Donny Deutsch delivers the mail!

MONDAY, MAY 20, 2019

We'll go one step farther:
On Friday night's Eleventh Hour, Donny Deutsch delivered the mail.

Deutsch has known Donald J. Trump for decades. He remains friendly with Michael Cohen.

As someone from outside the guild, he tends to be willing to ignore guild rules. For that reason, he spoke to Brian Williams in the manner highlighted below about the commander-in-chief:
WILLIAMS (5/17/19): Donny, I don't want to "end dark," but I'm going to have to. And that is to say that, when you are on Deadline: White House with Nicole Wallace at 4 in the afternoon, you are often one of the voices that reminds the table, and reminds the viewers beyond, exactly how bad things are in your view, and exactly how dark we've gotten.

But like the frog boiling experiment, it hasn't felt like that. It would feel like that if we took a vacation on the moon and came back. So the question, how dark are things right now to you?

DEUTSCH: Very, very dark. And I want to say this with no exaggeration. If you look throughout history and [if] you become a student of history and the worst of what humans have done throughout history, Trump is using that play book in every way you possibly can.

You start with creating an "Other." You get enough rich people to look the other way and that's how you get power.

And then what you do is obviously destroy the credibility of a press. You get a judicial system that is no longer independent. You start to blur separation of powers.

And we should be very frightened. It's not just saying, you know, "Oh, authoritarian tendencies." I believe this man is capable of horrific, horrific deeds. And I'm not saying specifically what that is, but let your imagination go.

And also, do not kid yourself. If he gets voted out of office, he will say it was fake. He will say the polls were rigged. He will tell his people to take to the streets.

People have to understand this is not a man who is playing with any boundaries on what a normal civilization and normal democracy has. And I use the word "sociopath," and I know you're not supposed to use psychological terms, but—and Michael Cohen who, you know, stood by his side for ten years, the last thing he said when he spoke to Congress was, "He will not go softly." So the Democrats better get this one right.

WILLIAMS: It is no longer darkness on the edge of town. It's come downtown and all around.

Donny Deutsch, the host of Saturday Night Politics, tomorrow evening, 8 PM Eastern time on this very network. Donny, thanks very much for coming on our broadcast.
Brian closed with a plug for an upcoming show. Donny called Trump a "sociopath" and seemed to say that he wouldn't go peacefully.

Is Donald J. Trump a sociopath? We aren't equipped to make that judgment. Neither, we'll guess, is Deutsch.

Beyond that, Trump hasn't engaged in "the worst of what humans have done throughout history," at least not at this point.

That said, Deutsch has known Trump for decades. In his assessment, Trump is capable of "horrific, horrific deeds."

We don't know the extent to which that assessment is true. That said, we see one flaw in Deutsch's logic:

As he finished, Deutsch seemed to suggest that there's some way the Democrats can somehow "get this one right." We're not sure why he would say that.

If Trump won't go peacefully after an election defeat, he also wouldn't go peacefully after an impeachment and removal. Imaginably, he could start a war to help his re-election chances. Could he imaginably start a war in an attempt to declare some type of martial law after an election defeat, or after removal from office?

We don't have the slightest idea. "Common sense" says that he wouldn't do something like that.

That said, we have no prior experience with a chief executive who seems to be this disordered—with a man our cable team would like to lock up as soon as he leaves office.

In a more rational world, a full discussion of this matter would be under way. But as Deutsch told Williams, our journalists have agreed to play by a rule in which "you're not supposed to use psychological terms," even if the man with the nuclear codes seems to possibly be psychologically or cognitively unwell.

Back in the 1990s, Brian Williams was involved in The Rise of Leadership Down. It was the era when NBC News and its cable arms were directed by General Electric CEO Jack Welch, an aggressive conservative who seemed to assemble a somewhat peculiar Nantucket-based news team.

The war against the woman Trump (barely managed to) "beat" started during that journalistically disordered era. There was a whole lot of "darkness" back then too, but the liberal world stared into air. Eventually, the craziness of people like Chris Matthews helped lead us down the road to our current state of affairs.

(If he hadn't called her "Nurse Ratched" and "Evita" so often, might she have beaten Trump in the electoral college, not just in the popular voter?)

Elsewhere, skillful analysts whose work we admire still want to know why we "obsessed so much" back in the day. That is to say, in real time, not a full twenty years later!

"Basic skill levels still seem to be down," we thoughtfully say to the analysts.

FROM THE "RISE OF LEADERSHIP DOWN" FILE: Digest of reports!

MONDAY, MAY 20, 2019

Starting tomorrow, Basic Skill Levels Still Down:
For readers of the Washington Post, it was a very tough weekend.

For example:

Yesterday afternoon, we wasted hours clicking the links in the Sunday Outlook essay authored by Jay Newton-Small.

After that, we tried to convince ourselves that Outlook had actually published this essay by 31-year-old on-line classicist Donna Zuckerberg. The essay, though perhaps not the person, was a truly strange piece of work.

In the case of Newton-Small, we were maddened by the number of links which led to sources which made no reference to the points, or to the statistical claims, supposedly being established.

Do editors at the high-profile Outlook section make any attempt to check such things? By the end of the day, we assembled the analysts and made a hard statement:

Despite our reports from two weeks ago, basic skill levels still seem to be way, way down!

Full disclosure! Beyond the narrower question of basic skills, several mournful future anthropologists called our attention to several basic aspects of Newton-Small's report for the Post.

"[In her essay, y]ou see the need to make all observations conform to pre-existing tribal narrative," these disconsolate future scholars almost despairingly said. "Beyond that, you see the ancient, hard-wired need to create a group of Others, then to aim a sweeping moral denunciation at this disfavored group."

After hearing from the anthropologists, we were able to see the way these basic "human" impulses surfaced in Newton-Small's essay. Indeed, we almost thought we saw the same pattern in this latest sneak attack on our own award-winning work by our favorite blogger, Irvine's Kevin Drum!

Newton-Small attacked the Others for their sexism. Writing from Irvine, Drum had spotted the "red-blooded racism" the Others had displayed by moving to the very same city he did!

While Drum checked in from Orange County, Zuckerberg wrote from the far side of Neptune. All in all, we'd have to say that basic skill levels remain way down, even within our own tribe!

(Then too, there was Candidate Harris' statement yesterday about the gender pay gap. Under current tribal rules, when Others make statements this misleading—so misleading that they're essentially wrong—we liberals feel obliged to describe such statements as "lies." This seems to fit the pattern described by the future anthropologists, who claim that decades of such behavior greased the skids towards Mister Trump's Eventual Lunatic War.)

Starting tomorrow, we'll postpone our study of Professoriate Down to focus on these new developments. Last week, we explored the dispiriting history of this decades-old leadership fail—The Rise of Leadership Down.

We studied The Rise of Leadership Down! Our reports went exactly like this:
Tuesday, May 14: Alex Jones didn't start Leadership Down. Neither did Donald J. Trump!

Wednesday, May 15: In a clear case of Trump-before-Trump, disordered behavior by stars of the press was already taking us down!

Thursday, May 16:
Diane Sawyer popped the question to Maples. This too was Leadership Down!

Friday, May 17: Drinking beer with Candidate Bush—plus Candidate Muskie's lost tears!
In the view of many future scholars, Trump is merely the craziest yet. Starting tomorrow, a troubling anthropological series:

Basic Skill Levels Still Down!

Rehema and Brian bungle Brown!

SATURDAY, MAY 18, 2019

Lester bungles Brown too:
We saw the report near the end of last night's 11th Hour.

Brian Williams was killing one segment by re-airing a taped report from NBC Nightly News. Hour earlier, Lester Holt had aired the report for a much larger audience.

The report was filed by Rehema Ellis. It concerned the historic Brown decision, whose 65th anniversary has recently occurred.

It could have been a decent report had it been given more time. Also, had it been prepared by actual people who actually know about public schools and who might actually care.

Instead, the report was filed by the kinds of people who draw their massive salaries for our network "news" behemoths. (You aren't allowed to know how large those salaries are.)

And so it came to pass! After flying past some fascinating elements of American history, Ellis attempted to state a fact—a fact which was offered in support of a Preferred Tribal Claim.

First, she spoke to some high schools kids in Topeka, from whence the Brown decision sprang. After that, she inevitably bungled a fact:
ELLIS (5/17/19): Today, Topeka High School is very different than it was [in 1954]:

CRISTINA DE LA ISLA, TOPEKA HIGH SCHOOL SOPHOMORE: I learn many different things from other types of people, like sexual orientation, race, just—gender, everything.

CONNOR HARRIS, TOPEKA HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: Together we form a better, like, a better group, rather than separated.

ELLIS: But it's not all better. Recently, segregation for black students has expanded in most of the country. The number of mostly black schools more than tripled between 1988 and 2016.

On-screen:

1988: 5.7%
2016: 18.2%
To watch the report, click here.

Those statistics only appeared on the screen. Taken together with Ellis' statement, they seemed to say that 18.2% of the nation's public schools are now "mostly black."

That claim struck as highly unlikely. Hence, today's report!

For ourselves, we would have liked to hear more from those Topeka high school kids. (Cristina appeared to be Hispanic. Connor was plainly "white.")

But Ellis hurried on to a mandated tribal claim. Public school "segregation" is getting worse—perhaps much worse, she said.

This mandated claim enters the bloodstream through UCLA's "Civil Rights Project," a leading example of the realm which future scholars now sadly describe as Professoriate Down. More on that syndrome in the next few weeks.

On screen, the Civil Rights Project was cited as the source of those improbable statistics, according to which we were told that 18.2% of the nation's public schools are now "mostly black."

That presentation struck us as unlikely, and so we decided to check. When we did, the usual answer came up—Ellis had bungled her one attempt at stating a basic fact.

The numbers she cited do in fact come from UCLA's recent report about the legacy of Brown. We refer to the gloomily titled report, Harming Our Common Future: America’s Segregated Schools 65 Years after Brown.

For the record, Brown outlawed legal (de jure) segregation. American schools aren't "segregated" in that sense today.

(A basic frame of reference: UCLA tends to use the fraught term "segregation" in a way which resembles William Barr's use of the fraught term "spying.")

That said, Preferred Tribal Scripting must sometimes start with a small sleight of hand. And sure enough! When we found the source of Ellis' claim, we found that she had misstated UCLA's data.

For the record, this is what's done on network news by vastly overpaid people who have never spent a day in their lives trying to understand the actual state of our actual public schools. Instead, they tend to work from script—from familiar tribal narratives which run on mandated claims.

As you can see below, Ellis misstated the basic data. Beyond that, no one on network news, or on MSNBC, will ever attempt to report and explain the actual state of affairs.

Here's the passage Ellis bungled. More on this passage below:
UCLA REPORT (page 21): TRENDS IN SEGREGATION

Having seen the tremendous changes that continue to take place among the public school enrollment, we now turn to understanding how those students are sorted among public schools. One way to measure segregation is through the concentration of non-white students in schools. Figure 3 shows the percentage of intensely segregated schools, that is schools that enroll 90-100% non-white students or 90-100% white students. Since the peak of desegregation for black students in 1988, the share of intensely segregated minority schools, that is, schools that enroll 90-100% non-white students, has more than tripled from 5.7% in 1988 to 18.2% in 2016. During the same time period, the share of intensely segregated white schools, that is, schools that enroll 90-100% white students, has declined from 38.9% in 1988 to 16% in 2016...
Plainly, this is the passage Ellis bungled. But this passage doesn't say that 18.2% of the nation's schools are "mostly black." It says something a bit more complex, something which may seem even worse:

That passage—the passage Ellis instantly bungled—says that 18.2% of the nation's public schools have student enrollments which are 90-100% non-white. In the lexicon of the Civil Rights Project, these schools are "intensely segregated."

Many of those schools are not "mostly black"—but all those schools are very heavily "non-white." Stating the obvious, those are quite different states of affairs.

Might we start with an obvious point? It's typical of people like Ellis, Williams and Holt that the one statistical claim they choose to make in a fleeting report of this type will be flatly bungled—will just plain be wrong.

The reason for this is obvious. None of these people have spent ten seconds wondering or learning about the actual racial and ethnic demographics of our actual public schools. Homey simply don't play it that way within orgs like NBC News.

They don't care about piffle like that! Last night's report wasn't put on the air to inform the public about actual facts. It was put on the air for purposes of "virtue signalling" and narrative endorsement—to let viewers know that very good people like Lester and Brian are opposed to "segregation," just like the viewers are.

Lester and Brian are opposed to segregation! They're also devoted to cashing their checks and filling the airwaves with fluff.

Along comes Ellis! She's asked to pretend that she knows, and cares about, whatever it is she's discussing.

Did Ellis know that her statement was false—that it seemed implausible on its face? We have no idea.

Did her claim sound unlikely to Lester or Brian? Readers, please! Lester and Brian don't know squat about any of this!

This brings us to an important question. Assuming that UCLA's data are accurate, why has the reported change occurred? Why is it that 18.2 percent of our public schools are are now so heavily non-white? Why is it up from 5.7 percent? And why should the public care?

Why are so many more schools now so heavily non-white? There are several parts to the answer, but the answer must start with this:
UCLA REPORT (page 4): White students are now a minority across the country’s public school enrollment, and they have been for a while, particularly in the public schools of the nation’s two largest regions, the West and the South. Since 1968 the nation’s enrollment of white students has declined by 11 million students while the enrollment of Latinos has increased by 11 million. There are now nearly three million Asian students and two million students who identify as multiracial...Latino students were 5% of U.S. enrollment in 1970 and 26% by 2016.
Duh. Using the dates Ellis cited, white kids were 68.8% of the student population in 1988. That number had dropped to 48.4% by 2016. (See the graphic on UCLA's page 16.)

According to that same graphic, Latino and Asian-American kids were 14.8% of the student population in 1988. That number had risen to 31.8% in 2016.

In short, there were many more "non-white" kids in American public schools as of 2016! This is one part of a real explanation of the rise in heavily "non-white" schools.

The changes we've cited don't fully explain the large number of schools which are more than 90% non-white. To add more meat to the bones of a partial explanation, consider the recent demographics of the Detroit Public Schools, according to Stanford's Sean Reardon:
Student demographics, Detroit Public Schools
White kids: 3 percent
Black kids: 87 percent
Hispanic kids: 7 percent
Asian-American kids: 1 percent
By the nature of this district's enrollment, it's possible that every school in the system would be "intensely segregated"—would be almost wholly non-white.

There are very few white kids in Detroit's public schools! Down in Laredo, there are even fewer:
Student demographics, Laredo ISD
White kids: 0 percent
Black kids: 0 percent
Hispanic kids: 99 percent
Asian-American kids: 1 percent
None of this district's schools are "mostly black." All are completely "non-white."

The point we're making is simple. Racial imbalance within our schools is often the result of enrollment patterns in our large urban school systems. This is even true in New York City, where only 14% of the students are white and the New York Times is baffled by the amount of "segregation."

Lester didn't tell you any of that last evening. Instead, he sent Ellis out to report on "segregation" in public schools—and the one statistical claim she attempted she got flatly wrong.

That happened for an obvious reason—these massively overpaid people don't care about public schools.

They care about virtue signalling and adherence to narrative. They care about makeup and hair. They care about Q ratings.

They care about their very large checks. They care about sticking to easy story-lines on the extremely rare occasions when they talk about public schools.

Brian aired the segment last night because it made his job easier. It also let him signal his virtue. Brian opposes segregation, just the way you do!

Last night, we heard about NBC's report from several anthropologists. Somewhat surprisingly, they told us how the pseudo-liberal world would react to our own report.

"The pseudo-liberal always loved reports of the type Ellis aired," one despondent future scholar despairingly told us. "They liked the way reports of that type made them feel.

"They won't begin to see the point of what you're trying to say," we were told. "This is what we humans were like the years before Mister Trump's War."

Ellis in the past: We feel sure that Rehema Ellis is a very good person. That said, the last time we saw her report on schools, she authored one of the most egregious groaners ever. To recall what she said, just click here.

As always, she was advancing the corporate message. In those days, the message was this:

Our public school teachers are no damn good with their ratty teachers unions.

NBC was very big on that message back then. This is the way we humans behaved as we tumbled towards Mister Trump's War.

THE RISE OF LEADERSHIP DOWN: Drinking beer with Candidate Bush!

FRIDAY, MAY 17, 2019

Candidate Muskie's lost tears:
Yesterday morning, the New York Times published a page A3 exposé concerning the intellectual hygiene of its many readers.

It reminded some of Diane Sawyer's 1990 interview with Marla Maples. For details, see yesterday's report.

All across the future world, anthropologists hailed the relevance of the newspaper's exposé. Today, though, the shoe, slipper, sandal or mukluk is on the other foot.

We refer to the Times' daily "Of Interest" section (print editions only). Sitting atop today's A3, the presentation starts like this:
Of Interest
NOTEWORTHY FACTS FROM TODAY'S PAPER

Bob Hawke, Australia's hugely popular prime minister from 1983 to 1991, once bragged of downing two and a half Imperial pints of beer in 12 seconds.
In the listing compiled by some Times employee, that was today's first "Noteworthy Fact."

In what world does a fact like that strike a journalist as "noteworthy?" Sadly, it recalls the days when the nation's upper-end mainstream journalists evaluated White House candidates on the basis of who the voters "would like to have a beer with."

Who would you like to have a beer with? According to several future analysts, the press corps' persistent focus on such manifest trivia spoke to the intellectual limitations which eventually led to the devastation of Mister Trump's Unintelligent War.

"In the end, this was really all we humans had in the general area of smarts," one disconsolate scholar has said. Beyond that, the press corps' persistent attempts at the assessment of character was a major part of the syndrome which is now widely known in the future as The Rise of Leadership Down.

According to these future scholars, there were many Basic Skill Levels Down during the era in question:

Journalists routinely engaged in fanciful paraphrase. They were persistently overmatched by such basic activities as "adjusting for inflation" and "reporting the actual facts."

Just as Professor Harari has said,
they were heavily drawn to gossip and to the promulgation of potent group "fictions." Their minds would wander to such questions as the one Sawyer raised with Maples:

Was sex with The Donald the best she'd ever had?

Such questions ruled the world of the upper-end press corps during The Rise of Leadership Down.

Journalists of the era had many notable flaws. But above all else, future experts now say, these tribal creatures distinguished themselves by their insistence on forming Group Assessments of Character—group assessments which were routinely comically wrong.

"They kept insisting that Paul Ryan was honest," one future scholar remarked. "What else has to be said?"

Future Historians High in Trees have tried to explain the tendency to produce these assessments of character. Their overview goes something like this:

In the wake of Richard Nixon's downfall, journalists got it into their heads that they should devote more time to the assessment of character. They failed to see that their mental hygiene poorly equipped them for this challenging task.

How faulty could their judgments be? In 1992, Richard Ben Cramer published a three million-page history of the 1988 presidential election.

The book was called What It Takes: The Way to the White House. Though the book was unreadably long and unbearable on a page-by-page basis, it was hailed as a masterwork by other political journalists—a group which was strongly inclined to the familiar human practice of "seeing themselves from afar."

Many reviewers actually claimed that they had read the four million-page book! They would then proceed to hail Ben Cramer's brilliance. The leading authority on this phenomenon cites two examples, then succumbs to despair:
Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Quite possibly the finest book on presidential politics ever written, combining meticulous reporting and compelling, at times soaringly lyrical, prose."

San Francisco Chronicle: "The ultimate insider's book on presidential politics...an unparalleled source book on the 1988 candidates."
Ben Cramer's book codified an emerging type of journalism—a type of journalism in which inane assessments of character were based on trivial bits of behavior, with troubling examples of bad conduct sometimes completely invented.

Inane assessments were devised; journalists would stampede off to repeat them as a group. By the fall of 1999, major players were even basing assessments of character on the number of buttons they'd spotted on one major candidate's suit coat.

The third button of the candidate's coat was taken to be a sexual signal aimed at female voters. Everyone else was prepared to pretend that this crackpot assessment made sense.

So went The Rise of Leadership Down in the years leading up to The War. Future scholars suggest that this rampant group behavior may have worked special havoc on Democratic White House candidates, with only one major exception. (In 1996, Lamar Alexander was taken down in New Hampshire on the basis of the hoary old "price of milk and bread" trick.)

Democrats were routinely hit hard. Consider the 1988 campaign, the subject of Ben Cramer's ten-ton book:

In 1987, journalists hid in the bushes outside the home of Democratic front-runner Gary Hart, hoping to prove that he had a girl friend who wasn't his actual wife. When it appeared that he possibly did, Hart had to leave the campaign.

The journalists then eliminated Candidate Biden on a series of minor character raps. Based upon our own knowledge, they also tried to take out Candidate Gore, making endless phone calls designed to see if he had ever smoked marijuana—AKA "Mary Jane"—when he was maybe 19.

That was just in the primaries! In that campaign's general election, Candidate Dukakis went down the drain when he failed to punch Bernie Shaw in the nose after Shaw asked him a repugnant question which imagined the rape and murder of Dukakis' wife.

Plus, he didn't look right in that tank! So it went as roving bands of journalists performed group assessments of character.

In Tuesday's report, we touched upon the state of this crackpot culture by the time of Campaign 2000. But the syndrome went on and on. It sent Bush to the White House in 2001, Trump in 2017.

Who would you like to drink a beer with? Whose suit coats have the right number of buttons? Whose pants are allegedly hemmed too high, making us look at his boots?

Liberal thought leaders stared into air as these questions were pimped on the public. Borrowing from Hemingway, this is the way the press corps was when devotion to Group Assessments of Character began taking hold of their lives.

In all these bizarre assessments of character, one may stand out most. It came quite early in the era. This particular group assessment involved Candidate Muskie's Lost Tears.

The event in question took place in February 1972. Forty years later, the New York Times seemed to be telling the truth somewhat slowly:
PETERS (1/9/12): People have feared and loathed The [Manchester, H.H.] Union Leader ever since the days of the curmudgeonly William Loeb III, who bought the paper in the 1940s and bullied a generation of politicians with vitriolic front-page editorials. Mr. Loeb headlined an article about Henry A. Kissinger’s appointment as secretary of state with an anti-Semitic slur. Edmund S. Muskie became “Moscow Muskie” and a flip-flopper. Mr. Muskie destroyed his candidacy by breaking down and appearing to cry while denouncing Mr. Loeb at a news conference outside the paper’s offices.
For background, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/18/11.

Interesting, isn't it? Candidate Muskies had been the Democratic front-runner—the guy who supposedly had the best shot at unseating President Nixon.

Somehow, though, he "destroyed his candidacy" by appearing to cry! This puzzle involves his lost tears.

This must be one of the strangest stories in modern press corps history. It involves a front-page report by the Washington Post's David Broder—a front-page report Broder seemed to renounce fifteen years later.

In that initial front-page report, Broder described Muskie in front of the Union-Leader Building, "tears streaming down his face." In an age when no girlie-man need apply, a giant hubbub ensued.

As Jeremy Peters implied in the Times, this hubbub took Muskie out. Nixon cruised to re-election.

In real time, that front-page report took Muskie down and out. But fifteen years later, it seemed that the the report's basic claim was no longer operative! Writing in the Washington Monthly, a penitent Broder said this:
BRODER (2/87): Within 24 hours, Muskie's weeping became the focus of political talk, not just in New Hampshire, but everywhere the pattern of the developing presidential race was discussed. His tears were generally described as one of the contributing causes of his disappointing showing in the March 7 primary. Muskie beat McGovern by a margin of 46 to 37 percent, but his managers had publicized their goal of winning at least 50 percent of the New Hampshire Democratic vote. Underdog McGovern claimed that the results showed Muskie's weakness and his own growing strength. Muskie never recovered from that Saturday in the snow.

In retrospect, though, there were a few problems with the Muskie story. First, it is unclear whether Muskie did cry.
Say what? Back in 1972, tears were streaming down Muskie's face. As of 1987, it was "unclear whether Muskie did cry."

This minor revision was described as "a problem with the story!"

Making this lunacy even more lunatic was a report by Lou Cannon, another major Post correspondent (and one of our favorite biographers). In August 2011, Paul Waldman seemed to tell part of the rest of the story, again in the Washington Post:
WALDMAN (8/14/11): The less well-known part of this story is that some influential journalists had decided long before that there was something slightly off about Muskie. In his 1977 book "Reporting: An Inside View," legendary journalist Lou Cannon wrote that, after playing poker with Muskie, he concluded that the senator was too temperamental to be president. "What does a political reporter do with this kind of insight?" Cannon asked. "As in this instance, it is rarely written as a hard news story the first time the thought arises…What we reporters tend to do is to store away in our minds such incidents and then use them to interpret—to set a context—for major incidents when they occur.”
Future Anthropologists sadly say this was very "human" behavior. To wit:

To all appearances, a judgment was formed while major scribes played poker with Candidate Muskie. Later, basic facts were perhaps rearranged to help us adopt the assessment of character journalists had formed.

In 1999 and 2000, so it went as Gore's words were persistently scrambled to reinvent him as the world's biggest liar. In this manner, the press corps found a way to punish Bill Clinton, and to give us the war in Iraq.

Is that what happened in 1972, when the tears which later didn't exist were streaming down Muskie's face? You'll never see that question assessed. When it comes to our upper-end press, Homey don't play that game!

Al Gore's suit coat had too many buttons. Muskie didn't play poker right.

Dukakis should have punched Shaw in the nose. Hillary Clinton (AKA "Nurse Ratched") didn't ski on the bunny slopes right. Plus, she'd murdered all those people! Meanwhile, you'd like to drink a beer with George W. Bush.

Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves (TM) tell us that, anthropologically speaking, this is all we human beings ever really had.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal?" That was always a fantasy, these despondent future experts have said. "In fact, we liked to gossip and promulgate fictions, just as Harari once said!"

At any rate, so it went during the embarrassing yet unremarked Rise of Leadership Down. This went on and on and on, and then it went on some more. Until a crazy person got elected, nobody noticed or cared.

Was it the best sex she ever had? Mercifully, Maples wasn't willing to answer Sawyer's thoughtful question.

She managed to keep that news to herself. Still, the inanity led to The War. "What I wouldn't give for a glass of beer now," one future scholar has said.

Next week: Professoriate Down!

Chris Matthews will speak with The Others tonight!

THURSDAY, MAY 16, 2019

An extremely good idea:
Starting in March 1999 (at which point he suddenly flipped in his views about Gore), Chris Matthews worked extremely hard to get George W. Bush elected.

He savaged Gore from that point on, often in blatantly crazy ways. His aggressive loathing of Hillary Clinton (AKA Evita/Nurse Ratched) continued through 2008, when a few women's groups finally managed to notice.

After Obama was elected—and after MSNBC had become an officially pro-Democratic channel—he flipped completely on HRC, becoming her biggest fan.

Matthews' conduct in 1999 and 2000 was truly appalling—and he was much more influential back then than he is today. The fact that no liberal so much as said boo about his endless misconduct during those years is a tribute to human ineptitude—and, of course, to journalistic careerism, and to human deceit.

That said, Matthews is doing a good thing tonight—be's visiting darkest PA. He's holding a town hall meeting with Trump voters in Wilkes-Barre, in a part of the state which went for Donald J. Trump.

This behavior is long overdue.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote over Trump by almost 3 million votes. That said, next year's Democratic nominee will probably need to win some Trump voters back.

(Repeat: Some, not all.)

It's astounding to see how little interest MSNBC has ever shown in trying to understand the way such voters see the world—in trying to understand what such voters think, understand and believe. That may be because we think we know who Those People are:

We think Those People are racists.

It's amazing to see how often we state and signal this view. It's based on the oldest pre-rational belief of them all—the belief that Those Very Bad People Are All Exactly Alike.

Those People aren't all alike. None are as fine as We are, of course. But politically and morally, it's a very good idea to ask people what they think.

In March 2017, Bernie Sanders and Chris Hayes staged a televised town hall meeting in West Virginia coal country. Sanders started like this:
HAYES (3/13/17): So Senator, coal, I think, is on a long-term decline. What do you tell the folks here for whom...that is the one job that pays a decent wage and gives benefits?

SANDERS: Well, let me be honest and say two things. I think—and disagree with me if you think I'm wrong on this—but coal in this area has been in decline I think, since the '70s and the '80s. It's not anything that's new.

And I think— And second of all, and I know not everybody, you know, will be happy with me saying this—but I happen to believe, unlike the president, that climate change is real and it is a threat to all.

But having said that, I don't hold this gentleman and the coal miners responsible for climate change. In fact, in fact, these guys are heroes.

I remember, I grew up in a rent control apartment house in Brooklyn, New York, and I will never forget the piles of coal. I don't know if it came from here or wherever it came. You kept my house warm. Thank you. So you're not— You are not my enemy.

But what we have to do, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, what we have to do is to say the choice is not transforming our energy system to protect the planet and throwing people out on the street. The choice is reinvesting in communities that have been devastated by changes in energy and make sure folks have decent paying jobs and we can do that. We are not a poor country.
Sanders started his discussion that night with words of admiration, gratitude, respect. He told the people in the hall that their parents had kept his boyhood home warm. He told them they aren't his enemy.

You don't win back every voter that way. But you don't have to win back every Trump voter. You have to win some, not all.

Night after night, we marvel at MSNBC's lack of interest in what Trump voters think. Why did people vote for Donald J. Trump? In some cases, could it possibly be because they've seen the weird ways we behave?

Bill Clinton [HEART] Pentecostals: Bill Clinton once wrote a very long book. He even quoted us at one point, though sadly enough not by name.

In our view, the most instructive part of the book was his discussion of Arkansas' Pentecostals. They tended to vote against him, he said, but he admired them all the same.

To review what (President) Clinton said about those who aren't just like him, you can just click here. We think that part of the book helps explain how he got to the White House.

THE RISE OF LEADERSHIP DOWN: Sawyer popped the question to Maples!

THURSDAY, MAY 16, 2019

It was all downhill from there:
Oof! We refer you to page A3 in this morning's New York Times.

As anthropologists will understand, the downward spiral which led us to Mister Trump's War confronts us on that page. Sadly, no link is available.

That said, we haven't changed a single word. Here's what the text really says:
The Conversation
FIVE OF THE MOST READ, SHARED AND DISCUSSED POSTS FROM ACROSS NYTIMES.COM

1. James Charles, From 'CoverBoy' to Canceled

In 2016, James Charles became CoverGirl's first male face. It was all up from there—a merchandise line, millions of followers, the Met Gala. Then, with a single YouTube video, it all came crashing down. Mr. Charles is now at the center of an ongoing debate about betrayal among a passionate group of beauty vbloggers. New of that conflict made for Wednesday's most read article.
No, seriously—that's what it says! News of this debate among a passionate group of beauty vbloggers was the most read article yesterday across the entire sweep of the New York Times on line!

Let's start with a bit of fairness. The breaking news seems to reflect on the readership of the New York Times, not on the Times itself.

Presumably, this is the "most read" article to which that passage refers. The New York Times doesn't seem to regard it as an especially significant report.

In today's hard copy editions, the most read article appears at the bottom of page D1. That's the first page of the paper's ThursdayStyles section.

A serious person might scold the Times for spending any time on this world-class bullshit at all. But it seems to be us the people who turned this stupenagel news report into the global super-phenomenon it has apparently come to be. That doesn't seem to have been the principal doing, or the fault, of the Hamptons-based Times itself.

In fairness, fuller disclosure! As it turns out, Mr. Charles isn't simply at the center of a debate among a group of beauty vbloggers. As Valeriya Safronova explains in her seminal news report, a much wider group of future victims of Mister Trump's War is involved in this passionate pigpile:
SAFRONOVA (5/16/19): Mr. Charles is now at the center of an ongoing debate about betrayal among a passionate group of beauty vloggers, bona fide celebrities and the meme-makers of TikTok. He has lost about three million followers on YouTube; Miley Cyrus, Shawn Mendes and Kylie Jenner have all unfollowed him on Instagram.
As you can see, the actual sweep of this debate has been edited down on A3.

It isn't just the beauty vbloggers; bona fide celebrities and the meme-makers of TikTok are involved in this folderol too! As she continues, Safronova describes the world within which this important discussion plays out:
SAFRONOVA: The beauty-influencer world is one in which interpersonal conflicts often play out in videos posted across YouTube channels, with players flinging accusations at each other or apologizing in 15-minute monologues to their fans. The rumor mill they spin into existence is bolstered by coverage from “drama channels,” YouTube accounts that keep track of the gossip and “expose” the wrongdoings of various local celebrities.
The rumor mill the influencers spin into existence is bolstered by coverage from “drama channels," while others keep track of the gossip?

To a sufficiently skilled anthropologist, that description may sound a bit like the way modern "cable news" works! Or so we were told last night, in a visit from a spokesperson for Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves (TM), scholars who report to us from the years beyond Mister Trump's Bullsh*t-Ending War.

For now, let's set that slander against cable news to the side. Instead, let's consider the fact that this news report was "Wednesday's most read article" across all of NYTimes.com.

An anthropologist might want to say that this tells us something about the mental traits of our self-impressed species, Homo sapiens. It might even remind us of something that happened long ago, during the journalistic era future anthropologists now discuss under a depressing rubric, The Rise of Leadership Down.

It was April 1990. Three years earlier, journalists had hid in the bushes late one night, wondering if Democratic front-runner Gary Hart might have a girl friend who wasn't his actual wife.

Their intrepid journalism ended Candidate Hart. In the end, Candidate Bush went to the White House, but only after Bernie Shaw mugged Candidate Dukakis with an ugly general election debate question about the imagined rape and murder of his wife—a question Shaw's female co-panelists had begged him not to ask.

According to future anthropologists, these bits of behavior help us describe the actual mental hygiene of the human animal. These anthropologists note that the insipid love of "gossip" and potent group "fictions" will often characterize the mental world of such influencers as upper-end journalists, along with the somewhat easily influenced rank and file as well.

At any rate, it was April 1990. It had been three long years since Candidate Hart had been taken down.

Upper-end "journalists" had perhaps become bored, or so these future anthropologists are willing to speculate. Along came media star Diane Sawyer, eager to liven things up.

Howard Kurtz did the report for the Washington Post. Current on-line headline included, his report started like this:
KURTZ (4/20/90): MARLA 'I LOVE HIM'

After two months of silence amid the deafening roar of Trump-o-mania, Marla Maples took to the airwaves [last] night
to declare that she still loves Donald Trump but that "I'm not the reason for that marriage having problems."

In a blonde-on-blonde interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC's "PrimeTime Live," Maples, 26, speaking in a soft, breathy voice punctuated by nervous laughter, skirted most questions about her internationally rumored affair with The Donald, citing "pending litigation" from his wife, Ivana.

But the actress from Dalton, Ga., left little doubt about the once-intimate nature of their relationship, which Trump is said to have ended a few weeks ago, although Maples said she was in Guatemala at the time. When Sawyer popped the $5 billion question—You still love him?—Maples said, "You know, I, I can't lie about it. Oh, I do." She answered the same way when Sawyer asked if it had been a romance, saying, "I do love him."

There were no torrid, BEST-SEX-I-EVER-HAD revelations—in fact, Maples refused to answer Sawyer's BEST-SEX question, but called the quote attributed to her by a friend "an absolute, total lie." She also ducked when asked if she wanted to marry the Queens-born billionaire...
Was sex with The Donald the best Maples ever had? During this high-profile "blonde-on-blonde interview," the actress somewhat sanely demurred when the ridiculous journalist asked.

Indeed, it was Sawyer's role in this big pile of moral and mental trash to which the future anthropologist pointed last night. "Here again," this future scholar told us, "we see the type of conduct now widely known in the future as The Rise of Leadership Down."

Let's offer some background here. Sawyer had gone to one of the finest schools. She'd already married the respected director when she popped the question to Maples.

While Maples was only 26, Sawyer was 44. Six years earlier, she had become the first female correspondent on 60 Minutes, one of the nation's most respected news programs. She was representing the upper-end "press corps" when she popped that insultingly stupid question to Maples.

Anthropologically speaking, Sawyer was thereby helping define the values which would define the parameters of American discourse when she plopped down with Maples that night.

As such, "This is the essence of 'leadership down,' " or so we were told last night by the future scholar to whom we refer. Indeed, the blinding stupidity of Sawyer's conduct that night virtually defines The Rise of Leadership Down.

Please understand! Sawyer's guild was flailing in a wide array of ways during the era in question.

By 1994, "young Americans believe[d] they ha[d] a better chance at seeing UFOs than Social Security checks made out to them when they retire," according to a poll released by a youth advocacy group.

Assuming the poll was on the level, this belief had largely been fueled by the inability of people like Sawyer to explain the way that venerable program worked. Anthropologically speaking, these journalists enjoyed life in the nation's underwear drawers, but were bored, and perhaps a bit overwhelmed, by questions about major matters of substance.

During 1995 and 1996, Sawyer and other celebrities exactly like her were completely unable to explain the basic logic of Newt Gingrich's Medicare proposal.

Was the GOP proposing "Medicare cuts," or was it simply reducing the rate at which the program would grow? People like Sawyer were baffled by this. Their inability to handle that question continued for several years.

Within a few years, loud shouters like cable's Chris Matthews were filling the void with deranged assessments of topics like Hillary Clinton's disturbing behavior on bunny ski slopes and the deeply troubling number of buttons on Candidate Gore's suit jackets.

This was the gruesome era known in the future for The Rise of Leadership Down. Tomorrow, we'll start with Sawyer's interviews with Candidate Gore in 1999 and with Candidate Clinton in 2014.

At any rate, "There was no avoiding Mister Trump's War," one future scholar told us last night. "It was anthropology all the way down, as Sawyer's past conduct makes clear."

By 1990, the rewards for that kind of journalism were simply too damn high. Or so this future scholar said as she returned to the future caves in which her colleagues huddle.

Tomorrow: A truly amazing story! Could it be that The Rise of Leadership Down started with Muskie's lost tears?

Should Schiff want to lock four lawyers up?

WEDNESDAY, MAY 15, 2019

The criminalization of everything:
Is Adam Schiff possibly losing his way? Is everything now being criminalized?

These questions popped into our heads as we read this news report in today's New York Times. Forget about people like Donald J. Trump and the even more heinous Donald Trump Junior, who is now wearing a beard. The report raises the possibility that Schiff may even want to lock four lawyers up.

Fandos and Haberman penned the report. They start their report like this:
FANDOS AND HABERMAN (5/15/19): The House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether lawyers tied to President Trump and his family helped obstruct the panel’s inquiry into Russian election interference by shaping false testimony, a series of previously undisclosed letters from its chairman show.

The line of inquiry stems from claims made by the president’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who told Congress earlier this year that the lawyers in question helped edit false testimony that he provided to Congress in 2017 about a Trump Tower project in Moscow. Mr. Cohen said they also dangled a potential pardon to try to ensure his loyalty.

In recent weeks, the committee sent lengthy document requests to four lawyers—Jay Sekulow, who represents the president; Alan S. Futerfas, who represents Donald Trump Jr.; Alan Garten, the top lawyer at the Trump Organization; and Abbe D. Lowell, who represents Ivanka Trump. The lawyers all took part in a joint defense agreement by the president’s allies to coordinate responses to inquiries by Congress and the Justice Department.

“Among other things, it appears that your clients may have reviewed, shaped and edited the false statement that Cohen submitted to the committee, including causing the omission of material facts,” the Intelligence Committee’s chairman, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, wrote to lawyers representing the four men in a May 3 letter obtained by The New York Times.
Forget the part about dangling the pardon. Would it make sense to lock the lawyers up—to charge them with committing a crime—because they "helped edit false testimony," as Michael Cohen says they did? Because their editing had possibly "caus[ed] the omission of material facts?"

The report suggests that Schiff may want to refer the four lawyers in question for criminal charges at some point. Would such an action make sense?

Presumably, this would only make sense if the lawyers knew they were helping create false testimony—if they understood the facts of the matter under review well enough to know that they were "causing the omission of material facts."

If the lawyers believed the testimony in question was accurate, based on what their clients had told them, how could they be charged with committing a crime? And remember—the principal person who knew the facts in this matter would presumably have been Michael Cohen, a person who hasn't always been known for his truthful behavior.

Would it make sense to charge lawyers with a crime if they didn't know the actual facts? As a theoretical matter, this seems like obvious question.

But as we read the Times report, Fandos and Haberman don't touch upon this obvious factor until quite late in their presentation. And even then, they only touch on this matter somewhat tangentially.

More and more, the liberal world's reaction to current affairs seems to resemble "the criminalization of everything." We don't seem to know how to speak to voters who aren't exactly like us, so we seem inclined instead to try to lock everyone on the other side up.

In this matter, Schiff may not be over-reaching at all. It may be that the lawyers in question have actually done something wrong, and that Schiff has good reason to suspect this.

That said, the desire to lock everyone up—the so-called criminalization of everything—seems to be floating around in this Times report.

Might the problem here rest with the Times itself? When we talk about locking lawyers up for having edited false testimony, this would seem to presume that they knew the testimony was false. But the Times reporters touch upon that factor quite late in their report. Along the way, it simply sounds like we've all agreed to try to lock everyone up.

Rachel Maddow has been trying to lock everyone up for at least a decade now. This impulse strikes us as terrible politics and as a sign of liberal failure. So who's out over their skis in this case? Is it Schiff, or perhaps just the Times?

THE RISE OF LEADERSHIP DOWN: Disordered behavior of the press!

WEDNESDAY, MAY 15, 2019

When "Trump before Trump" took us down:
The role of The Crazy has been substantial in modern American discourse.

Crazy people advance crazy claims; millions of people believe them. American discourse bows beneath the weight of this widespread crackpot behavior.

In yesterday's report, we tracked this phenomenon back to the pious Reverend Falwell and the endless crazy claims about all the people Bill and Hillary Clinton had murdered. The syndrome extends to more recent claims by radio crackpot Alex Jones, and by the disordered Donald J. Trump himself.

That doesn't mean that this destructive syndrome only exists "on the right." The mainstream press corps has been mired in this type of conduct too.

Future scholars are now calling such conduct "Trump before Trump." They sometimes refer to this mental erosion within the press as "The Rise of Leadership Down."

The Crazy flourished within the mainstream press during the era of Falwell. Consider a crazy statement which appeared in Marc Fisher's weekly column in the Washington Post magazine.

The crazy statement to which we refer concerned a White House candidate's clothes. The candidate in question was also the sitting vice president. He was the odds-on favorite to receive the Democratic nomination in Campaign 2000.

In late November 1999, Fisher wrote a highly peculiar essay about Candidate Gore. His crazy claim was lodged among a raft of other peculiar and unfortunate statements. Here's how his essay ended:
FISHER (11/28/99): So when Al Gore sneaks around and spends $15,000 a month to hire an oddball like Naomi Wolf, a controversialist who campaigns against the tyranny of the beauty culture and then plasters soft-lit glossies of herself and her perfectly teased hair all over the Internet and on her book jackets, we have two choices: We can say Gore's a good man who's been duped by over-eager aides, or we can say this is a man who does not know himself, a man who is unknowable, unreadable and therefore not fit to be president.

A person who makes her living by writing pop philosophy about sex tells a man who would be president of the United States that he must be a different kind of man, that he must be more assertive, that he must wear a brown suit of a sort that is alien to virtually every American. And he says, "Okay."

To call him unreadable is to be charitable.
Just for the record—back in those days, we pseudo-liberals slept in the woods when people like Wolf were savaged in such identifiable ways. We let that kind of thing go.

That said, did Naomi Wolf "make her living by writing pop philosophy about sex?" It's pretty much as you like it! For the record, two of the three books she'd written by that time had been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year.

One of the books, The Beauty Myth, had been chosen as one of the top hundred books of the century. But now, the disordered men and women of the upper-end mainstream press were spreading a web of noxious claims about Wolf, a campaign adviser to Gore.

These slanders included the noxious claim that Candidate Gore had "hired a woman to teach him how to be a man." Candidate Gore was "today's man-woman," Chris Matthews loudly proclaimed on his crackpot TV show, Hardball.

These disordered figures were also convinced that Wolf had instructed Gore to wear "earth tones" on the campaign trail. This unfounded assertion helped lead to months of disordered claims about this targeted candidate's clothes.

By Sunday, November 28, this ordered discussion had been underway for more than a month. This apparently forced Fisher to bump his roving band's craziness up a notch.

Does Donald J. Trump make crazy claims? Yes he does, quite often. But on this day, Fisher was making crazy claims too. The craziest of his crazy claims may been this crazy statement:

Naomi Wolf had told Candidate Gore that "he must wear a brown suit of a sort that is alien to virtually every American."

Truly, that was a crazy claim. As such, it was an example of the phenomenon known as Trump before Trump.

Had Naomi Wolf advised Gore about wardrobe? Like Fisher, we have no idea.

Candidates do take wardrobe advice, and Wolf was a campaign adviser. (With a crackpot press corps like the one we're now describing, a targeted candidate must pay substantial attention to both wardrobe and hair.)

Wolf and Gore had both denied the claim that Wolf had offered wardrobe advice, but denizens of the upper-end press enjoyed the tale they were telling. In this case, Fisher seemed to be referring to a brown or perhaps olive suit Gore had worn to his first Democratic debate with Candidate Bradley, his only campaign opponent.

More than a month had passed since that time. But manifest crackpots of the press were still obsessed by the choice.

In fact, there was nothing outrageous about Gore's suit, except in the mind of the crackpots. New Hampshire voters who watched that first Democratic debate had scored the event a draw. No one seemed troubled by Gore's choice of clothes, and conservative icon Kate O'Beirne had praised the two candidates for the erudition each had displayed in discussing health care that night.

But alas! Inside the press room at Dartmouth College, three hundred journalists were hissing, booing and jeering every time Gore spoke. (On the record sources: Slate's Jake Tapper, the Hotline's Howard Mortman, Time's Eric Pooley. We heard about this astounding conduct in a phone call from the site that very night.)

The children had been hissing and jeering every time Gore spoke! At the Washington Post, a Pulitzer winner decided to tell the world this:
MCGRORY (10/31/99): Vice President Albert Gore came to his fateful encounter with newly menacing challenger Bill Bradley carrying heavy baggage. He was wearing an outfit that added to his problems when he stepped onstage at Dartmouth College: a brown suit, a gunmetal blue shirt, a red tie—and black boots.

Was it part of his reinvention strategy? Perhaps it was meant to be a ground-leveling statement—"I am not a well-dressed man." It is hard to imagine that he thought to ingratiate himself with the nation's earliest primary voters by trying to look like someone seeking employment at a country music radio station. Maybe it was the first step in shedding his Prince Albert image.
Mary McGrory, a veteran columnist and a Pulitzer winner, was writing live and direct from the realm of The Crazy.

She never mentioned the health care discussion whose erudition O'Beirne had praised. Instead, she chose to savage one candidate's clothes in a pre-Trump manifestation.

McGrory was typing at the start of the war against Gore's wardrobe. The lunacy went on and on, then on and on some more, with every aspect of Gore's clothing subjected to the crackpot assessments of this Trump-before-Trump roving band.

His suits, his boots, his polo shirts? The height at which he hemmed his pants in order to get us to look at his boots? Every aspect of the candidate's wardrobe was subjected to crackpot claims by a runaway band of upscale defectives who were, according to future scholars, helping define the downward spiral they have despondently come to describe as The Rise of Leadership Down.

How crazy did the crazy claims get? The claims got very crazy. In one part of this crackpot spree, the great apes of this highly coordinated band loudly complained about the fact that Gore's suit jacket had featured three buttons that night, instead of the two buttons their group very much preferred.

All through the month of November, MSNBC's Chris Matthews speculated about the sexual signals Gore was attempting to send by wearing a three-button suit. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Brian Williams also obsessed on this patently crackpot topic, visiting it night after night—and this was years before he got himself fired from Nightly News because he'd invented so many crazy claims about himself!
.
That said, when Everyone Agrees To Say The Same Thing, the individual chimp can gain attention only by embellishing the group "fiction" on which the whole band has agreed. And so it happened that one member of the guild made the following comically crazy claim on Geraldo Rivera's nightly MSNBC program:
RIVERA (11/9/99): And Naomi Wolf—you want to offer some wisdom before I go to the panel?

FRANKEN: I think this [flap] might be overblown. I mean, Arianna—I think you can go to Arianna on this.

[...]

HUFFINGTON: When you are talking about a consultant that you bring on to give opinions on how to dress and whether you're an alpha male and how do you become a beta male—frankly, you know, what is fascinating is that the way he's now dressing makes a lot of people feel disconnected from him. And there was this marvelous story in one of the New Hampshire papers saying, “Nobody here—nobody here in Hanover, New Hampshire, wears tan suits with blue shirts.” You know, it's just—and buttons—all four buttons! You know, it's not just—it's just not the way most American males dress.
As Arianna joined the attack, a fourth button was sewn to the candidate's suit! As this comical embellishment occurred, we were also told that Candidate Gore was "now dressing [in a way that] makes a lot of people feel disconnected from him"—that it simply wasn't "the way most American males dress!"

Three weeks later, Fisher would hysterically say the suit had been "alien to virtually every American." So it went as disordered beings took their nation down.

Had Gore's alien wardrobe choices made people feel disconnected? Ever so possibly not! The weirdly disconnected candidate went on to defeat Candidate Bradley in the New Hampshire primary, and in every other primary in that campaign cycle—but the lunatic claims never stopped.

Brian Williams was still seeking psychiatric explanations for Gore's "three-button sweaters" [sic] as late as February 2000—and soon, another problem was spotted. At the New York Times, Maureen Dowd built a series of columns around the fact that the candidate was sporting a bald spot.

Donald J. Trump wasn't yet on the scene, but the lunacy never stopped. On the Sunday before Election Day in November 2000, Dowd's column started with Gore standing before a mirror, telling himself how pretty he felt, thus extending the "man-woman" theme.

Disordered headline included, this is the start of the column Dowd's newspaper chose to publish:
DOWD (11/5/00): I Feel Pretty

I feel stunning
And entrancing,
Feel like running and dancing for joy . . .


O.K., enough gloating. Behave, Albert. Just look in the mirror now and put on your serious I only-care-about-the-issues face.

If I rub in a tad more of this mahogany-colored industrial mousse, the Spot will disappear under my Reagan pompadour.
That was the seventh column Dowd built around "the Spot." Children are dead all over Iraq because these disordered beings acted this way in this era of Trump before Trump.

Hemingway said it best. "This is how Paris was in the early years when we were very poor and very happy."

That line closed the original version of A Moveable Feast, Hemingway's account of his years in Paris before being swallowed by fame.

Concerning the subject of today's report, we'll rewrite Hemingway thusly:

This is the way the press corps was when devotion to The Crazy began taking hold of their world.

This is the story of Trump before Trump—the story of one major Homo sapiens band in the years before Mister Trump's Disordered War ended life as we've always known it.

Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves (TM), a disconsolate group of future scholars, have tried to explain how "human nature"—our species' devotion to gossip and potent group fictions, with a high dose of intolerance thrown in the stew—led inexorably toward that war in the era of corporate "news." We've been bringing you their future analyses over the course of this year.

In closing today, we'll only add this:

You never hear about these events because the upper-end mainstream press corps doesn't want you to hear about them. But these crackpot events, multiplied a thousand times over, have received several monikers in the gloom-ridden world on the far side of Mister Trump's Enabled War:

Future scholars describe the press corps' crackpot behavior as an example of "Trump Before Trump." But they also describe this disordered history as The Rise of Leadership Down.

Tomorrow: Off with their heads!

Los Angeles may simply burn away!

TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2019

You won't have to hear this on cable:
Back in February, David Wallace-Wells published The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.

In the Sunday New York Times Book Review, John Lanchester praised the "brilliant new book." The book also received a strong review in the weekday New York Times.

When Wallace-Wells appeared on All In, Chris Hayes described him as "the author of an absolute must-read new book."

Two days ago, Wallace-Wells authored a new report in New York magazine. The report appears beneath these headlines:
Los Angeles Fire Season Is Beginning Again. And It Will Never End.
A bulletin from our climate future.
That last reference caught our eye. "He may be speaking with Future Climatologists Clinging to Rafts," one of our most trusted future sources despondently said.

For ourselves, it's been years since we believed that our dysfunctional human race was going to find a way to avoid future climate disaster. Especially in an era of tribalized for-profit news, we simply aren't wired for that sort of thing, or so it has long seemed to us.

Spooling through the new report from Wallace-Wells, we decided to check something out:

His book was widely praised upon its release. When he did a (short) segment on All In, Hayes called it "an absolute must-read."

Everyone knows that this brilliant new book deals with an existential threat to every child who will be born this week or this year. That said, how often did the multimillionaire stars of "cable news" set aside their love for The Chase to speak with Wallace-Wells?

Inquiring minds wanted to know! We suspect that you know what we found:

According to the Nexis archive, Rachel Maddow, Our Own Rhodes Scholar, has never mentioned Wallace-Wells. Neither have Lawrence, Brian, Ari or the other Chris, Chris Matthews.

According to the Nexis archive, Wallace-Wells has made one exactly appearance on MSNBC. That was the aforementioned interview with Hayes, which ran roughly five minutes.

Beyond that, we find no sign that Wallace-Wells has ever been interviewed on CNN. He appeared on the PBS NewsHour on March 1, on NPR's Morning Edition two weeks before that.

"Cable news" is a series of true crime dramas which concern The Chase. You'll be asked to think about nothing else, except for utterly useless White House polls and perhaps the occasional gaffe.

Your grandchildren will drown in the sea, but Rachel, Anderson and all the gang will simply continue to cash their million-dollar checks.

(You also won't hear about public schools. You won't be asked to wonder about the remarkable looting which defines American health care.)

When Wallace-Wells appeared with Hayes, his segment ended the program. Hayes then threw to Rachel Maddow. This is what she said:
HAYES (3/7/19): David Wallace-Wells, thank you for your time.

If you want to hear more about his book, The Uninhabitable Earth, or about this subject, you can check out our discussion on my podcast, "Why Is This Happening", which is available wherever you get your podcast.

That is All In this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

MADDOW: Good evening, Chris. Thanks my friend. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

Nothing like this has ever happened before. Almost. Ish. There was that one other time:

(VIDEOTAPE)
REPORTER: Today, a limousine brought former Attorney General John Mitchell to court. They used to call him "The Big Enchilada" at the White House. He came to be sentenced as a convicted felon.

For 64 days, this man sat in Judge Sirica's courtroom. When the time came for a final statement, Mitchell and his lawyer had nothing to say. All eyes were on the man who is known as Maximum John.

The judge wasted no time on a speech. Mitchell, Haldeman and Ehrlichman must serve at least 2 1/2 years in prison, maybe as long as eight years.

Judge Sirica would not comment on the case as he left the courthouse. John Mitchell left, growling, "It could have been worse. He could have sentenced me to spend the rest of my life with Martha Mitchell."
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: "It could have been worse. He could have sentenced me to spend the rest of my life with Martha Mitchell, my wife—my ex-wife."
Maddow turned straight to her second most favorite pursuit, the one in which she tells her viewers that we're acting out Our Own Watergate Drama. Needless to say, imprisonment was involved.

Rachel continues to cash her large checks. The public continues to get itself conned as Future Children of the Earth prepare to drown in the sea.

This is the way corporate "cable news" works. According to Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves, con men have always functioned this way. We the people have always signed on.

We're simply reporting the way this works. You can decide how you feel.

A bit later today: A bit later today, Nicolle Wallace will introduce her panelists. She will describe them as "some of our favorite reporters and friends."

Has any TV host ever talked down to the public in such an undisguised way? For the record, every one of her favorite reporters and friends will agree with every word Wallace has chosen to say.

You won't learn about future death in the sea. You'll hear about one thing—The Chase.

The Others will be very bad, while We will be admirable, pure.

THE RISE OF LEADERSHIP DOWN: Jones didn't start Leadership Down!

TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2019

Neither did Donald J. Trump:
To contemplate the gruesome effects of Leaderhip Down, we'll suggest that you take a look at Gene Lyons' syndicated column from last week.

Lyons wrote about an action Facebook had taken. As Lyons wrote, Facebook had "announced that it was banning a bunch of crackpot conspiracy theorists and professional race-baiters from its platform."

One such crackpot was Alex Jones, star of both the Genesis Communications radio network and the crackpot Infowars website. Lyons described Jones' work:
LYONS (5/8/19): Just to remind you, Jones is currently being sued for his bizarre insistence that the 2012 massacre of 26 children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was a hoax—supposedly an Obama-orchestrated theatrical spectacle to promote gun control.

It's not going well for him.

Another of Infowars' greatest hits was a 2016 YouTube posting in which Jones asserted that Hillary Clinton had raped, murdered and dismembered scores of children. "Yeah, you heard me right," he claimed. "Hillary Clinton has personally murdered children. I just can't hold back the truth anymore."
Simply put, Alex Jones couldn't hold the truth back any more!

Does Jones believe the claims he makes, or is he merely a con man? We can't answer that question.

But as modern history has made clear, the country is full of people who will believe even the most transparently crazy claims. The leading authority on the "Pizzagate" claim about Hillary Clinton—the claim about all the child abuse—recalls one horrid result:
On December 4, 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch, a 28-year-old man from Salisbury, North Carolina, fired three shots in the restaurant with an AR-15-style rifle, striking walls, a desk, and a door. Welch later told police that he had planned to "self-investigate" the conspiracy theory. Welch saw himself as the potential hero of the story—a rescuer of children. He surrendered after officers surrounded the restaurant and was arrested without incident No one was injured.

Welch told police he had read online that the Comet restaurant was harboring child sex slaves and that he wanted to see for himself if they were there. In an interview with The New York Times, Welch later said that he regretted how he had handled the situation but did not dismiss the conspiracy theory, and rejected the description of it as "fake news". Some conspiracy theorists speculated that the shooting was a staged attempt to discredit their investigations.
Presumably, Welch was some version of "mentally ill." He'd heard that Clinton was trafficking children, and he wanted the terrible conduct to stop.

In his column, Lyons noted the fact that Donald J. Trump had been on the record as a ginormous fan of Jones. "In the midst of the 2016 campaign, the candidate gave Jones' radio program a 30-minute telephone interview," Lyons wrote.

"Your reputation is amazing," Trump had admiringly said to his crackpot host.

As for Trump himself, he had spent the previous five years spreading various crackpot claims about President Obama—claims the New York Times was too timid to challenge directly, even in a front-page report about Candidate Trump's "birtherism" in July 2016.

For what it's worth, many major entities have played a role, whether active or passive, in our society's growing spread of crazy ideas. In this morning's New York Times, Michelle Goldberg recalls the role played by Fox News in the spread of Trump's birtherism.

"During Barack Obama’s administration, Trump was a frequent presence on Fox, where he spread conspiracy theories about the president’s birth certificate that had circulated on conservative blogs and far-right websites," Goldberg writes.

In fact, it was Greta van Susteren who served as Trump's host and enabler during his many appearances on Fox. That said, so what? Cable star Rachel Maddow described van Susteren as her drinking buddy and her great friend when Van Susteren was hired by MSNBC in January 2017.

As she promoted her network's newest hire, Maddow praised van Susteren for her brilliant journalism. Unless she was simply lying, Maddow had been drinking with her great pal during the years when van Susteren was taking millions of dollars from Fox to help Trump spread his crazy claims all through the world.

All such parties have played a role in the deeply dangerous, deeply destructive spread of Leadership Down.

When a nation's multimillionaire TV "journalists" behave in these ways, that nation is destined to suffer. That said, it's worth remembering that the modern promulgation of crazy claims didn't start with Alex Jones or with Donald J. Trump.

Our modern politics had been plagued by the spread of crazy claims for at least three decades by the time Donald J. Trump offered his birther claims. During that period, some of the crazy claims actually came from upper-end journalists, in a deadly example of (journalistic) Leadership Down.

Crazy claims didn't enter the bloodstream of modern politics through the work of Trump or Jones. Let's think back to the Reverend Falwell, the unmistakably holy man of God who spent a good chunk of the 1990s peddling a crackpot film around.

There was no Internet at that time. As Crackpot Barbie used to say, selling The Crazy was hard!

Rolling up his sleeves while possibly reaching for his wallet, the Reverend Falwell put his godly virtues to work selling a godly film called The Clinton Chronicles. Many people were unable to see that the film was loaded with crackpot claims. The leading authority on the film describes one part of its influence:
The movie helped perpetuate a conspiracy theory known as the "Clinton Body Count" about a list of associates Clinton was purported to have had killed. The Los Angeles Times reported that Larry Nichols, who appears throughout the film and is the primary source for a number of the murder and mysterious death claims, was fired from his Arkansas state government job and once admitted to an Associated Press reporter to being motivated by spite. The fact checking site TruthOrFiction.com states that "There is no credible evidence that any of the deaths is related or can be attributed to Bill Clinton."
By the summer of 1999, press corps favorite Gennifer Flowers was deeply involved in peddling the Clinton Body Count through her pay-to-read, for-profit web site. In a complete and total accident, Chris Matthews invited her to appear on Hardball for a lengthy half-hour interview without having any awareness, knowledge or understanding of this unfortunate fact.

Over Matthews' protests—and plainly, his protests were fully sincere—Flowers repeated her ludicrous claims about all the people Bill and Hillary Clinton had killed. As Flowers did this, Matthews told her how amazingly smokin' hot she was.

Major press critics didn't say boo. This silence was another example of (journalistic) Leadership Down.

Falwell was peddling crackpot claims long before Donald J. Trump began pretending that he'd sent gumshoes to Hawaii to check Obama out. As Falwell spread his crazy claims, major press organs sat on their hands, unwilling to speak too loudly.

In recent years, Jones has been one of the primary sources of the crazy claims which have polluted our culture. Donald J. Trump has spread crazy claims too. But along the way, so have major members of the mainstream press.

When Matthews clowned with Gennifer Flowers, that was Leadership Down. When mainstream journalists averted their gaze, their leadership also went down.

That said, the loss of journalistic leadership had started decades earlier. We refer to matters where crazy or badly disordered claims came live and direct from the mainstream press, not from outside players like Trump, Falwell and Jones.

Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves (TM), a trademarked yet disconsolate group which reports to us from the devastation of the future, tells us we're in the last few years before the start of Mister Trump's Widely Enabled War.

They tell us we're waiting "on the beach," that the die has already been cast.

The crazy claims about Presidents Clinton and Obama largely came from outside sources. But by the time of the White House campaign of Clinton's chosen successor, Candidate Gore, the crazy claims were coming from the mainstream press corps itself.

That said, the weird behavior the press corps displayed had been under construction for years.

Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves tell us there was never any escaping this profoundly destructive history. "It's just the way we humans were wired," they've frequently despondently said. "The wiring was never all that good. Eventually, the journalistic rewards just became too damn high."

That's the way these anthropologists explain the downward spiral which eventually took us to war. Due to their different training, Future Historians of the High Chaparral take a different approach:

As they focus on the era's history, these future scholars frequently point to the role which was played by the mainstream press. They describe the pathetic events of this "end times" era as The Rise of Leadership Down.

Tomorrow: As crazy as Trump, before Trump

Where do embellished accounts come from?

MONDAY, MAY 13, 2019

One last intriguing account of What Harris/Barr Said:
"Mommy, where do embellished facts come from?"

In this media-savvy modern world, 6-year-old children now ask that question pretty much every day of the week.

According to academic research, mothers are confronted with that awkward question a full 63 percent of the time. According to one study, fathers will more often be "working" in the garage, or they'll be off at the bar "with the boys."

Whatever! Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves, the association of disconsolate scholars who report to us from the eons which lie beyond Mister Trump's Post-Rational War, have told us where our species' endless assortment of embellished facts come or came from.

"Embellished facts? They came from us the so-called humans," these scholars have repeatedly said.

As humans, we were always wired to embellish claims about The Others, these future academics have told us. We instinctively did this in the course of inventing the potent group "fictions" to which Professor Harari referred in the best-selling book which was endorsed and blurbed by Bill Gates and Obama.

According to these future savants, we humans were always wired to work that way. Consider what Rachel said this past Friday night, they told us over the weekend.

The "Rachel" to whom they referred was of course Rachel Maddow. Last Friday evening, she interviewed James Baker, who served as general counsel in James Comey's FBI.

At one point, Maddow asked Baker to comment on Kamala Harris' now-famous Q-and-A with William Barr. We discussed Harris' widely cited question last week. Here's the way Maddow described it:
MADDOW (5/10/19): There was an awkward moment last week in the Senate Judiciary Committee when Senator Kamala Harris of California was asking questions of Attorney General Barr.

And she asked if the president or the White House had ever put pressure on the Justice Department, put pressure on the attorney general, to initiate an investigation...against one of the president's enemies for legal purposes. And Attorney General Barr wouldn't answer directly.
According to Maddow, this is what happened:

Harris asked Barr if President Trump (or "the White House") "ever put pressure on [Barr] to initiate an investigation against one of the president's enemies.


According to Maddow, that's what Harris asked Barr. Also according to Maddow, here's the way Barr responded:

"Barr wouldn't answer directly," Maddow said.

You'll note that Maddow embellished the actual language of Harris' actual question. As we showed you several times last week, here is the actual (four-part) question Harris actually asked:

"Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?"

Maddow made matters more dramatic by amping "asked or suggested" up to "pressured." This made it seem even more amazing when we were told that Barr "wouldn't answer directly."

Maddow made Harris' question more dramatic. Meanwhile, how about her latest account of Barr's response? Is it really true that he "wouldn't answer directly?"

We'd call that claim perhaps a bit embellished too! As we showed you several times last week, Barr said this at one point:

"They have not asked me to open an investigation, but—"

At that point, Harris interrupted Barr, as such people often do. But didn't that statement by Barr seem like a bit of a direct answer? And as the exchange continued directly, Barr also said this:
HARRIS: Perhaps they have suggested?

BARR: I don't know. I wouldn't say suggest—
At that point, Barr was interrupted again. One week later, Maddow was saying that he'd been asked a more dramatic question, and that he'd failed to answer directly.

Last Friday, several future anthropologists were struck by the way Maddow extended the process they describe as "tribal embellishment practice" in their official cave paintings.

We humans always behaved this way, they later sadly told us. This is the way the more "red-asped" of us humans routinely behaved on the way to the latest of our endless tribal wars.

Did Donald J. Trump ever ask Barr to open an investigation? It almost seemed that Barr said no—but Harris, a skilled politician, was careful "not to ask him directly." Or at least, so these occasionally whimsical future scholars have said.

After that, along came Maddow! In our view, she embellished other matters as she spoke with Baker last Friday night—but then, what else is new on this cult of personality-driven, corporate cable TV show?

Embellishment was an instinct bred in the bone. The instinct prevailed in every tribe. Members of all human tribes were instinctively inclined to cheer such conduct on.

This is one of the instinctive ways we ended up with Mister Trump's War. Or at least, so a disconsolate gang of despondent scholars have somewhat despairingly said.

This just in: Future Rhetoricians of Limited Reach have weighed in with some thoughts about Harris' ballyhooed questioning procedure. According to this widely-ignored rag-tag band, Harris should have said this:

"Has President Trump ever asked you to open an investigation?"

Her first question should have stopped right there, these experts have hotly insisted. After waiting for Barr to answer, she could have moved to her next (non-compound) question.

"Compound questions were often a skillful dodge," one of these analysts scornfully said. With a genuine edge in her voice, she spoke to us from the future.

FROM THE "BASIC SKILL LEVELS" FILE: Digest of reports!

MONDAY, MAY 13, 2019

Starting tomorrow, The Rise of Leadership Down:
Yesterday, we published an extremely rare Sunday report. It related to our ongoing study, a month-long effort which appears beneath the award-winning rubric, Leadership Down.

Good God! A full eighteen months from next year's presidential election, the New York Times had published a front-page report which skillfully told us this:
She believes that Wisconsin—where 22,000 votes separated Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016—"could go either way" in next year’s election.
Were you able to follow that? Next year's election could go either way in the state of Wisconsin! For the record, the "she" who offered that deathless assessment was NAME WITHHELD, "a Democratic pollster who has worked in Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest."

Alas! The fatuous focus on useless polls is a principal part of upper-end mainstream press corps culture. It represents a familiar part of journalistic "leadership down."

That utterly pointless report on Wisconsin showcased this devotion to "horse race" reporting. This morning, the Times has chosen to showcase another part of broken press corps culture.

In print editions, it's the sprawling featured report in the "National" section. Sadly, the hard-copy headline says this:
With Aides on High Alert, Biden Keeps Gaffes to a Minimum
Sad! The ridiculous piece goes on and on about the idea that Candidate Biden "is given to malapropisms." Left unsaid is a much more troubling fact:

Along with their devotion to utterly useless horse race polls, our modern upper-end mainstream journalists love "gaffes" more than life itself. These twin devotions—to horse race coverage and gaffe culture—help define the modern state of journalistic "leadership down."

Starting tomorrow, we ponder the rise of this pitiful state—The Rise of Leadership Down. We expect to reach all the way back to the (truly remarkable) spinning of Candidate Muskie—by several of his poker partners within the upper-end press!

For our original reports on Leadership Down, you can just click here. Last week, we considered several aspects of the sad state of affairs often described, by future scholars, as Basic Skill Levels Down.

Last week, it was Basic Skill Levels Down! Our reports went exactly like this:
Tuesday, May 7: Emba paraphrased Senator Harris. Let's see what she actually said!

Wednesday, May 8: Harris asked an excellent question. But she didn't quite seek a reply!

Thursday, May 9: A unified theory of Skill Levels Down leads us towards What Trump Said!

Friday, May 10:
Parker actually quoted Trump! But her basic skill levels stayed down.
So many skill levels, so little time! Starting tomorrow, the painful, deeply embarrassing Rise of Leadership Down!

Coming next week: Professoriate Down!

We don't normally post on Sundays!

SUNDAY, MAY 12, 2019

Having said that, good God:
We don't normally post on Sundays. Having said that, good God!

Perusing the New York Times on-line, we encountered this headline and synopsis linked to a hard-copy front-page report:
Trump Has a Strong Economy to Proclaim. In Wisconsin, It Just Might Work.
With good job creation and low unemployment, the president may have a winning message—if he can stay on it—in crucial swing counties near the Mississippi River.
Lord god of hosts and good God!

The election in question occurs next year—late in the year at that! It's a big dish of crazy to be making assessments like this, on page A1, roughly eighteen months out.

The savants and soothsayers failed to predict the last election the night before it occurred. Bloodied but completely unbowed, they've quickly returned to the types of behaviors Future Press Critics sadly describe as "the complete total pointlessness wars."

As least as far as we bothered to read, nothing said in that front-page report can be stamped "untrue." That said, the report begins with an assessment by apparent Wisconsin voter Bubba Benson (sic), "who lives paycheck to paycheck but says that is still better than where he was a few years ago," and fairly quickly reduces us to this:
She believes that Wisconsin—where 22,000 votes separated Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016—"could go either way" in next year’s election.
Interesting! The election could go either way in the state of Wisconsin next year!

We stopped reading at that point. That assessment came from NAME WITHHELD, "a Democratic pollster who has worked in Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest."

Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves (TM), a disconsolate group of future scholars who report to us from the aftermath of Mister Trump's Multiply Triggered War, offered the obvious critique of this latest Hamptons-based groaner. Their statement came in a press release from the group's official press organ:
FAHIC NEWS: As humans, we were always wired to behave in these ways. It will be fatuous "horse race" coverage all the way down. Anthropologically speaking, this is simply the way we humans were made, adjusting for corporate influence.
On cable, they'll show you their polls then say it's way too early!

Only the polls and The Chase are discussed. Eventually, Mister Trump's War!