Do Not Be Distracted By What The Shitgibbon Says. Pay Attention To What His People Do

One of the signal failures of the media throughout the Trump dumpster fire of a campaign was to focus on his words — parsing, shifts in terminology, trying to distinguish between lies and hyperbole, or simply providing theater criticism on his performances, connections to audience and so on.  All the while, the critical information: what the combination of his ample history, the (few) clear positions he staked, and the people he hired revealed about what Trump would actually do as President.

That basic error is still with us, nicely diagnosed in this post by Robinson Meyer over at The Atlantic:

It works like this: Donald Trump, the president-elect himself, says something that sounds like he might be moderating on the issue. Then, his staff takes a radical action in the other direction.

Last week, Trump told the staff of The New York Times that he was keeping an open mind about the existence of climate change.

This was, as Meyer notes, treated as a major shift, given Trump’s earlier claim that global warming was a Chinese hoax.  As a result, many slow learners touted this story (Meyer self-indicts here.) But, of course, Trump’s almost certainly intentionally vague statement —

“I think there is some connectivity” between human activity and the warming climate, Trump said. “There is some, something. It depends on how much.”…

both grants him almost unlimited freedom of maneuver and was almost immediately belied by what his transition team is actually doing:

A day after Trump talked to the Times, The Guardian reported that the Trump administration plans could cut all of NASA’s Earth science research….

…which, as many have already noted, is vital for ongoing climate monitoring and ongoing attempts to study the implications of human – driven global warming with the resolution needed to inform action.


Then there’s this:

Politico reports that the Heritage Foundation senior research fellow, Steven Groves, has been added to Trump’s State Department transition team. Just last week, Groves called for the United States to leave the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the overarching treaty that governs how the world organizes itself to address global warming. Groves also said the U.S. should move to “dismantle” domestic climate regulations.

Thus, a picture of a Trump administration policy on climate change: destroy the research infrastructure needed to study climate, and wreck both national and international prospects for action to address what a true existential crisis.

The moral, to use Meyer’s phrase, is that Trump is a master of the two-step, baffling the unwary (aka, seemingly, the entire New York Times staff) while proceeding behind that verbal smokescreen towards the worst possible choices.  We need a much more vigilant press, and a brave one.

Image: Hieronymous Bosch, The Temptation of Saint Anthony (left panel detail), 1495-1515.  Not an exact match to the post, but I’m kinda just looking for apocalyptic images these days, and this certainly works for that.

Ya Think?!?!?!?!


Monday Evening Open Thread: Media (Fizzle) Notes

My interpretation: If Jared Kushner can’t be the Nancy Reagan of a new generation — the ‘kitchen cabinet’ director running the Oval Office behind a photogenic, semi-demented figurehead — he figures he can at least dream of being the next Roger Ailes.

The Financial Times story is behind a paywall, but HuffPo says:

… [T]he Financial Times reported that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner spoke with a boutique media deal-making firm about the prospect of launching a television network. Kushner, who owns the New York Observer, contacted LionTree founder and chief executive Aryeh Bourkoff within the past couple months, according to the paper…

Vanity Fair reported in June on Trump’s media plans and noted that Kushner said at a dinner party how “the people here don’t understand what I’m seeing” and that “you go to these arenas and people go crazy for him.” The New York Times added in August that Trump and Kushner had “quietly explored becoming involved with a media holding, either by investing in one or by taking one over.”

But even if Kushner contacted Bourkoff, Politico’s Mike Allen reported Monday that the LionTree executive has no interest in working with Trump…

Kushner, the scion of a New Jersey real estate family who married Trump’s daughter Ivanka in 2009, has been one of Trump’s closest advisers. One Trump source recently told The New Yorker that Kushner ― who keeps a low profile and rarely gives interviews ― has been Trump’s “real campaign manager.”…

Apart from the NOBODY IS THE BOSS BUT MEEEEE tantrum such reporting is liable to spark from Lord Smallgloves (rumors of civil war within Trump Tower?), there’s the problem of finding enough content to ensure a paying audience…

Read more

Trump is a Goddamned moron, and has no honor.

But you already knew that.
Here’s where it matters.

Read more

Memo to women everywhere

1. Find out if you work in a state that mandates two-party consent for recording. New York lets one person record a conversation without telling the other.

2. If you think your boss is likely to lech on you, get it on tape. There are so many good apps for that.

3. Sayonara, asshole.

[FOX News] has agreed, on behalf of Ailes, to settle [Gretchen] Carlson’s suit for a stunning $20 million, according to three people familiar with the settlement. To reinforce their seriousness about creating a new culture in a post-Ailes world, the company is expected to offer Carlson a public apology as part of the settlement. (The company, according to two people familiar with the discussions, has also reached settlement agreements with two other women.)

On Friday Gabriel Sherman reported that she had him on tape. FOX’s lawyers probably found out around the same time.

Beginning in 2014, according to a person familiar with the lawsuit, Carlson brought her iPhone to meetings in Ailes’s office and secretly recorded him saying the kinds of things he’d been saying to her all along. “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago, and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better. Sometimes problems are easier to solve” that way, he said in one conversation. “I’m sure you can do sweet nothings when you want to,” he said another time.

After more than a year of taping, she had captured numerous incidents of sexual harassment.

That was a very short negotiation and a very large payoff. Jon Stewart had it right, Ailes made a huge mistake typecasting Gretchen Carlson as another blonde pair of legs. FOX probably has $20 million to spare but that apology will leave a mark.

The work of accurately covering Trump could kill a man

I’m gonna throw this out as an answer to why the Times (and other supposedly responsible media outlets) are acting so strange on Trump and CLinton. Yes, the senior management of the New York Times has had a hard-on for the Clinton family since 1992. But Krugman is right, this year they have acted really, really strange. I think it comes down to something more fundamental than personal animus or whether Hillary Clinton has held any press conferences. At its heart the Times and similar media outlets have a hackable business model. And Trump is hacking it.

It all comes down to the graphic below. The Times stakes its reputation on independence, balance etc., which means this figure below must not be allowed to happen under any circumstances.


The New York Daily News could not care less if you call it biased. The NYDN is biased. They think Republicans are assholes. They have a clear editorial perspective. In a city with six hundred different print news outlets that is a perfectly reasonable position to take. FOX News? You could make a thousand graphs like that and they still won’t give a shit. Just ask Media Matters. In the same way Trump only ‘courted’ black people to reassure white suburban women, that ironic FOX slogan comforts people who want to think black people are bad and dangerous but hate the connotations that a word like racist carries with it.

The Times is not one more paper in a crowded market. The Times imagines itself to be the outlet, the singular gateway to journalistic credibility. You could say the Wall Street Journal and the Times are the dual avatars of conservatives and centrist Democrats, but the NYT is not having any of that. They want to be the first place Republicans and Democrats get their news. Maybe five or six other outlets spread around print and TV see themselves the same way.

An outlet like the Times has no real defense against a human Gish gallop like Trump. He has done so many reprehensible things, is doing, and will do next week that it takes superhuman resources just to keep up. How is that Trump University fraud case going? I have no idea. I almost forgot about it between reading how amazingly racist Trump was as a landlord and goggling at the chutzpah of him complaining about the Clinton foundation while every detail of the Pam Bondi bribery story is so much worse than I thought*. Just last week he gave a screaming fascist tirade in place of a speech about immigration policy and I already have to remind myself how bad it really was.

Meanwhile Hillary is a fucking boy scout. She doesn’t do anything worth criticizing. She stays on script. She has good advisers who keep her from offending anybody unless she means to (i.e. Breitbart, Stormfront and the KKK). If you dig a little deeper, you find that she basically does things by the book. If you interview everyone who has ever known her, you find out that she…does things pretty much by the book. You can read every damn email she has written in her capacity as Secretary of State and the story stays frustratingly the same. If anything the story gets weaker, not stronger, the more you know about it. I challenge people to find any other remotely powerful human being who would withstand this level of scrutiny. Okay, fine, Obama. Find me two. In a fair world where stories reported actual bad things that people did Times coverage would look like the graph above, and half of the stories about Hillary would be stuff like accidentally starting a reply-to-all disaster at State.

Bus as I said, the graph must not happen. And as the old advice goes for attorneys when you don’t have the facts or the law on your side, pound the table. CNN and the Times have to criticize something, but she rudely gives them stale crumbs to work with. Trump is a lavish cruise ship buffet of leads. In any normal race that Pam Bondi bribery story (also fraudulent donation reporting and tax evasion) would be duck confit on glazed figs. You could work a story like that for months. But try to visualize the main buffet table on a upper-tier cruise. You can’t see the end of it. You could cross the international date line before you realize the confit is even there.

Further, I think that point about taking your time to digest a story is extremely important. Gish gallops work because people cannot process any one lie before the next one hits you. Clinton is the polar opposite of a Gish gallop. Unless someone wants to claim Benghazi has some meat left on its bones (Gowdy? Has anyone seen Trey Gowdy?) emails is all they have. A reporter assigned to say something bad about Clinton** has to keep coming back to the email thing over and over again. That means they have time to understand it, to dig in, try different angles, find the person who won’t answer questions and make them a villain. People keep hearing about this same story to the point where they assume she did something wrong. Not everyone knows the first rule of judging a scandal story – the most damning specific allegation leads. If a two thousand word story opens with shadows, or clouds, or a coolish breeze out of the northeast then you will not find anything worth reading further in. Burying the killer allegation where only devoted readers will find it is journalistic malpractice of the first degree.

The Times needs to print something, because figure one above. So we get clouds, and people imagine Clinton must have done something bad, and Paul Krugman pulls his hair out, because the only thing you need to hack the business model at the Times is to be the worst person on Earth.

(*) Time to dust off Brad DeLong’s rule #1 about the Bushies: even knowing it is worse than you think, it is still worse than you think.
(**) A given reporter would certainly protest if you phrase it that way, but from an editorial standpoint that’s what it is.

Thursday Morning Open Thread: Rejoice (But Keep Working, Too)

And TIL (today I learned) something that might come in handy for people, as the election gets closer:

(I know I know, but the Washington Post is still the company paper for the town whose industry is national politics. And there’s lots of worthwhile reporting apart from the more obtuse columnists — I’m very happy with my own paid digital sub!)


What else is on the agenda for the new day?