You've likely seen this video -- if so, it's short and worth seeing again. But if not, it shouldn't slip through the cracks. Plus a few added comments.
It's Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg once again being eloquent, polite and pointed when dealing with blunt questions by a Fox "News" host. This time, the questions concerned the protests of Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh when he went out to dinner.
For starters, he doesn't let himself get sidetracked by the Fox "News" person trying to move the conversation elsewhere. It's not that Buttigieg talks over him, but just that he takes the acknowledgements of "Okay..." as being an acceptance of what he's saying and continuing on to finish his full point. And when he finally gets to his most-substantive point about comparing a peaceful protest outside on the street to Trump leading a mob to invade to Capitol -- the last place, I'm sure, that Fox wanted this to go -- and the host tries to ask a follow-up, Buttiegieg calmly finishes his point.
And once he finishes and the host finally asks his follow-up, the host foolishly asks what he seemingly made a "gotcha"-type question by making it a personal "What would you do?" -- he forgot that more than maybe anyone in the cabinet, Buttigieg has faced protests his entire public career. And therefore had a directed, pointed answers to not only what he would do...but also what he has done.
In addition, it's notable that in making the question personal the Fox "News" host brings up being out with his husband. Now, while it's perfectly fair to phrase the question this way, it's also completely unnecessary. After all, most of the news stories about Kavanaugh's dinner were about Kavanaugh being at dinner -- not Kavanaugh and his wife. But this seemed a Fox way to remind everyone, "Pssst, don't forget, he's gay and married!" But Buttieg accepted it unblinkingly. It was not an unfair question, just one that didn't have to be asked that way. And he responded it as the most natural thing -- which in today's America, it is. (Though we'll see what the far-right Supreme Court has to say about that...)
Finally the mere fact that Pete Buttigieg again went on Fox "News" speaks volumes, compared to how Trump administration officials generally went out of their way to avoid requests to be questioned on MSNBC. Or often even CNN. Just mostly (if not exclusively) Fox "News", OANN and Newsmax. But Buttigieg goes on Fox so often it doesn't even register as anything more than par for the course.
My dad enjoyed my writings on the Huffington Post and we held similar feelings about politics, so our conversations about it were generally good, interesting and fun. He had excellent insights, which tended to tilt far more to the cynical side than me when it came to politics, although he was pretty liberal, even at 94.
However, whenever I wrote a column with an early observation that he hadn’t seen written about anywhere else, it wasn’t so much that he discounted it, but he held it in abeyance. “If that was true, why hasn’t the New York Times written about it?” he would always ask. My answer was always that I had thought of it first, but that wasn’t good enough. He would believe my insight, but not until there was a second source. And that source pretty much had to be the New York Times, to which he had a subscription.
It wasn’t his news Bible, though close. He didn't always subscribe to it -- it didn't even have a national paper until semi-recently, and even then he didn't subscribe. That was only much latter when he and my mom moved to to their independent living residence. For a long while decades before, he probably most relied on the excellent Chicago Daily News, but when that evening publication went out of business in 1978, he lost it as his Talmud. Much of the staff went to its sister morning, the morning Chicago Sun-Times, which we also subscribed to – but though the paper was good, and then improved, it was a “tabloid’ format, so that kept it from being a religious source for him. Eventually, the Sun-Times got bought out by Rupert Murdoch in 1984, a lot of their reporters left – notably Mike Royko – for the long-hated Chicago Tribune, and my dad left, too. He dropped his subscription and instead started getting the long-hated Tribune. (As it happened, Murdoch at to sell the Sun-Times only two years later when he bought the UHF station WFLD, but by then so many people had bailed.) But though the Trib had improved greatly over the years, and in the ‘80s had actually become pretty good, in fact, the reason it was long-hated by so many was its long history of being owned by the virulent ultra-conservative Colonel Robert McCormick. And given that my dad grew up in that era, even as much as the paper improved to the point where he was willing to actually subscribe, it was a hurdle much too high to get over for it to become his news Bible. It was a source, and so were a few other well-regarded publications, but the New York Times was as close to the ultimate Scripture for him.
(A slight digression. I had two columns that were his favorite. One was about Camp Nebagamon, and because so many people who belonged to his country club had kids who went there, he just dearly loved when they'd come up to him and tell him they'd read the article. The other was a weird story: when Barack Obama was running for president and suddenly fell behind John McCain who'd just named Sarah Palin his running mate. I wrote a HuffPo article, "12 Reasons why Obama Will Beat McCain." And soon after, some total stranger in Ohio forwarded the article to a friend of his in Chicago -- not knowing that this Chicago friend happened to be friend of my dad. So, when my dad's friend told him about getting the article forwarded, my dad thought that was just about the greatest thing.)
But back to the point here.
A week ago to the day, last Thursday I wrote an article of “Today’s Pondering” where I wrote that “Trump’s insurrection lawyer John Eastman had been a Supreme Court clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas.” And to this I added –
“It would seem to me that a clerk for Justice Thomas would know the Justice’s wife. Probably quite well. Which would mean that John Eastman knew Ginni Thomas. And it strikes me as not remotely unreasonably that, the two would cross paths and talk on occasion.” And from there I noted it was hard to imagine that she didn't mention to her husband about having talked to his old Supreme Court clerk.
For the record, “Remotely unreasonable” is what’s known as polite understatement.
Which brings us to the breaking news story in the Washington Post last night, written by Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Emma Brown. It begins –
“The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol has obtained email correspondence between Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and lawyer John Eastman, who played a key role in efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, according to three people involved in the committee’s investigation.
“The emails show that Thomas’s efforts to overturn the election were more extensive than previously known, two of the people said. The three declined to provide details and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.”
The full article can be found here.
I’m not sure if my dad would have completely accepted my theory from a week ago. He probably would have thought it wasn’t crazy, but said if there was proof to it, why hadn’t anyone else written about it.
This morning I think he'd have believed it. No, it wasn’t from the New York Times -- but he liked the Washington Post, too, and understood the concept of papers getting a scoop on their competitors. Also, he liked "Rachel" and Lawrence O'Donnell, and because the latter reported the story, that would have been added confirmation.
By the way, I would suggest, too, that as blockbuster as this report from the Post is, I feel confident that communication between Trump lawyer Eastman and Supreme Court Justice’s wife Thomas wasn’t limited to emails. I’m sure they spoke, as well, and perhaps even met. And my general certainty aside, even the Post article says, “The emails show that Thomas’s efforts to overturn the election were MORE EXTENSIVE [emphasis added] than previously known.”
To be clear, I don't think my observation was anything special. I'm sure it crossed the minds of many. But I just hadn't seen any articles or commentary bringing it up.
And one other related thing. Let's bend over backwards and beyond all rational reason believe that Justice Clarence had absolutely no idea in the world about his wife's actions trying to overthrow the government and no idea at all who she was writing to and talking to. And so, he's had no reason to recuse himself from any court cases that concern the election. Let's totally unreasonably believe that. Well, fine -- but he knows now. So, he has absolutely no reason to not recuse himself from such cases anymore. Other than, "I don't have to, and I don't want to."
Anyway, for those who may have missed that original article a week ago, you can read the full thing here.
And man, after reading all this and it now being on the record, is is really hard not to snark out, "...but her emails!!!"
Between SkyNews reporter Mark Stone interviewing Ted Cruz, and MSNBC's Garrett Haake interviewing Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) who represents the district which covers Uvalde, it's my hope that journalists are now grasping the concept that if someone doesn't answer your question and just diverts to something else and regurgitates talking points, you don't have to accept that and can actually ask your question again. And again. And again. Most especially when it comes to gun massacres.
First, this below is Ted Cruz eventually running away (perhaps to catch a flight to Cancun) when Mark Stone won't accept him not answering.
And thouogh I can't find a standalone video to post of Garrett Haake interviewing Gonzales, but this is an article with it embedded.
There are two videos on the page. It’s the first one, and the exchange comes about 45-seconds in. You can get to it here.
On the show’s Apple TV+ series, the topic was all about the news media. So, they invited Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan to talk with Jon about media sensationalism. And as the show writes, trying a bit of sensationalism itself --- “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT! Actually, you will. They have a thoughtful discussion about the state of news media and if it can be improved. Jon is also joined by executive producer Brinda Adhikari and staff writer Henrik Blix, both of whom worked in news before escaping to the world of late night comedy.”
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman has a new book about to be published, Confidence Man. And one of the revelations that’s been made public is that when Trump was in the White House, he would occasionally flush documents in the toilet.
This story has caused outrage across social media. The thing is, though, the outrage is not at Trump, but at Maggie Haberman. (Insert deep and heavy sigh here.) The outrage at her is because supposedly she knew about this crime and failed to report it, holding onto the story until she could put it in her book, thereby making her as much a criminal.
The reaction directed at Maggie Haberman has been beyond all reason, and I've gnashed my teeth and twisted my fingers at each new Tweet being posted. I’ve tried answering a few, but not only are there too many gnats to swat away, but each response tends to get multiply replies back smalling me in return. So, I've picked my spots when to dive in.
That's because every once in a while, a few Tweets stood out that were simply too much for me to let fly by. Those cases were either because the person had a level of responsibility and should know better, or the comment had received far too many Likes and Retweets, or…well, it was just too mind-numbing to let stand as if it made sense.
One, for example, wrote --
“I think Maggie Haberman should be prosecuted for being an accessory after the fact. She knew about a crime of national significance and kept it secret. Writing a book now doesn't make it legal to conceal a crime earlier.”
What I replied was that If one ACTUALLY thinks this, hopefully they will rethink it. Putting the First Amendment aside (which is a lot to put aside), Maggie Haberman wasn't a witness to the events, she's just reporting what she was told happened – and happened at least a year earlier. Which therefore wouldn’t even be inadmissible in court. Further, being only TOLD about it, she is not even a witness. For that matter, we don’t even know what “it” is, other than just torn up paper flushed in a toilet – which, on that level only, is not a crime. Just something suspicious, worth looking into. Moreover, separate from when the event occurred, this outraged crimebuster doesn’t have the slightest idea when Maggie Haberman was told about it. Perhaps, for all he knows, it was something she learned only a few months ago, long after the fact. She did not commit a crime. She is not going to be prosecuted. And she should not be. And to think she should be is seriously misguided. Which is the polite word.
When my friend Don Friedman (who actually is a lawyer and doesn’t just play one on social media) saw this back-and-forth, he jumped in and added some important points on top of it all. Saying, “And -- neither she nor we know for a fact whether what was being flushed were government documents he had a duty to preserve. There's a lot of faux outrage at journalists holding small anecdotes for their books. Real time disclosures of these things wouldn't have changed anything.”
Another social media comment that caught my eye enough to respond was something much shorter, pithy, in fact, yet impressively was just as empty in only six words --
“Maggie Haberman is a national disgrace.”
I wrote back that given Trump, given the GOP, given the RNC calling January 6 a "legitimate political discourse," given the insurrectionists, the white supremacists, the anti-vaxxers, the anti-maskers and given, too, that Maggie Haberman in fact did report what she was told by a third party happened at least a year beforehand -- we have a very different view what a “national disgrace” is.
There’s a phrase known as “Keep your eyes on the prize.” This “outrage!!!” at Maggie Haberman not only doesn’t have its eyes on the prize of Trump's crimes looming up from the miasma, it has created a false outrage where one doesn’t exist.
Yes, I understand people wishing that Ms. Haberman had reported the story the moment it happened. But not only is that not journalism and publishing works, and not only would the third-party story she was told have less meaning as a newspaper item out of context of the full book, and not only was what she was told not for certain an actual crime…but one could argue that the story coming out right now just days after the Washington Post has broken the story of Trump taking material from the White House to Mar-a-Lago and ripping some of it up, and when there is now a House Select Committee investigating it all, the release of her reporting today may have significantly more importance than if it had been reported as a slight, random anecdote whenever she learned of it (perhaps six months ago or whenever) without any context.
And more to the point, if not most to the point, I would suggest that even if people truly feel Ms. Haberman should have reported the anecdote the moment she heard it, their outraged fury at Maggie Haberman detracts attention from what’s actually important about the whole event – which is not “when” Maggie Haberman reported Trump tearing up paper and flushing it, but that…Trump tore up paper and flushed it! Getting outraged at Maggie Haberman, rightly or wrongly (and it’s wrongly) to the point of calling it a crime, a national disgrace and she should be prosecuted divides the focus where it all should be. All of it. On Trump.
Saying that you wish that Maggie Haberman had reported the story when she heard it told to her is a fair opinion (though as I noted above, doing so likely would have had significantly-less impact than her reporting it now). But this outrage that explodes at seemingly the same level (let alone even remotely close to the same level) of Trump’s possibly-criminal actions that may have been to hide treasonous actions is not fair, but rather it's wrong, divisive, misplaced and counter-productive. And that, in a word, is stupid.
What I sense is that not only have the claustrophobic realities of the pandemic for two years put added pressures on society, but when that overlaps with anger and concern about an insurrection to overthrow democracy, then that outrage needs an outlet to vent. And if one can’t do something about Trump, you can take it out at whoever gets in our way. Which today is Maggie Haberman.
If so, I totally get it. But that doesn’t make it any less wrong, divisive, misplaced, counter-productive and wrong.
And it will happen again. And again.
"Fox News" just ran a story they headlined "Empty Shelves Joe" and put up a photo of empty grocery shelves behind him.
One big problem -- the photo is a store in Japan.
In an area that people were fleeing because it was near a nuclear power plant.
Once upon a time, this was the sort of story you'd roll your eyes at from "Fox News" and chalk it up to "Well, that's 'Fox News.'"
But this isn't eye-rolling anymore. This is a fascist, abusive attack on democracy. And one of the tenets of fascism it to attack power sources and make the public distrust the truth.
They knew what they were doing. They've done it regularly -- as they say in the courtroom, it's "pattern and practice." Using old photos wrongly to build up Republicans and tear down Democrats. Perhaps most infamously, of the Trump inauguration crowd, show a crowd from a few years earlier, which people were able to identify because of a building not being where it should have been. And even if you're "Fox News," you don't screw up a photo of a local grocery store today with one from a decade earlier in Japan over a story about a nuclear power plant.
This is just a case of a "news organization" giving up any pretense of trying to trick you into thinking they're presenting the news and just tossing out the concept of truth.
I know this isn't new concept, "Fox News" not caring about the truth. They took it to new levels during the pandemic, helping lay out the red carpet to the mortuary and killing off their viewers with knowing misinformation. They were doing it heavily with the "Big Lie" about how the election was fraudulent -- until they got threatened with a massive lawsuit by one of the companies who make voting machines, and their hosts noticeably backed up.
So, no, the idea that "Fox News" lies heavily on behalf of Republicans isn't new. But I think it's become a different matter to the extent that they don't care about the truth. Before it was to their benefit to care about the truth because they wanted to be seen as a News Organization, which therefore let their lies sneak in under the guise of respectability. And the truth and lies blended into one another.
But no more. Now if there's truth being reported, that's just an accidental occurrence. What I think happened -- and this is just a guess --- is that once upon a time, "Fox News" had the far-right field all to themselves. So, they could afford to toss in truth now and then, because their audience had nowhere else to go. But now there is OANN and Newsmax. And so, "Fox News" has competition. And OANN and Newsmax are so far to the right that Attila the Hun seems moderate, and truth is an alien concept in both places. Which "Fox News" has to go up against for their far-right audience.
And caring about the truth is the first casualty.
So, no, blatant lies and manipulation of the truth is no longer eye-rolling for "Fox News." It is very intentional, it is fascist, and it is an attack to undermine democracy.
Chris Wallace got out just barely in time to save his credibility and soul.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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