Media postsSunday July 22, 2018
Extraordinary! Really Wild Ride!
More NPR. I know. Apologies. You picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.
So here's Korva Coleman on “Weekend Edition: Sunday” this morning, explaining the week we just went through:
Last week, by almost any measure, was an extraordinary one for news. The meeting between Pres. Putin and Trump in Helsinki reverberated throughout the week and particularly on Capitol Hill:
- Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA, 28): “This was a wholesale betrayal of the values and interests in this country.”
- Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN): “It made us look as a nation more like a pushover.”
- Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “I think the Russians need to know that there are a lot of us who fully understand what happened in 2016, and it better not happen again in 2018.” *
NPR's Mara Liasson is here to help us process the past week and prepare for the next one. Good morning, Mara.
Mara, the post-Helsinki week was a really wild ride, full of clarifications and walkbacks from the president, and meanwhile Putin and the Russians appear to be defining the post-summit narrative. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will go to the Hill this week to talk to members of Congress. What will they want to know?
* For more and how much Mitch knew about Russian interference in the 2016 election, please consult this Dec. 2016 Washington Post article. Please.
Sigh. How horrifying does a week have to be before NPR will call it horrifying? How embarrassing before it's embarrassing? Instead, what adjectives do we get? “Extraordinary” and “a really wild ride.” They could be advertising the roller coaster at Six Flags. How would they describe Kristallnacht? Amazing? Astounding? A helluva party?
Oh, and NPR is still saying Trump is clarifying when he's obfuscating. I guess that‘ll never go away.
As for perspective, Mara doesn’t tell us much we don't already know. Putin and Trump met for an hour, alone, and what came out of that no one knows. Putin offered to let federal agents interrogate the 12 indicted Russians (currently safe in Russia) if we fly a former U.S. ambassador to him to interrogate, which is both shocking and, to Pres. Trump, “an incredible offer.” Trump also wants to meet Putin in the U.S. in September. I doubt Republicans up for re-election are enthused about that.
For true perspective, I'd recommend Andrew Sullivan's most recent column (Trump actually believes what he says; i.e., he wants a zero-sum game where the powerful bully the weak, and NATO and western values are meaningless because they don't let us do that); and Adam Davidson's New Yorker piece, “A Theory of Trump Kompromat” (Putin isn't dictating to Trump; Trump simply believes the Russians have something on him—probably financial—and is acting accordingly).
See you next week. I'm sure by Friday NPR will be calling it “exceptional.”
‘Lulu Garcia Navarro is Away’
That's what NPR's “Weekend Edition: Sunday” broadcast mentioned this morning, but I would argue you can say that almost every weekend.
Last Sunday morning, for example, while making coffee, I was listening to her interview Misha Glenny, author of “McMafia,” and an expert on cybersecurity and global organized crime, who was brought on to talk about the recent indictments of 12 Russians in hacking the DNC and influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
It was a good interview. Glenny reminds us of the weakness of the Russian economy, how cyberwarfare is a cost-effective way to undercut countries, and how Putin is essentially a mob boss: the gangster capitalism of 1990s Russia now being organized by, and subordinate to, him. Then Navarro asks him if the Russians are scared because of the 12 indictments.
GLENNY: I don't think that the Russians will be scared at all by this. I think that they‘re enjoying the whole spectacle. And I suspect that Donald Trump is going to basically accommodate Putin’s wishes at the meeting. There is something very, very fishy in the state of Denmark at the moment in the United States. And I think the Russians are making hay out of this.
I was practically on my toes in anticipation of the follow-up. What is fishy? What is he going to say? You‘ve got an expert in an area that is worrying millions of Americans, and billions of people across the globe. What are his thoughts?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Misha Glenny, author of “McMafia,” thank you so much for joining us.
Yes, Lulu Garcia Navarro is away.
NPR Sees Clarification in Trump's Obfuscation
NPR continues to piss me off. They do a disservice to journalism and to the country. They are part of the problem.
In the wake of Monday's Helsinki Summit, when Pres. Trump heaped praise on Vladimir Putin and cast doubts on his own intelligence agencies, NPR, this morning, broadcast an interview between their reporter Noel King and U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). I made it about two minutes in.
First, they played a soundbite of Mitch McConnell warning Russia not to interfere in the midterms. It made him sound tough. The problem: No mention that McConnell was the one who torpedoed a bipartisan Sept. 2016 statement warning Russia about interfering in the 2016 presidential election, and warning U.S. citizens that this was in fact happening. So Mitch gets off. He puts party above country and he gets off. The relevant past is irrelevant on NPR.
Then King makes it all about politics. Trump's actions in Helsinki aren't near-treasonous ramblings that astonished everyone around the world; they‘re “possibly a political opening” for the Democrats.
But here’s the worst of it. In only her second question to Sen. Van Hollen, King says this:
The president then clarified yesterday. Did his clarification change anything for you?
Here's the clarification she meant. You probably already know all this but I'm going to write it down anyway for my own sake. Because it's kind of insane.
During the Trump/Putin joint press conference, Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press asked the following question of Pres. Trump:
Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every US intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe? My second question is would you now with the whole world watching tell President Putin — would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?
Who do you believethe murderous, lawless, Russian autocrat or the FBI? And will you warn Putin to not interfere again? Pretty straightforward. Sad, indeed, that it needed to be asked in the first place.
And here is the beginning of Trump's two-part answer:
So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven't they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the democratic national committee? I‘ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I‘ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server and what is the server saying?
What is he talking about? Turns out it’s an obscure right-wing theory that has been debunked by everybody. Here's one such debunking.
Bad enough he deflects the question with these nutjob “we didn't land on the moon” conspiracies; then he gets to this:
With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don't think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They‘re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? 33,000 emails gone — just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn't be gone so easily. I think it's a disgrace that we can't get Hillary Clinton's 33,000 emails. So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that president Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that's an incredible offer. Okay, thank you.
There it is: the president of the United States, on foreign soil, siding with the Russian president over U.S. intelligence agencies. Then he delves into the conspiracy theory again. Then he compliments Putin on his “extremely strong and powerful” denial and more-or-less thanks him for offering Russian help to further investigate Russian interference. He thanks him for offering further interference into allegations of Russian interference.
It's all insane.
So what was the clarification that Noel King brought up? It's this: Trump claimed that he misspoke. He meant to say “wouldn‘t.”
Yes, in all that garbage, and all that praise heaped on Putin, yesterday the White House claimed that, in the part below, the “would” should’ve been a “wouldn‘t.”
My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.
Amid all the rest of that praise, those superlatives for Putin, he's now claiming he wanted to blame them. He returned to D.C., with Republicans in angry disarray, and, one assumes, they looked for options. The facts were against them; how could they muddy the waters? And they chose this. They saw this as their escape pod. Wouldn‘t.
And NPR and Noel King happily let them escape.
She called this change, this obfuscation, a clarificiation. “The president then clarified yesterday. Did his clarification change anything for you?”
The Democrats really need to confront reporters who ask dumb-ass questions like this. They need to say things like: “How is that a clarification, Noel? The original statement is at least consistent. He’s praising Putin and doesn't blame Putin. He's siding with Putin over the FBI but at least he's consistent in how treasonous he's acting. The do-over he wants would mean that while he's heaping praise on Putin, while he's blaming the FBI out of some right-wing paranoid fantasy, he's also siding with the FBI. Do you think that's a clarification? If not, why did you state it as such? You‘re making it a statement. You’re making it a fact. You‘re doing their dirty work.”
And guess what? Today he backtracked again. “Is Russian trying to influence the midterms?” Naw.
Seriously, how much further can NPR and other members of the so-called legitimate press get played? How much further to the right must they lean in a lame attempt to seem objective? And how much does the country—and the truth—suffer as a result?
Anyway, it was at this point, with the word “clarified” echoing all around me, that I turned off the radio; I was too furious to keep listening. NPR is so bad at what it does that it turns away people simply interested in hearing the news.
Monday’s New York Times headline. When the facts are against you, muddy the waters.
Wherever Trump is Pointing...
Can he do even one thing right?
Here's a tweet from a Wall Street Journal reporter on Pres. Trump's recent trip to Europe and visit with NATO leaders:
Trump arrived 30 minutes late to today’s NATO summit, missed his scheduled meetings with at least two world leaders, prompted the secretary general to call an emergency session, held an impromptu 35-minute news conference, and is now leaving for the airport go fly to London.— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) July 12, 2018
Embarrassing, stupid, rude. He also said that Germany was “a captive of Russia,” which is even more embarrassing, stupid and rude—not to mention a form of projection. Trump is the more likely captive of Russia. One hopes someday the truth will out.
So how does the New York Times sum up yet another buffoonish day in the life of this American president? As if it's Angela Merkel's fault. From last night:
This is from the news source that the GOP constantly howls is too “liberal.”
Note to the New York Times: Your headlines reveal your seeming reluctance to publicly stand up to Mr. Trump.
Note to all members of the legitimate media: Wherever Trump is pointing, the real story is most likely in the exact opposite direction.
NPR's Accountability Problem
Friday morning, I listened to NPR's Steve Inskeep interview Sue Mi Terry, an expert on Korea, about Mike Pompeo's trip to North Korea. This is the gist:
- Nothing substantive came out of the Singapore summit
- Pompeo needs something substantive
- The current administration timeline toward denuclearization is unrealistic
Guess how often Pres. Trump's name comes up in this interview? Once. And it's in the passive voice. At the top of the segment, Inskeep says:
A U.S. official compares North Korea's denuclearization to going on a diet. To make progress, the official says, you first have to climb on a scale. In other words, North Korea must first clarify exactly what its nuclear program has so the U.S. can track its removal later. North Korea agreed to do none of that in the vague statement approved after its president met President Trump last month.
It's as if Trump is a vague bystander in all of this. It's as if the vague statement wasn't the direct result of his insane incompetence. Remember: “I don't have to study”? Remember: “I‘ll know immediately”? And remember this?
Just landed - a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
Less than a month ago, our president essentially said “Problem solved.” Now NPR is doing a report on how the problem hasn’t begun to be solved ... and they don't even mention that? How much less can NPR hold Trump accountable for his words and actions?