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.
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That title is not a weak attempt to make a pun on the genetics company "23andMe." It is not a throwback to "23-skidoo." And it's definitely not an attempt to sound like a quarterback calling signals at the line (besides, it's the wrong season for football metaphors). Instead, it represents the three biggest hurdles that Republicans now face in their efforts to dismantle Obamacare.
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.
President Donald Trump's first speech to Congress and to the American public was not a disaster of epic proportions. Normally, I wouldn't begin a speech review with such a statement, but with Trump, the possibility always exists (see: Trump's first press conference). Trump managed to clear the bar of "speaks like the public wants to hear a president speak, and not like an enraged adolescent on the playground." Again, for any other president this bar wouldn't even be mentioned, because it has never been an issue before now. Because it was Donald Trump, however, much of the audience watching the speech breathed a sigh of relief that Trump finally managed to "look presidential."
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.
Welcome back to our annual year-end awards column!
Normally we open our annual awards column with an explanation of why John McLaughlin shouldn't sue us. It's become traditional, in fact, to skate the thin ice of "homage" and "satire" versus straight-up theft of intellectual property (which, of course, we'd never ever do... or, at least, admit).
We've got a lot to cover today (including Obama's final press conference), so let's just dive right in and try to get through the rest of the week's news in lightning fashion.
The Democratic Party is in pretty dire straights at the moment. Republicans not only control the United States Senate, the House of Representatives, and the White House, but when you take a look down at the state level, things are even more depressing. Republicans have full control (both statehouses and the governor's office) in 25 states. Democrats only have complete control in five. Two-thirds of all the individual statehouses (state senates and state assemblies or houses) are Republican-controlled. Democrats have lost over 900 of the total seats in the statehouses since Barack Obama took office. By some levels, the Democrats are worse off than they've been since the 1920s.