You're invited to take The George Will Challenge!

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12, 2024

Concerning that Gotham trial: For ourselves, we'd be inclined to say that the charges shouldn't have been brought.

In our view, prosecutorial discretion was poorly exercised in the matter at hand: 

In our view, we should be more concerned when shakedown artists threaten to insert themselves into presidential campaigns. We should be less concerned when presidential candidates try to forestall such manifest distractions.

That would be our general view of the recent Gotham prosecution. Today, we're able to post excerpts from George Will's new column, which offers Will's assessment of the prosecution and trial.

For the record, Will has long been aggressively NeverTrump. That said, he too holds a negative view of the recent Gotham trial.

Because Will's column is clearly written, it presents us Blue Americans with a type of challenge. That challenge goes like this:

As a general matter, are we willing to see when our friends and neighbors in Red America may, on the rare occasion, have something resembling a valid point? 
Are we prepared to imagine that some viewpoint held by Red America may not be totally crazy?

On balance, you aren't required to agree with the other side's point. But are you prepared to say, on the very rare occasion, that the group with whom you disagree may not be baldly dishonest, may not be totally nuts?

Are you ready to take that challenge? In the Washington Post, Will's new column starts like this, dual headline includeddual headline included:

Electing prosecutors is a terrible idea. Trump’s conviction shows why.
Manhattan’s district attorney, Alvin Bragg, campaigned for the job with a promise to go after Trump.

In his contemplative moments, if there are such, Alvin Bragg, Manhattan’s elected district attorney, should ponder a 1940 speech given by a U.S. attorney general. Before Bragg’s next pirouette on the political stage—at former president Donald Trump’s July 11 sentencing, where he will recommend a punishment—he should consider Robert Jackson’s thoughts on the role of restraint in the prosecutor’s profession.

Bragg campaigned in 2021 promising to continue trying to hold Trump “accountable,” noting that in the New York attorney general’s office he had sued Trump “more than a hundred times.” In 2023, seven years after a particular Trump misbehavior, but just in time to influence this year’s election, Bragg indicted Trump for “34” felonies. 

One dead misdemeanor (falsifying business records; the statute of limitations has long since expired) was resuscitated and carved into 34 slices. These were inflated into felonies by claiming they were done to facilitate a crime. ...

In Will's account, Bragg was elected to office, in a heavily Democratic jurisdiction, by suggesting that he would go after the highly unpopular Trump. 

Once elected, Bragg stretched the normal boundaries of law to fulfill that pledge. Or at least, so Will's column says as it contiunued directly:

Trump used bookkeeping dishonesty in 2017 (about paying hush money, which is not illegal) to influence the 2016 presidential election. (A puzzling understanding of causation.) He was a candidate in the 2016 election he is accused of somehow illegitimately trying to influence. This violated a federal campaign finance law. (Enforcement of which Congress assigned to the Federal Election Commission, not to local district attorneys.)

The 12 jurors might give 12 different answers concerning what Trump is guilty of. But what sentence might Bragg advocate next month?

He is an elected prosecutor (a terrible thing; read on), with constituents to mollify—constituents mostly hostile to his defendant. (Manhattan’s vote went about 86 percent for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and for Biden in 2020.) He likely has higher political aspirations. He demonstrably seeks the limelight. So, he might be tempted to recommend incarceration.

This, even though it is obvious that no one other than Trump would have been prosecuted under Bragg’s rickety scaffolding of quasi-legal theories. And even though no first-time offender not named Trump would be imprisoned for committing a felony that, even were it plausibly concocted, ranks among the least serious (Class E) felonies. 

As he continues, Will notes "Jackson’s 1940 warning, before he became a Supreme Court justice and chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials," about the dangers of having elected prosecutors. Setting that opinion to the side, riddle us this:

Is it possible that legal analysts from Red America have identified some valid complaints about Bragg's prosecution? If you're willing to take that challenge, please remember this:

Those of us in Blue America have never seen our own tribe's legal analysts forced to respond to the legal complaints which have been prevalent in Red America's various precincts Is it possible that some of those complaints may contain a measure of truth—that people who advance or agree with those claims aren't being totally crazy and / or baldly dishonest?

For the record, you've never seen these matters debated in the traditional way! Whatever you may decide, on balance, about the various Red complaints, is it possible—is there an outside possibility—that Their tribe might be right, and Our tribe might be wrong, at some point along the way?

At present, the organization of our press corps is designed to shield us from such questions. In Blue America, our legal analysts all agree on one set of claims. Over in Red America, their legal analysts all agree on a different set of assessments—and never the twain shall meet.

Is it possible that some of Red America's complaints about this prosecution contained a bit of merit? On the amazingly rare occasion, is it possible that our friends and neighbors in Red America may have some valid point? 

Could it be, on the extremely rare occasion, that our own side may have something wrong? Are we able to imagine that this could have been the case with respect to the Gotham trail?

Even if you disagree with some point, are you able to see why someone else just possibly maybe might not?

We ask this question for an obvious reason:

Almost surely, we can't survive as two separate nations. We believe that Abraham Lincoln said that! Just the way Dylan said!

From the New York Times: From a report in the New York Times in June 2021:

2 Leading Manhattan D.A. Candidates Face the Trump Question

 [...]

Mr. Bragg, a former official with the New York attorney general’s office, reminds voters frequently that in his former job, he sued Mr. Trump’s administration “more than a hundred times.”

That's when Bragg was running for his current office. On balance, you may not be concerned about that. Can you imagine that someone else, rightly or wrongly, might see a possible problem lurking there?

We've never seen the point debated. The point is frequently mentioned on Fox, is ignored on Blue Tribe cable by "our favorite reporters and friends."

CONSENSUS: The first three callers all agreed!

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12, 2024

The fourth cited Campaign 2000: The first three callers to Sunday's Washington Journal formed a type of consensus.

All agreed on a basic point. This year's presidential campaign is the most important ever.

In the past two daysIn the past two days, we've shown you the full text of what the program's third caller said. This is the specific question to which callers were asked to respond:

IS CAMPAIGN 2024 THE "MOST IMPORTANT IN HISTORY?"

That was the official question. For the record, here's the text of the full response from the first caller this past Sunday morning:

MODERATOR (6/9/24): So what do you think? Is 2024 the most important election in our history, or in our lifetimes? 

Jim in Washington State, Democrat. What do you think?

JIM FROM WASHINGTON STATE: It definitely is. Why do so many Republicans support a convicted rapist, a convicted fraud, a convicted felon with no shame? I mean, what's wrong with the Republican Party? And that's terrible. Yeah. What—yeah.

The first caller said it was the most important election, at least within our lifetimes. 

(For the record, Trump isn't "a convicted rapist," but he is "a convicted felon.")

That's what the first caller said. The second caller said this:

MODERATOR (continuing directly): Danny is in Louisville, Kentucky, Republican.  Danny, is this the most important election in history?

DANNY FROM KENTUCKY: Yes. I tell you, I don't know how anybody can't see this has got to be the most important, because if things keep going the way they're going, we ain't gonna have a republic.

You know, just like the other guy said, you know, he's wondering what's wrong with the Republicans. I'm wondering what's wrong with Democrats. I used to be a Democrat and I switched over. And you know—I'm blind and I can see so much going on, I'm just so glad I can't really physically see what's going on, but I'll go to church this morning and I'll be praying for all the Democrats.

MODERATOR: Danny, have you thought that in the past, about past elections, that it was the most important?

DANNY FROM KENTUCKY: No, not more so—more so now than ever before.

The second caller agreed with the first—this election is the most important. As we've noted in the past two days, the third caller said the same thing.

In this somewhat peculiar way, a type of consensus formed.

Throughout the hour, callers said it was the most important election—and they agreed on one other point.

They agreed that we could lose our republic (or perhaps our democracy) in the aftermath of this year's election. They agreed what we could lose our way of life after this election. They greed that this could happen if the other party's candidate won.

Thar represented a type of consensus. The callers disagreed on that one point:

Some said that Candidate Trump presented this existential danger. As with Callers Two and Three, others said it was President Biden who could bring our republic down.

Throughout the hour on this C-Span program, callers from the two Americas presented those dueling viewpoints. Under current arrangements, the peculiar type of consensus is formed, at least in part, by the organizational structure of our "cable news:"

Citizens of Red America—those who watch the Fox News Channel—are constantly offered the one point of view.  Citizens who watch MSNBC are routinely exposed to the other. 

It's hard to find a discussion on cable news in which proponents of the one point of view are asked to defend their claims against proponents of the other. As a general matter, panelists all agree with each other on Fox News Channel programs. 

On MSNBC, it's extremely rare to see a guest who diverges from that channel's standard point of view.

In such ways, we the people are being helped to create a pair of dueling Americas. In Blue America, we're told that the election of Candidate Trump might bring an end to our democracy-and that could always be true. 

In Red America, viewers are told that the re-election of President Biden might bring the republic down. On Sunday morning, Callers Two and Three to Washington Journal stated that point of view. 

Sunday morning's fourth caller took a somewhat different tack. As we noted yesterday, his statement started like this:

MODERATOR (continuing directly from above): That's Dennis in Hudson, Indiana. And this is Gregory, Sherman Oaks, California, Democrat. 

Gregory, good morning to you.

GREGORY IN SHERMAN OAKS: And good morning to you. And this is the most important election, at least in six elections...

Say what? This caller agreed that this was the most important election—but only, it suddenly seemed, in the past five or six!

As he continued, his fuller statement returned us to Campaign 2000—to an election concerning which we've done a lot of work, including at this companion site.

According to the day's fourth caller, that election was "the most important" too. He continued along as shown:

GREGORY IN SHERMAN OAKS: And good morning to you. And this is the most important election, at least in six elections. 

I've heard a bunch of Republicans talk about how we're going to lose our republic, or our Second Amendment rights, or jobs or some other stuff.  What we're going to lose is our planet. If we don't get behind doing something serious about climate destruction and global heating, all the other issues are going to be dying out, on a planet that is dying out...

So said the caller at the start of his statement.  Eventually, he specifically referred to the aftermath of the 2000 White House campaign.

In our view, we denizens of Blue America still could learn a great deal from the workings of that campaign. Tomorrow, we'll look at the full statement by Sunday morning's fourth caller—and at his reasons for listing that election as "the most important [possibly] ever."

The caller said a great deal of damage resulted from the outcome of that campaign. For the record, he didn't offer any thoughts about the way that campaign was covered by the upper-end mainstream press.

We Blues! In our view, we can learn a lot about the coverage of the current campaign when we think back to the coverage of that earlier race. It's too late for any of this to make a major difference this year. But whoever wins in November this year, a challenging road lies ahead. 

Tomorrow, we'll post the full statement by the fourth caller, and we'll proceed from there.

Tomorrow: "We wasted the first decide of this new century on a president who gave us climate betrayal, two stupid wars and a financial meltdown, among many other failures."

Blue Americans, tell us again! If we believe that some such statement is true, do we understand yet how we got there?

Crime is way down, the DrumCat says!

TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 2024

He does make one small error: Crime is way down, the DrumCat says. His headline makes an even larger claim—and it includes an error:

Crime is way down everywhere

In fact, crime is way up in one jurisdiction. As every viewer knows, violent crime is way, way up on the Fox News Channel!

Fuller disclosure: The DrumCat's post cites the FBI. That's no longer done on Fox!


CONSENSUS: There's one thing on which we can all agree!

TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 2024

We can agree on the lack of consensus: We can't recall why we chose "Consensus" as our focus for the week.

After all, if there's one thing on which we all can agree, we can agree on our lack of consensus!

Then again, consider this:

Last Saturday morning, C-Span's Washington Journal asked the following question:

IS CAMPAIGN 2024 THE "MOST IMPORTANT IN HISTORY?"

Is this the most important election? A certain type of consensus emerged as one caller after another agreed that it pretty much is.  It's just that these callers split into angry, disparate camps as to why that is.

Some people called in from Red America. Some people called in from Blue. 

Yesterday morning, we showed you the text of the morning's third call. With apologies, that third call went like this:

DENNIS FROM INDIANA (6/9/24): Yes, it is the most important election in our history because in another four years under Joe Biden, we will not have a republic. 

He's trying to get us in a war with Russia. He's holding back one of our staunchest allies in Israel from finishing a job that is imperative for them to finish. He's destroying our economy. He's letting millions of illegals into this country which are taking the jobs of Americans.

They're talking about this jobs report Friday. What they're not telling you is there are less Americans working in this country today than there were the day that Joe Biden took office. All of the jobs, all of the wealth, he is transferring to the illegals. The man is a pedophile and he needs to be removed from office immediately.

MODERATOR: But Dennis—Dennis, don't we face issues every four years in this country, or continually in this country?

DENNIS FROM INDIANA: Yes, we do. But this man is trying to take away our Second Amendment rights. He and his administration have tried to take away our First Amendment rights by restricting what people can say on social media. 

This man is a danger to this nation. He is senile and he is a moron. 

With apologies, it was 7:09 on a Sunday morning. That was the third phone call.

The caller said we'd lose the republic if President Biden gets re-elected. Over in our own Blue America, it's routinely said that we'll lose our democracy if Candidate Trump wins again.

You'd have to call that a type of consensus—consensus in the form of a type of a dangerous war. 

For the record, large modern nations almost surely can't function this way. Also for the record, the next caller started like this:

MODERATOR (continuing directly from above): That's Dennis in Hudson, Indiana. And this is Gregory, Sherman Oaks, California, Democrat. 

Gregory, good morning to you.

GREGORY IN SHERMAN OAKS (6/9/24): And good morning to you. And this is the most important election at least in six elections...

This caller agreed with the previous caller! He agreed that it's the most important election—unless you count back six.

What was this caller talking about? In our view, there's a lot we all can learn from the subject of his call.

We lost most of the day today. We'll pick up here tomorrow.


Brzezinski describes what she saw on Fox!

MONDAY, JUNE 10, 2024

Then describes Biden and Trump: Around here, it's a fairly depressing time to survey this nation's discourse.

This morning, Mika Brzezinski did an unusual thing on Morning Joe. She said she had watched a segment on an unnamed Fox News program—presumably, over the weekend. 

She told Katty Kay what she had seen. Rather plainly, she was appalled:

BRZEZINSKI (6/10/24): On Fox News, I watched a segment about whether or not Trump would be a dictator. And after running a number of soundbites of people concerned about things he has said, because he promises to do things that are like acts committed by a dictator, or even says he will be one, and then some person on the right who says, "There's no proof he ever said it. He didn't say it", then a sound bite of Sean Hannity asking him, "Would you be a dictator?", and Trump not answering the question, and then the host saying, "There, it's settled. He's not going to be a dictator. We'll be right back."

That's what she said she saw on Fox. To watch her presentation, you can start by clicking here.

On the one hand, it was a (tiny) step in the right direction when Mika said this. Morning Joe included, major news orgs in Blue America make little attempt to report what happens on Fox News Channel programs. 

At this site, we regard this as a major dereliction of journalistic duty. We've been complaining about this problem for more than twenty years.

On the one hand, this was a tiny step in the right direction. On the other hand, Mika didn't name the program in question, not did she play any videotape of the misleading segment in question. 

In all honesty, she could have been describing a large number of Fox News Channel program. They almost all present the "dictator" question in some version of the manner described! 

The demagoguery—the selective presentation—is endless over there. Yesterday, we ourselves were newly impressed by the fact that there is absolutely zero limit to the number of people on Fox shows who are eager to join in.

On the other hand:

Fox hosts play tape of Joe and Mika on a daily basis. There's no reason why Mika couldn't at least have named the program she was criticizing.

Quite probably, she may have been one of the people whose soundbites were aired, then dismissed and mocked, on the Fox News program!  Also, remarkably, she went on to say this:

BRZEZINSKI (continuing directly): I have to say it, because so many people are influenced by what they watch on Fox News, and they're not giving a clear picture. Yet, moving forward, is it not clear, the picture? 

Am I crazy? Because I have eyes. and I see one person who doesn't seem at all sane, who loves dictators and wants to be one, and another who's getting a little older but, quite frankly, doing quite well on the world stage under pretty tough circumstances, answering questions on his own with no teleprompter and sounding just fine, thank you.

At that point, Katty Kay completely agreed, in line with the rules of the game. Meanwhile, ponder this:

She has to say it, because Fox News isn't giving a clear picture and its viewers are being influenced? 

On what meat doth this co-host feed to be offering this observation at this late date, with no specific names being named and with no videotape offered?

Beyond that, riddle us this:

No, Brzezinki isn't crazy. But in our view, the contrast she drew between Candidates Trump and Biden seems to have emerged from some alternate universe. 

As a general matter, we agree with her (colloquial) description of Candidate Trump as someone who "doesn't seem at all sane." In our universe, that would be a reason to have carefully selected medical specialists on Morning Joe to discuss the possibility that serious clinical mental health issues may be at play in this year's White House campaign.

Beyond that, good God! Her portrait of the clear speaking, competent Candidate Biden seems to come straight outta LalaLand.

"Am I crazy?" Mika asked—and the answer is no, she isn't. But her portrait of Biden at Normandy is hard to square with the discomfiting tales of various pieces of tape. 

Up to a point, we all see what we're inclined to see. That said, tens of millions of voters are concerned by what they think they see when they watch President Biden—and many of those people live in Bue America, or in our struggling nation's purple regions.

We ourselves think he's plainly diminished, and we think it's a point of real concern, both politically and on the merits. 

"Am I crazy?" Mika asked. We're going to say the answer is no, but we're not entirely sure what she's been looking at when she describes President Biden, who frequently seems to be struggling.

Regarding the endless gong-show behavior on Fox, we'll offer this advice:

Name the programs you're talking about! Also, play the actual videotape. Many people don't know how bad it actually is Over There.

Then again, there's our own cable channel, where everyone agrees to agree with what Mika said. We're whistling past a dangerous state of affairs. At this point, it's completely unclear how this terrible story will end.


CONSENSUS: Citizens say the darnedest things!

MONDAY, JUNE 10, 2024

Large nations require consensus: Sunday morning, at 7 a.m., C-Span's Washington Journal posed a sensible question to its viewers.

The question was especially sensible under current circumstances. For richer or poorer, for better or worse, the question, presented in a chyron, went exactly like this:

IS CAMPAIGN 2024 THE "MOST IMPORTANT IN HISTORY?"

Is the current election the most important ever? At present, people routinely say it is, on both sides of the national aisle.

Puckishly, C-Span's host played videotape throughout the hour in which politicians declared that some particular past campaign was "the most important" ever.

(Actually, most said the election in question was "the most important in our lifetime," or something to that effect.)

The moderator was stretching a bit. But many people really are saying that this year's presidential campaign is the most important ever.

It's being said in Blue America, but in Red America too. Yesterday, so it went as C-Span viewers made phone calls to Washington Journal.

Is this really the most important election ever? Sunday morning's third caller quickly said that it is. The caller then proceeded to say some of the darnedest things.

At times of intense political division, people say and believe such things! For better or worse, as his presentation began, the third caller offered this:

DENNIS FROM HUDSON, INDIANA (6/9/24): Yes, it is the most important election in our history because in another four years under Joe Biden, we will not have a republic...

Say what? If President Biden gets re-elected, we'll no longer have a republic?

Stating the obvious, that resembles what's being said, in Blue America, about the nation's fate if Candidate Trump gets elected. But why did the caller say that? 

Why did the caller say that? His fuller statement started as shown below, with the caller making a wide array of angry, familiar remarks:

DENNIS FROM INDIANA: Yes, it is the most important election in our history because in another four years under Joe Biden, we will not have a republic. 

He's trying to get us in a war with Russia. He's holding back one of our staunchest allies in Israel from finishing a job that is imperative for them to finish. He's destroying our economy. He's letting millions of illegals into this country which are taking the jobs of Americans.

They're talking about this jobs report Friday. What they're not telling you is there are less Americans working in this country today than there were the day that Joe Biden took office. All of the jobs, all of the wealth, he is transferring to the illegals. The man is a pedophile and he needs to be removed from office immediately.

Yes, he even said that! 

According to the angry caller, the current president is trying to start a war with Russia. He's trying to destroy the economy. 

Plus, the president is a pedophile. Let's not forget to say that!

In accord with standard procedure on C-Span, its host didn't challenge any of these remarks. Instead, his exchange with the caller continued in the manner shown:

MODERATOR (continuing directly): But Dennis—Dennis, don't we face issues every four years in this country, or continually in this country?

DENNIS FROM INDIANA: Yes, we do. But this man is trying to take away our Second Amendment rights. He and his administration have tried to take away our First Amendment rights by restricting what people can say on social media. 

This man is a danger to this nation. He is senile and he is a moron. 

In fairness, it seems that no one has eliminated this caller's First Amendment rights. He was allowed to make these claims, without interruption, on C-Span's Washington Journal!

"That's Dennis in Hudson, Indiana," the moderator said at this point, as he ended the call. So it went on C-Span this Sunday morning, at 7:09 a.m.

In truth, the caller had offered an array of familiar remarks. To cite one major enterprise, his assessments are commonly offered on the Fox News Channel, except for the remarkable claim about pedophilia. 

On Fox, that claim is only made, in disguised fashion, on that channel's most disordered show, the primetime Gutfeld! program. On that program, the host and his guests will slide that claim in, though only in disguised form.

That C-Span caller was full of assertions. As you may know, American discourse frequently sounds like that at the present time. 

Just a guess! Conversations of this general type have occurred in every election campaign in American history. That said:

Not long ago, you had to go to a corner bar, on a very bad night, to hear someone spouting in some such way. Or you had to send away in the mail, seeking literature from some relatively invisible organization

Today, you can hear conversations like that at "news" and propaganda sites all around the clock. At C-Span, the moderator made no attempt to fact-check the welter of claims which were advanced in this call. 

In truth, any such attempt would almost surely have been useless. For example, the claim about American jobs involves a level of complexity which lies well beyond the reach of our journalistic powers. 

(Kevin Drum has addressed this emerging claim in this fairly complex post. We first heard this general claim being advanced several months ago on—what else?—the Gutfeld! program. All the new jobs are going to immigrants, the program's host has declared.)

At present, our American discourse is built upon the promulgation of such angry, uncheckable claims. In this instance, the caller was just a regular citizen calling in from Indiana—but people are paid very large salaries by very large "news orgs" to make similar angry claims.

It used to be hard to hear such rants. Today, they're hard to avoid—though we'll also tell you this:

The caller's claim about the border wasn't completely nuts. Also, it isn't crazy to suggest that President Biden may seem to be diminished in some significant way.

That said, American discourse is currently built on The Crazy. It's also built on that entity's near cousins—on The Highly Selective, on The Flatly Inaccurate and on The Baldly Misleading. 

(Also, on The Highly Irrelevant—on the "Yes, But Please Look Over Here.")

That C-Span caller's claims came from Red America. In our view, the discourse in our own Blue America often runs on shaky claims too, producing a type of Red and Blue Babel.

Can a large modern nation really function this way? Once again, we'll suggest that the answer is no.

Large modern nations can't expect to function without a degree of consensus. We refer to some degree of consensus about basic facts. We also refer to some degree of consensus about who a citizen can trust for reasonably accurate information and for reasonably sensible analysis.

Today, our nation benefits from no such consensus.  We'll revisit this problem all week long as the phone calls to C-Span roll in. 

Tomorrow: What C-Span's next caller said