Was ‘Weird Al’ the real star all along?

After nearly 40 years of parodying celebrities, the accordion-playing nerd has become a legend in his own right.

.. Yankovic was more than a good boy. He skipped second grade, got straight A’s and was Lynwood High’s valedictorian. As an only child, he was loved and sheltered.

.. He was so polite and respectful it almost hid his subversive genius. Yankovic’s parodies poked holes in the bubble of pop pretension. Take his treatment of the Michael Jackson hit “Beat It.”

.. Yankovic’s 1992 spoof of Nirvana would be another creative triumph.

To get permission, Yankovic called Kurt Cobain on the set of “Saturday Night Live,” where Nirvana was set to perform.

.. As his friend Miranda has reminded him, he doesn’t have to get permission from artists. Parody is protected by the First Amendment. But Yankovic has built his reputation on respecting artists’ wishes.

“I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings,” Yankovic says. “I don’t want to be embroiled in any nastiness. That’s not how I live my life. I like everybody to be in on the joke and be happy for my success. I take pains not to burn bridges.”

.. He also doesn’t need a label. Consider how he promoted “Mandatory Fun.” Record companies no longer provide video budgets. So Yankovic partnered with other outlets, including Funny or Die, College Humor and Nerdist. He launched his album by releasing eight videos in eight days.

Trump always lashes out when he’s cornered. He told me so years ago.

The president’s tweets and public remarks will only get wilder as the Russia investigation narrows.

In less than two hours, he managed to criticize his own FBI; peddle a new conspiracy theory; attack James B. Comey, Hillary Clinton and ABC; and draw more attention to the Russia probe that has already implicated several of his aides.
.. As someone who spent hundreds of hours observing Trump so I could write “The Art of the Deal,” I find his increasingly extreme behavior entirely consistent and predictable.
.. For five decades now, Trump’s pattern has been that the more aggrieved and vulnerable he feels, the more intensely he doubles down on the behaviors that have always worked for him in the past.
Sunday’s tweetstorm won’t be the last time the president indulges in self-pity, deceit and deflection. In all likelihood, it will get worse.
.. Trump’s first move in the face of criticism has always been to assume the role of victim. “Unfair” has long been one of his favorite words. He always perceives himself as the victim, so he feels justified in lashing back at his perceived accusers.

.. Here’s how he explained the tactic in “The Art of the Deal”:

“When people treat me badly or unfairly or try to take advantage of me, my attitude, all my life, has been to fight back very hard.”

And this:

“Sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition.”

In the weeks ahead, Trump will also probably double down on lying, even as he falsely accuses others of being dishonest. Consider his remarkable recent suggestion to aides that his remarks on the “Access Hollywood” tape about assaulting women might not be real — even though he has already publicly acknowledged that they were his, and apologized for them. Trump regularly rewrites his narrative, using what Kellyanne Conway has called “alternative facts,” to fit whatever he wants to believe and convey in any given moment. This is classic “gaslighting” — a blend of lying, denial, insistence and intimidation designed to fuel uncertainty and doubt in others about what’s actually true.

In the time I spent with Trump, I concluded that lying became second nature to him long ago, both because he lacked any conscience about being deceptive and because he discovered that he could get away with it. “Truthful hyperbole” is the sanitized term I gave lying in “The Art of the Deal,” with Trump’s blessing. I have never met someone, before or since, who was untruthful so effortlessly.

In Trump’s mind, he is only doing what’s required to win. Here’s the way he describes himself in “The Art of the Deal”: “Despite what people think, I’m not looking to be the bad guy when it isn’t absolutely necessary.”

.. The more threatened Trump feels by troublesome facts, the more preposterous the lies he will tell.

.. To get the outcome he wants, he’s willing to be scorned, parodied and even reviled in ways most of us are not. “I’m the first to admit,” he said in “The Art of the Deal,” “that I am very competitive and that I’ll do nearly anything within legal bounds to win.” He is willing to flatter, cajole and seduce, or bully, threaten and humiliate, depending on which approach he thinks will work best.

..  I watched him switch between these modes countless times during the 18 months I spent around him.

.. If he was getting what he wanted from someone on a call, he’d invariably sign off with, “You’re the greatest, you’re the best.” If he wasn’t getting his way, he was equally comfortable hurling insults and making threats.

.. The more frequent and aggressive Trump’s tweets become, the more threatened and vulnerable he is probably feeling. But he also knows that this approach can work.

.. The other predictable pattern for Trump is his approach to loyalty. He expects it unconditionally — more so when his behaviors prompt backlash — but he provides it only as long as he gets unquestioning adulation in return.

.. One of the most revealing relationships in Trump’s life was with Roy Cohn, best known as the chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy

.. For more than a decade, Cohn fought hard on Trump’s behalf and was fiercely loyal to him. They often spoke multiple times in a day. But when Cohn became ill with AIDS in 1984, Trump dropped him immediately.

..  I can’t remember a single occasion during the time I spent around Trump when he seemed genuinely interested in the welfare of another human being, including any of his three then-young children. And at that time, he was under vastly less stress than he is now. If either Jared Kushner or Donald Trump Jr. become Mueller’s next target, I can’t help wondering what Trump will perceive as his self-interest.

 

Stars Of ‘The President Show’ Present An ‘Off The Rails’ Version Of Trump

Anthony Atamanuik and Peter Grosz’s new Comedy Central series is set up like a late night talk show, hosted by President Trump with Vice President Pence as his sidekick.

.. He’s only active when he’s sparring with an individual. In, like, the debates, he flourished so much I think because it was an opportunity for him to be a wiseass, whereas everyone else felt they had to stick to script in order to, you know, have a chance at getting the nomination. And I think that he knew that he could sort of rally with people, and he could entertain himself by listening to what crazy things he would say.

And as that time moved on, and he got in front of crowds and he got in front of the press, he – you witness a person having a self-dialogue in front of other people, which is why he, in my view, doesn’t really lie. He simply tells himself a story and repeats that story back as the truth. So in his mind, he never really – when he says something with conviction, he has already lied to himself to convince himself of the truth so that he does not see himself as lying.

.. GROSS: You know how you were saying that when he says something, it’s, like, then he repeats it as if he’s having a conversation with himself?

ATAMANUIK: Yes.

GROSS: And talking about Roy Moore, he said, let me just tell you, Roy Moore denies it. That’s all I can say. He denies it. By the way, he totally denies it.

Trump Pushing Big White House Changes as Russia Crisis Grows

Meetings are set for next week as the president returns from his overseas trip

the president slept only two hours in Saudi Arabia the night before his widely anticipated speech on Islam that he spent little time rehearsing.

.. One major change under consideration would see the president’s social media posts vetted by a team of lawyers, who would decide if any needed to be adjusted or curtailed. The idea, said one of Mr. Trump’s advisers, is to create a system so that tweets “don’t go from the president’s mind out to the universe.”

Some of Mr. Trump’s tweets—from hinting that he may have taped conversations with Mr. Comey to suggesting without any evidence that former President Barack Obama wire-tapped Trump Tower—have opened him to criticism and at times confounded his communications team.

Trump aides have long attempted to rein in his tweeting, and some saw any type of legal vetting as difficult to implement. “I would be shocked if he would agree to that,” said Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign aide.

 .. Some senior administration officials said they are considering hiring their own private attorneys.
.. the president may also bring back a trio of former campaign officials: Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, to handle communications and political duties related to the investigation, and David Urban, for a senior White House job.
  • .. Mr. Bossie, the deputy campaign manager, is a long-time political operative who worked for the House oversight committee in the 1990s.
  • Mr. Urban worked as a top Republican Senate aide in the late 1990s during the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings.

.. “The most important thing is Trump listens to them,” one senior administration official said. “And it will free up the rest of the White House to focus on health care, taxes and the things we should be worrying about.”

.. Mr. Lewandowski’s return may prove awkward internally. He was accused of assaulting a reporter at a campaign event—charges were eventually dropped—and Trump family members believed he was peddling negative stories about Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, campaign officials said at the time. He was pushed out at the behest of Mr. Trump’s children.

.. One White House official said that Mr. Spicer, parodied by comedian Melissa McCarthy on “Saturday Night Live,” has taken on an unwanted celebrity status that threatens to undercut his effectiveness as a spokesman. “I wouldn’t wish being parodied on Saturday Night Live on anybody,” the official said.

.. Mr. Bannon’s critics say they suspect him of leaking to the press and regard him as too much of a firebrand to massage the president’s agenda through Washington’s traditional processes. Mr. Kushner’s detractors in the West Wing refer to him as the “young princeling.”

.. questioned the judgment of communications officials, citing as an example the rollout of a tax-plan outline in April that featured Goldman Sachs alumni Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Gary Cohn

.. “The left is automatically going to say the tax plan is tailored to the rich and to Wall Street. And we just gave them an image of the rich and of Wall Street,” one Trump former campaign official said.