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Couple still in rhythm after meeting in choir 70 years ago

By Tara Bahrampour
Couple still in rhythm after meeting in choir 70 years ago
Dorothy Hearn and her husband, Dean Hearn, like to watch birds and deer from their deck in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The Hearns met in junior high school choir, began dating in high school and got married soon after graduation. Dean proposed to Dorothy the week of Valentine's Day in 1953, and they were married Sept. 11, 1955. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Michael S. Williamson

Seventy-one years ago at Boise Junior High School in Idaho, not enough boys had joined the choir, so the director went in search of tenors. That is how Dean Hearn came to stand near a short girl with dark curly hair and a cherubic smile - though he didn't notice her at first.

As he recalls, "I didn't understand what girls were."

But Dorothy Medlin knew what boys were. Dean was funny and handsome, with Clark Kent glasses, chiseled cheekbones and wavy blond hair. Soon they started meeting in the halls and a friendship formed.

"I thought he was a good guy," Dorothy said, glancing at him as they sat on the couch in their Gaithersburg, Maryland, living room.

"I thought she was Ok for a girl," said Dean, a little smile playing on his lips.

This year the couple will celebrate 65 years of marriage, and this month they mark the 66th anniversary of the day Dean asked Dorothy to marry him. He decided against Valentine's Day because it felt too obvious; he asked her a week later. But as the holiday dedicated to love approached the couple reflected on what brought - and kept - them together.

They had remained friends through high school, continuing with choir. The director set them up in a trio with Dorothy's identical twin, Donna, and the three harmonized together. His voice deepened to a rich bass, and he started to understand what girls were.

In 1952, he asked Dorothy on a date. They attended a church party and played ping-pong. Something clicked.

"He kind of like, wanted to protect me," said Dorothy, 84. "It was just a feeling of comfort."

Dean, 83, nodded. "I don't know, I just felt very comfortable with her. Still do, by the way." He reached out to touch her arm.

Dorothy went off to college when Dean was still in high school. It was only 25 miles away, but he felt a little nervous. She came home one weekend; the two attended a formal dance and, sitting in the car afterward, he proposed.

She was surprised, but only by the timing. "I thought eventually we would get married, but I figured he'd wait," she said. She had only been in college a few months. He was still in high school.

The following year he joined her at Idaho State University. They married in 1955. She became a teacher, he became a banker and then a computer programmer, and they raised two daughters and a son in Salem, Oregon, before moving to the Washington area in 1983.

Now they live in the Asbury Methodist Village retirement community. They volunteer at Oasis, an organization that offers lectures, classes, and other resources to people 50 and older. They also still sing - in the Chestertown Encore Chorale, in the car, and in their two-bedroom house nestled among trees, blue jays and cardinals.

Music has been the lodestar of their relationship. They once sang at the Boise High School Acapella Choir's 1952 Christmas concert, held in the Rotunda of the Idaho Capitol. Both recalled how their spines chilled as they heard their voices soar to the top of dome and meld together.

It was long ago, but did they by chance have a recording of that day?

They did. Dean crouched beside a shelf of vinyl LPs and pulled out two whose paper sheaths had yellowed - discs cut for the singers after their performance. He fiddled with wires, then plugged in a wooden record player ("It's probably 15 years since we've used this," he said). The needle dropped, the speaker crackled, and ethereal voices sang "O Come All Ye Faithful."

"Sounds from the past," Dean said in a spooky voice.

The chorus paused, and a deep voice rose up, telling the story of Mary and Jesus.

"Is that you?" Dorothy said. "That's you!"

Dean sat beside her and took her hand.

She looked at him, misty-eyed.

"Bring back memories?" he asked, and patted her hand.

"I'm feeling weepy because I'm sentimental," she said, reaching her fingers behind her wire-rim glasses to dry her eyes. "And because I feel really loved and cared for, and it was an experience I never thought I'd have."

It's not as if there were never difficult patches, like when Dorothy wrestled with having to leave her job and friends out West and move across the country for Dean's career. She suggested a long-distance relationship; he wouldn't hear of it.

"But you have to work through the rocky times to appreciate the good ones," she said. "I was kind of taught that when you're married you have to make some compromises . . . My parents had kind of a rough life and they stuck together, and that was what I felt. If you're going to do it, you're going to stick with it."

Did divorce ever come up? It did. But then they would look at each other and say no, and that was the end of it.

He still has the lanky frame, more fragile now; she still has the bouncy curls, white now. They have dealt with health issues: Dean has had lymphoma, diabetes, quadruple bypass surgery and rheumatoid arthritis.

Now, they just feel lucky. "I look at the percentage of people who have divorced, who have lost their spouse, and I feel really . . ." Dean paused, a lump in his throat.

So what are the secrets to a 65-year marriage?

"Instead of giving each other things, we do things together," Dorothy said. She thought about it some more. "I keep coming back to that our interest in music has helped keep us together."

After all, making it work between people is something akin to two voices seeking out a harmony. As they explained this, they fell into a kind of counterpoint.

"When it works right - " Dean said.

"When we're on the right note - " Dorothy said.

"It's all complementary," he said.

Dorothy nodded. "It's like real life. If you're doing things the right way you're not always doing the same thing. You're singing different notes and rhythm, but eventually we come to the point where we're singing the same rhythm and the same notes. You're a little off balance . . . but you have to go through the rough patches to get to the balance of things."

By the way, there was a reason Dean didn't wait until high school graduation to propose. He didn't like to think about her "out there with those football heroes -"

Dorothy cut in. "I didn't like that kind of guy."

"Good," he quipped. "'Cause you didn't get one."

"I got the right one."

Trevor Noah: The calm in the storm

By Jessica M. Goldstein
Trevor Noah: The calm in the storm

NEW YORK - Trevor Noah bounds into a bright, skylit conference room at "The Daily Show" offices in Manhattan wearing a black Nike T-shirt and a headset mic, like he's a pop star, or maybe a SoulCycle instructor. It's the first full day of arguments at President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, plus it's Bagel Tuesday, so, big morning all around for everyone here at Comedy Central's flagship fake-news program.

Forty or so writers, producers and correspondents (plus a handful of dogs) fill the room, forming a notably diverse group - though there is still a healthy smattering of white dudes, even a lone conservative. Later, Noah explains that his work to diversify the staff is not "zero-sum." Grinning, he promises: "I'm not going to fire white guys."

Co-executive producer Justin Melkmann queues up news clips and they are met with Alan Dershowitz giving quite the creative explanation for why, in 1998, he asserted that the president did not have to commit a crime to be impeached but now he is arguing the opposite side. "I wasn't wrong then," Dershowitz said on CNN. "I'm just much more correct right now."

It's a classic Trump-era comedy trap: How do you satirize something that is thoroughly absurd upon arrival?

But Noah responds to the clip with glee. "It's a wonderful illumination of how you can interpret the Constitution," he says. "It's like religion. Like, you can hate gay people because the Bible says so, right? Until your son is gay, and then you can say, 'Well, I don't see the word gay anywhere in the Ten Commandments.' " He lifts his hands up, framing an imaginary movie screen above his head. "It's a perfect encapsulation!"

What is Noah looking for in this endless scroll of headlines, which he starts checking on his phone before he gets out of bed? "I'm trying to find the zeitgeist of the day," he says later. He wants "The Daily Show" to "run the gamut of news, from the dumbest, most ridiculous, inconsequential stories that mean nothing in your life, all the way through to the war that may be happening between America and Iran." He also wants to analyze societal issues that aren't necessarily news-pegged or anchored at the White House, reeling off a list of issues such as race inequality, climate change, police shootings and student debt, and exemplified by a recent episode about mental health stigma in the black community.

As Noah sees it, "The Daily Show" is "not just here to make you feel afraid. We're using comedy to help process everything that is happening in the world."

Not too long ago, audiences turned to late night not to process the world but to forget the world; nightmare fodder so close to bedtime was verboten. The hosts - all men, mostly white - put on suits and ties and did their best Johnny Carson, and the format went virtually unexamined and unchanged for years. When Jon Stewart slid behind the "Daily Show" desk in 1999, he wasn't the only guy in the 11 p.m. ET hour to talk politics, but he was certainly the only one prioritizing that over sketches and celebrities.

Executive producer Jill Katz has been with "The Daily Show" for 14 years. Sitting in front of a framed Rally to Restore Sanity poster in her office, she tells me: "I felt like we used to be sort of a big fish in a small pond. People didn't even know that this was an angle to comedy."

Sometime between the night Jimmy Fallon tousled Trump's hair and the night Trump won the election, audiences lost their taste for performatively nonpartisan humor. Engagement, not escapism, became the order of the day. For "Daily Show" alumni - Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Hasan Minhaj - this was familiar territory. But now even the most ardently apolitical late-night hosts were polishing their Trump impressions, caving to the covfefe of it all.

Almost overnight, it seemed like everyone who had been trying to be the next Johnny Carson was in the business of trying to be the next Jon Stewart. Which left "The Daily Show," and its new young host, fighting for real estate on the very block they built.

- - -

Noah's office is spacious but cozy, all exposed brick and brown leather. A shelf on one wall glimmers with success, including an Emmy and the framed clipping from when his memoir, "Born a Crime," became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller.

He answers questions in deliberate, unhurried paragraphs, even though he has plenty on his docket for the day, including a photo shoot for this article. (When I ask that afternoon if anybody knows how it went, showrunner Jen Flanz assures me, "It's literally impossible to take a bad picture of Trevor.") Leaning forward in his seat, elbows resting lightly on his knees, Noah considers the way his late-night competitors seemed to be participating in a post-Stewart sweepstakes.

"The irony is that, when Jon Stewart was leaving, I asked him why he liked me as the next host," Noah says. "And he said, 'I want you to host because I know you're not going to try and be me. So I get to leave with my legacy.' And that means a lot to me, because it freed me. I'm not trying to be Jon, nor do I need to be."

Noah was just 31 years old and had been with "The Daily Show" for four months when he was named Stewart's successor in March 2015. To the uninitiated, and even to longtime fans, Noah might have been a surprising pick to take over for Stewart after his 16 years at the helm. But Neal Brennan, co-creator and co-writer of "Chappelle's Show" and a regular contributor to "The Daily Show," expected to see Noah's name on the shortlist.

"The first time he did the show, it went viral. And that's rare, right?" (That debut segment, "Spot the Africa," has more than 5.7 million views on YouTube.) "He's also an impressive guy. He carries himself like a diplomat. And he's temperamentally capable of doing a show. A lot of that job is like, you have to manage 100 people. ... (You have to be) capable of it beyond just saying the s--- on the teleprompter, because that's the tip of the iceberg," Brennan says.

Born to a black mother and a white father and raised under apartheid in South Africa, Noah was unlike anyone who'd worked at "The Daily Show" before. His speedy ascent seemed to signal that Comedy Central was eager to bring a long-overdue fresh perspective not just to "The Daily Show" but to all of late-night comedy, a genre whose idea of diversity is having a James, a James who goes by Jimmy, and also another James who goes by Jimmy but lives in L.A.

At first, Noah wasn't the only host of color on the network. Larry Wilmore's "The Nightly Show" - a "Daily Show" spinoff that took over the old "Colbert Report" time slot - premiered in January 2015. But Wilmore's show was canceled after only two seasons, officially due to low ratings and tepid social media engagement, though it does not seem incidental that Wilmore's series was reliably home to candid discussions about race, and its replacement was a pop-culture quiz show hosted by a white guy. Also hurting Wilmore was the fact that, nine months after his show premiered, his lead-in was no longer Jon Stewart: As one might expect during a regime change from a beloved host to a relative newcomer, ratings declined when Noah took over. By his 100th episode, he'd lost 37 percent of "The Daily Show's" viewers.

"It wasn't the easiest transition, I'll say that," Brennan says. "Everyone who worked there was a 'Daily Show With Jon Stewart' writer. Getting it to "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah" took some figuring out."

Noah's promotion arrived just a year before Trump was elected - which you might think would have been a no-duh boon for the show, comedy-fodder-wise. But whenever possible, a concerted effort is made to resist the pull of the Trump vortex. "I take into account fatigue," Noah says. "Because I've learned audiences, including myself, just get tired because it feels like nothing has changed, nothing has moved."

Noah sees a one major culprit for everyone's exhaustion: cable news. "I think that's what hurts Americans in many ways," he says. "Cable news runs so many stories into the ground that people get bored of them, even if it's major news stories that could affect their lives."

Fair point, though "The Daily Show" could not exist in anything resembling its current form without cable news, whose work is the object of the show's most pointed satire. So while cable news is maybe (probably) poisoning the civic discourse, the truth is cable news is also what gives the "The Daily Show" form and purpose, something to riff on and snark at. The relationship between the two is less Hatfields vs. McCoys, more Wile E. Coyote vs. the Road Runner.

For Noah, it's been interesting to see that viewers tune into "The Daily Show" expecting to find a recognizable political leaning - much like the cable-news channels it parodies have apparent red or blue agendas. "A lot of people think they know what my point of view in a certain area would be, because they have predetermined what 'The Daily Show' is," Noah says. "Many people don't understand that I don't come from a world with just Democrats and Republicans. ... So I don't think along clearly defined lines in that way."

While that partisan ambiguity may have unsettled or even turned off some longtime "Daily Show" fans, Noah's idiosyncratic way of thinking and talking about stories is what ultimately made this new show pop.

"We (learned to) lean into Trevor's voice a lot more," says writer-producer Zhubin Parang. By "voice" Parang meant Noah's distinctive point of view, but the show also shines because of Noah's literal voice: Anytime Noah does impressions, characters or accents, Brennan says, "the audience loses its mind." It doesn't hurt that this is a talent that sets him apart from Stewart. ("Jon could do, like, the Jersey guy, the Jewish guy," Brennan says. "And I've known Jon for 25 years. I'm not telling tales. Jon would probably agree with me.")

After that initial dip, ratings improved, but Noah is especially popular online, where "The Daily Show" logs 74 million views per month.

"When I started at 'The Daily Show,' I played it safe, and that was because I didn't want to destroy an amazing institution," Noah says. "As I've grown more comfortable, I came to realize the best way to create a unique show was just to be myself - because I, myself, am unique, you know?"

You know who else thinks Trevor Noah is unique? Oprah Winfrey. Asked what makes Noah so well equipped for this role, she says: "I think part of it is being an outsider. Not actually being from this country, and everything that shaped who he is ... allows him to see things with a greater, open mind. He has an ability to not be so subjective, but to have some objectivity to it all."

"It also helps that he's as cute as a golden retriever puppy," she adds, "Every time I look at him, I think: There's that golden pup." (Before hanging up, she returned to this thought: " 'Cute as a golden pup.' Be sure to use that! We know there is nothing on Earth cuter than a golden retriever pup.")

It's not just Noah; the format of the show keeps the host flanked by correspondents, whose respective identities and experiences expand the scope of what "The Daily Show" is able to cover.

"I don't know any other show that has as much of a genuinely diverse cast of people giving their opinions straight to camera," says correspondent Ronny Chieng, who, like Noah, is a one-man manifestation of the show's melting-pot vibe: A Chinese stand-up comic, he was born in Malaysia, grew up in Singapore and New Hampshire, attended college in Australia, and met Noah at a comedy festival in Montreal.

Since Noah took over, "The Daily Show" has hired a dozen new writers. Noah feels particularly suited to running a newly diverse staff. "I think it is maybe because I come from a country where we had to do that," he says. "One minute, we were separated as races. And then the next day was like, 'All right, everyone can mix.' But then, as you mix, you start to understand ... the cultural differences."

Noah cites John Oliver as the biggest reason he agreed to do "The Daily Show" and as the person who helped him become comfortable with the idea of someone from another country commenting on what was happening in America. The outsiderness Noah initially feared would be an obstacle soon revealed itself to be an asset.

During Noah's first week as host, Trump kicked off his presidential campaign with the now-infamous speech about how Mexico "isn't sending their best people" to the United States, but instead is shipping over "drugs," "criminals" and "rapists." "Daily Show" viewers were probably expecting their new host, an immigrant himself, to react in apoplectic horror. But as the clip of Trump's speech ended, Noah beamed: "For me, as an African, there's just something familiar about Trump that makes me feel at home."

The segment, "Trump is an African dictator," spliced a bunch of Trump's xenophobic and bombastic rants with near-identical tirades from the presidents of South Africa, Gambia and Uganda. At the end, Noah declared: "Donald Trump is presidential. He just happens to be running on the wrong continent."

As most comedians (and reporters) struggled to find language that would adequately describe what scanned to many as unprecedented rhetoric from a presidential hopeful, Noah's vantage point gave him the understanding most lacked. "I think, to this day, that is still the best framework to look at Trump through," Parang says.

"I don't think it's any coincidence that (was) his first really good first act," Brennan says. "Seth wasn't going to do that. Kimmel wasn't going to do that."

"Nobody else could do that headline," Flanz says. "Except for Trevor."

- - -

The impeachment trial sputters into nothing. Meanwhile, wildfires blaze across continents, leaving a trail of ash and death in their wake; thousands of migrant children continue to be separated from their parents and housed in cages; and countless Americans are forced to use GoFundMe as their primary medical coverage.

Maybe the biggest challenge of comedy in the Trump era is not that cable news is a relentless infotainment-fest, or that there's a surplus of late-night competitors, or that our new reality is innately absurd. Maybe it's that nothing really feels funny anymore. Sometimes it is hard to imagine things ever feeling funny again.

"We're entertaining in a country that is angrier than it's ever been during the life of political satire," says correspondent Roy Wood Jr. "To make an angry person laugh, you have to come from an extremely specific place. ... And I think that's what Trevor does so well."

"His best quality, as I see it, is his discernment," Oprah says. "He doesn't just see things. He sees the surface, beneath the surface, around the surface, and the wholeness of things. And that is an incredible quality to have: in life, in people, with relationships, in business, (and) it allows him, in my opinion, to create insight through humor."

"That word discernment is big. It's big," she continues. "It's what most people lack, is the ability to see beneath the surface of things. And he's able to do that, to connect a country that is basically enraged and outraged by everything, by using humor to find the common thread for us all."

Whether you think Noah is succeeding at "The Daily Show" probably hinges on your attitude about the worth of that very effort. Is 2020 really about finding the common thread? Or is it about accepting that there is no common thread to find, that we have passed the event horizon for compromise? Brennan described Noah as "the embodiment of reconciliation." For some, that makes Noah sound like the just-right man for the moment; for others, especially those accustomed to seeing late-night hosts "eviscerate" the villains of any given news cycle, it probably has the opposite effect. "I don't think everything's the end of the world," Noah says. "I don't think everything is chaos."

Noah has joked in his standup about daily life under a racist police state, even about the day his mother was shot in the head. (Technically, it's her line that gets the laughs: "Now you're officially the best-looking person in the family," she told him; he replied, through tears, "By default!") He knows from laughing through horror.

"I myself have always used humor to process pain (and) tension in life," Noah says. "So that's what the 'Daily Show' is here for: to inform you, and to just help you remember who you are as a human being, who laughs through some things that may not be funny because you remember what you're trying to get to on the other side."

Big Oil warned Trump team China trade deal was unrealistic

By Jennifer A. Dlouhy, et al.
Big Oil warned Trump team China trade deal was unrealistic
President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. as he boards Marine One on Jan. 30, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Alex Edelman.

Industry leaders privately warned the Trump administration that the U.S. will struggle to produce the oil, gas and other energy products that China has committed to buy in a new trade deal, raising additional questions about one of the president's signature economic achievements.

The "phase one" deal signed by President Donald Trump on Jan. 15 calls for China to purchase an additional $52.4 billion in liquefied natural gas, crude oil, refined products and coal over the next two years. To do that, China would have to import an additional 1 million barrels per day of crude oil, 500,000 barrels per day of refined products and 100 tankers full of liquefied natural gas, the American Petroleum Institute cautioned last month in a closed-door meeting with the Energy Department.

Those amounts would strain shipping infrastructure and production capacity and would require China to purchase more crude oil than the federal government has predicted the U.S. would add in new production by 2021, the oil industry lobbying group said.

"The United States' ability to expand its exports of crude oil and other liquids would likely become a binding constraint," API said in its briefing for the Energy Department. And "even if production is available, logistical challenges remain with marine shipping and the Panama Canal."

The warnings were detailed in briefing materials seen by Bloomberg News and confirmed by two people familiar with the late January meeting who asked not to be identified describing a private discussion. The meeting was requested by the Energy Department as the agency sought to understand how the Chinese purchase commitments would affect the U.S. oil and gas industry after the trade pact was inked, the people said.

The presentation by an industry viewed as one of the biggest beneficiaries of Trump's trade deal with China underscores questions about China's commitment to buy at least $200 billion more in U.S. goods and services over the next two years -- more than double the $187 billion the U.S. exported to the Asian nation in 2017. Doubts have already been raised about the ability of U.S. to rapidly ramp up production of soybeans and other agricultural goods to fulfill the Chinese purchase pledges.

"We appreciated the opportunity last month to brief the DOE about the challenges and opportunities that the phase one agreement presents," API's senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs, Frank Macchiarola, said in an emailed statement. "While market conditions suggest more clarity around particular issues is needed, we commend the administration for gathering information from stakeholders to ensure this agreement is implemented successfully."

Spokespeople for the U.S. Trade Representative and the White House didn't respond to requests for comments.

Oil and gas industry representatives have broadly hailed the trade package, with the API in January proclaiming it "a step in the right direction for U.S. energy." Other oil and gas leaders also have celebrated the Chinese purchase commitments, with Anne Bradbury, chief executive of the American Exploration and Production Council, saying the phase one deal "helps us plan and invest in critical infrastructure to expand access to global markets while supporting U.S. jobs and economic growth."

Nevertheless, analysts have already warned that logistical and contractual constraints could make it hard for China to make good on its purchase commitments. For instance, a major increase in competing pipeline imports from Russia in the coming years will squeeze liquefied natural gas trade in China. And while there are at least five major U.S. facilities already liquefying natural gas for export -- with others planned -- those multibillion-dollar facilities take years to build and are often subject to long-term purchase contracts.

"The government struck a deal that would really strain our existing export infrastructure," said Dan Eberhart, a Republican financier and chief executive of drilling services company Canary. "Frankly, the oil supply is there, but the administration's efforts to increase exports are slightly ahead of the pipeline and export terminals capacity."

API offered a similarly sober assessment to the Energy Department, counseling that any ramp-up in Chinese purchases of U.S. crude oil could displace nearly one third of current exports, bid up prices and strain existing shipping capacity, especially over the next two years.

The briefing occurred before an industrial shutdown in China caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak that sent oil prices tumbling and led analysts to sharply cut forecasts for global demand this year.

The meeting was one of several the Energy Department had with industry representatives ahead of a planned trip to China with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. An Energy Department official said similar discussions were held with a broad range of leaders in coal, LNG and trading in preparation for the trip.

A decline in expected oil demand globally and the coronavirus outbreak may mitigate energy industry concerns while also complicating China's ability to comply with its purchase plans.

A number of senior Trump administration officials have over the past week said that the virus outbreak will at the very least delay China's ability to live up to the terms of the buying spree promised in the trade deal. Even then, China hasn't notified the U.S. that it's unable to meet its commitments, according to a U.S. agriculture department official Wednesday.

Analysts and markets were already skeptical over the deal and the $200 billion in additional purchases of everything from airplanes to crude oil and soybeans that is its centerpiece. Trump has himself said that his own advisers have counseled him that some of the commitments he sought from the Chinese were unrealistic and boasted of his own role in setting higher targets.

At the signing ceremony for the deal last month, Trump recounted how he had overruled his own advisers after they agreed to an additional $20 billion in purchases of farm products.

"So our people agreed to $20 [billion], and I said, 'No, make it $50 billion. What difference does it make? Make it $50 billion," Trump said. "They say, 'Sir, our farmers can't produce that much.' I said, 'I love our farmers. Let them tell me they can't do it.' And I said, 'Tell them to go out and buy a larger tractor. Buy a little more land."'

- - -

Bloomberg's Stephen Cunningham and Jasmine Ng contributed to this report.

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

Bill Barr learns that Trump is a crafty badger

By dana milbank
Bill Barr learns that Trump is a crafty badger

DANA MILBANK COLUMN

(Advance for Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, and thereafter.)

(For Milbank clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By DANA MILBANK

WASHINGTON -- In the early days of the Trump administration, a time when weighty decisions had to be made about war and peace, the president maintained a singular focus -- on badgers.

A new book by Daily Beast journalists Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng reportedly describes President Trump's obsession with the beloved mascot of Reince Priebus's home state of Wisconsin.

"Are they mean to people?" he would ask Priebus, then his chief of staff. "Or are they friendly creatures?" Trump asked Priebus for photos of badgers and to explain how badgers "work." Does it have a "personality," or is it boring? How aggressive is it when threatened?

Markay and Suebsaeng write: "An obviously enthralled president would stare at Priebus as the aide struggled for sufficiently placating answers, all the while trying to gently veer the conversation back to whether we were going to do a troop surge."

Priebus should not have been so dismissive of this line of questioning. Trump might have been offering clues into his way of thinking. Consider some of the traits the 45th president has in common with the wily mammal:

Badgers are "gruff and grumpy," "burly" and "slow and awkward."

The badger is a "voracious eater" and has a distinctive fur pattern on its head.

The badger is "solitary," but the male "may mate with more than one female."

The badger "has lots of different dens and burrows."

Under attack, the badger "hisses, growls, squeals and snarls."

Its ferocious cousin, the honey badger, is an Internet celebrity for having "no regard for any other animal ... It just takes what it wants."

Most intriguing: Badgers "are known for their bad attitudes, but they're willing to work alongside other animals if it benefits them." In fact, the American badger has a transactional relationship with the coyote, in which they hunt together. But the relationship of convenience ends in the winter, when the badger finds its own food underground and "has no need for the fleet-footed coyote," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports.

Is there a better description of Trump? He profits from alliances then leaves his partners in the cold when he no longer needs them.

Winter is coming for Bill Barr.

"I'm not going to be bullied," the attorney general told ABC News Thursday -- after surrendering his lunch money to Trump for the last year. "I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me."

Trump, in a tweet Friday morning, showed his contempt for Barr's bid for independence. Quoting Barr's claim that the president "has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case," Trump added that he has "the legal right to do so ... but I have so far chosen not to!"

It's too late for Barr to rehabilitate his independence now. He misled the public about the findings from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, cleared Trump of obstruction of justice, embraced Trump's claim that the FBI was "spying" on him, worked to discredit the Russia probe, disputed the inspector general's finding that the probe had a proper basis, commissioned another probe in pursuit of his desired outcome, declined to investigate the Ukraine allegations and announced softened sentencing recommendations for Trump pal Roger Stone after Trump demanded it. Now he's investigating the prosecution of another former Trump aide, Michael Flynn.

Now, the moment Barr shows a hint of dissent, the president makes clear he will abuse him the way he abused his predecessor, Jeff Sessions. This coyote will be out in the cold as soon as he ceases to be useful to Trump.

Retired Gen. John Kelly, likewise, is now telling us what a dreadful character Trump is -- after two years of enabling him as Cabinet secretary and White House chief of staff.

This week, as reported by the Atlantic, Kelly praised Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (ousted by Trump from the National Security Council as impeachment retribution) because Vindman declined to follow "an illegal order." Kelly also quarreled with Trump's description of the media as "enemy of the people," Trump's treatment of North Korea, Trump's intervention in the case of a Navy SEAL convicted of posing for photos with a detainee's corpse /and Trump's characterization of immigrants.

Too bad Kelly didn't speak up when it would have done more good -- and when, on his watch, the administration put migrant children in cages.

Now Kelly's out in the cold. "When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn't do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head," Trump tweeted in response to Kelly.

Many other former Trump officials have spoken up too little, too late: John Bolton, Jim Mattis, Rex Tillerson, H.R. McMaster, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, Steve Bannon, Anthony Scaramucci, Omarosa Manigault Newman, Richard Spencer and more.

They all learn, eventually, that they were wrong to think they could work with Trump and it would turn out well. It never does. Invariably, the badger returns to his burrow, leaving his erstwhile partners alone to face the harsh winter.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2020, Washington Post Writers Group

Diversity: the Democrats' strength and their challenge

By e.j. dionne jr.
Diversity: the Democrats' strength and their challenge

E.J. DIONNE COLUMN

(Advance for Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, and thereafter.)

(For Dionne clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

WRITETHRU -- In 11th graf, final sentence, adds missing word so now reads "pro-woman vote"

By E.J. DIONNE JR.

When Sen. Amy Klobuchar broke through in the New Hampshire primary, relegating Sen. Elizabeth Warren to single digits and fourth place, the Massachusetts Democrat could not have been more gracious toward her party rival from Minnesota.

"I … want to congratulate my friend and colleague, Amy Klobuchar," Warren declared, "for showing just how wrong the pundits can be when they count a woman out."

It was part of an eloquent call for party unity in which Warren warned Democrats not to engage in "a long bitter rehash of the same old divides in our party," and spoke with concern about a willingness "to burn down the rest of the party in order to be the last man standing."

A speech that Democrats needed to hear got almost no coverage. So given what gets play (and Warren's longstanding skepticism of financial institutions), it's unsurprising that Warren directed some sharp criticism toward former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday. Warren excoriated Bloomberg for once saying that anti-redlining laws prohibiting discrimination against minority neighborhoods had helped cause the great financial crash of 2008.

"Anyone who thinks that," she said, "should not be the leader of our party."

So much for unity, you might say. Nonetheless, the party should not forget Warren's earlier insistence that in the face of President Trump's abuses of power, "we cannot afford to fall into factions, we can't afford to squander our collective power."

But it is Warren's call to sisterhood that deserves more notice, partly as it relates to another underdiscussed divide in the party. One of the most striking findings of a New Hampshire exit poll suggested that women candidates actually do face electability concerns from voters that male candidates do not.

The Edison Media poll asked voters this: "If the Democratic nominee is a woman, do you think that it would make it easier to beat Trump, harder to beat Trump" or make "No difference."

The poll found that only 9 percent thought that being a woman would make it easier to beat Trump. Nearly four times as many -- 34 percent -- thought being a woman would make it harder, and 55 percent said it would make no difference.

This gender issue appears to have affected outcomes in New Hampshire, particularly in the battle for second place between former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who won the slot, and Klobuchar, who ran third.

The small group that saw a benefit to nominating a woman overwhelmingly favored Klobuchar over Buttigieg, 37 percent to 17 percent, and she also ran ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, in this group. It gave the primary victor just 22 percent. Warren trailed badly with only 6 percent. To the extent there was a pro-woman vote it appears that Klobuchar, not Warren, was its beneficiary.

But in the much larger share that saw a woman as having electoral liabilities, Buttigieg bested Klobuchar 23 percent to 16 percent, with Sanders winning 30 percent.

The race was a virtual tie among those who said gender made no difference: 25 percent for Sanders and 23 percent each for Buttigieg and Klobuchar.

There are limits on using exit polls to measure causality - whether a given answer accounts for why people voted as they did, or whether voters offer an answer that conforms to the choice they made for other reasons.

But it's hard to deny that gender mattered to the New Hampshire outcome, and it will be part of the larger challenge Democrats face this year in avoiding the incapacitating factionalism that Warren counseled against.

Face it, Democrats: You are the diverse party and Republicans are the homogeneous party. Democrats include moderates and the left; Republicans are almost uniformly conservative. Among their elected officials Democrats are the party of racial and gender diversity; Republicans aren't. In the House, 37.9 percent of Democratic members are women, and 36.6 percent are African-American or Latino. The numbers for the GOP: 6.6 percent women, 3.6 percent black or Latino.

Diversity is a source of pride for Democrats. But that pride must be matched by patience among the party's ideological factions and its many different social groups, and by an embrace of the equal dignity of all members. The most important philosophical battles and group conflicts will be fought out among Democrats because Republicans, by the very nature of who they are, stand detached from these struggles.

Fighting exclusion while building electorally-necessary solidarity isn't easy. But for Democrats, there is no other option.

E.J. Dionne is on Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2020, Washington Post Writers Group

Barr has energetically played the role of presidential wingman

By ruth marcus
Barr has energetically played the role of presidential wingman

RUTH MARCUS COLUMN

(Advance for Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, and thereafter.)

(For Marcus clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

nd WRITETHRU -- Swaps in tweaks to3rd and 4th grafs; 1st writethru: In penultimate graf, 3rd sentence, takes out the extra word "already"

By RUTH MARCUS

WASHINGTON -- "I have so far chosen not to!" President Trump tweeted Friday morning, describing his asserted right to interfere with criminal cases, and even to order up criminal prosecutions. (BEG ITAL)So far.(END ITAL) Chilling words. So much for his attorney general's admonition to cut out the tweeting about the Justice Department.

Perhaps no president -- yes, including Richard Nixon -- has been so convinced that he is entitled to weaponize criminal law to punish his political enemies, or to use his power to shield allies from criminal consequences. For years, Trump has lamented that he is limited in doing so by prevailing norms of presidential behavior.

"You know, the saddest thing is that because I'm the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department," Trump said in 2017. "Look at what's happening with the Justice Department. Well, why aren't they going after Hillary Clinton with her emails? . . . I'm very unhappy with it."

Now, the president's unhappiness persists, and the constraints on his behavior have lessened if not vanished, with Trump surrounded by enablers and emboldened by acquittal. According to a report in The Post, the president "has publicly and privately raged in recent months about wanting investigations of those he sees as enemies, including former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, former FBI director James B. Comey and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe."

We are left with what passes for a firewall: Attorney General William Barr. "I'm happy to say that in fact, the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case," Barr assured ABC News' Pierre Thomas on Thursday. "If he were to say, you know, go investigate somebody ... and you sense it's because they're a political opponent, then an attorney general shouldn't carry that out, wouldn't carry that out." Perhaps to drive that point home, Barr's Justice Department announced Friday that it would not pursue charges against McCabe for allegedly lying to investigators.

But do not delude yourself. All is not well.

First, we have a president who is an autocrat, one who does not share the common understanding, expressed by Barr, that the mechanisms of justice should not be used against political opponents. As Trump tweeted, he may as president have "the legal right" to interfere in a criminal case in the sense that nothing in the constitution prohibits him from doing so.

But previous presidents have understood that it is wrong to pervert the criminal justice system -- our own or that of a foreign country -- to their own political ends. As Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessy explain in their new book, "Unmaking the Presidency," Trump "has never made the slightest pretense of respecting his highest prosecutors' autonomy. The most remarkable feature of his behavior toward law enforcement is how overt it is. Where midcentury presidents struck a pose of virtue in public and quietly tolerated or encouraged abuses, Trump openly calls for the abuses."

Second is the scary concept of Barr as firewall. Let's assume that Barr, as he asserted, would not accede to an outright order by Trump to pursue a political opponent. Of course, Trump could fire Barr -- as he did his previous attorney general, as he did the director of the FBI. If past performance is any guide, congressional Republicans are too cowed to respond.

In any event, there are more subtle ways in which the attorney general can bend federal prosecution to presidential desires. One was on display in recent days, as Barr took the extraordinary step of withdrawing the sentencing recommendation of career prosecutors in the case of Trump crony Roger Stone.

Barr insisted that he acted on his own, and that he reached the decision before the president tweeted about the proposed 7-to-9-year sentence as a "horrible and very unfair situation." But Barr was fully aware of the president's fury over Stone's conviction for lying to Congress and witness tampering. The attorney general could channel the president's desires without them having been explicitly communicated to him.

Perhaps, as Barr argued, the prosecutors' recommended too harsh a sentence. But it is not the attorney general's job to flyspeck every sentencing memorandum. There seems little doubt that Barr was reviewing the Stone recommendation precisely because of Stone's association with the president -- which is precisely why he should not have inserted himself into the matter. Nor was it necessary to ensure that justice was done: The sentencing decision is up to the judge, and Barr's intervention served merely to leave the case with no recommendation from prosecutors.

Barr's involvement was no aberration. Since taking office a year ago, the attorney general has energetically inhabited the role of presidential wingman, including pre-spinning the special counsel's report to Trump's benefit. Now comes news that Barr has asked outside prosecutors to review the prosecution of former Trump national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, about whom the president once asked FBI director James Comey, "can you give him a break?"

How convenient for Trump. He doesn't have to order his attorney general to do anything if Barr is going to do Trump's bidding without having to be asked.

Ruth Marcus' email address is ruthmarcus@washpost.com.

(c) 2020, Washington Post Writers Group

Is the nuclear family a curse for America?

By robert j. samuelson
Is the nuclear family a curse for America?

ROBERT J. SAMUELSON COLUMN

(Advance for Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, and thereafter.)

(For Samuelson clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By ROBERT J. SAMUELSON

WASHINGTON -- When the history of our era is written, scholars will search for larger causes to explain its bitterness and contradictions, despite so much wealth. Was it globalization? Populism? Economic inequality? Polarization? Greed? To this list you can now add an unlikely candidate: the nuclear family.

In a powerful essay for The Atlantic -- "The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake" -- New York Times columnist David Brooks argues that "the family structure we've held up as the cultural ideal for the past half-century has been a catastrophe for many."

By "nuclear family," he means a married mother and father and some kids. The alternative arrangement was "the extended family," which included not only Mom, Dad and the children but also close relatives -- cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents -- as well as family friends.

The great defect of the nuclear family, Brooks asserts, is that if there's a crisis -- a death, divorce, job loss, poor school grades -- there's no backup team. Children are most vulnerable to these disruptions and often are left to fend for themselves. There's a downward spiral. "In many sectors of society," Brooks writes, "nuclear families fragmented into single-parent families, [and] single-parent families into chaotic families or no families."

People could increasingly go their own way. The advent of the birth-control pill encouraged people to have sex out of marriage. Women's entrance into the labor market made it easier for them to support themselves. Modern appliances (washing machines, dryers) made housework simpler.

As Brooks sees it, almost everyone loses under this system. The affluent can best cope with it, because they can usually afford what's needed (day care, tutors) to support their children. Otherwise, the picture is bleak.

Children have it worst. Brooks cites an avalanche of statistics. In 1960, about 5% of children were born to unmarried women. Now that's about 40%. In 1960, about 11% of children lived apart from their father; in 2010, the figure was 27%.

But adult men and women also have their share of troubles. There's a vicious circle at work, notes Brooks: "People who grow up in disrupted families have more trouble getting the education they need to have prosperous careers. People who don't have prosperous careers have trouble building stable families. ... The children in those families become more isolated and more traumatized."

Brooks says he wrote the article to stimulate experiments that aim to stabilize family life using the "extended family" -- not the nuclear family -- as the model. The problem may not be as big as Brooks imagines. Estimates by the Census Bureau and others indicate that about 60% of Americans live in the state where they were born. Presumably, many of these people stayed put because they valued nearby family ties.

Whatever the actual figures, there's little doubt that reversing the breakdown of families, and its consequences, is one of the urgent tasks of social policy in the 21st century. We have been struggling unsuccessfully with it since the so-called "Moynihan Report" in 1965. (Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who later became a senator, warned that the breakdown of black marriage rates would have a devastating effect on African Americans' well-being.) The report proved highly controversial, and some branded Moynihan a racist.

But even if we could magically eliminate all considerations of class and race, it's not clear that a workable model would emerge. The conditions needed to broach a debate over family policies strike at the heart of Americans political and cultural conflicts. Brooks put it this way:

"We value privacy and individual freedom too much. Our culture is oddly stuck. We want stability and rootedness, but also mobility, dynamic capitalism, and the liberty to adopt the lifestyle we choose."

Brooks finds both liberals and conservatives unequal to the task of dealing candidly with family breakdown. "Social conservatives insist that we can bring the nuclear family back. But the conditions that made for stable nuclear families in the 1950s are never returning. Conservatives have nothing to say to the kid whose dad has split, whose mom has had three other kids with different dads; 'go live in a nuclear family' is really not relevant advice. … the majority [of households] are something else: single parents, never-married parents, blended families, grandparent-headed families." He's just as tough on progressives. They "still talk like self-expressive individualists of the 1970s: (BEG ITAL)People should have the freedom to pick whatever family form works for them.(END ITAL) … But many of the new family forms do not work well for most people."

The larger issue is how we judge our times. We are constantly deluged with economic studies and statistics, implying that economic outcomes are the only ones that matter. The reality is that any national scorecard of well-being must take a much broader view. How well families do in preparing children for adulthood and how well they transmit important values is a much higher standard for success.

(c) 2020, The Washington Post Writers Group

The administration's Kafkaesque new way to thwart visa applicants

By catherine rampell
The administration's Kafkaesque new way to thwart visa applicants

CATHERINE RAMPELL COLUMN

(FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT RELEASE)

(For Catherine Rampell clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For print use only

By Catherine Rampell

SAN FRANCISCO - After Yolanda was raped, she ran.

She ran from the basement where her attacker had trapped her for three hours. She ran until she found her way to a police station, a place that people such as Yolanda usually avoid at all costs.

Yolanda, a Guatemalan in her 40s, is undocumented. She's been living in the shadows for more than a decade. But Congress created a program intended to encourage immigrants like her to come forward about heinous crimes like this one: the U-visa, for crime victims who assist law enforcement.

Even so, for several months after her assault, she still agonized about whether to apply, which would requiring turning over information not just to local police but to the Trump administration. But lawyers said she had a slam-dunk case.

Then, unexpectedly, the feds rejected her application. Why? Because ... her youngest son doesn't have a middle name.

If that sounds arbitrary and irrelevant, that's probably by design. Over the past few months, the Trump administration has quietly been rolling out a Kafkaesque new processing policy for select categories of visas: If any fields on a form are left blank, it will automatically be rejected. Even if it makes no sense for the applicant to fill out that field.

For example, if "Apt. Number" is left blank because the immigrant lives in a house: rejected. Or if the field for a middle name is left blank because no middle name exists: rejected, too.

It's not clear what problem this new policy was intended to solve. In response to a detailed list of questions about the purpose behind the processing change, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services(USCIS) sent only a vague statement saying applicants "must provide the specific information requested and answer all the questions asked." It's hard not to see this as a preposterous new layer of red tape designed to deny visas to legally eligible applicants such as Yolanda.

The policy change, at first affecting just asylum applicants, was announced without fanfare on the USCIS website sometime in the fall.

"We will not accept your [application] if you leave any fields blank," reads a note you wouldn't know existed unless someone told you where to find it. "You must provide a response to all questions on the form, even if the response is 'none,' 'unknown' or 'n/a.'"

Then, days before the New Year, USCIS added a similar notice for U-visa applications. In both cases the processing changes were effective immediately - even if documents had been mailed in before the policy was announced.

Such was the case for Yolanda. (Yolanda is her middle name, which I am using to protect her privacy.)

Yolanda's lawyer mailed her application as soon as he received all the required paperwork, including a certification from police proving Yolanda's assistance. It went out Dec. 28 and arrived at the USCIS service center on Dec. 30. That's the same day the new policy was announced online, so some faceless bureaucrat decided to reject her.

To be clear, the absence of a son's middle name wasn't the only blank on her application. As many attorneys told me has always been common practice, she also left other fields unfilled if they didn't apply.

For example, she checked the boxes saying each of her sons is "single." A subsequent section says: "If your family member was previously married, list the names of your family member's prior spouses and the dates his or her marriages were terminated." Because no "prior spouses" exist, she didn't enter anything; USCIS cited this, too, among the reasons for rejection.

Yolanda is hardly the only victim of maliciously persnickety bureaucrats. The American Immigration Lawyers Association has collected 140 other examples of allegedly "incomplete" forms: an 8-year-old child who listed "none" for employment history but left the dates of employment field blank. An applicant who entered names of three siblings, but the form has spaces for four.

Immigration attorneys told me that they will start writing "none" or "N/A" in every field, on every form. But even that could cause problems.

"There's going to be just hundreds of people processed under the Trump administration who will legally have the middle name 'N/A,' " said Jessica Farb, an attorney with the Immigration Center for Women and Children, the nonprofit that represents Yolanda.

Besides, many immigrants (including most asylum seekers) are unable to hire attorneys and might not learn about the bizarre no-blanks policy until it's too late.

Some of the time, immigrants can resubmit their applications amended with superfluous "nones" and "N/As." But the resulting delays can lead required documents to expire or cause immigrants to lose their eligibility.

That's what happened to Yolanda's oldest son, whom the U-visa program allowed her to include as part of her application. He turned 21 between the time the application was originally filed (late December) and when her rejection arrived in the mail (last week). He has now aged out of eligibility. Yolanda's attorneys have asked USCIS officials to recognize the original receipt date.

"I ask God that's how they see it," says Yolanda, who is terrified of being separated from her children. "I ask God."

Catherine Rampell's email address is crampell@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter, @crampell.

(c) 2020, Washington Post Writers Group

Our differences aside, Limbaugh's radio show was music to my ears

By ruben navarrette jr.
Our differences aside, Limbaugh's radio show was music to my ears

RUBEN NAVARRETTE COLUMN

(Advance for Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, and thereafter. Web release Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Navarrette clients only)

By RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.

SAN DIEGO -- I have friends on the left, and critics on the right. I also have friends on the right, and critics on the left.

Perhaps everyone should sit down for this column.

I hope I'm at the right meeting. My name is Ruben, and I'm a "dittohead." In fact, I have been addicted to a certain radio talk show for nearly 30 years.

Blame it on my roots. I was born and raised in the conservative farm country of Central California. After going to college in New England, I couldn't wait to get back to the land of pickup trucks, work boots and gun racks.

And, in those parts, there is only one thing on radio worth listening to: "The Rush Limbaugh Show."

So, I'm sad that Limbaugh -- the nation's most listened-to radio personality and a longtime cigar aficionado -- has late-stage lung cancer. And I'm pleased that President Trump recently awarded the host the Presidential Medal of Freedom in honor of an inspiring life, remarkable career and job well done.

It's a long way from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to the U.S. Capitol, where the 69-year-old received the medal from first lady Melania Trump. Growing up the son and grandson of attorneys -- a profession that his brother would enter as well -- Limbaugh resisted joining the family business. At 16, he fell in love with radio when he got his first job at a local station. After graduating from high school, he spent a couple of years in college before dropping out to pursue what started off as a bumpy career behind the microphone. He landed several jobs in cities around the country as a radio disc jockey, and got just as many pink slips. At one point, discouraged with his setbacks, he left radio and went to work in the sales office of the Kansas City Royals. But he found his way back to the mic.

Limbaugh is sharp as nails, wickedly funny, a gifted communicator and a first-rate critical thinker. He informs his listeners, explains the complicated and puts the news in context. He knows -- but doesn't care -- that liberals hate him, the left-wing media doesn't respect him, and the Democratic Party blames him for every election they've lost over the last three decades.

Take it from someone who expresses opinions for a living: You don't have to agree with everything someone says to admire their talent and resilience and respect the success they've had in their chosen field.

I've hosted radio shows in five cities over the last quarter century. The experience gave me a new respect for just how good Limbaugh is at that medium.

Last year, he earned more than $80 million. He has a net worth of more than $500 million.

Since 1991, Limbaugh's show has been part of my morning routine. That year, a high school friend who was in the Navy told me: "There's this guy on the radio, and he says the things that I'm thinking." About the same time, my father told me about this radio host he'd heard who peppered a conversation about politics and pop culture with satire and funny bits. So, one day, I tuned in. And I was hooked.

In 2006, Limbaugh ran across a column of mine that he liked, and he read the whole thing on the air. I got emails for weeks.

I don't agree with much of what comes out of Limbaugh's mouth, especially when it comes to race, Latinos and immigration. He often says the wrong thing, or says the right thing in the wrong way. He oversimplifies and sometimes gets his facts wrong. He is also too wedded to the Republican Party. So when the GOP goes over a cliff, he's right behind it. And although he gets credited with saying out loud what others are thinking, not everything we think should be said out loud. Much less to millions of listeners.

Limbaugh tripped over his tongue again last week when discussing Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who finished first in the Iowa caucuses and second in the New Hampshire primary. To Limbaugh, the former South Bend mayor is just some "gay guy, 37 years old [who] loves kissing his husband on debate stages."

Still, I've spent the last week contemplating what the universe of talk radio would sound like without the voice of the man who created the genre. It's a dark and depressing thought.

Thanks for all the good radio, Rush. How grateful I am to have come along for the ride.

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

(c) 2020, The Washington Post Writers Group

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