Why we’re not impeaching now …

The Republicans can’t turn against Trump the way they turned against Nixon because they see him as their best chance to maintain power so they can keep pressing their traditional Republican values.

Like free trade … oh, wait …

Like reining in deficit spending … oops …

Like using the bully pulpit to encourage moral- … OK, that’s good for a laugh …

Like working closely with our European allies …

Wait a minute … what exactly do they want to do with that power?

Anyway, Heather Cox Richardson has a piece in The Guardian explaining the history of how this became a partisan mess.

Please make me quit chronicling the cruelty of the president …

Today, our commander-in-chief …

… threatened to cut off aid to California in response to … the fires that are ravaging California. 

A few issues with that:

Trump has failed to note that more than half the forested land in California is under federal control, essentially his jurisdiction. One fire expert said Saturday the president’s statements oversimplify a complicated problem.

“To have a president come out and say it’s all because of forest management is ridiculous. It completely ignores the dynamic of what’s going on around us,” said LeRoy Westerling, a climate and fire scientist at UC Merced.

He said rising temperatures and longer spells of dry weather were the main culprits in the increased number and ferocity of wildfires.

Source: SF Chronicle

“The president’s assertion that California’s forest management policies are to blame for catastrophic wildfire is dangerously wrong,” California Professional Firefighters President Brian K. Rice said in a statement on Saturday.

“Wildfires are sparked and spread not only in forested areas but in populated areas and open fields fueled by parched vegetation, high winds, low humidity and geography,” he continued in the statement. “Moreover, nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another two-thirds under private control. It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California.

Source: ABC News, though this statement has been widely circulated.

Not the first time, of course:

In August he tweeted, “California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!”

“We have plenty of water to fight these fires,” Deputy Cal Fire Chief Scott McLean said in a statement in August. Nonetheless, the Trump administration announced it would override the Endangered Species Act to provide extra water — not needed by the fire crews.

(Same ABC story)

Trump made these comments while attending ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of one of the most brutal … wait, what?

OK, back to our initial ellipsis …

… skipped out on a World War I ceremony because of a light rain.

To which Winston Churchill’s grandson replied …

Our forefathers broke away from a mad king (George III). Now we’ve elected one.





When good economic results happen to bad presidents

Washington Post headline: Jobs in manufacturing are indeed up and we have no idea how to fit this into the narrative that the world is about to die under Trump. (Or something like that.)

I wish the story had pointed out how much of this was short-term. By that, I mean actually saying why it’s short-term. Not just “So-and-so at Brookings says it’s short-term.” Even if you toss aside the trade wars that will make things more difficult for manufacturing, we’re talking about a lot of jobs that won’t be there in 20 years.

In the meantime, it’s safe to say not all of Trump’s policies are helping his alleged red-state buddies. Good luck to the family fighting to keep a border wall from going across his property.

Fascism and the free press

Let’s take a look at a couple of concurrent things …

First: Many news organizations have fought back against Trump’s anti-journalist incitements. 

A Poynter roundup opened with a good statement of purpose. Yes, the Trumpistas will simply yell and scream bloody murder. But this is an important reminder for everyone else, says Miami Herald editorial page editor Nancy Ancrum.

“This initiative is not designed to change the minds of the most rabid Trump supporters,” Ancrum tells me, hours before deadline Wednesday. “This is for people who take the First Amendment for granted, who must be more engaged … no matter where they fall on the political spectrum.”

The Denver Post had a great first few paragraphs:

Journalists in The Denver Post newsroom spend their days in pursuit of the truth.

There’s no political filter or agenda belying their printed words, just a desire to inform the public.

It’s true that sometimes a news story leaves much to be desired. Larry Bailey recently told us he has been a longtime subscriber to The Post but feels there is a slant against Trump. “If you haven’t told the whole truth then you haven’t told the truth,” he said.

Bailey reached out to The Post when he learned this board was participating in a nationwide campaign among more than 200 editorial boards to publish editorials Thursday decrying Trump’s attack on the press.

He’s right — errors of omission do occur. Sometimes there’s simply not space to print all the news or time to get all the reporting done. And yes, sometimes stories or facts are bypassed due to the natural bias that everyone carries with them. Journalists are fallible, but the reporters and editors who work to bring you your news are not conspiring to misinform.

And they followed up with a terrific call to action …

We are also encouraging our readers to point it out when we are missing the mark of telling “the whole truth.” We are listening and capable of self reflection.

Put a pin in that. The argument here is not that the media are infallible. From The Providence Journal:

This is not to say that the news media have been perfect. Given the need for ratings and clicks, some in the media have seemed more interested in fueling public hysteria and advancing story lines than in calmly and accurately presenting both sides.

Journalists are under a ton of pressure right now, and that would be true even if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or Marco Rubio or Jill Stein had been elected president. Some news organizations have responded better than others. Clickbait-ism is on the rise. We could blame readers who click on it. But we also need to do better.

Generally, though, journalists do indeed try. We make honest corrections.

To see dishonest corrections, look to … you guessed it … Fox.

We’ll start with the funny part:

Yeah, you’ve been pwned, Person Who’s Not Yet Ann Coulter or Laura Ingraham or Tomi Lahren. So how do you respond?

“I was never implying that conditions in Denmark were similar in any way to the current tragedy on the ground there in Venezuela,” she said, explaining that the whole point of her segment was to show that “socialism is not the way.”

I know, I’ve drifted into opinion pieces here rather than actual news. But her selective defense — “oh, I was just saying this, and these other sources agree with me” — isn’t just a weak opinion. It’s inaccurate. It’s misleading. Because she insinuates that the “Denmark = Venezuela” was the only part of her alleged argument that our Danish friend tore to shreds. And that’s simply not true.

(Watch her clip if you dare.)

As we know, Fox isn’t “news” in any sense. Nor is its analysis fair or balanced. (“Balance” is actually overrated — if one side is lying and the other isn’t the “fair” thing to do is to say so.) It’s propaganda, and it shares its attitude with …

Second: Overlooked in Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ tortured “I can’t guarantee the president didn’t use the N-word” comments (see The Daily Show for a definitive take on that) was her outright lie about African-American jobs under Obama and Trump.

This is yet another case in which the lie is so ridiculous — and so unnecessary! And as Slate points out, her clarification simply digs things deeper.

Third: The crusade against the media isn’t even all of Trump’s anti-fact activity.

Consider the security-clearance revocation of former CIA director John Brennan, which probably backfired because Brennan immediately went on full blast in the New York Times on Trump-Russia collusion.

The good news here is that the business community, traditionally the GOP stronghold, is paying attention …

To wrap up, consider who led this “Free Press” effort.

The Boston Globe.

Which led an effort to shine a light on abuse in the Catholic Church.

Which has been shown, time and time again, to be necessary and eternally timely.

Demand more from journalists. Always.

Then make sure you’re on their side in the never-ending battle against authoritarianism.

When to ask the tough questions and when not to

Had a legitimately interesting conversation on Twitter yesterday, starting here:

Journalists have indeed been far too passive in recent years. We covered Trump because he was entertaining, and then we were shocked to find people actually believed anything he said. Maybe he couldn’t kill a bunch of people in Times Square and still keep his whole base, but he could tell people Hillary Clinton killed a bunch of people in Times Square, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if a bunch of MAGA-bots on Twitter piled on in agreement.

But in this case? I wasn’t so sure.

So I replied:

My friend and colleague Andrea Canales responded:

I’d recommend the whole discussion. Andrea raised a lot of good points, and I had to stop and think about them overnight. In the general sense, I absolutely agree with her.

And yet, I still think there’s some truth to the idea that the best way to expose a narcissist who has lost touch with reality is to just stick a microphone up to his face and let him speak. It’s the only reason I can see for keeping Trump’s Twitter account active, for one thing.

As a Duke trustee said in a controversy over The Chronicle publishing something incendiary: “Gotta flush a snake out of the grass in order to kill it.”

So in this case, I’m assuming the Times had a limited interview window. They couldn’t just stay there all day and confront Trump with every falsehood. (Granted, that would take more than one day.) He’d eventually hop back in the golf cart.

By racing through a set of questions with limited follow-ups, the Times got Trump to race through several falsehoods. They count 10. The Post counted 24 (some of them iffy). CNN added “outrageous lines” to falsehoods and came up with 47.

If the Times reporter had pressed one topic, we’d only have one topic to dissect. Now we have many.

Another aspect of this interview: Sometimes, the best way to get good quotes in an interview is to make people feel comfortable. They’ll be more candid. Indeed, this interview tactic just played out in the soccer world, where Grant Wahl basically just let an aging state association president dig his own hole with a series of outrageous comments about his endorsement of U.S. Soccer presidential candidate Kathy Carter — or, as this state president calls her, “the girl.” When the soccer public’s jaw dropped, someone took to the state association’s Twitter feed to rip into Grant for not expressing any opinion about how outrageous those comments were during the interview. (Those tweets have since been deleted.)

In other words: This guy is pissed off because he was quoted accurately, and then everyone pointed out how out of touch he was.

So I’m still of two minds about this Trump interview. As Andrea says, Trump already provides a scattershot look at his delusions on Twitter each day, so perhaps the Times didn’t need to do that. Maybe I would’ve asked a follow-up or two. Then again, I’m not sure I would’ve had the data in front of me to show Trump that he was wrong, and I still think there’s some news value in seeing the president of the United States stumbling his way through an alternate reality in person, not just behind a computer keyboard.

What about whataboutism?

Like a lot of bullying tools, “whataboutism” is powerful because there’s a bit of logic to it, however twisted it may be.

In fact, on the meta level, it’s easy to use whataboutism to fight complaints about whataboutism. Most people use it in some form at some point.

The key difference to me is this: Are you using bringing up an opposing side because you’re making a decision between two things (say, candidates) or because you’re trying to deflect criticism instead of dealing with it?

In other words, if we’re talking about an election with only two viable candidates, and you tell me Candidate X embezzled money but I know Candidate Y murdered somebody, I’ll have to point that out. (I hope it never gets to that point!)

And in some cases, what appears to be “whataboutism” is actually making a case to give one entity the higher ground. For example — if a Trump voter criticizes the Clinton Foundation, it seems fair to point to the Trump Foundation, especially if you go on to note that the Clinton Foundation actually does some good.

Let’s say the Charlottesville situation had been reversed, and an “antifa” demonstrator had killed someone. Surely someone would use that incident to claim there’s no difference between the “left” and “right” in this situation. (Aside to media: Can you quit using “left” and “right” in describing this sort of thing? CBS did it for Boston, which was ridiculous — I’m sure a lot of registered Republicans were among the “left” crowd in this case and were quite offended by the assumption that the supremacists were the “right.”)

But the counterargument would be this:

  1. The majority of the counterprotesters were not violent.
  2. Most likely, the bulk of the nation’s lawmakers and thought leaders would denounce the killer without the equivocation Trump used in his half-hearted denunciation of a considerable chunk of the people who still support him.
  3. What’s the overall intent of the counterprotest? It’s to stand up against racism. What’s the overall intent of the original protest? To promote it. Not equivalent.

A Facebook friend made this sort of point in answering Trump’s “whatabout” on Washington and Jefferson owning slaves. Washington and Jefferson don’t have monuments because they supported racism. They have monuments for their actual accomplishments. Monuments to Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are for their service to an abhorrent cause.


Historical footnote — I did not know this:

In May 1985 the U.S. State Department funded a conference at the Madison Hotel on the fallacy of “moral equivalence,” a philosophical cousin of whataboutism. The goal was to tamp down comparisons of the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada with the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, among other instances. The actions may be comparable, the State Department implied, but the intentions were not.

Source: Whataboutism: The Cold War tactic, thawed by Putin, is brandished by Donald Trump – The Washington Post