The "Failing New York Times" performs a regular trapeze act these days, swinging from expressions of stunned horror at the multi-clown-car pileup that's the Trump administration before latching onto the absurd fantasy where Trump is a normal faculties-retaining president who actually knows what the hell he's doing.

So, here we are with stunned horror:

You remember the old movie/sitcom trope where a character has to bluff his way through a chess match or high-stakes poker game against the Bond-style villain? He cheats by takes the precaution of having an actual expert whispering into his ear through a hidden communication device, but something always happens to cut the feed during a pivotal moment and our hero has to fly solo? Trump apparently always went to the bathroom during the part right before Tom Cruise or whoever just starts winging it.

How are we not all going to die when an utterly stupid person engages the leader of a hostile nation in tense negotiations over nuclear weapons without the aid of competent, experienced advisers? Maybe his pride just won't let him accept help. This is, after all, "two dictators" facing off "loco a loco." I know: He's gonna cram, "Billy Madison" style, until he knows more about nuclear weapons than the unfrozen, reanimated corpse of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

There's the concern, of course, that Trump might wind up "overprepared," which was a charge goateed "preparedness measurer" Chuck Todd leveled at Hillary Clinton, who you might recall was running for president of a country that was once important and had allies.

Fortunately, that's a condition that only exists when a woman is so clearly more prepared than a man, especially one who is struggling with the complex matter of shoelace tying. A (white) man's default patriarchal factory setting is "prepared," so by contrast, a competent woman could only be "overprepared," which is just going out of her way to insult people. Trump won't have this problem.

What did he just say? It's "about attitude"? Does he think he's competing on "America's Next Top Model"?

Yikes! Let's check back in with the Failing New York Times and see how they're doing on the flying trapeze.

Uh… sure, OK, Donald Trump has long given serious thought to the impending nuclear threat. When he was memorizing the lyrics to "Green Acres" for his impassioned duet with Karen Walker, he was probably also considering how to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state. That is certainly "unorthodox" (i.e. "didn't happen").

It's adorable how the Times gives Trump credit simply for being alive during the Cuban missile crisis. That counts in "some way" as "preparation" for his upcoming, mind-boggling, democracy-shattering encounter with North Korea. Maybe Trump can give himself a purple heart for his service during Vietnam, because of all the VD the white evangelical poster child bravely avoided at the time.

If you aren't sufficiently freaked out yet, then check this out:

Even after a refreshing holiday on Bizarro World, it's hard to accept that the same guy who alienates our closest and chillest allies can reach "peace in our time" with a charter member of "the axis of evil." Trump is willingly trading poutine for Putin, but perhaps access journalist Maggie Haberman can put this all in reassuringly horrible perspective for us:

Yes, there was a brief window where a leash might've been fastened around Trump, but the media and especially Congress chose instead to lie down and play dead, and now Trump feels like a spoiled teenager who has never faced accountability for anything and feels "emboldened" to act out with any fear of repercussions. But sure, Maggie, normalize that as typical sophomore year presidential behavior. I'm just gonna go dig out a bomb shelter in my basement.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Seattle. However, he's more reliable for food and drink recommendations in Portland, where he spends a lot of time for theatre work. His co-adaptation of "Jitterbug Perfume" by Tom Robbins is playing NOW at Pioneer Square's Cafe Nordo. All Wonketters welcome.

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Some of our favorite people to follow on Twitter are the wonderful folks who watch Fox News every night and tweet screenshots and videos, so that we never ever EVER have to watch it. (They all work for Media Matters, so presumably they are being forced to do this by David Brock.)

We had a feeling after Pete Buttigieg did that Fox News town hall, and after we watched the MENSA trust at "Fox & Friends" just lose it all morning about Buttigieg's open criticism of Fox News on Fox News, that the evening hosts would really deliver on Monday night, and boy was our feeling correct.

Let's go to the tape, provided by Media Matters deputy director of rapid response Andrew Lawrence.

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Today it was announced that Dress Barn would be closing all 650 of its stores and its business in general. This has been happening a lot lately, as people have begun to do most of their shopping online rather than in stores. Shopko, a department store chain, recently announced it would be closing all of its stores as well.

Then there's the mall store Charlotte Russe, which closed all of its stores in March. I actually worked there in high school, and at Contempo Casuals, which later became Wet Seal, and which closed all of its stores last January (though it's still online). Many other "mall stores" are also either closing entirely or closing a huge chunk of their stores.

Dress Barn was a terrible and oddly insulting-sounding name for a store. The fact that it survived for as long as it did with marketing that bad actually speaks very well for the store itself. If it were not doing an incredibly good job providing many women with what they wanted, clothing-wise, I do not think they would have survived this long. While I can't speak to that personally, since the last time I lived in an area that had one I was 14 years old (though I did get a very nice purple crushed velvet baby-doll dress there for my grandparent's anniversary when I was in 8th grade), a lot of people today are talking about how much they appreciated that they could get nice work clothes there for a reasonable price -- and also in a wide range of sizes. That's awesome. There should be more of that, not less.

But the real problem isn't just people losing a store they like. It's the fact that all of the people working at those 650 stores no longer have jobs–about 6,800 people in total. (And 18,000 employees are losing their jobs at Shopko, which often served towns of 3,000 to 5,000 people, too small for any other store where you could buy, say, socks and a toaster.) And the way things are going, it's going to be pretty hard for them to find jobs in the same line of work. The vast majority of these people, also, are women.

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