Pam's Points: Reading the tea leaves of disarray

Pam's Points: Reading the tea leaves of disarray

July 29th, 2019 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

President Donald Trump on stage at the Teen Student Action Summit 2019 in Washington on Tuesday flanked by a satirical presidential seal on the screen behind him. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Photo by DOUG MILLS

Reality TV Democrats

Surely all the pundits will fill the weekend airwaves a-twitter with pronouncements of Democratic division over future impeachment moves.

The chatter had already begun in earnest early Friday. The Daily Beast reported "'There Is Constant Battling': Nadler and Pelosi Are on a Collision Course."

In her final weekly press conference before Congress breaks for six weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: "I'm not slow-walking impeachment. ... No, I'm not trying to run out the clock." She added former special counsel Robert Mueller "confirmed" in his public testimony before two House committees Wednesday "that the president has obstructed justice," and now Democrats are pursuing the question in the courts in order to investigate the president's finances and they expect that effort to strengthen their hand.

Later in another press conference House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said his committee is filing an application for the grand jury material underlying the Mueller report and "we will continue to seek testimony from key Russian probe witnesses [including former White House counsel Don McGahn]."

Nadler added that impeachment efforts are "in effect" anyway. "We are exercising our full Article 1 authority and continuing our investigation of the president's malfeasances," he told reporters.

Pelosi was asked separately. Were she and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez "burying the hatchet" in an earlier morning meeting? There's no hatchet to bury, Pelosi responded. "Everybody has the liberty and the luxury to espouse their own position and to criticize me for trying to go down the path in the most determined, positive way," she said. "Again, their advocacy for impeachment only gives me leverage."

Indeed. If you think about it, Pelosi and the Democrats seem to be playing the same game the president excels at: Keeping the story alive with reality TV verve. Anyone who thinks this is real division is delusional.

 

Satire unleashed

There was our president, taking the stage last week in Washington, D.C., at Turning Point USA's student summit — a gathering of the young MAGA faithful.

But there was a problem. Between the time a 12-minute video glorifying his presidency began and he took the stage, someone changed out the official seal of the president projected behind him with a doctored one that seemed to poke fun at Trump's affection for Russia, golfing and money. The image, with Trump beside it, was captured in dozens of photos and videos from the Tuesday event.

The doctored seal shows an eagle with two heads instead of one and closely resembles the bird on the Russian coat of arms. The eagle's left talons, rather than clasping 13 arrows, hold a set of golf clubs. The right talons clutch a wad of cash.

By Thursday, someone had caught on, but neither the White House nor Turning Point seemed to know who created it. Turning Point announced it had fired the member of its video team who it said was responsible for displaying the fake seal.

"We did let the individual go," a Turning Point spokesman told The Washington Post. "I don't think it was malicious intent, but nevertheless "

Where was the president's staff that should typically have advance knowledge and command over images and video displayed where the president appears? That's a question for another day.

On Thursday afternoon, the Post had found the 46-year-old graphic designer who created the image shortly after Trump's election. Charles Leazott told the paper he had redrawn the seal shortly after Trump was elected, partly as a joke and partly as catharsis. He said he used to be a proud Republican who voted for George W. Bush twice, but Trump's GOP was no longer his party, so he created a mock presidential seal to prove his point. He put it in an online marketplace set up to sell shirts and stickers sporting the seal, along with other jokey "resistance" apparel. Leazott woke up Thursday and saw the news of the "fake" seal in a Reddit post as he drank his morning coffee.

Now stuff is selling fast, and Leazott is clearly pleased, telling the Post: "It's cool people are buying this, that's great and all," he said. "But I've got to be honest, I am so tickled in the most petty way possible that the president of the United States, who I despise, stood up and gave a talk in front of this graphic. Whoever put that up is my absolute hero."

 

A stealth asteroid scare

A cartoon presidential seal wasn't the only thing that escaped administration notice last week. NASA is red-faced about the stealth asteroid that whizzed by just 45,000 miles from Earth on Thursday — roughly one-fifth the distance from Earth to the moon.

It was, said Alan Duffy, lead scientist at the Royal Institution of Australia, "uncomfortably close."

Worse still, "It snuck up on us," Michael Brown, Duffy's colleague and a Melbourne-based observational astronomer, told the Washington Post. "It shook me out my morning complacency. It's probably the largest asteroid to pass this close to Earth in quite a number of years."

According to data from NASA, the craggy rock was an estimated 187 to 427 feet wide, and moving fast. It was the kind of asteroid star-gazers call a "city killer." But Asteroid 2019 OK, as the space debris has now come to be known, also was just small enough to make it hard to detect.

"People are only sort of realizing what happened pretty much after it's already flung past us," Brown said.

Duffy added: "It should worry us all, quite frankly. It's not a Hollywood movie. It is a clear and present danger."

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