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Democratic candidates for Congress have raised a record-shattering $1 billion this election

By Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy
Democratic candidates for Congress have raised a record-shattering $1 billion this election
Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, arrives on Capitol Hill on Oct. 5. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Aaron P. Bernstein

Democratic candidates running for Congress this year collectively raised more than $1 billion for their campaigns - a record-shattering sum that highlights the party's zeal to retake the House and Senate and underscores the enormous amount of money flowing into the midterm races.

The $1.06 billion raised through the end of September surpasses the nearly $900 million collected by Republican candidates for Congress in 2012 - previously the largest haul registered by a single party by this point in the election cycle, according to a Washington Post analysis of Federal Election Commission records.

And it is the first time since 2008 - when Democrats swept the White House and both chambers of Congress - that Democratic candidates for House and Senate have outraised Republicans in direct contributions to candidates' committees.

Republican candidates for Congress raised $709 million through September, FEC records show.

While the fundraising shows remarkable strength on the part of Democrats, it remains to be seen whether the financial advantage can translate to electoral success, said Brendan Glavin, researcher at the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute, which analyzes historical campaign finance records.

"Money provided the platform and provided the ability to get out in front of the voter," he said. "We'll see what happens in the final step."

The figures do not include candidates who are no longer on the ballot or fundraising by outside groups that raise and spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose candidates. Candidates will continue to raise money until, and beyond, the Nov. 6 election.

Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said in a statement Wednesday that this year's midterm election is on track to becoming the costliest congressional election cycle in U.S. history.

"We expected to see the numbers climb, as they typically do, but the astonishing spike in campaign donations is a solid indicator of the intensity driving this year's campaigns," she said.

Democrats are also raising more money than Republicans in donations of less than $200 typically viewed as a sign of grass-roots support. Democrats on the November ballot raised $205 million in such donations - more than three times the amount Republican campaigns pulled in, The Washington Post's analysis shows.

ActBlue, a fundraising platform for Democratic candidates and causes, has been key to the infusion of cash coming in smaller, recurring amounts this year. ActBlue allows donors to give on their smartphones, with the money transferred to the campaign committee the next day.

In the third quarter alone, Democratic candidates and liberal organizations raised more than $385 million from 8.2 million unique contributions through ActBlue, which is more than the amount of money donors gave through the platform in the entire 2014 midterms, the group said.

Since 2017, 4.6 million people have donated through ActBlue, and 60 percent of those donors were first-time contributors, most of whom then went on to give repeatedly, said Erin Hill, executive director of ActBlue. She said giving to political campaigns has become a way for people to express their displeasure over President Donald Trump.

"We're in this time of historic civic engagement," Hill said. "People are marching and taking all sorts of action - protesting, calling their representatives and making small-dollar donations."

Some of those who amassed the most were self-funded, meaning they gave a large amount of money to their own campaign.

The two Democratic candidates for Senate who have raised the most money so far this election are Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who raised a record-setting $61.7 million in his quest to unseat Texas incumbent GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who raised $28.6 million.

The two GOP Senate candidates who have amassed the most money are Gov. Rick Scott of Florida and Robert Hugin of New Jersey, who are both largely self-funding their campaigns.

On the House side, the candidates who have amassed the largest war chests so far are Democrat David Trone, in Maryland's 6th Congressional District - who gave himself most of the $16.5 million he raised - and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House intelligence committee, who has raised $10.6 million so far for his reelection.

Democratic candidates who survived tough primary battles have received an infusion of cash in the third quarter as they stocked up for their general election fight.

This was especially the case in the most competitive House seats, where first-time challengers raised $3 million or more from July through September.

It is unusual for first-time House candidates to raise $3 million or more in one quarter, Glavin said. House candidates who raise such sums tend to be in House leadership, incumbents who are prolific in raising large amounts of money through mail solicitations, and those who self-funded their campaigns, according to a CFI analysis.

Yet in the third quarter of 2018 alone, several Democratic challengers in the most competitive House races posted remarkable hauls. Among them were $4.4 million from Scott Wallace in Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District, $3.8 million by Katie Hill in California's 25th District, $3.8 million by Antonio Delgado in New York's 19th District and $3.7 million by Amy McGrath in Kentucky's 6th District.

The FEC data analyzed by The Post for this story included fundraising figures from some Democratic challengers to Democratic incumbents, mainly in a handful of congressional races in California and Louisiana. The Post's analysis focused on candidate committees' fundraising data as of Sept. 30 for those running for the House and Senate in the Nov. 6 general election.

Witness to a killing: Virginia man becomes target after testifying

By Wesley Lowery and Dalton Bennett
Witness to a killing: Virginia man becomes target after testifying
Kenneth Moore looks out the front door of his home in Virginia in September, 2018. He moved after witnessing a deadly crime. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Salwan Georges

RICHMOND, Va. - As his wife began taking the groceries into their apartment, Kenneth Moore stayed planted in the driver's seat of his car, turned up the music and lit a blunt.

Moore, 34, liked to imagine his dented, gray Ford Focus as an escape from everything he hated about Gilpin Court, the sprawling public housing complex where he'd lived for about two years, where gunfire often sent his family down onto their stomachs in fear, cheeks pressed against the cold linoleum floor.

As he relaxed this Sunday afternoon in October 2016, Moore noticed two men on bicycles roll up the street, passing his car. Then he heard a gunshot - glancing up in time to see one of the men fire four or five more times toward the high-rise about a block away.

Moore ran for the apartment, followed closely by his wife, who had been returning to the car for another armful of groceries when the shooting started. Later, they watched from behind a window shade as police put up yellow crime scene tape, and they wondered whether anyone was hurt.

Although he didn't know it at the time, Moore had just become a witness - possibly the only witness - to a homicide. Just up the street, a single bullet had shattered the front windshield of a Nissan Altima parked outside the high-rise. Carmella Winston, 52 - who went by her middle name, Diane - was struck in the head as she sat in the passenger seat. She died later that day.

Winston is one of more than 50,000 homicide victims in major American cities since 2007. The majority of those killings - more than 26,000 - have never resulted in an arrest, according to an ongoing Washington Post examination. In many, if not most, of the unsolved cases, police said investigators believe they know the killer's identity but can't persuade potential witnesses to cooperate.

While most of the departments surveyed by The Washington Post have struggled with low homicide arrest rates, Richmond police are one of the few exceptions.

Officers there have the highest homicide arrest rate of 50 major American cities surveyed, having made an arrest in 351 of 495 homicides - more than 70 percent of cases - since 2007. That outcome, police officials said, is the result of persistent community outreach that has helped encourage witnesses to cooperate.

"If I'm in the city, I'm at every scene," said Chief Alfred Durham, a former District of Columbia police officer who has led Richmond's department since early 2015. "People in the community need to see members of our command staff engaging and doing everything possible to close each case. . . . We're out there building relationships."

Detectives said they have worked hard to gain the confidence of potential witnesses by assuring that police will do all they can to protect them if they come forward.

The high homicide arrest rate is a marked turnaround from just 12 years ago, when Richmond was briefly considered the nation's murder capital because of its high rate of killings per capita. In the years since, current officials said, successive chiefs have overhauled the department, violence has fallen, and arrest rates have soared.

Richmond police acknowledge that they do not face the same challenges as their counterparts in other cities: Even in the mid-2000s, the amount of violent crime in Richmond was far below that in the nation's deadliest cities. For example, while detectives in Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia field about a homicide a day, Richmond police have one per week. Unlike their counterparts in Chicago or New Orleans, Richmond police grapple with almost no gang violence.

Still, police here have had success solving cases even in the city's most violent and impoverished neighborhoods, including Gilpin Court - the 780-unit public housing project named after Charles Sidney Gilpin, a Richmond native and famed black actor from the 1920s. There were 22 homicides in Gilpin and the surrounding blocks between 2007 and 2017. All but one of the victims were black. Police made an arrest in 18 of the cases.

Yet Diane Winston's death appeared to be the kind of killing police consider among the most difficult to solve: a bystander killed by an unknown stranger, the bullet most likely intended for someone else.

What the Richmond police needed to bring Winston's killer to justice was a willing witness. They needed Moore.

- - -

In a recent interview, Jean Redwood recalled that her family had just finished their Sunday dinner, about 3 p.m. that afternoon, and were en route to take a plate of food to Redwood's brother, who lived in the Gilpin high-rise. They'd parked on the street - Redwood, now 77, was in the driver's seat, and Winston, her daughter, was seated next to her. Three young grandchildren were in the back.

As Redwood began to pull out of the parking spot, she heard the gunfire.

She quickly ducked low in her seat, screaming for the children to get down. Looking up, she saw shattered glass inside the car. Then she glanced right and saw Winston slumped motionless against the passenger door. A single bullet had pierced the windshield and struck her in the left eye.

In a panic, Redwood jumped out of the car, hollering and crying in the middle of the street as two of her grandchildren, 4- and 6-year-old girls, hid horrified on the floor of the back seat.

"Nana, get back in the car!" her 8-year-old grandson screamed as he chased her into the roadway.

"Let's go to Ms. Debbie's house," the boy urged, as he guided his grandmother back to the driver's seat and directed her to a family friend's home around the corner, where they dialed 911.

Detective Jeff Crewell's shift wasn't supposed to start for another hour when he got the call at home and made his way to Gilpin.

A tall detective with black hair and sea-green eyes, Crewell joined the department in April 1999 after a stint in the Marines. He used to patrol neighborhoods like Gilpin and said assignments in the public housing projects are the most important part of his job. Out in the suburbs, policing often means breaking up high school parties and investigating car break-ins, he said. But in the public housing units of a big city, policing means saving lives and securing justice for victims of serious crimes.

Crewell recalled that by the time he arrived at Gilpin, a crowd had begun to gather around Redwood, who was still disheveled and distraught.

Crewell whisked Redwood away from the crowd and back to the police station, where he gave her a bottle of water and sat her in a conference room to be interviewed.

"I've got some news," Crewell told her after about two hours.

Redwood hung her head. She already knew what was coming. Her daughter hadn't made it.

Back at Gilpin, detectives had begun their canvass for clues and witnesses.

Richmond police had received multiple 911 calls about the shooting. Most were frantic requests for an ambulance - one with the desperate screams of Winston's mother audible in the background. But others offered crucial information.

"The dude that shot her, his name is Rabbit, his nickname is Rabbit," an anonymous caller told police minutes after the shooting. "Somebody is hiding him in one of them apartments."

Minutes later, the same tipster called with another lead: "His last name is Scott."

Within moments, detectives connected with the patrol officers whose beats include Gilpin. They knew Rabbit - George Trevon Watson Scott, 23, the middle of three children in a family well known in Gilpin. Court records show Watson Scott had prior drug-related convictions, but his family said he had no history of violence.

Now that police had a name, they needed to find a witness.

In Richmond, detectives' strategy when canvassing is to walk up to each home and ask whoever answers the door what, if anything, they saw. Because detectives go to every residence, they can assure anyone willing to provide information that their neighbors won't know it was them.

Sometimes the knocks elicit reluctant leads - a name whispered in a detective's ear or scribbled on a piece of paper. More often, they end with a simple insistence: "I don't know anything about that."

Then there are the times when a detective can tell that the person behind the door knows something, but isn't ready to talk.

That was Kenneth Moore the first time police approached his home on the night of the shooting. He and his wife told the detectives they hadn't really seen much. They were still relatively new in the neighborhood, and they wanted to avoid trouble - not insert themselves into the middle of it. Still, Moore made a suggestion.

Much of the initial search had been focused near the high-rise, where police suspected the shots had originated.

But Moore directed detectives to an alleyway. There, they found four shell casings, from a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun.

Moore, the detectives realized, knew more than he was letting on.

One night after the shooting, detectives returned to his apartment. This time, Crewell told Moore and his wife that the victim, an innocent bystander, had died. Was there anything else they could tell him?

Shameek Massey, Moore's wife, had answered the door. When Crewell was done speaking, she glanced back at her husband, who was standing behind her on the apartment stairs. If he was going to say something, they both knew now was the time.

For a decision that would change his life, Moore said he doesn't recall much of a complicated debate. His gut told him not to talk, to stay out of it and to mind his own business. But his conscience tugged at him. Talking to the police could put him in danger - especially if anyone in the neighborhood found out - but it was the right thing to do.

Yeah, he had seen the shooter, Moore reluctantly admitted. It was a man on a bike, in a black hoodie with a big white symbol on the back. He said he didn't know the guy but would recognize him if he saw him again.

It was a major breakthrough for Crewell, who said each case is like a set of building blocks. The tips and whispers are the first block, and finding and winning over a witness is the second. Now, he asked Moore to give him the third - come down to the station and look at a lineup.

Unlike some who lived in Gilpin, Moore said he didn't particularly dislike the police. Sure, there were bad cops, he said, and the department seemed to rally around their own anytime an officer was accused of wrongdoing. But was that really so different from the mind-set in the projects?

"They have their code, and we have ours," Moore explained.

Still, Moore said, he wasn't eager to visit the police station.

In the early 2000s, he was arrested after he helped his manager steal $5,000 from the McDonald's where they worked. Moore, who was a cook, said his manager had told him she needed the money because she was about to be evicted, so he had his brother pretend to rob the restaurant as the manager closed up for the night. It was a half-baked plan that Moore's brother confessed to as soon as police took him into custody.

All three were prosecuted and sent to prison, where Moore spent eight months behind bars. The felony "theft by an employee" conviction on his record has kept him out of work for the decade since. After five years on probation, Moore said, he took pride in no longer having to submit himself to the monthly check-ins.

Still, as Crewell stood in the doorway, Moore thought to himself: He hated all of these shootings. How would they ever stop if no one was willing to snitch on the shooters?

"I've got a mother; that could have been my mom. Or anyone I know," Moore said. "If something like this hit home, I would want somebody to talk."

Sure, Moore told Crewell, he'd come down to the station.

- - -

When asking a witness to identify a suspect from a photo lineup, Richmond police employ a "double blind" strategy - the detective showing the photos doesn't know which person in the photo lineup is under suspicion. Crewell said this is to ensure that witnesses truly identify the people they believe committed the crimes without any help, intentional or inadvertent, from the officers conducting the lineups.

At Richmond police headquarters, a detective showed Moore eight photos. Immediately, he narrowed it down to two who could have been the shooter.

"All of the dudes they were showing me were chubby, but (the shooter's) face wasn't fat," Moore recalled. "It was an oval shape."

He looked again, closer this time. The shooter was the man in photo No. 5, Moore told the police. The man he had identified was George Trevon Watson Scott.

The identification, from a direct witness, was what police needed to make an arrest. Watson Scott was taken into custody and charged with second-degree murder.

Although the high-rise apartments had security cameras, none captured the shooting itself, and investigators never recovered the murder weapon.

Police said they do not believe Winston was the intended target, but they have never publicly stated who was. Winston's family members said the rumors around Gilpin are that Watson Scott was shooting at another man - possibly the other man riding a bicycle - after an argument.

Watson Scott pleaded not guilty - he hadn't done it, his attorneys argued. Without the murder weapon or video of the shooting, how could prosecutors prove he did?

"In certain neighborhoods, everybody knows the people who are involved in criminal activity," said Capt. James Laino, who oversees the major crimes unit in Richmond. "The challenging part is taking that information, building a case and then having that witness be willing to testify in court."

Although Richmond police officials said they tightly safeguard the identities of witnesses who come forward before trial, if a case goes to court, any testimony becomes a matter of public record.

Moore and Massey were both asked by police to testify. And no, police told them, they couldn't do so anonymously. They would be in open court, sworn in under their real names, sitting across from the man they were accusing of murder.

They began to think about all of the ways their lives could change. Moore said he wondered, as he walked home from a nearby convenience store, whether the neighbors knew he was the witness. Massey said she spent late nights on the phone with her mother debating the pros and cons - what if they were threatened and had to move? They'd have to pull the kids out of school. Was it worth it?

"It wasn't that I didn't want to do the right thing," Massey said. "It was what could come afterward - having to move, my kids having to move."

Still, they found Crewell humble and attentive. They said they felt like his questions showed he truly wanted to solve the case. He always made sure their meetings were away from their home so they wouldn't be seen talking with police. And the department had agreed to cover Moore's phone bill, $60 a month, to make sure they could stay in touch with him until the trial.

When the case finally made it to court eight months later, Moore and Massey showed up.

- - -

On the morning of the bench trial, Redwood worried about the witnesses.

Redwood had felt joy when she got the call from Crewell two weeks after the shooting, telling her that he had found witnesses. But now she was scared for Moore and Massey - they had kids, too, didn't they? Would testifying put them at risk? Would it shatter their family the way the shooting had hers?

Winston had been the center of their universe, practically a mother to her 17 nieces and nephews and a best friend to her own mother. Born and raised in Gilpin, Winston had been living with Redwood in Henrico County, about 10 miles south.

She brought in modest wages as a nurse's assistant and a cook at McDonald's, but family members said Winston had fine tastes - her first love was her pearl white Thunderbird with red interior. She rarely drank, but when she did, it was sips of coffee-flavored brandy, never beer.

Outspoken and confident, she could be mean as a snake, her family members said. Her boyfriend recalls that most of their courtship consisted of him carefully calibrating each word to avoid a sharp, biting response.

In the days after the shooting, family members had gotten phone calls, texts and Facebook messages from people they had long known. It seemed everyone in Gilpin had heard gossip about the shooting and the suspect, but no one was willing to speak with police.

Now, settled into a seat near the front of the courtroom, Redwood eagerly waited to hear from the only people willing to cooperate with police.

Moore was the second person to take the stand. He told the judge he'd been sitting in his car, smoking marijuana, when he saw two men bike past him. When he heard gunfire, he looked up - there was only one man there now, the one in the black hoodie, and he was shooting toward the high-rise.

"Do you see the person that you saw firing those four or five shots down St. James Street in the courtroom today?" the prosecutor asked.

"Yes," Moore replied, before raising his hand and pointing to Watson Scott, who sat in a blue prison jumpsuit, sandwiched between his attorneys, just a few feet away.

Watson Scott's defense attorneys tore into Moore's credibility on cross examination. Could he really be sure of whom he saw? Wasn't he high at the time? And hadn't he hesitated during the photo lineup?

"He was definitely trying to play with my brain," Moore recalled of the defense attorney's questioning. "I did get upset but didn't want to show it."

Both legal teams recognized that the case rested solely on Moore. Massey testified, too, taking the stand right after her husband. But she hadn't actually seen the gunman's face - Moore was the only person who placed Watson Scott at the scene of the shooting, firing the gun.

Watson Scott's defense team insisted that Moore's view of the shooter had been obstructed and that he had identified the wrong person.

In court filings, they argued that eyewitness testimony is "the leading cause of wrongful convictions" and cited data showing that at least 602 people were later exonerated because witnesses were mistaken in their identification.

"We wholeheartedly believe that Mr. Watson is innocent, and it's a case of mistaken identity," Catherine Lawler, one of Watson Scott's defense attorneys, said in an interview with The Washington Post. She also said that she believes police pressured Moore to identify someone from the photo lineup and that he may have previously seen Watson Scott in Gilpin.

"They got the wrong guy," she said.

Watson Scott never testified, and his attorneys offered no alibi that would prove he was not the shooter.

"The entire case hinges upon this one witness, a convicted felon who's smoking marijuana, who's making an identification across the street with another person in between them, and that person has their hoodie drawn," Ali Amirshahi, Watson Scott's lead public defender, said in his closing argument. "That in and of itself is reasonable doubt to convict somebody of murder."

The judge ruled almost immediately, concluding that Moore's testimony was credible and that the prosecution had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Watson Scott had been the shooter. Finding Watson Scott guilty of second-degree murder, the judge sentenced him to 40 years in prison, with 16 suspended. An appeal is pending, and Watson Scott's family and attorneys still insist he is innocent.

Moore said he felt proud of himself as he gazed over to Winston's family, who had been present for the entire trial wearing T-shirts with her face printed on them.

Then he felt the fear rise up from his stomach. How would things change now that everyone knew he was the witness?

- - -

Moore's first impulse was to run - for his family to pack up and drive back to New York, where he'd grown up, where he knew he'd be safe.

He spent hours replaying the short trial in his head, scanning the faces of each person he remembered from the courtroom. As he walked the cracked sidewalks of Gilpin, he kept his head low, hoping to avoid eye contact with the people he passed.

But he had moved here to be closer to his mother, who lived in Richmond. Moving back to New York would mean abandoning her. And besides, he thought to himself, there was time to make up his mind. If someone was going to retaliate, it probably wouldn't be for at least a few months, right?

It took just two weeks.

That afternoon, Moore had driven to Tiger Market, a convenience store with a kitchen that fries takeout chicken and where many Gilpin residents paid their rent.

He had just gotten back into his car, a bottle of Dr Pepper and a bag of salt and vinegar chips in his hands, when a brick smashed into his driver's side window.

Moore looked up and saw three men approaching his car with more bricks and sticks.

He threw it in reverse and sped away.

"You didn't run them over?!" Massey exclaimed minutes later, as her husband relayed what happened.

"We've got to get out of here," Moore replied.

They called Crewell that day to tell him what happened and began the process of applying for housing elsewhere. They pulled their four kids out of school and started packing. By the next month, they had left Gilpin for good.

Today, Moore and Massey live elsewhere in Virginia, in a nondescript, sparsely furnished apartment with no air conditioning, no longer near his mother in Richmond.

The Richmond Police Department helped pay for their moving costs, but uprooting and relocating so quickly set them back financially. Several of the bedrooms lack dressers, and for the past few months, Moore has struggled to pay his phone bill.

He is still convinced that he did the right thing, even if he's frustrated with having to start over in a new city. But at least, he notes, his new neighborhood is quiet. He doesn't have to sit in his car anymore because there is nothing to escape - there are rarely any shootings.

- - -

The Washington Post's Kimbriell Kelly, Steven Rich and Ted Mellnik contributed to this report.

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Video Embed Code

Video: Diane Winston was struck and killed by a stray bullet meant for someone else in Richmond One man witnessed the shooting and helped lead police to her killer.(Dalton Bennett/The Washington Post)

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How Julia Louis-Dreyfus quietly became the most successful sitcom star ever

By Geoff Edgers
How Julia Louis-Dreyfus quietly became the most successful sitcom star ever
Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a sixth-season episode of HBO's

In 1989, Jerry Seinfeld, a nasally stand-up who could turn mundane observations into nightclub gold, and Larry David, a cantankerous comedy writer coming off a failed stint at "Saturday Night Live," developed an idea for a TV show.

But the pilot for "The Seinfeld Chronicles" bombed when NBC tested it with audiences.

The network told the producers what was missing. The sitcom, as devised by the duo, centered on the daily travails of three guys on New York's Upper West Side.

"We said, 'You have to add a girl,' " remembers Warren Littlefield, then a key executive at NBC. "We're not going to tell you a lot, but add a woman."

So Jerry, George and Kramer got Elaine Benes, a combative, curly-haired serial dater who could give as good as she got. And thus was born the legend of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who would become one of the greatest sitcom stars in modern television history.

On Sunday, Louis-Dreyfus will receive this year's Mark Twain Prize for American Humor from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Since 1998, the Twain Prize has been awarded to writers, stand-ups and talk-show hosts. There have been other television revolutionaries - Lorne Michaels, Carol Burnett, David Letterman - but, as she films the seventh and final season of HBO's "Veep," Louis-Dreyfus's success is unprecedented. From "Seinfeld" to "The New Adventures of Old Christine" to her remarkable portrayal of Vice President Selina Meyer, Louis-Dreyfus has earned 11 Emmys, including six in a row.The reason she didn't win again last month is probably because she wasn't eligible. "Veep" had always planned to begin airing its final season after the 2018 qualifying date.

What's more, the comedian's influence stretches beyond the screen. Long before #TimesUp, she pushed hard for creative control in a male-dominated industry, particularly by fighting for production credit. In that way, Louis-Dreyfus has served as a model for the wave of talented women who emerged over the past decade-plus, including Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler.

"Julia was always just really funny, and that inspired me, her straight-up talent and timing and the way she performs," says Poehler, who followed her own "SNL" tenure by producing and starring in "Parks and Recreation." "But also what I like is that she feels like a person who was also in control and has a voice and uses it."

Even if Louis-Dreyfus didn't create "Seinfeld," her nine seasons on the hit established a new kind of sitcom actress on a new kind of sitcom. Post-Lucille Ball, prime time was packed with airheaded babes (Barbara Eden in "I Dream of Jeanie" or Suzanne Somers on "Three's Company") or matronly voices-of-reason (Marion Ross on "Happy Days"). Roseanne Barr brought a lunch-pail weariness to television, and Mary Tyler Moore managed to be both independent and sharp. But Elaine and Selina were nothing like Mary. They could be as shallow, nasty and dysfunctional as the guys sitting around Jerry's apartment, as profane and blue as the potty-mouthed male politicians making backroom deals.

"Someone with her intelligence level, matched with an incredibly juvenile infantilism, when those two things come together well, that's comedy magic," Seinfeld says.

---

On a warm day in September, Louis-Dreyfus, 57, arrives for a lunch interview at a restaurant in the hills of Santa Barbara, California. She and her husband, writer and producer Brad Hall, have a house nearby. In person, Louis-Dreyfus is low-key, in jeans, her hair pulled back, recognizable but understated.

It is a busy moment. "Veep" is filming, and Louis-Dreyfus is just starting to feel as though she's back at full strength. That's no small thing.

Her surreal nightmare began on a Friday in September 2017. That day, Louis-Dreyfus had a biopsy. On Sunday, she was awarded her latest Emmy for playing Selina. And on Monday morning, the results came back. Stage 2 breast cancer. There would be chemotherapy treatments and surgery. The final season of "Veep" would have to wait.

"Originally, I had this idea, well, we'll shoot in between my chemo treatments," she said. "We could do that. Chemotherapy. What? That's what sick people get. The whole thing was so astounding. I thought I could muscle through it, and to a certain extent, I did, because we did have table reads of scripts every three weeks. But I got really ill, so I couldn't have ever shot anything during that period of time."

Did getting sick change her perspective on life?

"You know what, I can't quite answer that, because I feel like I'm still a little bit in the throes of it," Louis-Dreyfus says. "Except what I would say about the fragility of life, as tropey as that sounds - I really do feel like, I guess people die. You go through life not considering the eventual reality that you're going to bite the dust, and so is everybody around you."

"You're 47?" she asks.

Yes.

"So with any luck, you'll live another 40 years. Sorry to have to tell you."

Was there ever any thought of just stepping away? Or not coming back to "Veep."

"Oh, no," she says.

"I love making people laugh, and I love making people cry even, and I find the pursuit of a truthful performance to be deeply satisfying to my core," Louis-Dreyfus says.

---

Julia Louis-Dreyfus remembers first taking the stage in fourth grade.

"I was in some silly show, and I was supposed to faint. I was a queen, and it wasn't meant to be funny, but I fainted, and everybody laughed, and I remember thinking, 'I didn't know why they laughed but I liked how they laughed,' " she says.

Judith and Gérard Louis-Dreyfus divorced when their daughter was just 3, so Julia spent much of her childhood shuttling between her father, who lived in New York, and her mother, who lived in the District of Columbia. And in that neighborhood, just a skip from American University, Louis-Dreyfus and her friends organized their own theater group. They called themselves the University Players - named after their street - and would often perform in Louis-Dreyfus' basement.

The group included next-door neighbor Margaret Edson, who would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1999 for her play "Wit."

"We just lost ourselves in these improvised plays and the performances," Edson says. "We had a game called town, and it would all be people in the town, and we had an inside game called office, and it would be people in the office, and we would just stay in it for hours, and I think it's just because she was so good."

In 1979, Louis-Dreyfus enrolled at Northwestern University in Chicago and immediately began auditioning. She was cast as a freshman in the comedy revue "The Mee-Ow Show."

Gary Kroeger, an older student and performer, remembers seeing the performance.

"She was the most organically talented person I'd ever seen onstage," he says. "She was just magical in how she could go in and out of characters, and her timing was like nothing I'd ever seen."

At Northwestern, Louis-Dreyfus met Hall, who was three years older and had quit school to help found the Practical Theatre Company. In summer 1982, in a 150-seat space in Chicago's Piper Alley, she, Hall, Kroeger and Paul Barrosse, who also founded the company, put on "The Golden 50th Anniversary Jubilee." It was popular, and word traveled east. Dick Ebersol, back at NBC to run "Saturday Night Live" during Lorne Michaels' hiatus, came one night with head writer Bob Tischler.

"We were just blown away," Ebersol remembers. "There aren't that many opportunities in the comedy business to find anybody that funny or, in her case, that beautiful. She was just brimming with potential."

He hired away the four Practical Theatre players. Instead of starting her senior year, the 21-year-old Louis-Dreyfus headed to New York to become part of an "SNL" cast led by Eddie Murphy.

What Ebersol saw immediately is a quality hard to describe but easy to identify. It's a trait that Mary Tyler Moore, Andy Griffith and Cary Grant possessed. Poehler and Tom Hanks have it, as well. Louis-Dreyfus can play vastly different characters, sink deeply into a role, and yet the viewer doesn't completely forget who she is. That's part of why her characters feel so true, even when their actions are so outrageous.

"She approaches things from a very organic, honest, Julia place first," Hall says. "She's not going to do things on screen to get laughs that aren't based somewhere in her personality or her fantasy personality of herself. As she's accumulated work, she's gotten more and more confident in beginning to play things that are closer and closer to herself, so she's able to be very believable and yet really, really funny, because she's got the confidence to take the chances that are necessary to make choices that are funny."

That "Julia place" begins with her likability. That protects her characters, even when they're on their worst behavior.

"There is something about Julia's innate sort of niceness," says David Mandel, "Veep's" showrunner and executive producer. "Women like her. Men like her. On 'Veep,' we use it to let her do really horrible things. When people tell me that they wish Selina was president, that's not what they mean. They wish Julia Louis-Dreyfus was president."

The timing. The laugh. The willingness to go deeply blue if it will make the comedy work. There are the elements that make Louis-Dreyfus, as her friend Larry David says, "a natural."

"She's born with it," he says. "If she was a basketball player, she'd have a million moves."

There is something else Poehler likes to mention. Stars can be difficult, picky, lone wolves who need to be coaxed into doing anything unconventional. Louis-Dreyfus is what Poehler calls a "gamer." She always wants to be part of the joke, whether it's a sketch, a prank or even a funny bit at an award ceremony. Poehler saw that playfulness at "SNL" when Louis-Dreyfus came back to host in 2006 and 2007.

She also showed it by signing on, in 2015, for the "Last F---able Day" sketch on Comedy Central's "Inside Amy Schumer." The bitingly sarcastic piece featured Fey and actress Patricia Arquette holding a "celebration" to mark the moment Louis-Dreyfus became too old for Hollywood to recognize her as a sexual object. Other stars had turned down Schumer's sketch, presumably sensitive to how close to the bone it hit. Louis-Dreyfus was game.

"You meet somebody, and they're kind of down for the fun or they're not," Poehler says. "Whether it'd be me being like, 'Do you mind if I do this bit when I present this award' or 'Can we think of something for here.' Yeah, sure. The idea that nothing has to feel too precious keeps her loose, and I think it's what people feel from her."

---

Success did not come easily.

At "SNL," where Louis-Dreyfus was a cast member from 1982 to 1985, she rates her work as "horrendous."

"Nothing I did was good," she says.

That is an exaggeration. During her tenure, Louis-Dreyfus was often on the air, whether playing bit parts, grumpy teen news commentator Patti Lynn Hunnsucker or reviving her Northwestern-born televangelist April May June. Her most memorable turn may have come with Kroeger when they played an incestuous version of Donny and Marie Osmond.

But the atmosphere at "SNL" during those years was toxic, particularly for a woman, she says. When Louis-Dreyfus thinks of those years, she can still feel the bad vibes from the very first time she went to a table read.

Ebersol, excited to show off his new find, asked the Northwestern kids to perform excerpts from "Jubilee" to a room packed with cast members, writers and producers.

The response?

"Sagebrush," she says. "A disaster."

"They're sitting there watching this cabaret show right after lunch, and you could just see on their faces, literally," Kroeger remembers. "What has happened, why are these people here, this is the new cast? This is the new Chevy Chase, the new Dan Aykroyd, the new Gilda Radner? Are you kidding me?"

"It was like being told, 'You're going to see the greatest thing ever,'" remembers former "SNL" writer Barry Blaustein, who was there. "It was set up to fail."

Even if Louis-Dreyfus felt stifled at "SNL," her time there would change her career.

She met Larry David at "SNL," as he fumbled through a season in which only one of his sketches made it on air. She also made herself an important pledge. Louis-Dreyfus would never work on a miserable set again. As she got more clout and began to produce, that became a defining characteristic of her shows.

"No. 1 on the daily call sheet sets the tone for the entire set," says Andy Richter, the "Conan" show sidekick who played "Sad Dad" Stan on "The New Adventures of Old Christine," the CBS sitcom that ran from 2006 to 2010. "And she is the best No. 1 on the call sheet I have ever worked with, or for. Completely approachable, completely collaborative, warm, friendly, funny, everything you could possibly want your Julia Louis-Dreyfus to be."

If she was underutilized on "SNL," what came next would seem stunning.

In 1987, Louis-Dreyfus was cast in a small role for a pilot, "The Art of Being Nick." That the show centered on Scott Valentine, who played Mallory Keaton's curly-haired meathead boyfriend on "Family Ties," did not seem to bother NBC's powerful head of entertainment, Brandon Tartikoff. His issue: Louis-Dreyfus. He told NBC casting director Joel Thurm to deliver the news.

" 'We've got to do better than this,' " "Nick" director Sam Weisman remembers Thurm telling him. " 'She's really short; she's not hot. We really want somebody hot for this.' "

Weisman and producer Gary David Goldberg refused to budge. They knew Tartikoff was wrong. And when "Nick" didn't get picked up, Goldberg cast her as the caustic next-door neighbor on the bland sitcom "Day by Day." It ran for two seasons, until it was canceled in 1989.

"The only reason there was a sparkle in 'Day by Day' was because of Julia," Warren Littlefield says today.

"So, when Seinfeld came around, we were huge Julia fans," says Lori Openden, who had taken over for Thurm as the network's head of casting. "In all my time there, that was one of the easiest casting fits."

---

"Seinfeld" may have made her a star, but "Veep" gave Louis-Dreyfus a chance for a tour-de-force - if she could get the gig. She remembers meeting the show's director, Armando Iannucci, late in 2010 at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles.

"This is going to sound strange but it sounded like really ripe, low-hanging fruit that no one had tried to pick,' Louis-Dreyfus says. "Of course, a female vice president. It's a perfect metaphor for being a woman and for ambition and everything. It's conflict built in, and it's ideal comedically. I couldn't believe it. I met with Arm, and I thought, 'Jesus Christ, I really hope I get this.'"

Iannucci knew Louis-Dreyfus was funny. What he didn't realize, until that day, is her personal connection to the part. That she had grown up in D.C. meant she understood that world. That she had spent years as a public figure also helped.

"Knowing what it's like going into a room, and people are looking at you, and you have to keep smiling even though you have a raging headache," Iannucci says. "Having to maintain that air of keeping your s--- together. Primarily, it's a comic instinct. We found this out when we started rehearing. We'd have a little idea, and she would always have half a dozen suggestions of which way that could go."

The action in "Veep" is fast, peppered with profanity, sight gags, misunderstandings and slights. There are moments that demand the acting chops you'd find in a serious drama. Nobody can ping-pong better between emotions than Louis-Dreyfus, from bitter frustration to beaming smiles.

But Iannucci, who left the show after its fourth season, remembers one of his own favorite moments, when everything seemed to slow down. It came during the second episode of the first season, when President Hughes has a health scare, and Selina is briefly put in charge.

"In the stage direction, it says, 'Selina gives a noise that simultaneously is a groan and a smile, concerned and happiness at the same time,' " Iannucci says. "And she did it. Take one. It's the emotional version of a chord, there are five or six notes going on simultaneously. That's when you realize she's utterly in a league of her own."

Pulitzer-winning opinion from the most respected voices in the world.

Why Nancy Pelosi doesn't care what they say about her

By e.j. dionne jr.
Why Nancy Pelosi doesn't care what they say about her

E.J. DIONNE COLUMN

(Advance for Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, and thereafter. Web release Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Dionne clients only)

By E.J. DIONNE JR.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- "Do whatever you have to do. Just win, baby."

Nancy Pelosi's feisty, candid and pragmatic words to Harvard students on Tuesday reflected the House Democratic leader's full adaptation to the role of designated dart board for House Republicans. She granted full absolution to party hopefuls who think they'll enhance their chances of winning by promising not to elect her House Speaker.

"None of us is indispensable," she declared amiably.

But then came a steely postscript: "You can't let the opposite party choose the leader of your party."

"And I say this especially to women," she added, "because they think women are going to run away from the fight. But you can't do that. You believe in what you have to offer."

She does, and her implications are clear. Republicans want to get rid of her because she's effective. Sexism is a big reason for her starring role as an ogre in GOP advertising. And while Democrats should say what they need to say now, they'd do well to be wary of deposing her in response to pressure from the other side.

Speaking before a packed house at an event sponsored by the Kennedy School of Government's Institute of Politics, Pelosi made as clear as she could that -- far from being the ultra-liberal of conservative demonology -- she is thoroughly in touch with the sensibilities of the swing voters her House candidates need to persuade.

She didn't mention President Trump until well into the conversation, emphasizing instead the Democrats' core promises: to hold down health care costs; to enact campaign-finance reform and other democratizing political changes; and to implement a big infrastructure program that Trump himself might back.

Pelosi pushes hard against the idea that a Democratic-led House would move quickly toward impeaching Trump. On the contrary. "I think using the word 'impeachment' is very divisive," she said, "and that isn't a path that I would like to go down." She knows that Trump uses impeachment talk to fire up his own base. She is not about to feed the blaze.

At the same time, she stressed that she wants the "documentation" from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation to be "preserved" so Congress and the public can have "the documents and the truth." If there is a case for impeachment, she seemed to suggest, it will emerge from what Mueller finds, not what Democrats say.

She is equally careful about the sorts of inquiries a Democratic House would launch into other aspects of the Trump presidency. Pelosi lists a long series of Trumpian abuses, but then adds: "I don't think this should be scattershot. I think it should be responsible, honoring our Constitution and our responsibilities. ... I've asked my chairs to be prepared, but not everything is on par with everything else."

The more militant in the party might find Pelosi a bit too deliberate. But she has a shrewd sense of what a legislative majority can -- and can't -- accomplish. She earned a lot of the credit for the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 under excruciating political circumstances.

But none of this reduces the pressure she might face. According to an NBC News count in August, at least 57 Democratic House candidates have said they would not support her for speaker, reflecting in part a desire for generational change. In a party that increasingly leans on younger voters, Pelosi is 78; the No. 2 Democrat, House Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, is 79; and the No. 3 member of the leadership, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, is 78.

Responding to a student questioner who complained that the House seniority system freezes out the young, Pelosi briefly mooted the possibility she might serve as a transitional speaker to new leadership. "I see myself as a bridge, really," she said.

But when Mark Gearan, the director of the Institute of Politics, pressed her on the bridge she had in mind, she didn't elaborate beyond saying that she was focused on "how we're taking what we're doing into the future."

Pelosi expressed guarded confidence that the electorate would side with the Democrats in order to reintroduce "checks and balances" to Washington. But she warned that many House races are very close. And if instead, the election proved to be "a validation" of "the practices and the personal affronts of this president of the United States, I pray very hard for our country."

Which is why she doesn't much worry over what Democrats say about her between now and Election Day.

E.J. Dionne's email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Here's a reality check: Your child probably won't get a full ride to college

By michelle singletary
Here's a reality check: Your child probably won't get a full ride to college

THE COLOR OF MONEY COLUMN

(Advance for Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, and thereafter. Web release Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Singletary clients only)

WRITETHRU: Swaps in new headline to correct meaning

By MICHELLE SINGLETARY

WASHINGTON -- As the deadlines for early college admission get closer, many parents dream of big scholarships for their star athletes or academically gifted students.

They argue that they didn't need to save. Instead, they shuttled -- or dragged -- their children to sports practices, hoping all that time on courts or fields would pay off in big money for college. Or they banked on their children getting merit-based financial aid because of their superior grades.

But when they finally get the financial-aid packages after the joy of the acceptance letters, many will be shocked into reality -- or debt.

Only 0.2 percent of students got $25,000 or more in scholarships per year based on the 2015-16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), the most recent data available, according to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research for savingforcollege.com.

In analyzing the scholarship figures, Kantrowitz notes that a total of $6.1 billion in scholarships were awarded to 1.58 million recipients. That's 8.1 percent of students and an average of $3,852 per recipient. If you limit the data to students who are enrolled in bachelor's degree programs, the figures are 12.7 percent (1 in 8 students) and $4,202 per recipient.

The odds are not in your child's favor to get enough money for college that you can afford (BEG ITAL)not(END ITAL) to save.

My eldest child was in the top 5 percent of her high school class and was an AP scholar, a status awarded by the College Board to students who receive scores of 3 or higher on three or more AP exams. We were through the roof with happiness when she got a $20,000 presidential scholarship from the University of Maryland. However, divided over four years, it was $2,500 a semester. We had to make up the difference of about $60,000 with our savings and investment returns built up over 18 years in a 529 plan.

"Parents have a tendency to overestimate eligibility for merit-based aid and underestimate eligibility for need-based aid," Kantrowitz said. "I often hear from parents who think their child will get a free ride because they are their high school valedictorian or salutatorian. But there are more than 80,000 valedictorians and salutatorians each year, so that doesn't really distinguish them from other students. Thousands of students get perfect SAT or ACT test scores. With rampant grade inflation, hundreds of thousands of students get a 4.0 GPA each year."

Looking deeper into the data, here's what Kantrowitz says is the reality when you combine scholarships with need-based grants.

-- 1.5 percent of students in bachelor's degree programs got enough scholarships and grants to cover 100 percent of the cost of attendance.

-- 2.7 percent got enough to cover 90 percent of the cost of attendance.

-- 5.9 percent got enough to cover 75 percent of the cost of attendance

-- 18.8 percent received enough to cover 50 percent of the cost of attendance.

Still dreaming you child will slam dunk an athletic scholarship?

Only 2.3 percent of students in bachelor's degree programs received athletic scholarships, with an average of $11,914 each based on the 2015-16 figures.

Of course, some will get more, others less. The point is that being athletically gifted doesn't guarantee a full ride. Even with a pretty substantial partial scholarship, many families are left with a deficit -- especially for student-athletes who attend more expensive colleges, Kantrowitz said.

So this is yet another reminder to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA). Whether your child will be applying for early admission to college or is a returning student, complete the form sooner rather than later. With limited funds, schools often hand out scholarships on a first-come, first-served basis. Even if you're a high-income family, fill out the FAFSA.

If you've got some years to go before your child is ready for college, save all that you can, preferably in a 529 college-savings plan. Under a 529, earnings are not subject to federal tax -- and generally state tax -- if they are used for qualified education expenses such as tuition and fees.

OK, so now you know. This doesn't mean your child shouldn't be aggressive in applying for scholarships. And fall is the time to do it. In fact, November is National Scholarship Month, which is sponsored by the National Scholarship Providers Association.

When it comes to counting on scholarships, aim high. But prepare for the possibility that the amount will be lower than you expect -- and much less than you need to pay for college.

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Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary). Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Italy's debt monster: a primer

By robert j. samuelson
Italy's debt monster: a primer

ROBERT J. SAMUELSON COLUMN

(FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE)

(For Samuelson clients only)

By ROBERT J. SAMUELSON

WASHINGTON -- Just when it seemed safe not to worry about the next financial crisis, up pops Italy. "In Italy, lavish plans may propel next crisis," warned The New York Times. Or, "Italy's budget rattles financial markets on debt crisis fears," said Sky News.

Exactly how a crisis might emerge isn't clear. Would Italian interest rates soar, reflecting fears that the country can't service its colossal debt? Would Italian banks weaken because their bonds lose value? Would there be spillover effects on other countries? Might Italy abandon the euro?

What is clear is that the new Italian government is flirting with trouble. All the ingredients of a crisis are present.

Consider.

(1) Italy's sovereign debt -- that is, its governmental debt -- is already massive. It's estimated at 131 percent of the country's economy (Gross Domestic Product), the second highest among countries in the eurozone. The highest is Greece (nearly 180 percent of GDP), but Italy's is more worrisome, because its economy is the third largest in the eurozone, behind Germany's and France's. Italy's economy is roughly 10 times the size of Greece's, says economist Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute. Whatever happens, the impact on Europe's economy and financial markets will dwarf the repercussions of the Greek crisis.

(2) Italy's economic growth is almost non-existent. Since 2010, it has averaged less than 0.2 percent annually, reports the International Monetary Fund. This is important. If countries are growing rapidly, borrowers can repay their loans more easily, because their incomes -- wages, salaries, profits -- are also growing rapidly. Virtually all advanced countries have experienced economic slowdowns. But Italy is an extreme case. The fact that its growth is near a standstill means the country is highly vulnerable to anything that raises its debt or reduces its growth.

(3) Italy's new government proposes expanding its budget deficit, from 0.8 percent of GDP -- what the previous government proposed -- to 2.4 percent of GDP. There's a collision between what financial markets want (lower deficits) and what Italy's government wants (new policies to satisfy its supporters). The coalition government consists of the populist-left Five Star party and the populist-right League Party. They are committed to a guaranteed "universal basic income" for the unemployed, tax cuts and a rollback of increases in the retirement age.

At the least, Italy and the European Commission -- the Brussels-based bureaucracy that oversees the European Union's laws and regulations -- seem destined to collide, because the proposed 2019 budget violates European Union rules calling for much lower debt levels. The question is whether the dispute ends in an acceptable compromise or triggers a major confrontation.

"This budget doesn't make the Italian debt sustainable," says Jeromin Zettelmeyer, a former top German economic official now at the Peterson Institute in Washington. "The worry is about a political standoff. The government could ignore requests of the European Commission [for budget changes]." But so far, he notes, "there is no panic in the markets," suggesting that investors believe an accommodation will be reached.

The larger issue is why the Italian economy has bogged down in recent decades. As Bill Emmott, a former editor of The Economist, noted in his book "Good Italy, Bad Italy," this wasn't always the case. From 1950 to 1970, Italy's GDP grew an average of 5.8 percent a year -- a rate that, even if halved now, would still make sizable debt reduction possible.

To some extent, an economic slowdown was inevitable. There was a long period after World War II of "economic catchup" as Italy and many countries rebuilt and adopted existing technologies. But more recently, Emmott argues, over-regulation and chronic budget deficits have sapped Italy's economic vitality.

Italy's debt has become an economic and political monster. What's ultimately at stake is whether the monster can be controlled inside of Italy or whether it breaks out, spreading havoc across global economies and financial markets.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Canned crab? Elizabeth Warren is unfit to lead.

By dana milbank
Canned crab? Elizabeth Warren is unfit to lead.

DANA MILBANK COLUMN

(FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE)

(For Milbank clients only)

By DANA MILBANK

WASHINGTON -- Poor Elizabeth Warren.

She took President Trump's bait and submitted to a DNA test to demonstrate her Native American genealogy -- and, in so doing, may have doomed her presidential campaign before it began. Now the Massachusetts senator is not only enduring Trump's "Pocahontas" insults (at least when he's not calling another woman "Horseface") but also being disparaged by Indian tribes.

"Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage," proclaimed the Cherokee Nation, decrying her "inappropriate and wrong" use of a DNA test, a "mockery" that dishonors "legitimate" tribal citizens.

Ouch. But I can understand why the Cherokees -- and indeed all people of good taste -- might wish to disavow Warren: It's the crab mayonnaise.

Among the many unfortunate results of Warren's recent DNA test suggesting she's somewhere between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American by ethnicity: It inevitably draws attention to her contribution to the '80s cookbook, "Pow Wow Chow: A Collection of Recipes from Families of the Five Civilized Tribes." Under "Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee," it lists five recipes, three of which were apparently cribbed from the New York Times and Better Homes and Gardens.

Worse, one of the recipes she submitted: "Crab with Tomato Mayonnaise Dressing." A traditional Cherokee dish with mayonnaise, a 19th-century condiment imported by settlers? A crab dish from landlocked Oklahoma? This can mean only one thing: canned crab.

Warren is unfit to lead.

Yet it is difficult not to feel sorry for Warren. Though she doesn't claim tribal membership, she clearly wants to be embraced. And so I extend an invitation to the senator to join my tribe. Warren should become a Jew. As Trump said when asking for African-American votes shortly before praising Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee: "Honor us."

The Tribes of Israel have little to do with Native American tribes beyond the Yiddish-speaking Indians in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles." But no DNA test is required. A stickler might require Warren to ask three times before becoming a Member of the Tribe -- "MOT" -- but for many, being Jewish is a state of mind, as comic legend Lenny Bruce explained decades ago:

"If you live in New York or any other big city, you are Jewish. It doesn't matter even if you're Catholic; if you live in New York, you're Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, you're going to be goyish even if you're Jewish. Evaporated milk is goyish even if the Jews invented it. Chocolate is Jewish, and fudge is goyish. Spam is goyish, and rye bread is Jewish. Negroes are all Jews. Italians are all Jews. Irishmen who have rejected their religion are Jews. Mouths are very Jewish. And bosoms. Baton-twirling is very goyish."

The same applies to current politics. If you work in the Trump administration, you are goyish even if you are Jewish. The House is goyish, the Senate is Jewish. Jeff Flake: Jewish. Dianne Feinstein: goyish. Sonia Sotomayor: very Jewish. Steny H. Hoyer: crazy goyish.

Warren would have some work to do. Her demeanor screams white bread and Jell-O molds. But a few adjustments might help: Stop calling herself "an Okie to my toes." (Even Jews who live in Oklahoma are goyish.) And, for heaven's sake, stop with the crab mayonnaise.

Of course, I don't actually desire to have Warren join my "tribe" -- which, in any event, is only part of my heritage. Like most in the American melting pot, I'm a mutt: a stew of English and German, western pioneers and sharecroppers, immigrants from the shtetl and a great-great-great-grandfather who died fighting for the Iowa 39th Infantry in the Civil War.

This is why Warren's DNA stunt was such a blunder: She took Trump's DNA-test dare and let him divide us -- again -- by race and ethnicity, just as he did when he goaded President Barack Obama to prove his legitimacy by producing his birth certificate.

It's sad that the Cherokees responded by noisily rejecting Warren, but that's their right.

It's disgusting that the episode has also set off the worst in some, such as Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, R-S.C., who joked on Fox News that it would be "terrible" if a DNA test found he had Iranian ethnicity.

No, Senator. What's "terrible" is that Trump has found a new, high-tech way to stoke tribalism and division. And Warren fell for it.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

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Video Embed Code

Video: President Trump on Oct. 15 said he did not owe $1 million to a charity of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) choice because he did not 'personally' test her DNA.(The Washington Post)

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Trump deserves credit for sticking by Kavanaugh

By ruben navarrette jr.
Trump deserves credit for sticking by Kavanaugh

RUBEN NAVARRETTE COLUMN

(Advance for Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, and thereafter. Web release Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Navarrette clients only)

By RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.

SAN DIEGO -- Americans have long lived as part of different tribes. Now we live on entirely different planets.

Half the country can't stand the other half. With liberals cornering the market on compassion and conservatives having a monopoly on patriotism, everyone thinks they're superior to everyone else.

We all have to do our part to heal the breach. One way to do that is to examine issues from the opposing perspective, and to look for the positive even in those cases when all you see initially is negative. It's also not a bad idea to get out of attack mode now and then, and acknowledge when the other side does something that is good and helpful.

I'm a Never Trump'er who thinks the president has hurt America more than he has helped it. I'm also someone who would welcome impeachment if Democrats take the House of Representatives. Even so, I get tired of seeing those in my camp look down their noses at President Trump and insult his voters as dumb, dangerous or -- to borrow a word -- deplorable. Many critics are so blinded by their outright hatred and contempt for Trump that they can't even imagine praising him when he's on the right track, pursues the right policy or displays the right instinct.

In that spirit, here's my humble contribution to fixing America's broken dialogue.

Each week, I resolve to find one positive trait that Trump exhibits. I'll start with something that can be rare in Washington these days: loyalty.

Hold the snickers. I realize this has not been one of Trump's strong suits. Witness his shabby treatment of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

Still, if you're not an employee but simply a nominee, perhaps you'll enjoy more loyalty.

Trump should be commended for standing by Brett Kavanaugh, through slings and arrows, until the embattled Supreme Court nominee took his seat.

During the White House swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 8, Trump patted himself on the back.

"Those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation, not a campaign of political and personal destruction based on lies and deception," he said. "What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process. In our country, a man or woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty."

Kavanaugh responded by showing his gratitude to Trump for not cutting him loose as a political liability.

"Mr. President, thank you for the great honor of appointing me to serve as a Justice of the Supreme Court. I've seen firsthand your deep appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary. I am grateful for your steadfast, unwavering support throughout this process. And I'm grateful to you and Mrs. Trump for the exceptional, overwhelming courtesy you have extended to my family and me. Mr. President, thank you for everything."

Trump gets praise from many Americans for keeping promises and talking straight because most politicians aren't known to do either of those things. Likewise, it serves him well that he displays loyalty now and then -- because many presidents aren't known for leveraging capital and sticking their necks out for someone else. Sadly, that's true even if it was the politician who tossed that person into the lion's den to begin with.

Bill Clinton wasn't loyal to Lani Guinier, his old law school friend who he nominated to head up the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. When Republicans attacked her as a "quota queen" over her support for affirmative action, Clinton bailed.

George W. Bush wasn't loyal to Alberto Gonzales. When Democrats accused the attorney general of politicizing the firing of U.S. Attorneys -- a trend that emanated from the White House -- Gonzales was the scapegoat. He resigned, and Bush didn't stop him.

Barack Obama wasn't loyal to Thomas Saenz, the Yale-educated civil rights lawyer who made a name for himself litigating cases of the Los Angeles office of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund. When Obama offered Saenz the chance to head the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, anti-immigrant groups began a smear campaign. Obama rescinded the offer.

So here comes Trump. When the Left threw everything at Kavanaugh -- the kitchen sink and every other appliance -- the president didn't flinch. He stood by his guy.

That counts for a lot. And Trump deserves credit for it -- no matter what planet you live on.

Ruben Navarrette's email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, "Navarrette Nation," is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

A brooding crown prince searches for a scapegoat

By david ignatius
A brooding crown prince searches for a scapegoat

DAVID IGNATIUS COLUMN

(Advance for Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, and thereafter. Web release Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Ignatius clients only)

By DAVID IGNATIUS

WASHINGTON -- Inside his royal place in Riyadh, Mohammed bin Salman is said to have alternated between dark brooding and rampaging anger in the days after the death of Jamal Khashoggi, as the crown prince looked for someone to blame for what Turkish officials have said was a grisly murder.

One possible scapegoat, according to several sources, may be Major Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri, deputy chief of Saudi intelligence. Asiri "has made numerous approaches to MBS on taking actions against Khashoggi and others," said one source who's familiar with Western intelligence reports.

The U.S. government learned last month that Asiri was planning to create a "tiger team" to conduct covert special operations, I'm told, although the U.S. didn't know the targets. U.S. intelligence also learned, but only after Khashoggi's disappearance from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, that the crown prince had told his subordinates this summer that he wanted Khashoggi and other Saudi dissidents brought back home.

The swirling reports and recriminations surfaced as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the kingdom Tuesday and urged King Salman and his son to conduct a "transparent" investigation of the disappearance of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist. But such efforts will face rising skepticism in the U.S. Congress, epitomized by the blast Tuesday from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that MBS "had this guy murdered."

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and adviser, urged MBS last weekend to organize an investigation that could identify the culprit responsible for Khashoggi's death, two sources told me. The next day, Trump said he thought "rogue killers" may have been responsible, seemingly telegraphing a fall-guy strategy.

The Khashoggi case isn't the first time that the palace allegedly attempted to kidnap a critic. After one prominent Saudi criticized aspects of the crown prince's plan to privatize Saudi Aramco in a meeting abroad with potential foreign investors, a Saudi plane arrived along with an official who allegedly tried to arrest the man as a terrorist. He escaped, but the message was clear: Challenging MBS was risky.

The darkening mood inside MBS' palace in recent months shows a crown prince facing economic pressure and tightening his circle of advisers.

MBS' key counselor is said to have been Saud al-Qahtani, his media adviser but increasingly also his consigliere in the kingdom's battles with foreign adversaries such as Qatar and Iran as well as domestic critics. Qahtani is young and headstrong, like his boss.

Qahtani organized interviews with MBS for visiting foreign journalists. But sources say he was quietly assuming a larger role overseeing strategy in social media, which the Saudis (like the Russians) view as a domain of war.

Qahtani is a demon in Saudi Twitter debates, with 1.3 million followers and barbed messages to dissenters. He has created a hashtag with the Arabic term for "Black List," and he urges Saudis to report enemies of the kingdom on social media, Qahtani and other advisers have helped MBS use the latest and most aggressive hacking techniques against adversaries.

MBS' tight inner circle has helped him push modernization efforts, such as reducing the power of the religious police, allowing women to drive, and opening movie theaters and other public entertainment. But his team of palace advisers has often amplified, rather than challenged, MBS' worst impulses.

This breakdown was evident immediately after Khashoggi's disappearance, when official Saudi statements were all happy talk. Behind the scenes, says one knowledgeable source, "MBS went into a funk for several days after learning of Khashoggi's death before re-emerging on a rampage of anger around what happened and trying to figure out a response."

Adding to MBS' anxiety in the weeks before Khashoggi's disappearance was the erosion of his big plans to boost the Saudi economy. In August, the kingdom delayed indefinitely its plans for the Aramco privatization, which MBS had hoped would raise more than $100 billion. That same month, plans for a big investment in Tesla cratered. An investment deal with the Japanese company Softbank also hit a snag.

Surrounded by yes-men who saw suppressing dissent as part of a media war, and rattled by the reversal of his dreams for economic reform, MBS moved toward the fateful moment when Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. When the brave journalist opened the door, he began a catastrophic process that has now put MBS' own future in question. Putting a lid on a murder investigation won't be easy, even for a brashly confident prince.

David Ignatius' email address is davidignatius@washpost.com.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

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