John Branch wins the day, the week, possibly the month or more.
The challenge of finding humor in this ongoing horror show seems to involve either irrelevant personal attacks or a lot of misinterpretation of what's going on, but Branch gets the gist of poor Sean Spicer who, forced to find loopholes in the loopy, seized on the idea that, if it's in quotation marks, the boss didn't mean it.
Branch suggests that even Spicer knows the man is unqualified and that the task of the White House staff has become not to assist Trump in advancing his policy but to cover up the fact that he has no policy beyond blurting out whatever is on his mind.
Trump is not the first figurehead president, but he may be the first one with no great Svengali behind him. I've seen a lot of cartoons naming Bannon as puppetmaster, but Bannon has little more than untested dystopian theories to advance.
The true "Power Behind The Throne" must be a cabal of experienced, deeply entrenched politicians directing a feckless, popular figurehead:
Think of the McKinley Administration, which collapsed with his assassination because they had, instead of a back-up puppet, stashed an annoyingly uncooperative, progressive governor in the VP slot to shut him up.
As renowned kingmaker Mark Hanna famously exclaimed, now "that damned cowboy is president of the United States."
Steve Bannon is no Mark Hanna or even a Dick Cheney. He may have ideas, but he has no experience of actually accomplishing them nor does he have the connections to carry them out, and, as Stephen Dedalus noted, "Every jackass going the roads thinks he has ideas."
Perhaps we should simply say that Bannon has "ideas."
Meanwhile, it was a surprise to see Jeff Stahler, who comments more on social trends than actual politics, strike the bull's eye with this one.
Yes, it took awhile, and it took some digging, and, as was noted here yesterday and even before that, it began with a "third-rate burglary."
The work of Woodward and Bernstein has been hyped a bit -- the New York Times had also taken the break-in seriously -- but the fact is that the burglary alone was necessary, because it inspired the investigation, but not sufficient, because it wasn't enough, even traced back to White House staff.
Which is why the question "What did the President know and when did he know it?" was more than a catch phrase. It was absolutely necessary to prove that Nixon was aware of and permitted, even if he did not order, the actions of the Plumbers.
But it might be a better cartoon if it were a much younger speaker and an older listener, and extended another panel: He could reply, "Yes, it only took about two years, but progressives hadn't begun to eat each other yet."
Perhaps I'm remembering it wrong, but my impression is that those who liked Nixon piled on the initial coverage as grandstanding and partisan and foolish.
I don't remember his foes in the media also mocking it that way.
But look at the beating Maddow is currently taking from progressives, not simply for overstating the importance of the 1040, but over the supposed "fact" (note the quotation marks) that nothing was revealed.
Which, as noted here yesterday, is bullshit. Is it everything? No. Is it something? Of course, yes, it is.
Do you throw away the fingerprints because they weren't found on the gun?
And there's also this: While I never felt McGovern had been a viable candidate in the first place, I wasn't derided and dismissed as a "Muskie Bro" by people who needed my support at the polls.
But what we have now is conservatives saying that, because Putin did not place armed guards at the polls to shoot anyone attempting to vote for Hillary Clinton, Russian attempts to interfere in the electoral process had no impact on the results.
While the calculated, pragmatic reponse from progressives is to declare that, because Maddow did not drag Trump in front of the cameras by the ear and force him to disclose his entire financial history, what she did was absurd and meaningless.
Yes, it took almost two years.
But we had not yet perfected the "Crabs in a Bucket" strategy back then.
Today it would take much longer.
Which is kinda too bad if you were counting on the 2018 elections as some sort of corrective.
Meanwhile, Andy Marlette has one of the better commentaries on the Trump budget, not only for a handy pun that sums up the overall first impression, but because he plays with what we know at first sight.
Others have assumed specifics that don't, even on first glance, appear to be valid, like the idea that there will be no more "Meals on Wheels" because federal funding has been cut, or that Big Bird is a victim of cuts to PBS CPB, which would be a fair piece of exaggerated commentary if Sesame Street were still beholden to PBS CPB rather than HBO.
But -- particularly since it has now been released -- you should probably hold off on mourning the specific victims until there's been a little more in-depth analysis and we know who they are.
Or would be, if the "final budget" were indeed to become "final."
The obvious goal being to comment and criticize in that all-important period between the time you find out what the hell you're talking about and the time Congress actually makes their final move.
Which has always, always been true but has taken a real beating since we began the shift from "Get it right" to "Get it first."
Ah, the good old days. Note that Ben wouldn't banner it on Page One,
but he didn't spike it entirely, nor did he tell them to go cover
the Cherry Blossom Festival instead.