The Daily Banter Mailbag: Spying On Angela Merkel, Ted Cruz’s Birther Dad and Smoking Crack With Marion Barry!

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Daily Banter Mailbag, where the staff here at Banter respond to reader questions about politics, the media, and apparently now crack cocaine…. We’re still without Bob Cesca (no doubt sunning himself on a tropical island after getting married), so this week Banter staff writer Virginia Pelley is joining us to ensure maximum entertainment for you all.

The questions:
1)Overall I’m a supporter of President Obama, meaning I think he’s done more good than bad for the country under difficult circumstances. It does feel like he’s had a bad two weeks though. He says he didn’t know about the NSA spying on Angela Merkel and the Obamacare website is a mess. Is he in trouble?
— Celine
Chez: The NSA thing makes him look bad only because it’s put him in the position of having to either admit that he knew or admit that he didn’t. But I still can’t stress enough that the outrage you’re hearing over this from the various countries involved is a bunch of bullshit posturing and nothing more. Everyone spies on everyone and if a European country isn’t intercepting communications from the very highest in the United States it’s only because it can’t. (France admitted as much, saying that it was “jealous” of the U.S.’s surveillance technology.) As for the Obamacare website, it’s an embarrassing glitch but that’s all it is — a glitch. It’s unfortunate the whole thing didn’t run smoothly but Joan Walsh was right when she said recently that the media trying to equate it with the shutdown of the government by the Republicans is fucking ridiculous. As for the big picture, at the moment, no, Obama isn’t in trouble. Right now there’s a negative narrative, but please keep in mind that just a few weeks back he was on top of the world. Narratives can change in an instant these days — it’s the way our media culture works. Who knows what the next news cycle will bring?

Ben: Yeah, it hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for the President, some of it his fault, some of it not. Ultimately, he has to take responsibility for the website nonsense as it really was inexcusable, (and to an extent he has). I genuinely don’t think anyone other than the NSA knew exactly what the NSA was up to, and Obama found out the same way we all did. The revelations are indeed pretty troubling and speak to the serious lack of oversight at the NSA that is in dire need of an overhaul. I think it’ll blow over, mostly because the opposition is so completely fucked after the whole debt ceiling nonsense that Obama could wire tap John Boehner’s hearing aid cell phone and get away with it.

Virginia: Obama’s being criticized whether people think he knew about Merkel or not.But he’s been accused of worse either way so I can’t see this being very interesting to anyone by next week. People will be thinking about turkey and air fare soon and not pesky surveillance scandals. As for the website, I think it’s ridiculous to blame him for how fucked up it is but I also can’t understand how it went live so fucked up. I’ve worked for several websites and have been through many launches and relaunches and nowhere I’ve ever worked did such an embarrassing job.

2) It’s all over the news that Ted Cruz’s father is a birther and thinks Obama should “go back to Kenya.” I’m not surprised by this but is there any possibility at all that it can further isolate Cruz from the Republican establishment?

— Tracy

Ben: Sadly, the Tea Party is becoming the Republican establishment so it doesn’t hurt him all that much. Anyway, WTF? Rafael Cruz was born in Cuba, and his son was born in Canada. Both of them should disqualify themselves from US politics given they weren’t born here. To boot, they come from dangerously socialistic countries making them potential terrorists.
Virginia: Doesn’t the Tea Party love him? It doesn’t seem to matter when candidates have Tea Party support, as much as I would like to dream that it could be harmful. And it seems like Cruz’s camp makes an effort to distance Cruz from his dad’s insane statements about the wicked, Kenya, the year it will take to receive any medical care with the Affordable Care Act instituted, etc., probably enough to satisfy slightly more sane Republicans.

Chez: I’d love to say that this kind of crap can hurt Cruz, but it won’t. It’s going to go over like gangbusters with his constituency because they already believe it so fervently. Cruz has already isolated himself from the establishment, but again, that’s not who he’s trying to appeal to. Cruz’s dad is the quintessential Cruz acolyte — old, angry, and a Jesus freak

3) Who would be more fun to smoke crack with, Rob Ford or Marion Barry?— Chris

Virginia: Barry. His crack video was funnier.

Chez: Didn’t Barry have prostitutes? I can’t remember. I don’t get why any politician would want to smoke crack — that just winds you up. Considering how stressful politics are as it is, why not do heroin? I’ve heard that’s very calming. I’ve heard.

Ben: Definitely Barry. The dude got caught, went to jail, came back to politics and got elected again! He’s got some serious cojones and I bet he’d be a real hoot to get high with. (NB. I am not advocating getting high on crack cocaine…)