Yesterday, there was a horrible story of three U.S. college students – all born in Palestine, though two are American citizens, and the third is here on a student visa – being shot while on holiday visiting family in Vermont. Fortunately, two are apparently recovering well, though the third young man is in more critical condition.
But all I could think of was an item that crossed my feed on social media over the weekend. It was about a Breitbart story posted that was so telling in how blisteringly ignorant that extreme-right publication assumes their readers are.
The headline was – “SHOCK REPORT: New Analysis Reveals Over 23 Million Naturalized US Citizens, Formerly Immigrants now Eligible to Vote in the Upcoming 2024 Presidential Election..” Yes, really. Most of the Twitter responses were utterly scathing in their ridicule, faux-“outraged” that actual legal citizens were allowed to vote – like (as I pointed out) pretty much every American’s ancestors has done since it was codified as in the U.S. Constitution -- but it was head-shaking and sickening to see some far-right respondents so gallingly upset by the story that they asked – and I swear this is true -- if there was anything that could be done and if this could be appealed to the Supreme Court could do.
But that’s what the GOP today has become. So ignorant and so upset at the mere mention of “immigrants,” thinking it must mean they’re illegal. From the Breitbart article: “As more immigrants naturalize and become eligible to vote, they continue to gain political power. The number of immigrant voters is only projected to rise in the next decade, and in some states, foreign-born voters are already capable of deciding elections.”
Whenever a Republican official rails about “illegal immigrants,” they always try (well, okay, not every official tries…) to let you know they have nothing against legal immigrants, who came into the country legally and are legally legal, they’re only talking about “illegal immigrants.” And y’know, maybe even some of them really do feel that way. But when you’re an elected representative of what is today a fascist political party – and when one of the main tenets of fascism is xenophobia and hatred of people who are different – there’s a pretty good chance that if your soapbox ranting about “illegal immigrants” bleeds over to be perceived as immigrants, period, that a fascist party whose base has a foundation of racism and white supremacy isn’t going to lose a whole lot of sleep about it, especially since it’s likely their assumption is that those people aren’t going to vote for you anyway.
On top of that, the difficulty of looking at a person who isn’t white and trying to determine if they’re an illegal immigrant or just a garden variety legal immigrant is a high bar to get over. And when someone is racist and hates minorities to begin with, there’s a really good chance that they’re not going to take the time and effort to find out. In large part, because they probably don’t care all that much. And so, the immigrant is as good a target for the outlet of releasing your hate. They're just one and the same. Legal, illegal, whatever. They're immigrants.
Never mind, of course, that somewhere in your own past, unless you’re an American Indian, you absolutely, 100% had an ancestor who was an immigrant. And for all you know, they may have gotten in illegally.
Which brings us back to that Breitbart story. Because they knew the story was ludicrous and meaningless, but they also knew that they could inflame the racist, unthinking base by pointing out a “SHOCKING” news item about “immigrants.” Never mind that it was not only legal, but it was everyday, basic Standard Operating Procedure for how the United Sates actually works. And is supposed to work. Actually.
Which brings us back to today’s Republican Party and Trump leading the way with his plans for interment camps, lists of Muslims, and religious travel bans. Because no matter how much he and they insist all they are against are “illegal immigrants,” it’s hugging distance for their hatred of immigrants, which they’re more than happy to inflame if it comes to that.
Never mind that they are the heirs of immigrants.
Including Trump whose grandfather Friedrich immigrated to the United States from Germany, where the family name was Drumpf.
The New York Times had an egregiously-weak headline (bordering on malpractice) about the speech Trump gave on Saturday -- Veterans Day, no less -- writing only that "Trump Takes Veteran Day Speech in a Very Different Direction"
Saying that Trump's Veteran Day speech went in a very different direction is like saying that Thelma and Louise took a very different route getting down from the cliff than was on the map.
The Washington Post got it right –
And then a bit later in the day, Forbes took up the story and reported it properly in its headline, as well --
It is my hope that the New York Times puts on its adult pants soon and that they and other newspapers report the reality of Trump as clearly and directly as the Washington Post and Forbes understand. If you want to be the "Newspaper of record," you have to report the record, and not keep it so far away the coverage requires binoculars. Being objective starts with knowing the object.
I am loathe to compare anyone to Hitler. Hitler is in a category alone -- with Hitler, it's not just that he was autocratic, or authoritarian, or fascist, or a despot. But rather that he built death camps, rounded up and systematically murdered six million Jews and others, built an army to overrun Europe and attempted to take over the world.
So, Trump is not like Hitler. Nor am I aware of anyone else since Hitler, not matter how brutal. Hitler stand alone in his own small cubicle in Hell.
But when somebody clearly and blatantly uses Hitler's words to advance his own fascist, despotic goals, it is appropriate to say so and to quote them.
The MeidasTouch group put a meme together from Trump's speech -- once again, on Veterans Day -- and social media posts to drive this home as impactfully as possible.
As MeidasTouch wrote --
"This is not merely a coincidence.
"It is deliberate.
"We must not sit idly by as fascism rears its ugly head in America."
And still, again, it must be reiterated that this latest of Trump speeches was made on Veterans Day, the day the United States honors the men and women who served in the armed forces to protect democracy, including those who fought in World War II to defeat Hitler. An added, bitter irony given how Trump has enabled neo-Nazis as the core of his base
Trump is telling everyone who he is. And he's pretty clear about it.
"[I]f I happen to be president," he says, "and I see somebody who’s doing well and beating me very badly, I say go down and indict them...”
He thinks that Gen. Mark Milley, Trump's own Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should be killed.
On Veterans Day, he posts a long, raging manifesto on social media frothing against thugs, vermin and the Radical Left willing to "cheat on elections" and willing to do "anything possible" to "destroy America" that begins by saying without a hint of irony or self-awareness "In honor of our great Veterans," and then ending with "The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave, than the threat from within. Despite the hatred and anger of the Radical Left Lunatics who want to destroy our Country, we will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN."
That is Trump. Who has ridiculed people who joined the military, called those who died in battled "losers," and refused to visit a World War II graveyard in France...because there was a light rain. There is Trump, attempting to pretend he honors these very same veterans who saved democracy and defeated Hitler -- all the while insisting that neo-Nazis have some very fine people among them. That isn't true even if you compare them to the white supremacists Trump enables.
By the way, an added, unmentioned, problem for Republicans is that when Trump is the official GOP nominee, all Republicans running throughout the country, in any race, national, state or local, will have to endorse and support him as the party leader. Candidates in purple districts will be in huge trouble. Because if they don't back his words, they risk losing GOP voter support.
This is what happens in a democracy when your party wraps itself around a leader who is openly fascist, autocratic and is comfortable echoing Adolf Hitler.
No, Trump is not Hitler. And isn't even remotely close. He just seems to be okay with people thinking how much he admires the guy.
To quote the great Molly Ivins from another, but related occasion. Trump's speech on Saturday "sounded better in the original German."
The other day, Ross Douthat – a conservative op-ed columnist for the New York Times – posted the following on social media.
“Another possibility," he wrote "is that we have radicalization on the left and the right at the same time because left-liberals got what they wanted -- a more secular and expressive-individualist society -- and unfortunately it made people unhappier and more open to radical critiques.”
When I say “conservative columnist,” it’s worth clarifying that he replaced Bill Kristol -- one of America’s more disingenuous conservative voices -- on the paper’s editorial page. Because what Mr. Douthat wrote was empty, nonsensical bunk. The polite term. This is what passes for a conservative analyst trying to show he understands and can explain liberals.
First of all, no, this is not a Both Sides thing. If the "left wing" of The Left is radicalized, the near entirety of The Right is radicalized -- and its "right wing" is literally fascist. It’s why people like Mitt Romney (their former standard bearer) is leaving the Senate. And why the party pushed out deeply conservative Liz Cheney, who was part of House leadership. And why conservative Adam Kinzinger and now very conservative Ken Buck decided not to run for re-election. Because they’re not conservative enough for today’s GOP. A party that remarkably is overwhelming supporting by over 45 points a man who has four indictments, 91 felony counts, been found liable for what the judge called the equivalence of rape, had his company found guilty of fraud, had his charity foundation shut down, enables white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and fomented an insurrection to overthrow democracy.
No doubt to someone so far on the right that this description of Trump, which was actually short and polite to the larger reality, leaving out such things as following the fascist playbook to undermine competing sources of authority like the court system, the intelligence community, election security and the media -- as well as pushing xenophobic hatred towards minorities like Muslims, Jews, Mexicans, Blacks and “third world sh*thole countries, and promoting violence with threats to call out the military to attack protestors and kill people who disagree with him – will find this all a “radical critique,” since most things critical of them or that’s to the left of Genghis Khan is “radical,” when it’s really just an accurate description.
But it’s Mr. Douthat’s instance that has “got what they wanted” that leaps out most for giving away his far-right perspective. Since today’s GOP does not appear to support compromise, but has a winner-take-all mentality (witness their difficulty electing a Speaker, kicking out the previous House leader because he dared reach an agreement with Democrats to pass a temporary budget bill and keep the government running), then when extreme-right conservatives see progressives get something, virtually anything they didn’t want them to get, then in their no-compromise minds, that tends to be seen as progressives getting everything they wanted. Because they don’t want them to get anything.
No, the Left hasn't got "what they wanted." The Left hasn’t come close to getting “what they wanted. For starters –
They don't want Merrick Garland not sitting on the Supreme Court.
They don’t want Hilary Clinton defeated at the hands of Trump with help from Russia.
They don’t want Trump to have been the one is office to appoint three Supreme Court Justices.
They don’t want abortion overturned.
They don’t want travel restrictions on women who travel to a state where abortions are legal.
The don’t want semi-automatic weapons of war available to the public.
They don’t want books banned.
They don’t want the teaching of Black history banned.
They don’t want voter suppression.
They don’t want healthcare for transgender children banned.
They don’t want laws against LGBTQ.
They don’t want drag shows banned.
That don’t want laws that ban saying “Gay” or “LatinX.”
They don’t want a path to citizenship by Dreamers blocked.
And they most certainly don’t want is for people to think that Ross Douthats of the world, who are trying to convince others that Left-liberals are radicalized and “got what they wanted,” have any idea what they’re talking about and instead are just pulling fear from out of their orifices in order to be intentionally divisive by passing off blatant lies as reality.
And no, that is not hyperbole. Consider Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, who before Tuesday was considering getting into the GOP presidential race – until reality fell on him after his state’s legislature election. Earlier in the day, he made a lie so huge that after showing the clip, an MSNBC guest said it made her sick. He was being interviewed before polls closed and said how Democrats want to make abortion legal up to birth. (And this is a common "fear tactic" theme from Republicans. Even Chris Christie has said this happens in his state of New Jersey...every day!) It doesn't happen, it's illegal, and there is no Democratic official, probably no Democrat anywhere period, who has called for abortion up to birth – and Glenn Youngkin and Chris Christie couldn’t find one if they had the Hubble telescope. And the day or so before that, Youngkin said that Democrats were the “party of hate, Republicans the party of hope.” Man, talk about upside-down world. When you’re the party of banning abortion, banning the right to travel for an abortion where it’s legal, banning books, banning the teaching of Black history, banning voting rights, banning healthcare for transgender, banning drag shows, banning Dreamer laws and supporting a white supremacist, neo-Nazi enabler found liable of rape, guilty of fraud and four-time indicted as your overwhelming party leader, and unanimously electing as House Speaker a man who blames school shootings on abortion, it takes a professional contortionist to make all that and more not the proud party of hatred.
That’s the world Ross Douthat lives in. That’s the world where he sees those to the left of him (which is the majority of Americans) as “radicals.” That’s the world where he sees people get something (whatever that “something” may be) that he doesn’t want them to get and believes therefore they got everything they wanted. And wants you to believe it all, too.
That’s why he doesn’t see that the Republican Party he’s enveloped by has become fascist. Because it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.
The other day, a friend sent me an op-ed written by David Brooks in the New York Times, titled, “Can We Talk About Joe Biden?” He was curious about my response. In fairness, I can’t do opinion piece justice because, in full disclosure, as I explained to my friend, I only skimmed it. Though in fairness to me, there are three reasons why I only skimmed it.
One, it was by David Brooks. Two, it was interminably long (even by my standards), and even if I was willing to read something by David Brooks, there is no way I was going to read something that long by David Brooks. And third, I hate articles about "Should Biden be the nominee since he's old" -- most especially when they don't even mention that Trump is just as old. Which, it turns out, not surprisingly David Brooks conveniently ignores. Among many things.
(Though I only skimmed the op-ed, to be as fair as possible I did do a search of it for various words and phrases, in hopes that David Brooks at least mentioned them. Alas, no. But that was no surprise.)
A word of warning: This response to the piece is very long. But the good thing is that it’s not even close to as long as David Brooks’ article.
A few things I did note in my skimming that are just oh-so David Brooks.
When speaking of Biden, Brooks writes, "He has his faults" — as if no human on Earth doesn't. And what are Biden's huge, almost disqualifying to Brooks faults that he notes? He mentions a few, starting with "The tendency to talk too much." Oh, nooooo! A politician who talks to much!! As if Trump doesn’t talk worlds more – the difference being that when Trump talks, it’s overflowing with documented lies. And another Biden fault for Brooks: "The chip on his shoulder about those who think they are smarter than he is." What??? Putting aside that I don't know what he's talking about, assuming it exists, a "chip on his shoulder" is about as paltry a "fault" for a president as there is, since "chips" are just personal quirks when not tied to destructive actions as a result of having them, which Brooks doesn't tie to Biden. And then there’s -- "The gaffes." Yes, Biden makes gaffes. And the other week, Trump suggested that Joe Biden could start "WWII" and twice talked about running about Barack Obama (which borders on more than a “gaffe”). Not to mention all his other massive Trump errors over the past six years, including my favorite -- airports during the Revolutionary War. And another Biden fault so glaring to Brooks it demands singling out – "That episode of plagiarism." For the record, "that episode" was 36 years ago!! Before almost one-quarter of voters today were even born. An "episode" that hasn't been repeated since. "And the moments of confusion." Sorry, that's pretty much the same as the gaffes, and Brooks doesn't get a twofer on the same thing.
And for all that, perhaps worse is when he describes two things he wants in a candidate that he finds lacking: The first of those two is, " I’ve always thought: Give me a leader who identifies with those who feel looked down upon." For starters, when referencing those who he wants a leader to identify with, what Brooks is describing are people who "have a chip on their shoulder," which he supposedly hates, since “feeling looked down upon” doesn't mean you actually are, but rather is often just a knee-jerk reaction to being angry others are doing better than you. Further, if you are a person who believes in banning books, banning women's rights, banning gay rights, separating children from their parents, and supporting white supremacists, then it could be argued your fascist view deserve to be looked down upon. And most notably, while a leader who truly identifying with the downtrodden is a noble and rare thing, far more common are leaders who spot that "I feel looked down upon" attitudes of people and use it to play to their grievances, which is what makes them nothing more than “I alone can fix it” pandering demagogues, in the image of a Huey Long. And to think that Trump -- with his golden toilets and hatred of “losers” and “sh*t hole” third-world countries and disdain of injured soldiers-- "identifies" with such people is utterly ludicrous. Almost as ludicrous as almost any Republican leader, whose real base is corporations and their checkbooks, identifying with “those who feel looked down upon.”
And second, after Brooks lists all his paltry complaints with Joe Biden, he then adds that what he finds lacking, but really most wants is instead, " Give me a leader whose moral compass generally sends him in the right direction" -- not realizing he has, in fact, described Joe Biden! The man who is widely recognized for his best quality being compassion, so much so that he often is referred to as the "Healer in Chief." A man who even Republican Lindsey Grahm said, that Joe Biden is "as good a man as God ever created" and “The bottom line is, if you can't admire Joe Biden as a person, you got a problem."
David Brooks has got a problem.
And that was only paragraph four. From an article that would give Moby Dick a run for its money.
And immediately after that, David Brooks does he best to show his fairness by writing, “But I’ve also come to fear and loathe Donald Trump.” Sorry, excuse me?? He’s just “come to fear and loathe” Trump?! If anything undermines Brooks it’s that simple phrase: the “come to.” Personally, I think the proper phrase is “But I fear and loathe Donald Trump.” Because “come to” says that you thought Trump was okay for a while – not a bad guy, good policies, interesting talented, solid president…but eventually he just went too far, and so finally, at last, Brooks has “come to” fearing and loathing Trump. Besides which, I also think that fear and loathing overwhelmingly exceeds a tendency to talk too much.
A few other things that caught my eye as I skimmed –
Like his passive aggressive – “Some Democrats tell me in these talks that they hope their party leaders will somehow persuade Biden to retire and open the door for a fresher candidate.” Putting aside that “some Democrats” could be 12 people or a whopping 100), the reality is that Joe Biden has announced that he is running for reelection, he is not retiring, and on top of all that…no one is challenging him. Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee. And so the only actual issue is not “should Joe Biden retire,” but who should be the next president? The man who plagiarized a paragraph 36 years ago, or the one Brooks “fears and loathes”?
And when he writes, “The thing that so many of us are stuck on is Biden’s age, of course,” what he ignores – totally ignores, without mention – is that Trump’s age is essentially the same, and to David Brooks, that turns out not to be a thing that he and “so many of us” are stuck on. Just because.
By the way, Joe Biden is older than I think is best to run for president. However, that doesn’t mean a) he won’t do a great job as president if re-elected, and b) that if something happens and Kamala Harris –a former U.S. Senator and California Attorney General -- becomes president, she won’t be very good as president, and universes better than anyone the equally-old Trump picks as his vice-president. And again, the issue isn’t “Is Joe Biden too old?” It’s – Joe Biden or Trump will be the nominees, so who do you prefer to be the next president?!!!!
And then, after going on and on about Joe Biden’s age, Brooks jumps to – “To me, age isn’t Biden’s key weakness. Inflation is.” So, after all this about Joe Biden’s age and titling the article, “Can we talk about Joe Biden?”, it’s really just “inflation” that most bothers David Brooks??? Which, if so, Brooks should have made the title, “Can we talk about inflation?” – especially since inflation will touch any Democratic candidate, even one of the “fresher” ones who Brooks mentions as alternatives to President Biden. Yes, inflation is more attached to Joe Biden, but the economy will be seen as a Democratic issue. Yet that aside, Brooks leaves out that inflation has lowered significantly, that inflation is much lower in the U.S. that any other nation in the world (an odd omission since he gladly notes that inflation is a world problem right now, something clearly not caused by Democrats), and that U.S. unemployment is historically low, and that new jobs are monumentally high – 13.9 million of them created during the Biden administration. But…it’s really “inflation” that David Brooks says bothers him most about President Biden.
Yes, inflation is a big issue Democrats will have to deal with. But Brooks (as always, conveniently) leaves out all the “weakness” Trump and Republicans have to deal with. Like anti-abortion (of which actual results in special elections show this to be a disaster for Republicans), pro-guns, anti-environment – the three issues that most-especially drive young voters, it’s worth noting -- book burning, banning drag shows, , banning health care for trans-children, growing fascist policies, total GOP dysfunction in the House, 15 ballots to pick a Speaker, kicking out their own Speaker, unable to immediately find a new Speaker, on the verge of shutting down the government, thinking “But Hunter Biden!” is an issue to run on, and…and we haven’t even gotten to Trump having four indictments, two impeachments, being actually found guilty of fraud, being actually found liable for the equivalence of rape, giving away top secret material, still insisting he won the election, trying to overthrow the government, saying his former chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs should be executed, threatening judges, prosecutors and witnesses and…and oh-so-more, none of which David Brooks (or apparently the “many of us” he talks to) aren’t concerned enough about for him to specify in critically important detail, let alone even mention. Leaving it only to your imagination to figure out his concern of a “Trumpian Götterdämmerung”. Compared to Joe Biden having an apparent (or mythical) chip on his shoulder.
I will admit that I stopped a careful skimming when David Brooks went a bridge too far for me. That’s when got to quoting one of his sources he talks to who said, “They seem hell bent on nominating the one Democrat who would lose to Donald Trump.” Putting aside that I’ve heard and read far more people suggest, contrary to this Brooks source, that Joe Biden is rather the “one Democrat” who could actually beat Trump – a) since he’s already beaten him, b) he is the sitting President, and c) he has the deep compassion that contrasts Trump’s malignant narcissism – what most impacted me is the fact that this one person who David Brooks quotes about what Democrats should do is…Karl Rove!!!
For the record, Karl Rove is not my go-to guy for advice on what Democrats should do. That he is for David Brooks is almost all one needs to know about the David Brooks’ mindset.
And there were still another 20 paragraphs or so to go! I very lightly skimmed the rest of the way, but my heart was no longer in it.
That's because for all David Brooks’ concerns about Joe Biden plagiarizing one passage in a speech 36 years, and his concerns of a Trumpian Götterdämmerung, the thing he most importantly leaves out is the part he himself and his fellow deeply-reactionary conservatives played in their writing and actions over the years laying the groundwork in the Republican Party that made the GOP welcoming Trump as its leader possible. Trump did not just happen overnight, the party base had to be prepared and pointed that way, which they were for decades by GOP politicians and conservative journalists demonizing Democrats as supposed Communists and Socialists and tree-huggers and ruining society by caring about peace and love, and so much permissiveness that gave black people more freedom, and gave the womenfolk more freedom, and gave The Gays more freedom, and having evil policies and Barack Obama not being an American and from the devil and on and on and on and on, for many decades – indeed, long before the GOP disaster of Kevin McCarthy, there was the real Republican McCarthyism and the Republican-led House Un-American Activities Committee where Americans were literally blacklisted and banned and lost their careers and, for some, their lives for often just being suspected of being “too liberal”. (Not to mention too “Red,” an irony which is not lost on some as we see Trump and the GOP base today embrace Vladimir Putin and Russia.) All of which helped leave the door open for a Trump to waltz in and convince the Republican Party that “I alone can fix it” and to trust a literally anonymous “Q” for its information (like that JFK Jr. will come back to life and run with Trump, and that Anderson Cooper eats babies), and to not believe in science (which is not a belief system).
David Brooks doesn’t mention any of that, or his part in his that helped strew Republicans garlands on the path to Trump. No, it’s Joe Biden’s occasional gaffes and “really” inflation.
In the end, after all that, after having his “talk about Joe Bien,” David Brooks’ concluded that we “must” vote for Joe Biden. Which is just oh-so full David Brooks. Here he is saying that we must vote for Joe Biden against the truly-horrific Trump…but first, let me explain all the things wrong with Joe Biden, like he talks to much and he’s old and y’know, inflation. But we must vote for him against Gotterdamerung. Never mind that Trump is just as old and four-times indicted and found liable for rape and found guilty of fraud and enables white supremacists and promotes fascism talks endlessly more (if lying counts as talking) than Joe Biden, who we must vote for. Because even though Joe Biden plagiarized one paragraph 36 years ago, we must vote for him. Good ol’ David Brooks. Praising with faint damns.
The only thing I’m grateful about is that I only skimmed the article. Because otherwise, I’d probably still be writing this days later.
I generally like the RawStory website. They tend to have a good compilation of news stories, including summaries of stories from websites that have pay walls I couldn’t otherwise read. I do have a few quibbles with the site, though.
One is that they have far too many typos and mistakes than a respectable new site should have. To their credit, they have a link after every story for readers to send in any corrections they think are needed. I’ve used this often – so often I’ve thought of requested staff status – and to their addition credit, they not only tend to respond quickly and make the corrections.
The other is that they much too often have headlines that have absolutely nothing to do with the story itself. There have been many times I’ll see a headline that looks interesting and read the article – and then skim it again and again for the point mentioned in the headline, only to realize it’s not there. In the early days, I’d read an article that same “again and again,” and then again and again and again. Over time, though, I eventually glommed on to this “quirk” of the site, and it's helped me cut down my “agains.”
Every once in a while, not often, they’ll do something pretty egregious that truly bothers me. And that was the case yesterday. It was this headline –
I was aghast, and find that incredibly irresponsible. Saying that someone “shirked” their “responsibly” means that they had a responsibility in the first play to “shirk.” After all, you can’t shirk a responsibility you never have.
Cassidy Hutchinson was an assistant. Her boss Mark Meadows may have had a huge amount of authority, Chief of Staff. And she may have had a lot of responsibility in her job as his assistant. But…she was his assistant. She wasn’t even “Deputy Chief of Staff.” She was an assistant. His principal assistant, to be sure, but assistant. In fact, she later got a new title while working for Meadows, “Special Assistant to the President and Coordinator for Legislative Affairs.” So, even that had “assistant” in the title.
And RawStory’s headline suggests that she had the “responsibility” to “stop” the President of the United States in the midst of him trying to overthrow the government!
It should be noted that Trump has been indicted for his actions (as have some of those around him) specifically because none of those around him – including his Chief of Staff (Hutchinson’s boss), the Acting Attorney General, his lawyers and top advisors – couldn’t, wouldn’t and didn’t stop him. But RawStory seems to think that this 24-year old assistant had the “responsibility” to do what no one – with actual responsibility -- else would do.
Actually, if you read the article, there’s really nothing in it to support their headline – which isn’t uncommon for RawStory. (This is different from that, though, since it’s not that information was totally left out, but rather that the headline damned someone for something that not only wasn’t remotely their fault, but that the article later does address and contradicts the headline.) What the article quotes her saying at the very end is –
“I felt it was our responsibility to stop January 6th from happening. And I felt that, you know, if I could go down to Florida and help relish whatever sort of legacy there was left to relish, that was still my job to help do so." To which she then added -- “looking back now I realize it's completely irrational and I should not have felt that way. January 6th was the president's fault, and there were a series of enablers that helped it happen, but it wasn't my job and it was the wasn't of anybody else actually rational to stop what is clearly an irrational man, Donald John Trump.”
She’s right. Her personal thought that she had any responsibility to stop Trump was completely irrational, and she’s right, she should not have felt that way. And further, January 6th was Trump’s fault. And there were enablers that helped him. And, as she said, stopping Trump wasn’t her job.
But to RawStory, it was her supposed responsibility that she shirked. As if 24-year-old assistant to the Chief of Staff could have stopped the Trump coup attempt by…what? Saying, “Hey, people, this is wrong, Don’t Do This!!”? To be clear, the problem here wasn’t a click-bait headline to get you to read the article. The problem is that the headline was a smear and irresponsible.
When I was watching the interview live, and she brought up at first feeling she had a responsibility, my initial reaction was, “Hunh? Say what??? You had zero responsibility.” Fortunately, she went on to say she realized that thought was “completely irrational.”
The person responsible was clearly an irrational man. Trump.
This was not RawStory’s finest hour.
The best I can hope for is that they don't understand the meaning of "shirk." And "responsibility."
No, I didn’t even remotely have the one molecule of heart to watch Kristen Welker’s debut on Meet the Press, interviewing Trump. I did see some clips, and read commentary from people whose opinion I respect. So, any thoughts I have on the broadcast can only been seen through that lens. Some of my comments are limited, therefore, and might not be of much value. Though some -- indeed, most (but I'm biased...) may still be spot-on.
First things first. In fairness to Kristen Welker, for all the deep (and I think justified) criticism she’s received for what she let Trump get away with, some praise -- because she did at least one thing impressively well and (more to the point) important, which Supreme Court attorney Neil Katyal, former Acting Solicitor General of the U.S. was raving about. Through flattery, Welker got Trump to admit that he acted on his own instincts, not his lawyers’ advice, to try to overturn the election. This is no small thing. It's a damning acknowledgement and deeply problematic for his defense. And Ms. Welker deserves praise for this important admission.
As for the rest – honestly, much of the initial blame has to go on NBC which approved this. While going for ratings is clearly their motivation, one would have hoped that NBC had learned from Les Moonves’ ill-advised comment in 2016 that CBS’s coverage of Trump might be bad for the country, but good for the network. At the very least, you’d have thought that NBC would learn from CNN’s “town hall” debacle with Trump that helped get its CEO Chris Licht fired. Even more to the point, you’d have thought that NBC would have been paying attention for the past seven years and grasped who Trump was. And to give him this forum was borderline journalistic malpractice. Yes, it’s understandable that you interview the leading candidate for the GOP nomination to be president. But there are other forums to do so, and serious guiderails to put in place, knowing that he will relentlessly lie and try to stir up his fascist base. And knowing that he is under four indictments, has 91 charges against him and was found liable twice for (as the judge wrote) the equivalence of rape. And fomented an Insurrection to try to overthrow the United States government.
Which leads to Ms. Welker.
It was a bad start when, prior to the broadcast, she promoted the show by almost school-girl breathlessly saying that Trump – the man, just as another reminder, under four indictments, found liable for rape, who tried to overthrow democracy – was "fired up about a lot of these issues” (given the violence he promoted on January 6 and continues to push, “fired up” might not have been the best choice of words) and “obviously trying to draw sharp contrast with President Biden,” as if this was a “both sides” situation (Note to Ms. Welker – democracy and fascism is the sharpest contrast worth referencing), as well as calling Trump “defiant” and “president,” and “leaning into his deal-making status,” ignoring that his “deal-making” status is largely self-proclaimed and that he’s had six bankruptcies. And is facing his company being shut-down by the state of New York…which previously shut-down his charity foundation for “a shocking pattern of illegality.” As conservative columnist Tom Nichols wrote, “Good Lord. Trump isn't 'trying to draw contrasts,' he tried to subvert the Constitution to stop Biden from taking office." Her cheery enthusiastic words about the upcoming broadcast were reprehensible and gave shudders for what seemed likely to follow.
And what followed lived down to expectations.
At one point, for just one example – of many lie after lie -- Trump said untruthfully that the Capitol Police testified against Nancy Pelosi, and then added (untruthfully) that they burned all the evidence. And these blatantly obvious lies went unchallenged by Welker.
In clips alone, media critic Dan Froomkin wrote that “Trump utters about 30 different lies, and there's zero pushback from Kristen Welker.”
Indeed, even though NBC seemingly believed they responsibly covered themselves by pre-taping the interview, pre-taping only matters if you don’t let yourselves be used to let Trump repeat his lies and propaganda and even tamper with the jury pool for his upcoming trials. Why, for instance, the broadcast let Trump call Special Prosecutor Jack Smith “deranged” and a “lunatic” is inexplicable.
In the end, this is how bad the broadcast was for Kristen Welker and NBC. During the Meet the Press broadcast, Welker told viewers that NBC would have a website where they could go and see Trump fact-checked there.
This alone is just utterly egregious. The starting point for fact-checking an interview subject is… the interviewer. Especially when you know the person being interviewed is a serial liar and you’re giving him a major platform – and you know so clearly he will lie that you’ve prepared a fact-check website for him!! Instead, you come prepared – most-especially prepared for his known, repeated lies that he’s likely to repeat. Putting the burden on viewers to, after-the-fact, go online and remember the web address and check out the lies is an empty substitute for doing your job. To not push back on known lies when people are watching is just admitting you’re going to give a fascist propagandist a microphone to lie.
In fact, since this was pre-taped…NBC and Meet the Press knew what all Trump’s lies were before they aired the interview!!! They could have prepared a scroll to run underneath as the interview aired. They could have cut away from the tape to have Welker had comment on the lies before returning back. Instead, they chose to let the lies go out into the world…generally unchallenged. And instead, provided a link to a website.
Democracy is so appreciative…
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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