Consider the Hallmark Channel in December.
No, but really.
“I cannot stop watching the Hallmark Channel,” says Mac Cohn, proprietor of a sports website in Ohio. “Usually to unwind I would watch football, but even watching football has become a political thing. The Hallmark Channel has none of that.”
Hallmark, which often seemed to exist just so you had something to fold laundry to, is now deep into its biggest annual event — “Countdown to Christmas,” a series of several dozen fresh-from-the-oven seasonal made-for-TV movies. And it is an event.
“The Christmas Train” — with a plot that is vaguely “Murder on the Orient Express,” if one replaces “murder” with “festive spirit” — reached 4.9 million viewers when it aired the Saturday after Thanksgiving weekend, the most-watched cable program in the country that day. Meanwhile, the actual “Murder on the Orient Express,” a feature film starring two Oscar winners and several nominees, recently made $10.7 million on its opening day in theaters. Impressive — but divide by roughly $10 a movie ticket, and that means there were five times more people watching Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Dermot Mulroney poke around a mystical polar express on Hallmark than multiplex-goers watching Johnny Depp and Dame Judi Dench.
“The Hallmark movie that is my favorite is ‘A Christmas to Remember,’ ” Cohn continues. “It’s a TV personality — I believe she has a cooking show? — and she needed to get away for the holidays, and she ended up wrecking her car in a snowbank, and she got amnesia. Have you seen it?”
The Washington Post
By Jeff Stein
Image courtesy of Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that congressional Republicans will aim next year to reduce spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs, citing the need to reduce America’s deficit.
“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show. “… Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”
Ryan said that he believes he has begun convincing President Trump in their private conversations about the need to rein in Medicare, the federal health program that primarily insures the elderly. As a candidate, Trump vowed not to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. (Ryan also suggested congressional Republicans were unlikely to try changing Social Security, because the rules of the Senate forbid changes to the program through reconciliation — the procedure the Senate can use to pass legislation with only 50 votes.)
Bloomberg Politics has just published a remarkable interview with the Russian lawyer who famously met with President Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign chairman at Trump Tower in June 2016. There are a number of lingering questions about the account, and healthy skepticism about the messenger and her message is certainly warranted.
However, this is a notable moment, because it would appear to constitute a direct allegation that Donald Trump Jr. actively requested Russian assistance in harming Hillary Clinton, as opposed to having been merely receptive to such assistance.
The Bloomberg reporters interviewed the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in Moscow for 2½ hours. She claims that Donald Trump Jr. — who attended the meeting with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort — said that if Trump won, he’d be open to pushing for changes to a U.S. law that targets Russian officials. That is interesting, because it alleges that Donald Trump Jr. offered to be more friendly with Russia in exchange for potential assistance with the campaign. But there’s also this:
Veselnitskaya also said Trump Jr. requested financial documents showing that money that allegedly evaded U.S. taxes had gone to Clinton’s campaign. She didn’t have any and described the 20-minute meeting as a failure.
The United States is in the middle of a very unfortunate experiment in how disoriented a great nation can become before it loses its moorings entirely.
At times, politics seems fairly conventional with Republicans and Democrats arguing about health care and tax cuts, as they long have done. But former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama reminded us last week that there is nothing normal about this moment. They issued searing, overlapping condemnations of Trumpism without naming President Trump. Former commanders in chief of opposing parties don’t do this sort of thing unless the country faces an emergency.
Our disorientation is reflected further in the way honorable men and women allow themselves to be pushed into defending the indefensible and twisting noble concepts into cheap and ultimately shameful talking points. These are designed to get the president through one more news cycle or around some controversy he could easily quell if he had any familiarity with the words “I’m sorry.”
In the realm of political commentary, the now-daily detonations set off by a man who sees the common good as the pursuit of suckers drown out any serious discussion of the problems his voters thought he might try to solve.
The burden is especially great on those who hoped that by serving this man, they could serve their country. Alas, Kelly has shown us that this is simply not possible.
During the campaign, when President Trump’s advisers wanted him to stop talking about a certain issue — such as when he attacked a Gold Star military family — they sometimes presented him with polls demonstrating how the controversy was harming his candidacy.
During the transition, when aides needed Trump to decide on a looming issue or appointment, they often limited him to a shortlist of two or three options and urged him to choose one.
And now in the White House, when advisers hope to prevent Trump from making what they think is an unwise decision, they frequently try to delay his final verdict — hoping he may reconsider after having time to calm down.
When Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) described the White House as “an adult day-care center” on Twitter last week, he gave voice to a certain Trumpian truth: The president is often impulsive, mercurial and difficult to manage, leading those around him to find creative ways to channel his energies.
Some Trump aides spend a significant part of their time devising ways to rein in and control the impetuous president, angling to avoid outbursts that might work against him, according to interviews with 18 aides, confidants and outside advisers, most of whom insisted on anonymity to speak candidly.
In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.
By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight.
A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.
The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.
The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA.
For years, some drug distributors were fined for repeatedly ignoring warnings from the DEA to shut down suspicious sales of hundreds of millions of pills, while they racked up billions of dollars in sales.
The new law makes it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies. That powerful tool had allowed the agency to immediately prevent drugs from reaching the street.