of Republican is the wise Republican. He loves his country and so asks "What are the laws and statutes that the Constitution demands regarding impeachment?" First, he must be told all the beautiful and insightful sections of the document. Then he must have pointed out that they are beautiful not only in their own right, but as a model towards a great and noble ideal—the freedom of all men.
The second type of Republican is the irreverent Republican. He is scornful and suspicious and full of conspiracy theories. He wants no part of the impeachment. He asks "What does this charade mean to you?" He says "to you" as if he is an outsider, not a part of the process. This is as bad as denying the rule of law. He should be scolded and told "There are checks and balances placed into the Constitution by the Founding Fathers to protect our freedoms. Our freedoms, not your freedoms because if you had been there you would not have deserved to be included as you do not consider yourself to be bound by the rule of law."
The third type of Republican is the simple Republican. He is overwhelmed by the complexity of the legislative process and would very much like to know what impeachment means, but doesn't know how to ask about it. So he says merely, "What's this all about?" He should be told, "When the President breaks the law, then with a strong hand shall Congress cast him out of the White House."
The fourth type of Republican is the one who does not even realize that something unusual is going on. Then you must simply tell him, "No one, not even the President, is above the law."
T.O. in New Orleans, LA, writes: Regarding Pearl Harbor's inclusion on your list of notorious days in American history, it should be remembered that the United States had been engaged in an undeclared shooting war with Nazi Germany since at least September 1941. The Plan Dog Memo that outlined our grand strategy in the war was penned in 1940, before the Soviet Union was in the war, and contemplated an Anglo-American-led war to defeat Germany while trying to deter war with Japan and fight it defensively if deterrence failed. USS Reuben James was sunk by a German U-boat on Oct. 31, 1941, while USS Texas was unsuccessfully stalked by another U-boat as early as June 1941, and if by some chance she had been successfully attacked it's hard to see how a formal shooting war wouldn't have followed soon thereafter, with battleships being symbols of national prestige at the time, equivalent to our supercarriers today.
Pearl Harbor was the date that would live in infamy, and it deserves to head your list, but it should not be forgotten that the United States was already in the war for all intents and purposes, and it was only a matter of time before this became a formal state of affairs in the Atlantic, regardless of what happened in the Pacific. Indeed, Pearl Harbor, for all its infamy, was not enough to eclipse the "Europe First" policy already agreed to at the highest levels of the American and British Governments.
K.I. in Twin Cities, MN, writes: The Intolerable Acts (also known as the Coercive Acts) were passed by Parliament on March 31, 1774; this was the single most important event that led to the American Revolution. The reaction to it throughout the 13 colonies raised the issues beyond Massachusetts and beyond Sam Adams' movement, leading to the first Continental Congress.
A.M. in Brookhaven, PA, writes: A couple of dates I would consider adding to the list would be December 20, 1860 (secession of South Carolina) and April 12, 1861 (firing on Fort Sumter).
E.D. in Nunda, NY, writes: December 29, 1890: Massacre at Wounded Knee.
D.N. in Thousand Oaks, CA, writes: May 31, 1921: The Tulsa Riots of 1921, in which the military used air power to bomb U.S. civilians, belongs in any list of the US's 10 most notorious incidents.
G.M. in Laurence Harbor, NJ, writes: On July 28, 1932, federal Troops led by Douglas MacArthur with aides Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton led an attack on the Bonus Army camped out in Washington D.C., which was protesting the failure, after 13 years, to pay out the World War I bonuses they had been promised. Two veterans were shot and killed by an unnamed Capitol police officer. As MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton have all been lauded for their World War II commands, one can assume this event often gets suppressed.
E.M. in Seattle, WA, writes: I have been thinking a lot recently about the nuclear bomb, and specifically the nuclear attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which I think we woefully disregard as a nation. It feels as if we barely take a breath between mentioning the only two major nuclear attacks in the history of the world, and defending them as "ending WWII and saving lives," which is speculative at best (and propaganda at worst).
So, I would put forth August 6 and 9, 1945, as two of the most notorious days in U.S. history, for their spectacular brutality and the deaths of over 200,000 Japanese. Also because I imagine as humanity looks back on the history of warfare, these two days will be hard to overlook or forget, even long after the geopolitical reasons for the bombings have faded from memory.
D.H. in Lisbon Falls, ME, writes: This moment changed America for the worse: April 4, 1968. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. heralded the end of the spirit of non-violence the slain civil rights leader had championed and led to a demand for "law and order."
K.C. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: A strong case can be made to include June 5, 1968, the day of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, somewhere among America's top ten most notorious days, as its consequences were numerous and far-reaching. The assassination's impact was felt operationally (from that time forward, presidential candidates were assigned Secret Service protection), geopolitically (Nixon may well have been defeated by Kennedy, which would surely have pointed the disastrous war in Vietnam in a different direction, not to mention sparing America from Watergate and the first-ever presidential resignation), and, perhaps most importantly, in our nation's very soul, as RFK's death was the final blow to the hopefulness of a generation that, at last, succumbed to the dark reality that we shall not, in fact, overcome.
S.L. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: August 29, 2005 (the date Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans) certainly qualifies as a day of infamy. Not just because of the awful number (preventable) of deaths (during and after the storm), or the cataclysmic destruction, but as a culmination/focal point of all failures of leadership, prior to, leading up to, and after the storm. The years of compromised, insufficient levees; the insufficient government efforts to evacuate people out of harm's way; the overly slow, disjointed, feeble government response immediately after the storm, and the many lingering scars that still exist today, not just in New Orleans but all along the southern coast ravaged by the storm.
B.M. in Tionesta, PA, writes: The Capitol Hill Riot will obviously go down as one of the darkest days in our history. The image that I can't seem to get out of my head is that of the man with the Confederate flag marching through the halls of the Capitol. I can't even begin to try and describe the emotions that I felt, seeing that flag on display in such a sacred place. My grandfather commanded a tank which landed on the beaches of Normandy, and my father served our great country during Vietnam. Our family has fought against tyranny and fascism for generations. To see that man proudly waving that flag, such a breathtakingly obvious symbol of oppression, is a gut punch to anyone who has served this great country of ours. In 2004, when President Reagan died, two friends and I (all life-long Democrats) made the quick decision to drive from State College, PA to D.C. to pay our respects. The awe that the Capitol inspires to one's soul is indescribable. The smell alone of the building, art, and antiques lets you know you are in great historical place. I am the eternal optimist and I hope that on January 20, we take the first steps to repair and rebuild this country. I will never forget that image of the Confederate flag as long as I live.
J.G. in Cushing, ME, writes: While I won't dispute that the Green Bay Packers will play in the 2035 Super Bowl, their opponents will be quarterbacked by Tom Brady, who will deny them another attempt at winning the Lombardi Trophy.
V & Z respond: We've always kinda suspected that he's actually a T-1000 (TB-1000?).
S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: C.L. in Durham, UK, wrote: "That was an appalling comment you made today. Everybody knows this year's Super Bowl will be won by the Chicago Bears."
V & Z responded: "We are pretty sure it's not possible to win a Super Bowl after losing in the first round of the playoffs."
Ditka coulda done it.
W.A.B in Almere, NL, writes: Another agent of the Canadian plot to take over the U.S. is clearly Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Wanting to set himself up for the 2024 election, he tried his best to subvert the election. I'm not sure how long he lived there after his birth, but the Canadians were sure quick to recruit him.
V & Z respond: Did Tommy Tuberville ever coach in the CFL?
M.M. in San Jose, CA, writes: Regarding the Canadians' nefarious plans, it's possible their recent injuries have forced them to temporarily put their plans on hold.
L.V.A. in Idaho Falls, ID, writes: A.S. in Hawkins, IN? Really? I've seen "stranger things" happen on this blog.
V & Z respond: Sometimes we let jokes like that through; we also let "Lake Wobegon" through on the same day, and there's also the seder joke (see above). Again, Easter eggs.
A.B. in Denver, CO, writes: Trump is not Scrooge—he's clearly Jacob Marley, never understanding, with a full and heavy chain, forever doomed to witness what he cannot share.
M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Of course the redeemed Scrooge didn't jump from Tories to Labour in 1843. He would have become a Whig, which in today's U.K. political currency is a Liberal Democrat.
V & Z respond: But what political party would Sherlock Holmes have joined?
If you wish to contact us, please use one of these addresses. For the first two, please include your initials and city.
- email@example.com For questions about politics, civics, history, etc. to be answered on a Saturday
- firstname.lastname@example.org For "letters to the editor" for possible publication on a Sunday
- email@example.com To tell us about typos or factual errors we should fix
- firstname.lastname@example.org For general suggestions, ideas, etc.
To download a poster about the site to hang up, please click here.
Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan15 Much Is Murky about the Impeachment Trial
Jan15 Biden Explains His Economic Plan
Jan15 Biden Will Have a Prime-Time Inauguration Program
Jan15 It's Cheney v. McCarthy
Jan15 House to Fine Members Who Refuse to Go Through Security Screening
Jan15 It's Nightmare Time for Republicans
Jan15 Koch Brother Not Happy with Republicans
Jan15 Business Sucks
Jan15 Biden Is Already Worried about the Midterms
Jan15 Republican Governor Tries to End Gerrymandering--by Democrats
Jan13 Ghosts of Republicans Past
Jan13 Sheldon Adelson Dies
Jan13 Biden Likely to Pick Gary Gensler to Chair the SEC
Jan13 SCOTUS Issues First Abortion Decision of the Barrett Era
Jan13 And Now It Is Three
Jan13 YouTube Joins Facebook, Twitter in Banning Donald Trump
Jan13 Michael Madigan Is Out as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives
Jan12 Insurrection, the Next Chapter: The Impeachment
Jan12 Insurrection, the Next Chapter: The Rioters
Jan12 Insurrection, the Next Chapter: COVID-19
Jan12 Conventional Republicans Push Back Against Trump...
Jan12 ...So Does the Sports World
Jan12 Wolf Is Out at DHS
Jan12 Biden Completes His Cabinet
Jan12 Trump Administration Tries to Stymie Biden, but Success May Be Elusive
Jan12 Trump Was Warned Not to Self-Pardon
Jan12 Parler Sues Amazon
Jan11 Poll: Trump Must Go Now
Jan11 To Impeach or Not to Impeach, That Is the Question
Jan11 Will Big Tech Save Democracy?
Jan11 Will Trump Start His Own Media Empire?
Jan11 Second Republican Senator Says Trump Must Go
Jan11 Dominion Voting Systems Sues Trump Lawyer for $1.3 Billion
Jan11 Biden Can Raise More Revenue without Raising Taxes
Jan11 Reforms That Would Improve Democracy
Jan11 Pennsylvania Senate Race Gets Going
Jan11 Eight Senate Races Could Be Competitive in 2022
Jan10 Sunday Mailbag
Jan09 Impeachment, Part Deux
Jan09 Twitter to Trump: "Bye!"
Jan09 Saturday Q&A
Jan08 Calls for Trump's Removal Are Now Out in the Open
Jan08 Facing Potential Removal, Trump Reads Speech from Teleprompter
Jan08 Electoral College Challenge Could Backfire
Jan08 Is There a Double Standard on Police Response to Protests?
Jan08 Other Fallout from Wednesday's Events
Jan08 Trump Is Working on His Pardon List
Jan08 Pence Will Attend the Inauguration