Interlude—A snapshot of the press corps: "How did it get so far?"
The question was first asked by Don Corleone, a business associate of Donald J. Trump's businessman father.
Today, the question is being asked again. There are several answers.
Last week's questioning of Agent Strzok highlighted a type of behavior our own tribe can't see. We refer to the decades of disdain our own tribe has showered on the ignorant hillbillies found Over There, the irredeemables spotted at Walmart.
According to communications from future anthropologists, that behavior was one of the strains which led the world to Mister Trump's Dispositive War. That foolish behavior is on us, the liberals.
That said, these future experts also point to the behavior of another roving band of this era. They talk about the sad behavior of the so-called mainstream press.
So sad! Even as we liberals laughed at the hillbilly ignorance found Over There, we ourselves were too dumb to see the role being played by those we trusted within that second band. To cite one awful example:
As of July 2018, we sat and watched, on our own cable channel, Lawrence, Brian and even Chris Matthews of a weeknight evening.
All three had played active, embarrassing roles in the earlier wars against Clinton, Clinton and Gore—the 25-year series of wars which finally allowed Mister Trump to squeeze past Hillary Clinton and find his way to the White House.
(Matthews had called her every misogynist name in the book. We were too stupid to notice, too hopelessly dumb to complain.)
Those journalists! Even as they aggressively worked to execute the demonization of Hillary Clinton, they dumbed the discourse way, way down, smoothing the way for the likes of Trump. This was especially true of Matthews, who was made rich by his owner, Jack Welch, as he launched a decade of attacks on the public's IQ.
We liberals didn't notice! We didn't notice the demonization; we didn't notice the dumbnification. We were too busy saying how dumb the hillbillies were Over There!
In this way, the demonology of the one roving band was enabled by the spectacular dumbness of the other. That said, the mainstream press corps was spectacularly incompetent too, during the age which was destined to end in Mister Trump's Score-Settling War of Extreme Resolution.
How persistently dumb was the mainstream press? Consider the uproar on cable last night—and consider today's New York Times.
Let's start with this morning's Times. Atop its front page, Landler and Sullivan write about Mister Trump's "swirl of confusion" over the past three days. But uh-oh!
Midway through their news report, they add today to their own band's swirl from the night before:
LANDLER AND SULLIVAN (7/19/18): Mr. Trump also came under sharp criticism for discussing an agreement with Mr. Putin under which Russian authorities would be allowed to question several American citizens it claims were involved in illegal dealings with a London-based financier and longtime critic of Mr. Putin, William F. Browder.That account is larded with confusion about what happened Monday in Helsinki.
On Monday, Mr. Trump said Mr. Putin had made an “incredible” offer: to allow the special counsel in the Russia inquiry, Robert S. Mueller III, to interview 12 Russian military intelligence officers indicted last week on a charge of hacking the Democratic National Committee and the 2016 Clinton campaign, in return for access to these Americans.
Among the names on the list, a Russian official told the Interfax news agency, is that of Michael A. McFaul, who served as American ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama. Mr. McFaul was sharply critical of the Russian government during his posting in Moscow, and has continued to speak and write regularly about Mr. Putin.
It doesn't reflect what Putin says (in translation) in the transcript of Monday's press conference. For that reason, it doesn't reflect the nature of the "agreement" to which Trump didn't agree, though he dumbly called it an "incredible offer."
It doesn't explain who "the Interfax news agency" is. It doesn't explain that the recent statement to that news agency goes beyond what Putin said in the Helsinki presser, to which Trump responded with a typically brief and incoherent remark.
We've decided it would take a month to sort through all the confusion built into those three paragraphs from this morning's Times. But giving credit where credit is due, Landler and Sullivan finally managed to note the following, in paragraph 28:
LANDLER AND SULLIVAN: As a legal matter, Mr. Trump has no authority to force Mr. McFaul or any other American to face Russian questioning. The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, and under a mutual legal assistance treaty between the countries, the Justice Department can reject any request relating to a case it deems politically motivated—a status it has long given to Russia’s case against Mr. Browder.Duh! That is an obvious point. Did you see anyone make that obvious point on "cable news" last night?
Duh! There's no obvious way that Donald J. Trump could force McFaul, or anyone else, to submit to Russian questioning. There's certainly no obvious way he could force McFaul, or anyone else, to be hauled off to Mother Russia itself, to be questioned on that famous foreign soil.
All last evening, we waited for the children of cable to state this obvious point. Instead, the children voted for high excitement and for fever pitch.
The silliest framework may have been offered—where else?—on the Maddow Show, whose very peculiar cable news host framed the matter like this:
MADDOW (7/18/18): That went off like a rocket today. Here's a taste from Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell, saying online today:Swalwell was wonderfully brave. But how could Trump "turn over" McFaul to the Russian potentate? Rachel Maddow, Our Own Rhodes Scholar, was too dumb to raise this obvious point as the excitement went off like a cable news rocket.
Take this to the bank, Donald Trump. You turn over former ambassador McFaul to Putin, you can count on me and millions of others to swiftly make you an ex-president.
So we know how at least one member of Congress feels about this.
The children of cable have played it this way for decades. Our favorite pseudoliberal stars demonized Clinton, Clinton and Gore for decades. Eventually, the weight of all these demonizations allowed the Trumpster to slip by Matthews' "Evita Peron" and make his way into the White House.
Over that twenty-five years of demonization, we brilliant liberals were too dumb to notice or to complain. We were too busy laughing about how stupid the hillbillies are!
We waited and waited and waited last night, wondering if anyone would state the obvious point. On what basis could Donald J. Trump "allow" the Russkies to interview McFaul? To hand him over to Vlad?
None of the children raised that point. It isn't what these idiots do. In the decades since since "cable news" began, it's not what they've ever done.
Last night offered one brief snapshot of the "mainstream press." Tomorrow, an embarrassing look at that prehuman band, drawn from its highest platform.
Tomorrow: A snapshot of last Sunday's Times
Only for people who read: We like to laugh about Donald J. Trump's lack of reading. For those who enjoy a good reading assignment, go ahead:
Peruse what Putin said in Helsinki. To what extent did his rather lengthy statement match the proposal Landler and Sullivan describe in this morning's Times?
Do you see McFaul mentioned at all? Do you see anything about Russkies questioning Americans?
Do you see anything about Mueller being "allowed to interview 12 Russian military intelligence officers?" Do you see anything about our people somehow being hauled Over There?
Meanwhile, on what basis would Trump be able to make any of this occur? In what way would he be able to "turn over" McFaul?
It's the world's most obvious question. But in the midst of all the excitement, did you see a single cable denizen ask that question last night?
Truly, it's all excitement now. Until you get to graf 28, it's thrills and chills all the way down.