The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Oh, Look, Republicans Think They Can Win a Government Shutdown Fight. Again.

Republicans in Washington aren’t dumb enough to have a government shutdown while they control the executive and legislative branch, are they?

Chances of a government shutdown grew Monday as Republicans concluded that they would be unable to reach a long-term spending accord by the Friday deadline. GOP leaders are now turning to a short-term funding measure in hopes of keeping agencies open while talks continue, but Democratic leaders say they are unlikely to support any deal that does not protect young illegal immigrants.

Aides to key negotiators from both parties planned to meet Tuesday in an effort to rekindle budget talks, setting up a Wednesday meeting of the leaders themselves. If they cannot agree, the government would shut down at midnight Friday for the first time since 2013.

Some Republicans seem to think that Democrats would get blamed for shutting down the government in an effort to save the “Dreamers” from deportation. And it is interesting that Senator Claire McCaskill sounds unenthusiastic about a shutdown in comments to the New York Times.

But the political world offers many hard lessons that what ought to be is not what will be. Some chunk of the public will not grasp that it takes 60 votes to pass a spending bill, which means Republicans will need nine Democrats to break with their party. The public will just see the usual footage of school buses of kids outside a closed Smithsonian and think, “those stupid Republicans,” or just “those stupid idiots in Washington” and be more likely to oppose incumbents. When your party has the majority, an anti-incumbent mood is bad news.

Of course, some Republicans will insist, “no, no, see, this time it will be different!” Of course, that’s just what Wile E. Coyote thought every time he chased the roadrunner.

Women Writers Start Worrying About What, Exactly, Constitutes #MeToo

Perhaps it was inevitable that someone would claim the mantle of #MeToo in circumstances that were far murkier than the early scandals.

A photographer using the pseudonym “Grace” gives a lengthy, explicit description of a date with comedian Aziz Ansari that offers an unflattering portrait of him being clumsy and insistent to have sex, but never quite doing anything that most would characterize as sexual assault or harassment. As Andrea Peyser puts it, “Grace apparently believes that Ansari should have been able to read her mind, when a simple ‘Stop!’ would have promptly ended the activities.”

Quite a few women are deeply irked that this description of a bad date is getting lumped in with the #MeToo movement.

HLN host Ashley Banfield:

Banfield continued to criticize Grace’s claims, saying that “by your own clear description, this wasn’t a rape, nor was it a sexual assault. By your description, your sexual encounter was unpleasant.” The host then claimed that Grace had “chiseled away at a movement that I, along with all of my sisters in the workplace, have been dreaming of for decades. A movement that has finally changed an oversexed professional environment that I, too, have struggled through at times over the last 30 years in broadcasting.”

Added Banfield: “The #MeToo movement has righted a lot of wrongs and it has made your career path much smoother . . . what a gift. Yet, you looked that gift horse in the mouth and chiseled away at that powerful movement with your public accusation.”

Bari Weiss, writing in the New York Times:

I am a proud feminist, and this is what I thought while reading Grace’s story:

If you are hanging out naked with a man, it’s safe to assume he is going to try to have sex with you.

If the inability to choose a pinot noir over a pinot grigio offends you, you can leave right then and there.

If you don’t like the way your date hustles through paying the check, you can say, “I’ve had a lovely evening and I’m going home now.”

If you go home with him and discover he’s a terrible kisser, say “I’m out.”

If you start to hook up and don’t like the way he smells or the way he talks (or doesn’t talk), end it.

Caitlin Flanagan, writing in The Atlantic:

Was Grace frozen, terrified, stuck? No. She tells us that she wanted something from Ansari and that she was trying to figure out how to get it. She wanted affection, kindness, attention. Perhaps she hoped to maybe even become the famous man’s girlfriend. He wasn’t interested. What she felt afterward — rejected yet another time, by yet another man — was regret. And what she and the writer who told her story created was 3,000 words of revenge porn. The clinical detail in which the story is told is intended not to validate her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari. Together, the two women may have destroyed Ansari’s career, which is now the punishment for every kind of male sexual misconduct, from the grotesque to the disappointing.

Karol Markowicz:

So many of the well-known #MeToo stories centered on power dynamics. Matt Lauer allegedly assaulting his underlings. Weinstein blocking the careers of actresses who turned him down. But no such power dynamic existed in this situation. Grace was not hanging out with Ansari for a career opportunity. Their date was understood to be romantic by both of them. If we’ve reached a point where #MeToo will include regrettable hook-ups the whole movement is diluted and actual sexual assault stories minimized.

It’s an odd feeling to write “Sonny Bunch is right,” but he’s got a point:

I would suggest there’s a reason this story appeared in, rather than the New York Times or BuzzFeed or the Los Angeles Times or, yes, The Washington Post. One of the reasons is that, however Grace now thinks of the encounter, what happened isn’t sexual assault or anything close to it by most legal or common-sense standards. And bad dates — including terrible ones that leave one person feeling humiliated — aren’t actually newsworthy, even when they happen to famous people.

An “I had sex with a celebrity and regretted it, and isn’t that kind of like Harvey Weinstein” claim is exactly the sort of unconvincing argument that a powerful sexual predator would want in the news right now. Because if people perceive #MeToo as being driven by a desire to publicly detail every sexual encounter that ends unsatisfactory or awkwardly, everyone will recoil from it. Sex is complicated and messy enough without the thought of having every encounter or attempted encounter broadcast to the world for dissection and analysis.

Meanwhile, actress Eliza Dushku described being sexually assaulted by a stunt coordinator on the set of True Lies; she was 12 at the time. Her agent went to the executive producer and told her about the assault, but “nobody really did anything.”

The Impassioned Minority Backing President Trump

Michael Graham makes a good and fair point that one reason Republicans are likely to have a challenging midterm election cycle is that a decent number of Republicans refuse to believe they could have a difficult midterm election cycle. Trump fans refuse to believe or accept that anything he’s doing could be repelling the electorate as a whole.

And the number of “Resisters” has edged up to 41 percent — more than twice the number of “Believers.”

Yes, the one voter out of five who loves Trump really loves him and revels in the chaos he creates. But 66 percent of all Americans dislike Trump personally — and 69 percent of all voters tell Gallup they’re dissatisfied with the direction of the country.

Yes, Trump supporters love his attacks on Hillary and want him to make investigating her a top 2018 priority. But the vast majority of Americans don’t agree or don’t care.

Know what you call a party that has the hard-core, passionate commitment of 20 percent of the country?


Even with the economy rockin’ and the stock market rollin’ and a plurality of voters saying the economy is in better shape, President Trump and his party can’t poll above 40 percent on a good day. How is this #Winning?

Trump fans will point to the first-year record: tax cuts, bonuses and wage hikes, the unemployment rate remaining low, the stock market booming, the individual mandate’s repeal, the obliteration of the Islamic State, judicial nominations, ANWR drilling, the completion of the Keystone Pipeline, the repeal of a slew of regulations . . . 

Indeed, and with all of those accomplishments, Trump’s approval rating bounces from the mid-30s to the mid-40s, with disapproval between 50 and 60 percent. People who should like his results don’t like him as president; how he carries himself and what he says matters. His constant drama and controversies alienate voters who might otherwise be sympathetic or supportive of his policies. Republicans don’t have to like this fact of political life, but they shouldn’t ignore it.

Unfortunately, a lot of Republicans are emotionally invested in their choice of 2016 that they do not want to hear any criticism of the president — constructive or not-so-constructive. And thus, the trajectory for November 2018 is set.

ADDENDA: The Guardian offers an update on the hunt for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: “The most wanted man on the planet has been traced to a specific place at least three times in the past 18 months alone.”

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