Never were the words of the Grateful Dead so fitting in the world of politics. "Trouble ahead, trouble behind" is indeed a perfect description of the spot Paul Ryan and Donald Trump found themselves in today. Because Casey Jones faced precisely the same no-win situation, and it didn't work out so good for him, either.
FridayTalkingPoints Article Archive
As is becoming the new normal, a ton of things happened in Washington this week. Donald Trump kicked the week off by tweeting out a conspiracy theory, then he rolled out "Muslim Ban 2.0," and by week's end a gigantic fracas within the Republican Party was building to fever pitch. Oh, and that fever will not be covered by the new GOP Obamacare replacement plan, sorry.
This was supposed to be a good week for Donald Trump. He was going to give a big speech, and he was all set to roll out the 2.0 version of his Muslim ban. As usual in the Trump administration, though, things didn't quite work out as planned.
That question is becoming more and more acute for the rest of the world, in reference to President Donald Trump versus the rest of the Trump administration. If you were the foreign minister from a country in Europe, for example, would you believe what Trump says about American policy towards Europe and Russia, or would you believe his minions, such as the Vice President Mike Pence or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson? This dilemma could become a sort of low-level ongoing crisis, since Trump's comments are so far removed from what others in his administration are saying. Who are you going to believe? The boss, or the underling who is making much more sense? That's a pretty risky geopolitical gamble to make, no matter which side you choose to believe.
Before we begin, two quick notes. That subtitle above isn't ours, but when we heard what CNN's Brian Stelter called the hot mess we saw yesterday, we had to agree it was the perfect description. Stress conference indeed! Secondly, our opening metaphor to describe our own personal reaction is going to need a rather roundabout explanation, just to warn everyone in advance.
Donald Trump just got thumped by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. There's no denying it. Even Kellyanne Conway can't spin her way out of this one. Three judges unanimously wrote a 29-page opinion explaining why Trump needed to be thumped. This means he can't even whine that it was a "partisan" decision, since these judges were appointed by Democratic and Republican presidents. Even more satisfying is the fact that even if the temporary restraining order which blocked implementation of Trump's Muslim ban is appealed to the Supreme Court, a 4-4 tie vote would just reconfirm the thumping the Ninth Circuit just gave Trump. We certainly hope this turns out to be just the first in a long line of setbacks the court system deals out to Trump, on a regular and continuing basis.
But we digress. Donald Trump's Muslim ban, signed into existence as we were writing last week's column, was certainly the biggest story of the week. Spontaneous protests sprang up at international airports across the country as the chaotic implementation made it plain that this executive order just wasn't thought through all that much. Nobody knew what the order did cover and didn't cover, all the way from White House officials down to the border guards who were expected to somehow implement this vague and badly-defined policy. Clarifications had to be issued on a daily basis. The draft of the order simply did not go through any of the normal vetting channels, with some cabinet-level officials only seeing it hours before it was signed. The Trump administration is now starting to resemble (take your pick) either the gang who couldn't shoot straight or the Keystone Kops.
We're going to start today with a story that sounds like an urban myth, but actually happened. The state government of Indiana, 120 years ago, was almost taken in by a crank mathematician. He got them to introduce a bill he had written that would have changed state law to state that the value of pi was what he said it was. The language of the bill is inexact at best -- it might better be described as "completely incoherent" -- and actually suggests multiple ways of calculating pi, none of which are correct. The easiest to understand was to calculate it as a ratio of 5/4 to 4, which would give 3.2. The other methods are pretty indecipherable, to be polite.
We know there's that pesky clause in the Constitution and all, but doesn't it seem like today would have been more appropriate for Donald Trump's inauguration? That's our way of saying "Happy Friday the 13th" to everyone, we should point out. Ahem.
Welcome back everyone to our regular weekly roundup! We've been on our usual year-end hiatus for the past few weeks, pre-empted by our year-end awards columns (Part 1 and Part 2). But now that Congress is slinking back to the swamps of Washington, it's time to start looking forward once again. And we promise, we are going to explain that rather cryptic title, after we dispense with an initial bit of idiocy.