February 13, 2020

When the Wisconsinite Reince Priebus was Chief of Staff, Trump would question him about the Wisconsin animal, the badger: "Are they mean to people? Or are they friendly creatures?"

According to "Trump repeatedly asked Reince Priebus if Wisconsin badgers are 'mean to people,' how they 'work,' and what they eat..."  at Business Insider, quoting from a new book, "Sinking in the Swamp: How Trump's Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington."

Which makes me wonder: Can badgers swim in a swamp or do they sink?

The book is written by Daily Beast reporters Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng, and that makes me wonder, does a daily beast sink in a swamp, and what would happen if a badger and a daily beast got in a fight? Would the badger tear the daily beast to shreds or would the daily beast skitter away and scribble scurrilous — squirrelous? — things?

From the book:
The president would also ask if Priebus had any photos of badgers he could show him, and if Priebus could carefully explain to him how badgers 'work' exactly.

He wanted Reince — resident White House badger historian, apparently — to explain to him Wisconsin's obsession with the animal, how the little critters function and behave, what kind of food they like, and how aggressive or deadly they could be when presented with perceived existential threats.

Trump also wanted to know if the badger had a 'personality' or if it was boring. What kind of damage could a badger to do a person with its flashy, sharp claws?

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 in Afghanistan or strip millions of Americans of healthcare coverage.
Placating?! Why would Priebus seek to placate in the middle of a hilarious conversation with the funniest man in the world?! What a missed opportunity! And wasn't Trump essentially talking about Priebus when he talked about badgers and whether they have a personality or are boring. I don't know what words Priebus said, but he answered quite clearly: We badgers are very boring and have no sense of humor or inclination toward building camaraderie and having fun. We won't banter and we don't fight. There's nothing like flashy sharp claws or flashy anything. Just dull dull dull, exactly what you New Yorkers expect.

Thanks a lot, Reince. Thanks for representing Wisconsin so well and then padding away to tattle to the daily beast.

77 comments:

mezzrow said...

Perhaps he was thinking about replacing the Gorilla Channel with the Badger Channel, but they were insufficiently bigly. Need more violence.

JPS said...

"How Trump's Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington."

This is a very interesting subtitle, isn't it? For me it implies that Washington was in fine shape, and doing a fine job, until these minions and misfits got there. It seems, by accident, to affirm the Uniparty view of many Trump supporters.

"or strip millions of Americans of healthcare coverage." Now that's beautifully subtle. "Mr. President, this is an amusing conversation but can we please talk about how we're going to strip millions of Americans of healthcare coverage?

mezzrow said...

I can't get the image of Bucky crawling into the ring with Conor McGregor out of my head. As an Indiana grad, I'd pay to see that.

Wilbur said...

Trump was badgering him about it.

Our friends at The Daily Beast would not print something about the President unless it was demeaning or scurrilous towards him. Just like NBC or the NY Times.

AllenS said...

The Daily Beast needs to be Badgered good and hard.

MadisonMan said...

So it's come to this. Reporting on banter as if it is serious.

"Will these Badger questions never end!" I'm sure Priebus was having this internal dialog. Or maybe not, he just returned the good-natured questions with good-natured answers.

David Begley said...

What about wolverines?

Mr. Forward said...

are they mean to people,' how they 'work,' and what they eat..?"

Klobubadgers are mean to staff, work hard and eat with a comb.

gilbar said...

so, are these quotes? or made up stories?
with "news" these days, it's so hard to tell

BarrySanders20 said...

Reince should have played the Honey Badger video for Trump, explaining that it was the violent African cousin of the Wisconsin badger from a shithole country

Ann Althouse said...

Ask Amy Klobuchar about gophers.

alanc709 said...

A gopher to Klobuchar is probably the intern who gets her the salad comb.

rehajm said...

I first encountered a badger as I was carrying my golf bag alone down the tenth fairway. It was wobbling toward me. All of those same questions ran through my head- simultaneously. Are they mean? was first. I kinda needed answers, too...

Same for skinks and javelinas the first time I encountered those. I’m on the receiving end of them when Yankees and west coasters first encounter an alligator. It a common set of questions Trump is using...

Phil 314 said...

I bet it was one passing conversation now expanded into a meme (or at least trying to create a meme)

wendybar said...

Trump IS the Honey Badger, because he just don't give a shit, and plows right through Democrat Lies!!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r7wHMg5Yjg

Hagar said...

BTW, dachshund is German for badger dog. They are bred to go after the badger in his burrow and kill him.

whitney said...

I literally woke up thinking about badgers. Specifically this video of the badger and the coyote which is adorable it makes you happy that we have cameras everywhere

https://www.ksbw.com/article/more-video-released-of-friendly-coyote-and-badger-seen-in-gilroy-area/30874571#

Quaestor said...

They [dachshunds] are bred to go after the badger in his burrow and kill him.

A common misconception. The dachshund is a rather recent development, breed-wise, dating to the mid-19th century. The name derives from its resemblance to the European badger in that it is long in the torso, shortlegged, and is wont to furiously dig out its quarry, typically small game, from burrows and warrens.

whitney said...

Your 'funniest man in the world' comment made me recall a conversation I had a couple days ago with a never Trumper. She said she's conservative but hates Trump. She called him vile so I asked "why is he vile?". The only thing she could come up with is he cheats on his wives. But she said it repeatedly and emphatically to make him extra vile I guess. It is a shame people can't appreciate him because he is unique. There is no one like him.

I'm reading the biography of Sam Houston right now and and this was written in Anson Jones Diary about Houston

"He is not so strong in what he does himself, as in what his enemies do: it is not his strength, but their weakness - not his wisdom, but their folly"

MN Irish said...

Trump is an interesting conversationalist. These reporters lack any wit, and are only able to describe these conversations in the most banal of terms. This sounds like rather delightful office banter.

Curious George said...

Bucky needs to Buckeye.

Matt Sablan said...

Sounds like when I tease my coworkers.

rhhardin said...

Trump wants connotations, to contruct a zinger.

rhhardin said...

We don't need no stinking badgers.

Matt Sablan said...

Like, there are enough real reasons to dislike Trump's style to not need to pretend you don't understand basic human interactions.

Annie C. said...

Badgers are omnivores; they mainly eat worms, but also insects, small amphibians, mammals, reptiles, and even birds, plus seeds and berries. They can reach three feet in length and weigh about 25 pounds.

The eight species of badgers -- all stout, with short, stubby tails and very sharp claws -- may vary in feeding habits and choice of habitats. For example, the American badger wanders, digging a new burrow every few days; the European badger uses warrens many years old.

The eight species of badgers are; the Eurasian badger (Meles meles), American badger (Taxidea taxus), the honey badger (Mellivora capensis; also called sand badger or ratel), the hog badger (Arctonyx collaris), three species of ferret badger (Melogale), the Indonesian stink badger/Teledu (Mydaus javanensis) and the Palawan or Calamian stink badger (Suillotaxus marchei).

The three subfamilies are; Melinae (the Eurasian badgers), Mellivorinae, (the Ratel, honey or sand badger), and Taxideinae (the American badger). Formerly the Asiatic stink badgers of the genus Mydaus were included in the Melinae, but it is now known that these are Old World relatives of the skunks (Mephitidae family).

Hagar said...

Apparently a very common misconception, Quaestor. Perhaps you should let the AKC know?

Birches said...

This reveals more about the press than Trump.

Quaestor said...

...How Trump's Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington.

If Washington is poisoned and consequently impaired or moribund as one who is poisoned typically is, then we must conclude that the wellbeing of the Capital bears an inverse relationship to the wellbeing of the nation at large. Perhaps a few of those absurdly expensive Continental restaurants have been forced to close along with one or two Hermès or Louis Vuitton outlets in Warrenton and Leesburg because their grossly over-paid clientèle has been deported to Omaha or somewhere less posh and overrun with lawyers and "studies" graduates. Or the ever-inflating price of homes and lodging in the District has plateaued. Who knows what is meant by poisoned Washington? I am quite certain neither Lachlan Markay nor Asawin Suebsaeng has a clue.

Meanwhile flyover country is prospering and the rust belt is distinctly less oxidized than before a few years ago; it is as if a voracious parasite that previously sapped the national vitality has been neutralized... That's how one gets rid of parasites and bloodsuckers, you know, with poison.

Mr. Forward said...

"I first encountered a badger as I was carrying my golf bag alone down the tenth fairway. It was wobbling toward me. All of those same questions ran through my head- simultaneously. Are they mean? was first. I kinda needed answers, too..." Rehajm

That would be a Wisconsin Badger on Korbel Brandy. Don't play golf with him, by the time you get to the green the hole will be much bigger.

Nichevo said...

It's more than mere mild chatty banter. Has no one ever seen the movie scene where the leader (to include tyrant, mob boss, whoever, if it please you), or other main character, diverts a subordinate or counterpart in a speech (monologue or Q&A dialogue) on an apparently irrelevant subject? This type of speech has two roles. First, it may lead to a roundabout lesson through analogy or metaphor, also leveraging the interlocutor's own subject knowledge. Second, it creates tension, confusion, uncertainty, subordination in the recipient, domination by its deliverer.

Think of the GOT dialogue between Cersei and Baelish:

Petyr Baelish:
...Prominent families often forget a simple truth I found.

Cersei Lannister:
And which truth is that?

Petyr Baelish:
Knowledge is power.

[Cersei pauses a moment]

Cersei Lannister:
[to her guards] Cut his throat. [her guards move to do so]

Cersei Lannister:
No, wait. [chuckles] I've changed my mind. Let him go. [her guards do so] Step back three paces. [they obey]. Turn around. [they obey] Close your eyes. [they obey].

Cersei Lannister:
[steps up to Petyr] Power is power.


Quaestor said...

I first encountered a badger as I was carrying my golf bag alone down the tenth fairway.

During daylight, one assumes. North American badgers are important vectors of rabies, easily tying foxes and raccoons in their range. They are also primarily nocturnal. Any badger seen in broad daylight, particularly in the open and away from cover, should be strictly avoided. The likelihood of its being sick and contagious is significant.

Johnathan Birks said...

Regret to inform that from my personal experience, involving no small number of Wisconsin natives, that badgers do tend to be boring, if harmless, creatures, lacking a sense of humor.

Michael K said...

I guess we know now where all those leaks came from in the early days of the Trump administration.

MikeR said...

That excerpt doesn't really make me want to read the book.

Known Unknown said...

This is supposed to make Trump look bad? Trump's curiosity is legendary.

Fernandistein said...

An obviously enthralled president would stare at Priebus as the aide struggled

I thought it was considered unethical to use real, living people as characters in a novel, especially a crappy novel.

One of our dogs, about 40 pounds, caught a badger and by the time I got to the source of the dog-fight sounds, he was straddling it, his legs spread out, and holding it by the neck. I was concerned about separating them without getting bitten, rabies and all, and also without killing the badger but the latter didn't work out.

Amadeus 48 said...

I find that anecdote, stripped of snarky commentary by the hack writers, charmingly endearing.

Good ol' Trump. He is still a kid at heart. I have had a lot those same questions. Trump was probably mulling a riff on badgers for one of his rallies in Wisconsin.

I want to thank the Daily Beast and you, Althouse, for bringing this to my attention. It makes me like Trump even better.

CWJ said...

"...veer the conversation back to whether we were going to do a troop surge in Afghanistan or strip millions of Americans of healthcare coverage."

Funny, I thought this was supposed to be about Trump's administration, not Obama's.

MayBee said...

strip millions of Americans of healthcare coverage.

HAHAHHAHAHHA! Do "reporters" even see how they reveal themselves?

DaveL said...

Quaestor: A common misconception. The dachshund is a rather recent development, breed-wise

Only according to some sources. Most sources agree they were bred to go after game in burrows, including badgers. Several breeds of dogs were used for this purpose, but the dachshund was bred for it, likely in the 1700s. Besides, they don't look anything like badgers. It's no coincidence that they have extremely strong jaws and lots of neck and should musculature. Instead of grabbing a tiger by its tail, they grab a badger (or anything else) by its nose, and don't let go.

I'm shocked no one has brought up the "Badger! Badger! Badger!" (ad infinitum) animation that was a proto-meme ten or fifteen years ago. (How quickly time passes.)

Kevin said...

The current level of Trump disparagement is: Badgering.

Kevin said...

Regret to inform that from my personal experience, involving no small number of Wisconsin natives, that badgers do tend to be boring, if harmless, creatures, lacking a sense of humor.

No wonder "I'm for boring" Althouse can't find a better place to live.

TestTube said...

Submitted for the approval of, and comments by, Professor Althouse and Meade:

It seems like Priebus handed Trump a golden opportunity to increase his popularity in Wisconsin. I myself and now more interested in "How Badgers Work" and it might be quite flattering to a person in Wisconsin that identifies to some extent with badgers.

I could even see a very anti-Trump Democratic Party Wisconsinite thinking more kindly of Trump. "He can't be all bad, he likes badgers!"

I opposed Obama and his politics, but when he made that remark “Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula? I mean, they’re charging a lot of money for this stuff.” I thought "OMG, he gets me. He really gets me!" (I am fond of both Arugula and Whole Foods).

So Professor Althouse and Meade, what do you think? Does Wisconsin identify heavily with the badger? Are they fond of badgers, and proud to think of themselves badger-like? Would Trump's genuine interest in badgers soften their hearts and perhaps even win over a few edge cases? Or would he just be regarded as silly?

I await your input with bated breath, much as I would await the appearance of a badger at evening time.

JAORE said...

"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 in Afghanistan or strip millions of Americans of healthcare coverage."

IMPEACH!

Temujin said...

So that's how Washington became poisonous and filled with misfits! It was so sparkly clean before Trump arrived.

Bob Boyd said...

Trump was probably thinking, if this President thing didn't work out, he might start a new cable channel to compete with the gorilla channel.

BTV

Sebastian said...

"Trump repeatedly asked Reince Priebus if Wisconsin badgers are 'mean to people,' how they 'work,' and what they eat..." at Business Insider, quoting from a new book, "Sinking in the Swamp: How Trump's Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington."

Do progs even listen to themselves?

Here, even in an anecdote based on a leak to make him look bad, Trump apparently gives an object lesson in how you try to connect with people, banter about a subject potentially of mutual interest, glean information that might be of future use, and do it in a spirit of curiosity. And this helps to show that he and his minions "poisoned" Washington?

Bob Boyd said...

The authors repeatedly asked if Trump is 'mean to people,' how that 'works,' and what he eats...

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Char Char Binks said...

If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me,
By the light, by the light, by the light of the moon.
If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me,
By the bright shining light of the moon.
By the light of the moon, by the light of the moon,
By the bright shining light, by the light of the moon.
If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me,
By the bright shining light of the moon.

mockturtle said...

He's so dense you'd think he was a Democrat.

mockturtle said...

And wasn't Trump essentially talking about Priebus when he talked about badgers and whether they have a personality or are boring.

Our hostess gets it.

Mary E. Glynn said...

Target apologizes for selling 'Minnesota Badgers' onesies
---------------

Minnesota.
Wisconsin.
Our (dumb) friends at Target think it's all one state...

https://www.espn.com/college-sports/story/_/id/28681411/target-apologizes-selling-minnesota-badgers-onesies

Deplorable. Trademark attorneys likely went to Yale. I worked the case where they were caught selling "Egyptian" cotton bedding, more than Eqypt certified as produced that year. Whoops!

Mary E. Glynn said...

TUrns out it was another, lesser, non-Egyptian strain...

Did you get your refund? Target is counting on most folks not. Quite the company... Target.

Mary E. Glynn said...


"Color us red,'' Target said in a statement. "As a Minnesota-based company, we know we are home to the Gophers."

Jupiter said...

I voted for Trump, not because I thought he would make a good President, but because I was not sure I and my family would survive a Hillary Clinton administration. I have been pleasantly surprised by how well he has done, although I am disappointed in his inaction on immigration. But this is the first time it has ever occurred to me that I might enjoy talking with him.

Ken B said...

Insightful take by Althouse. I am reminded of her post about Comey's meal with Trump. Trump was probing Comey and Comey failed. Althouse saw that clearly but that is not how it was presented. Here she is surely right too. Trump is bantering/probing Priebus. Priebus missed it, or is pretending to In hindsight.

Anyone remember the snail scene in Spartacus? Anyone think it was really about snails?

Tom T. said...

Poor Priebus, struggling to placate reporters while trying to veer gently back into the good graces of the DC establishment. These people have always hated you, Reince, and now they laugh at you.

Fernandistein said...

target-apologizes-selling-minnesota-badgers-onesies

They should apologize for selling something called "onesies".

narciso said...

'we don't need no stinkin' badgers' I'll let my self out, my high school mascots were the wolverines, so I sympathize,

Roy Jacobsen said...

How Trump's Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington.

That's rich. What's next, claiming that "Trump's Minions" gave politicians a bad reputation?

CJinPA said...

Searching for a denial or clarification from Priebus and not finding one yet.


He just kinda rejoined the administration as a (nonpaid) member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. Seems he would not be going out of his way to embarrass the big guy.

JES said...

I've lived in Wisco most of my life and have never seen a badger except on the front of a sweatshirt. Now I'm interested in the answers to those questions.

Impudent Warwick said...

In college, I took a class called Creative Writing: Satire. This is the kind of juvenile silliness I might have written for the “political satire” assignment. Apparently, it can also put bread on the table for two professional journalists. The mind, it boggles.

Also, this one time, Bush the Elder was amazed by a supermarket scanner.

Brian McKim and/or Traci Skene said...

Pretty sure "veer" is not an active verb but a passive one.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I've had exactly one encounter with a badger. Once, in the wee hours of the morning I was driving on a suburban southern California thoroughfare when what looked like the head of a dust mop ambled across the road. I was stunned. I had no idea there were any badgers in this part of the world, other than Wisconsites, which leads me to ask, can a badger be a snowbird?

Laughing Fox said...

About dachshunds: Years ago, in southern Germany, a host of mine introduced me to his dachshund. It was like a large corgi, covered with thick, bristly fur and a sort of terrier face. My host told me that this was the "original breed" of dachshund--very good around a farm. Looks like the breed got terribly prettified once it got away from the farm.

Laughing Fox said...

About badgers and Wisconsinites (whom I had the privilege of living among for several years): It's true that neither has much of a sense of humor. But both are furiously hard workers.
This was is story I heard (or read) about why the badger is the Wisconsin state animal: In early pioneer days, settlers from Illinois would come up across the border to the area around Mineral POint to get lead for bullets. It just took a few weeks to dig up some ore and melt the metal out using a little smelter made of rocks. The miners would camp for the time, making a shelter by digging out a shallow space and roofing it with canvass or branches with leaves. In short, living like badgers.

Jim at said...

“Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula? I mean, they’re charging a lot of money for this stuff.” I thought "OMG, he gets me. He really gets me!" (I am fond of both Arugula and Whole Foods).

Interesting. It had the precise opposite effect on me.

rehajm said...

What about wolverines?

We are out of badgers. Would you accept a wolverine in its place?

dreams said...

"Thanks a lot, Reince. Thanks for representing Wisconsin so well and then padding away to tattle to the daily beast."

That dirty little badger.

Tom said...

It is amazing to watch a moron who believes they are smart be completely dismantled by a far more intelligent person who they think is dumb.

It never occurred to him that Trump was both reading his personality AND figuring out how to market himself in Wisconsin.

mockturtle said...

My Husky against your Badger.

Bunkypotatohead said...

"...veer the conversation back to whether we were going to do a troop surge in Afghanistan or strip millions of Americans of healthcare coverage."

What sort of conversation could present one with those two choices?

DavidUW said...

Do all these people not understand the concept of "giving you shit"

Nichevo said...

Ken B said...
Insightful take by Althouse. I am reminded of her post about Comey's meal with Trump. Trump was probing Comey and Comey failed. Althouse saw that clearly but that is not how it was presented. Here she is surely right too. Trump is bantering/probing Priebus. Priebus missed it, or is pretending to In hindsight.

Anyone remember the snail scene in Spartacus? Anyone think it was really about snails?


Much better example than my GOT piece. Multiple levels. There's also the baseball dinner piece by Robert De Niro as Al Capone in The Untouchables. The ancient fable of the dictator whacking the tall poppies with his cane. This is an eternal practice. Aaron Sorkin loved loved loved to do this with Martin Sheen and many other characters on The West Wing.

But the overarching point is that you, Reince Priebus, you who will turn out more weasel than badger, are not in charge here, I, President Donald J Trump, I'm in charge here, And we will talk about what I want to talk about, not what you want to talk about.