Just to fill in the gaps and put the proper perspective here, Jurgen Klopp is the manager of the Liverpool English football team that plays in the Premier League.
Yesterday, there was a great deal of attention and praise given to Reuters reporter Jeff Mason during Trump's press conference with the president of Finland when he asked Trump pointedly what he was hoping to get from the Ukraine president, which jarred Trump so much that he had no answer, and further praise for how Mason politely and professionally stood his ground during Trump’s whole flustered “Ask a question to the president of Finland” rant and his Robert DeNiro moment, “Are you talking to me??”
Let’s put that on hold a moment and go back to last year, when Trump had probably his most-infamous press conference, the one with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. There were two huge moments there, as you'll recall. One was, of course, when Trump took Putin’s side over all U.S. intelligence services. And the other, you may remember, was when Putin himself was asked "Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?” and Putin answered, “Yes, I did, yes, I did.” And when the White House put out a transcript of the press conference, they left out that exchange. I suspect, with a reminder, that most people recall all that.
I was out much of the day yesterday, but what hit me when I heard all the news and watched all the reports is that it sounded familiar. So, I double-checked it and – yes, the reporter who asked Putin that notable question in Helsinki was… Reuters’ Jeff Mason!! The same fellow who asked Trump that strong question and was admonished to talk instead to the president of Finland.
By the way, there's another fun fact related to all of this. That press conference last year was in Helsinki. And as I'm sure you recall from the world globe in your library, Helsinki is, of course, the capital of – Finland!
Minutiae R Us…
On a completely unnecessary level, it would have been really nice if someone on the news noted the connection to his two important questions and gave him big appreciation. Along with making the ironic double-connection to Finland. It’s not even remotely necessary, I know – but two huge newsworthy questions (each with a Finnish connection) is deserving of not just notice, but praise. Happily, though, it was nice how everyone at least was giving Jeff Mason big credit for this one question yesterday to Trump.
Over the years, I've written my share of articles criticizing Tucker Carlson, who I find the most white supremacist on "Fox News," even more so than Sean Hannity which is a high standard to top, though in fairness I consider Hannity racist and anti-Semitic more than "pure white supremacist." It's a distinction with a difference. One hates minorities, the other wants them out of His Country.
I've written here about seeing a liberal guest on Carlson's show during the 2016 presidential election, and he (I wish I could recall who it was because he was so richly prescient) called Trump a fascist -- and Tucker Carlson turned apoplectic, it was like his head was about to explode. He started fuming and spouting and fulminating and wouldn't let the guest explain why he felt it was an accurate description of Trump -- despite Carlson snapping, "Why would you say that???!!!" and adding how unfair it was. All I could think was that the guest clearly hit a raw nerve with Carlson and that in the midst of all his ranting meltdown, if anyone wanted a visual aid for explaining the Shakespearean admonition, "Methinks he doth protest too much," that video should be put in the Time Capsule vault.
But for all the things I've written about Tucker Carlson, none of it comes close to a virtuoso column on Wednesday in the Washington Post by Margaret Sullivan. In fact, if you only read the title, you could stop there, and it would be the best -- "Tucker Carlson's claim that white supremacy is a hoax is easy to prove wrong. Just watch his show."
You can't get much better than that.
And the thing is, even with a title like that to live up to, Ms. Sullivan is able to ratchet it up with the very first sentence. The article begins --
"In his ongoing and remarkably successful quest to be the worst of the Fox News nighttime hosts, Tucker Carlson hit a new low on his Tuesday show."
-- and then she goes off from there. When quoting Carlson in full denial, "I’ve never met anybody, not one person who ascribes to white supremacy. I don’t know a single person who thinks that’s a good idea” -- she follows that with a pithy, "Hmm. Maybe his sample size is a bit flawed."
The article masterfully takes Carlson apart by quoting him, repeatedly. And she doesn't limit her focus to him alone, but quotes others at "Fox News" showing how it's all of a part of "racist propaganda" and what the result of it is, though always returning the attention on Carlson as the worst of the worst. It builds, is damning and is eloquent -- even bending over backwards to be fair to Carlson by saying that she doesn't know what drives his white supremacist diatribes, and for all she knows he's a lovely fellow, and she doesn't know how much he believes of the hate-filled and divisive things he says, or if it's just to drive ratings by pandering to a racist, raging audience. But she adds that it doesn't make a difference, since the results of his "damaging rhetoric" matter because they have the same impact.
But as good as the whole article is, she tops it with her last line which sums up her thesis in 22 words. You can read it all here.
UPDATE: Since Carlson's broadcast on Monday when he claimed that white supremacy was not a problem in the United States and is a "hoax," his show has lost three major sponsors -- Long John Silver’s, Nestlé and HelloFresh. The program previously lost several sponsors in March after recordings surfaced of him make white supremacist statements on a radio show over the course of several years.
A couple weeks ago, Axios had a major scoop for its Sunday show on HBO when its fine reporter Jonathan Swan managed to get an incredibly rare interview with Jared Kushner, who did not do well.
This week, they had another one, though of a different variety. Not an interview, but a major leak of the documents that the Trump transition team used to set up its administration. Swan called the documents "one of the most significant leaks that the site had ever received," according to Raw Story.
A few things stand out. One is that because of Kushner's personal hatred of Chris Christie (who, as a prosecutor, had put Kushner's father in prison), all of Christie's material that he'd put together as head of the transition was taken with him when he got fired. That left a team of inexperienced, young staffers to work on the transition, scrambling to vet the people would lead cabinet departments, reduced to using Google and the Lexis/Nexis for their research.
Another eye-opener is that this new staff would use "red flags" if they perceived a problem. And one such "red flag" was for Gen. David Petraeus who was being considered by the administration to be Secretary of State. And what was this "red flag" cause of concern, I hear you ask? It was because he was...against torture!! Yes,being against was considered a negative to Trump.
What has perhaps gotten the most headlines for this story is the "red flag" for former Nebraska Secretary of State Kris Kobach who was being vetted as the possible head of the Department of Homeland Security. The concern here was that Mr. Kobach might have a "political vulnerability" of -- white supremacist. To be clear, the Trump administration thought that white supremacy was a "political vulnerability"...not a human decency vulnerability.
The good news is that Kris Kobach was not named Secretary of DHS. Left of of the article was the bad news -- the Trump administration did hire Kobach. They made him vice-chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. He served under Vice President Pence who was chairman, but is practice was the committee's "operational leader."
So, that means a man the Trump administration believed had a political vulnerability with white supremacy ran the presidential committee of election integrity. Given the Mueller Report finding of multiple instances of Trump team contacts with Russia, turning a blind eye to Russian actions and happily accepting the efforts of Russia to cyberattack the U.S. on behalf of Trump (also known as...say it all together -- "collusion"), the bitter irony of this is not lost on sentient human beings.
If you're like to read Axios's own article on the story, including the posting of numerous of the document, you can read it here
And this is a three-minute segment of the broadcast where they show a blunt Chris Christie the vetting material on himself before he was fired.
This editorial caught my eye yesterday. It's a blunt takedown of the Republican Party, noting that "Republicans in Congress surrender their duty, their power and their part in defending American democracy." And they single out Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). Why this stands out is because the paper is Salt Lake Triibune, from the very Red state of Utah.
The editorial isn't very long, but it's pointed and angry. You can read the whole thing here.
After last year's event, the White House Correspondents organization kowtowed to Trump and decided not to get a comedian this year because, well, gee, comedians are so mean and it’s so divisive.
Meanwhile, Trump still didn’t show up and ordered those on his administration staff not to show up.
Instead they got historian Ron Chernow.
And Chernow was…masterful. Often as funny as a comedian. Often as scathing. And overloaded with rich substance based on historical reality.
What was interesting was reading comments about his speech on YouTube from people marveling at this guy they didn’t know – unaware that he was the person wrote the Alexander Hamilton biography that Lin-Manuel Miranda based his musical on. I haven't read that, but did read his biography of George Washington which was wonderful.
If you didn't see Chernow's speech, here it is. It's about 25 minutes and eminently watchable. Often very funny, as I said, and even self-effacing, but mostly about the historic relationship between the press and President, filled with fun and fascinating stories to support his points. He's blunt and charming, and what's interesting, as well, is seeing the people there who clearly do not like his bluntness. But he speaks with a gravitas that gives it all so much more more support.
Often Rachel Maddow has thoughtful, insightful interview that go deep into substance, among the most thoughtful and in-depth on TV, although occasionally they're cheery puffery. I found her conversation last night with Pete Buttigieg to be personable but empty, bordering on just giddy generality, coming close to cheerleading. And perhaps most surprising is that it took over most of the show when there was not only actual news, but news that was serious and important.
Someone wrote me on social media that they found it engaging and thought the personal connection between the two was palpable. He say "there will be time for policy chats in future discussions. For now I am glad they met and let us share the experience of that first meeting."
It was very engaging. And absolutely charming. No question. It was also (to me) empty generalities and took up almost the whole show. Personally, I don't care one whit when journalists meet subjects for the first time (something Ms. Maddow made a Big Deal about). And I do care to hear specifics not just the first time, but every time, most particularly when they're running for President of the United States. It was a very charming interview -- but Trump won by charming his base. Speaking just personally, I want details. We could have had a couple minutes of charm and the rest finding out about why Pete Buttigieg thinks he should be president. I am absolutely fine with people enjoying the interview -- it was very pleasant. My quibble is that Ms. Maddow is a better interviewer than that.
Today, the United States officially declared Iran's Revolutionary Guard a "Terrorist Organization." Why this is a Big Deal is related to what longtime readers of these pages might remember.
Back in 2017, I wrote about a brilliant article in the New Yorker by Adam Davidson about a bizarre Trump hotel deal in Azerbaijan that made no sense, except for it being about money laundering, and seemingly having connections with... (say it all together now) Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
If you haven't read that New Yorker artlcle by Davidson, it's tremendous -- albeit very long (though you can probably skim through a few parts if the spirit moves you), and can read it here.
For a much shorter summary of Davidson's New Yorker article and earlier reporting on the subject by Kurt Eichenwald, here's a story today from RawStory about the history of it all, and its connection to the current, Trump terrorist-designation news.
Hey, we tries nots to steers ya wrong...
Here's how whirlwind the news is these days. About 10 days ago, I wrote here that I had another column planned, but some major news broke, so I put the story on hold. That story that broke, by the way, was Attorney General William Barr releasing his summary/not summary let on the Mueller Report. And since that day, the stories have just come flying off the shelves, and that original article has been pushed back so far that -- even though it's just 10 days ago -- it's old news and pointless at this point.
But even being "out of date," the point of it does show how far off the ledge the far right and Republican Party has gotten in its melting down against liberals and Democrats while trying to shore up its sinking ship of state, The U.S.S. Trump, and its failing fascist brand,
Without any comment, because none (especially at this point) are needed, these are all headlines from a single page that appeared on March 24 on the home page of RawStory, a standard, thoughtful, admittedly left-leaning news site I tend to check out. I am not making this up. This is not The Onion. It is not The National Enquirer or Breitbart News. I didn't change one word. It's just 10 headlines -- nothing more -- of that one day, word-for-word.
To be clear, these aren't the only headlines on the page. It's maybe half of them. There was other news mixed in. And certainly an editor chose to feature these stories. The point here though isn't that this is "all" the far-right thinks about, enables and does. It isn't. But that any of this is news ever is ghastly -- let alone all on the same day alone speaks volumes about far-right derangement.
Alan Dershowitz: Congress should be sued for investigating too much
Fox News pastor: Christians who follow Trump are spiritually superior to other believers
Devin Nunes rages Mueller report should be ‘burned up’
Rep. Jim Jordan comes unglued and demands FBI reveal ‘cabal’ of top agents who are out to get Trump
We’re not going to go there’: Chris Wallace shuts down Jason Chaffetz for veering into Mueller conspiracy theory
Ted Cruz melts down on CNN over possibility Democrats might still attempt to impeach Trump
Trump defender blows off prospect of Russian interference in Mueller report by blaming Obama
Fox News' Smear campaign against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is working
Trump’s billionaire pick for the United Nations has lavished donations on GOP senators who must approve her: report
Second Parkland shooting survivor commits suicide: police
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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