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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

Today's mailbag is unusually eclectic. And unusually heavy on visuals.

The Inauguration

L.M. in Laramie, Wyoming, writes: I don't usually cry at political speeches, but tears of relief rolled down my face during Joe Biden's inaugural address. Finally, a sane, optimistic, unifying message from a leader. I wasn't a Biden fan. As a highly educated woman, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was my natural first choice. But when I voted in the spring in Arizona, I had a choice between a protest vote for Warren that I knew would make no difference, and voting for Biden. I made up my mind to vote for him after I saw his first COVID plan speech. It wasn't glamorous or sexy, but it laid out a sensible way of approaching a highly contagious disease that was just beginning to impact the United States. Absolutely no regrets in voting for him. We need his boring systematic approach more than ever and so glad he finally can begin the work of healing us all.

G.W. in Boca Raton, FL, writes: I probably will be called Captain Obvious, but there is something reassuring and calming in being asked to let our better angels rule rather than having our demons summoned.

M.S. in Malvern, PA, writes: I was lucky enough to be able to watch Vice President Kamala Harris get sworn in with my 5-year-old daughter. She still views the world in black and white terms. Things are either good or bad, and there's not much subtlety in between. She understood when I told her that our VP was the first woman to be elected to the position, and agreed that this was in fact "good." Part of me wanted her to better understand how important a moment this was and realize the gravity of what it meant. Then it occurred to me that it's even better that she doesn't. Since she's not yet fully comprehending the totality of this impact, as she gets older it will just seem normal to her that this was possible in the first place.

K.C. in West Islip, NY, writes: I think we can agree that President Biden carries himself with more than enough class to not divulge the contents of the letter former President Trump wrote and left on the Resolute Desk until he has an opportunity to speak with him personally, as he already stated. I suspect this conversation will never occur and the contents of the letter will never be shared with the public so let me assume that it read something along these lines:

Dear Sleepy Joe,

You know we won bigly. The election was rigged, sad. Well, good luck.



D.C. in Portland, OR, writes: I was a little surprised by your less than euphoric response to the Biden/Harris inauguration event, having myself found both the inauguration and the prime-time presentation to be tear-jerking, soul-rattling meditations on attitudes and perspectives that have been suppressed among the drama and noise of the last four years. The headlines that followed—to which you showed some surprise—I think reflected my feelings.

I'm a little curious as to the source of our disconnect, not that it matters, but wonder if it's the difference between academic analysis versus a more emotional living of the moment. Or perhaps we just see things differently in general.

D.L. in East Lansing, MI, writes: I was surprised to read that you did not enjoy the Inaugural Celebrating America show. I think the thread that wove it together was stated by Jon Bon Jovi: "Here Comes the Sun." John Legend was great. And although poorly lit, I liked seeing Barack Obama, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton talk about the country and their support for Joe Biden. Seeing the Biden family celebrating in the White House was fun. And the fireworks were amazing.

K.S. in Baltimore, MD, writes: I adore you guys, I really do. I suppose after some 17 years reading you it's about time I found something about which to disagree.

Your comments about the "DNC v2.0" seemed like those two grumpy old muppets in the balcony box, sniping at the show!

For me, and those I know, we have been so exhausted after four years of nonsense, and then praying that nothing went wrong on Inauguration Day, we just wanted to sit back and watch something happy. We didn't need a unifying theme or political messaging. We just wanted cotton candy. We wanted to see some of our favorite singers and actors doing their thing in D.C. and around the country. It's pretty stunning what they pulled off in the middle of a pandemic. Nothing wrong with an "overstuffed" variety show in such a situation.

My friends and I went asleep happy after the show. That's really all it needed to accomplish. And baby we're a firework!

V & Z respond: Note that review was written by (Z), so if anyone is the grumpy muppet here, it's him. And his tastes tend toward more subtlety, which is why he's also not a big fan of most Steven Spielberg movies. Once, he wrote a moderately negative review of "Saving Private Ryan" and got death threats.

R.C. in Andover, MA, writes: After seeing the Biden-Harris Inauguration Playlist, I came up with my own personal selections, which I limited to four songs cheering Trump's departure, and six applauding Biden's taking office. I don't really have the time to come up with 46, so my 4 + 6 will have to do. There may be a similar song or two here though, but so be it.

The "Glad Trump's Gone" List:

  • "F**k Donald Trump," by YG and Nipsey Hussle: It says something that a 62-year old white guy that never understood hip-hop—or "rap," as most of my age cohort calls it—has adopted this song as an anthem over the last few years. I wonder if Joe Biden has heard this song. Something tells me he'd be doubled-up in laughter if he did.

  • "Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye," by Steam: Adaptable as a G-rated parallel to the aforementioned song.

  • "He's Gone," by The Grateful Dead: As someone reminded me recently, this song was also about a grifter and a fraud—their former manager...who eventually served time.

  • "Lost Cause," by Beck: Dedicated to all the nut job MAGA people who actually believe the Dear Leader's hallucinations that the election was stolen from him.

The "Glad Biden's Here" songs are all self-explanatory, and pretty universally adaptable, even if a few were intended ironically. No further comment needed from me.

  • "Happy," by The Rolling Stones

  • "Today," by Smashing Pumpkins

  • "Perfect Day," by Lou Reed

  • "Here Comes The Sun," by The Beatles

  • "I'm So Glad," by Cream

  • "Oh Happy Day," by The Edwin Hawkins Singers

A.M. in Fullerton, CA, writes: If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had really wanted to stick it to Donald Trump and his Republican supporters, and if they dared, they should have included "When The Lie's So Big," by Frank Zappa!

J.B. in Wilmington, DE, writes: I would also like to mention that there are a couple of local connections to Joe Biden in the playlist. Hall & Oates are from Upper Darby, PA (just outside of Philadelphia), and a pre-fame Bob Marley was briefly a resident of Wilmington, DE. Marley worked in a factory here, is commemorated in a mural, and has a local festival named for him.

G.H. in Branchport, NY, writes: Just a quick note on Biden/Harris music list. Like Joe Biden, Bill Withers overcame a childhood stutter.

Other Thoughts on Biden

M.D. in Dothan, AL, writes: I am a (hopefully) temporary transplant from the North to the South, although I've lived here for a few years, This makes me, at least in the eyes of the operators at the plant that I work at, a "yankee" as opposed to a "damn yankee," which is a Northerner who has no plan to leave. I can confirm that most of the older white men I work with think that the only good thing Joe Biden will do is eliminate the federal marijuana prohibition. And, if I were Joe Biden, that would be my first administrative goal. It should be an easy win, and will look like a transformative bill.

J.K. in Short Hills, NJ, writes: Given that the 7 day rolling average of vaccinations currently exceed 900K per day despite your contention that President Trump's team bungled the rollout, getting to 100 million doses administered in 100 days is arguably a very low bar to clear. Reaching herd immunity by the late spring will likely require 2 million daily shots, a more meaningful goal for the White House. Johnson & Johnson's offering should boost supplies significantly beginning in March. The Democrats should shoulder at least some of the blame for a potential lack of demand for those wanting to get inoculated given how many, most notably Vice President Harris during her debate with Mike Pence, irresponsibly questioned its safety during the campaign season.

V & Z respond: No doubt 100 million is a fairly modest goal, but Biden appears to be adopting the philosophy that it's better to underpromise and overdeliver, which stands in marked contrast to Trump. As to Harris, what she said was: "If the public health professionals, if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I'll be the first in line to take it, absolutely. But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I'm not taking it." Readers can assess for themselves if that was an irresponsible thing to say.

J.M.R. in Chappaqua, NY, writes: I really appreciated the story from D.E. In Lancaster about their encounter with Joe Biden and how it illustrates so much about the President's character. The description of Biden's interactions with everyday citizens reminded me very much of another recent president, Bill Clinton. I just so happen to live in the same town as President Clinton and it is not uncommon to see him walking through the village (with or without Hillary), stopping in at shops and other small businesses to chat with the locals.

I had my own run-in with him in 2016. It was the day before Thanksgiving and I realized I forgot to buy scallions for my mashed potatoes (I was raised in Idaho, and long since been pigeonholed as the potato expert by my New York family, but I digress). A trip to a large supermarket for one item was out of the question, since I didn't want to deal with crowds, so I ran down to the small community market in town. When I arrived, the place was bustling, partly due to last-minute shoppers, but also because Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea (husband and kids in tow) were all there, along with their Secret Service detail.

My first thought, as this was just weeks after the election, was that I wanted to go over to Hillary and tell her how sorry I was that she had lost the election and how unfairly I believed she had been treated during the campaign. However, she was at the opposite end of the market, with many people between us, and I worried that the Secret Service agents would not take kindly to me making a beeline in her direction. However, I noted that Bill was standing by the produce, just in front of my scallions! I casually walked over towards him, mustered my courage, and said "excuse me," awkwardly sticking out my hand. President Clinton shook it, smiling and saying "Hello, nice to meet you." I responded, "I have to reach around you to get to the scallions, Mr. President." At this point, I must have been a shade of scarlet, so I took my scallions and walked as quickly as I could to the register.

N.D. in Duluth, MN, writes: I very much enjoyed D.E.'s story about an encounter with Joe Biden. In the same spirit, I offer our story of Joe's true character. His humanity is on display in D.C. as well as in northern Minnesota. I'm sure there are thousands of stories like these:

A man in his 50s or early 60s
stands next to Joe Biden, who is talking on a cell phone (left), and a woman in her 60s stands next to Biden in a
different locale; he is again talking on a cell phone.

The first picture is my brother Bobby watching Joe Biden talk on Bobby's phone in 2014. The second is a picture of me watching Joe Biden talk on my phone in 2016. In 2014, he was on the Iron Range in Minnesota stumping for candidate Rick Nolan; in 2016 in Duluth, MN stumping for Hillary Clinton. The story revolves around the person at the other end of the phone line.

Joe Biden is a former senator from Delaware; our dad is a graduate of the University of Delaware. When Dad (Bob Sr.) learned that Bobby was going to this event and might meet the Vice President, he asked him to say to Joe "Go, Blue Hens!" Bobby did just that: "Mr. Vice President, my father wants me to tell you "Go, Blue Hens!" Joe's eyes lit up and he asked my brother to wait. The Blue Hens are the University of Delaware mascot, of course, so when Biden finished greeting everyone, he came over and called our dad on Bobby's phone. Bobby heard only Joe's side, where he said: "Hey Bob, how ya doing man? It's Joe Biden!" They proceeded to talk for about 5 minutes or so about Delaware, how they ended up there and all that. SO. COOL.

Fast forward two years, and Joe was stumping for Hillary at UMD. I was able to be in a receiving line after his appearance and I brought picture #1 of Bobby and Joe. I showed the Vice President the picture and reminded him of that encounter—HE REMEMBERED IT! And he said: "Get your Dad on the phone, I want to talk to him again!" So I did, and heard Joe greet my dad ("Bob! How ya doing, man?") and they again talked for a few minutes as if they had been friends forever. There wasn't much in it for Joe, but he was ever so kind to us and especially to our Dad, who at the time was 84 and 86, and a lifelong Eisenhower Republican. Dad died less than a year later, but these two moments in time were some of the loveliest of his last years. Thank you for your kindness, Joe.

P.R. in Fayetteville, NY, writes: Now that many of us breathe a sigh of relief, as Joe Biden is actually President of the United States, how about another big shout out to the somewhat unsung, or at least unnamed, heroes, particularly the whistleblowers who might have saved our nation? While much of the last administration has been filled with profiles in cowardice (perhaps starting with the first-day public display of Sean Spicer), the courageous and consequential acts of whistleblowers might serve to inspire some of us to do the right thing even when it is not so easy.

If the Ukraine Scandal was not revealed when it was, it just might have worked to knock Joe Biden out of the race in the Fall of 2019. Perhaps whichever Democratic candidate emerged would have won the general election, but who knows.

Also exposing Louis DeJoy's shenanigans with the Postal Service may have been determinative, given the disproportional ways Democrats and Republicans cast votes. Don't forget that while the loser's post election gambit was the failed coup, one of his major pre-election schemes was "Stop the Mail, Stop the Mail."

Join or Die?

J.A. in Redwood City, CA, writes: Regarding the item on the Politico article about how Joe Biden can unify the country: One of the contributors (Ruth Shim) proposed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for racial justice; I would propose also establishing one of those commissions to help reduce the socio-political divisions in our country. Those divisions are fueled, in large part, by partisan media outlets, who have taken on the role of arms dealers in a domestic information war.

A second contributor (Eli Pariser) mentioned the problems we have with social media platforms. But the underlying problem with social media is that users pass along misinformation that originates from the hyper-partisan commercial media outlets. In the past year alone, we endured competing (and often misleading) narratives from those outlets, on all of the issues that currently bedevil the political landscape: the coronavirus outbreak; the government-ordered public health responses to it; the resulting economic impact; the availability and efficacy of vaccines; persistent racial injustice and the means to combat it; presidential misconduct; and, worst of all, the candidates, balloting methods, and outcome of our most recent election.

Those commercial media outlets dress up partisan editorials as if they were objective reporting. Written commentaries look just like news articles, and television talk show hosts air their grievances from studio sets disguised as presumptive news desks. It's all "junk food" journalism, deliberately packaged to appeal to the audience's subconscious confirmation biases. No wonder the public can no longer discern fact from fiction.

Unifying our country requires that the populace start working again from a shared sense of reality, which means that media outlets need to become more truthful. Perhaps a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, consisting of retired journalists, educators, psychologists, and (yes, even) politicians, could help the public identify (and encourage) those outlets that offer more accurate and less poisonous sources of information. No less importantly, the commission could also provide guidance on how we all can begin to talk to and with each other, rather than at and past each other.

D.M. in Berlin, Germany, writes: Politico's list of things that should supposedly be done to unify the country contains a few howlers (the president, personally, is supposed to invent better masks that are supposed to become a symbol of parochial patriotism in a global pandemic...?), but I have thought for years that a truth-and-reconciliation commission will be, and now is, necessary. Who exactly ends up punished, let alone how exactly, is less important than knowing who did what and when—as you summarize Ruth Shim's contribution: "Getting the truth out is the first step toward healing."

This ties directly into Amy Cooter's point. Denazification in Germany and Austria only became a success when a long list of comfortable lies and half-truths (e.g. "sure, the Waffen-SS did horrible Nazi things, but the regular army was just a regular army that fought a regular war"; "Austria was the first victim of National Socialism!") was replaced, in common knowledge, by documented reality from the 1970s and '80s onward (e.g., Austrians were actually overrepresented in such jobs as concentration-camp guard, a fact I was taught in school in Austria in the 1990s). Only now can we feel reasonably safe over here, because it is no longer possible to make excuses for certain things. The U.S., as shown by the events of January 6th (the epiphany of infamy), isn't quite there yet.

Eli Pariser brings up an important fact: "Private digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter are badly broken." Yes, but they have natural monopolies. All would-be competitors are either marginal niche products (Parler), or dead (Google+), or confined to countries (mostly China) where Facebook and Twitter are outlawed. Monopolies that cannot be broken up should logically be publicly-owned nonprofits. As long as the U.N. remains wholly unequipped to handle anything similar to social media, world politics will continue to be at the mercy of Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, or whoever might succeed them.

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Well, that didn't take long. As predicted, the Republicans' "concern" about the insurrection and their colleagues' role in fomenting the siege to overturn the election and subvert the Constitution was short-lived. They are just as hardened as ever to any efforts at justice and still view democracy as a means to maintain power, to be discarded when it doesn't serve them. They are just as dead-set against any efforts to address the pandemic that might actually work to slow the spread and get our economy back on track. And just as dead-set against efforts at effective governing of any kind.

They are what they have always been—divisive and obstructionist led by the master roadblock himself, Mitch McConnell. Why? Because that's all they've got. They are the party of never-ending grievances to camouflage their continued efforts to fleece the American people and line their pockets and the pockets of the people and industries that keep them afloat.

McConnell and his ilk are utter dinosaurs—they are simply incapable of progress or solving problems, even when it serves their constituents. The Republican party is on life support. Trump extended their lifespan artificially by pumping huge amounts of steroids into the system through massive lies and racist tropes. The voters pulled the plug on this operation on Election Day and Twitter shut down the MAGA megaphone that had been propping them up.

We'll see if the Republicans can survive without these machines, but I'm doubtful. They have shown time and again that they are incapable of any introspection or "reckoning" or critical self-assessment. Theirs is a cynicism toward governance and a contempt for the people they allegedly represent that Trump's absence does nothing to ameliorate. Biden would do well to bypass them altogether and make his pitch directly to the American people. Congressional Republicans are a lost cause and should be treated as such.

D.M. in McLean, VA, writes: Surprised that you didn't mention that Rep. Marjorie Greene (R-Nut Case) filed articles of impeachment against President Biden (I loved typing that) yesterday. Your item on QAnon today could have used this as an example of how their flame has not completely gone out.

V & Z respond: We thought about writing up the Greene story, but there is zero chance the resolution goes anywhere. It's a pure publicity stunt, and writing it up just plays into her game, and gives her the attention she craves.

Braking the Filibuster

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: It seems that the discussion on whether to kill the Senate filibuster is missing a third option. There is a part of me that agrees that the filibuster should go to make the 117th Congress more productive—and that's productive as in more substantive bills and not ceremonial bills. The problems facing our country are coming at us at a quicker and more deadlier pace, one that doesn't allow the leisure of passing watered-down bills that barely scratch the surface. On the other hand, I also think that the filibuster can be an important legislative tool. Not only do I worry about a time when the Insurrection Party, formally known as the GOP, are back in power but I also believe that our country benefits from having a two-party system. To compare government to a car, the Democrats are the acceleration pedal and the Insurrectionists are the brakes. You can't have a functioning vehicle without both levers—no brakes leads to disastrous ends and no acceleration pedals leave you with a hunk of useless stationary metal.

One of the problems with our modern government is that the Insurrectionists have become so warped and twisted in how a political party is supposed to function that they are in danger of becoming acceleration pedals that only work in reverse. The monotonous litany of "No, no, no, no" is not the judicious application of the brakes, it is the nihilism of obstructionism and contrarianism. We see this in most recent days with the proud Insurrectionists trying to con people into believing that unity and bipartisanship means doing everything our way or else (where I guess the "or else" is calling the rioters back to the Capitol to finish what they started). Nowhere among the Insurrectionists' voices, even moderates like Sens. Mitt Romney (UT) or Lisa Murkowski (AK) do you hear even mild statements of what issues they could work on with Biden and the Democrats. You would think defeating COVID-19 would be low-hanging fruit that could lead to reaching across the aisle, but no, the Insurrectionists still are playing to their unhinged base. Instead of trying to make a course correction from January 6, the Insurrectionists are doing what they always do, falling back on the belief that the reason why they failed in 2020 is because they didn't go extreme enough—which leads to my prediction that the 2024 presidential race will be Biden (D) vs a rabid mongoose (R). The Insurrectionists are quickly running out of crazy territory. This can't go on.

So, it seems to me the solution to filibuster or not to filibuster has to be one that will try to nudge the Insurrectionists back to becoming the Republican Party. The problem with the filibuster is not in the filibuster itself, but in how in the past 30 odd years it is being abused through overuse. And to be fair, the Democrats have been partially responsible for this abuse as well. So the solution should be in how to limit the use of the filibuster without eliminating it. To take the "were" out of the "wolf," so to speak.

The number of filibusters should increase by the quarter, with the most reserved for the last quarter. This will prevent the majority party from ramming through bills at the last moment and curb a problem as bad as hyper-partisanship: procrastination. Honestly, there is no reason why funding for the government is being voted on months after its due date. This will also hopefully eliminate the grandstanding political plays of shutting down the government that are so horribly fashionable of late.

Since politics often use the metaphor of sports for how they function, then maybe in the world of sports is the solution to the filibuster. I turn to the NFL and see a likely answer in both the "Time Outs" and the "Instant Replay Reviews." What I would propose is that for each fiscal quarter, the minority party gets a small number of filibusters it can use for that quarter only. Unused filibusters would not carry over from quarter to quarter, which is a little different than what the NFL does. This should be completely legal and doable in that reconciliation bills act in the same manner.

What I hope this limited number of filibusters would do is make the minority parties decide which are the issues that matter the most to them and prioritize. For example, say Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) has three filibusters he can use in the first quarter and he knows Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants to bring bills regarding election reform, climate change, repealing the tax cuts for the very wealthy, immigration reform, healthcare reform, DC statehood, infrastructure funding, and gay rights to the floor. McConnell will be forced to pick two of those items that are more important for his party to draw a line in the sand. A wise political leader will always keep one of his filibusters in his back pocket for any legislative surprises.

This approach will hopefully bring three ancillary results along with it. One, it will show the minority party members the issues that really matter to it. I think, in this case, the evangelicals will be horrified how quickly fighting gays, abortion and immigrants goes flying out the window (and I don't doubt a similar shock will take place when the Democrats become the minority and have to pick what issues are most important to them!). Two, because the minority party has to choose what couple of issues mean the most, a lot of these wedge issues will over time become less combustible. And if they start to lose their power to incite, then they lose their effectiveness in making the Senate fragmentary. Three, because just saying "No" will be counterproductive on the issues that can't be filibustered, then it acts as an incentive for the minority party to negotiate to bring about a bill that has some tapping of the brakes instead of pedal to the metal. All in all this leads to more geniality in the Senate, even if forced and strained in the beginning.

There are two ways that I can see this solution being abused and it so happens that each one works against a different party. For one, individual senators can choose to use their party's filibusters on their own for pet peeves. Since the Insurrectionist Party has a tendency to showboat, this means that when Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Ted Cruz (TX) or Josh Hawley (MO) decide to put their own political careers ahead of party interest, the Minority Leader will have tools to punish the bomb throwers, again down the road leading to a more amicable Senate. Of course, the Democrats have their grandstanders as well—love those mittens, Bernie Sanders (I-VT)! The other way this limited number of filibusters could be misused is through gumming up the works so that important bills are drawn out into new quarters. But since the Majority Leader sets the agenda, it will be up to him to insure the Senate keeps up the pace, while at the same time not loading too much on the senators' plates. This is a potential area that could hurt the Democrats, in that getting the Democrats all on the same page is like herding cats and that there are so many important issues that need to be tackled. So, this puts a bit of a brake on the acceleration without making the vehicle worthless. Again I feel this will make senators pick their battles and let the low-hanging fruit get passed. Most members of Congress who retire early complain how the institution is set up in a manner that prohibits any form of accomplishment. They feel like they come to Washington with a load of ideas, but since it takes an act of God to get anything passed, they end up retiring in disillusionment and apathy. Any good psychiatrist will tell you that to have a happy workplace is to have a productive workplace and vice-versa. When lawmakers discover there is more personal satisfaction in accomplishments than in tearing the other side down, that will be a good day for the USA!

V & Z respond: An even simpler way to force the minority to set priorities is to require senators to stand in the well of the Senate reading Shakespeare, the Bible, or the Alabama phone book, for hours on end with no food, drinks, or bathroom breaks. Then we could measure the intensity of the opposition in "filibuster minutes."

A.V. in Madison, WI, writes: In today's response to S.K. from Washington, DC, you showed a graph from with the number of motions to invoke cloture in each term of Congress. I have a quibble with how the plot represents the data—the shading is shifted forward by one term, so that the Democrats appear to be the ones causing the sharp rise in filibusters starting in the 2007-2009 term, even though they held the majority. I took a stab at an improved graph that shows the party control more accurately:

Before McConnell took over
the GOP, there were never more than 75 filibusters in a term; since then there have never been less than 120 in a term, 
and the total sometimes spikes into the 200s or 300s

When I look at this graph, I see a slow rise in the number of filibusters over several decades, with the number doubling between 1981 and 2006. Then, as soon as McConnell became minority leader, the number of cloture motions doubled in a single term, which set off the current tit-for-tat. So while I agree both parties have participated in abusing the filibuster, one senator deserves much of the blame for the current situation.

K.F. in Framingham, MA, writes: Four years ago, the GOP controlled the whole show. As hard as it was to accept that, Democrats sucked it up and vowed to fight as hard as possible. The one silver lining was that because the GOP had all the chips, they ultimately owned the consequences of any of their actions. Aside from another huge tax giveaway to the ultra wealthy and pushing through many unqualified judges, the largely do-nothing GOP squandered their moment. Democrats reclaimed the House in 2018 and laid the groundwork for taking everything back in 2020. If Democrats have learned anything from the Obama years, it is that the GOP will take every opportunity to obstruct progress. Merely relegating them to the minority is not sufficient to overcome their intransigence. That is why the Democrats absolutely must go nuclear and abolish the filibuster.

First, given the pandemic and the tragic toll it has taken on our health and the economy, Americans can't afford to wait indefinitely for the Senate to hammer out a relief package. Secondly, when it comes to other major items on the Biden agenda, as pertains to infrastructure, the environment, racial justice, rooting out domestic terrorism and white supremacy, and electoral reform, politics should not get in the way of getting the big things done. If you want a debate over what to name a new post office in Framingham, MA, that's great, but endless debate about the important stuff won't help the guy who lost his job due to this pandemic, and who is worried about putting food on the table. Nobody knows how things will shake out in November 2022, so this is the moment of truth for Democrats. They left it all out on the field in 2020 and in 2018. They have to do the same now that they are the governing party.

Sure, Mitch McConnell can use scare tactics and warn Democrats that if they end the filibuster, the GOP will use that against the Democrats next time they take the Senate. But what's the difference? Because I can see a scenario where Chuck Schumer gives in to McConnell on the filibuster and then a few years from now, McConnell turns around and eliminates it anyway when it suits his interests. If Schumer and the Blue Team have not realized by now that you can't trust Mitch further than you can throw him and won't assert their power when they have it, then what was the point of flipping the Senate?

Wow, I just realized I didn't mention the Former He Who Shall Not Be Named once. It's a new day, indeed.

R.L.D. in Austin, TX, writes: Mitch McConnell's insistence on a promise to let the filibuster survive is just another piece of evidence to support my long-held hypothesis that the leaders of the GOP understand that their time as a major party or a viable national party is drawing to a close. Political parties are like pyramids: their height is directly related to the size of their base. Those at the top understand that their base is already too small to reach all the way to the White House (Trump is the fluke that spotlights the rule) and are concerned that now it won't be big enough to reach the Majority Leader anymore. McConnell could afford to be more blasé about the filibuster if he was confident that he (or his successor) might be able to reach majority status again. His desperation now suggests he thinks that time is not coming soon.

L.B. in Savannah, GA, writes: One compromise might be to abolish the filibuster for legislation in exchange for reinstating it for judicial nominations. If the people don't approve of legislation passed by a 51 to 50 vote, they can vote in different representatives the next cycle and the legislation could be reversed. A filibuster makes more sense for judicial nominations that are held for life and cannot be reversed easily by a future Congress, so they should require more support to be confirmed. The agreement could include a requirement that all judicial nominees be granted a hearing within a certain period, preventing the situation that led to the abolition of the judicial filibuster in the first place. There could also be a limit on the number of nominations for a particular post, preventing the minority from blocking nominations indefinitely. For example, if the first two nominees were voted down, the third would not be subject to filibuster.

TrumpWatch 2021

G.W. in Dayton, OH, writes: I wrote to you a couple of weeks ago to say that I didn't think NARA had any choice but to take ownership of the Trump Presidential records. Below is a notice that came out yesterday afternoon to all NARA employees (of which I am one) describing the first steps in the creation of the new presidential library:

To: All Employees.

Attention supervisors: If you have employees who do not have access to a computer, please ensure that those employees receive a copy of this notice. This includes employees on LWOP or paid leave.

Yesterday, as President Joseph R. Biden was sworn in as our nation's 46th President, employees from the National Archives launched the website for the Donald J. Trump Presidential Library:

Under the Presidential Records Act, the National Archives receives all records of the Trump administration, which will be preserved in NARA facilities in the Washington, DC, area, and access to those records will be provided through the Donald J. Trump Presidential Library, controlled and administered by the National Archives.

The Trump Library will be part of the National Archives' Presidential Libraries system, which, under the Presidential Libraries Act, established a system of privately constructed and federally maintained Presidential Libraries, going back to President Hoover's administration. NARA's Presidential Libraries promote understanding of the Presidency and the American experience. They preserve and provide access to historical materials, support research, and create interactive programs and exhibits that educate and inspire.

Regardless of whether a former President decides to build and donate an archival research facility and museum to NARA under the Presidential Libraries Act, we maintain the collection of Presidential records created by the administration as a Presidential Library.


Chief Operating Officer

V & Z respond: Thanks for the inside info!

L.T.G. in Bexley, OH, writes: How about creating a Potemkin agency and seconding all the Trumpist moles to staff it? They would lose access to their original agency's documents, intranets, and other sources for mischief, and instead get access to nothing at all. For example—the Administrative Secondment Service (ASS). The ASS mission might be to maintain a backup staff of administrators to assist agencies in need. Of course, if no agency actually makes a request...But think of all the busywork: drafting regulations (a special joy for Trumpites) and forms, designing an agency seal, putting together organization charts, and so much more. There would have to be one grown-up in charge to keep the kiddies busy—a thankless job, but perhaps the Head ASS could be given a nice ambassadorship by way of compensation. The NSA chap could be the Head Organization and Legal Executive, an appropriate title for a number of reasons.

Finding space for the ASS shouldn't be difficult. There must be plenty of disused buildings in secure settings available for the purpose. Fort Detrick would be a prime location. Their building could be named for one of the greatest moles in U.S. history—Klaus Fuchs, who funneled nuclear weapons information from Los Alamos to the USSR. "The Fuchs Building" has a certain ring to it, especially when slightly mispronounced.

N.G. in Schenectady, NY, writes: You wrote: "Trump bragged and talked about 'American carnage,' promising to take America backwards to the 1950s. For many Americans, especially Black, Latino, and gay Americans, America was not so great then."

I would argue that "women" should definitely be added to that list. Just sayin'.

V & Z respond: You're right.

M.B. in Farmington Hills, MI, writes: As we came to the end of Trump's term (and hopefully the end of what he represents), I have been thinking about the slogan that started all of this: "Make America Great Again." When I was a kid, most of what I perceived as our greatness as a country was related to our "big-ness." The big buildings, the big economy, a big population, a big military, among other things. I saw this country as Atlas standing astride the world. For the younger me, the "big-ness" of America and the "greatness" of America were inextricably linked.

What I have seen over the last 4-5 years is that the driving force behind "MAGA" was less about "big-ness," but a desire to "Make America Smaller." Smaller in its vision. Smaller in its presence as a part of the larger world community. Smaller in who should be able to vote for our leaders. Smaller in its racial, ethnic, and religious diversity. Smaller in its idea of who is an "American." Smaller in its desire to include those outside the white majority power structure. Smaller in its tolerance for those outside of cis-gender and hetero-normative patterns. Smaller in how it viewed its own ideals of Freedom, Liberty, Justice, and Equality. Smaller in the way that fear makes us smaller than love does. Smaller, due to suspicion overcoming trust, misogyny shoving aside respect, acceptance being bypassed in favor of prejudice, and optimism succumbing to cynicism.

I understand that—to borrow from the first century (CE) theologian, Paul of Tarsus—I do need to move on from "childish things." That said, I still see the greatness of our country as linked to our "big-ness." However, that "big-ness" is not so much our buildings, economy, population, and military, but our diversity, our potential for decency, our confidence, our openness, our willingness to hold to our ideals with greater devotion than to the whims of one person, our acceptance of our nation's—and our own—faults, and a never-ending commitment to the idea that words like "Liberty," "Justice," "Equality," and "Freedom" only have meaning when they are extended to include the most marginalized members of our society.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: We should be careful about what we wish for. America is at as much risk with Donald Trump out of office as when he was in. While he was in office, the dark, fearful, angry side of America was on open display. It scared the rest of us, but we knew who we opposed and why. We were only saved because he wasn't competent to focus the darkness. If the dark forces of fear and hate are allowed to retreat to the shadows, we could lose track of them and the darkness could grow, unmonitored and unchecked. If we look back at 2016 and Trump's election we realize that before he even announced his run, the darkness had grown to a critical mass. The rest of us did not recognize it for what it was or take it seriously. Let's not make that mistake again.

Was Trump a Success?

S.S. in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, writes: J.W. in West Chester, PA, who says they want to "defend Donald Trump's legacy", writes, among other things, "...rolling back burdensome regulations has...been a huge accomplishment." According to The New York Times, "...The bulk of the rollbacks identified by the Times have been carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has weakened Obama-era limits on planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and from cars and trucks; removed protections from more than half the nation's wetlands; and withdrawn the legal justification for restricting mercury emissions from power plants.

At the same time, the Interior Department has worked to open up more land for oil and gas leasing by limiting wildlife protections and weakening environmental requirements for projects." I find this appalling, and I hope the Biden administration rolls them forward again. In a way, it seems like saying, "Well, he murdered his wife and three little children, but he kept a nice garden. Don't judge him too harshly."

T.B. in Santa Clara, CA, writes: Last week, J.W. in West Chester, PA, wrote "Secondly, [Trump] 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."

I've thought a lot about the market/economy recently, and I'm convinced the biggest reason the stock market has had such a great run is not because of Trump, but because of the 2017 tax cuts, which any Republican president would have approved. That has produced a lot more disposable income for the wealthy, and as proven by plenty of research and common sense, when they have disposable income, they don't buy extra things, they put it in the stock market. By doing so, they are increasing their own wealth and driving up the prices simply by buying more and more stocks, regardless of company performance. A booming stock market does not equal a great economy by any means. While the stock market has had significant gains, those who can't afford to buy stocks are hurting due to higher relative taxes (from the same tax bill), decreased buying power, lost jobs, lost small businesses and restaurants, higher rents, increased poverty, etc.

As for the "burdensome regulations" he removed, do you mean the ones that didn't allow companies to dump toxins into our water supplies or pump toxins into the air we breathe? Or perhaps you mean the one he removed on Jan. 5 "allowing companies and individuals to kill migratory birds as long as they didn't mean to." Far too often, the regulations that he removed help corporations at the expense of the health of people in poorer communities, many of whom voted for him...twice.

M.M. in Centralia, IL, writes: Retired for 15 years, my spouse and I live off investments which I actively manage, so I suppose you could call us professional investors. Tracking markets since the 2008 collapse, aside from a soft retreat in 2015, growth was very steady until President Trump started playing footsie with the Chinese in late 2018, with markets losing 10-15% in Q4. Then there was the crash in 2020 Q1 due to COVID-19, where the markets lost approximately 30% in three weeks' time. The 2020 losses have recovered primarily due to stimulus—a double-edged sword—but the 2018 downturn, not so much. All considered, the long-term trend analysis indicates the markets are somewhere between 10% and 20% behind where they should have been had the steady growth since 2008 been sustained.

Financial markets don't deal well with instability. The chaos of the Trump administration had a measurable price.

Also, this maxim bears repeating: Wall Street is not Main Street. The indexes communicate a prosperity enjoyed by very few. By far most of the country is suffering enormously from pandemic-induced losses, and the agricultural sector is still reeling from the Chinese tariff wars.

J.P. in Gainesville, FL, writes: About the economy, there are three important things to note:

  1. The stock market is NOT the economy.
  2. The stock market is NOT the economy.
  3. The stock market is NOT the economy.

If you think the stock market is the economy, how do you explain a booming stock market with a pandemic, a massive recession, and Trump's insurrection?

Trump's record on the economy is that he never did anything to make the economy better, he did do things to make the economy worse. Not everything in the economy is something a president can help. This one was clueless, though.

J.A. in New York, NY, writes: I expect you will be getting some responses to this defense of DJT, and I'm not entirely sure if they were just playing Devil's Advocate or not.

I fail to see how "inciting insurrection to breach the U.S. Capitol, coercion to undermine the U.S. Constitution, and incitement to assassination of the VP and members of Congress" will not override "made a bunch of rich people richer" via the stock market in the eyes of historians. Historians tend to have a very 30,000-foot view of things, and temporary fluctuations of an index that most economists agree is largely out of the control of the U.S. administration will absolutely not factor in heavily.

Not exactly sure what "burdensome" regulations Drumpf has rolled back, other than environmental regulations. This, of course, is not "burdensome" to the people who live near areas affected by the regulations. It is something more along the lines of "not getting cancer" or "having air that is breathable" or "having water that is not rusty and full of heavy metals." But, again, if your main factor in considering success is making rich people a little richer, and making that easier, then absolutely, Trump is in the top 5. For historians, probably not so much.

P.M. Responds

P.M. in Currituck, NC, writes: The responses directed toward me last week (and am I Dylan or the Beatles? D.E., which do you prefer?) have just served to reinforce the notions which led me to write in at the beginning—namely, Democratic snobbery, and the attitude of those who look down on others. Referring to "my tribe" (a term I highly disagree with, as it just serves to heighten divisiveness) as being part of the "conservative culture of victimhood" and saying all of my points stem from that is simply arrogant and presumptuous—and turns people off. It has come full circle.

It has also shown me more and more that both perspectives (liberal, conservative) are two sides of the same coin, as things one side spews at the other could just as easily be said the opposite way. As an example of what I mean, I will re-write one of (((R.E.M.)))'s paragraphs from the perspective of the other side:

If you support Democrats, if you give them money or engage in activism, if you vote for them, you are saying you are, at the very least, okay with murder of unborn babies, forcing your views on other people (and belittling them if they don't agree), diminished or non-existent moral standards, ridicule of those who are devout ("clinging to their religion"), child abuse (introducing the concept of gender identity choice to a 3 year old?), extremism, and Communism. And if you purport to be an American, and you are okay with any of these, there is something seriously wrong with you, a defect of character and/or intelligence.

See? It works both ways. When you are so all-in on one perspective, you can just as easily turn what someone else says around, change a few words, and make them look awful. And to what end? All of those who hold viewpoints different than mine; why engage in groupthink? I'm an individual; so are you. I would never hold the positions in the paragraph I rewrote above, because I judge each person on their individual merits. Each and every person deserves the benefit of the doubt. Engaging in groupthink is highly dangerous, as it can very easily lead to a fascist mob storming the Capitol, or to half of the nation's citizens being labeled as deplorable. Don't decry the other side as wrong and blast them, when you're engaging in the exact same psychological trickery yourself. No one side has it all right, or all wrong.

A.G., you sound like so many people in my high school graduation class (Lake-Lehman, I'm sure you know the district) who have left the area, and constantly blast it after they're gone. To that end, I pose to you the same question I pose to them: Why? I left because of economic reasons, too, but I see no need to rip into the area. It's my home, and I am proud of the anthracite miners and factory workers who provided to me that solid blue-collar sensibility I possess now. And is a place like Bensalem that much better? I was an over-the-road trucker; I've been literally to almost every town North American readers here write in from (including those in the nefarious Canada), and Bensalem, Wilkes-Barre, Lititz—they're all, at heart, really the same. Ripping into the place that bore you serves no positive purpose. After all, someone else with solid blue-collar sensibilities, raised in the same area, from (to borrow your style of description) "s**tty Scranton," just recently became President of the United States. And, from what I recall, his "working man" image fostered there has served him well, and he always has a sense of pride at having originated from Northeastern Pennsylvania.

To S.S. in Detroit: I'll be in your area during the first week of April, but I am a committed teetotaler. Want to meet instead for a socially-distant lunch at the Culver's in Livonia?

C.K. in Rochester, NY, writes: This is in response to R.E.M.'s statement that Trump supporters condone violence and/or white supremacy, and that voting for him implies something seriously wrong: a defect of character and/or intelligence. R.E.M. states that Trump voters are ok with racism, misogyny, ridicule of the disabled, child abuse, and fascism.

What R.E.M. misses is that many misled Americans don't see those traits in Trump. I have several family members who are "rabid" Trump supporters. These are hard-working, honest, compassionate people, who would not embrace any of the traits that R.E.M. and I see in Trump. They have been brainwashed into a world of alternate facts and denial, and I have no doubt they are sincere in their belief that Trump is one of the best presidents we have ever had. We have had countless discussions: they are petrified that the liberal left is leading us into a godless, socialistic, communist society. They are parroting what they have heard from people they trust and respect: religious leaders in their church, like-minded friends, and their news sources (ahem).

None of them were ever politically involved in years past. A couple never voted until Trump came along. They see him as a Messiah. They do not believe me when I tell them of any of Trump's egregious behavior: that must be "fake news." They pray for me that I might see the light.

At the risk of upsetting Christians, religion has a dominant role in their support for Trump. His appointment of conservative justices and position on abortion is enough for them to look past whatever negative traits I might see in him (even if there is any truth to it, which they doubt). They do not read literature. They have little to no knowledge of history. They are simply uninformed, and they choose to remain so, without even realizing it.

I believe they are the most dangerous of all. A man who intentionally embraces deceit and evil can recognize it, and choose to change his path. My family members do not see the deceit and evil, and have isolated themselves to a point where they are unlikely to ever see this president for who he is. Can we reach those people? I'm afraid the answer might be "no."

J.K. in Silverdale, WA , writes: I listened to Joe Biden's inaugural address and heard a message of unity.

But recently, I took P.M. in Currituck's suggestion and read Ben Bradlee Jr.'s book, The Forgotten, and I've also reached out to conservative and conservative-leaning family. I'm learning that I hear things very differently from those on the other side of the aisle.

To me, systemic racism is a problem of the utmost importance that needs to be addressed, and conversations with politically like-minded friends reinforces this perception. And yet somehow, a significant percentage of our population does not believe systemic racism exists, and feels that the term "systemic racism" is itself divisive. My emotional response to this is a strong desire to scream that these folks need to remove their craniums from their rectal sphincters. Alas, that would be counterproductive to the goal of uniting the country.

When I hear discussions of racism, my thoughts are all about what could be done to address the issue. What I'm gleaning from my efforts to understand my fellow citizens is that many people hear "systemic racism" as an accusation. I know all too well from my counseling work that guilt and resentment are two sides of the same coin. When it comes to discussions of racism, I suspect that for some conservatives there is an undercurrent of, "Hey liberals—you're making us feel guilty and we resent you for it!" Unfortunately, getting past such feelings can take serious therapy.

Sigh. Just reaching out to my own family is a ballet dance on eggshells. How do we unify a whole country? I'm all for daring to climb the hill, but it's awful steep.

Executive Orders

M.H. in Boston, MA, writes: You asked for consequential executive orders that you missed in your top ten list. This might not belong—maybe it would be in the top 15 or 20—but Bush 43 XO 13455 restricting federally funded research on stem cells had a huge impact in the field. It delayed U.S. science on stem cells by nearly a decade, led states to establish their own state-level science funding agencies like CIRM in California, and marked a massive incursion of national politics into the day-to-day practice of scientists.

S.G. in Newark NJ, writes: Not titled as such, but effectively one: Nixon's Reorganization Plan No. 3, which created the Environmental Protection Agency. Institutionalized the environment as a major preoccupation of the U.S. regulatory system. Helped spark the Reagan anti-government backlash. And maybe, just maybe, will help save the planet, after all.

B.C. in Manhattan Beach, CA, writes: I would suggest that LBJ's Executive Order 11246 (prohibiting discrimination in hiring and employment by government contractors) was at least as consequential as Trump's XO 13769.

The Muslim travel ban was quickly blocked by the courts, then superseded by XO 13780. That later Executive Order was also quickly overturned (at least, "quickly" in the grand scheme of things) once President Biden came into office.

By contrast, XO 11246 continues in effect 55 years later (although it has been expanded by amendment twice), and still enhances employment opportunities for many of our fellow citizens.

M.S. in Sedona, AZ, writes: As a contract attorney, the executive order I see referenced most often is EO 11246, which was signed by President Johnson on September 24, 1965. It establishes requirements for non-discriminatory practices in hiring and employment for federal contractors. It is the source of the requirement to establish an affirmative action plan.

Federal contractors are required to pass on its obligations in their subcontracts. Although it is often viewed as boilerplate, it would be transformative if fully enforced.

Z.C. in Beverly Hills, CA, writes: On your Top 10 executive orders list, I would have preferred to see DACA at #10 rather than allow that vacuous dirtbag clown to be on any list where he could consider himself consequential, good or bad.

V & Z respond: We considered DACA, but it is apparently not an executive order. Technically, it is a presidential memorandum.


R.H. in London, UK, writes: Just to add to your reply to T.A. from Odense. Oaths are still a big part of the British system. The monarch makes a lengthy oath when ascending to the throne, and this can't be an affirmation, given that the monarch is also head of the Church of England. Members of Parliament must also swear or affirm an oath before they can take their seats. The oath involves pledging allegiance to the monarch, which is why Sinn Fein MPs don't sit in Parliament, as they refuse to take such an oath.

T.B. in Carlsbad, CA, writes: Oath-taking is also an important part of America's Judeo-Christian heritage. A few Old Testament biblical examples:

At that time Abimelech, with Phicol the commander of his army, said to Abraham, "God is with you in all that you do; now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my offspring or with my posterity, but as I have dealt loyally with you, you will deal with me and with the land where you have resided as an alien." And Abraham said, "I swear it." (Gen. 21: 22-24)

"If anyone gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal to their neighbor for safekeeping and it dies or is injured or is taken away while no one is looking, the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the Lord that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person's property." (Ex. 21:10-11)

"Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the Lord that you in turn will deal kindly with my family. Give me a sign of good faith 13 that you will spare my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death." (Josh. 2: 12-13; story of Rahab)

In the New Testament, Paul employed the language of oath formulas. For example:

But I call on God as witness against me: it was to spare you that I did not come again to Corinth. (2Cor. 1:23)
The First Fella

J.C. in Boulder, CO, writes: In response to the question from S.J. in Taipei about how we might refer to the same-sex partner of a married president, I'd like to point out that we already have an answer to this question in Colorado: Governor Jared Polis's partner Marlon Reis was introduced by the governor on election night as "Colorado's first first man," but he is generally referred to as the "first gentleman."

P.W. in Valley Village, CA, writes: Regarding Chasten Buttigieg, First Spouse: not a chance.

I live this world myself. I referred to Kevin as my husband shortly after we got together, which was fourteen years before we were able to be legally married on June 17, 2008. I wanted nothing to do with the terms "partner," "spouse," "lover," or anything else to describe my relationship with Kevin. Separate but equal never is. Given that the predominant terms used in the U.S. are "husband" and "wife." I want equal. And equal is "husband."

Pete and Chasten are traditional midwestern fellows who hail from small-town America. They're very mainstream and traditional in how they conduct their lives. Pete always refers to Chasten as his husband—introducing him as such during his tour de force at Thursday's confirmation hearing, and then keeping Chasten in frame in the background during the entire proceeding. And then there's the issue of the fact that he's Chasten Buttigieg.

When it comes to gay men getting married, the vast majority keep their own surnames. Chasten, however, chose the more traditional route of taking Pete's name. Now that Doug Emhoff has started a new tradition by becoming Second Gentleman, he's taken a traditional term, and will define it in his own way.

Therefore, I can say with 100% confidence that Chasten Buttigieg would go with tradition, take the term First Gentleman, and then define it in his own way.

C.K. in Chicago, IL, writes: I am a gay man so I'll tell you this joke to make you giggle: The spouse of a gay male president would be known as "Queen of America."

About the Site

C.F. in Bellingham, WA, writes: I started reading your website in 2004. Since then, I have looked forward to reading your poll analysis, as well as the careful, precise, informative and wonderful writing. These last four years have been so incredibly unbelievable with regards to the illegal, immoral, and unethical presidency of Donald Trump. Your writing helped provide insight and understanding to the complexities of all that was taking place before us on a daily basis, as well as providing a historical context. I can't thank you enough for all your work that you have put into this site over the years. I'm not sure how you do it, but I owe much gratitude to you both for getting me to the finish line of this horrible presidency!

L.L. in Hamilton, NY, writes: I was searching your past posts to try and determine when I first heard of the "red mirage" phenomenon of the 2020 election. I found a reference in your September 3rd item "An Election Night Doomsday Scenario." Re-reading that piece makes me remark on your prescience:

It could be a nightmare, with half the country refusing to accept the result. If something like this happened, the current demonstrations in Portland and Kenosha would look like a Sunday school picnic compared to what might unfold.

Nailed it!

D.K. in Iowa City, IA, writes: I tell my Republican neighbors that there is an important difference between having a point of view vs. having a bias. Everyone is entitled to a point of view but no one should have a bias. I point them to your website for them to see the difference.

V & Z respond: In recent weeks, we've gotten a lot of very kind messages like the three above. We don't normally print them, because that's a little self-congratulatory, but we make an exception in this case because we wanted to thank everyone for the positive comments. We try to answer as many as we can, but even those we don't, we definitely read. And we very much appreciate them all!

R.L.D. in Austin, TX, writes: I don't normally snort-laugh, but the phrase "an Easter egg for our Jewish readers" was the hilarious exception. Thanks, I needed that!

V & Z respond: Sometimes a good line kinda falls into our laps. That was an example.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: I too burst out laughing at B.B.'s original Haggadah joke. I didn't write then, because I assumed you published it with a wink. But the follow-up about the four types of Republicans is too rich to ignore. Fabulous! Kudos to B.B. for dazzling wit.

And because, if this runs, it will run after the Trump presidency, I say to you and all your readers: Dayenu!

P.W. in Springwater, NY, writes: Hello from another one of your female readers. Two weeks ago, you published a comment from a reader in Dansville, NY, and today you published one from a reader in Nunda. I used to live in Nunda and recently moved to Springwater—just over the hill from Dansville. Our district is one of the reddest in New York—so red, in fact, that "we" re-elected soon-to-be-convicted (and now pardoned) felon Chris Collins because he had an "R" after his name. Every day I drive by Trump signs and banners—although a few have come down since the insurrection. I've canvassed for Livingston County Democrats for several years and there are times it feels like we're an endangered species. But if I have neighbors, regardless of their politics, who actually read, let's just say I'm amazed and grateful you've penetrated this pocket of the Trumpiverse. Thanks for sharing that glimmer of hope!


C.M. in Newport Beach, CA, writes: It seems your spellcheck is either very smart or very dumb if it passes the word "stepchildier" because, despite following well-established linguistic rules to convert a noun to a qualitative adjective to a comparative adjective, the word doesn't appear to have existed on the public internet prior to your invention of it:

A Google search makes clear that
there is indeed only one use of the word 'stepchildier' anywhere on the Internet

V & Z respond: Or maybe the spellchecker just knows brilliance when it sees it.

W.S. in Austin, TX, writes: You wrote: "And finally, let us reiterate that just because the president orders a nuclear strike doesn't mean one will actually be launched. If Joe Biden were to try to nuke Canada tomorrow, so as to forestall their imminent invasion and takeover, he would have to provide some explanation to the general who would actually carry out the order."

Canadians would not likely invade or take over America, but they did popularize pineapple as a pizza topping and for that alone they deserve death.

V & Z respond: And not for visiting Bryan Adams and Justin Bieber upon the world?

E.H. in Dublin, Ireland, writes: In answering L.M.S in Harbin, you discuss the barriers President Biden would face if he tried to launch a nuclear strike on Canada. What you don't mention is that at this stage we simply don't know how far Canadian infiltration of the American armed forces has progressed. It's quite possible a Canuck sleeper in the chain of command would quietly ignore the nuke order. Apologizing for it afterwards, of course.

V & Z respond: Says the fellow whose initials spell out "eh"? We're on to you, "Irish."

T.I. in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, writes: I am shocked and appalled by P.S. in Portland, and their cultural appropriation! The phrase "always get their man" is a long-term unofficial motto for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, not some minor law enforcement agency group centered in Washington. Granted, the term actually was popularized by Hollywood, when Sgt. Preston of the Yukon movies were in vogue, but one must take steps to defend even Hollywood-based Canadian culture.

V & Z respond: Uh, huh. Next thing you'll be telling us that Canadians also invented baseball, apple pie, and mom.

E.B. in Seattle, WA, writes: Thank you for all of your hard work documenting the machinations of the Great White North and their devious dictator Justin Trudeau. I can't help but notice that Kamala Harris lived in Canada for a couple of years. A Manchurian Candidate or a Montrealaise Candidate?

V & Z respond: Uh, oh. Has anyone warned Joe Biden?

S.S. in Detroit, MI, writes: Lest we become lulled into a false sense of the harmlessness of Canadians, I would remind your readers of the violent Richard Riot in Montreal. Some of your older readers, especially in Boston and Detroit, may remember that. Also, our neighbors have had to deal with their own Donald, who was recently impeached (or, at least, sent to the Sin Bin). I refer, of course, to the infamous Donald S. Cherry. Fortunately, he was never able to gain control of his country's government, but was an influencer of some of the same element in Canada as that other Donald commands here.

In his defense (defence?) I will say that he at least has a sense of humor. Not to mention Sartorial Dominion. And I doubt that he would ever allow himself to fall under the spell of Vladimir Poutine.

In case you've never seen the Canadian Donald:

Don Cherry, who is in his 60s and has
white hair and a white goatee, wears and extremely loug rainbow-checked blazer, along with a tie that appears to show the 
aurora borealis.

V & Z respond: Hm. The Canadian Donald likes orange, too.

M.S. in Alpharetta, GA, writes: Over the years, I've had conversations with friends and colleagues regarding spanking of children. I've always been of the belief that it was wrong. Of course, I was fortunate that my kids didn't do anything that we felt like spanking would have been a consideration. Still, I was told that their children needed to be disciplined. Spare the switch and spoil the child, as it were.

Having seen and listened to Donald Trump over these past 4+ years, I wonder how things might have been different if Fred and Mary Trump had spanked him (at least once)?

B.P. in Salt Lake City, UT, writes:

A meme with Fred Trump and 
MyPillow guy Mike Lindell's pictures; they look exactly alike. It says: 'On the left, the MyPillow Guy, on the right,
Fred Trump. Hope you find the love you need, Don.'

M.D. in Boulder, CO, writes: I'm thinking those QAnon folks need to be talking to the MyPillow guy so they'll have something to cry into at night.

U.S.G. in Galena, IL, writes:

A meme has a picture of Donald
Trump labeled 'I want to see Biden in prison!' accompanied by a picture of Joe Biden labeled 'Why does Donald think I would
visit him in prison?'

D.Y. in Windsor, UK, writes: So a Black guy, a Jewish guy, and a Latino walk into a room...

Then they get sworn in and Democrats control the Senate.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan23 Saturday Q&A
Jan22 Biden Declares War
Jan22 Biden Slowly Staffs Up
Jan22 About that Unity...
Jan22 The Impeachment Dance Continues
Jan22 Biden Inaugural Address: The Reviews Are In
Jan22 Turns Out Biden's Was Bigger than Trump's, After All
Jan22 QAnon Believers Can't Figure out What Went Wrong
Jan21 My Whole Soul Is in It
Jan21 Being Biden's Speechwriter Is No Fun at All
Jan21 Biden Took 17 Executive Actions on Day 1
Jan21 Maybe It's Worse Than Biden Expects
Jan21 Trump Loyalist Burrows Inside the NSA
Jan21 Dear Successor
Jan21 Democrats Stage DNC v2.0
Jan21 How Can Biden Unify the Country?
Jan21 Harris Swears in Three New Senators
Jan21 Cheney Has a Challenger Already
Jan21 Support for Trump Is Already Starting to Crumble
Jan20 Today's the Day
Jan20 Great Inaugural Addresses of Presidents Past
Jan20 Joe and Kamala's Infinite Playlist
Jan20 Trump Pardon List Is Long on Sleaze, Short on Risk
Jan20 Good News, Bad News for Trump on Impeachment Front
Jan20 Senate Takes Shape
Jan20 How Will History Remember Trump?
Jan19 The Final Countdown Is Underway...
Jan19 I Beg Your Pardon?
Jan19 Schumer, McConnell Close to a Deal on Power Sharing
Jan19 Biden Embraces Some Progressive Priorities
Jan19 Fox News in Decline
Jan19 Parler Is "Back"
Jan19 Cohen Implicates Boebert
Jan18 Biden Plans a Dozen Executive Actions on Day 1
Jan18 Biden Will Tackle Immigration Early on
Jan18 Atlanta D.A. Is Looking Into Trump's Call to Raffensperger
Jan18 Karl Rove: If Giuliani Represents Trump at Senate Trial, Trump Runs Risk of Conviction
Jan18 Riots Changed Public Opinion
Jan18 Running the Senate Won't Be Easy
Jan18 Republicans Are at Each Other's Throats
Jan18 Trump Blows Up the Arizona Republican Party on His Way Out
Jan18 Pardon Me?
Jan18 Harris Will Resign Today
Jan18 Love in the Time of Rioting
Jan17 Sunday Mailbag
Jan16 Saturday Q&A
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