Politicon, the annual Comic-Con for political junkies, was at times as rowdy as a town hall meeting fueled by juiced up tea party and Berniecrats addicts, moderated by favorite cable news hosts and pundits whose star-status kept the peace. The July 29-30 confab at the Pasadena Convention Center also featured some brave politicians who faced cheering and jeering crowds and often conveniently spoke in Twitter-ese.
Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, whose Costa Mesa seat is one of seven targeted by Democrats in California in 2018 walked on stage to booes for the “From Russia With Trump” panel with Torrance star Trump Twitter troll Rep. Ted Lieu, Dr. Vince Houghton, Ana Navarro, and Malcolm Nance. “Shame on you!” for not holding town hall meetings, they charged.
Rohrabacher, perhaps thinking of a possible conservative social media meme about liberals shutting down free speech said he appreciated the chance to speak with people “who obviously don’t like me,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “It’s usually fascists who don’t let somebody talk,” he said to a heckler.
But just last week Rohrabacher was formally accused of being way too close to Russia. “Financier Bill Browder has accused Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of violating federal sanctions by using information provided by Russian officials to try to convince Congress to overturn those sanctions,” the Times reported July 27. “Browder filed a complaint with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control this week saying Rohrabacher and his staff member, Paul Behrends, violated the Magnitsky Act by taking information from a sanctioned Russian official and using the information to try to change the act.”
The moderator didn’t ask about that or about Rohrabacher’s reputation as being Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s guy in Congress. Though he did try to temper his image a bit.
“There are some bad guys in Russia and Putin is one of them,” Rohrabacher said, comparing him to the late strong arm Democratic Chicago boss “Mayor Daley and his gang.” He also tried to throw out the once shiny objects of former President Barack Obama and Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, only to be shouted down by a heckler yelling, “Fox News talking points!”
But the biggest scorn came when he questioned the intelligence community’s report about Russian intervention in the 2016 elections and special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s investigation into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials to affect the outcome. “You’ve got to be skeptical and you’ve got to ask for proof before you just accept something,” Rohrabacher said.
Lieu, a former federal prosecutor, was having none of it. “You can believe Trump’s CIA director, Trump’s NSA director, Trump’s director of national intelligence. Or you can believe Dana Rohrabacher,” Lieu said, to rousing applause.
The shocking issue of Trump’s tweet calling for a ban on military service for transgender people was also a hot topic among panelists. Controversial Republican political operative Roger Stone said, “I disagree with that entirely.”
That comment was largely overshadowed by his vehement opposition to Trump on marijuana and his observation that George W. Bush “snorted so much cocaine, he had a personal thank-you note from Pablo Escobar.”
One of the star panels featured liberal comedienne Chelsea Handler interviewing conservative provocateur Tomi Lahren, who was fired by Glenn Beck from TheBlaze, ostensibly for saying she is “pro-choice” on “The View.” At the time, Lahren had 4.3 million followers on Facebook.
One of the biggest chuckles and boo-generators of the event was when Handler asked the pundit if she has health insurance, and Lahren said, “Luckily, I am 24, so I am still on my parents’ plan.” Handler thanked her for her honesty, to which Lahren replied, with no sense of irony, that Obamacare is in a “death spiral.”
About 25 minutes into the 53-minute discussion, Handler asked about Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military.
It went something like this, as NBC News reported:
—-“For me, reinstating the ban on transgenders in the military was a very positive step,” Lahren said, as boos were heard from the crowd, with some even shouted.
She said that she was a libertarian on social issues, but “what I care about is military effectiveness and readiness.” She then cited the medical costs, such as hormone therapy, as well as that for surgical procedures.
But Handler replied, “They are not scheduling it around the time they are deployed. No one is saying, ‘I want time off in the middle of a war because I want my penis.’ No one is doing that. That is unreasonable.”
“I agree with you it is unreasonable, but it is happening,” Lahren responded.
Handler noted that $2.4 million is spent on hormone therapy, but the military is spending $45 million a year on Viagra and Cialis.
“Shouldn’t you be focusing on that?” Handler asked. “These people are volunteering to serve our country and it’s not easy for them to even walk out to door,” she said.
“I am not taking away from their bravery, their courage or whatever,” said Lahren. “When it comes to effectiveness on the battlefield, I don’t believe that it is a place for a social experiment. I don’t believe it is a place for feelings.”
Handler concluded, “I don’t think it is a social experiment, because the trans community, they are not going away. It is only going to get bigger. This is 2017.” —
Another panel of interest featured gay singer and former congressional candidate Clay Aiken spilling the beans about Trump on “Celebrity Apprentice.” The question for the panel: “Donald Trump: Genius or Lunatic?” Out CNN pundit Sally Kohn served as moderator for the panel that included Aiken, conservative actor Robert Davi, CNN commentator Scottie Nell Hughes, and Anthony Atamanuik, who spoofs Trump on Comedy Central’s “The President Show.”
“I am not quite ready to call him a lunatic and I sure as hell am not calling him a genius. He’s a narcissist,” Aiken said, according to Daily Variety.
Aiken talked about going to a Trump rally in Wilkes-Barres, Pa., in an arena he and singer Kelly Clarkson once sold out. “I knew in that moment that is why he was running, because I remember what that is like,” Aiken said. “I remember the energy of the people from that crowd when they are playing that video of you before you come out. It is something you don’t want to give up. Donald Trump ran for that attention. He is continuing to do his rallies for that attention.”
Aiken said Trump is a “wonderful entertainer” who craves attention. He also said that “The Apprentice” he relied on cue cards.
“I always noticed that when he would get to a point on the cue card that he actually understood what was going on, he would repeat it. He’d double down on it. And when I watched him do these speeches at these rallies,” Aiken said, “when he gets to the speech and repeats something, it is because he has gotten to the place in the script where he realizes, ‘Oh. I understand what I am saying.”
Aiken continued: “He took credit for firing people [on the show]. He didn’t know what happened during the day. I said a few times, he had a little TelePromoter in front of him on the table, and he’s running this country in the same way that he ran ‘Apprentice,’ which is producers are kind of telling him what is going on, and he is trying to make it look like he is getting something done.”