Savaging Donald J. Trump for his claims!

THURSDAY, MARCH 23, 2017

The Journal uses its words:
The Wall Street Journal hit Trump so hard the New York Times took notice.

In this morning's editions, Sydney Ember reported what the Journal said. We were struck by the way the Journal used its words:
EMBER (3/23/17): The editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is known for its conservative tone, but an editorial the newspaper published online Tuesday night would stand out even in the pages of its left-leaning peers.

The editorial was an extraordinarily harsh rebuke of President Trump, calling him “his own worst political enemy” and asserting that he was damaging his presidency “with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.”

In particular, the editorial board pointed to Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that former President Barack Obama had tapped his phones. “The President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle,” the editorial said...
For ourselves, we would have added one word to the Journal's list of crimes. Below, you see what the Journal said, and you can see our one-word addition:
THE JOURNAL: Trump is damaging his presidency “with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.”

THE JOURNAL EDITED: Trump is damaging his presidency “with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other ridiculous falsehoods.”
We would have stuck "ridiculous" in. That said, did you notice the word the Journal eschewed?

The Journal didn't say "lies!"

You can hammer Donald J. Trump without alleging "lies." The Journal, using its many words, did so rather capably.

Why shouldn't the Journal have used the word "lies?" Unless you're seven years old, there are various reasons.

In certain contexts, the word is perfectly sensible. In many others, it creates a pointless distraction—and an instant secondary debate the accuser is likely to lose.

Second-graders can't understand that. Is that the source of our problem?

Time magazine rolls over and dies!

THURSDAY, MARCH 23, 2017

Sympathy for the birther:
Yesterday morning, the New York Times published a report on the subject of false belief.

Many, many people have said that Brendan Nyhan learned everything he knows from us. Modestly, we don't make an opinion on that.

That said, Nyhan teamed with Amanda Taub for a news analysis piece which bore this headline:

"Why People Continue to Believe Objectively False Things"

Given the lunacy of our discourse, this topic would seem important. At one point, the reporters discussed the granddaddy of them all—the objectively false belief that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States.

The writers described the way false beliefs tend to regain their strength in the months and years after they've been refuted. Mainly, we were struck by the overall numbers in this passage:
TAUB AND NYHAN (3/22/17): Mr. Trump disavowed the “birther” myth in September 2016, conceding that Mr. Obama was in fact born in Hawaii. There was an increase afterward in the number of voters who said they believed Mr. Obama was born in the United States, but polling by Morning Consult suggests that part of that effect has already faded. In September, it found that 62 percent of registered voters said they believed Mr. Obama had been born in the United States, but in a follow-up poll early this month, that number had dropped to 57 percent.

This decline cannot be attributed simply to partisan bias; it occurred among both Democrats (who went to 77 percent from 82 percent) and Republicans (down to 36 percent from 44 percent).
In the survey taken this month, 57 percent of respondents said Obama was born in the United States.

In that same survey, 26 percent of respondents said he wasn't born in the U.S. An additional 17 percent said they didn't know.

(Is this an artefact of slobbering racism? Eighteen percent of black respondents said Obama wasn't born in the U.S.; 13 percent said they didn't know.)

Objectively, the fact that Obama was born in Hawaii has been settled. As such, this looks like the granddaddy of them all when it comes to contemporary false beliefs.

That makes Time magazine's interview with Donald J. Trump the latest remarkable bit of avoidance concerning the gentleman's history as king of the birthers.

Time's interview focuses on Trump's assortment of bogus claims. The magazine bills its lengthy report on Trump as "a cover story about the way he has handled truth and falsehood in his career."

The way he has handled truth and falsehood in his career? Strikingly, Michael Scherer never asked about Trump's birther claims during his interview. Trump's birtherism was only fleetingly mentioned in Scherer's cover report.

During the interview, Scherer never asked about the investigators Trump said he sent to Hawaii. He never asked about the mind-boggling, undisclosed facts Trump said his gumshoes had found.

He never asked if there had been such gumshoes, or if it had all been a lie.

Politely, Scherer ducked this topic in his interview, as many before him had done. Once again, it's stunning to see the way our upper-end "press corps" actually handles such tasks.

Before this, the biggest act of "birther avoidance" may have belonged to the New York Times. Last July, the paper did a lengthy, front-page Sunday report about Trump's birtherism. But they never asked Trump or his associates if he had simply been lying when he said he sent those investigators to Hawaii.

In the summer of 2015, the entire press corps took a dive. After Trump announced his presidential campaign, he told a few interviewers that he was no longer willing to discuss birtherism.

The entire press corps crawled away and took a nap in the woods. Basically, Trump was never asked about this topic again until the campaign was almost done.

Our upper-end, mainstream "press corps" is Potemkin all the way down. This is a fascinating, remarkable fact about our highly Potemkin culture.

Our press corps is phony/faux all the way down. Will someone alert Kevin Drum?

Also this: Has any journalistic or academic org ever interviewed survey respondents about this topic? What would all those people say about where they think Obama was born?

This is the grand-daddy of them all in the realm of modern bogus belief. Our big news orgs and our academics have chosen to take it in stride.

Nothing to look at, boys and girls! Children! Please keep moving!

TIME FOR A CHANGE: The fog of (24-hour) war!

THURSDAY, MARCH 23, 2017

Part 3—At CNN and the Times:
Was Carl Bernstein right, last Friday night, when he spoke with Anderson Cooper? Is it time for a change in the way CNN reports on Donald J. Trump?

Inevitably, there's always room for improvement! For one example, consider CNN's latest fuzzy report.

The fog was general over the famous cable channel last night. We'll cite the chunk of CNN's written report which was posted by Kevin Drum.

Last evening, CNN's Pamela Brown—her mother was a Miss America!—delivered this report to Cooper himself. According to Cooper, Brown was one of the reporters who "broke this story."

Presumably, he'd meant to say that she had broken this "news report:"
BROWN (/3/22/17): The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign, US officials told CNN....The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings.

....One law enforcement official said the information in hand suggests "people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready." But other U.S. officials who spoke to CNN say it's premature to draw that inference from the information gathered so far since it's largely circumstantial.
According to a recent confession, Drum was born again on Election Day. Perhaps for that reason, we'd say he may have gotten a tiny tad over his skis in the comments he offered about this fuzzy report.

What's so "fuzzy" about that report? Let's consider the fuzzy term "suspected Russian operatives" as we try to discern what Brown actually broke.

According to Brown, this is what CNN has "learned:"

CNN has learned that information "indicates" that Trumpsters communicated with "suspected" Russian operatives to "possibly" coordinate the release of information. According to U.S. officials!

To us, that's a rather fuzzy claim. Consider the term, "suspected Russian operatives:"

According to CNN, does the FBI claim to know or believe that Trumpsters communicated with actual Russian operatives? Actually, the alleged communications were with suspected operatives, whatever exactly that means.

These questions come to mind:

Who suspects that the people in question may have been Russian operatives?

Presumably, the FBI currently holds this suspicion. That said, did the Trumpsters suspect that these people were Russian operatives, back then in real time?

Also, on what basis are these people suspected to have been Russian operatives? Were these people so suspected back then? Or are they just so suspected now?

We ask these questions for a reason. To wit:

Is it possible that the "suspected Russian operatives" in question are the good people of Wikileaks? At present, would Wikileaks people qualify for the somewhat fuzzy label of "suspected Russian operatives?"

If so, would Trumpsters have known about this suspected connection in real time? If we're talking about Wikileaks people, would the Trumpsters have had reason to suspect that they were in league with the Russkies?

We don't know the answers to any of these questions. Last night, CNN viewers were lost in the fog of war of a 24-hour kind.

In fairness, CNN's report was exciting. It was also remarkably fuzzy. The channel served a cocktail mixed from "possibly" and "suspected." Chasers of "suggests" and "premature" were also served.

At times like these, excitement is driven by such fuzzy reports—reports which will, in standard second-grade fashion, be referred to as "stories." That said, news orgs like CNN are loathe to spot the fuzziness in such exciting reports.

Consider the nonsense on CNN last Friday night, one hour before Bernstein piped up.

Last Friday night, Bernstein said it was time for a change. One hour earlier, Cooper and a panel of thousands had battled the fuzzy, indeterminate claims advanced by Jeffrey Lord.

Lord is the hardest-working, most frustrating man in show business today. Last Friday night, he showcased his ability to bring CNN's story-telling to a screeching halt.

Last Friday, Cooper and a panel of thousands were imagining what James B. Comey was going to say on Monday morning to the House Intel committee. The panelists agreed that Comey the God was going to clean Trump's clock.

The cast of thousands all agreed—Comey was going to say that Trump had been wrong with all that wiretap blather. But then, Cooper was forced to throw to Lord.

Here's what "the great frustrater" said for maybe the ten millionth time:
LORD (3/17/17): Anderson, I guess I'm going to be the lone voice here. I just respectfully disagree with all of my friends here.
Groans were heard across the land. There he went again!

After Lord discussed a transient point, Cooper took him where the rubber meets the road. For perhaps the ten millionth time, Lord lodged these observations about Donald J. Trump's prescient wiretap claim:
COOPER: Again, we'll know more Monday [when Comey testifies]. But according to the latest reporting, the Department of Justice report does not confirm the president's claims. Jeffrey, does the president need to admit he was wrong?

LORD: No! What the president needs to do—and frankly, I am totally dumbfounded at these Republicans on the Hill. What they need to do is take all the news accounts from Maggie's paper and put them out there and investigate those. Notice that Fox News has—

Notice that Fox News has retracted its report. The New York Times has not done so with these stories.
There he went again! For perhaps the ten millionth time, Lord was saying that "stories" in Maggie Haberman's New York Times support Trump's wiretap claim!

How many times had Cooper's panels been through this? Haberman responded with two speeches which were beside the point, then finally offered this:
HABERMAN: For the record, those stories do not say what Sean Spicer said—claimed that they had said. Sean Spicer cited these to suggest they backed up the president's claim that he was wiretapped by the previous president.

LORD: He was surveilled.

HABERMAN: No, that is not what those stories said.

LORD: It is, Maggie. I just read them today.

HABERMAN: No, it is not. No, it is not. What those stories—

LORD: It says people in the Obama administration were responsible for surveillance, and then that surveillance was leaked to the New York Times.

HABERMAN: First of all, that's not what they said.
All the panelists knew what Lord was talking about. They'd all seen this pointless discussion about a thousand times.

At the bare minimum, Lord was talking about this news report from the January 20 New York Times, a rather fuzzy news report with fuzzy claims about "wiretapping." Now it fell to Cooper to play his role in this well-rehearsed, time-killing game:
COOPER: Jeffrey, we've had the reporter that you have cited multiple times. You've cited his reporting claims. We've had the reporter on twice saying you are wrong. "My article did not say what Sean Spicer and the White House and you are claiming it says."

[Silly misstatement provokes good-natured group laughter]

LORD: What I am saying to you is that it is abundantly clear in those stories that people working for the Obama administration—and let's remember, again, as I've said before, when some bureaucrat in the Agriculture Department said ketchup was a vegetable, Ronald Reagan was personally held responsible. That's what we do with presidents. Hence, Harry Truman's "the buck stops here."

This happened on Barack Obama's watch with people in his administration. He was responsible.
As he's said before? Truer words were never spoken! Endless story short:

Cooper referred to Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg. He had appeared on his program several times, saying his January 20 news report doesn't support Trump's wiretap claim.

Now, Lord was saying that he had just reread the report that very day! He said that, properly understood, it did in fact support Trump's insightful wiretap claim.

This silly Groundhog Day discussion had occurred many times. At no point did Cooper ever ask Lord to cite the words of the Times report which supposedly supports Trump's claim.

At no point had Cooper ever cited the language in the report which refutes Trump's claim (or Lord's). And by the way:

If Cooper's panel had ever gotten into the New York Times report, they would have found some fuzzy language and claims, including remarks about "wiretapping." Certain parts of the somewhat fuzzy report could conceivably be taken various ways in these excited times.

One hour later, Bernstein was saying that it's time for a change in the way CNN reports on Donald J. Trump. Concerning that, we'll say this:

Back in the day, TV news ate thirty minutes each night. Today, cable news stars are paid large sums to eat a full twenty-four hours.

The excitement of the fuzzy claim keeps the whole show going. The failure to resolve any point plays a key role in this game.

When you have to fill large chunks of time, the inability to resolve any point is perhaps your best friend. Perhaps for that reason, the stars who are paid to extend this game tend to display analytical skills straight outta second grade.

Again and again, the Coopers seem to be working on second grade level. They seem weirdly unable to settle any point. As a result, like Freddy Krueger, Lord just keeps coming back.

Along the way, fuzzy claims keep things exciting and fun. Lord provides nightly conflict.

On CNN, a cast of thousands battles with Lord on a regular basis. Constantly, the valiant pundit is forced to "guess that he's going to be the lone voice here." He's forced to "just respectfully disagree with all his friends on CNN."

Five nights later, his CNN friends may report that the FBI has information that "indicates" certain things about what Trumpsters "possibly" did with "suspected" Russian operatives.

They push their fuzziness all night long. Excitement spreads; another long day is done.

Tomorrow: In our view, the answer to Krugman's question is, in part, Frank Rich

One of our tribe's most glorious seers!

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22, 2017

Frankly, it keeps getting Richer:
Let's recall the latest glorious statement by "the great Frank Rich:"
Frank Rich, March 19, 2017: In Portsmouth, Ohio, the epicenter of opiate-pill mills and of Quinones’s book, Trump won by a landslide. As he did in Ohio’s Butler County, where Vance grew up and which now ranks eighth among all American counties in the increase in the rate of drug-related deaths between 2004 (when opioid fatalities first spiked) and 2014.

As polls uniformly indicate, nothing that has happened since November 8 has shaken that support.

Quinnipiac University/Poll, March 22, 2017: President Donald Trump is losing support among Republicans, white voters and men, leaving him with a negative 37-56 percent job approval rating from American voters, his worst score ever, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.
Frankly, we're just saying.

Rich has been like this forever. But our tribe hangs on his every word, as their tribe is inclined to do with an assortment of seers.

Despite all this, we call Them dumb, insist that We are quite brilliant. This is the age-old logic of tribe, a logic in which our own tribe is deeply invested.

Our own tribe hit rock bottom last year. In line with the age-old logic of tribe, our tribe is unable to grasp this.

(Mandated tribal reaction: Why in the world would anyone engage in such odd disparagement?)

Unheated public school, temperatures near zero!

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22, 2017

Oddly disparaging remarks about Jimmy Breslin:
Has this fellow Bob Somerby "been oddly disparaging about people who say that Donald Trump is a liar?"

Frankly, we're not sure. Yesterday, our favorite blogger, Kevin Drum, leveled that harsh accusation, but he offered no examples of this ongoing odd disparagement.

He quoted a recent post which may have oddly disparaged three high-profile press figures, including Mika Brzezinski. For today, we'll move on to oddly disparaging comments about the late Jimmy Breslin, with the hope that this may start to convey the apparently mystifying idea we've offered for nineteen years.

Jimmy Breslin died this past weekend at 88 years of age. We have no overall view of his long, high-profile career.

We have been struck by some of the ways in which modern journalists have lionized his work. In a lengthy, page A1 news report of Breslin's death, the New York Times' Dan Barry employed at least one fighting word:
BARRY (3/20/17): Mr. Breslin found early escape in newspapers. As a boy, he would spread the broadsheet pages across the floor and imagine himself on a Pullman car, filing stories from baseball ports of call...

After getting a job as a sportswriter for The New York Journal-American, Mr. Breslin wrote a freshly funny book about the first season of the hapless Mets, ''Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?'' It persuaded John Hay Whitney, the publisher of The New York Herald Tribune, to hire him as a news columnist in 1963.

Soon Mr. Breslin was counted among the writers credited with inventing ''New Journalism,'' in which novelistic techniques are used to inject immediacy and narrative tension into the news. (Mr. Breslin, an admirer of sportswriters like Jimmy Cannon and Frank Graham, scoffed at this supposed contribution, saying that he and others had merely introduced Dickens-like storytelling to a new generation.)

Unleashed, Mr. Breslin issued regular dispatches that changed the craft of column writing, said the journalist and author Pete Hamill, a former colleague. ''It seemed so new and original,'' Mr. Hamill said. ''It was a very, very important moment in New York journalism, and in national journalism.''
Uh-oh! Breslin introduced "novelistic techniques" (and "storytelling") into American journalism.

And not only that! Before long, Breslin has been "unleashed." Freed from the chains of the past, he "changed the craft of column writing."

Just for today, let's be oddly disparaging about these alleged facts. Let's review Jim Dwyer's column in this morning's Times, the latest column about Jimmy Breslin.

In our general view, Dwyer tends to write good columns. As a general matter, he doesn't seem to engage in novelization to the extent that many others do.

That said, we thought we might be reading a novel at several points in Dwyer's new column. To read that column, click here.

Dwyer's headline praises Breslin for delivering "Fresh Truths, Bluntly Told." But uh-oh! When we read the passage shown below, we suspected we might be reading a novelized truth, inaccurately told:
DWYER (3/22/17): Mr. Breslin died Sunday at 88, and had been mostly out of the public eye for more than a decade...From the long arc of his public work and life, what remains are deep truths that he told bluntly, and that he saw because he stepped away from the crowd.

Before Mark Davidson and Ruben Blancovich were born, Mr. Breslin had written about the funeral of John F. Kennedy as seen by the man who dug the grave. Along the route of a voting rights march in 1965 led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Breslin found an unheated schoolhouse for black children in “a wooden building that was a church when people in Lowndes County wore Confederate uniforms,” he wrote, noting a teacher’s remark that while it did get cold sometimes, “we hardly ever get near zero.”
Uh-oh! Let's note that, in his actual copy, Dwyer praises Breslin for telling deep truths. We'd be inclined to regard that choice of words as another warning sign, novelized storytelling v. journalism-wise.

What "deep truth" did Dwyer recall in his very next paragrapg? He said that Breslin, back in the day, had visited an unheated school for black kids in Lowndes County, state unknown.

He said Breslin had quoted a teacher making a deep remark. While it did get cold in that school, Dwyer quotes the teacher saying, "We hardly ever get near zero."

In an oddly disparaging way, warning lights flashed around here.

Why would a teacher have said that, we skillfully wondered. In how many southern states does the temperature ever get near zero?

We journeyed home from the coffee joint, determined to check this moving deep tale. Our verdict?

In this case, it seems to be Dwyer who handed us a novel in place of the actual facts.

As it turns out, the Lowndes County in question is Lowndes County, Alabama. It's not too far from Montgomery, where the average low in the coldest month is 35.7 degrees.

Set that to the side! For the essay by Breslin to which Dwyer seems to refer, you can just click here.

The teacher is question was named Josephine Jackson. In Breslin's piece, she said the school dis get cold in the winter.

That said, she tells Breslin that the schoolroom is heated, sometimes by coal and sometimes by wood. In her fuller quote, she says that the local temperature rarely goes below 25.

We're reading about a school for black kids in Alabama in 1965. If we can believe what Breslin wrote, it sounds like conditions in that school were extremely bad.

That said, something is extremely bad today in Dwyer's actual column! Perhaps in the drive to tell a "deep truth," he seems to misstate one basic fact and he selectively edits a quote.

Based on appearances, Dwyer was writing a bit of a novel. To make the truth of his novel deeper, he threw journalism away.

This made his novel more pleasing for his target audience. That said, people are dead all over the world because our journalists have long since been "unleashed" and permitted to con us this way.

It's oddly disparaging to note this fact, unless you think there's a problem with the fact that people are dead all over the world because people like Dwyer do deep things like this. That said, most of the dead aren't people like Us. So why should anyone care?

Does it "matter" that Dwyer slipped his leash and penned a short novel today? Not exactly, no. That said:

Truth to tell, we thought we might have spied a second novel floating around in his column. Tell the truth. Do you believe the following passage, with which today's column ends?
DWYER: The New York of the 1970s and 1980s was slumping into decay; Mr. Breslin, his friend Pete Hamill, and the Times columnist Francis X. Clines were among the leading voices to insist that the people of the city should not be mistaken for its wreckage.

“He went under a desk in his bedroom and brought out some of the books he has been reading,” Mr. Breslin wrote of Ruben Blancovich, then a sixth grader in Public School 206 who started in the third grade able to read some words only in Spanish and a few in English. “A paperback collection of major American poets, ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens, the novel ‘April Morning’ by Howard Fast, and a coffee-table book, ‘Colonial Craftsmen,’ with drawings and text by Edwin Tunis.”

Mr. Blancovich, who now lives in Albany, went on to Yale and a career in banking and entrepreneurship. He was grateful for the attention Mr. Breslin gave to a school that worked well. He “was looking at things that the rest of the news wasn’t focusing on,” Mr. Blancovich said.

He still has his copy of “The Red Badge of Courage,” he said, and the clipping of Mr. Breslin’s column.
Do you believe that story? Do you believe that Ruben Blancovich, then a sixth grader in Public School 206 who started in the third grade able to read some words only in Spanish and a few in English," had actually been reading those books when Breslin came along?

Everything is possible! That said, the use of such selective examples, real or imagined, has played a deeply destructive role in our discourse about low-income schools at least since the 1960s. On the brighter side, the constant resort to stories like that has made us liberals feel good.

We liberals have always loved to be told that low-income and minority kids are secretly a bunch of geniuses who are being kept from splitting the atom only by the heinous conduct of their public schools.

Because our own IQs are low, this novel makes us feel good.

We're too dumb to understand that this famous old novel is a fantasy novel. We're too uncaring to see the way this fantasy stands in the way of serious discussion of the practices of our urban schools.

We're too lazy to see the way this construct enables the slanderous claim that low-income kids do relatively poorly at school because of their ratty teachers with their fiendish unions.

We're too dumb, too lazy, too uncaring. We like our "stories," our daily soaps. In the wake of their unleashing, people like Breslin began to supply them, replacing complexity and accuracy with a series of deep alleged truths.

"Unleashed" in the manner Barry described, our journalists began writing those "novels." More accurately, they began constructing low-IQ penny novels, novels which were built around pleasing sets of characters.

Where did this unleashing lead? In March 2000, the Washington Post's E. R. Shipp wrote a short but brilliant column about the novelization of the 2000 presidential campaign. By then, one of the candidates was being novelized by one and all as human history's weirdest, most puzzling liar.

His name was Candidate Gore. Predecessors to Drum kept sucking their thumbs as this standard mainstream novel sent Candidate Bush to the White House. To this day, the career liberal world has agreed that this can't be discussed.

People are dead all over the world. Put another way, it's oddly disparaging to note the way the life forms who pretend to be journalists continue to play this amazingly childish game.

(Most of the dead are the dead of Iraq. Can we tell the truth just once? Despite the stories we tell about ourselves, we liberals don't care about people like them. No fact could be more plain.)

Final note:

In the fall of 1999, Breslin wrote one of the stupidest columns about the vile Candidate Gore. Breslin was no longer influential at this time, but he gave amazingly sharp voice to the various loathings floating around in the columns of those who were.

Many of those columnists came from Breslin's East Coast Irish Catholic tribe. By now, Breslin was no longer in the loop. Mary McGrory, Maureen Dowd, Michael Kelly very much were.

We were raised within that same tribe, at least until 1960, when our family lit out for the territories on the west coast. Within the journalistic realm, this tribe's behavior was especially heinous during Campaign 2000, which started in March 1999 and ran a full twenty months.

Breslin had freed Chris Matthews and the rest to write their favorite "novels." Brian Williams trembled nightly about Gore's troubling clothes, which us about his flawed character.

Angry at Clinton, they novelized Gore. People are dead all over the world because of the astonishing way these silly, money-grubbing children played their destructive games.

Today, Mika plays a second grader every day of the week; others are in the same ballpark. To defenders of the faith, to the people who favored the war in Iraq, it is considered oddly disparaging to continue to notice such facts.

A tremendously stupid (regional) novel: Breslin's novel about Candidate Gore was tremendously stupid. It turned on the idea that Gore, being Southern and white, was a slobbering racist, what with "his quaint Tobacco Road customs" and all.

To read Breslin's column, click here. It appeared in October 1999.

Breslin used the old Gore-invented-Willie Horton con as his basic text. Earlier in 1999, only people like Rush Limbaugh had been playing this stupid old card, which came from the RNC.

By November of that year, mainstream journalists were standing in line to recite this novel. We're not sure if anyone else linked the tale to Tobacco Road, but everyone could see the deep truth was bigger than mere facts.

(Some of these novelists tortured the language, thus keeping their statements "technically accurate." Others couldn't even be bothered with that.)

All the silly second graders typed the pleasing novel. Thanks to the greatness of Breslin, they'd long since been unleashed.

People are dead all over the world. How odd to recall such a fact!

Heroic grandmother to good, decent person!

TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2017

The Post columnist's tale:
Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, The Color of Money, which appears in The Washington Post.

Needless to say, it's an "award-winning column."

This Sunday, Singletary wrote a column which ought to be widely read. It concerns the way she and her four siblings were raised by their heroic grandmother in West Baltimore, thanks in no small part to the availability of Medicaid.

The column starts like this. It's truly must-read work:
SINGLETARY (3/19/17): When my siblings and I went to live with my grandmother, we were a sickly bunch.

There were five of us. My older sister was 8. I was 4. The sister under me was 3, and my twin brothers were 1.

We were all undernourished.
We think you should take it from there.

We taught fifth grade in West Baltimore for nine years. West Baltimore is full of world-class people like Singletary's grandmother.

The world is full of people like that. Her granddaughter's column deserves to be pondered.

Were journos exposed to too much lead?

TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2017

The evidence mounts:
On Saturday morning, March 4, Donald J. Trump issued the tweets heard round the world.

Was he lying when he issued his tweets? Is it possible that he really believed the things he tweeted that day?

We don't know how to answer that question. Luckily, Mika Brzezinski does. We quote her from today's Morning Joe:
BRZEZINSKI (3/21/17): Who actually prompted this, Michael Steele? Where did this start? Did it start with those tweets on a Saturday morning that were, apparently, lies?

I think we can now actually equivocally [sic] say the president was lying on a Saturday morning when he—I don't know, was it four or five tweets?—accusing a former president of a felony.
To watch this statement, click here, skip ahead to roughly 6:50.

For the record, it was four tweets that day. From context, we'll guess Mika meant we can "un-equivocally" say that Trump was lying, though we've recorded what she actually said.

Was Donald J. Trump lying that Saturday morning? We have no idea. We find the question intriguing for two different reasons.

First, we're struck by what this topic tells us about the intellectual skills of the mainstream press corps. Let's kick that around a bit.

We don't know why Mika seems to think that we now know Trump was lying. To us, it seems entirely possible that he believed the claims he thundered that morning.

We don't mean that as a compliment. But if he believed the things he tweeted that day, that would, by normal construction, mean he wasn't "lying."

That said, the skill level of our mainstream press corps is often remarkably low. Consider David Leonhardt's blustery column on this topic in today's New York Times.

When Leonhardt appeared on the scene, he was sold to us the rubes as one of the press corps' smart guys. Today, his column reads like a parody of competent thought. This is the way he begins:
LEONHARDT (3/21/17): The ninth week of Donald Trump’s presidency began with the F.B.I. director calling him a liar.

The director, the very complicated James Comey, didn’t use the L-word
in his congressional testimony Monday. Comey serves at the pleasure of the president, after all. But his meaning was clear as could be. Trump has repeatedly accused Barack Obama of wiretapping his phones, and Comey explained there is “no information that supports” the claim.

I’ve previously argued that not every untruth deserves to be branded with the L-word, because it implies intent and somebody can state an untruth without doing so knowingly. George W. Bush didn’t lie when he said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and Obama didn’t lie when he said people who liked their current health insurance could keep it. They made careless statements that proved false (and they deserved much of the criticism they got).

But the current president of the United States lies. He lies in ways that no American politician ever has before...
As he starts, Leonhardt says that Comey called Trump a liar without "using the L-word."

Could it be that Comey eschewed the L-word because he wasn't calling Trump a liar? Please please please don't ask.

The much more ridiculous part of that passage comes in paragraph 3, where Leonhardt says he has "previously argued that not every untruth deserves to be branded with the L-word."

It's hard to believe how dumb that statement is. You can't "argue" that some untruths aren't lies; the statement is true by definition. You might as well "argue" that some human beings aren't fifty years old, or that some married persons aren't men.

That pompous declaration by Leonhardt is eye-poppingly dumb. Meanwhile, Bush and Obama didn't lie? How does Leonhardt know that?

Whatever! As we said, the intellectual skill level of the corps is often remarkably low. In his work on lead exposure, Kevin Drum has often noted the fact that everyone over a certain age was heavily exposed in youth. When we read work like Leonhardt's column, we tend to recall what Drum has said.

Was Trump lying that Saturday morning? We have no idea.

As a general matter, is he a liar? We still aren't even real sure about that.

Is Donald J. Trump a liar? Or could an accurate diagnosis perhaps be more troubling than that? To puzzle over this second set of questions, consider this recent post by Josh Marshall.

Marshall calls Trump a liar too. As he does, he abandons an earlier possible diagnosis without explaining why he does so. This strikes us as weak, lazy, hurried work:
MARSHALL: Now we've gone to the ridiculous lengths of having actual congressional investigations. And the representatives of the President's party in Congress have said there is no evidence that this happened. They are of course hanging on this 'no evidence' locution to avoid the discomfort of calling their party's leader a liar. The press shouldn't share that loyalty.

In any other context, when we have a claim that it wildly improbable verging on impossible on its face, when no evidence is provided and when outside investigations say there is definitively no evidence whatsoever, we call those claims lies. Or the rantings of an unhinged person if we want to grant some accommodation for mental incapacity. If someone says aliens landed in their backyard and has a similar lack of any evidence whatsoever, we call that person a liar or a crazy person. We say it's not true. Full stop.

As we know, by definition, you cannot prove a negative. You can only show there is no evidence whatsoever to support the claim. But this isn't a seminar on philosophy and empiricism. We call these lies.
Marshall jumps around in this presentation. He starts by saying that we should call Trump a liar. In the second paragraph we've posted, he seems to offer two possible choices—Donald J. Trump may be a liar, or he may be "crazy"/"unhinged."

One paragraph later, that second possibility seems to be gone (again), with no explanation given. We get the joy of dropping an L-bomb. In the process, though, we may be getting the wrong or less significant diagnosis.

Marshall moves away from the possibility that Trump is simply "crazy" or "unhinged." For ourselves, we feel disinclined to do that.

Is it possible that Donald J. Trump truly is some version of unhinged/crazy? Sadly, we're afraid it is. Since he holds the nuclear codes, this is a much more serious possibility than the one on which Marshall seems to settle.

When Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott told Richard Nixon he had to resign, Nixon succumbed to reality. What would Trump do in a situation like that?

A mere "liar" would know it was time to go. Do you feel sure that Donald J. Trump would react like that?

We don't feel sure of that at all. What has Professor Wang said?

Regarding the reasoning there: "If someone says aliens landed in their backyard and has a similar lack of any evidence whatsoever," is it true that "we call that person a liar or a crazy person?"

Is it true that "we call these lies?"

Those statements strike us as perfect nonsense. In truth, we don't "call" such people anything at all, since there are no such people.

Just a guess: No one reading Marshall's column has ever been told, by a neighbor or friend, that aliens landed in their back yard but they can offer no evidence.

People never make such claims. For that reason, "we" don't "call them" anything.

It seems to us that Marshall basically found a way to state a preferred diagnosis. It seems to us that the ultimate truth may be much more troubling, vastly more dangerous.

TIME FOR A CHANGE: Krugman asserts that something has changed!

TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2017

Part 2—Tell it to Harold Hill:
Early in last evening's 8 PM hour, Anderson Cooper introduced his pundit panel.

Rather, he began to introduce his panel. The CNN anchor said this:
COOPER (3/20/17): With that, joining us now is CNN national security analyst Steve Hall. He's a former CIA senior officer and a veteran of Russian operations.

New Yorker Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza is joining us. So are CNN political analysts David Gergen and Gloria Borger.
It seemed like Cooper would referee a discussion with four pundit panelists.

But then, dear God! Suddenly, the camera showed four more souls, and Cooper just kept going:
COOPER (continuing directly): As is Trump supporter and American Spectator senior contributor Jeffrey Lord, former Obama White House communications director Jen Psaki, Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Daily Beast senior columnist Matt Lewis.
Cooper proceeded to stage a discussion involving himself and eight other contributors. Inevitably, one of the pundits was Jeffrey Lord, the hardest-working, most maddening person in show business today.

We agree with what Carl Bernstein said on Cooper's Friday night broadcast. It's time for a change in the way the press corps, especially cable, reports on Donald J. Trump.

One change would reform the ridiculous way Cooper discusses Trump. Night after night, again and again, his program devolves into a battle in which hundreds of pundits attempt to deal with the various assertions of Lord, the most insistent and most frustrating of CNN's Trump whisperers.

Again and again, a familiar pattern plays out on Cooper's program. Lord reinvents the various things Donald J. Trump has said. As he does, he paraphrases past reports in the New York Times, maybe perhaps inaccurately or implausibly.

In response, Cooper's cast of thousands try to talk Lord out of his various claims. With respect to those New York Times reports, Cooper never makes the slightest attempt to define what the newspaper actually said.

Before the week is out, we'll review a recent example of this cast-of-thousands nonsense, which routinely recurs, Groundhog Day-fashion, on Cooper's CNN show. This format provides a wonderful way to pretend to discuss the news about Trump, without establishing any facts about the claims which consume another hour.

Bernstein was right! It's time for a change in the way Cooper presents the news. But then, it's also time for a change in the way we liberals operate Over Here.

In our view, our own liberal world pretty much hit rock bottom last year. We were confronted with the craziest candidate ever nominated for the White House.

Confronted with this craziest candidate, we somehow managed to lose!

Ever since that shocking day—Professor Wang had said it couldn't happen!—we liberals have insisted on blaming that outcome on Those People, the ones found Over There. It hasn't seemed to enter our heads that November's pitiful outcome might in some way be a reflection on Us.

In line with prehistoric thinking, it can only be a reflection on Them. For an example of what we mean, just check Paul Krugman's new column.

Let's start by stating the obvious. Within the journalistic realm, Krugman has been the liberal world's MVP for a very long time.

Plainly, he's one of the liberal world's smartest, best informed players. This makes his new column even more striking.

In our view, much of what Krugman says in his column is true. We'd say it's true that Donald J. Trump seems to have a "pathological inability to accept responsibility" for his own flaming misstatements.

As far as we know, it's true that this is an outsized version of a pre-existing tendency among major figures in the conservative world.

(One example from Krugman's column: "In the aftermath of the [2008] financial crisis, a similar inability to admit error was on display among many economic commentators.")

We assume all that is true. That said, we were struck by what happened when Krugman asked our liberal team's favorite question near the end of his column.

It's something we liberals love to do! Krugman tried to understand how Those People could have voted for Trump.

We liberals love to ask that question. Here's how the column ended:
KRUGMAN (3/20/17): [W]hy did so many Americans vote for Mr. Trump, whose character flaws should have been obvious long before the election?

Catastrophic media failure and F.B.I. malfeasance played crucial roles. But my sense is that there’s also something going on in our society: Many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like, mistaking bombast and belligerence for real toughness.

Why? Is it celebrity culture? Is it working-class despair, channeled into a desire for people who spout easy slogans?

The truth is that I don’t know. But we can at least hope that watching Mr. Trump in action will be a learning experience—not for him, because he never learns anything, but for the body politic...
We liberals always take this approach! We take it as a reflection on Them that they chose to vote for Trump, "whose character flaws should have been obvious."

We don't see it as a reflection on Us when we say, for the ten millionth time, that we don't understand why Those People chose to do that. In this case, we were especially struck by one part of Krugman's lament.

We agree with Krugman on one basic point. In our view, Donald J. Trump's "character flaws" were, in fact, completely obvious long before last November.

That said, many voters believed that Hillary Clinton's character flaws were totally obvious too. Krugman's brief reference to "media failure" may in part speak to this point.

That said, we were most struck by Krugman's claim that something has changed in the U.S.A. when people can't see through a person like Donald J. Trump.

"Many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like," Krugman writes. By "many Americans," he plainly seems to mean the many Americans found Over There.

In our view, many voters have shown poor judgment concerning the blandishments of Donald J. Trump. (We're willing to identify our view as a matter of opinion.)

That said, uh-oh! Tomorrow, we'll discuss a few of the various hustlers and con men we liberals have failed to see through in the past twenty-five years.

Any such list would be long, of course. It speaks to Krugman's growing tribalism that he can only see this failure of judgment occurring among Those People, the stupenagels found Over There.

We liberals have failed to see through a long list of hustlers and con men too! Beyond that, we point to Krugman's puzzling suggestion that the inability to see through figures like Trump is new on the American scene.

Citizens, please! We the people have always been susceptible to swindlers and con men. Our literature is rich with such stories—stories which revolve around a natural-born human trait, a trait of good decent people.

Last night, we shot pool at Washington's Cosmos Club beneath a photo of Mark Twain, who apparently shot pool in the very same room. When he wasn't thus occupied, Twain gave us the story of the Duke and the King, the "otherwise unnamed con artists" who manage to swindle an Arkansas river town in a famous part of Huckleberry Finn.

Way back in 1962, Meredith Willson gave us another such tale. His swindler, Professor Harold Hill, was a lovable non-professor professor who was selling magical trombones.

The good, decent people of River City fell for his skilled blandishments. In the end, Marian the Librarian, who fell for his soul, was able to turn him around.

We humans have always been inclined to get taken by the hucksters! This explains why we have an FDA and three hundred similar agencies.

Those agencies were invented to protect us against our human selves. Today, though, we liberals insist that the tendency to fall for music men is something new in American life—and that this human tendency can only be found Over There.

Krugam ended yesterday's column in a tribal way. Tomorrow, we'll mention a few of the music men whose trombones we liberals have purchased.

Having said that, let us also say this:

It may be time for a change in the way Cooper sifts Trump. That said, it's also time for a change in the way we liberals imagine the world.

Why won't Those People listen to Us when we tell them who they should vote for? In part, it's because they know us for who and what we are: folk who believe that human failing only exists Over There.

"Many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like?"

This very basic human flaw has always been part of American life. And this very human imperfection is very much found Over Here.

Tomorrow: Our previous Donald J. Trumps