White House Press Corps Hosted Michelle Wolf’s Saturday Night Massacre

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

This last weekend the nation witnessed a Saturday Night Massacre – just not of the Nixonian sort that we usually think of. I’m also not referring to Trump’s public display in Michigan that same night that informed us once again of what a truly awful person as President he is. I am, of course, referring to comedian Michelle Wolf taking a very sharp ax to Trump, members of his administration, and the mainstream media. Wolf’s barbs were not uniformly appreciated and she’s come under attack by those she wounded. For me, some of her punch lines flopped and some triggered a mental “ouch”. But all the rest were spot on.

Michelle Wolf
Michelle Wolf who addressed the WH press corps

So what’s the flap about? Vox.com has the answer for you in its transcript, Wonder what Michelle Wolf said to make everyone so mad? Read it here. Hint: “What would I do without Megyn Kelly? Probably be more proud of women.” But before she even got close to that …

Here we are the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with a Trump, “Let’s get this over with.” Yep, kiddos this is who you’re getting tonight.

… I know as much as some of you might want me to, it’s 2018 and I am a woman so you cannot shut me up — unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000.

Thanks to Trump, pink yarn sales are through the roof. After Trump got elected, women started knitting those pussy hats. When I first saw them I was like, “That’s a pussy?” I guess mine just has a lot more yarn on it. Yeah. You should have done more research before you got me to do this.

Yeah. I suspect that whoever invited Wolf to do that gig was cringing.

Press corps dinner
Attendance at the WH press corps dinner

Members of the Trump administration walked out when she made those early remarks. Sarah Suckerbee Handers earned kudos from some in the media for her poise under fire. For example:

Maggie Haberman
@maggieNYT
That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive

Nonsense! She was ordered to fill in for the AWOL president and sit at the head table. What was she going to do? March off and prove to the world that Trump and his minions have skins as thick as that of an onion? F-’em if they can’t take a joke. (I’ll come back to this tweet in a moment.)

For me, though, one of the iconic scenes was the view of the Washington Hilton ballroom and the crowd of thousands – thousands! The WH press corps is just not that big. Watch one of Suckerbee Handers’ noon-time pressers and guesstimate the number of journalists in the room. You will see what I mean. So who are those people? At least in part, to quote from Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

For Sure Not Tom elaborates in response to a post from today’s Blog for Arizona.

Here’s why the MSM is sad. Wolf rightly calls them out on their BS.

“There’s a ton of news right now; a lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything. But, instead, we’re covering like three topics. Every hour, it’s Trump, Russia, Hillary and a panel of four people who remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving…

…You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you.

He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re gonna profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money because he doesn’t have any.”

So the answer is that those in attendance are those who profit from media attention – politicians, corporate execs, lobbyists, all of whom are chummy with each each other and with the reporters who should be seriously worried about the clubbiness of this event.

Yes, Wolf was hard on journalists, but she was right. Bob Lord at Blog for Arizona pens An Open Letter to Michelle Wolf.

I’m one of the millions you inspired with your performance Saturday night.

Whatever you do, please, please, don’t surrender to the attacks. Don’t apologize.

The line drawing the fire, as you know, is your brilliant and courageous comparison of Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Aunt Lydia in the Handmaid’s Tale.

No surprise. The attacks on you are not about impropriety or stepping over the line or being mean. They are about truth spoken to power in a way that, for those in power, was alarmingly dead on. After all, what is Sarah Huckabee Sanders if not a high-level functionary for a corrupt regime, just like Aunt Lydia.

You exposed Sanders as a modern-day brown shirt, just as Colbert once exposed the ineptitude of the Bush administration and Larry Wilmore exposed the brutality of Obama’s drone bombing. On each occasion, the room fell silent. Ugly truth wrapped in humor can be unsettling.

So, when pressed to apologize, respond by saying that you’ll apologize as soon as Sarah Huckabee Sanders apologizes to Jim Comey, Hillary Clinton, and countless others she has smeared at the behest of the wannabe tyrant to whose black hole she has so willingly, eagerly and treacherously hitched her wagon.

Along the same lines, illustrating my unease with the attendance Saturday night, Molly Roberts wrote in the Washington Post about how Michelle Wolf got it just right.

Wolf, according to the commentariat, violated a sacred standard of decency that defines the correspondents’ dinner every year. The comedian should roast people, yes, but she should do it at a suitably low temperature for this town’s all-too-tender egos. Wolf broke protocol by turning on the broiler. Yet the figures she scorched have shattered norms that are far more important than an unspoken prohibition on vagina jokes.

The correspondents’ dinner supposedly celebrates the rapport that journalists have with the people they cover. This three-course fete of access journalism has always made some skeptics queasy, but after the Trump administration’s active attempts to undermine every organization in the room Saturday that doesn’t treat the president as an unassailable dear leader, it’s hard to pretend that the fourth estate and its subjects can carry on a relationship that’s adversarial and respectful all at once.

That persistent chumminess is why Wolf’s performance, in the end, wasn’t really for the press. It was about us. “You guys love breaking news, and you did it,” Wolf said to CNN. “You broke it.” To everyone else, she said: “You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him.” Instead of listening — to that or to Wolf’s final line, “Flint still doesn’t have clean water” — we got grumpy on Twitter. Which means Wolf did a better job of defending the First Amendment than those who say that’s our business.

Also in the Post, Jonathan Capehart advises readers critical of Wolf to Shut up about Michelle Wolf if you’ve been silent on Trump’s offenses.

As happens after every White House Correspondents’ Association dinner (a.k.a. Nerd Prom), the question is “What did you think?” What did you think of the comedian hired to skewer the president, the press corps and the political class gathered in the Washington Hilton for a dinner that raises money for scholarships, awards and other things done by the WHCA? The query takes on an added urgency when the comedian crosses a line that offends the glittering precious souls in the ballroom.

Michelle Wolf, the former correspondent and writer for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” whose eponymous special HBO cemented her on the comedic map, didn’t just cross the line. She blithely blew past it like a bank robber through a red light — after plowing through a cement-truck barricade. I’m no shrinking violet. I love a well-executed salty joke wrapped in blue. But Wolf even had me agape and clutching my pearls.

She was a riot!

Like her predecessors, Wolf went after members of the press, the Democratic Party and Trump administration officials. No one was spared. Trump wasn’t there for a second year in a row, which didn’t stop Wolf from taking him down a peg (times infinite). And it didn’t stop Wolf from tearing into the person sitting at the dais in the president’s stead: Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The press secretary doesn’t engender empathy, what with her complicated relationship with truth and a demeanor at the podium that is a mix of rushed annoyance and condescension. Yet I couldn’t help feel a twinge of OMG as Wolf mercilessly ridiculed Sanders seated just feet away. It was as comfortable as when a comic uses a member of the audience as a punchline punching bag. But that feeling was fleeting. Wolf’s eye-popping routine was simply a comedic reflection of Trump, whose presidential library will overflow with coarse, rude, ugly and personal attacks. It probably won’t mention other things like, oh, being embroiled in a scandal involving hush-money for a porn star that was paid by his personal lawyer who was raided by federal investigators. Trump, his staff and Cabinet emulate his rhetorical disregard for the norms, customs and respect we expect from the presidency.

The criticism of Wolf by Republicans, the press and the public was inevitable. Comes with the job, and some of it I agree with. What makes it galling is that those screaming the loudest about Wolf are mute when it comes to Trump. The former is a comedian hired to tell jokes at a dinner where jokes are traditionally told. The latter is the president of the United States. His words, even the jokes, carry weight. They have real consequences and affect real lives. But we’ve become so used to the garbage that sloshes from his Twitter feed and his presidency that we have grown numb to how it sluices over our collective national psyche.

So, until some of this righteous indignation and moral outrage at Wolf is directed at Trump for his inattention to the Flint water crisis and the devastation in Puerto Rico; his silence on the heroism of James Shaw Jr. and the demands for gun control; his disrespect for the rule of law and his inability to effectively govern without striking fear in the hearts of American families, folks need to shut up about Michelle Wolf.

In the end, we must realize that the flap over Wolf’s routine is not about Wolf at all. It’s about Trump, his character (or lack thereof), his shredding of our norms, his destruction of our government, his behaviors that violate the religious principles of those who forgive him all that.

So take your pick. In this corner is Michelle Wolf. In the other corner is Donald Trump who spent the evening of the press corps dinner doing more damage to the country. Politico.com reported that Trump vilifies ‘dishonest’ press at Michigan rally. As the White House press corps celebrates at an annual dinner in Washington, the president again demonizes the media at a rally in Middle America.

In which corner would you prefer to be?

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If it sounds too good to be true…

Okay, so maybe Governor Ducey and the Legislature really are trying to solve the problem. You know, the one they, and those before them, created by pushing tax cuts, corporate welfare, and school privatization. But, it is REALLY hard to have the faith, when they throw out words like “advance-appropriated.” As in, “we can’t give you all 20 percent right now teachers, so we are going to advance-appropriate it in the next two budgets.”

I googled “advance-appropriate” and got nothing on the first page of search results. On the second page, there was a report from the New America Foundation titled, “Advance Appropriations: A Needless and Confusing Education Budget Technique.”

The New America Foundation appears to be fairly non-partisan with a vision that includes, “Equitable, accessible high-quality education and training over a lifetime”, “A society that promotes economic opportunity for all”, and “Equal representation in politics and participation in accountable governance.” Its Board of Directors includes New York Times Op-Ed Columnist David Brooks, ASU President Michael Crow, and many others from business, higher-education, and journalism.

Their report on advance appropriations referenced above, discusses the practice of this funding mechanism in Congress, and calls such a, “rarely understood budgeting approach that shifts funding into the fiscal year following the year covered by the appropriations process.”

In the report’s summary on the first page, it states that,

Advance appropriations add complexity to the education funding process and are of no practical benefit to recipients…Congress should end advance appropriations for education programs by providing a one-time funding shift that moves advances back a fiscal year so that they align with the current funding cycle. A new scoring rule to prevent future advances should also be enacted. The combined effect will reduce complexity and increase transparency in the federal education budget process. Such a change does not increase or decrease education funding. But it does promote transparency, simplicity and clear decision-making in federal education budget matters.

Likewise, the Government Accountability Office’s Glossary of Terms Used in the Federal Budget Process states,

The use of the advance appropriations technique makes it difficult to assess the actual level of funding…because the program is funded in three pieces…Education advance appropriations also make it difficult to compare spending to the rest of the federal budget, because virtually all programs funded through appropriations receive only one regular appropriation.

Fast forward to yesterday and Arizona Capitol Reports writing that,

The budget appears to fix what has been a source of contention among teachers who worried that the raises promised in future years would never materialize. To ensure that teacher pay raises in future years get funded, the raise money will be advance-appropriated. The budget advance appropriates the five-percent raises in FY20 and FY21, an allocation that could only be reversed if a future Legislature votes to take the raises out of the budget. The $371 million that Ducey promised in district additional assistance is also advance-appropriated in the proposed budget.

Call me cynical, but what’s the difference between “advance-appropriated” and “a promise”. The statement above, that “an allocation that could only be reversed if a future Legislature votes to take the raises out of the budget” doesn’t provide me much peace of mind. After all, our Legislature routinely approves budgets at the last-minute, in the dead of night, to provide the least amount of transparency possible. And, even when we have laws that provide dedicated funding to education, they have managed to refuse to pay in accordance with the law – Prop. 301 inflation funding (that resulted in Prop. 123) ring a bell?

This latest workaround to the REAL solution – finding or creating new, dedicated, sustainable funding for K–12 education, isn’t the only such shell game obfuscating the truth. You may have heard that even with the state trust lands money Prop. 123 delivered, our districts are still funded at almost one billion less per year than in 2008. What you may not have heard, is that for the past decade, the state has rolled over each year’s final K–12 payment of $930 million to the next fiscal year. The Grand Canyon Institute (GCI) reported in its January 2018 report titled: “The State of the State Budget 2018: The Revenue Systems is Broken” that,

The lack of revenue resources means the state will likely enter the next recession with this rollover still on the books.” The report goes on to say, “With dollars extremely tight, the state has been unable to allocate funds to eliminate rollovers, so continues the $930 million K–12 rollover whereby the last payment of the past fiscal year is rolled over into the next one. This rollover represents 9.5 percent of the General Fund expenditures, more than three times as large as the use of rollovers in FY2008…The rollover is twice as large as the budget stabilization fund of $460 million – and consequently hides a significant ongoing deficit.” When the General Fund per capita real dollars (the state now has only $3 for every $4 it had in 2007), and the rollovers as a % of the General Fund are combined, Arizona is not running a balanced budget, but a deficit of “$5 billion ($1 billion in rollovers and $4 billion in lost revenue not recovered since FY2007 – half of the General Fund).

These funding schemes may work in good times, but what happens when the inevitable downturn arrives and the bills come due? Don’t think we want to take out a second mortgage on the Capitol buildings sold and leased back at a considerable cost to the state under Jan Brewer’s reign. It is way beyond time that our Governor and Legislature give up on the gimmicks and make the tough decisions to truly deliver for the people of Arizona. That is, oh by the way, what REAL LEADERS do. ASU economists have credited 90 percent of the state’s decline in revenue on tax reductions and analysis by GCI shows that the reliance on trickle-down as a viable economic policy has not produced the jobs promised. “Actual state employment growth” writes GCI, “has lagged below the ”natural growth“ estimated by the JLBC in 2011 [with the New Employment Tax Credit]…Arizona’s employment performance here is far less with about one-third of the actual employment growth actually translating into jobs being eligible for the tax credit.”

Unfortunately, Governor Ducey and this Legislature, seem blind to the truth and unwilling to do what needs to be done. Just think back if you will, to May 2017, when AZ education advocacy groups were fighting for 4 percent for the teachers and were told 1 percent was all the state could afford. How can we now, without ANY new revenue, afford 20 percent? Reminds me of that old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true…”