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First Drafts, Conversations, Stories in Progress

Question of the Week
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The best reader responses to the latest question we asked in our Politics & Policy Daily newsletter (sign up here).

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Q of the Week: What Would You Ask James Comey?

Andrew Harnik / AP

Former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, as part of the panel’s probe into possible collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian officials. It was the first time the public heard from Comey since Trump abruptly fired him on May 9.

Ahead of the hearing, we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers what they would ask Comey if they were on the Senate committee. We’ve rounded up some of the most pressing questions, and included Comey’s answers where we can.

Several of you were concerned about why former Director Comey didn’t say something about his conversations with President Trump if he was concerned about their appropriateness. Here’s Jane Rupert:

How much, if any, of your concern regarding Donald Trump's contacts with you about your investigation did you share with Attorney General Sessions (before his recusal) and with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein before you were fired? And what were their reactions?

In his opening statement, Comey wrote that he did ask Attorney General Sessions “to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me.” He added that “what had just happened—[Sessions] being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind—was inappropriate and should never happen.”

John Consentino wondered why he didn’t go further:

Mr. Comey, if it’s true, as has been reported, that the president asked you to discontinue the investigation of Michael Flynn, why didn’t you report this to the appropriate congressional committees and the Justice Department immediately?

Andrew Harnik / AP

On Thursday, President Trump decided to pull the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, an international pact that aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. This week, we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers whether they are optimistic about the United States’ ability to address climate change. Here’s what they said.

Betsy Schneier, a Seattle resident, is confident that states like hers can make some progress on their own:

Recently I’ve asked the same question at fundraisers for various candidates:  Do you envision teaming up with other western states to protect values that Washington D.C. seems intent on destroying?  Every candidate, from governor to senator to attorney general, assures me that plans are already in place with neighboring states to form a buttress against the damage this administration has and will continue to cause.

This means that not only all three coastal states, but regions that stretch across the Rockies down to the Mexican border have already forged ties and will continue to make progress.

Vernon Kerr, a California resident, is similarly hopeful:

I was not optimistic until hearing Governor Jerry Brown of California being interviewed on MSNBC Thursday evening.  

As the world’s sixth largest economy, Brown pointed out, California is in a position to set a positive example by forging accords with Canada, Mexico, and China (and perhaps other nations) to move forward in the quest to minimize potential harm to humanity from impending climate change.

No pipe dream from “Governor Moonbeam,” the plan has the potential to actually have the same kind of positive impact on climate change as the “California compliant”car has had on the automotive industry.

Reuters TV

A photo of President Trump, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi placing their hands on a glowing orb went viral this week, drawing comparisons online with comic-book villains and the Palantír from The Lord of the Rings. So we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers to share the most memorable moments from trips taken by past presidents. Here’s what they said:

Several of you pointed to the infamous dinner when President George H. W. Bush vomited on the lap of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, and then fainted. Reader Anna Bucciarelli felt for him: “I remember it so well and felt such empathy with the president. It had to have been the most embarrassing moment of his entire life.”

Don Heupel / AP

The month of May signals the start of college commencement speeches—a tradition featuring many political figures. In 2016, former President Barack Obama, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor all gave popular addresses. This year, Hillary Clinton is scheduled to speak at Wellesley College, and Donald Trump will speak at Liberty University. So, we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers about their favorite commencement addresses by political figures. Here’s what they said:

Judy Share recalled the day in 2007 when her son Matthew graduated from Harvard University and both former President Bill Clinton and Microsoft founder Bill Gates spoke:

It was an extraordinary cloudless late spring day and the ceremony was held outdoors in Harvard Yard. My family and I sat as close to the aisle as we could so that we could see the two Bills walk up to the stage. Bill Clinton was giving the commencement address.

Bill Gates (who spoke as well) was getting his honorary degree, since he had not graduated from Harvard, but had instead gone into business. It was a wonderful day listening to these two men recount their experiences and impart their advice to the college graduates—one as a past U.S. president, and the other as founder of Microsoft.

While he isn’t exactly a political figure, several readers responded that an address from another big name in tech was most memorable: Steve Jobs’s speech at Stanford University. Here’s Jobs’s speech, on how to make the most of life:

In June 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered the commencement address at American University—a speech John Penrose calls “eloquent and timeless on the subject of war and peace.” A key excerpt:

First examine our attitude towards peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner has been a D.C. tradition since 1921, with journalists and administration officials coming together once a year to eat, drink, and roast the current president. President Trump won’t be attending this year’s dinner, which takes place on Saturday, but he did attend in 2011, when then-President Obama made a few jokes at Trump’s expense. This week, we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers to share their favorite moments from past dinners. Here’s what they said:

Miguel Velez remembers Obama “roasting Trump while Seal Team 6 was on its way to Bin Laden.”

Nancy Alpern found it particularly funny when President Obama joked that Michelle has the right to “bare arms” after the first lady was criticized for frequently wearing sleeveless clothing.

Nora Cregan recalls a joke from comedian Cecily Strong in 2015: “Let’s give it up for the Secret Service … the only law enforcement organization in the country that will get in trouble if a black man gets shot.”

For Fran Koenig, and several other readers, the most “stunning and shocking” moment from past dinners was when Stephen Colbert roasted former President George W. Bush in 2006:

Howard Cohen commented that Colbert’s routine seemed to go “over so many heads in the room; especially the mainstream media in attendance who did not quite ‘get it.’” Steve Ross remembers “how pissed the National Press Club was about those remarks,” which “highlighted how close the national press corps had gotten to the seats of power.”

But for Stephen Carter, the best jokes came in 2005, when Laura Bush had a chance to speak:

I was never a fan of George W.—never voted for him. But, Laura did more to humanize him that night than any thing he ever did as president. And, he could laugh at himself. I appreciated him more after that evening.

Saul Loeb / Pool Photo / AP

Since the 1930s, a president’s first 100 days in office have been used to measure the new administration’s progress and potential success—for example, by his 100th day, former President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed 76 bills into law and pushed for new federal jobs programs. President Trump will reach his 100-day mark on April 29. This week, we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers to share their assessments of his early days in office.

Against the standard set by FDR and other presidents, reader Sean described Trump as a “deadbeat,” and Maria Melnick said she could sum up his first 100 days in one word: “Sad!”

Jim Young offered a more thorough examination of the president’s performance, looking at Trump’s early days from several perspectives:

Let’s be clear: The 100-day standard is simply a journalistic attempt to benchmark progress of a presidency. It is a simplistic but reasonable attempt to judge a leader's impact.  On that basis, Trump has to be a failure judged by answers to the question: “Are we as a country better off now than 3-4 months ago?”

From a security perspective, all polls show anxiety and uncertainty at a much higher level largely due to the president's decision making. From an economic perspective, the economy is doing better than public impression would have it, but that is largely due to the rhetoric of the administration that is still in campaign mode. From a political perspective, there is no cooperation at all at the federal level, and almost all institutions are in “lockdown” mode. Lastly, from a cultural perspective, Trump’s scapegoating of so many groups in the country (Muslims, liberals, reporters, Democrats) is divisive, and the very slogan “America First” contradicts many of our national values.

Tom Lucas isn’t surprised by Trump’s performance so far; he thinks it’s a pretty accurate reflection of the Republican’s campaign:

There is no consistent focus, advisers are dropping in and out of favor, and Trump claims everything good that happens (good January job numbers) is a result of his greatness, while things that fail (AHCA) are somebody else’s fault. Overall he is showing terrible leadership attributes. He also seems to have a desperate need for approval, evidenced by the fact that he is already holding campaign events where he can bask in the glow of those that see him as the solution to their problems.

Michael Porcaro, on the other hand, would give Trump an A for effort:

I feel he is doing his very best to carry out his agenda. Congress has to make adjustments to meet his demands. He won due to what he ran on. It's what the majority of working people want. He has more to do.

Ken Smith echoed that assessment: “Considering that the mainstream media is STILL against him and the Dems are doing everything in their power to deter his progress, I’d say he is doing a great uphill job.”

Luis Alvarez / AP

President Trump has reportedly played golf 16 times since taking office—outpacing former President Obama, whose first documented golf outing happened near his 100-day mark. This week, we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers: If you were president, what would be your preferred leisure activity, and why?

Howard Cohen answered:

Swimming. Unlike many other sports that are taxing on the muscles and bones (especially as we age), swimming is a relaxing, contemplative exercise that allows one to think while immersed under water. Stroke by stroke, lap by lap, it engenders a true cleansing of one’s mind of any and all clutter.

Tam McDonald, chose swimming, too:

I would restore the White House pool, although not for the “fiddling and faddling” that JFK made famous.

Swimming is not only a top aerobic exercise but necessitates a stress-busting breathing rhythm that inspires many of its adherents to characterize it as aquatic yoga. It is good not only for the musculature and respiratory systems but for enhanced cognition: clearer thinking, higher creativity, and enhanced capacity for circumspection.

Another reader, Erin Ham, put it this way: “No one can talk to you or call you in a pool.  It would be a fantastic hour of silence with no technology every day.”

Christopher Round is an avid judo practitioner, which he describes as a “wrestling art that specializes in takedowns.” Round would continue to nurture his hobby in the White House:

I've done it most of my life and would probably ask to have mats put down at the White House. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and I would have the same hobby—perhaps a meeting on the mat would take down his tough-guy image. (See what I did there?)

Susan Walsh / AP

After the election, Donald Trump said he would donate his annual presidential salary to charity. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced that the president chose to give away his first-quarter salary of $78,333 to the National Park Service, to be spent on the upkeep of America’s historic battlefields. Spicer said Trump was presented with a number of options before coming to his decision. So this week, we asked Politics & Policy Daily readers to suggest recipients for any future salary donations.

Dozens of readers responded that the president should donate his salary to Planned Parenthood, because of recent threats to the organization’s funding made by congressional Republicans and members of the Trump administration. Many more of you suggested that Trump donate next to the Meals-on-Wheels program, because of his plans to cut it from the budget. From Diane Miles:

Meals on Wheels is a very worthwhile service for homebound elders who can’t leave their homes to shop, don’t have enough money for nutritional meals, or find preparing meals difficult. The Meals on Wheels program nationwide is a lifeline for isolated individuals without support systems, family, and/or ability to prepare meals as they had when they were younger.

Evan Vucci / AP

Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace Obamacare flopped last week, but President Trump is ready to move to the next item on his agenda: tax reform. This week, we asked Politics & Policy Daily readers what they would like to see the Trump administration focus on now, and why. Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful responses.

Andrew Vernon suggested Trump save his political capital:

The president should focus on things that will make America more competitive and the federal bureaucracies more efficient, e.g. tax reform, infrastructure, regulatory overhaul, etc., instead of wasting what little political capital he had (and taxpayer money) on walls, misguided immigration policies, Twitter rants, attacking the media and judiciary …

Will Taylor is hoping Trump can keep things in perspective, and instigate incremental change:

President Trump should continue to work on tax reform with the understanding that the legislation will take time to develop. The president may not be able to accomplish this legislation this year. In the interim, the president should identify smaller pieces of legislation around which he can build some bipartisan support and his credibility.

But Daniel Scherrer sees appointing and cooperating with an independent investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia as a much higher priority:

Either he should clear his name, or spare the nation a drawn-out ordeal by getting out. There are real and growing concerns that the president of the United States is an agent of the Russian secret police … This issue is beyond politics. Nothing is more important than this.

Susan Walsh / AP

Monday marked the beginning of what will probably be Judge Neil Gorsuch’s toughest job interview: his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. This week, we asked Politics & Policy Daily readers what they would ask Gorsuch if they were on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here are some of our favorite questions from readers.

Keli Osborn is curious about how the judge would rule on previous Supreme Court cases:

How would your judicial philosophy of originalism have influenced rulings on Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Griswold v. Connecticut, Bigelow v. Virginia, and Obergefell v. Hodges?

Bill Rogers simply wants to know which Supreme Court justice Gorsuch admires most—and why.

Susan Perkins would ask specifically about the case Shelby County v. Holder: “Do you have any views on the Supreme Court decision that limited the Federal Government’s power to monitor state election laws for their discriminatory impact?”

Catherine Tanaka thinks it’s absolutely crucial to know where Gorsuch stands on climate change:

So many of the problems on Earth stem from the heating up of the world, from lack of water, to the die-offs in the ocean, from which so many people get their food, to coastal flooding, and to famine leading to wars and mass migrations. No other problem needs such a coordinated approach. If we don’t fix the climate, really, what else matters?

President Obama tosses up a basketball presented to him as a gift by UConn Huskies head basketball coach Geno Auriemma during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

This week, in honor of March Madness, we asked Politics & Policy Daily readers: If you had to pick a lawmaker to coach your team and take it to the Final Four, who would you pick—and why?

Eileen is one of several readers who thought of Arizona Senator John McCain:

His military service and his ability to survive as a POW held by the Vietcong are a tribute to his character. Equally impressive is his courage as a Republican to speak out when he sees something is wrong. He did this recently in asking President Trump to show evidence of wiretapping by former President Obama or to stop talking about it.

But after some consideration, Eileen decided she’d rather have Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as her team’s coach:

His energy, enthusiasm, clear thinking, and ability to decipher complex issues and explain them in simple terms is more than impressive. He is a role model for all people, no matter their race, nationality, or religion. He gets my vote for the above reasons. He is my go-to guy. If there is a job to be done, he can be counted on to do it.

For reader Adela, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is the obvious choice:

Can’t you just see her on the court cheering on her players? She’d be a dynamo! And she’d defend her team like a mother tigress. No ref would dare to argue with her if she knew she was right. She would, no doubt, get ejected from many games because she’d be warned, but, nevertheless, she’d persist!

Lynne Sladky / AP

On Wednesday, a Northern Virginia school district shut down for the day after a number of staff members asked for the day off to participate in “A Day Without a Woman,” a protest to highlight the contributions of women to society. A few weeks ago, a number of restaurants and fast-food chains closed down for “A Day Without Immigrants” to spotlight immigrant contributions in the United States.

So this week, we asked Politics & Policy Daily readers to fill in the blank with a group of people that deserves to be commemorated: A Day Without ______. Our first entry comes from Leslie, who recommends holding “A Day Without Daycare” in order to show:

(1) how important daycare services are to productivity
(2) how parents’ need for daycare is critical (so that they can work)
(3) how much families rely on unpaid daycare help from relatives and friends

Similarly, Brooke proposes a “Day Without Caregivers”—of any kind:

Schools would have no after-care and closed daycares would mean many workers would stay home. By doing our own care work, we would all appreciate how much work it is, how lovely it is to be present for each other, and how hard it is to be present for each other.