This Week In Garbageville

Orb your enthusiasm

Welcome to the week in which Donald Trump left the country and temporarily stopped tweeting, and a conservative writer wrote that Melania and Ivanka Trump looking nice and being quiet in Saudi Arabia showed the "power of femininity," because women are at their most powerful when they do absolutely nothing.

Donald Trump Goes Away

Did you notice something different about this week? Was it … quieter in some mysterious way? The Force seemed … less disturbed? That's because Hurricane Donald left the country, taking with him the usual assortment of pathetic bluster, unforced errors, policy missteps, and general fuckery that usually bless his home continent.

Should I be paying attention to this?

Well, what's done is done. Most of the news generated by the trip so far falls into the category of "Trump gonna Trump": his goofy body language (see him sword dance!), his selfishness (watch him shove another world leader aside!), his lack of humility (hear him smugly accept an outrageous compliment from the president of Egypt!). He got sleepy. There were many memes. Many, many memes.

Substantively, the big headline might be the lack of headlines. His speech on Islam was … relatively civil. His NATO speech caused some waves because Trump seemed to have intentionally failed to endorse the organization's commitment to mutual defense — but the White House insists that was merely a misunderstood matter of emphasis and that "Trump wasn't trying to be cute ... the U.S. is 100 percent committed" to the pact.

Because of the very low bar we've set for Trump, and because of the mostly boner-free public statements, the trip is being counted a success. But that doesn't mean that Trump has nailed international relations. His biggest screw-ups were behind the scenes. First: Trump administration officials shared details about the Manchester terror attack with the media before British law enforcement had a chance to OK the disclosures, leading U.K. prime minister Theresa May to say she planned to personally raise the issue with Trump. More ominously, the U.K. also temporarily broke off intelligence-sharing with us.

The Dumb Banana in Montana

A special election to replace a spot in the House of Representatives vacated by Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the interior (and noted dog enthusiast), was held on Thursday. Republican Greg Gianforte was running for Zinke's seat out of the great state of Montana (Gianforte is not actually from the great state of Montana but, you know, whatever). On Wednesday night, Ben Jacobs, a reporter from the Guardian, asked Gianforte a question about the Congressional Budget Office's score of the Republican-designed American Health Care Act (AHCA), and Gianforte responded in a completely reasonable manner, answering Jacobs's question like any normal person running for public office would.

Just kidding: Gianforte definitely choke-slammed Jacobs into the ground, broke his glasses, and then had his spokesperson lie about the whole incident.

Unfortunately for Gianforte, Jacobs had the presence of mind to record the incident. A group of Fox News reporters also shared what they saw in the room (which was actually even worse than Jacobs's original description). Late Wednesday night, the sheriff of Gallatin County, Montana, charged Gianforte with misdemeanor assault.

Should I be paying attention to this?

Yes, because Gianforte still won this race. Not because he body-slammed a reporter, but because (1) the race was run in a very GOP-heavy district and (2) most people cast absentee ballots or voted early, and thus had already voted for the person who violently attacked a reporter for … reporting.

This means that Gianforte is heading to Washington, D.C., a metropolitan area literally coated in a thick, viscous patina of reporters who will want to ask him questions. Questions Gianforte may not want to answer. In fact, Gianforte will spend his entire tenure in office being asked questions over and over and over and over again about thousands of topics he does not want to discuss, including the time he body-slammed a reporter to the ground.

Good luck, Greg!

The Budget That No One Liked Is Already Dead

Question: If you were president, and you came up with a budget, and your own party said things like "you know, we didn't much like George W. Bush's budgets, either" and "it's traditional to just ignore everything the president suggests," and Paul Ryan — Mr. I Read Budgets for Fun — DIDN'T EVEN FREAKING READ IT, did you really come up with a budget at all?

Sure, the White House's proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 is awful. Like, really, truly, cuts-basically-every-social-welfare-program-you-can-think-of (and some you can't), cuts-Medicaid-so-extensively-that-no-one-knows-exactly-just-how-much-this-cut-will-be, includes-a-$2-trillion-accounting-error awful. As one conservative writer put it, Trump's idea of a budget "looks like a liberal blogger's caricature of what a Republican budget on steroids would be." This budget was, of course, designed (in theory) by a man who promised during the 2016 presidential race to never cut Medicaid — a promise that’s looking like it’ll be as well kept as my mother's promise to take me to Ruby Tuesday for my eleventh birthday (she didn't).

But here's the thing: Trump's budget is already dead. It is no longer alive, it has ceased to exist, it has shuffled off this mortal coil. Why? Because senators are many things, but they are not generally in the mood to commit political suicide on matters that will directly impact their home states. Bill Cassidy, Republican senator from Louisiana, is not going to vote for a budget that cuts funding for a flood protection system that keeps his state above water. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina's GOP representative and the senator who sounds the most like Foghorn Leghorn, said that the budget could enable "a lot of Benghazis in the making" if the cuts to the State Department went through.

In short, Trump's budget is dead because it's completely insane and was written by people who have no idea what they're doing. Which is basically the story of every single legislative effort this White House has attempted. Just wait until they try tax reform!

Should I be paying attention to this?

No. Go outside.

Paul Ryan Can't (Get a Good CBO) Score

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its "scoring" of the almost universally loathed American Health Care Act, which mainly evaluated how much it'll cost and how many people it will affect. Somewhat predictably, the news has so far made little difference to a nation already polarized by the health care debate. First of all, the scoring was not that much different than how the CBO evaluated the first version of this legislation. It turns out that the few policy sops conservatives added to address maternity care and addiction treatment only reduced the number of eventually uninsured by 1 million (or, from 24 million to 23 million) over 10 years, and added $30 billion to the bill's bottom line (so it will wind up reducing the deficit by $119 billion rather than $150 billion).

The other reason that the CBO score didn't make much of a difference to the public debate is that there's never been much of a "debate." A policy debate presumes that both sides are addressing the same policy problem but have different solutions. This is not the current situation. Republicans are not trying to "fix" Obamacare or health care in the U.S. with this bill. It is not really a health care bill at all. It is a gambit to rip apart the social safety net (with over $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid) in order to give tax cuts to the wealthy.

Should I be paying attention to this?

Depends on your level of wonk. If you want to be able to argue in detail about how terrible this bill is for working people (Trump's own voters included!), there's lots of detail in the CBO report to dig into, and the report is pretty damning on what allowing states to opt out of ACA coverage standards will do to the individual insurance markets.

Have we already lost you? Then let's keep it simple: The AHCA is so bad that at least one Republican congressman started to tear up when he was faced with the CBO's definitive explanation for how it would hurt those with pre-existing conditions. According to reports, he was "surprised" when he was shown the section about pre-existing conditions and he became "emotional" and "choked back tears" talking about his father's and sister's battles with cancer.

Meadows, suddenly emotional, choked back tears and said, "Listen, I lost my sister to breast cancer. I lost my dad to lung cancer. If anybody is sensitive to preexisting conditions, it’s me. I’m not going to make a political decision today that affects somebody’s sister or father because I wouldn’t do it to myself.”

He continued, “In the end, we’ve got to make sure there’s enough funding there to handle pre-existing conditions and drive down premiums. And if we can’t do those three things, then we will have failed.”

He said it, not me.

The Travel Ban Loses, Again

Trump's attempted ban on people from six predominantly Muslim countries has failed in the courts — again. On Thursday, the federal appeals court for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the ban — created by a president who said there should be "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" and asked former New York City mayor and noted waste of time Rudy Giuliani to help him create a Muslim ban — was in fact a ban on members of a specific religious group. A reminder: If you're going to do something that may be constitutionally or legally sketchy, maybe keep the sketchy part, you know, quiet.

Should I be paying attention to this?

Trump could try to challenge this ruling and go to the Supreme Court, but that's what he said last time. Instead, his legal team modified the order. And it still didn't work.

They're really, really, really, really bad at this.