Clapper turns to the nuclear codes!

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 23, 2017

With a bang, not with a whimper:
Early this morning, on CNN, James Clapper finally went there.

He said it during the midnight hour. He spoke with Don Lemon in a special broadcast following Donald J. Trump's latest trademark rant.

Clapper is a former director of National Intelligence. He held that post through January of this year.

For better or worse—we're inclined to assume for worse—Clapper has recently become a "CNN contributor." But when he appeared with Lemon last night, he questioned the president's "fitness" in this, their first exchange:
LEMON (8/23/17): I want to bring in now CNN national security analyst James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence. Mr. Clapper, thank you so much for joining us. What did you think of tonight's performance by President Trump?

CLAPPER: Well, Don, it's hard to know where to start. It is just so objectionable on so many levels. You know, I toiled in one capacity or another for every president since and including John F. Kennedy through President Obama. And I don't know when I've listened and watched something like this from a president that I found more disturbing.

Having some understanding of the levers of power that are available to a president if he chooses to exercise them, I found this downright scary and disturbing....

It is interesting to contrast last night's teleprompter Trump performance versus tonight which is, of course, the real Trump, just as it was in the unglued impromptu press conference at Trump Tower. So I just find this extremely disturbing.

LEMON: Are you questioning his fitness?

CLAPPER: Yes, I do. I really question his ability to—his fitness to be in this office. And I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it. Maybe he is looking for a way out.
Lemon tiptoed around a bit, using the fuzzy term "fitness." Clapper said he did question Trump's fitness, although the term remained undefined.

He said he found Trump "downright scary" and "extremely disturbing." More on that below. To watch the full discussion, click here.

Clapper made a reference to the "levers of power" open to Trump. Before we show him expanding on that, let's consider his throw-away remark about the possibility that Donald J. Trump might be "looking for a way out."

We find it hard to believe that Trump is planning to quit. As long as he remains in office, he theoretically has the power to impede Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation.

It's hard to believe he'd surrender that power. Everything's possible, of course.

Regarding the more potent matter here, what did Director Clapper mean when he mentioned those "levers of power?" Later, as Lemon poked and prodded, he finally spelled it out:
LEMON: You said you questioned his fitness. Is he a threat to national security, the president?

CLAPPER: Well, he certainly could be. Again, having some understanding of the levers that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to nuclear codes. In a fit of pique, he decides to do something about Kim Jong-Un, there's actually very little to stop him.

The whole system's built to insure rapid response if necessary. So there's very little in the way of controls over, you know, exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.
Director Clapper is afraid that Donald J. Trump, in a fit of pique, might employ those nuclear codes. He basically said there's no fail-safe. Lemon's response was priceless:

"Do you see this as a crisis, Mr. Clapper?"

We've been mentioning this point of concern for quite some time. Now that Clapper had said it, CNN's ship of fools was freed up to stage a discussion. Lemon turned to David Chalian to discuss what Clapper had said:
LEMON: The former director of national intelligence James Clapper, we just had on, dire words, saying he is concerned about his fitness for office. He does not believe he's fit for office. Concerned that such a person, who exhibits that behavior has access to the nuclear codes and is, you know, possibly going to have some sort of retaliation against Kim Jong-Un.

CHALIAN: It's one thing when we hear politicians you know—Democrats obviously have a lot of knee-jerk opposition to the President. We've seen more and more Republicans coming out politically and making arguments of and comments of concern against the President.

If that doesn't make the hair on the back of your neck stand up when the former Director of National Intelligence is saying that his assessment of the President of the United States is one of concern because of his access to the nuclear codes and how his behavior matched with that responsibility, raises concern in him, I sort of stood back listening, and I know—

LEMON: I looked at you.

CHALIAN: —that Director Clapper has, you know, been making comments in opposition to the President or concern. But when in the totality he took what we witnessed tonight as part of the pattern of behavior we've seen from the President and put it into the context that really Clapper understands better than anyone about what that power is, the nuclear codes, what that means and how quickly a president can move on that, that's an alarm bell that is going to be heard by many people in Washington. That is not just going to be dismissed as some punditry on cable news which can be easily dismissed.
Lemon and Chalian looked at each other as Clapper spoke. This wasn't some knee-jerk thing from the Democrats. This wasn't going to be dismissed as mere cable punditry!

Trump's apparent mental/emotional disorder has seemed highly dangerous to us for a good long time. Cable stars have had to be dragged to such obvious points of concern.

Having said that, let's close with this:

We find it hard to believe that Donald J. Trump might "be looking for a way out" by way of resignation. Sometimes, though, highly disordered, disturbed people commit acts of murder/suicide.

How disordered is Donald J. Trump? Could he ever imagine the most devastating "way out" of all?

Meanwhile, how about Yawkey Way? Should its name be changed?

ANTHILLS DOWN: Front-page headline mocks Those People!

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 23, 2017

Part 2—The New York Times does it again:
Last night, American president Donald J. Trump staged one of his trademark rants.

On the front page of today's late editions, news reports describe the rant in the Washington Post and the New York Times. It's amazing to see how poorly reporters were able to describe the problems with the president's rant. Basic skills are remarkably few at these famous newspapers.

That said:

When wayward boys kick anthills down, ants tend to descend into turmoil. In the wake of Charlottesville, we're seeing that kind of turmoil among us, the rational animals.

Our journalists' lack of basic skill only makes matters worse. Consider what happened on the front page of Sunday morning's New York Times, the week's most important edition.

Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Above the fold on the front page of Sunday morning's hard-copy Times, a mocking headline rolled its eyes at Those People, the ridiculous, dumbkopf Trump voters.

Below, you see what that front-page headline said. Also, we list the headlines which appeared on page A17, where the lengthy news report was continued:
Front-page headline:
"Trump's Tumultuous Week? To Supporters, It Went Well"

Headline on page A17:

"A Bad Week for Trump? To His Core Supporters, Things Went Just Fine"

Boxed sub-headline on A17:
"In tribal America, hardening views of a president's actions"
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Times subscribers got to enjoy the mockery aimed at Those People:

Trump had had a very tough week, but the dumbkopfs thought it went well! "Things went just fine," the dumbkopfs said, speaking dumbly from their posts inside "tribal America."

Anyone with an ounce of sense could see the mockery in those New York Times headlines. Unfortunately, the headlines butchered the contents of the front-page report they pretended to describe.

Those headlines sat atop an analysis piece by Sabrina Tavernise, an experienced Times reporter who isn't crazy, dumb, stupid, inane or even twenty years old.

Born in 1971, Tavernise graduated from Barnard in 1993. She had written a sensible, if imperfect, analysis piece, in which she quoted six "core supporters" of Trump, one of whom didn't seem to be a supporter of Trump at all.

None of the six said that things had "gone well," or had been "just fine," during the tumultuous week after Charlottesville. No one said anything dimly like that, until some editor at the Times composed those bullshit headlines.

(Please note: On line, the headlines have been cleaned up. We're discussing the headlines which appeared in Sunday's hard-copy Times.)

Alas! When Trump supporters see work like this, they may understand what they're seeing. In this case, they had two possible choices:

Those headlines may have been written by an editor who wanted to mock Those People, the dumbkopfs who voted for Trump.

It's also possible that those headlines were written by an editor who doesn't know how to paraphrase—whose basic skills are so weak that he or she believed those headlines actually captured what the dumbkopfs had said.

In fact, those mocking headlines didn't capture what the Trump supporters had said. Assuming good faith on the part of the Times, the dumbkopf here would have to be the editor him- or herself.

What did the Trump supporters say? For starters, let's call the roll of the people to whom Tavernise spoke.

Tavernise quoted six Trump supporters or semi-supporters. We list the personae here:
Dramatis personae! Dumbkopfs Tavernise quoted:

Parson Hicks, 35, "a health care finance executive [in Boston] who supports President Trump"

Larry Laughlin, "a retired businessman from a Minneapolis suburb"

Gregory Kline, 46, "a lawyer in Severna Park, Md.," who "said he did not vote for Mr. Trump"

Michael Dye, "a 52-year-old engineer who is the treasurer for the Republican Party in Annapolis, Md....who said he voted reluctantly for Mr. Trump"

John McIntosh, 76, "who lives in New Bern, N.C., and voted for Mr. Trump"

Debra Skoog, "a retired executive in Minneapolis and a lifelong Democrat who voted for Mr. Trump"
Those are the people Tavernise quoted. None of them said anything like what those headlines reported.

None of them said that things "went well" during Trump's tumultuous week. None of them said that "things went just fine" during that bad week for Trump.

You can read the Tavernise report to see what these six people actually said. But it's time to make an unpleasant, if obvious, statement:

If you can't tell that these people didn't say what the headlines reported, you're part of our national problem. If you can't see that those headlines are bogus, our very real problem with "tribal America" does rest, in part, on your head.

What did those six people actually say? To the extent that they were quoted, the six people said different things. Hicks, the 35-year-old black businesswoman, was quoted at the greatest length and her photograph appeared. Here's the bulk of what she was quoted saying:
TAVERNISE (8/20/17): Moral outrage at Mr. Trump’s response to Charlottesville continues to glow white hot, but it has a largely partisan tinge.

From Ms. Hicks’s perspective, the president simply pointed out a fact: Leftists bore some responsibility for the violence, too. Of course, Nazis and white supremacists are bad, she said. But she does not believe Mr. Trump has any affinity for them. He said so himself. But she is exasperated that a significant part of the country seems to think otherwise. The week’s frenzied headlines read to her like bulletins from another planet.

“I feel like I am in a bizarro universe where no one but me is thinking logically,” she said. “We have gone so off the rails of what this conversation is about.”

Ms. Hicks, who is black and grew up in Charlotte, N.C., welcomes the public soul-searching on the meaning of Confederate monuments. She believes that the statues were erected to intimidate black people and that they should be taken down. But instead of focusing on that, she sees opponents of Mr. Trump focusing on Mr. Trump.

“This is not about me as a black person, and my history,” she said. “This is about this president and wanting to take him down because you don’t like him.”

Mr. Bannon’s departure was more noise that didn’t mean much, she said. “The show is going to go on.”
It's always dangerous to think that no one is "thinking logically" except you. Aside from that, there's nothing crazy, or crazily "tribal," about that assessment by Hicks.

Indeed, that paraphrased reference to "frenzied headlines" seems especially apt when we see the headlines some editor dropped upon this above-the-fold front-page report.

According to Tavernise, Hicks "does not believe Mr. Trump has any affinity for" Nazis and white supremacists. If we were asked for our own assessment, we would express less certainty.

That said, it's true that the embattled Trump "said so himself"—explicitly said that he has no affinity for such ridiculous people. And it's true that the nation's headlines may sometimes "read like bulletins from another planet." The headlines atop the Tavernise piece provide a good example.

What did the other dumbkopfs say? Here's what Kline was quoted saying:
TAVERNISE: Gregory Kline, 46, a lawyer in Severna Park, Md., who is a Republican, said he did not vote for Mr. Trump but understands that part of the president’s support comes from fury at the left, particularly the media. When there is an attack by Muslim terrorists, for example, the media reaches for pundits who say most Muslims are good. But when it is a white supremacist, “every conservative is lumped in with him,” he said.

“It’s not that people are deaf and dumb and don’t see it,” he said of Mr. Trump’s sometimes erratic behavior. “It’s that they don’t care. I’ve heard rational people I really respect make the craziest apologies for this president because they are sick of getting beat on and they are happy he’s fighting back.”
Kline says he didn't vote for Trump. That said, his comments about the media aren't crazy. We'd call them perfectly fair.

Conservatives do see themselves stereotyped and ridiculed in the upper-end, low-IQ press corps. Quite sensibly, many will see themselves treated that way in the headlines which topped this front-page Sunday report.

Tavernise cannot be blamed for the headlines atop her report. The blame for those mocking headlines rests with some unnamed editor who may simple lack the skills which produce sensible paraphrase.

(For twenty months, the coverage of Campaign 2000 was built on heinous paraphrase. Our upper-end, elite reporters have long shown little ability with this basic skill. We dumbkopfs in the liberal rank-and-file have always accepted this conduct.)

Tavernise can't be blamed for those headlines. That said, we don't think her report is perfect. When she refers to "an increasingly tribal America," she may perhaps seem to suggest that the tribalism is all found Over There, on the Trump supporters' side. And when she finally quotes a professor, here's what the brainiac says:
TAVERNISE: Yascha Mounk, a political scientist at Harvard University who writes about democracy, said partisanship in the United States today is dangerously deep.

“It’s now at a stage where a lot of Americans have such a loyalty to their political tribe that they are willing to go along with deeply undemocratic behavior,” he said.
“If their guy says, ‘I think we should push back the election for a few years because of a possible terrorist attack,’ I fear that a significant part of the population would go along with it.”
It's perfectly clear that Professor Mounck is warning us about the tribal partisanship Over There. It's the rare day when the New York Times quotes a professor citing the tribal behavior widely found within our own self-impressed tents.

When wanton youth kick anthills down, the ants are gripped by turmoil. As in the stories of Homer of old, Chaos reigns. In time, the ants rebuild.

The disordered tirades of Donald J. Trump have helped create a great deal of turmoil within our national discourse, which was already pathetic. In the wake of Charlottesville, chaos invaded the suburbs of our reliably inept and tribal discussions.

Different people had different thoughts about Donald J. Trump's various remarks in the wake of those events. And sure enough:

On the front page of Sunday's New York Times, a nameless editor—yay yay yay!—helped Us mock Them Over There.

No one quoted by Tavernise said what those headlines alleged. On the brighter side, the headlines let Us enjoy some good solid fun as we made our contribution to the tribal chaos.

In the wake of Charlottesville, we ants are running all about. Our own glorious liberal tents are full of these unhelpful creatures.

Tomorrow: A noxious confession leads to—what else?—ridiculous liberal cheers

What we read on our summer vacation!

TUESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2017

Mika Brzezinski's three books:
We've now read, and reread, Mika Brzezinski's first three memoirs:
All Things At Once (2009)

Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You're Worth (2011)

Obsessed: America's Food Addiction—and My Own (2013)
These are fascinating books, and we don't necessarily mean that as a compliment. They raise many, many questions about the nature of our upper-end, mainstream celebrity press corps.

We expect to discuss them at length. If we might borrow from Don Corleone, "How did it get this far?"

David Brooks makes some decent points!

TUESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2017

On the same page, Meacham wanders:
In our view, David Brooks makes some good points this morning.

He listed eight ideas which "moderates tend to embrace." In our view, the first such idea may well be the best, especially in a giant, continental nation with an array of cultures and regional outlooks:
BROOKS (8/22/17): The truth is plural. There is no one and correct answer to the big political questions. Instead, politics is usually a tension between two or more views, each of which possesses a piece of the truth. ... Politics is a dynamic unfolding, not a debate that can ever be settled once and for all.
As a general matter, we agree with that. We'll return to this idea below.

We may not really agree with at least one of Brooks' ideas. Is this idea actually true?

"In politics, the lows are lower than the highs are high."

According to Brooks, government can blunder horribly, for example by creating wars and depressions. That's true, of course, but government can also create a program like Social Security. How much suffering has that program wiped away over the years?

Here's another of Brooks' ideas with which we would tend to agree. Below, though, we'll offer a comment:
BROOKS: Truth before justice. All political movements must face inconvenient facts—thoughts and data that seem to aid their foes. If you try to suppress those facts, by banning a speaker or firing an employee, then you are putting the goals of your cause, no matter how noble, above the search for truth. This is the path to fanaticism, and it always backfires in the end.
This idea is fairly close to the first idea we praised. If you agree that "the truth is plural," you're likely to be attracted to the idea that facts shouldn't be disappeared in service to partisan ends.

That said, we'll offer a comment. When Brooks imagines suppression of facts, he thinks about such conduct as "banning a speaker or firing an employee."

We think of such conduct as maintaining an industry-wide code of silence, the way Brooks and his press corps colleagues have done for these many long years. No one suppresses facts any more than the mainstream press does!

One more suggestion. In listing the world's best ideas, Brooks probably shouldn't use words no one understands, as he does in one example. "Creativity is syncretistic?" Nobody knows what that means!

We're going to close with a thought about a second column from today's New York Times. It was written by Jon Meacham. It's the immediate neighbor of Brooks' column to the left, or the west.

Meacham is trying to tell us what we should think about those Confederate statues. More specifically, he's trying to explain why it's a good idea to dump those statues of Robert E. Lee while leaving George Washington up. In this way, he's contradicting some of the things Donald J. Trump has said.

Should we dump Lee but leave Washington up? That seems to be Meacham's (highly conventional) view. That said, does everyone have to agree with that view? At several points, we wondered if the sage of Tennessee knows that truth is plural:
MEACHAM (8/22/17): To me, the answer to Mr. Trump’s question begins with a straightforward test: Was the person to whom a monument is erected on public property devoted to the American experiment in liberty and self-government? Washington and Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were. Each owned slaves; each was largely a creature of his time and place on matters of race. Yet each also believed in the transcendent significance of the nation, and each was committed to the journey toward “a more perfect Union.”

By definition, the Confederate hierarchy fails that test.
Those who took up arms against the Union were explicitly attempting to stop the American odyssey...
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! The argument works out the way we liberals like, with General Lee crashing down and Donald J. Trump badly wrong.

To us, the problem with that passage lurks in the word "straightforward." The word was selected to make it sound like Meacham's position is hard to assail.

Is it, though? For example, is it really so obvious that Washington and Jefferson were "devoted to the American experiment in liberty and self-government?"

Is it obvious that this is true in a way that's so "straightforward" that everyone has to agree? So obvious that no one could sensibly think that they too should come crashing down?

We're going to say it isn't! We're also going to challenge Meacham's softened charge of treason against Lee. (Lee was "explicitly attempting to stop the American odyssey.")

Ever since Donald J. Trump shot off his mouth last week, we liberals have been reveling in the charge of treason against Lee and them. We think that's childish, silly, unwise. Try a thought experiment:

Suppose the northern states had housed the slave empire, and the southern states had not. Suppose that the southern states had declared secession as a matter of protest against this obvious evil.

That isn't what happened, of course. But try to imagine what our noble tribe would think if it had.

Would we liberals be condemning those southerners as traitors? Or would be be praising them for their attempt to separate themselves from an evil institution?

Our point is simple. The problem with the southern states is the fact that they sought to defend an indefensible system. (That isn't the fault of anyone living today.) In another situation, we might praise the greatness of a group of states which sought to withdraw from an evil union.

That isn't what happened, of course. But aren't we defining secession as treason mainly because we dislike what secession was for?

Ever since Donald J. Trump mouthed off last week, it seems to us that the liberal world has been reshaping arguments to ensure that his statements will all turn out to have been crazily wrong. Of a sudden, we're all riled up about Lee's "treason." Meanwhile, Washington remains a great man devoted to our ideals, despite the horrible way he hunted down his runaway enslaved persons.

All the analysts love Meacham's sense of humor. But as we read his column today, it seemed to us that he was violating some of Brook's more sensible ideas.

He didn't seem to be working real hard to remind himself that "truth is plural." It seemed to us that he may have been violating another of Brooks ideas, the one about partisan fury:
BROOKS: Partisanship is necessary but blinding. Partisan debate sharpens opinion, but partisans tend to justify their own sins by pointing to the other side’s sins. Moderates are problematic members of their party. They tend to be hard on their peers and sympathetic to their foes.
"Partisanship is blinding?" Surely, we all understand that concept by now.

In recent weeks, have we liberals been spinning Washington up so we can spin Donald Trump down? Suddenly, Washington is morally great. Are we saying that because Donald J. Trump said something we want to knock down?

One final point: At one point, Meacham praises Lee. It almost sounds like Robert E. Lee would have chosen to tear himself down:
MEACHAM: While we should judge each individual on the totality of their lives (defenders of Lee, for instance, point to his attempts to be a figure of reconciliation after the war), the forces of hate and of exclusion long ago made Confederate imagery their own. Monuments in public places of veneration to those who believed it their duty to fight the Union have no place in the Union of the 21st century—a view with which Lee himself might have agreed. “I think it wiser,” he wrote in 1866, “not to keep open the sores of war.”
“I think it wiser not to keep open the sores of war?" We often think that we fiery liberals might sensibly ponder such words now and then. As is true with us "humans" all over the earth, we tend to like to loathe.

ANTHILLS DOWN: Creatures like us!

TUESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2017

Part 1—"How America lost its mind":
Over the weekend, we marveled at many things we read in the New York Times.

More precisely, we marveled at the way we rational animals were reacting to Charlottesville. Why not start with a pair of reports from page D1, the first page of the stand-alone, hard-copy section called Saturday Sports?

Not to pull rank, but, if memory serves, we were present in Fenway Park when Pumpsie Green hit his triple in July 1959.

We say "if memory serves" because history records that the game in question was the first in a Tuesday twi-night doubleheader.

We don't know why, at age 11, we would have been in the yard that night. But we've always thought that we could recall what happened when Green made his first Fenway appearance:

We still think we can see the towering fly ball he hit off the left field wall. If memory serves it barely scarped the Green Monster as it descended to earth, 340 feet from home plate—a can-of-corn, fly ball to left in any other major league park.

In Fenway, the pop fly scraped the left field wall; it had been hit so high that Green ended up with a triple. It was Green's first game in Fenway Park as the Red Sox finally fielded their first "black" player. (Earl Wilson came up one week later.)

The triple we think we can recall is recorded in the official box score. On Saturday morning, the New York Times recalled that game in two lengthy pieces, a sprawling "news report" reaction to what happened in Charlottesville.

Question: Should the city of Boston change the name of Yawkey Way, the two-block-long street "which borders Fenway Park along the third-base side and gives the place its mailing address?" On Saturday morning, the Times devoted two lengthy pieces to this general question in a sprawling display which ate the top two-thirds of page D1 and all of page D2.

Green was mentioned in both pieces; his triple went unremembered. And yes, in fairness, there was an actual "news hook" for this absurd display.

That said, the notion that this is a major question, even within the realm of sports reporting, helps show how we creatures tend to react when anthills get kicked down:

We ants begin racing in all directions. Intellectual chaos will reign. No distraction, no matter how inane, will be left behind.

If you care about racial justice—if you care about the black kids being born today—should you care about the name of Yawkey Way? If your IQ is 11, then yes, you should! And we were present that day, and thrilled, when Pumpsie Green hit his triple!

When our anthills get kicked down, we ants start to scurry about. Eventually, ants rebuild their homes. At first, though, it's nothing but turmoil and chaos.

That's how it's been in the New York Times as we, the rational animals, have reacted to Charlottesville. During the rest of the week, we'll explore some of the work in the Times. For today, though, let's start with the silly Kurt Andersen.

Yesterday, we enjoyed the partial eclipse from an exclusive southbound train proceeding along the Hudson. As we rumbled along in air-conditioned splendor, we fell upon the cover report in this month's Atlantic. It was written by Kurt Andersen, who has always fascinated us as one of New York cafe society's totally empty suits.

The headline on the Atlantic's hard-copy cover wasn't encouraging: "How America Went Haywire," it shouted.

Quick guess! When a flyweight like Andersen says that "America" has gone haywire, he means that others have done so, not him.

Apparently, Andersen has an entire bookful of this dreck about to appear. That said, the analysts were already screaming after they read the first two paragraphs in his endless essay in the Atlantic, a major American journal.

Why does our discourse lie in ruins, as it so plainly does? Among other explanations, try to believe that a Gotham "thought leader" actually wrote what's shown below, then got it published in The Atlantic. Headline included:
ANDERSEN (9/17): How America Lost Its Mind

When did America become untethered from reality?

I first noticed our national lurch toward fantasy in 2004, after President George W. Bush’s political mastermind, Karl Rove, came up with the remarkable phrase reality-based community.
People in “the reality-based community,” he told a reporter, “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality...That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” A year later, The Colbert Report went on the air. In the first few minutes of the first episode, Stephen Colbert, playing his right-wing-populist commentator character, performed a feature called “The Word.” His first selection: truthiness....

Whoa, yes, I thought: exactly.
How monstrous a flyweight is Andersen? Let's get clear about what he says in that sad opening passage.

Sad! According to Andersen, America has become "untethered from reality." In fairness, he doesn't spell the nation's name with a "k" at any point in his endless report. On the other hand, he lets us know when he, a Manhattan-certified thought leader, first noticed this problem, which of course is quite real.

Good God! According to Andersen, he first noticed the problem in 2004, as did every liberal with cable TV or an Internet hookup. His first encounter with this problem came with that statement by Karl Rove, a statement bruited far and wide at that point in time.

After that, he may have noticed the problem even more because of Stephen Colbert. What a thing to admit!

How dumb does a person have to be to put this into print? How dumb does he have to think Atlantic subscribers are?

The person has to be very dumb. In explaining why we say that, let's discuss some events which occurred before the year 2004.

Way back in October 1994, Gene Lyons published a piece in Harper's, a famous New York-based journal.

Andersen has almost surely heard of Harper's. Lyons' piece appeared beneath this title:
Fool for Scandal: How the Times got Whitewater wrong
You can read the Lyons essay here. The next year, the essay was converted into a book by "Gene Lyons and the editors of Harpers." That book, which was published by Harper's, carried this title:
Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater
If Andersen is a sentient being and not a cyborg, he must have had some passing contact with these publishing events. Lyons' book described the way a giant pseudo-scandal—a pseudo-scandal which gave its name to an era—had been "invented" by the media, by which he meant the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Ten years later, Andersen, ear to the ground, began getting the sense that something was going wrong. He began to get the sense that "America" was involved in a "lurch toward fantasy."

The Lyons book appeared in 1995. For reasons we'll mention below, hacks like Andersen knew they mustn't discuss what it said.

In large part thanks to their silence, a second major event occurred. We refer to the twenty months, starting in March 1999, in which the Washington Post and the New York Times staged a lunatic "War Against Gore," a war which sent Bush to the White House.

Feelers to the ground, Andersen still sensed nothing wrong. As the mainstream press corps kept inventing crazy misstatements by Candidate Gore, Andersen was able to spot no possible "lurch toward fantasy" in the air.

His antennae only perked up in 2004, when everyone with cable TV or the Internet heard about that comment by Rove. In short, Andersen "first noticed our national lurch toward fantasy" at the exact same time that everyone else did. Rather, at the time when it became Completely Standard and Acceptable to notice this alleged lurch.

A nation whose thought leaders are this dumb, or perhaps this dishonest, is headed toward disaster. Andersen's endless Atlantic piece is basically unreadable. But in that opening passage, he tells us that he catches on to troubling trends At The Exact Same Time Everyone Else Does.

With intellectual leaders like that, we have no hope of escaping the downward spiral being caused by the rise of major news orgs devoted to dissembling and misinformation. Andersen prefers to splash around in the sex-drenched 1960s seeking the source of our current problem.

Andersen's opening passage is sad. It also speaks to an industry-wide code of silence.

How does that code of silence work? Consider this later passage, in which Andersen dumbly cops to something he probably shouldn't have mentioned:
ANDERSEN: When [Trump] entered political show business, after threatening to do so for most of his adult life, the character he created was unprecedented—presidential candidate as insult comic with an artificial tan and ridiculous hair, shamelessly unreal and whipped into shape as if by a p√Ętissier. He used the new and remade pieces of the fantasy-industrial complex as nobody had before. He hired actors to play enthusiastic supporters at his campaign kickoff. Twitter became his unmediated personal channel for entertaining outrage and untruth. And he was a star, so news shows wanted him on the air as much as possible—people at TV outlets told me during the campaign that they were expected to be careful not to make the candidate so unhappy that he might not return.
Say what? During the 2016 campaign, "people at TV outlets" told this cosmic buffoon "that they were expected to be careful not to make [Candidate Trump] so unhappy that he might not return" to their programs?

Question! Which people, at which TV outlets, told this thought leader that? In what context was this said?

We ask for an obvious reason. What Andersen seems to be reporting here would seem to constitute major news! During the campaign in question, many people speculated that this transaction was in play as the candidate, Donald J. Trump, received repeated kid-glove treatment from major interviewers.

If Andersen was specifically told that this practice was in effect, he should have reported it instantly. That's especially true if he was told this in his role as an occasional cable news guest—on Morning Joe, for example.

Was Andersen told this as a way to encourage him to tone his comments down? There's no way of knowing, but it's typical of the code of silence that Andersen drops this bombshell much later, after the practice he describes has had it pernicious effect.

In that throw-way passage, you see the code of silence in action. You see the probable explanation for Andersen's silence about Fools for Scandal, and then about the War Against Gore.

According to the code of silence, one guild member doesn't blow the whistle on the others. Let's review the chronology here:

Andersen kept his trap shut all during the fantasy-based wars against both Clintons and Gore. In all likelihood, he kept his trap shut because those wars were being staged by the mainstream press corps, by his own miserable guild.

In 2004, he became aware of a lurch toward fantasy At The Same Time That Everyone Else Did. He's allowed to focus on that lurch because that lurch is being pinned on the right wing, not on the mainstream press corps.

The code of silence is deep and everlasting. Consider some nonsense which Kevin Drum, our one-time favorite blogger, posted just yesterday.

Good God! Maggie Haberman had offered a typically flyweight defense of the mainstream press corps' treatment of Candidate Clinton's emails. Drum noted how silly her statement was, then chose to play dumb himself:
DRUM (8/21/17): I wish reporters would honestly engage with this question. I don’t think anyone has ever suggested that the emails and the FBI investigation weren’t a story. Of course they were. The question is, were they this big a story?
Drum then presented some examples of massive over-coverage of the Clinton emails. He had already made the world's dumbest statement. But he continued like this:
DRUM: This question isn’t important because it’s worthwhile to relitigate 2016 forever, but because it matters for the future. The press got badly played on the Clinton Foundation story, which was almost completely baseless, and they got played only slightly less on the email story, which was kept alive by a calculated campaign to drip information to the press every week—mostly from sources that should have set alarm bells ringing instead.

Pointing out the failures of Hillary Clinton’s campaign is fine but nonresponsive. The question isn’t whether there were lots of things that decided the 2016 race—there were—or whether Clinton’s emails should have been covered at all—of course they should have been. The question is about editorial judgment in an era of widespread media manipulation. If we don’t want 2020 to be like 2016, political reporters should be willing to ask some hard questions about how and why Hillary Clinton’s emails got such massively outsized attention.
We've polled every one of the analysts. No one believes, not for a second, that Drum is really that dumb.

No one believes that Kevin Drum thinks the press "got badly played on the Clinton Foundation story [or] on the email story." Despite his silly wish, no one thinks that Drum believes that Haberman, or anyone else in the mainstream press, will ever "honestly engage with" the questions he raises.

How many times does it have to be said? For whatever reason, the mainstream press corps started a war against the Clintons in 1992.

Lyons described the start of that war in Fools for Scandal. In March 1999, the mainstream press extended that war to Clinton's chosen successor.

They revived and extended that long stupid war during Campaign 2016. And they are never going to "honestly engage" with the various things they have done in the course pf conducting that war.

Drum will jump off the Disneyland monorail before he'll state that obvious fact. The code of silence requires him to play dumb on these basic points, as he does in that post. More on that tomorrow.

Dumber than dumb is the ludicrous Andersen, New York's idea of an intellectual. Our tribe is hopeless, dumb, unseeing when it remains in such hands. Twenty-four years later, this monster dumbness within our own tribe has given us President Trump.

Back to Pumpsie Green! If memory serves, he tripled off the left field wall 58 Augusts ago. Last Saturday, the New York Times went all in on changing the name of that road.

Our team is very dumb. Our tribal leaders are even dumber, and they aren't obsessively honest. We'll run through such points all week.

When anthills are ruined, the startled ants run all about. They enter a state of turmoil.

In the wake of Charlottesville, that's what our various leaders are doing. Ants are creatures just like us, though we may be too dumb to survive.

Tomorrow: Live and direct from the Sunday Times, somebody's noxious confession

BREAKING: A time of turmoil and chaos!

MONDAY, AUGUST 21, 2017

No distraction left behind:
In his latest display of 16-dimensional chess, Steve Bannon is claiming that he actually resigned from the White House last week.

Privately, Bannon is telling friends that he simply decided he wanted to spend less time around Donald Trump's family. Many others may feel the same longing in this time of turmoil and chaos.

With help from folk on many sides, Donald J. Trump has created an amazing amount of turmoil in the twenty-six months since he announced his run for the White House. In the aftermath of Charlottesville, this turmoil has basically come to define what's left of the national discourse.

At times of turmoil, we the people tend to start racing in many directions. Relatively unhelpful ideas are bruited across the land.

Our lack of competent leadership becomes painfully obvious. No distraction is left behind!

Today, we'll be returning to our sprawling campus from our current location in the impossibly chic Hudson Valley. Tomorrow, we'll start exploring this era of turmoil and chaos. Again and again, a voice instructs us to frame it as "Anthills Down."

Easy to be hard: In this morning's New York Times, Charles Blow offers these thoughts about Donald J. Trump. Headline included:
BLOW (8/21/17): Failing All Tests of the Presidency

We are leaderless. America doesn’t have a president. America has a man in the White House holding the spot, and wreaking havoc
as he waits for the day when a real president arrives to replace him.

Donald Trump is many things—most of them despicable—but the leader of a nation he is not. He is not a great man. Hell, he isn’t even a good man.

Donald Trump is a man of flawed character and a moral cavity. He cannot offer moral guidance because he has no moral compass. He is too small to see over his inflated ego.

Trump has personalized the presidency in unprecedented ways—making every battle and every war about his personal feelings. Did the person across the street or around the world say good or bad things about him? Does the media treat him fairly? Is someone in his coterie of corruption outshining him or casting negative light on him?

His interests center on the self; country be damned.
Personally, we don't think it's a great idea to try to determine which public figures are morally "despicable."

But alas! Setting Blow's moral declarations aside, it's amazingly easy to write that same passage about our American press corps, even about our professors. It might go something like this:
BLOW, REVISED: Failing All Tests of Intellectual Leadership

We are journalistically and intellectually leaderless. America doesn’t have a functioning press corps,
or even a helpful academy. America has people in newsrooms holding those spots, and wreaking havoc as they wait for the day when real journalists arrive to replace them...
That would be harsh, but it wouldn't exactly be wrong. Have you read all of Mika's books? The problems with our broken discourse extend well beyond Donald J. Trump.

We've entered a time of general turmoil and chaos. Tomorrow, we'll start exploring the era the savants now refer to as "Anthills Down."