J.D. Vance poses for a portrait. (Courtesy of Naomi McColloch)

With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: “ Hillbilly Elegy” continues to be near the top of the bestseller list and appears on every major publication’s end-of-year list of notable books. Now author J.D. Vance wants to use his newfound fame and fortune to return home to Ohio and make a difference – and maybe one day run for office.

If you haven’t read it, the book is a 32-year-old’s memoir about his hardscrabble upbringing in the Rust Belt. With his mom battling addiction, and his father absent, his grandparents mainly raised him. He struggled in high school but wound up joining the Marines, graduating from Yale Law School and getting a cushy job at an investment fund in San Francisco. That’s what a Horatio Alger story reads like in 21st century America.

Donald Trump’s name never appears, but the timing was fortuitous. Vance offered outsiders a window into why such a huge percentage of the white working-class folks he grew up with would embrace the president-elect so wholeheartedly. Just as so many have also turned to drugs, alcohol and suicide to numb their pain.

From the perspective of a conservative, Vance paints a depressing picture of a proud, but broken, people: the cycle of dependency, the near total lack of personal responsibility, rising domestic violence, declining church attendance, laziness, etc. In one unforgettable scene, his mom loses her job as a nurse because she’s so high, and she makes him give her a urine sample so she can pass it off as her own. (Reading the book inspired me to travel to his hollowed-out hometown of Middletown, Ohio, for an October big idea about how Trump really could win the election.)

Rather than just collect royalty checks and give TED talks, Vance wants to do something to deal with these afflictions.

  • He is currently looking to re-settle from California to either Columbus or Cincinnati. His San Diego-born wife has gotten onboard, and he thinks their two dogs will adjust well.
  • He is filing paperwork to set up a new nonprofit group, a 501(c)(4), called “Our Ohio Renewal.”
  • He is scheduled to speak at about a dozen Lincoln Day dinners for county-level Republican chapters around the state in the next three months.
  • He recently lectured at The Ohio State University and plans to visit other campuses around the Buckeye State soon.
  • Jai Chabria, who after 20 years as a top adviser to Ohio Gov. John Kasich moved into private practice this year, is helping Vance navigate this process.

“The book has given me a platform I frankly didn’t expect to have,” Vance said in an interview. “The plan is to go all-in on Ohio. One of the things that concerns me is that so few people who go and get an education elsewhere … feel any real … pull for returning home. I don’t think the answer is for everyone who grows up in Middletown to come back. But we do owe something to the community.”

He explains that the book mostly diagnosed the problem, and now he wants to pivot toward finding solutions. His initial emphasis will be on two broad issues: managing the opioid crisis and improving vocational education.

Morphine Sulfate, OxyContin and Opana at a pharmacy (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Before diving in on policy, Vance plans a listening tour around Ohio. He’s spent a lot of time in the southern part of Ohio, but he doesn’t know the areas around Toledo and Cleveland too well. “At this stage, the thing I want to do the most is to go around the state and learn about what‘s actually going on,” he explained. “I’m not one of these people who thinks I know all the answers. The first thing I want to get a sense of is what’s actually been tried on the ground already.”

He believes that fixing the cultural problems and stigmas he outlined in “Hillbilly Elegy” will take more than just government pulling levers. “To solve a problem as complex as the opioid crisis, you have to take an all-hands-on-deck approach,” he said. “Policy can help … but you can’t find everything with legislation.”

Every step that Vance is taking is exactly what a sophisticated person in his position who wanted to run for statewide office would do. He insists that’s really not what this is about, while leaving the door open for down the road: “No, not now,” he said when asked if he’ll ever run for office. “I think that I need to live in the state for a while and get to know these problems a little better before actually doing something like that. Never say never, but it’s certainly not something I am thinking about over the short-term.”

Vance voted for independent Evan McMullin, not Trump, last month. “I always understood why he was so appealing to so many folks back home,” he said of the president-elect. “It’s not surprising they voted for him. … My fear with Trump was always that he didn’t have great solutions. I am pessimistic that you can flip the trade switch and make all these steel jobs come back to Middletown.”

Investor Peter Thiel exits Trump Tower recently. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

The investment group that Vance works for was co-founded and funded by billionaire Peter Thiel, who has emerged as a key adviser for Trump during the transition. (Stat News posted a story this morning on Thiel’s influence in the filling of health and science posts.) “I don’t interact with him a ton, but I certainly have dealt with Peter, and he’s been a pretty good mentor to me,” Vance said of their relationship. “I have all the respect in the world for him.”

Still, the 32-year-old remains somewhat nervous about the policies that Trump espoused on the campaign trail, though his fingers are crossed. “Solutions are complex,” he noted, “and I continue to worry that Trump didn’t fully appreciate the complexity of what’s going on. Consequently, I worry about whether he’s going to make the problems a whole lot better. … But I am a Republican, and we really should give the guy a chance to govern and hope he’s successful.”

Zaine Pulliam, 17, center, rushes past family friend Jewels Hudson, 44, left, and his grandmother Madie Clark, 53, as he departs his home in South Charleston, West Virginia. After Zaine and his two sisters lost their parents to heroin overdoses, Madie moved in to care for them. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

-- There has been a flurry of good journalism in the final days of 2016 on the opioid epidemic:

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

The deadly explosion that ripped through a fireworks' market in Tultepec, Mexico. (Jose Luis Tolentino/AP)

HORROR IN MEXICO:

-- A massive explosion ripped through Mexico’s best-known fireworks market on Tuesday, killing at least 39 people and injuring scores more. The blast – which sent a huge plume of smoke and fireworks bursting into the air – is the third devastating explosion to ravage the market since 2005, the AP reports. Officials said more than 70 people were rushed to the hospital following the explosion, some with severe burns covering 90 percent of their body.

A mourner knees in front of candles, flowers and Christmas tree balls at the Christmas market in Berlin. (Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke)

TERROR IN EUROPE:

-- German police are mounting a manhunt for a male asylum-seeker with Tunisian papers in connection with the attack in Berlin. Anthony Faiola and Stephanie Kirchner report: Investigators reportedly discovered the man’s “leave to remain” papers in the cabin of the truck used in this week’s deadly attack. “Witnesses described one man fleeing the scene after the truck — packed with a cargo of steel — roared into revelers at a traditional Christmas market. Although one suspect — a Pakistani asylum seeker — was arrested on Monday night, authorities later released him due to lack of evidence. They are now considering the Tunisian man as the prime suspect. ‘We have a strong lead at the moment and our officers are out on the street,’ a senior official said. The suspect reportedly uses several aliases and is known by police for alleged physical assault.”

-- With one or more of the attackers still at-large, the holiday spirit in Germany and across Europe is being replaced by muscle, or increased security at Christmas events in other countries. Anthony, Stephanie and Souad Mekhennet have more on the fear unfolding across the continent:

Whether the Islamic State actually had ties to Berlin’s truck attack is unclear. Militants claimed the assailant was one of its “soldiers” late Tuesday evening, but members have previously wielded the term to describe lone wolf attackers inspired by their rhetoric.

“Italy said it would ramp up security for Christmas events, including Pope Francis’s appearance at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City ...The Czechs pledged 'massive' security at public events on Christmas and as the country rings in the new year. French officials said security at Christmas markets had been immediately reinforced, as its lawmakers observed a minute of silence for the all-too-familiar tragedy in Germany.  In Berlin, meanwhile, the release of the only suspect left police scrambling for fresh leads in the assault. Investigation teams moved to piece together what they described as ‘circumstantial evidence,’ including witness descriptions and video footage. But no criminal sketches were released to the public, suggesting how much remained unknown. And as night settled over the German capital, Berliners were cautioned to stay on guard.’”

-- Joby Warrick explains that the attack may be part of an ISIS strategy to sow division and chaos against Muslims in Germany, despite the country’s reputation for tolerance. “Islamic State officials in recent months have urged supporters to carry out attacks in Germany by any means — including using nontraditional weapons such as trucks — with the aim of creating an anti-Muslim backlash in Europe’s biggest democracy. The resulting crackdown would benefit the Islamic State, the group argues, by dividing Europeans and driving wavering Muslims into the jihadists’ corner. ‘The specter of Muslim refugees and immigrants turning on their hosts, in a country that has accepted an especially large share of such migrants, may intensify anti-immigration sentiment not just in Germany but also elsewhere in Europe,’” said former CIA counterterrorism official Paul Pillar.

-- The future of terrorist attacks could be as rudimentary as violent truck attacks. Rick Noack reports: Both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have encouraged attackers to use easy-to-obtain weapons, and in November, an ISIS magazine specifically recommended using a truck to inflict mass casualties. “Though being an essential part of modern life, very few actually comprehend the deadly and destructive capability of the motor vehicle and its capacity of reaping large numbers of casualties if used in a premeditated manner,” the magazine said.

-- European terrorist attacks, by the numbers: From 1970 to 2015, 4,724 people died from bombings. 2,588 from assassinations. 2,365 from assaults. 548 from hostage situations. 159 from hijackings. 114 from building attacks. Thousands wounded or missing. (Chris Alcantara has more from the Global Terrorism Database, including historical “hot spots” that are most frequently targeted by assailants.)

-- Turkish and Russian diplomats gathered in Moscow to declare their intention to halt the civil war in Syria, joining with Iran to call for an expanded cease-fire in which the three countries would act as “guarantors.” (David Filipov, Erin Cunningham and Kareem Fahim)

-- At least 20 are dead in the Congo, after protests erupted when the president refused to step down at the end of his term. Violent clashes between security forces and demonstrators continue. (Kevin Sieff)

Activists march in Seattle to protest Shell Oil Company's drilling rig. (Reuters/Jason Redmond)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. President Obama banned oil drilling in large areas of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, using a little-known law to “indefinitely” shield hundreds of millions of acres from oil exploration. Obama is trying to protect his environmental legacy from Trump, acting under an authority that cannot be revoked by his successor. (Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin)
  2. A new species of fish discovered in Hawaii has been named after Obama, honoring the president who quadrupled the size of a national marine monument in the Pacific. Interestingly, the tiny tropical fish is not the first new species to bear Obama’s name – in fact, the 44th president has inspired the nomenclature of a trapdoor spider, a speckled freshwater darter, a parasitic worm and an extinct lizard. (Brittany Lyte and Juliet Eilperin)
  3. The North Pole is facing a freakish pre-Christmas melt for the second year in a row. Computer models predict temperatures will warm anywhere from 40 to 50 degrees higher than usual; approaching the melting point of 32 degrees in December. (Jason Samenow)
  4. Trump’s transition team, meanwhile, asked the State Department to disclose how much money it spends annually on international environmental efforts. The move comes as the latest example of how the incoming Trump administration will reassess the government’s approach to climate change. (Juliet Eilperin and Carol Morello)
  5. Winter has officially arrived. The solstice, when the sun reaches its lowest point in the sky, happened at 5:44 a.m. Eastern. (Martin Weil)
  6. The Obama administration is moving quickly to transfer a few more prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, seeking to shrink the detention facility as much as possible before Trump is sworn in. The president-elect has pledged to keep the Guantanamo open, declaring his intent to “load it up with some bad dudes." (CNN)
  7. Four more people have been charged with felonies in the ongoing Flint water crisis, including two directly appointed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R). The announcement comes as state officials continue their year-long investigation, seeking to hold accountable those who have exposed thousands of children to dangerously high lead levels. (Brady Dennis
  8. Texas is officially kicking Planned Parenthood out of its state Medicaid program, nixing millions in funding due within the next month. The move will affect thousands of low-income women, and the organization vows to challenge the defunding in court. (Texas Tribune)
  9. The mayor’s office in Mobile, Ala., has apologized for cutting down one of the city’s most beloved old cedar trees in a public park so that Trump could have a Christmas tree backdrop during his rally last weekend. The 50-foot tree was a local landmark. Now all that’s left is a stump. (Samantha Schmidt)
  10. Andrea Bocelli backed out from performing at Trump’s inauguration after the president-elect courted him in person for the gig. The Italian tenor said he received “intense backlash” from his fans, who took to social media to urge a boycott of his music if he went through with singing. (The Telegraph)
  11. Delta has a new policy allowing on-flight doctors and nurses assist fellow passengers without first furnishing their credentials. The policy change was triggered after attendants reportedly blocked a black doctor from helping during a medical emergency – telling her they were looking for “actual” medical professionals. (Carolyn Y. Johnson)
  12. The country’s largest police organization asked Walmart to halt the sale of t-shirts reading “Bulletproof,” and “Black Lives Matter,” suggesting such items were anti-police in nature and could prompt backlash from the law enforcement community.  Store officials agreed to remove the “Bulletproof” shirt but not the “Black Lives Matter” one, noting they also sold shirts with the pro-officer slogan “Blue Lives Matter.” (Tom Jackman)
  13. A British tabloid paid nearly $200,000 in libel damages to a Muslim family barred from boarding its flight to L.A., after columnist Katie Hopkins used the incident to accuse them of having “ties to al-Qaeda.” She targeted the family in several of her right-leaning articles – but removed them after it was revealed they were actually traveling to Disneyland. (Derek Hawkins)
  14. A homeless man has been charged with a hate crime after he allegedly attacked a Muslim woman at a Manhattan Dunkin’ Donuts, chucking his hot coffee in her face before calling her a “terrorist” and putting her in a headlock. (New York Daily News)
  15. Incoming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer fired nearly all of the employees in the Senate Democrats’ internal video department last Friday, cleaning house as he attempts to revamp the unit with a digitized, social-media centric operation. (Politico)
  16. South Korea’s Constitutional Court will begin its first impeachment hearings for President Park Geun-hye this week, potentially making the country’s first female president also the first to be ousted from office. She’s currently in a period of automatic suspension for her role in a corruption and influence-peddling scandal. (Anna Fifield)
  17. A former member of the church has launched a “Mormon Wikileaks” website, unveiling a secure portal for people seeking to leak internal documents or videos about the Utah-based church. His goal is to increase transparency into the famously-secretive institution. (Michael Alison Chandler)
  18. Two-time Wimbledon winner and Olympic medalist Petra Kvitova is lucky to be alive after fighting off a knife-wielding intruder who posed as a gas company employee and held a knife to her throat. The tennis star suffered severe hand injuries while fighting him off, but she is expected to recover. (Cindy Boren)
  19. A Loyola University student athlete accused of rape has played golf at the school for three years while awaiting his trial. The news has prompted outrage from students. (Katie Mettler)
  20. A feel-good story about the Minnesota Vikings opening their stadium to house the homeless during a polar vortex was revealed to be false – but not before the tale went viral, earning coverage from major outlets including CBS and Yahoo Sports. It’s the latest in a string of frustrating “fake news” incident revealing just how quickly false information can spread in the digital age. (Derek Hawkins)
  21. Authorities have identified the perp who seized a $1.6 million pail of gold flakes from an armored truck in Manhattan, strutting past security guards with an 86-pound bucket in tow. Police believe the man is now in Los Angeles, and have released several photos for identification purposes – one, fittingly, captures him on the periphery of a rainbow. (New York Times)
  22. A Dutch rescuer who risked her life to save Jews during the Holocaust – resolute in her mission after she saw young children being flung “by their pigtails” over the side of Nazi trucks – has died at age 96. Marion Pritchard is thought to have taken in or otherwise aided some 150 Jews during the war, hiding them in floorboards, and, on one occasion, executing a Nazi before he dragged away a family of four. (Emily Langer has more on her fascinating life.)
Trump's family looks on during a presidential debate. (Tasos Katopodis/AFP/Getty)

THE TRUMPS ARE TRANSACTIONAL, CONT.:

-- A fundraiser offering access to Trump and his adult sons has been pulled back, but major conflict-of-interest concerns remain. Matea Gold and David A. Fahrenthold report: “The initial invitation from Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump dangled a rare opportunity for donors willing to pony up $500,000 and more: a private reception with the [newly-minted president], and a hunting or fishing excursion with one of the brothers. But days after the details about the high-dollar Jan. 21 ‘camouflage & cufflinks’-themed fundraiser first leaked, a [Trump spokeswoman claimed that] neither he nor his adult sons were involved in plans for the event. And the organizers of the function — who include close friends of the Trump brothers — dialed back offers of access to the new [first family]. The confusion over the family’s connection to the fundraiser showed the degree to which Trump has failed to set rules that would protect his family from allegations of influence-peddling or draw clear lines between himself and the interests of his children. ... 'This is an obvious and ongoing problem that this president will face until he creates a true firewall,' said watchdog group director Lisa Gilbert."

Tom Toles imagines "the ceremonial starting line of the Trump presidency":

-- In the Senate, Democrats are planning to run the “Trump playbook” against secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, questioning the ExxonMobil CEO about conflict-of-interest concerns. Karoun Demirjian reports: “The official sparring is expected to take place on Jan. 11, when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to hold a two-part hearing. … Democrats do not believe they stand much chance of stopping Tillerson from being confirmed. But they plan to press the top diplomat-designate to commit to full divestiture from Exxon and detail how he would pursue a different approach to the world as secretary of state, in what one Senate Democratic aide … called a ‘very thorough, tough vetting.’ As they have with Trump, Democrats plan to focus sharply on potential conflicts of interests deriving from Tillerson’s finances, as well as his unorthodox views on critical foreign policy matters. It’s a grilling they would happily serve Trump, if only they had reason to drag him before a congressional committee.”

Betsy DeVos meets with Mitch McConnell in the Capitol earlier this month. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

-- Trump's mega-rich cabinet nominees, including education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, enter their Senate confirmation hearings with a “megadonor’s advantage.” Politico’s Michael Stratford reports: “[DeVos] … has been unabashed about using her wealth to advance her own agenda. ‘We expect a return on our investment,’ she once wrote about her family’s massive political contributions. ... DeVos and her husband, Dick, have donated to the campaigns of 17 senators who will consider her nomination — four of whom sit on the Senate education committee that oversees the process."

-- Trump is planning to minimize the influence and diminish the role of the U.S. trade representative. Right now he’s seriously considering Jovita Carranza, a former deputy administrator in the Small Business Administration, for the job, per Politico’s Doug Palmer reports: “Other contenders for the job include a former deputy in the agency and a couple of investment company executives who’ve previously served in government … That’s a sign that the position will play second fiddle to Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross, a billionaire businessman, who ‘will ultimately direct much of the administration’s trade policy,’ [Trump spokesman Jason Miller said]. And it’s another indication that whoever fills the USTR slot could have one of the most difficult jobs in Washington, tasked with unwinding a lot of the work the agency has done over the past eight years, but with little real authority to craft policy.”

Ed Schultz attends the International Emmy Awards last month in New York City. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- After losing his opinionated MSNBC talk show, former cable news "lefty” and outspoken Vladimir Putin critic Ed Schultz has transformed his career – and become the U.S. face of Moscow media. Paul Farhi has a must-read story on his stunning political pivot:RT, whose slogan is ‘Question More,’ arrived in Washington in 2010, five years after being launched in Moscow by its founder [and 2012 Putin campaign staffer] Margarita Simonyan. … Schultz, now 62, is one of several Americans who appear on the domestic channel … [and] now has a Russo-friendly, or perhaps American-skeptical, viewpoint on any number of issues on his RT program. So do most of the guests he interviews. The crisis in the Syrian city of Aleppo, besieged by Syrian and Russian military forces? Apparently, it’s the United States’ fault … Fake online news, allegedly generated by Russian sources? Schultz … thinks it’s all ‘fear and hype’ by the American news media and a smear by the Democratic Party … RT America’s approach to the news makes some American officials and foreign-policy observers wonder: Is it merely 'an alternative voice,' as it likes to say, or something more sinister?"

-- Post foreign affairs columnist Anne Applebaum, who was the victim of a Russian smear campaign several years ago, says the experience made her understand the power of fake news: “Until you have seen for yourself how 21st-century disinformation works, you laugh at the very idea of it,” she says. “Once you have understood its power, you stop laughing. But it was eye-opening to watch the stories move through a well-oiled system, one that had been constructed for exactly this sort of purpose. Eventually the articles about me were echoed or quoted in a dozen places: on quasi-respectable websites with ties to Russian business, on Russia Today, and on pro-Russian American websites … The Russians understood the power of such networks to fool people before anybody else. They also understood that the global information space, accessible to all, offered a cheap way for an impoverished ex-superpower to meddle in other countries’ politics. This radical revolution has happened without many politicians noticing or caring — unless, like me, they happened to have seen how the new system of information exchange works.”

-- “How Tillerson Changed His Tune on Russia and Came to Court Its Rulers,” by the New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar and Andrew E. Kramer: “As a member of the U.S.-Russia Business Council and [Exxon Mobil CEO] Rex W. Tillerson frequently voiced doubts about Russia’s investment climate, saying as late as 2008 that Russia ‘must improve the functioning of its judicial system and its judiciary.’ … [But] as Mr. Putin consolidated his control over Russia’s oligarchs, Mr. Tillerson underwent a profound change of outlook. He came to realize that the key to success in Russia, a country deeply important to Exxon’s future, lay in establishing personal relationships with Mr. Putin and his friend and confidant, Igor Sechin, the powerful head of Rosneft, the state oil company. And as Mr. Tillerson and other oil executives pivoted from the private sector to the state oil company, the criticism that they had directed toward the Kremlin dried up. The payoff for Exxon was immense." Key quote: “This was a man who was deeply skeptical of [Russia],” said Bernard Sucher, a former Russia director of Merrill Lynch. But with the Arctic deal, “Tillerson had done a 180 on what I understood his views to be.”

-- The latest cyber threat from Russia? “Cyberforgers,” who have stolen millions of revenue by impersonating news and content publishers. New York Times’ Vindu Goel reports: “In a twist on the peddling of fake news to real people, researchers say a Russian cyberforgery ring has created more than half a million fake internet users and 250,000 fake websites to trick advertisers into collectively paying as much as $5 million a day for video ads that are never watched. The fraud, which began in September and is still going on, represents a new level of sophistication among criminals who seek to profit by using bots — computer programs that pretend to be people — to cheat advertisers. The thieves impersonated more than 6,100 news and content publishers, stealing advertising revenue that marketers intended to run on those sites.” Spoofed outlets include sites like Fox News and CBS Sports, as well as large news organizations like NYT and WSJ. “The scheme exploited known flaws in the system of digital advertising, including the lack of a consistent, reliable method for tracking ads and ensuring that they are shown to the promised audience.”

The Clintons blame FBI Director James Comey for costing them the presidency. (Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images)

COMEY WRONGED CLINTON, CONT. 

-- Emails between HRC and Huma Abedin were what spurred the FBI to resume and publicize its controversial probe of Clinton’s private email server just two weeks before the election, even though agents admitted that they did not have any inkling of what was being discussed. Matt Zapotosky reports: The documents, made public Tuesday, reinforce the impression that when Comey revealed agents were again investigating Clinton, they had no new evidence of actual wrongdoing. Looking at just the header information of emails, agents found … thousands of Abedin emails, including what seemed to be ‘regular’ correspondence with Clinton, [which they say justified probable cause]. But on Tuesday, representatives for Clinton and some lawyers unaffiliated with her criticized the FBI and its director … for stretching the limits of the bureau’s authority. E. Randol Schoenberg, the lawyer who sued to have the warrant unsealed, said he saw ‘nothing at all in the search warrant application that would give rise to probable cause, nothing that would make anyone suspect that there was anything on the laptop beyond what the FBI had already searched.'"

-- Priorities USA, the pro-Clinton super PAC, is trying to rebrand itself to stay relevant by becoming the permanent “center of opposition” against Trump and his policies. Matea Gold scoops: “Priorities USA Action is merging with a nonprofit voting rights group called Every Citizen Counts to form an expanded organization with an ambitious agenda, according to veteran Democratic strategist Guy Cecil, who ran both organizations and will lead the merged group. The group — which already has the backing of allies such as Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the American Federation of Teachers, the Human Rights Campaign and the Latino Victory Project — could serve as a major center of gravity on the left as Democrats seek to regain their footing in the [Trump] era.” Cecil decided to continue the work of Priorities USA after recent private conversations with senators including Elizabeth Warren, environmental and union leaders, party donors, local party organizers, and former Sanders and Clinton campaign officials.

-- Hillary scored the number one slot on Chris Cillizza’s “worst candidates of 2016 list”: “As a consultant put it to me a long time ago: If the dog doesn't like the dog food, it doesn't matter how good the marketing campaign for it is." (See the full list here.)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Bill and Hillary at Donald and Melania's 2005 wedding in Palm Beach. (Maring Photography/Getty Images/Contour by Getty Images)

--  Meanwhile, the president-elect traded barbs with Bill Clinton on Twitter, portending a potentially acrimonious relationship that could defy a tradition of respect shared between former and current presidents. John Wagner and Abby Phillip report: “It’s been called the world’s most exclusive fraternity: the men who have served in the Oval Office. Out of respect, members largely avoid criticizing one another, regardless of political party. But now there’s a new pledge, and Donald Trump is writing his own rules. ... He and Clinton broke with a long tradition of U.S. presidents treating one another with kid gloves, at least outside political campaigns, presidential historians said. But like many things during and after this campaign, the Trump-Clinton relationship is complicated in a way not fully captured by considering them only as two men in the exclusive club of presidents. And it isn’t clear who is most responsible for extending the olive branch: the victor or the spouse of the political loser.”

Here's the back-and-forth:

Jokes abounded:

A Bloomberg reporter wondered:

WJC's spokesman responded:

To which a Politico reporter joked:

An AP reporter said Bill's tweet sounded sort of familiar:

CNN's Jake Tapper put a a "reporter" for RT (a propaganda arm of the Russian government) in his place:

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) tweeted this, an apparent reference to Rogue One:

Rand Paul's former chief of staff and longtime adviser quipped:

And then Senator McCaskill replied, referring to him as "Rand man":

To which he replied:

Late to the Lena Dunham-abortion controversy? Here's what she said on her podcast:

Much of Twitter reacted like this:

Santa Claus visited the TSA:

More holiday posts from lawmakers:

Finally, via the Fish and Wildlife Service, check out this precious ocelot kitten:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- Vanity Fair, “Donald Trump and the rules of the new American board game,” by Michael Lewis: “There was a great deal of information that these people didn’t seem prepared to take on board, but the most important, it seemed to me, was that they had won. Their man was headed to the White House! And yet here they were, glued to cable news, looking for reasons to get themselves outraged and red-faced about the un-greatness of America all over again. Even in victory they were angry. They had what amounted to a need for that particular emotion, and it seemed to lead them to scour the media for whatever might trigger it. But really: How does anyone get himself worked up about a peaceful demonstration staged by a bunch of high-school kids thousands of miles from his front door? And when did anger become its own justification? And how would it sustain itself once Trump became president? Maybe because I was surrounded by kids—there at Berkeley High School—it occurred to me that the only way to get your mind around a Trump presidency was to imagine it as a game ...”

-- “Why Trump could be a popular president…,” by Lee Drutman for Vox: “To understand why Trump’s Carrier stunt succeeded, it’s worth turning to a 1964 political science classic, Murray Edelman’s ‘The Symbolic Uses of Politics.’ The takeaway lesson is that in politics, clear symbolic actions are often more important than results (which are often ambiguous or unclear). As long as Trump defines his presidency through symbolic actions (like the Carrier deal), he could be very popular. Edelman’s foundational point is that most people don’t pay close attention to the details of policy, and the news media does a poor job of covering the details (in large part because most people don’t care about the details). As a result, Edelman writes, ‘Politics is for most of us a passing parade of abstract symbols.’ Knowing this, skillful presidents and other leaders can deceive mass publics through the careful use of symbols…

The 1964 book has a long quote from pollster George Gallup about presidential popularity that stands the test of time: “I would say that any sharp drop in popularity is likely to come from the President's inaction in the face of an important event. Inaction hurts a President more than anything else. A president can take some action, even a wrong one, and not lose his popularity. One of the great mysteries of the political scene last year was why President Kennedy did not suffer a great loss of popularity after the Cuban setback. But he didn't. People tend to judge a man by his goals, by what he's trying to do, and not necessarily by what he accomplishes or by how well he succeeds. People used to tell us over and over again about all the things that Roosevelt did wrong and then they would say, 'I'm all for him, though, because his heart is in the right place; he is trying.'... If people are convinced you are trying to meet problems and that you are aware of their problems and are trying to do something about them, they don't hold you responsible for 100 percent success. Nor do you have to have any great ideas on how to accomplish the ends.”

Drutman, who is no fan of the president-elect, argues that Trump will be popular if he can get an infrastructure bill through: “He would almost certainly spend months traversing the county, presiding over projects as they get underway, then cherry-picking those that seem most successful for an endless string of photo ops. … It won’t matter how many times Paul Krugman explains why the Trump infrastructure program is actually just a huge subsidy to private companies. The symbols that will proliferate in the minds of most voters will be those of Trump in a hard hat, standing on construction sites, talking about how many jobs he just created.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“The Student Debt Crisis Is Driving Elderly People Into Poverty." From Huffington Post: “Student debt is forcing tens of thousands of elderly Americans into poverty, according to a new [GAO] report … The findings are startling. More than 110,000 senior citizens had their Social Security checks garnished in 2015 to pay off student loans they’d already defaulted on. Nearly 70,000 Americans over the age of 50 are living in poverty as their Social Security benefits are cut to pay off student loan debts.  The elderly student debt nightmare is not going to sort itself out. A full 68 percent of older borrowers living in poverty with Social Security garnishment are only seeing their benefit cuts devoted to interest and fees … Their overall debt burden is not diminishing [and] they will never stop making payments under the current system without a new source of income.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Metallica singer James Hetfield says he moved out of San Francisco because he was 'sick of the elitist attitudes.’” From Daily Mail: “James Hetfield, the co-founder and lead singer for the successful heavy metal band Metallica, left his home in the San Francisco Bay Area because of an 'elitist' attitude. … Hetfield says that after decades of living in Northern California, he grew tired of the negative reaction from locals who did not look kindly upon his political views and lifestyle choices.'They talk about how diverse they are, and things like that, and it's fine if you're diverse like them. But showing up with a deer on the bumper doesn't fly in Marin County.' [He added] that in the Bay Area, 'there was an elitist attitude there - that if you weren't their way politically, their way environmentally, all of that, that you were looked down upon.' 'I kind of got sick of the Bay Area, the attitudes of the people there, a little bit,'” he said.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

A luxury travel group gave Trump’s Old Post Office hotel in Washington a brutal review – ranking it the world’s third-lousiest new hotel. “The building itself is undoubtedly impressive, but once inside we start to ask questions,” says the report from U.K.-based Luxury Travel Intelligence. It only goes downhill from there – and ultimately, reviewers conclude, is “not for the true discerning luxury traveler.” (Washingtonian)

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- A cloudy, but thankfully not-too-chilly day is ahead. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Morning 20s and 30s are appropriately chilly on this first day of winter. But as the day progresses, a breeze from the west-southwest gives temperatures a bit of a boost. Afternoon highs reach the mid- to upper 40s under partly sunny skies, with light winds."

-- The D.C. Council voted to approve an expansive paid medical and family leave program for private sector employees, fighting off a last-minute revolt by Mayor Muriel Bowser. The bill passed by a veto-proof margin of 9 to 4, and guarantees eight of paid time off to new parents, six weeks to workers caring for sick family members and two weeks of personal sick time. (Peter Jamison)

-- Bowser also signed legislation allowing terminally ill patients the right to legally end their lives, advancing the controversial measure to a final 30-day Congressional review period. It is unclear if the GOP-controlled Congress will let the legislation stand. (Fenit Nirappil)

-- A D.C. teenager was robbed and attacked by ten youths while walking in the U Street corridor on Tuesday evening. Police said the victim suffered minor injuries. (Martin Weil)

-- New census estimates show D.C.’s population has reached a four-decade high, climbing to 681,170 and gaining 10,000 residents in just a single year. Officials have praised the news, citing an increase in safe neighborhoods and schools. (Justin Wm. Moyer)

-- A former Loudoun County band director is under investigation here after school officials in Florida, where he’s been working, found that he had inappropriate communications with students there. (Moriah Balingit)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Samantha Bee and Glenn Beck sat down for a heart-to-heart (warning: adult language):

More imaginary conversations between Obama and Trump from Conan O'Brien:

Seth MacFarlane remembered being the master of Trump's roast in 2011:

Our colleague David Fahrenthold spoke with Evan Smith about the last time he talked to Trump:

Fans of Westworld -- here's the theme song sung acapella:

CNBC is re-circulating a clip of Trump in 2007 saying that he does not believe in hiring people who are smarter than himself. (Watch here.)