The New York Times' latest sad mess: Did it all start with Richard M. Nixon? Is that when the press corps decided that its sole mission was reporting on the "character" of major pols, narrowly conceived, with no bullsh*t left behind?
We don't know how to answer your question. But by 1987, major reporters were staking out Candidate Hart, overnight, trying to see if he (gasp!) had a girl friend. Around that same time, they started calling around to old college roommates, trying to learn if other major candidates had smoked marijuana as teens.
By 1992, they were falling for the Whitewater fraud, a fraud which got its start in mainstream circles on the front page of the New York Times. In succeeding years, Reverend Falwell pushed his film about the many murders the Clintons committed, and our Potemkin mainstream orgs were too afraid to complain.
Starting in 1999, they spent two years pretending that Candudate Gore "had a problem with the truth." In 2015, there the New York Times went again, with (to cite just one example) a fraudulent, 4400-word "news report" about Hillary Clinton's troubling conduct concerning Uranium One.
What turned them into such lazer-focused moral and intellectual idiots? We don't know, but we do know this—career liberal journalists won't tell you about the bulk of this, and the conduct continues today. Consider what you've heard on cable news in the past week.
You've heard about the failure to fire Rob Porter and you've heard about nothing else. You've heard our "journalists" trying to prove that their latest targets are liars. They care, and they talk, about nothing else.
You don't hear them talking about Donald J. Trump's proposed budget, or about its implications concerning his character. You don't hear them talking about his infrastructure plan.
You hear about the latest moral panic, and you hear about nothing else. That of course would be bad enough, but the things you hear them saying rarely make any clear sense, and Trump supporters are able to notice.
Consider this front-page report in today's New York Times. Excitedly, Davis and Shear make this exciting claim:
DAVIS AND SHEAR (2/14/18): At a previously scheduled Senate hearing on Tuesday about threats against the United States, Mr. Wray, in response to a question about Mr. Porter, said the F.B.I. had given the White House final results in January of its background investigation into the former staff secretary. Mr. Wray’s account was directly at odds with previous assertions by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, and other White House officials who said Mr. Porter’s background check was still underway when the domestic violence abuse allegations from his two former wives came to light last week in news reports.Wray’s account was "directly at odds" with previous assertions by Sanders? We're sorry, but that isn't exactly true—and the Times' pathetic attempt at a news report makes no such demonstration.
How inept is this news report? Let's start with today's hard-copy headline:
"White House Admits It Knew Of Red Flags in Aid's Record"
At the risk of stating the obvious, the "White House" is a building. A building can't "admit it knew" something. Only persons can know things and admit to knowing them.
That said, all through the Times report, Davis and Shear create a web of confusion by their use of the term "the White House." To some extent, this problem carries over from yesterday's Senate hearing, in which the senators, as is their wont, failed to ask sufficiently specific questions—in particular, failed to ask Director Wray to name the persons to whom the FBI conveyed its reports about Porter.
Did they give their reports to Don McGahn? Did they give their reports to Kelly? Wray didn't say, and the senators didn't ask. This is typical of the way these solons conduct their business.
Yesterday, Sanders said the FBI conveyed its information to a bunch of career bureaucrats inside an obscure office called the White House Personnel Security Office. She seemed to say and/or suggest that the people in this office didn't pass the information along to the major players now being challenged—to folk like McGahn and Kelly.
The Times reporters know that Sanders said that. In this passage, they even report what she said:
DAVIS AND SHEAR: Ms. Sanders insisted Tuesday that senior West Wing officials had not learned about the allegations against Mr. Porter until they surfaced in The Daily Mail because the F.B.I. gave the information to the White House Personnel Security Office, which handles security clearances. The office is in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House and is overseen by Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff."The security office...had not yet made a final determination?" In that sense, Sanders stuck to her original story, in which she'd said that the probe of Porter had continued right through last week.
Ms. Sanders said that the security office—which she repeatedly noted was staffed by “career officials,” who would not have been appointed by Mr. Trump—had not yet made a final determination on whether Mr. Porter should receive his security clearance at the time of The Mail’s article.
At no point does the Times report demonstrate that this claim was wrong. Let's review the Times' remarkably peculiar account of what actually had transpired.
David and Shear sourced their account to "two people briefed on the matter." They never suggest that this account is actually wrong or peculiar.
That said, the account which they present is extremely peculiar. Here's how the reporters start:
DAVIS AND SHEAR:According to the two people briefed on the matter, the White House security office reviewed the allegations about Mr. Porter in July and saw that the F.B.I. had interviewed Mr. Porter’s two former wives but not Mr. Porter himself. The office asked the F.B.I. to go back and do so, said the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.Nowhere do Davis and Shear report that McGahn or Kelly were told about this at this time. According to Davis and Shear, the career players inside that office asked the FBI to interview Porter—full stop.
So far, Davis and Shear report no major player being told about this. As their report continues, it becomes extremely peculiar, but the pair of ace reporters don't seem to notice this fact:
DAVIS AND SHEAR (continuing directly): In November, the F.B.I. provided another report to the security office, the two people said, adding that at that point, a final review began to determine whether to grant Mr. Porter a security clearance. As part of that review, three officials in the personnel office, including its head, were supposed to come to their own conclusions about whether to grant the clearance, the people said.Say what? In July, the career bureaucrats asked the FBI to interview Porter. Four months later, the FBI reported back?
That time lag seems amazingly strange, but Davis and Shear don't seem to notice. At any rate, they report that the obscure career-staffed security office was then supposed to reach their own conclusions about granting a clearance for Porter.
Unless you want to split thin hairs, none of this directly contradicts what Sanders has said. Davis and Shear continue as follows:
DAVIS AND SHEAR (continuing directly): By the time The Mail published its article last week, only one of those officials had made a determination, the two people said, although it is not clear what the official had concluded.Unless you want to split this hairs, this is all consistent with what Sanders has said. David and Shear present no reason for believing this account is wrong.
The scribes continue as shown below. At this point, their report becomes transparently weird:
DAVIS AND SHEAR (continuing directly): In late November last year, a distraught girlfriend of Mr. Porter’s contacted Mr. McGahn and told him Mr. Porter had been unfaithful to her by dating Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, and had anger problems, according to several people familiar with the discussion. Mr. McGahn, who knew Mr. Porter’s girlfriend, at that point suggested to Mr. Porter he should consider leaving the White House, the people said. But Mr. McGahn did not follow up on the matter.As presented, does that make any sense at all? McGahn told Porter to consider leaving his post because a "distraught girlfriend" told him THAT Porter "had been unfaithful to her by dating Hope Hicks?" And had "anger problems?"
Does that even seem to make sense? Would you expect McGahn to rush to Kelly and announce that Porter's girl friend thought he'd been unfaithful?
This is an utterly hopeless attempt at a news report. At this point, the Times scribes hand us this manifest propaganda:
DAVIS AND SHEAR (continuing directly): One former White House official, Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted 10 days last year as White House communications director before being removed by Mr. Kelly, weighed in on Tuesday on Mr. Wray’s testimony. Mr. Scaramucci posted on Twitter that Mr. Kelly “almost certainly knew about credible allegations of domestic abuse against Rob Porter at least 6 months ago—then recently forced others to lie about that timeline.”Having presented zero evidence that Kelly ever knew anything, the reporters compensate by quoting Scaramucci, a ludicrous person, who presents no evidence that he has any idea what he's talking about.
“Inexcusable,” Mr. Scaramucci added. “Kelly must resign.”
This morning's news report reeks of mental incompetence. But so what? On page A3, we're told that it "became a top story as soon as it was published shortly before noon E.T. on Tuesday."
That was before the Sanders presser which was later inserted into the copy. But this attempt at a report is incompetent from beginning to end, like so much Times reporting.
What actually happened with respect to Porter? We have no idea. Here's a guess:
Someone told Trump there was a domestic violence problem. Trump said go pound sand.
What actually happened? We have no way of knowing. But the senators failed to pose competent questions to Wray, whose testimony didn't directly contradict Sanders. At that point, Davis and Shear (and their editors) took over.
Meanwhile, our cable clowns discuss nothing else. They don't care about anything else, surely including that budget.
They're staging an entertaining chase. They don't care if their presentations don't exactly make sense, and they're assuming that you won't notice or care.
Long ago and far away, we saw this pattern take shape. In their first debate in 1999, Candidates Gore and Bradley gave erudite, detailed discussions of health care.
In response, Mary McGrory wrote a pair of insult-laden columns about Gore's funny clothing and shoes.
Mary McGrory didn't care if the lesser breed lacked health care. She only cared about The Chase, which was then aimed at Gore. He was their surrogate for Clinton, who had survived impeachment.
That same general pattern obtains today. Trump supporters are able to notice, even if our own embarrassing team cannot.
Who actually said that Porter could stay? Did Trump just say go pound sand?
Journalistically, Davis and Shear should have asked the head of that obscure office if Sanders' representations are accurate. Go ahead—read their report. Do you see any clear sign that they approached the head of that office? Do you see any attempt to report what happened when they did?
It's all incompetence, all the way down. It's been this way for decades now. It's plain that nobody cares.
Talk to the hand, Martin Lawrence once said. Today, you can talk to a house!