Part 3—The 29-year-old intern, the procuring professor, the con men of cable and Us: It's truly a shame that Mark Twain can't be here.
Or who knows? Maybe he is! We say that because this morning's Washington Post reads like Huck Finn, The Sequel.
In his most famous novel, Twain gave us the Duke and the Dauphin, two con men rolling through Arkansas and (mostly) transfixing the rubes. In this morning's Washington Post, we read about the resume enhancements of the 29-year-old (former) intern, along with apparent bluster of the professor from the London Academy of Diplomacy, an actual if recent institution whose lightly comical name seems to have been patterned on that of the Barbizon School of Modeling.
We also have a report by Matt Zapotosky which tells us something very important. It tells us something we tribal liberals may not want to know:
Uh-oh! According to Zapotosky, not every action we liberals dislike may actually be a crime!
Not everything is a crime? Try telling that to the con men of cable, descendants of the Duke and the Dauphin who have spent the past many months telling this story in the ways we liberal consumers will like.
The spirit of Twain is general in this morning's Post. Who knows? Perhaps the gods on Olympus have let him script this latest amusement from some exalted post he now holds on high!
Speculations to the side, let's take a look at the journalistic record! We'll start with some wisdom from Jonathan Chait concerning the way we humans tend to react to tribal matters like these.
Chait offers an intriguing post about General Kelly's recent comments about the Civil War. Chait's rumination on human nature is promoted by these headlines on New York Magazine's contents page:
Sarah Sanders Claims John Kelly Learned Civil War Nonsense From Ken Burns. She’s Right.It's the second headline which packs the instructive wallop. According to Chait, we like to hate a fellow like Kelly, and we long to love a fellow like Burns. But Kelly's views on the Civil War do mirror those of Burns, Chait unhappily writes.
We would like to believe that nice Ken Burns could not depict the same ideas as nasty John Kelly.
Let's build upon that framework. Increasingly, we liberals like to believe that everything The Others do is so transparently evil that it must be a crime. We're being encouraged in that view by the con men of cable.
Example: We're being encouraged to think it must be a crime to gain information from Russkies. Zapotosky's report in this morning's Post helps us see that this may not necessarily be the case.
Whatever! The consters of cable have served us a gruel according to which Donald Trump Junior was committing the crime of collusion when he opened himself to the receipt of information from a Russkie. We hate hate hate hate hate the idea that someone would do such a thing!
But what if someone on our team had done such a thing, seeking negative information on Donald J. Trump? Would we hate such conduct then? There may be a way to find out!
We now know that the DNC and the Clinton campaign paid the bills for Christopher Steele as he composed his not-dainty dossier. We know of no reason why they shouldn't have done that. But who the heck were Steele's sources?
We don't know the answer to that, but is it possible that Steele had sources inside the Russkie government? If he did, do we regard it as a crime that he sought information there? Should the Clinton campaign, and the DNC, be frogmarched off to jail?
Zapotosky starts to report the complexities of finding a crime in the pursuit of information, even from Putin himself, or perhaps from his putative niece. But so what? On cable, you've seen a range of "excitable boys" (and girls) blowing past such complexities as they serve us the tribal gruel which puts money into their pants and advances their careers.
Meanwhile, those comical players! In this Twain-worthy front-page report, Rosalind Helderman and a cast of thousands describe the world-class buffoonery by which an unqualified 29-year-old (former) intern talked himself into a role as a "foreign policy expert," first with the Twain-worthy Carson campaign, then with Donald J. Trump himself.
Everyone pretty much always knew that George Papadopoulos, age 29, was basically a fraud. In recent weeks, the con men of cable have been working to keep you from grasping that fact. But here's the way the Post shot him down one day after Trump presented his name at a now-famous editorial board meeting.
That now-famous meeting occurred in March 2016. The next day, that Post report ran under this eye-rolling headline:
One of Trump’s foreign policy advisers is a 2009 college grad who lists Model UN as a credential.Chris Cillizza linked to that report in an annotated version of the transcript of Trump's meeting with the board. Cillizza's transcript ran under this headline:
Donald Trump’s interview with the Washington Post is totally bananasEverybody always knew that the 29-year-old (former) intern was by and large a pretender. Later today or tomorrow, we'll discuss the ways the con men of cable have kept you from grasping this fact, which might adjust your overall view of this unfolding story.
Meanwhile, back to this morning's Twain-worthy Post! In this report by Karla Adam and six others, we learn about the shaky ontological status of the star professor who's said to specialize in procuring Putin's putative niece.
The professor and the (former) intern may seem to a pair of incorrigibles straight outta Twain. Here's a bit of the shaky skinny on Professor Mifsud, the Maltese mystery man:
ADAM ET AL. (11/1/17): Hailing from Malta, the European Union’s smallest nation, [the professor] parlayed roles advising the government there into top positions with educational institutions that bear exalted-sounding names but are little-known even within academia. Those included president of the Slovenia-based Euro-Mediterranean University and honorary director at the London Academy of Diplomacy.Oof! Even the professor's top aide didn't believe his twaddle. Of course, there may be things she doesn't know. Or maybe she's right on target!
Natalia Kutepova-Jamom, his onetime assistant at the academy, said he had set out in 2014 to build his contacts with Russian academics and policymakers.
She said that she booked her former boss a speaking slot in 2014 at the Sochi meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, a Russian state-funded think tank that is seen as close to the Kremlin, to speak on “economic and international cooperation.”
Mifsud later suggested to her that he used those early contacts to open doors for higher-level meetings. But she was in disbelief when he told her last year that his contacts had reached all the way to Putin, with whom Mifsud claimed to have had “a short private meeting.”
She said she didn’t believe the two met because Mifsud is “a too ‘small-time’ person” to meet with the Russian leader.
We'd say the facts aren't totally clear—but on cable, the script has been set. Speaking on yesterday's Morning Joe, Jeremy Bash said the procurin' professor was "clearly" a Russkie agent!
Willie Geist-Haskell quickly agreed, although he surely had no idea what he was talking about. So, of course, did Mika and Joe. This is how cable works:
BASH (10/31/17): And this professor, I think we need to do air quotes every time we said the word "professor," because he clearly was a Russian intelligence operative, a cutout, someone who was recruited by the Russian intelligence services to handle a potential asset deep inside the Trump campaign.As always, let's be fair. It's always possible that Bash and his echoes were right. It's possible that the procurin' professor was (and is) "a Russian intelligence operative," as Bash says he "clearly" was (and is).
GEIST: And the Russians don't go after, quote, "volunteers," people with, quote, "limited roles in the campaign." It's just the way Sarah Sanders described George Papadopoulos yesterday. They found a mark, someone who sits in national security meetings. His name was George Papadopoulos. They reached out to him and he showed an interest, just as Donald Trump [Junior] did in that meeting in June of 2016, in getting dirt from a Russian entity about Hillary Clinton plain and simple.
SCARBOROUGH: I mean, there are so many marks. It's like we don't hear this happening with the Chinese. We don't hear this is happening with other countries.
BRZEZINSKI: And you have a candidate all the time who just loves Russia.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, the first two people I think he listed with the Washington Post in that editorial board meeting, Carter Page and this guy, both of them were connected with Russia.
That said, it seems to us that something else is possible. It's also possible, at this point, that the professor is a figure out of Twain—a fellow who parlayed roles advising Europe's tiniest government "into top positions with educational institutions that bear exalted-sounding names but are little-known even within academia," a figure whose exalted claims weren't believed even by his top aide.
(Is it just us, or does The Valdai Discussion Club sound like an organization secretly funded by Oprah? Meanwhile, Malta's population is well under 500,000. Everyone advises the government there, not just professors with putative ties to Putin's putative niece.)
Is the procurin' professor a Russkie agent? Or is he a comic book character straight outta Twain? We don't know, but Willie Geist does. So do Joe and Mika!
Meanwhile, study your Zapotosky! The actions you're told on cable to hate may not rate as crimes!
Beyond that, the youngster who lied to the FBI may just be a silly ridiculous child. The shape of this story is still unknown, unless you're watching the jugglers and clowns who procure their own millions of rubles selling you novelized tales.
Was the 29-year-old (former) intern really involved in a crime? Was anyone else inside the Trump orbit involved in some such crime? The answer may well turn out to be yes. So far, though, we don't really know, unless you're willing to turn on your TV machine and take your instruction from Willie.
Did Christopher Steele have sources inside the Russkie government? If so, was he committing a crime?
As you answer, try to understand this. You have to address the intricacies of American law to answer a question like that.
The con men of cable, straight outta Twain, are happy to rush past such points. Unless you wish to be none too human, we'd advise you to slow your thinking way down and step off that fast cable train.
Next: When Trump first mentioned the intern