I find myself, once again, having to cut through the bullcrap like a light saber through Ben Kenobi.
Look, here’s the deal folks: when Donald J. Trump, current President of these United States, was nothing more than an old lech (ok, a rich old lech), he paid to get laid by a porn star. He did this while his third wife, a former high-class skin model, was knocked up with his kid and while simultaneously having an affair with a Playboy playmate. Now, if I had more money than God (or at least, more than 90% of other Manhattan residents), I would waste my money on other things, but it’s his money. Besides, it’s part of his life-long pattern of keeping STD clinics in business.
The thing is, none of this should surprise anyone. After all, Trump has been a braggart about his sexploits since he first started appearing on Page Six. (What did you think was going on at Studio 54?) This is a guy who cheated on his first wife with his second wife, who he then dumped when she had the temerity to get pregnant. Long before achieving a career rebirth as a sort of lovable reality show host, he was famous for being the cad who turned Atlantic City into a hedonistic pleasure dome (albeit a badly managed, over-the-top version).
Indeed, this is the last scandal I ever expected to besiege the Trump White House. After all, only the wilfully ignorant would have thought Donald J. Trump hasn’t spent the last 50 years trying to hump every female human that crossed his path. For Pete’s sake, he’s bragged about. Loudly.
So, why wouldn’t he just fess up this time around? Surely he remembers 20 years ago. Yes, we were all skeeved by the middle aged dude boffing a barely legal intern in the Oval Office – but only the wilfully ignorant were surprised by the behavior. But what got that president into a heap of trouble was lying about it, even though nobody believed him. It cost him his legacy. 50 years from now, the only thing he’ll be remembered for is being the second President to be impeached.
The only thing I can think of is, he’s afraid of losing his base of support. But those of you who are rabid Trump fans wouldn’t abandon him over this. I mean, 5 minutes on Twitter proves that, right? So, it’s up to y’all. Already, the lawsuits are in motion. It’s Monica all over again. Shortly, the President will be forced to submit to being deposed and any missteps or misstatements in those, and he’ll have fallen into the same self-imposed trap that ensnared Bill Clinton. So, Trumpkins, save us all the spectacle. Urge him to fess up to doing the horizontal bop with a porn star named Stormy (and yes, having quite ordinary sized hands) and pay the settlements so we can all move on. There are real problems. We don’t need a lecherous old fool’s hubris to create new ones.
Some time back, the left uncorked a nutty idea: parents weren’t essential cogs in society. Over the last couple of weeks, this ugly theme has reappeared as a talking point in several leftist articles with wide circulation, all arguing that child rearing is better left to government overlords. Indeed, we are again being told that thousands of generations of humans have been poorly served by parents, because the reality is that “it takes a village” to properly care for a child – if that child is even deemed viable in the womb by those overlords. This seems like yet another attempt at destruction of the most essential building block of society, the nuclear family.
Now, for a quick detour. Why, you may ask, would anyone want to destroy families? The answer is simple, if you understand history. The first thing to understand is the roots of modern liberalism are found in the ideals of socialism, and modern socialists (whether they understand it or not) are promoting a soft communism. They may be willing to swap out the dictator for some sort of proletarian government, but make no mistake: they believe all of society’s ills can be cured by government. Their contention is that no government, regardless how well intentioned, can survive so long as private, unregulated ownership of property and capital is allowed to exist.
The nuclear family has been seen as an existential threat to this ideal since the very first promulgation of their warped philosophy. It was Engels who wrote an entire book on the subject, in order to reinforce his and Marx’s idea that the family was a construct of capitalist societies that existed primarily to ensure the preservation of individual wealth. They then further fantasized that governments and western religions encouraged the nuclear family, as a way of ensuring that children were indoctrinated with the approved morals and views of government.
Taken in that light, it isn’t terribly surprising to the rest of us that the family is one of the left’s foremost targets. So long as the family unit exists, the possibility of a socialist utopia cannot. The two are mutually exclusive.
Over the past 50 years, the left has launched a legislative assault on the traditional family. Liberalized divorce and abortion laws have removed most legal impediments to dissolving a family. The expansion of child welfare agencies and redefinition of what constitutes abuse have left parents who want to discipline their children at the state’s mercy. Increased participation in school curricula and operations by federal and state legislatures have ended parental control over their children’s education. They have even redefined the family with the legalization of gay marriage and making gay adoptions permissible.
While this assault on the family has recorded casualties (we’ve gone from 87% of children being in a traditional family to 68% in the last 50 years), the fact is that the normative family remains the standard in American society. But if your goal is to further the socialist ideal, to focus on the dubitable positives of equality of outcome, the family remains as your greatest threat. Modern socialists realize they cannot emulate their Marxist heroes and end the family by decree, so they instead have instigated a propaganda campaign to persuade us that parenting is not the most important job a person can have.
This line of attack, while perhaps not coordinated, has seen a dramatic uptick in the last few weeks. The first of these “thought pieces” that came to my attention was by Daniel Enberg in Slate. In Parenting Doesn’t Matter, he writes:
…what does affect a child’s future? Twin studies say a large proportion of the differences between children’s cognitive abilities, personalities, and chances of ending up with mental illness (among other long-term outcomes) can be explained solely by their DNA. And most of the rest appears to come from random chance, quirks in their biology, and specific non-parent-related life experiences: the teachers they had, or the friends they made along the way.
The entire article is a screed about how, even though he’s the father of an infant, he doesn’t see how anything he does – including things such as helping his daughter choose her friends, selecting her classes, her extra curricular activities, even simply reading her a bedtime story – will make any difference in her life. As he puts it, nothing he does “means she’ll still be shitting her pants at her high school graduation.”
The second piece was Ruth Marcus’ well publicized op-ed in the Washington Post. It is one of the most reprehensible articles I have ever read. It is nothing less than a full throated endorsement of eugenics, solely for a prospective mother’s “convenience.” She wrote:
I’m going to be blunt here: That was not the child I wanted. That was not the choice I would have made. You can call me selfish, or worse, but I am in good company. The evidence is clear that most women confronted with the same unhappy alternative would make the same decision.
Indeed, further on in the piece, she acknowledges that she foresees abortion as being the key to allowing eugenics to become a new societal norm (not unlike Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution”):
Technological advances in prenatal testing pose difficult moral choices about what, if any, genetic anomaly or defect justifies an abortion. Nearsightedness? Being short? There are creepy, eugenic aspects of the new technology…
But hey, if the mother chooses to kill her family before it even begins, that’s not society’s concern, right? I would fully expect an avowed leftist like Marcus to pen such drivel and assume some sort of perverted moral high ground with it.
Then there’s “How to Raise a Boy” by Will Leitch. Now, I enjoy Will’s writing when he sticks to his bailiwick, which is sports. But for some reason, he felt it necessary to provide the rest of us his take on parenting. Many others have taken his piece to be a commentary on other leftist tropes: white male privilege, the need to end “gun culture,” the virtue of being a beta male and so forth. But in reality, he supports Enberg’s view that parenting really amounts to little more than providing food and shelter for his offspring, not moral guidance or education.
There are things that I think I’m supposed to show them…that I don’t necessarily agree with but don’t want to stand in the way of. What do I know, you know? Every parent is only pretending that he or she has any real answers…this lesson of self-reliance is only an illusion. I can tell myself that any “success” I’ve had has been because of “hard work” and “perseverance,” but I’m kidding myself.
So, even though Leitch acknowledges that his parent’s example and instruction, their constant admonishment to “work hard and study hard” may be the reason he is able to earn a comfortable living as writer, he is conflicted as to the reason. Why? Because the combination of a liberal education and liberal thought has told him that his success is solely dependant on his DNA.
And in the end, that is what liberalism wants us all to believe. Not what our history and experience tells us. They won’t be happy until something similar to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is society’s new normal – and they know that can’t exist so long as even one traditional family exists.
I just found out today marks the 8th anniversary of this blog’s launch.
8 amazing, incredible years that have seen a lot of change. Personally and professionally for myself, and profound for our country.
Over these 8 years, over 5,000 of you have decided to hop aboard. I’ve typed out over 425,000 words, spread out over more than 500 posts – and for some reason, ya’ll keep coming back for more. Thank you, each and every one of you, for following my wonderings and observations.
Here’s to another 8 years, God willing!
I often hear liberals saying, “a minimum wage should give the same earning power as when it was first introduced.”
Well, in the spirit of bipartisanship, I’m happy to announce I fully agree with this position. When the federal government instituted a national minimum wage in 1938, it was set at 25¢ an hour. Adjusted for inflation (after all, only an idiot thinks a quarter goes as far now as it did 80 years ago), that would be $4.28 an hour today.
And I’d like to thank my liberal friends for pointing out the inequity in our current minimum wage structure vis a vis as it was originally intended.
By now, you’ve read every professional pundit’s take on what last night’s non-decision in the Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District special election means. So, in that time honored tradition of piling on, here’s a few thoughts of my own.
- Crappy candidates don’t win elections: unless they’re running against even crappier candidates. So long as the GOP keeps running people like Rick Saccone (who tried to pressure his possibly pregnant secretary into an abortion, despite running as a pro-life candidate) and Roy Moore (no need for further explanation), they will continue to lose elections. Unless, of course, the Democrats run even worse candidates. They tried that with Jon Ossoff. They also tried it in 2016 with somebody named Hillary Clinton.
- Smart Democrats run away from the “Party of Pelosi”: If you closed your eyes, Conor Lamb sounded like any number of moderate Republicans. At least in word, he is about as far from the national party platform as you can get and still call yourself a Democrat.
- Which leaves national Democrats in a quandary: Democrats need to flip 24 seats to regain the House in November. In order to do that, they’ll need a whole lot more people like Conor Lamb to run. If they succeed, what happens to the Democrats who’ve hewed farther to the left since the 2016 election? The return of a strong “Blue Dog” faction can’t be something Democrats eyeing a 2020 Presidential run (Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, etc) are eagerly anticipating. Nor can it be something the “old guard” House members (Pelosi, Hoyer, etc) really want to deal with.
- Presidents no longer have coattails: It might sound trite, but Presidents truly don’t enhance anyone else’s electoral chances anymore. While America has a long history of voting for the opposition in midterm elections, none of our last three Presidents have been able to transfer their considerable intraparty favorables into voter turnout. This year is continuing that trend. Whether that’s a function of our three decade long bout of hyper-partisanship, or Presidents who simply can’t reach voters on the “other” side, I don’t know. But it doesn’t really matter – it is, what it is. Just remember, the House has changed leadership 4 times during a midterm in the past 25 years.
- Anyone who thinks 2018 won’t be the fifth, is deluding themselves: Yes, 24 seats is a tall order. Yes, Democrats winning those seats will be running against the national party’s positions in many cases. Yes, that will create massive headaches for them, both in governance and electoral politics. But you know what? Another function of this period of hyper-partisanship is that the only accomplishment that matters is winning the damn election. Actual governing is secondary. You can bet the DNC and DCCC will pour everything they have into the districts they believe they can flip, and flip them they will.
Two issues have dominated this offseason. First, and the one most fans are paying attention to, is the number of quality players that remain unsigned. Second is the commissioner office’s attempt to address professional baseball’s slowing pace of play, most startlingly by adding a clock to a game that’s never had one. What everyone is missing is that both those problems are children of one problem that nobody is talking about: zombie franchises.
What is a zombie franchise? A zombie franchise is an organization that seems forever stuck in baseball purgatory. Never quite good enough to contend for a championship, these teams become the homes of what were once called “AAAA” players, but are today usually referred to as “replacement level players.” They’re identified by keeping their major league payroll low, the quality of play only slightly better than a good AAA team and for shipping out their decent players in the continual rebuild. The people who own these teams are not to be blamed for this; after all, like any business they need to turn a profit. The players union isn’t responsible for the situation, either – after all, it’s sole reason for being is to protect the jobs of those men lucky enough to call themselves professional baseball players.
But zombie franchises slow the pace of play down by fielding inferior teams. Seriously, try to watch a game between, say. the Reds and Marlins. You’ll need massive doses of caffeine just to make it to the third inning. Most of the pitchers on these teams would either be toiling in the minor leagues or out of pro ball entirely. The same goes for many of the position players. Either they simply lack the talent to compete with their peers, lack the seasoning that comes with proper time in the minor leagues or were once capable major league players just playing out the string. The result is pitchers who cannot throw quality strikes and hitters who can’t hit quality pitches (or lay off bad ones), fielders who make ridiculous mental errors and teams in general that need tons of in-game coaching just to play nine innings. No wonder the games are not only taking longer, the amount of time between each play is taking longer. Now throw in a lot of time where nothing is happening (after all, what is less exciting than a two out, bases empty 6 pitch walk?), and the commissioner is right to be concerned.
This is also affecting the current free agent and trade markets. Players who were king dogs on their old teams are discovering that they just aren’t good enough to justify the type of money they were led to believe they deserve. Mike Moustakas is a nice player. Lefty bat, some home run power, solid if unspectacular defender. Same goes for his former teammate, Eric Hosmer. JD Martinez? Good hitter, lousy defender, slow as molasses runner. They are all universally regarded as good, but complimentary, players. If your team is only going to win 70 games without them, none of those guys is going to to suddenly turn you into a pennant contender. For a pennant contender, they play positions that aren’t needed. But these guys have heard for two or three years now that they’re “franchise players” in the media, from their agents, from their former teams. So it’s understandable that a Martinez is looking for 6 years at $25 million each. It has to be hard for him to hear from teams now that he isn’t that good.
The same goes for the free agent pitchers. The reason teams loaded up on middle relievers at the beginning of free agency is simple: the starting pitching market isn’t very good. The top two available, Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, are good pitchers but hardly great. Neither would be called an “ace” on a contender. Arrieta has been around for 8 years. In that time, he’s posted two very good seasons (the last three seasons ago), two slightly better than average years – and four seasons that wavered between bad and horrendous. As for Darvish, he can strike guys out. But when he isn’t striking out hitters, they’re hitting him and hitting him HARD (see his postseason history). Again, both guys aren’t bad, but neither is worth 7 years and $200 million.
Part of the problem for these guys is they get so many opportunities against zombie franchises, which lets them pad their stats. Darvish got to pitch 22 times against a zombie franchise in 2017, going 8-7 with a 3.49 ERA, and 83 OPS+ allowed, while averaging almost 7 innings per start – good (although not exceptional) stats. He made 9 starts against actual contenders, going 2-5 with a 4.86 ERA and 131 OPS+ allowed. Not surprisingly, he was generally gone before the 6th inning in those games. As for Moustakas, he batted .283/.317/.537 in 347 at bats against zombie franchises, while hitting .248/.291/.489 in 251 at bats against contenders.
If I’m a GM, I’m looking a lot more closely at those numbers against contenders than against the zombie teams. Why? Well, as we saw in the postseason, Darvish is much closer to the 4.86 ERA pitcher in terms of talent than the 3.49 ERA. Moustakas is closer to the .780 OPS talent than a .850 talent. And that’s how I’m going to pay them.
So how does baseball solve this problem? It seems the best way would be to contract the size of the leagues, probably by four teams. We’ve seen for almost two decades now that teams in Florida just do not work. The Marlins and Rays have never drawn fans. Oakland hasn’t been able to for over 30 years. How can baseball honestly say having teams, especially bad teams, in those cities is doing anyone any good? Other teams ownership groups probably need to be looked at closely, those for the New York Mets, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, San Diego and Baltimore. Teams that have not indicated an interest in actually trying to contend for a title, despite being in markets that historically have supported their teams.
This would obviously get tons of pushback. For starters, the players would hate it, because going from 30 to 26 teams would mean 100 fewer jobs for their number. The owners would hate it, because it’s essentially telling people who have been successful in their other endeavors that they’ve failed in the most public of forums.
But, there might be an easier way to address this problem – one that appeases the players and let’s some owners realize nobody’s ego can be greater than the health of the game. Baseball has a de facto salary cap, the “competitive balance tax.” The payroll level at which the tax applies was negotiated in the most recent collective bargaining agreement (for this year, it’s $197 million. Next year, $206 million). The reason this is acting in the same fashion as a hard salary cap is that every dollar over that limit is taxed at increasing amounts, depending on how many years a team has been over the limit – up to 50%. Now, this hurts players who might be targets of the teams that traditionally spend large amounts – the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox – because those teams not only don’t think that Todd Frazier or Eduardo Nunez is worth $13 million a year, they especially don’t think paying a Frazier, et al., a 50% premium adds any value to their team.
What the players should have done was bargained for a payroll floor. I think it could be established along the same lines as the competitive balance tax. Require every team to have a payroll that is at least 50% of the tax threshold (for this year, that would be $98.5 million) and for every dollar they are below that lower limit, fine them a sliding scale amount based on how many consecutive years they’ve been below that level. Do it over a three year period: 20% of the difference in the first year, 50% for year two and 100% for years three and on. Now here’s the thing: those “for the good of the game” clauses the commissioner is threatening to use to install a clock are the same ones he can use to install a payroll floor.
Why is this important? This season alone, 10 teams are currently projected to have payrolls below $98.5 million. Only one – Minnesota is expected to be a contender, and they’re less than $2 million below the proposed payroll floor. The other 9 teams are not only pretenders, they’re not even pretending that they’re anything other than pretenders. If you think otherwise, ask yourself who’s a better player, Mike Moustakas or Maikel Franco. Ask yourself if you would rather have Jake Arrieta or Tim Adelman anchoring your rotation. While we’ve established that guys like Moustakas and Arrieta are not the franchise cornerstones worthy of their contract demands, they are infinitely better than some of the players who do have jobs.
So, some of the marginal players currently employed for no reason other than they’re really cheap would be forced out of the game, or back into the minor leagues. Fans in cities that are lamenting their teams dumping quality players because they make too much would have some hope. Pace and quality of play improves, simply by having better players on the field. And the insanity of trying to turn baseball into basketball with wooden clubs ends.
For ownership, it would force a reckoning. Any fanbase can understand a season or two of mediocrity in the event a total rebuild is needed. They’ve looked around baseball and seen the Astros, Cubs, Yankees, Rockies and Diamondbacks do just that and field high-quality teams. What no fanbase should expect is that the owners of their team will continually put subpar talent on the field in the name of controlling costs. Quite frankly, in an industry that shares profits and raked in over $9 billion, there is no excuse for any ownership group not to be able to make a profit with a $98.5 million payroll.
If they can’t – they don’t deserve to own a team.
“The Memo” – that 4 page document that’s tied our overlords in Washington into knots for over a week – has finally been released! If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you you click here and do so. Now.
Forgetting the political implications for a moment, I want to focus on the critical aspect I haven’t heard anyone mention yet: the FISA court’s existence. Think about it for a moment. None of what our nation has been subjected to over the past 20 months would have been possible, if not for a Constitutionally questionable extra-legal entity that was created for the sole purpose of allowing the federal government to spy on American citizens.
Absent the FISA court, the shady dealings of messers Comey, Rosenstein, Ohr, McCabe, et al., would have been presented in open court. Absent the FISA court, Mr. Steele’s questionably sourced, partisan “dossier” would have had to be presented as a verified source in open court – where any judge not asleep would have laughed the warrant application away. Absent the FISA court, Mr. Page and President Trump would have been notified they were the targets of a federal investigation.
That the last administration weaponized the various enforcement arms of the federal government as a political retribution tool has never been in much doubt. That they attempted to ply their retribution campaign in the shadows is also without dispute (think of the damage a weaponized IRS did to dozens of legitimate conservative groups). That some of the leading members of that administration’s Justice Department were utilizing a secret court to engage in a political dirty tricks campaign should not surprise anyone.
We, the people, gave the government that tool 40 years ago. Just like giving a spoiled child a hammer and telling him “No!”, how can we be surprised that the government uses that tool to smash everything in it’s way?
The political fallout from this will be with us for a while, possibly years. I hope that before those ashes are done burning America takes a good, hard look at the entire FISA process and decides to kill it. Any government that aspires to egalitarian principles cannot have secret courts, cannot grant the police authority to spy on it’s citizens, can never allow political actors control over those same police. Oversight, yes – operational control, never. That is the overriding lesson we need to learn from this fiasco.
Today, we see many things in the news and on social media regarding issues surrounding the US DoJ and law enforcement. As Americans, we know the FBI and the Justice Department are two agencies that must always be above reproach. But today, sadly, we see that is not the case.
Anytime there are officials or leadership in those agencies that use their bountiful resources to operate outside their intended use, there must be consequences. Those consequences should be swift and to the maximum penalty allowed by law. The incident needs to be made public, to show accountability to the American people and restore faith in our system. If nothing was done wrong then those individuals are exonerated. This is the crux of the American system.
Every person in America has their own opinion. They have their individual ideals and beliefs. But impartiality is implicit in the duties of those entrusted with enforcing our laws; bias should never interfere with doing the jobs they signed up for in the Justice Department or the FBI. They must never let their personal feelings interfere with the impartiality of the law.
In our modern era, we’ve listened to those responsible for the fair and impartial application of the awesome power of the American legal system describe the need for powers that made us all blanch. And begrudgingly, we’ve granted them powers they requested, including indefinite detentions and secret courts, even as we feared how those powers could be misused by those with less than honorable intent. We did so on the premise that those applying those powers would remain impartial in their application, that retribution for misusing them would be swift and terrible. We put aside our misgivings and placed our trust in the American system.
This is now beyond debate. This should be past partisan arguments. There is no gray area. The law was either followed or it wasn’t. Resources were used appropriately and as designed, or they were abused. As Americans, we deserve to know the answers to these questions. As Americans, it is our responsibility to know the answers to these questions. And as Americans, we should be in agreement that anyone who misused the authority we allowed them thereby violated our trust. Anyone guilty of such malfeasance is indeed guilty of crimes far worse than any other, for they attempted to murder the very republic they swore an oath to defend.
So yes, release the memos. Stop pretending the investigators are above being investigated themselves. Let us see the facts and judge for ourselves. Only in this way can trust in the institutions charged with guarding the American system be restored.
Is it possible that the rank-and-file members of the FBI are loyal to the country and their mission, while their Obama administration era, politically appointed leaders are only loyal to a political movement?
Is it possible the Russian government engaged in an influence campaign during the last election, without either directly assisting either campaign, or being assisted by either campaign?
Also yes. And in both cases, more probable than not.
Unfortunately, the American public seems incapable of living with this state of things. The President is such a polarizing figure, and these issues so closely related both to the man and his temperament, that battle lines are being drawn where none should be. If you are a member of the “#Resistance,” that ill-defined cabal of #NeverTrumper conservatives, radical liberals and social justice warriors, then the Mueller investigation and FBI are the archangels of your salvation. If you’re fully aboard the #TrumpTrain, then the Russians are our friends, had no influence on the election and the FBI is staffed by former members of the Keystone Kops, all of whom are on Hillary Clinton’s payroll.
First for my friends on the #TrumpTrain: to pretend that Russia wasn’t attempting to influence the 2016 election is the height of naivety. Russia, from the time of the Czars, has never been a true friend of our nation. Russia has always been, and likely will always remain, an autocratic society that innately fears the very things that the United States’ very existence embodies. Russian governments, whether czarist, communist, perestroika or the current oligarchist regimes, have made it a point throughout history to gain influence over the American electoral process. At times, it was overt as hell. Boris Checherin, a Muscovite professor, was employed by Alexander II to identify and support American politicians who would be sympathetic to Russian interests during the early Reconstruction period. Some of you may be familiar with a KGB unsuccessful attempt to funnel campaign funds to Gerald Ford’s 1976 campaign. In 2009, the House of Representatives acknowledged that Dmitri Medvedev’s government had illegally contributed to political action campaigns for both candidates in the 2008 election.
Given that history, why is it outlandish to think Medvedev’s benefactor and mentor, Vladimir Putin, wouldn’t engage in some sort of dirty tricks campaign? It would be more outlandish to think the former KGB spook, whose only allegiance is to a Russian version of Manifest Destiny, hadn’t engaged in a disruption campaign during the Presidential race. Understanding the methods used, and their efficacy, should be a concern of every American. So take the blinders off. Nobody (except for some very dimwitted #resistance members) believes Putin actively threw the election to Donald Trump. If you give the President cover (i.e., so he doesn’t have to be defensive about Russia’s role), you’ll also give him the ability to unleash a proper investigation. That would be a good (and proper) thing.
Now for the #NeverTrumpers: as conservatives, we lamented the politicization of the Department of Justice under Barack Obama and his two Attorneys General, Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch. To suddenly be shocked that the highest levels of the Department of Justice were operating as a political committee, working to exonerate one candidate of a host of illegal activities while simultaneously creating a false narrative around supposed illegal activities of another, is disingenuous. It was precisely this type of behavior from the DoJ that had us most worried. Further, everything the politicized Obama DoJ had undertaken – from the Fast and Furious gun running fiasco to the early rush to judgement in the Michael Brown “Hands up, don’t shoot” lie, proved to be a political activity, not something actually related to criminal justice. The Obama administration politicized and weaponized all sorts of federal agencies, with a clear intent of crushing any thought of a conservative movement. Agencies with supposedly as diverse missions as the IRS and DEA, the SEC and BLM were all deployed as crusaders against the “evils of the bitter clingers.” Unless you’re willing to accept that the people responsible for creating and implementing those policies suddenly had a change of heart – that the Andrew McCabe’s, Peter Strzok’s, James Comey’s and Sally Yates’ that populated the upper bureaucracy of the Obama administration – decided on November 9, 2016 that duty to country replaced their duty to their Obamaführer, such an outcome wasn’t just a possibility. It is a probability.
It’s perfectly legitimate to call into question the political motivations of a James Comey or Vladimir Putin. It is not legitimate to dismiss concerns about their roles in the tumultuous 2016 campaign over your love or hatred of Donald Trump. Like it or not, he’ll be gone by 2025, at the latest. But the ramifications of these two, symbiotic scandals will resonate in our electoral and justice systems for many more decades after that. Understanding who was trying to put their thumbs on the levers of power and why is far more important than any President.
If the idea that all news is fake somehow shocks you, then you haven’t paid much attention to the world around you for the last 40 years or so. It wasn’t always this way. In the not so distant past, journalism truly was our “fourth estate,” and journalists actually did their bit to keep government more or less honest. This reached it’s peak in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. It was Walter Cronkite who was the only person with enough cache to convince Americans that the war in Vietnam was not going well and American lives were being sacrificed for a feckless foreign policy. It was valiant newspaper editors who risked everything – even imprisonment – to publish the Pentagon Papers. It was intrepid reporters who blew the cover off the Watergate conspiracy. It was a dogged reporter who went against his own political bias to doom Gary Hart’s candidacy.
Sadly, the Gary Hart story was the last hurrah for journalism. Already, political bias was creeping further and further into our evening newscasts. Reporters were feeling their oats and network news executives were feeling the heat to make their divisions profitable. The combination of the two was a slow turning of serious telejournalists into entertainers. David Brinkley gave way to Sam Donaldson. Walter Cronkite was replaced by Dan Rather. Barbara Walters was moved from interviewing monkees for Today to co-anchoring the evening news.
Likewise, newsprint reporters were no longer satisfied with reporting on the dull, mundane day-to-day things. No, now they had to be the news as much as they reported on it. One, John Anderson, even mounted a presidential campaign in 1980. Getting the above-the-fold, banner headline wasn’t just a matter of of industry prestige. It became both the means and the end, the potential springboard to fame and glory. Woodward and Bernstein had done it. Why shouldn’t they?
Of course, that was a generation ago. In the intervening years, the emergence of the internet as a news source not only intensified the drive for eyeballs. Before, the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times might have competed somewhat, but each had it’s own region. No more. Now, each of those papers was not only competing nationally with each other (as was every newspaper and magazine), but they found themselves in virtual warfare with the television networks and he newly emerged 24 hour cable news stations. Stories became more salacious and the telling more over-the-top as each source competed for those same eyeballs.
There had always been reporting errors, of course. Human beings are fallible, and that includes the ones reporting the facts. But whereas before, editors had been dogged in protecting their brands by ensuring accuracy, now they found themselves forced to protect their brands by ensuring they got a story out first, even if it meant having to make corrections later.
But even that bit of true editorial control fell apart in 1998. Newsweek had uncovered and sourced a story about President Clinton and a 21 year old intern, but refused to run it because the editorial board hadn’t been able to talk to the intern herself.
That intern was Monica Lewinsky, and the story was broken by a previously fringe newsman, Matt Drudge, on his internet blog. It wasn’t so much a blog as a news aggregator (as now), but the moment his site announced that bombshell story – which eventually led to the first impeachment of a president in 130 years – news was changed forever. Getting a story out first was no longer a big deal, it was the only thing that mattered. Editorial standards were demolished. It wasn’t long before reporters were openly editorializing on-air. Cable news became less news, and more talking heads arguing about the “issues.” As networks and news organizations began to target their editorial slant to be either pro- or anti-Clinton, the audiences that viewed their content sorted itself likewise. What was once a non-partisan fourth estate had fully migrated into becoming the propaganda arms of the two major political parties.
The lack of any true balance or bias in news reporting for the last 20 years has led to where we are today. Everyone in the news industry is either spinning the news around an editorial cyclotron to extract the content most craved by their target audiences, or just simply creating “infotainment” to reinforce those preconceived notions. It’s how you get CNN declaring the President is about to have a heart attack. It’s how you get MSNBC declaring the President has early-onset Alzheimer’s. It’s how you get Breitbart declaring that Hillary Clinton had a secret stroke.
It is how you get fake news, and how you get news arguing over what qualifies as fake news and what isn’t fake news. Here’s the only thing I know for certain: if Ben Bradlee were around today, here’s what he’d tell current reporters. Go back to reporting the facts, and nothing else. Leave the editorializing for the editorial pages (or in the case of television, the editorial segments). Leave the creative writing for writing novels. The message he would have the suits would likewise be similar. News is about disseminating information, not ratings, not clicks per page – just information.
Until that message gets through, though, here’s what you need to do. Break out of your bubble. If you’re not a reader (and if you are not into reading, then I really need to thank you for reading this!) and getting your news from television, then please, vary your sources. Watch a little of everything. You’ll note the four or five points in each story that CNN, MSNBC, FOX, ABC, etc will agree on. The rest of it? That’s the spin, the emotional tug. The same thing goes for reading newspapers. And if you can’t at least double-source a story, you can bet that it’s the ultimate in fake news: the contrived story.
You can do this, America. And that’s the real No Spin Zone.