Archive for the ‘Trump and media’ category

Off Topic | Wayne Barrett, Donald Trump, and the Death of the American Press

February 23, 2017

Wayne Barrett, Donald Trump, and the Death of the American Press, Tablet MagazineLee Smith, February 23, 2017

(Please see also, Off Topic:  A Purblind Press, Unable To Admit Error, Boycotts the President. — DM)

How did we get from ‘Village Voice’ reporters digging up everything there is to know about a flashy New York real estate salesman to not knowing anything about the President of the United States and his ties to Russia?

So when does the other shoe drop? Who’s going to break the story proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the president of the United States is so deeply connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the White House has become a Muscovite colony in all but name?

Time to use some common sense—it’s not going to happen, there is no story. The narrative that Donald Trump is effectively Putin’s prison wife is an information operation orchestrated by Democratic hands, many of whom served in the Obama administration, sectors of the intelligence community, and much of the American press. The purpose of the campaign is to delegitimize Trump’s presidency by continuing to hit on themes drawn from the narrative that Russia “hacked” the election and stole it away from Clinton.

The narrative is contorted because it’s not journalism. It’s a story that could only make sense in a profoundly corrupted public sphere, one in which, for instance, Graydon Carter is celebrated for speaking truth to power with an editor’s letter critical of Trump in a magazine that has no other ontological ground in the universe except to celebrate power.

Oh, sure, there are regular hints that there’s still more to come on Trump and his staff’s ties to Russia—the big one is about to hit. But the steady sound of drip-drip-drip is the telltale sign of a political campaign, where items are leaked bit by bit to paralyze the target. Journalists, on the other hand, have to get their story out there as quickly, and as fully, as possible because they’re always worried the competition is going to beat them to it.

No, if Trump really was in bed with the Russians, the story would already be out there, and I’m pretty sure it would have had a Wayne Barrett byline.

When I worked at the Village Voice in the mid-1990s, my office was right around the corner from Barrett’s and his bullpen of interns, a team that kept the heat on local politicians like Rudy Giuliani, Ed Koch, and others. Barrett was the first journalist who wrote at length about Trump, starting in the mid-1970s. His biography, Trump: The Deals and the Downfall, was published in 1992, and reissued in 2016 as Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention.

When Trump won the nomination and the pace of Trump stories picked up, Barrett became something of an official archivist, with reporters visiting his Brooklyn house to go through his files in the basement. Anyone who wanted to know what Trump’s deal with Russia was, for instance, would want to talk to Barrett because either he or his team of interns, 40 years’ worth, would have it. After all, New York City is the world capital for information on Russians, even better than Israel—because even though the city got a smaller number of post-Cold War immigrants, New York got a higher percentage of mobsters.

Let’s compare the institution of Wayne Barrett, a subset of the institution of journalism, to the so-called Russia dossier, the document placing Trump in a shady underworld governed by Putin and other Russian thugs. The former includes not only Barrett’s body of work over nearly half a century, but that of the hundreds of journalists he trained, and many thousands of sources whose information is, therefore, able to be cross-checked.

The latter, a congeries of preadolescent pornographic fantasy and spy tales, was authored by a British intelligence officer who has gone to ground since the dossier was made public. The dossier started as work made for hire, first paid for by Republican opponents of Trump and then the Clinton camp, and is sourced to Russian “contacts” who are clearly using the document as an opportunity to proliferate an information operation for perhaps various and as yet unknown purposes. The former is journalism. The latter, part oppo research and part intelligence dump, is garbage. Clearly, it is also the new standard in the field, which is why journalists on both sides of the political spectrum are boasting about their willingness to let their bylines be used as bulletin boards for spy services and call it a “scoop.”

Barrett had Trump on a whole variety of issues, but check the records yourself—up until the day of his death, the day before Trump’s inauguration, there’s nothing on Trump and Putin. Does this mean Trump is totally clean? Who knows? But the journalists now clamoring like maniacs about Trump’s ties sure aren’t going to find it. They’re thin-skinned hacks outraged that Trump dared violate the inherent dignity of that most important of American political institutions, the presidential press conference. And as we all know, this is the apex of real journalism, where esteemed members of the press sit side by side with other masters of the craft to see who gets their question televised.

Does Trump really believe the media are “an enemy of the people”? Please. Let’s remember how he rode his wave to fame on the back of the New York Post’s Page Six (and Graydon Carter’s Spy magazine). He still speaks regularly to the head of CNN (aka “Fake News”), Jeff Zucker, who put him on The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice at NBC, where Trump sat atop the Nielsens for 13 years. Trump uses his Twitter feed to boost his replacement Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings because the president still has a credit as executive producer. No, Trump, doesn’t hate the media. Like Howard Stern, he sees himself as the king of all media. What he’s doing here is playing gladiator in front of an audience that wants to see the lions slain.

Maybe Trump deserves the heat with the fake Russia stories. He backed the Obama birth certificate story, and what goes around comes around. But the American public sure doesn’t deserve a press like this.

Trump adviser Steve Bannon calls the media the opposition party, but that’s misleading. Everyone knows that the press typically tilts left, and no one is surprised, for instance, that The New York Times has not endorsed a Republican candidate since 1956. But that’s not what we’re seeing now—rather, the media has become an instrument in a campaign of political warfare. What was once an American political institution and a central part of the public sphere became something more like state-owned media used to advance the ruling party’s agenda and bully the opposition into silence. Russia’s RT network, the emir of Qatar’s Al Jazeera network—indeed, all of the Arab press—and media typically furnished by Third World regimes became the American press’ new paradigm; not journalism, but information operation.

How did this happen? It’s not about a few journalists, many of whom still do honor to the profession, or a few papers or networks. It’s a structural issue. Much of it is because of the wounds the media inflicted on itself, but it was also partly due to something like a natural catastrophe that no one could have predicted, or controlled.

***

I was at the Voice when the meteor hit. Like many papers back then, dailies and weeklies, the Voice made its money on classified advertising. The New York Times, for instance, had three important classifieds sections—employment, automotive, and housing—but if New Yorkers really wanted to find a great apartment, they’d line up at the newsstand on 42nd Street to get a copy of the Voice hot off the press.

And then the internet came along, and it was all there in one place—for free. The press panicked. The Voice’s publisher at the time, David Schneiderman, announced to the staff that the paper was going free. It made no sense, he argued, to keep charging $1 for what consumers could get on the internet for nothing.

Here’s how the staff heard it: Who would want to pay $1 a week to read Nat Hentoff on civil liberties, Robert Christgau on music, Michael Musto on New York nightlife—or Wayne Barrett on the follies of real-estate mogul Donald Trump? That is, who would want to pay $1 a week to feel themselves a part of what the Village Voice had made them feel part of for decades? But at the time, devaluing content was in fashion—which meant, as few saw back then, the profession was digging its own grave.

The American press’ new paradigm: not journalism, but information operation.

In midtown, Tina Brown had taken The New Yorker, a notoriously sleepy rag that entry-level assistants stacked in a corner of their studio apartments to spend a rainy Saturday with a 10,000-word Ved Mehta article, and turned it into a hot book that everyone from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Harvey and Bob Weinstein was talking about. “Buzz” was Tina’s catchword, and she made her writers stars. But something else was happening on the business side that wasn’t good for the content providers.

Before Brown, The New Yorker made its money by selling the magazine to readers who wanted to feel like a part of the world only The New Yorker made available, a cozy world reflected by the modest, but very profitable, number of subscriptions, which hovered around 340,000. Advertising was an afterthought. It may have been the only magazine in history at which the business side held ads because there wasn’t space for them, or because, well, Mr. Shawn might not like them.

Condé Nast owner Si Newhouse, who bought The New Yorker in 1985, and publisher Steve Florio turned the business model on its head when Brown came on in 1992. Forget about making readers pay for content; instead, bill advertisers for access to your readers—charge them for eyeballs. They slashed the subscription price dramatically and readership swelled by many hundreds of thousands. This enabled the sales team to bump up ad rates to levels on par with other Condé Nast glossies, essentially fashion catalogs, that enjoyed much larger readerships, like Vogue, GQ, and Glamour.

The paradox was that The New Yorker lost money because each of the new subscriptions was costly. Paper, printing, and postage are expensive, and even the new ad rates couldn’t cover the costs now that circulation had grown to something like 800,000—not monthly like Vogue, but weekly.

Instead of paying for the cost of high-level reporting and editing, subscribers now cost The New Yorker money. In Brown’s last year at the magazine, The New Yorker lost $10 million—a giant black hole that her successor would endeavor mightily to fill while retaining the magazine’s new subscribers, who had little knowledge of or attachment to the magazine’s prior mix of literary reporting and sophisticated whimsy. If the subscribers didn’t feel interested and flattered, the magazine was sunk.

With a new media model that devalued content, no one had a very clear picture of the problems ahead. The future was further obscured by what seemed to be an astonishing reflorescence of the press, with tiny internet startups throwing lavish parties in Manhattan bistros and paying writers Condé Nast-level fees. The internet was the messiah, everything was great—until the IT bubble burst and media giants like TimeWarner stopped throwing money at a platform they didn’t understand. So now who was going to pay?

For the next decade, the media couldn’t decide which slogan of the moment carried more weight—“content is king” or “information wants to be free.” Sure, you can give away “information,” but someone has to find some way to cover expenses, and yet no one had figured out how to make internet advertising work. Maybe you really could charge for content. Of course you could—The New Yorker had done it for decades.

Even if you bring your own glass to a lemonade stand, there is no 8-year-old entrepreneur who is not going to charge you for his product. Why didn’t media grandees get it? When they saw their ad-based business model collapse, why didn’t they do the logical thing and raise the price on consumers? Sure, they’d lose some readers and have to cut some staff and departments, but they’d have established a fundamental defense of the product, the industry, and the institution itself—news is worth paying for.

As the old Chinese saying has it, the first generation builds the business, the second generation expands it, and the third spends it all on Italian shoes, houses in the Hamptons, and divorces. For the most part, the people inheriting these media properties didn’t know what they were doing. It took The New York Times more than a decade to settle on billing consumers for its product—after giving it away, charging for it, giving it away again, then billing for “premium content,” etc. By then, it was too late. Entire papers went under, and even at places that survived, the costliest enterprises, like foreign bureaus and investigative teams, were cut. An entire generation’s worth of expertise, experience, and journalistic ethics evaporated into thin air.

In January, Bannon told the Times that the press doesn’t “understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.” But the Times had already acknowledged its blunder in a letter to its readers after the election. However, neither Bannon nor the Times seemed to grasp the logistical reasons for the failure—it wasn’t because the paper of record slants left, or because it was too caught up in its own narrative. It’s in large part because it had long ago cut the regional bureaus in the South, the Midwest, etc., that would’ve forced reporters to speak to Americans outside the urban bubble and thereby explain to readers what the world looks like once you wander off the F train.

By the time two planes brought down the World Trade Center towers in September of 2001, everyone in the industry knew the media was in big trouble. The Iraq War partially hid and then later amplified that fact. The media spent millions it didn’t have for coverage it gave away free of a war that the press first supported and then turned against. If journalists prided themselves on their courageous about-faces, to much of their audience it further discredited a press whose main brief is not to advocate for or against, but to report facts.

This is the media environment that Barack Obama walked into—where Post columnist David Ignatius was no more important a media figure than Zach Galifianakis, on whose precious and often funny internet show Between Two Ferns the president marketed the Affordable Care Act. I suspect the Obama White House was a little sad that the press we’d all grown up with was basically dead. As Ben Rhodes, former national security adviser for strategic communications, told The New York Times Magazine, “I’d prefer a sober, reasoned public debate, after which members of Congress reflect and take a vote. But that’s impossible.”

He was right. What was once known as the prestige media became indistinguishable from the other stuff that Facebook gives away. Was it The New York Times or BuzzFeed that published that video about cats terrorized by cucumbers? Or was it Fake News because, in fact, cats aren’t scared of vegetables? It doesn’t matter where it came from, because there is no longer any hierarchy in the press. The media, as Thomas Friedman might say, is flat.

Obama didn’t kill journalism, but he took advantage of it in its weakness, because he knew the press would do anything to feel relevant again. All those 27-year-olds at the Times, the Washington Post and others hired as bloggers—“who literally know nothing,” as Rhodes told the Times Magazine—when the foreign and national bureaus were closed, they didn’t know it wasn’t OK to be a journalist and a political operative at the same time. They thought it made them more valuable, even patriotic, to put themselves in the service of a historic presidency. And they’d replaced for pennies on the dollar all the adults who could have taught them otherwise.

That’s the raw material out of which the Obama administration built its echo chamber, the purpose of which was to drown out the few remaining vestiges of journalism in order to sell the president’s policies. And there really were real journalists still putting in the hours, still doing the work, but the echo chamber, a relentless, frenzied chorus of incoherent and nearly illiterate prose, shouted them down.

Yes, it would have been nice if the American public had a chance to discuss a policy of vital importance to our national security, like the Iran nuclear deal, but the press congratulated itself for silencing those who dissented from Obama’s signature foreign-policy initiative. These weren’t simply critics or opponents of the White House, they weren’t just wrong; no, they were warmongers, beholden to donors and moneyed interests and lobbies, they were dual loyalists.

But it was all OK for the press to humiliate and threaten Obama’s opponents in accordance with the talking points provided by Obama administration officials—they were helping the president prevent another senseless war. That’s for history to decide. What everyone saw at the time was that the press had put itself in the service of executive power. This was no longer simply tilting left, rather, it was turning an American political institution against the American public.

Now with Trump in the White House, commentators on the right are critical of those angry with the press for calling out Trump on the same stuff that Obama got away with. Let’s be above it, they argue. Just because Obama did it doesn’t make it OK for Trump to do it. Fine, obviously, call out Trump—but this isn’t about playing gotcha. It’s about a self-aggrandizing press corps gaslighting the electorate. The public is astonished and appalled that the media has now returned after an eight-year absence to arrogate to itself the role of conscience of the nation.

It’s not working out very well.

Consider the Washington Post, whose new motto is “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” which presumably was OK’d by owner Jeff Bezos, the man who closed virtually every independent bookstore in America. Here’s a recent story about riots in Sweden:

Just two days after President Trump provoked widespread consternation by seeming to imply, incorrectly, that immigrants had perpetrated a recent spate of violence in Sweden, riots broke out in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in the northern suburbs of the country’s capital, Stockholm.

You’ve probably never seen the phrase “seeming to imply” in the lede of a story in a major American newspaper before—a news story. So did Trump imply, or seem to imply? How are readers supposed to parse “incorrectly” if the story is about the reality of riots in a place where Trump “seemingly” “implied” there was violence? So what’s the point—that Trump is a racist? Or that Trump can see the future?

The press at present is incapable of reconstituting itself because it lacks the muscle memory to do so. Look at the poor New Yorker. During the eight years of the Obama administration, it was best known not for reported stories, but for providing a rostrum for a man to address the class that revered him as a Caesar. Now that the magazine is cut off from the power that made it relevant, is it any wonder that when it surveys the post-Obama landscape it looks like Rome is burning—or is that the Reichstag in flames?

The Russia story is evidence that top reporters are are still feeding from the same trough—political operatives, intelligence agencies, etc.—because they don’t know how to do anything else, and their editors don’t dare let the competition get out ahead. Why would the Post, for instance, let the Times carve out a bigger market share of the anti-Trump resistance? And what’s the alternative? Report the story honestly? Don’t publish questionably sourced innuendo as news?

And still, you ask, how could the Russia story be nonsense? All the major media outlets are on it. Better to cover yourself—maybe it’s true, because the press can’t really be this inept and corrupt, so there’s got to be something to it.

I say this not only out of respect for a late colleague, but in the hope that journalism may once again merit the trust of the American public. Wayne Barrett had this file for 40 years, and if neither he nor the reporters he trained got this story, it’s not a story.

Who Rules the United States?

February 17, 2017

Who Rules the United States? Washington Free Beacon, February 17, 2017

(Update re President Trump’s EPA nominee, Scott Pruitt: He was approved by the Senate 52-46. — DM)

President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a news conference, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a news conference, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Donald Trump was elected president last November by winning 306 electoral votes. He pledged to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C., to overturn the system of politics that had left the nation’s capital and major financial and tech centers flourishing but large swaths of the country mired in stagnation and decay. “What truly matters,” he said in his Inaugural Address, “is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.”

Is it? By any historical and constitutional standard, “the people” elected Donald Trump and endorsed his program of nation-state populist reform. Yet over the last few weeks America has been in the throes of an unprecedented revolt. Not of the people against the government—that happened last year—but of the government against the people. What this says about the state of American democracy, and what it portends for the future, is incredibly disturbing.

There is, of course, the case of Michael Flynn. He made a lot of enemies inside the government during his career, suffice it to say. And when he exposed himself as vulnerable those enemies pounced. But consider the means: anonymous and possibly illegal leaks of private conversations. Yes, the conversation in question was with a foreign national. And no one doubts we spy on ambassadors. But we aren’t supposed to spy on Americans without probable cause. And we most certainly are not supposed to disclose the results of our spying in the pages of the Washington Post because it suits a partisan or personal agenda.

Here was a case of current and former national security officials using their position, their sources, and their methods to crush a political enemy. And no one but supporters of the president seems to be disturbed. Why? Because we are meant to believe that the mysterious, elusive, nefarious, and to date unproven connection between Donald Trump and the Kremlin is more important than the norms of intelligence and the decisions of the voters.

But why should we believe that? And who elected these officials to make this judgment for us?

Nor is Flynn the only example of nameless bureaucrats working to undermine and ultimately overturn the results of last year’s election. According to the New York Times, civil servants at the EPA are lobbying Congress to reject Donald Trump’s nominee to run the agency. Is it because Scott Pruitt lacks qualifications? No. Is it because he is ethically compromised? Sorry. The reason for the opposition is that Pruitt is a critic of the way the EPA was run during the presidency of Barack Obama. He has a policy difference with the men and women who are soon to be his employees. Up until, oh, this month, the normal course of action was for civil servants to follow the direction of the political appointees who serve as proxies for the elected president.

How quaint. These days an architect of the overreaching and antidemocratic Waters of the U.S. regulation worries that her work will be overturned so she undertakes extraordinary means to defeat her potential boss. But a change in policy is a risk of democratic politics. Nowhere does it say in the Constitution that the decisions of government employees are to be unquestioned and preserved forever. Yet that is precisely the implication of this unprecedented protest. “I can’t think of any other time when people in the bureaucracy have done this,” a professor of government tells the paper. That sentence does not leave me feeling reassured.

Opposition to this president takes many forms. Senate Democrats have slowed confirmations to the most sluggish pace since George Washington. Much of the New York and Beltway media does really function as a sort of opposition party, to the degree that reporters celebrated the sacking of Flynn as a partisan victory for journalism. Discontent manifests itself in direct actions such as the Women’s March.

But here’s the difference. Legislative roadblocks, adversarial journalists, and public marches are typical of a constitutional democracy. They are spelled out in our founding documents: the Senate and its rules, and the rights to speech, a free press, and assembly. Where in those documents is it written that regulators have the right not to be questioned, opposed, overturned, or indeed fired, that intelligence analysts can just call up David Ignatius and spill the beans whenever they feel like it?

The last few weeks have confirmed that there are two systems of government in the United States. The first is the system of government outlined in the U.S. Constitution—its checks, its balances, its dispersion of power, its protection of individual rights. Donald Trump was elected to serve four years as the chief executive of this system. Whether you like it or not.

The second system is comprised of those elements not expressly addressed by the Founders. This is the permanent government, the so-called administrative state of bureaucracies, agencies, quasi-public organizations, and regulatory bodies and commissions, of rule-writers and the byzantine network of administrative law courts. This is the government of unelected judges with lifetime appointments who, far from comprising the “least dangerous branch,” now presume to think they know more about America’s national security interests than the man elected as commander in chief.

For some time, especially during Democratic presidencies, the second system of government was able to live with the first one. But that time has ended. The two systems are now in competition. And the contest is all the more vicious and frightening because more than offices are at stake. This fight is not about policy. It is about wealth, status, the privileges of an exclusive class.

“In our time, as in [Andrew] Jackson’s, the ruling classes claim a monopoly not just on the economy and society but also on the legitimate authority to regulate and restrain it, and even on the language in which such matters are discussed,” writes Christopher Caldwell in a brilliant essay in the Winter 2016/17 Claremont Review of Books.

Elites have full-spectrum dominance of a whole semiotic system. What has just happened in American politics is outside the system of meanings elites usually rely upon. Mike Pence’s neighbors on Tennyson street not only cannot accept their election loss; they cannot fathom it. They are reaching for their old prerogatives in much the way that recent amputees are said to feel an urge to scratch itches on limbs that are no longer there. Their instincts tell them to disbelieve what they rationally know. Their arguments have focused not on the new administration’s policies or its competence but on its very legitimacy.

Donald Trump did not cause the divergence between government of, by, and for the people and government, of, by, and for the residents of Cleveland Park and Arlington and Montgomery and Fairfax counties. But he did exacerbate it. He forced the winners of the global economy and the members of the D.C. establishment to reckon with the fact that they are resented, envied, opposed, and despised by about half the country. But this recognition did not humble the entrenched incumbents of the administrative state. It radicalized them to the point where they are readily accepting, even cheering on, the existence of a “deep state” beyond the control of the people and elected officials.

Who rules the United States? The simple and terrible answer is we do not know. But we are about to find out.

The Russian Conspiracy Theory Boils Over

February 17, 2017

The Russian Conspiracy Theory Boils Over, Front Page MagazineMatthew Vadum, February 17, 2017

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The so-called scandal involving former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn is 9/11, Pearl Harbor, Iran-Contra, Watergate, proof of presidential fascism, a cynical money-making scheme, and a pro-Russian spy thriller all rolled into one, according to the increasingly deranged rants of howling left-wingers and their truth-adverse confederates in the mainstream media.

Despite this relentless barrage of fake news and smears, President Donald Trump pushed back against the orchestrated campaign against him yesterday at what is sure to go down in history as The Best Presidential Press Conference of All Time as he gave the mainstream media the beat-down it deserves. (See transcript.)

“To give you an idea how Trump’s press conference went, afterwards, the press corps demanded a safe space,” Ann Coulter tweeted of the 77-minute long White House event, Trump’s first solo presser as president. “I wish this press conference could go on all day.”

“The public doesn’t believe you people anymore,” a ferocious, animated Trump told the assembled press corps. “Maybe I had something to do with that. I don’t know. But they don’t believe you.”

“This whole Russia scam that you guys” are pushing on people is “so you don’t talk about the real subject which is illegal leaks.”

“The public sees it,” he said. “They see it. They see it’s not fair. You take a look at some of your shows and you see the bias and the hatred. And the public is smart. They understand it.”

“I didn’t do anything for Russia,” he said. “I have done nothing for Russia. Hillary Clinton gave them 20 percent of our uranium. Hillary Clinton did a reset, remember with the stupid plastic button that made us look like a bunch of jerks.”

A mewling Chuck Todd of NBC was offended by the president’s conduct at the press conference and tweeted, “This [is] not a laughing matter. I’m sorry, delegitimizing the press is un-American[.]”

Perhaps he shouldn’t have signed on to the effort to delegitimize President Trump.

Todd, of course, is one the members of the media out to get Trump.

He recently said the invented Flynn-Russia crisis is “arguably the biggest presidential scandal involving a foreign government since Iran-Contra.”

Disgraced former anchorman Dan Rather, the poster child for journalistic malfeasance who humiliated himself a decade ago with his proven lies about George W. Bush’s military service record, couldn’t resist hopping on the bandwagon in order to create the illusion he is relevant.

He gravely pontificated that “Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now. It was the closest we came to a debilitating Constitutional crisis, until maybe now.”

This manufactured mass hysteria directed against Trump, a democratically elected president, in order to drive him from office continues. It feeds on itself. It infects. It multiplies. It smothers.

This un-American mobocracy threatens to snuff out American democracy itself if not contained.

Calls for President Trump’s impeachment, removal from office by the Senate or by military coup, and assassination are growing on the Left as it comes to grips with the fact that the Chief Executive is deadly serious about protecting America and rolling back President Obama’s poisonous legacy.

No claim or statement is too crazy, lawless, undemocratic, or barbaric for the Left as it desperately tries to keep the borders open to Muslim terrorists, Americans groaning under the chains of Obamacare, businesses buried in red tape, and the welfare state ballooning.

Exhibit “A” from the magical land of fairy dust and unicorns is communist mockumentary director Michael Moore.

In the complete absence of evidence, Moore called Trump a “Russian traitor” and said he should vacate the White House. “We can do this the easy way (you resign), or the hard way (impeachment).” He also called for Trump to be arrested.

Todd, Rather, and Moore are far from alone.

On Fox News Channel, Sean Hannity held up an interview CNN’s Wolf Blitzer did with Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) as an example of the media’s “abusively biased coverage, this false narrative.”

“If members of the administration are essentially conspiring with Russia either through the campaign earlier or now in the administration itself, I mean, look, Wolf, that’s the definition of treason,” Moulton said. “This is a very, very serious affair.”

From his perch at a glossy, content-free fashion magazine, MSNBC reject Keith Olbermann huffed and puffed. “I call for the immediate indictment of Michael Thomas Flynn on charges of and his immediate arrest on suspicion of violation of the Logan Act,” he said invoking a long-forgotten statute from 1799 under which no one has ever been convicted. Trump should be named as Flynn’s “unindicted co-conspirator,” he added.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) conspiracy-theorized that Trump is using the Flynn saga to privatize intelligence-gathering and help his friends on Wall Street make money off it. Trump plans to ask Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, to conduct “a broad review of American intelligence agencies,” the New York Times has reported.

“Now what he’s doing is naming another Wall Streeter to go in like a corporate takeover of the intelligence community, clearly with the intent of creating a chilling effect upon these intelligence professionals, who are trying to help America to understand how our security may have been compromised in our relationship with Russia,” Markey said.

Riot-cheerleading Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who claims the Reagan administration flooded the nation’s inner cities with crack cocaine, was overjoyed at Flynn’s ouster, describing him as “a liar and someone who cannot be trusted.”

“I’ve always believed that there has been collusion between the Trump outfit here, and Russia and the Kremlin. So I believe this is the tip of the iceberg … the strategy and the plot, to defend Russia and to work with Russia, is part of who Trump and his organization is,” Waters said.

New York Times columnist and hyperbole junkie Thomas Friedman accused Flynn and Trump of participating in some weird, ill-defined international conspiracy. “After the Russians did not respond harshly to the eviction of their spies and diplomats, Trump actually tweeted out some positive encouragement of this. Did the two of them cook this up all along?”

“And it gets … to two other issues,” Friedman continued. “The first is, we have never taken seriously from the very beginning Russia hacked our election. That was a 9/11-scale event. They attacked the core of our very democracy. That was a Pearl Harbor-scale event.”

Radical kook Chauncey DeVega, who calls Trump a “fascist authoritarian,” hyperventilated at Salon that the president is “a traitor to the United States” and so are all who back him.

Trump’s “voters and other supporters who do not denounce him are also traitors, and any Republican officials who continue to back Trump are traitors as well,” he wrote, as visions of sending patriotic Americans to die in forced labor camps danced in his head.

PJMedia’s Michael Walsh calls what’s happening in the country “a rolling coup attempt” and he’s right.

Make no mistake about what’s happening here: this is a rolling coup attempt, organized by elements of the intelligence community, particularly CIA and NSA, abetted by Obama-era holdovers in the understaffed Justice Department (Sally Yates, take a bow) and the lickspittles of the leftist media, all of whom have signed on with the “Resistance” in order to overturn the results of the November election.

This escalating offensive against Trump kicked up a few notches after Flynn, an arch foe of Islamofascism, was forced out of his critically important advisory role Monday night by what is shaping up to be an East German-style Ben Rhodes-centered deep state cabal.

Flynn, a retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Army, fell on his sword reportedly for allegedly making contact with a Russian envoy. The White House claims Flynn resigned after admitting he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

It’s not as if we know what actually happened with Flynn and the Russian or Russians at this point, or if there was any contact at all. News reports don’t quote any on-the-record sources.

And despite the lunatic ravings of NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Bill Kristol, David Frum, Sally Kohn, Joan Walsh, Hollywood celebrities, and many others, there is no credible evidence whatsoever that Trump had anything to do with the hacking of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee or that Trump colluded with Russia in whatever may or may not have transpired.

Without proof all of this screaming about Flynn and Trump and their supposedly nefarious connections to Vladimir Putin is just noise.

It could be (and likely is) completely made up.

Fiction is, after all, what Ben Rhodes, now identified as a major player in the plot against the president, specialized in when he worked in the Obama White House. Rhodes bragged to the New York Times about duping Americans by creating a media “echo chamber” to promote the botched, unenforceable nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran that will actually end up helping the mad mullahs who want to kill us all get the bomb. Rhodes became a misinformation-manufacturing servant of a hostile power while betraying his fellow Americans to help an Islam-loving president cozy up to the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism.

But as we keep learning more and more about Rhodes and Obama’s post-presidential sabotage apparatus, there was a small victory for common sense as the FBI announced it sees no reason to do anything about the Flynn case because there’s nothing there.

The FBI is still investigating the Russian saga but won’t pursue charges against Flynn “barring new information that changes what they know,” CNN reported last night. Although Flynn stumbled at times during FBI interviews, investigators believe Flynn was “cooperative and provided truthful answers.”

And that can’t be bad.

RIGHT ANGLE: Who Watches the Watchdogs?

February 16, 2017

RIGHT ANGLE: Who Watches the Watchdogs? Bill Whittle Channel via YouTube, February 17, 2017

Not Satire? | Liberals in Global Outrage That Professional Attire Is Expected at the White House

February 4, 2017

Liberals in Global Outrage That Professional Attire Is Expected at the White House, Washington Free Beacon, February 4, 2017

(Either this is satire or the world is even crazier than I had thought. — DM)

US President Donald Trump walks toward Marine One as he departs the White House on February 3, 2017. Photo by Olivier Douliery/Abaca(Sipa via AP Images)

US President Donald Trump walks toward Marine One as he departs the White House on February 3, 2017. Photo by Olivier Douliery/Abaca(Sipa via AP Images)

“[I]n just two weeks he has already set back women’s rights dramatically,” the magazine wrote. “He has restricted women’s reproductive rights, cut funding to international organisations who promote, provide and advise on abortions, and just yesterday it was revealed that he’s planning an executive order to declare pre-marital sex, same-sex marriage and abortion to be wrong.”

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Liberals are outraged across the globe because employees are expected to dress professionally in the White House.

Donald Trump has “angered feminists all over again,” this time for comments he did not make. The outrage originated from an Axios report Thursday that quoted an unnamed source who claimed to have worked for the Trump campaign who said, “Trump likes the women who work for him ‘to dress like women.'”

“Even if you’re in jeans, you need to look neat and orderly,” the source added. Men also should be “sharply dressed.”

Dozens of outlets from Australia to Ireland celebrated women who took to Twitter to express their displeasure with Trump over the anonymous comment that women can wear jeans to work. Users began using the hash tag #DressLikeAWoman to show that many women wear uniforms at their jobs, as do fictional characters.

“Trump prefers female employees to ‘dress like women’, because of course he does,” wrote the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Irish Examiner said the “internet’s response” to the report was “gloriously badass.” The Indian Express and Refinery 29 noted the “amazing Twitter responses.” The Huffington Post found 21 women who tweeted about the comments.

BBC News, TIME, the Telegraph, the Guardian, and Yahoo! had write ups, as well.

The UK edition of Marie Claire magazine used the occasion to incorrectly report that President Trump will “declare pre-marital sex” “wrong” via an executive order.

“[I]n just two weeks he has already set back women’s rights dramatically,” the magazine wrote. “He has restricted women’s reproductive rights, cut funding to international organisations who promote, provide and advise on abortions, and just yesterday it was revealed that he’s planning an executive order to declare pre-marital sex, same-sex marriage and abortion to be wrong.”

The magazine said the comment on women’s clothing, which they wrongly attributed to Trump directly, made Marie Claire “disheartened,” because it had the effect of “cementing a general feeling that a Trump presidency is setting us back by about 50 years.”

The Axios report was unclear on the dress attire for men at the White House. The report suggested that Trump demands his male staffers wear Trump Ties, or at least Armani.

“If it’s not a Trump tie, you can get away with Brooks Brothers,” the unnamed source said. “But I’d suggest Armani.”

The dictate must not be too strictly enforced. “Regarding Trump’s rakish policy adviser Stephen Miller, the source adds: ‘I’ve always been surprised about how Stephen Miller survives with those thin ties,'” the report says. Counselor to the president Steve Bannon often forgoes a tie.

Trump is playing with the press

January 26, 2017

Trump is playing with the press, USA Today, Glenn Harlan Reynolds, January 26, 2017

He’s gaslighting them and they fall for it every time.

Why are the relations between Donald Trump and the press so bad? There are two reasons. One is that Trump is a Republican, and the press consists overwhelmingly of Democrats. But the other reason is that Trump likes it this way, because when the press is constantly attacking him over trivialities, it strengthens his position and weakens the press. Trump’s “outrageous” statements and tweets aren’t the product of impulsiveness, but part of a carefully maintained strategy that the press is too impulsive to resist.

The first thing to understand is that one of the changes going on with Trump generally is the renegotiation of various post-World War II institutional arrangements. One of those is the institutional arrangement involving the press and the White House. For decades, the press got special status because it was seen as both powerful and institutionally responsible. (And, of course, allied with the Democrats, who were mostly in charge of setting up those postwar institutional arrangements). Press quarters inside the White House and daily press briefings made it easy for everyone to get together on the story of the day.

Now those things have changed. If the press were powerful, it would have beaten Trump. If it were responsible, it wouldn’t be running away with fake news whenever it sees a chance to run something damaging to Trump. And, of course, there’s no alliance between Trump and the media, as there was with Obama.

So things will change. The press’s “insider” status — which it cherishes — is going to fade, with Trump’s press people even talking about moving them out of the White House entirely, and ignoring their existing pecking order in press conferences. (This is producing waves of status anxiety, as are many other Trump-induced institutional changes). And, having abandoned, quite openly, any pretense of objectivity and neutrality in the election, the press is going to be treated as an enemy by the Trump administration until further notice.

n fact, Trump’s basically gaslighting them. Knowing how much they hate him, he’s constantly provoking them to go over the top. Sean Spicer’s crowd-size remarks on Saturday were all about making them seem petty and negative. (And, possibly, teeing up crowd size comparisons at this Friday’s March For Life, which the press normally ignores but which Trump will probably force them to cover).

Trump knows that the press isn’t trusted very much, and that the less it’s trusted, the less it can hurt him. So he’s prodding reporters to do things that will make them less trusted, and they’re constantly taking the bait.

They’re taking the bait because they think he’s dumb, and impulsive, and lacking self-control — but he’s the one causing them to act in ways that are dumb and impulsive, and demonstrate lack of self-control. As Richard Fernandez writes on Facebook, they think he’s dumb because they think he has lousy taste, but there are a lot of scarily competent guys out there in the world who like white and gold furniture. And, I should note, Trump has more media experience than probably 99% of the people covering him. (As Obama operative Ben Rhodes gloated with regard to selling a dishonest story on the Iran deal, the average reporter the Obama White House dealt with “is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns.” In Rhodes’ words, “they literally know nothing.”)

If you read Don Surber’s election book, Trump the Press, it becomes pretty obvious that the press hasn’t been very good at understanding Trump’s strategies, or at responding to them. So far, there’s no sign of that changing as we move from the Trump campaign to the Trump administration.

So what should the press do? It can keep responding the way it has responded so far, or it can change its approach. But the latter may require more self-discipline than it’s got.

The killer counter-move for the press isn’t to double down on anti-Trump messaging. The counter-move is to bolster its own trustworthiness by acting (and being) more neutral and sober, and by being more trustworthy. If the news media actually focused on reporting facts accurately and straightforwardly, on leaving opinion to the pundits, and on giving Trump a clearly fair shake, then Trump’s tactics wouldn’t work, and any actual dirt they found on him would do actual damage. He’s betting on the press being insufficiently mature and self-controlled to manage that. So far, his bet is paying off.

That’s too bad. If we had a better press, we’d be much better off as a nation, and Trump’s strategy of capitalizing on the press’s flaws is good for Trump, but will probably make that problem worse, if such a thing is possible. But the truth is, we don’t have a better press. And as long as the press is mindlessly partisan and bereft of self-discipline, capitalizing on that is just good politics.

Upend the ‘Faux System’ of White House Journalism

January 25, 2017

Upend the ‘Faux System’ of White House Journalism, PJ MediaRoger L Simon, January 24, 2017

(Here’s a link to an article that focuses on the “SKYPE seats.” Four is a start, but more are needed. — DM)

Forget “faux news.”  We have a “faux system” that needs to be upended.  Without that, it’s “garbage in, garbage out,” as they say in computerland.  And not just for that obvious reason defined by what Barack Obama might have termed a lack of “fairness” — that Trump lost the popular vote by nearly three percent but he loses the vote inside the briefing room by, I would guess, nearly ninety percent. It also makes for restricted viewpoints and boring, repetitive questions with little originality and no substantive information beyond what we could learn from communiques.

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Excuse my ignorance, but I had no idea — until reading about the recent kerfuffle cum journalist Twitter brawl — that by tradition the Associated Press always gets to ask the first question at White House press briefings. (It was given on Monday to the New York Post, creating consternation.)

Which leads me to ask: Who anointed the AP and made them king?

In fact, why would anybody ever, by tradition or for any other reason, always get to ask the first or even the fifth question at a White House press briefing or conference?

Or, to drill down a little further, why does any media outlet get preference over any other when it comes to asking questions?  Or still further, who determines what reporters and organizations get into the briefing room in the first place to sit forever in rows one or two?

Well, um… professionalism.

Oh, I see. Is that a degree from Columbia Journalism School? Hemingway didn’t even go to college and could outwrite everyone in that briefing room by an exponential factor. Journalism isn’t brain surgery or even anesthesiology. It’s an occupation for ambitious hustlers with a gift for gab not so different from screenwriting, but not so high paying.

The truth is that those organizations are indeed there by tradition, a tradition of droit du seigneur and corporate thuggery that makes you yearn for the extension of anti-trust legislation.

You get the position, you keep the position. It’s a game of rich, entrenched bullies that happen to be monolithic media companies anxious to preserve their monopolies. We all know their names and logos, which have been drilled into us as the purveyors of all information from early childhood. As it was so succinctly put by A. J. Liebling back in 1960:  “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to the man who owns one.”

Does this system profit the people?  Is it anything even approximating what the Founders envisioned for our press?  Or does it exist for the benefit of those privileged journalists and their corporate bosses?

Pretty obvious, isn’t it? So when Sean Spicer announced the other day there would be four Skype seats in the White House press room for journalists from presumably smaller, outside-the-Beltway outfits, I applauded. But I asked — four?  Why not forty?

Forget “faux news.”  We have a “faux system” that needs to be upended.  Without that, it’s “garbage in, garbage out,” as they say in computerland.  And not just for that obvious reason defined by what Barack Obama might have termed a lack of “fairness” — that Trump lost the popular vote by nearly three percent but he loses the vote inside the briefing room by, I would guess, nearly ninety percent. It also makes for restricted viewpoints and boring, repetitive questions with little originality and no substantive information beyond what we could learn from communiques.

Actually, the system itself is institutionally unfair.  It hasn’t changed in any significant sense in decades, as if the ghost of the UPI’s Helen “Sitting Buddha” Thomas were still plopped down in the front row as she was since the Kennedy administration.

The question is what to do about it.  First of all, move out of that tiny briefing room with its (deliberately?) small number of seats that encourages this continued monopolistic system.  Find a decent venue where a reasonable number can gather. Encourage new voices — not just journalists or even bloggers but maybe actual citizens to ask questions. The people, right and left, don’t need a filter.  They know what they want to know, probably better than those who ask questions for them.

Yes, there are many problems inherent in this that would need to be worked out, many snafus, real and imagined, along the way. But this is the time to do something about a moribund system.

Will Trump and his administration have the courage to do it, to really upend what is essentially a license for permanent elitism?

We shall see.  But instead of a perpetual battle between Trump and the press — a war that has barely started yet has already become tedious beyond words — it would be nice to find a new way of working that would actually inform the citizens of this democratic republic so they could make the necessary educated judgments. What we have now is close to the reverse.