Editing Trump

Blake Hounshell, editor in chief of Politico magazine, provided a good example this morning of a problem with media. Here’s his tweet in a screenshot, because I hope he deletes it.

The link in the Blumenthal tweet is to an article in which Vice President Mike Pence is quoted.

“There was some talk about the Libyan model last week, and you know, as the President made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal,” Pence said Monday.

When it was noted that the comparison could be interpreted as a threat, Pence told Fox News: “Well, I think it’s more of a fact.”

The talk about a Libyan model came from National Security Advisor John Bolton and from President Donald Trump. But they were talking about two different Libyan models. Bolton said that he expected North Korea to hand over their entire nuclear program as Libya did in 2003. Trump said that if they didn’t, the United States would “decimate” them, as was done to Libya in 2011.

It’s often hard to understand what Trump is saying. This clip is more difficult than usual, but it’s pretty clear that Trump says the word “decimate” and talks about “the Libya model” in a different way than Bolton has. Before that, he said something about providing security to North Korea.

The Washington Post headline emphasized that part of the statement, even though, to my ears, the threat of “the Libya model” was more emphatic, with Trump spending more time on it.

Trump offers reassurance that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un would remain in power under nuclear deal

Acton may be right; David Nakamura and Philip Rucker may have been steered in that direction by White House aides telling them what it was that Trump was supposed to say.

Hounshell may have been subject to the same explaining, or perhaps the idea that the President is threatening war against North Korea in plain words is too uncomfortable for reporters to convey to the public.

Trump spouts word salad, a toss-up of ignorance, shaky sentence structure, vague referents, complaints, accusations, and threats. It is not the job of reporters to impose coherence on that word salad. It’s perfectly acceptable (to me, perhaps not to Trump) for them to report “In a windy set of impressions and inaccurate references, Trump contradicted Bolton and seems to have threatened war against North Korea, while putting forth a conditional security guarantee.”

Part of what they say should recognize the difficulty in knowing what Trump means. Trying to pin him down in his short press availabilities is difficult, but should be attempted. Yes, his words flow freely, unhinged from meaning, and he often refuses to answer requests for clarification.

Blake Hounshell didn’t respond to any of the comments and questions about his tweet, nor did he back up his conclusion. That conclusion will shape how he and Politico cover Trump’s actions toward North Korea. Hounshell believes, according to the tweet, “The U.S. won’t attack North Korea.” Apparently he doesn’t believe Trump’s own words. He should tell us why.

Update: Here’s a much more thoughtful and critical analysis of Trump’s words.


Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

Late Night Schadenfreude Open Thread: Confusion & Defeat to Them All

As any libertarian would tell you, taxes are theft, so Al Capone should never have gone to jail!

Much closer to the center axis on the “Evil vs Stupid” chart… Ed Kilgore has a nice (in both senses of the word) dissection of St. Bernie’s latest shenanigans:

There were two big developments on May 21 in the political universe of Bernie Sanders, one upbeat, one not-so-much.

On the positive side, Sanders formally announced he is a candidate for reelection to a third term in the Senate, as was universally expected. The only slight mystery about his bid was resolved when he indicated that he would follow his past procedure by running in the Democratic primary, and then declining the nomination and running as an independent while accepting the “endorsement” of Vermont Democrats. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake had a sardonic comment about that:

Sanders is going to run in the Democratic primary for no reason except to preclude anybody else from winning it — despite having no intention of running as a Democrat in the general election. Sanders basically wants to ensure he will face no Democratic opponent in November. A cynic might say the guy who complained about the rigging of the 2016 Democratic presidential primary is kinda, sorta rigging the 2018 Vermont Senate race for himself…

… The announcement is also another indication that Sanders thinks he’s good to go in national office until 2024 at least, when he’ll turn 83. Whether that means he’ll run for president in 2020 is another matter, of course.
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Thursday Morning Open Thread: Fibber McGee’s Closet

Spent my Wednesday dealing with the sort of niggly nitpicking IRL tasks that force both halves of any long-term couple to remind themselves that their partner has many fine qualities to go with their flaws. (If you’ve got any extra, please spare a good thought for a 16-year-old rescue dog who’s going through all the indignities common to old age. His name is Zevon.) So, of course, the Friday News Dump fell on a Wednesday this week…

Trump Crime Cartel minions are whistling past the graveyard –

Still Proud to Be A Democrat:

Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: This Is Who The Repubs CHOOSE to Be

When it comes to demonizing immigrants, the GOP doesn’t mind at all if their “President” Trump says the quiet parts out loud!

Pro tip from someone who’s actually read your Bible: If they can “contort themselves” into defending treating immigrants as other-than-human, they aren’t actually Christians.
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Repub Venality Open Thread: ‘Normalizing’ the Monstrous

How our Discourse becomes “Coarsened” — as illustrated in tweets:

This is widely shared, because, yeah it’s nasty fun:

The meaty pull-quote:

So… one or more of Axios’ “five sources”, as Mr. Pierce would say, looked a lot like Mercedes Schlapp, and was wearing her shoes.

At least half a dozen prominent media tweeters get to point out:

Jake Tapper, at least, is outraged (as well he might be)…

But the Mad Bitcher, Chris Cillizza, spots a trend!!!

Ergo: Mercedes Schlap posturing to replace Hope Hicks — an ongoing series; savvy journalists have been mocking her desperation since the day Hicks’ resignation was announced — becomes “Our Media Is, Alas, Coarse.”

Why complain about Trump and the other Oval Office Occupants’ lewd mockery of every normal standard of governance and civility, when The Savvy Guys can tell you that everybody does it?

Saturday Morning Open Thread: Ignore the Random Noise, Pay Attention to the Through-Line


Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III Remains A Staunch Bigot

(Drew Sheneman via GoComics.com)

Newly appointed U.S. District Attorney Doug Overbey introduced Sessions Tuesday morning in a law enforcement conference held inside the Gatlinburg Convention Center…

The nation’s top law enforcement official encouraged the officers, spoke quickly about the opioid crisis and railed on the policies of the “fuzzy-headed left” and illegal immigration in a 25-minute speech.

As he has in other stops recently, Sessions promised to continue being strict on immigration by adding 35 prosecutors and 18 immigration judges to border states to deal with backlogs of immigrant cases.

He used the event to praise the officers who came from across the Southeast. He said the room was filled with “some of the best people in America.”…

Sessions also spoke about the increasing threat of fentanyl, the deadly drug often used with heroin.

“Drug use, addiction, overdose deaths have surged, as you know,” he said. “So we have to work resolutely to stop these trends. We must reverse them. That must be our goal. We know how. We’ve proven what works. Science proves what works … we share good practices at conferences like these.”…

The ever-solicitious NYTimes, last month:

Mr. Sessions has taken more abuse from President Trump than any other member of his high-churn cabinet because he recused himself from the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Over 14 months in office, Mr. Sessions has gone from, in Mr. Trump’s words, “a great protector of the people” to “weak,” “disgraceful” and an “idiot.”

But Mr. Sessions is in many ways the best attorney general Mr. Trump might have hoped for. While the president rails against him in Washington, Mr. Sessions travels the country diligently pushing the conservative Trump agenda. As a former federal prosecutor who has a firm grasp of the tools of his office and the letter of the law, Mr. Sessions, 71, is the creator and chief enforcer of the tough immigration and criminal justice goals that helped propel Mr. Trump into office.
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