Head-scratching claims cap off a wild year in 2019 politics

The holidays are typically a slow period for news, a time when even minor slips, gaffes and questionable remarks by public figures bubble to the top of Twitter feeds and are pounced on by cable news talkers hungry for something new to have an opinion on.

Actually, that happens all year long too. But the last week of 2019 was marked by a bumper crop of comments that might have benefited from a little fine-tuning in a focus group. Here, in no particular order, are a few that provoked more than the usual amount of head scratching.

Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg, President Trump and Joe Biden. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Evan Vucci/AP, Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images, Evan Vucci/AP, Scott Eisen/Getty Images, Getty Images (2).
Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg, President Trump and Joe Biden. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Evan Vucci/AP, Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images, Evan Vucci/AP, Scott Eisen/Getty Images, Getty Images [2])

Giuliani says he’d ‘love to try the case’

On his way into President Trump’s New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago, Rudy Giuliani was asked by a reporter how he would respond if he were asked to testify at the Senate impeachment trial likely to happen this month.

“I would testify. I would do demonstrations. I’d give lectures. I’d give summations,” Giuliani said. “Or, I’d do what I do best: I’d try the case. I’d love to try the case. I don’t know if anybody would have the courage to give me the case, but if you give me the case, I will prosecute it as a racketeering case, which I kind of invented anyway.”

Giuliani’s involvement in the case against Trump — as his lawyer, his unofficial personal representative to Kyiv and a leading popularizer of the theory that Joe Biden and his son were involved in corruption in Ukraine — is so deep and complicated that untangling the conflicts of interest in having him participate in the Senate trial is almost unimaginable.

But even to get to that point, one would have to decipher what, exactly, Giuliani meant. The case he was asked about involves the two articles of impeachment against Trump, which will be prosecuted in the Senate by impeachment managers to be named by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Was Giuliani offering his services as a prosecutor against his own client? Or was he pursuing the fanciful notion of putting Biden — who does not currently hold an office from which he can be removed by impeachment — on trial instead? Or was this just the latest in a series of cryptic pronouncements by Giuliani over the past year that have the effect, possibly intended, of throwing the rest of the country into such confusion that they forget the underlying charges at issue?

Bloomberg says he’d have an ‘open office plan’ in the White House

In a tweet, Mike Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor making a late run for the Democratic presidential nomination, said he would bring the same informal, non-hierarchical organization to the presidency that he pioneered in his business and mandated at City Hall.

“I’ll use the Oval Office for some official functions — never for tweeting — but the rest of the time, I’ll be where a leader should be: with the team.”

At the same time, the Bloomberg campaign announced a move to the former New York Times building in New York’s Times Square, also with an open-plan office. “In sports, the coach or manager is right there with the players, giving directions, drawing on white boards, huddling during timeouts, motivating and inspiring — and picking someone up when they’ve made a mistake,” Bloomberg explained. “Managers in every organization should be performing those same roles. Walls just get in the way, by stifling communication and making collaboration more difficult. Some people like to build walls. I like to tear them down.”

The East Room of the White House, where Bloomberg said he would situate his “team,” is the largest room in the building, used for ceremonial events and gatherings. The idea quickly became a punch line on conservative media and Twitter by commenters pointing out that walls also provide privacy for sensitive discussions of national security. (This was also something Trump neglected to consider when he held an outdoor huddle on the Mar-a-Lago terrace with the visiting prime minister of Japan to discuss a missile test by North Korea, in full view of paying guests and servers, snapping photos with their cellphones.)

Trump refuses to answer the easiest question in the world

Politicians ordinarily love to get questions like, “What is your New Year’s resolution?” But when a reporter tossed that softball at Trump Tuesday, he declined to answer, saying he didn’t want to “jinx” his resolution. Often when Trump doesn’t want to commit himself in public he promises a response “very soon” or “in a couple of weeks,” but all he would say about his intention for 2020 was that “we really have a good resolution, and it’s a resolution for our country.” He went on to boast about the U.S. economy, adding that America “is the talk of the world,” an assertion hard to fact-check but almost certainly true.

Melania Trump was more forthcoming, saying her resolution was for “peace on the world,” an unusual locution — possibly a conflation of “peace on Earth” with “joy to the world” — that resulted in some ribbing on Twitter from commenters who noted that although she has lived in the U.S. since 1996 and claims to speak five languages, her English is sometimes less than colloquial.

Biden says he’d consider choosing a Republican as his running mate

Biden, who is running as a Democrat who can do what most other candidates consider impossible — work across the aisle in Washington — was asked at a town hall in New Hampshire if he would consider choosing someone from the other party to join him on the ticket if he wins the nomination.

“The answer is I would, but I can’t think of one now,” he responded. “There’s some really decent Republicans that are out there still, but here’s the problem right now of the well-known ones: They’ve got to step up.” The answer drew some laughter from the audience, and tsk-tsks from Democrats to Biden’s left, who think the last thing their party needs is more efforts to reach out to Republicans. Biden went on to note that the potential field of vice presidential candidates includes “a lot of qualified women” and “a lot of qualified African-Americans.”


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