Media postsThursday April 04, 2019
On Deep Background, Mueller's Team Pushes Back
I'm glad some members of the Mueller team are apparently speaking up. This is from The New York Times yesterday:
Some of Robert S. Mueller III's investigators have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.
At stake in the dispute — the first evidence of tension between Mr. Barr and the special counsel's office — is who shapes the public's initial understanding of one of the most consequential government investigations in American history. Some members of Mr. Mueller's team are concerned that, because Mr. Barr created the first narrative of the special counsel's findings, Americans' views will have hardened before the investigation's conclusions become public.
Who's helping shape that early opinion? Why The New York Times. Looks at this headline from a week ago:
Not even a “Barr Claims” or “Barr Says” or simply: “Barr:” at the front. Then if you go to their “Today's Paper” section from that day, you see some of their other stories:
- A Cloud Over Trump's Presidency is Lifted
- Trump Declares Exoneration, and a War on His Enemies
- Barr Goes Beyond Mueller in Clearing Trump on Obstruction, Drawing Scrutiny
One thing Sarah Palin got right: The mainstream media is the lamestream media—but for the opposite reason that she was claiming. If anything, they tend to lean right; they get played by conservative forces. All the time.
So what are we hearing from Mueller's team now? It's still fairly opaque; still on deep background. Mueller's team did write multiple summaries of the report, none of which AG Barr used. And much concern from Mueller's team apparently relates to what the Times euphemistically calls “Mr. Trump’s efforts to thwart the investigation.” I.e., obstruction of justice. But the Times spends most of the article giving us Barr's perspective. Typical. And lame.
Yeah Yeah, That Adult Film Star Hush Money Thing with the President; Whatever
This was NPR “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep talking to reporter Ryan Lucas about the Michael Cohen hearings this morning:
We should note that a lot of what Michael Cohen said essentially confirmed things that had already been reported. Yes, the president paid hush money to an adult film star through Cohen, Cohen said. Yes, the president paid for a painting of himself with charitable contributions. But what did you learn during yesterday's testimony that you had not heard before?
Pause for a second on that. Because when he said it I laughed out loud. I don't know whether to give Inskeep credit for raising these points again or to condemn him for doing so in such a dismissive way. Yeah yeah, the president of the United States had an affair with an adult film star then paid her $130k to keep quiet about it during the 2016 presidential campaign. Yawn. And sure, people donated their hard-earned bucks for a charitable cause and he used that to buy a painting. Of himself. But show me someone in Congress who hasn‘t done that.
I’m reminded again how corrupt Trump is and how weak our current system is. Scandals that might unseat a president, or at least hound his entire presidency, are here almost footnotes.
Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Breitbart, Drudge and the GOP generally have a lot to answer for. Also NPR. The day after the Cohen testimony, and they touch on it twice in their three-hour(?) broadcast. They spend the majority of time on Wilbur Ross and the failed North Korea Summit. What are they afraid of?
Some Shitty 2018 New York Times Headlines
Not a comprehensive study, by the way, just the ones I had lying around. I basically took the screenshots when I: 1) noticed, 2) cared enough/was incensed enough, and 3) had the time. But there is a theme.
It's the “Trump says” theme. He says North Korea is no longer a nuke threat, Germany is a captive of Russia, and, maybe most absurdly, he “laid down the law,” when at best he laid it aside. He threw it away. He stomped on it without even knowing or caring he was stomping on it.
Why is it a problem to simply report what a powerful person said? Here. From “Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower's Secret Campaign against Joseph McCarthy” by David A. Nichols:
Sensing the chance to gain more headlines, [Joseph] McCarthy terminated his honeymoon and rushed back to take charge of the Monmouth investigation. Once back, he rolled out sensational charges every day. He was free to emerge from closed-door hearings and tell the press anything he wished, accurate or not, knowing that reporters would report whatever he said.
One hopes that in 2019 The New York Times and other responsible media outlets will try to avoid this construction as much as possible.
For NPR, ‘Trump Implicated in Felony’ Creates Dilemma for Democrats
So the president of the United States was implicated in a felony in federal court on Friday—for buying the silence of McDougal/Daniels in the run-up to the 2016 election regarding affairs with each of them. Here's the headline the next day in my hometown newspaper:
That's straightforward. Much of the rest of the mainstream press was less so. They prevaricated as much as possible.
Did anyone do this more than NPR? When I listened to Morning Edition on Monday, the focus of their broadcast, for the 15 or so minutes I listened, was on the dilemma all this causes for Democrats.
I shit you not.
NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson, in breaking down the matter, refers to Trump once; she refers to Democrats six times.
INSKEEP: Now, you said unindicted co-conspirator. Of course, the key word there is unindicted. He's not indicted here. He's just named for his involvement in a crime, or Individual One is. It is a matter of dispute whether a sitting president can be indicted by a grand jury, but he certainly can be impeached by Congress. Do Democrats want to do that?
LIASSON: Some Democrats do. Most Democrats don‘t. Democrats want to keep the right balance when they take over power in the House. They want to exercise oversight. They want to investigate the president and the administration in a non-showboaty way.
BTW: Some people might consider the key word “co-conspirator,” Steve.
Then Morning Edition’s crack team immediately went to a long interview with Jonah Golberg, senior editor at National Review, who also talked about what a dilemma all this was for the Democrats. Particular, he added, because of the demands of its base:
The base of the Democratic Party wants impeachment. They crave impeachment. They hunger for it. They're sort of like werewolves. At the full moon, they must feed. And if they must impeach over this stuff, they may in fact impeach over this stuff.
Rachel Martin brings up how the Clinton impeachment actually backfired against the GOP, to which Goldberg says:
I agree. I think politically it would be a bad idea. It was a bad idea for the Republicans to do it politically, but they sort of had to follow through on their own, you know, line of reasoning and consistency.
Got that? Dems are werewolves, Repubs follow a “line of reasoning.” And the illegalities of a Republican president create dilemmas for the other party. So glad NPR is here to help me make sense of the world.
NP Fucking R
Do I even bother?
Yesterday, NPR's “Morning Edition” spent seven minutes on a piece about a young woman from Minnesota, who claims a liberal background, voted for Hillary, and realizes, after two years of Trump, what bullies liberals are.
- The ICE workers she works with are nice.
- Though she's been sexually assault herself, and believes Dr. Ford, she thinks it wasn't Brett Kavanaugh who assaulted her.
- Democrats disturb people at dinner.
Basically she's following the GOP/Fox News line.
That would be my follow-up whenever anyone presents misleading or false claims during an intereview with a reporter: Where do you get your news? Of the above, 1) is misleading (ICE is just a gov't agency, full of people like you and me; you need to look at who's giving the orders); 2) is GOP/Fox spin on those events; 3) is true in a handful of cases.
I'd also be curious where NPR came upon this story: who pitched whom? And how much due diligence was done? What really stood out for me: The young woman, Alexa Gruman, never says “Democratic party.” She always says “liberal party.” Which isn't a thing. At all.
Seven minutes. The week after pipe-bombs were sent to Trump opponents, including former Pres. Obama; the week after 11 people were killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue over immigration issues; and the day after Trump announced his intention to executive-order the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, we get seven minutes of this woman's cheerful idiocy. It's presented to us like it's news.