With respect to the latest excuse: Nobody cares about The Sex! Your favorite cable pundits aren't enjoying this!
Our pundits know they must say such things, even as they fight for the right to continue discussing The Sex.
In order to maintain their pose, they invent excuses for discussing The Sex. It's really about The Threat, they say. Recently, it's also really been about The Illegal Campaign Contribution.
That $130,000 payment to Stephanie Clifford might be an illegal campaign contribution! It might bring the Trump campaign down! Pundits have been saying and suggesting this over the past few weeks.
That's why they keep discussing Clifford! It's got absolutely nothing to with that boring old topic, The Sex!
This second phony excuse may be breaking down. Fighting to restore his reputation, Anderson Cooper delivered this buzzkill to Elizabeth Holtzman last night:
HOLTZMAN (3/28/18): There's a potential violation of campaign finance laws, and I think no one push that under the rug. The fact of the matter is, if the President intended to reimburse Michael Cohen, that's a violation. If Michael Cohen in fact took money out of the Trump organization in some way, shape, or form, then you have a corporate contribution, period.(We apologize for the bungled CNN transcript, which we can't check against tape.)
COOPER: But those kinds of violations—I mean, first of all, the FEC, it takes a long time for them and it's also—right now, there's two Democrats, two Republicans. It has to, I believe, be unanimous. It's very unlikely. And if anything, they can refer it to criminal prosecution of the Department of Justice, but it's more than traditionally it's just a monetary fine.
HOLTZMAN: Correct. I'm not saying it's a major issue but it is part of it, willing just to violate the law.
Oof! The FEC tends to be toothless, Cooper said. As for criminal prosecution of illegal contributions, most often contributions like that merely result in a fine.
As far as we know, that was all accurate. Early this morning, Slate followed with a lengthy piece by Dave Levinthal, which ran beneath these headlines:
Donald Trump Has Little to Fear From the FECLevinthal is a senior political reporter for the Center for Public Integrity. He says this second excuse for discussing The Sex is pretty much pitiful bunk.
The election commission could take years to determine whether Stormy Daniels’ payoff was an illegal campaign contribution.
As far as we know, that's accurate. Let us add two points:
As cable pundits have pushed this excuse to let them keep discussing The Sex, you've often heard the prosecution of John Edwards cited as a precedent. Way back when, Edwards was criminally charged with "soliciting and secretly spending more than $925,000 to hide his mistress and their baby from the public at the height of his 2008 White House campaign."
According to the AP, "Prosecutors said the spending was illegal because the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee should have reported it on public campaign finance filings and because it exceeded the $2,300 limit per person for campaign contributions."
That sounds like what Cohen and possibly Trump have done!Eager pundits have cited this much larger bit of "hush money" as the precedent for a future criminal charge against Donald J. Trump and/or Michael Cohen.
According to this second excuse, this is why they've had to bore themselves to death talking about The Sex. This also forces cable producers to keep flashing those photos of Clifford's eye-catching body parts.
Alas! Edwards spent eight times what Cohen spent; he was found not guilty on this count at trial. Many legal observers said the trial represented an egregious case of prosecutorial overreach.
(According to Jonathan Turley, "The Justice Department stretched the campaign finance laws to the breaking point on this case. It seems intent on satisfying the public anger toward Edwards for his adultery and betrayal.")
Judgments about campaign finance violations are reached every four years. Depending on the type of incident, individuals may be criminally charged, but more often, as Cooper noted, the campaigns are assessed fines.
(Beyond that, pundits will discuss or disappear campaign violations based on prevailing group narratives. In 1996, the Dole campaign was fined more heavily than the Clinton campaign. But due to the prevailing narrative—Dole is the world's most honest man, Clinton was grossly dishonest—you heard all about the Clinton campaign, nothing at all about Dole's.)
Why don't we just accept the truth? The truth shapes us like this:
First, our pundits love discussing The Sex. If these people had their way, they would discuss nothing else. That's why it's important to keep people like Gennifer Flowers and Stephanie Clifford from hijacking our elections.
Also, cable news, and many "liberal" orgs, love flashing the type of photos which used to be considered sexist. (These photos tell the world that women are just a bunch of sexual body parts, full and complete total stop.) This is done to appeal to our small tiny brains. Few things could be more clear.
In reality, they want to discuss who Clifford f**ked in 2006. They love to flash those photos. This is the dull-witted corporate world in which we all currently live.