Since we released the first edition of this list in early December, the news cycle has taken several hectic turns.
The president was impeached, and responded by issuing “official movement permits” to Santa Claus and his nine reindeer, so they could legally enter the United States (not a joke!). The U.S. embassy in Baghdad was overwhelmed, and we assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, a move Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described as a holiday present to the people of Iran (“We view the American action last night as giving them freedom”).
In the campaign, onetime “momentum” hopeful Julian Castro joined Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Joe Sestak, Mark Sanford (you ask: who?) and others in the candidate glue factory. While Bernie Sanders posted boffo fundraising numbers and Joe Biden continued a stubborn claim on frontrunner status, news stories about primary-season “anxiety,” “fears” and “angst” of Democrats multiplied. Nobody seems to know who is going to win, and insiders even seem torn on whom they want to win.
That anxiety has rippled down to the candidates, who are producing record amounts of bizarre campaign B roll, and we’re chronicling it here. On each week’s episode of Useful Idiots, Katie Halper and I recount the “Most Stoned Moments” of the presidential campaign: the video or scene from the trail that most made you feel like you’ve been getting high all day. We then ask viewers to vote on which was the most stoned of these moments via Twitter polls. We started with ten entries: It’s now up to fifteen, with the order re-arranged. Please note that we are trying hard to prevent this from becoming a Joe Biden tribute page.
Updated January 10th, 2020. Check out this week’s episode, which featured an interview with Nina Turner, to get the full discussion. New entries marked:
- MIKE BLOOMBERG: “GET A DICTIONARY”
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent more than $147 million on ads already and has made great progress: his ads “found their way” onto “whatever screens” New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait’s kids look at. Minecraft instructional video demographic locked up!
Meanwhile, when asked if Bernie Sanders was correct in terming the killing of Soleimani an “assassination,” Bloomberg snapped, “If he was talking about killing the general… this is a guy who had an awful lot of American blood on his hands, I think that’s an outrageous thing to say.” Pressed: but is it the right word? “I don’t know. I mean, get a dictionary.” It usually takes candidates a year to go full Grumpy-Gus. Also, was he reaching for the name Qassem Soleimani when he retreated to the term, “the general”?
When asked if he would call Suleimani's death an assassination (by @alexrego_tweets) @MikeBloomberg said "that's an outrageous thing to say." On the proper way to speak about his death, MB "I don't know, get a dictionary and take your pick." https://t.co/JMOgO4zqVd pic.twitter.com/38IfwjTELP
— Tim Perry (@tperry518) January 3, 2020
- JOE BIDEN CHANGES SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM ALONG VENEZUELA-BOLIVIA “BORDER”
“In Venezuela right now, what are we doing? Being irresponsible,” said Joe Biden, in an interview with the Des Moines Register. “You know what’s happening? Millions of people are crossing the border, destabilizing Bolivia.” The Register interviewers showed admirable game faces in not reacting, or else they weren’t aware Bolivia and Venezuela are separated by the Brazilian land mass.
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) December 28, 2019
- DONALD TRUMP: “TOLEREITED”
The headline in Spin summed it up: “Donald Trump slurs and snorts through speech about Iranian missile strike.” Much was made of the president’s sniffing (58 times, @bubbaprog proclaimed!) and his rambling speech, which included word attempts like tolereited, accompliments, and the Charles Barkleyan turrrist. Hard to say whether the actual speech or the free-ranging pharmaceutical speculations on social media were more bizarre, but Useful Idiots viewers voted this more stoned than Biden’s “Obamcare” speech.
- JOE BIDEN: “NO ONE UNDERSTOOD OBAMACARE”
Vintage, vintage Joe Biden in Washington, Iowa on December 28th. A man in a flannel shirt stood up in Q&A and asked why his father had to change his insurance to a more expensive plan after Obamacare, after Barack Obama promised this would not happen. “Since you supported the plan, were you lying to my Dad?” the man asked.
Biden first mumbled a word-association-type response that sounded like, “Lying dog-faced pony show.” Then he went on a long diatribe about the ins and outs of health care reform, saying ultimately: “Well, because people, there’s two ways people know when something is important,” he continued. “One, when it’s so clear when it’s passed that everybody understands it – and no one did understand Obamacare, including the way it was rolled out.”
- JOE BIDEN’S EYE FILLS WITH BLOOD
“What China’s doing, they’re building coal plants on their… their belt road era,” said frontrunner Joe Biden in a town hall in September, while audience members leaned forward and frowned: what the hell is that? Americans soon learned the term “subconjunctival hemorrhage,” and learned that a former Vice President’s eye can become engorged with blood if he rubs too much or “sneezes, coughs, strains while using the toilet, or otherwise experiences a spike in blood pressure.” Update: former Obama doctor David Scheiner told the Washington Examiner in late December that Biden was “not a healthy guy.”
- KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: “I’M JUST TRYING TO GET SOME RANCH.”
The 2020 race has seen some unusually painful candidate efforts to “seem relatable,” including a ghastly episode involving former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in which he posted text messages with his son Dante, asking him how to come off as cool in a debate (Dante suggested he should “clarify some NBA trade rumors”). Few were more panned, however, than early-exit candidate Kirsten Gillibrand posting a video of herself lifting weights while wearing a specially-printed self-referential t-shirt that read, “I’m just trying to get some ranch.” The shirt referred to a non-memorable episode in which Gillibrand earlier in the campaign had, in a restaurant, approached a woman who was actually trying to get past her to get some salad dressing. “Do you like my new workout shirt/” Gillibrand’s tweet read.
Good to be back in Iowa. Do you like my new workout shirt? pic.twitter.com/0YVX0zZCvj
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) March 20, 2019
- BETO O’ROURKE “CUT OUT SOME OF THIS EAR HAIR THAT YOU GET WHEN YOU GET OLDER”
See above. The Texan-who-almost-but-didn’t-beat-Ted-Cruz was a pioneer in Too Much Information campaigning, sharing visits to the dentist, solo drum sessions, and, most stoned of all, a visit to a barber that included an electric neck massage and commentary about dude’s ear hair. Update: Politico put Beto last in a list of Democratic hopefuls who “lost it best,” saying his presidential campaign “incinerated his future in electoral politics.”
- DONALD TRUMP: “WE DON’T WANT TO BE POLITICALLY CORRECT”
This will be less funny later in the race when someone is pummeled to death under a pile of MAGA hats, but Donald Trump is already reprising his “Did he really just say that shit?” routine from 2016. In Hershey, Pennsylvania, a woman heckled Trump and was politely escorted out by security, prompting Trump to mock the guard: “That particular guy wanted to be so politically correct, oh-oh-oh!” he said, recalling his Serge Kovaleski mime. Then, to a cheering crowd, he said, “We don’t want to be politically correct!” Update: when Fox News had Adam Schiff and James Comey on in mid-December, Trump blasted the station: “Fox is trying sooo hard to be politically correct!”
- ELIZABETH WARREN: “I’M GONNA GET ME A BEER.”
The Massachusetts Senator and almost-frontrunner has pushed the envelope on the relatability-attempt front, slipping out of Harvard-speak and into Okie homilies about home and Mama with regularity. Here she posts a video of herself appearing to “enjoy” a beer-like beverage with her familial sharing unit, who amusingly declines. Update: press focus on Warren’s “relatability” redoubled after a diffidently-received attempt at dancing, coupled with online activity surrounding her revelation that she does not wash her face (she does use Pond’s cream twice a day).
- MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: “CORY IS VERY WELL-SPOKEN.”
The New York Mayor, who spent a staggering $100 million on ads in the first few weeks of his campaign (earning about 5% in polls for his trouble), spoke on CBS about fellow Tri-Stater Cory Booker, who noted there will be twice as many billionaires on stage at the next Democratic debate as minorities. “He’s very well-spoken, has got some good ideas,” Bloomberg said. It wasn’t quite “articulate and bright and clean,” but it was close. Update: Booker said he was “taken aback” by Bloomberg’s comment, which played into “problematic” tropes. Bloomberg apologized.
Oh hell no. This man literally called @CoryBooker “well spoken.” A tired racial trope.
Cory Booker is literally one of the single smartest human beings I’ve met in my entire life. Every time I’m around him, I leave thinking he’s a genius. pic.twitter.com/i2gQjv0clf
— Shaun King (@shaunking) December 6, 2019
- JOE BIDEN: “LEARN HOW TO PROGRAM. FOR GOD’S SAKE!”
In a town hall in Derry, New Hampshire, the ex-Veep scolded the post-NAFTA workforce for not reinventing itself. “Anybody who can go down 3,000 feet in a mine can sure as hell learn to program as well,” he said. “Anybody who can throw coal into a furnace can learn how to program, for God’s sake!” Useful Idiots viewers voted this the most stoned recent episode of the campaign.
But Biden returns to the same point: "Anybody who can throw coal into a furnace can learn how to program, for God's sake!"
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) December 30, 2019
- JOE BIDEN: “WHAT YOU DO HERE IN IOWA”
It might be worth keeping track of how may times Joe Biden misidentifies the state in which he is currently standing. In Keene, New Hampshire, he said, “What’s not to like about Vermont?” Then in Nashua, New Hampshire, while pacing in front of a sign that read BIDEN NEW HAMPSHIRE, he said, “What you do here in Iowa…” On Useful Idiots, we discussed the concept of being “Bidenized,” with John Kerry being one of the first to formally earn the dubious honor. Update: Biden confused Iran and Iraq in January, saying “Iran’s parliament voted to eject all Americans.”
"What you do here in Iowa…"
New Hampshire pic.twitter.com/sKM3xLbUT1
— Nate's Liver – Commentary (@SilERabbit) December 9, 2019
- PETE BUTTIGIEG: “NO”
Asked if he would “stop taking money off billionaires and closed-door fundraisers,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg answers with a curt, “No.” Honestly rules!
Buttigieg: “I’m going to fight the influence of Big money in politics”
— Amir (@AmirAminiMD) December 8, 2019
In a similar episode, when asked why if he would open his fundraisers to the press, he answered, “No.” Asked why, he said there were considerations. Asked if he could list the considerations, he said, “No.” How many other “No” moments are coming (“Mayor Pete, is there any reason I shouldn’t go f— myself?”)? UPDATE: in a surprise, Useful Idiots followers voted “Mayor Pete Says No” as the most stoned moment from November-December.
— phil (@PrettyGoodPhil) December 7, 2019
- CORY BOOKER: “YOU’RE PAW-SOME!”
Addressing a supporter’s dog, named “Hillary,” New Jersey Senator Cory Booker goes into mega-pun mode, spinning an impressive nine dog-themed puns in a 1:14 video message.
— Julia Sherman (@JuliaKSherman) December 9, 2019
- ELIZABETH WARREN: “I AM LIZHOLIO!!!”
Still the clubhouse leader to come out # 1 at the end.
Elizabeth Warren running with arms akimbo in a gesture of religious devotion toward Big Structural Bailey, a giant inflatable replica of her 16-month-old Golden Retriever, meant to be a symbol of her big ideas, while crowds chant “Medicare for All!” (a policy she does not seem to fully support), is easily the most stoned moment of 2020 and will not easily be dislodged from the top spot.
Check out the Useful Idiots YouTube channel for this week’s segment, and follow @mtaibbi and @kthalps to vote on this week’s entries.