April 25, 2017

On Monday, the U.S. State Department took down an article published earlier in April that read like promotional material for Mar-a-Lago, President Trump's private club in Florida. "The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders," said the State Department's ShareAmerica site, where the article was posted April 4 before making its way onto the official websites of American embassies abroad. The U.S. government seemingly promoting the president's private business did not sit well with Democrats, government ethicists, and many other Americans, but former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a Trump backer, found a way to blame former President Barack Obama on CNN Monday night.

Van Jones started things off, calling the post "outright kleptocracy, as far as I can tell." Conservatives should be outraged, he added. "This is an ad. I mean, you would pay a billion dollars for this ad, it's on the State Department's thing." Kingston said he was "outraged," too, adding, "I also want to point out, this is actually part of a $72 million clickbait campaign that the State Department had previous engaged in, it was not done under the Trump administration, and it's part of what they're trying to ferret out, the waste in government." Political analyst Ana Navarro pointed out how ridiculous he was sounding, and that the Mar-a-Lago post was clearly done under Trump, and Kingston replied: "You forced me into reminding you, this was left over from the Obama administration — I tried not to say that."

After pushback from CNN's Jake Tapper, Jones, Navarro, and political analysts Rebecca Berg and David Gergen, Kingston shifted to blaming a "low-level blogger" and the bureaucracy. "Look, I'm going to agree with Van — it sounded like a real estate ad, it was stupid, it was taken down immediately for that reason, I don't think it should be up, I'm in agreement with you on that," he said. "But I'm saying the bureaucracy does all kinds of silly and stupid things." Gergen shot that down. Peter Weber

April 24, 2017
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President Trump wakes up to Fox & Friends, regularly slips out of the Oval Office to watch cable news in the small adjoining dining room, and keeps the TV on when he retires to his private residence, sometimes hate-watching shows critical of him and discussing it on the phone with friends, The Washington Post reports. "Once he goes upstairs, there's no managing him," one adviser said. Some confidants say Trump still watches MSNBC's Morning Joe, but Trump tells The Associated Press he no longer tunes in to negative coverage of himself on CNN and MSNBC, to his own surprise. "I don't watch things, and I never thought I had that ability," he said. "I always thought I'd watch."

What's undisputed is that Trump's cable news habit has upended Washington. Politicians and White House staff who appear on TV seem to have as much influence as those who meet with Trump in the Oval Office, proving TV to be one kind of great equalizer. But at the same time, White House aides and congressional Republicans are exasperated that Trump "can seem to be swayed by the last thing he sees on TV, a medium geared more for entertainment than actual policymaking," The Washington Post reports, or when they have to scramble "to reverse-engineer information to support his dubious assertions" on Twitter. And there are other ways Trump's TV habit affects the real world, the Post says:

The president, advisers said, also uses details gleaned from cable news as a starting point for policy discussions or a request for more information, and appears on TV himself when he wants to appeal directly to the public. ... Foreign diplomats have urged their governments' leaders to appear on television when they're stateside as a means of making their case to Trump. [The Washington Post]

Trump's advisers and allies say the 70-year-old president is served well by his "sophisticated understanding of how to communicate, the power of television," as senior counselor Kellyanne Conway says. And while Trump's obsession with cable news, especially Fox News, is unusual for a president, The Washington Post notes, in other ways it's "unremarkable, based on his profile. Fox News' average prime-time viewer last year, for instance, was 68 years old and mostly white, and the average American watches more than four hours per day, according to Nielsen data." You can read more about Trump and TV at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

April 20, 2017
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Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said his decision to not run for re-election, and his sudden announcement that he might not even finish out the rest of his term, isn't because of some yet-to-be-revealed scandal.

"Not in any way, shape, or form," he told Politico Thursday. "I've been given more enemas by more people over the last eight years than you can possibly imagine. From the Secret Service to the Democratic Party. I am who I am. If they had something really scandalous, it would've come out a long, long time ago."

Chaffetz was first elected to represent Utah's 3rd congressional district in 2008, and is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He told Politico he's already in talks about future employment and would be "thrilled to have a television relationship," but he's not ruling out a return to politics down the road. "I want to keep those doors open," he said. "I'm not closing any potential future run." Catherine Garcia

April 20, 2017

On the night that Fox News sacked Bill O'Reilly, Dana Perino hosted the newly O'Reilly-less The Factor. She had on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to discuss media bias against President Trump. After they discussed some findings by the conservative media-bias group the Media Research Center and its NewsBusters offshoot, Huckabee tried out what might be material for his next Twitter joke. It seemed particularly ill-suited for the occasion.

"You know, there's three things that's said you can't do," Huckabee said. "You can't spit into the wind, you can't climb a ladder leaning toward you, or kiss a woman leaning away from you. Add one more to the list if you're Donald Trump: You can't get a fair shake from the media."

If O'Reilly had followed the third rule, of course, his name would likely have still been on the show tonight. And if Trump had done the same, it would have fixed part of his problem with bad press. Peter Weber

April 19, 2017

President Trump visited Wisconsin on Tuesday, including a stop at a Snap-on tool factory in Kenosha. At the factory, he criticized a Canadian dairy tariff and signed a "Buy American, Hire American" executive order that directs U.S. agencies to review the use of H-1B visas — granted to high-skill foreigners, especially in the tech industry — and find ways to increase the use of U.S.-made products in certain federally funded construction projects. Accompanying Trump were Gov. Scott Walker (R), Sen. Ron Johnson (R), and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who attended high school in Kenosha. Trump began with a nod to a Wisconsinite not in the room, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R), whose district includes Kenosha.

"My thanks go to Speaker Ryan, who's represented this city for nearly two decades in Congress, and do you know where he is?" Trump asked. "He's with NATO. So he has a good excuse. So I said, Ron, make sure these countries start paying their bills a little bit more, you know, they're way, way behind, Ron." Trump appeared to catch his mistake and pointed to Johnson saying, "I'm going to talk to you about that, Ron," then added: "But Paul, you're over with NATO, get them to pay their bills."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump chose the Snap-on factory because it's "a company that builds American-made tools with American workers." Along with hand and power tools, Snap-on makes shop equipment and software, and it has 11 plants in the U.S. plus factories in China, Brazil, Argentina, Belarus, and several European nations. Snap-on also makes burial urns, and when shown them on Tuesday, Trump called them "very depressing." He narrowly won Wisconsin in November, and his approval rating in the state is currently about 41 percent. Peter Weber

April 17, 2017

Russia has considerably cooled on President Trump and as proof, look no further than Kremlin mouthpiece Dmitry Kiselyov, who told the country's state-run television network that the American president is "more dangerous" than even Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, Bloomberg reports.

"Trump is more impulsive and unpredictable than Kim Jong Un," said Kiselyov. Kiselyov's view is described as "usually close" to the Kremlin's, and he went on to note that even Kim didn't give his daughter (who is 4 years old) an office in the state residence, as opposed to Trump, who appointed his 35-year-old daughter Ivanka to a White House position.

"Ivanka already convinced Trump to bomb [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, what if she convinces him to bomb Kim?" added newscaster Irada Zeynalova.

Kiselyov argued that both Kim and Trump have "limited international experience, unpredictability, and a readiness to go to war."

"The world is a hair's breadth away from a real nuclear war with all its catastrophic consequences," Kiselyov said. "War can break out as a result of confrontation between two personalities: Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. Both are dangerous, but who is more dangerous? Trump is." Read The Week's assessment of the North Korea nightmare here. Jeva Lange

April 13, 2017

In September 2004, Bill O'Reilly published an advice book for teens — The O'Reilly Factor for Kids — dealing with subjects like drugs, alcohol, smoking, and sex. A month later, Andrea Mackris, a 33-year-old O'Reilly Factor producer, filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court, accusing O'Reilly of sexual harassment in a complaint filled with lurid details about falafel, loofahs, and saltier subject matter; two weeks later, O'Reilly settled the suit for about $9 million. That lawsuit was part of the recent investigation by The New York Times, which found three other sexual harassment settlements and two more public complaints of sexual harassment.

O'Reilly, 67, whose continued tenure at Fox News is an open question, denies any wrongdoing and said he only settled to protect his children. But knowing the multiple allegations about him propositioning female subordinates and contributors and retaliating when they said no, his 2004 advice to teenagers on sex is pretty hairy.

"Did you think that O'Reilly would tell you sex is off-limits?" he asked his regular teenage viewers (on page 75). "As you know, things are more complicated than that. But I repeat my mantra: Sex is best when you combine sensible behavior with sincere affection." Smart people "recognize that there is no area more potentially dishonest than the sexual arena," he wrote, then dished out some advice for the women: "Girls, some guys will tell you anything to get that sex thing going. Then, after it's done, they will brutally drop you."

Still, it's O'Reilly's advice for young men that is most awkward, considering: "Guys, if you exploit a girl, it will come back to get you. That's called 'karma.' And don't allow yourself to be exploited by a troubled partner who wants to brag about her sex life to her friends, either. Believe me, you will come out a loser in that scenario." Words to live by — maybe co-author Charles Flower wrote them. Peter Weber

April 13, 2017

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces have killed several tens of thousands of civilians and dissidents in six years of civil war sparked by his harsh crackdown on protests, including some 1,500 people slain by chemical weapons. It was Assad's latest chemical weapon attack on civilians that prompted President Trump to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at one of Assad's air bases last week. Now, Trump's administration "is maneuvering to topple Bashar al-Assad from power," Tucker Carlson said Wednesday night on Fox News. "That's surprising to some of his longtime fans who appreciated his calls to avoid foreign quagmires."

One of those puzzled fans is Ann Coulter, and Carlson asked her what longtime Trump supporters should think about the events of the past week. "It's very hard to explain this Syrian attack," she said. "It is certainly not a vital national security interest. We generally don't — at least conservatives don't — support rushing around the world for humanitarian reasons. And for that region of the world, Assad is one of the better leaders — there's probably only one or two that are better than he. He's not even like a Saddam Hussein murderous thug."

Points for not bringing up Adolf Hitler. Peter Weber

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