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Empathy has always been a struggle for Republicans. Back in the Before Times (1992, to be exact), everyone laughed at George H.W. Bush for slipping up and reading his handlers' notes out loud, saying, "Message: I care." Barbara Bush gushed over poors being housed in a stadium after Hurricane Katrina that they "were underprivileged anyway [...] so this is working out very well for them." So honestly, it shouldn't be any surprise that during Donald Trump's government shutdown, the millionaires running the place aren't even pretending they understand what furloughed and unpaid government workers are going through, because couldn't they just ask their fathers for a million dollars to tide them over?


Commerce Secretary started off the Cavalcade of Cluelessness in an appearance on CNBC where he responded to air traffic controllers' concerns about safety by saying he just can't understand why so many of them are "calling in sick." (What's happening at LaGuardia this morning is still shaking out.) Then he really put his foot in it when he suggested that unpaid federal workers should just go get low-interest loans, because hey, they'll get paid eventually. Like maybe in 2021 when President Harris ends the shutdown.

Asked about reports that federal workers have had to go to homeless shelters to get groceries, Ross said,

I don't really quite understand why [...] The obligations that they would undertake, say borrowing from a bank or a credit union, are in effect federally guaranteed. So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out — there's no real reason why they shouldn't be able to get a loan against it.

Full faith and credit, motherfuckers! What on earth are you so upset about? They might have to pay some interest, but any time I want a loan, I can get it right from my Cypress bank!

Ross then presumably shuffled off in his $600 slippers embroidered with the Commerce Department seal, wondering why government employees don't just learn to live a little more frugally.

Then you have Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, explaining how impressed he is that employees in his office have kept volunteering to come in to work out of love for America and Donald Trump.

Asked whether Ross' remarks indicated that the Trump administration is out of touch with everyday American's needs, Kudlow replied: "Am I out of touch? I don't think I'm out of touch, I'm addressing the problem. I've met with my individual staff members, and God bless 'em, they're working for free, they're volunteering. But they do it because they believe government service is honorable and they believe in President Trump and they're working as hard as ever."

Message: I care and am not out of touch.

Of course, a dumb reporter had to ruin everything by pointing out that since the workers would be fired if they didn't show up, that's not exactly volunteering.

Kudlow was very unhappy about the reporter playing such silly "semantic games." Honestly, volunteering, involuntary servitude, collusion, making deals, why is everyone nitpicking every little thing people in the administration say?

To cap it all off, Donald Trump explained what Wilbur Ross really meant. Of course, Trump noted he hadn't actually heard Ross's remarks, so that undoubtedly made it a lot easier for him to explain what Ross was getting at:

Local people know who they are, when they go for groceries and everything else. And I think what Wilbur was probably trying to say is that they will work along. I know banks are working along. If you have mortgages, the mortgagees, the folks collecting the interest and all of those things, they work along. And that's what happens in time like this. They know the people, they've been dealing with them for years, and they work along.

The grocery stores -- and I think that's probably what Wilbur Ross meant. But I haven't seen his statement, no. But he's done a great job, I'll tell you that.

You see, here in Bedford Falls, the bankers and the grocers all know the federal workers in their neighborhoods, and so really no one should have to worry, OK? Just look at how the pharmacist, Mr. Gower, got drunk and almost poisoned that one kid, but then young George Bailey stopped him and Gower beat him up. We're a good place where people take care of each other, and if you need groceries, just walk right into the store and say "I expect to be paid eventually," and the grocer will tot up your line of credit on the back of a brown paper bag.

We're looking forward to the videos of furloughed employees trying to do that, you bet. Especially if they ask store managers to "work along," which is not a phrase used in Human English.

The Washington Post reports White House aides are very aware of how much Donald Trump thinks about the difficulties caused by the shutdown.

In a Jan. 15 call with surrogates, he blamed Democrats for them not being paid and made no suggestions for helping them, according to audio obtained by The Washington Post.

In meetings with conservative leaders and economic advisers this week, Trump has worried that the furloughed workers could hurt his economic accomplishments, according to two people who have spoken with him. And at a recent Senate lunch, they said, he talked about the importance of making sure Coast Guard workers were paid — but that has not happened [...]

In private conversations, Trump occasionally has called the shutdown a "strike," suggesting workers were voluntarily not coming to work, according to White House aides and others in contact with him. The president also has asked what federal bureaucrats do, while showing particular interest in any shutdown complications for airport security and tax returns, aides said.

Thank heavens the Post found at least one White House aide who knows, on some level, that President Smartman McEmpathy ought to at least seem like he's paying attention:

Trump's aides are quick to defend the president and say he feels "a great deal of compassion," in the words of one White House adviser who spoke about private discussions on the condition of anonymity. This adviser said federal workers are part of "every conversation and every consideration" inside the Oval Office.

Sure, maybe Trump forgets to mention federal workers in public, but he's a very busy man, what with caring so much and being concerned about the priority of putting Hillary Clinton in jail. Also, something about WALL, but he's a little distracted this morning.

[WaPo / Vox / MSNBC / Beltway Breakfast / NYT]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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