The worst talking-point of them all: This Sunday, on Meet the Press, our old semi-pal Chuck Todd was chatting with Candidate Pence.
Personally, we like Chuck Todd. We can't say that we liked the oration shown below, in which he recited a series of current talking-points.
The talking-points drove a familiar old narrative. We'll highlight the worst talking-point:
TODD (9/4/16): The other big news story this week, of course, besides Trump's immigration muddle: in a Friday news dump, the FBI took the rare step of releasing notes from its 3.5-hour interview with Hillary Clinton in July about a private server.There were a few more, but let's stop there. For the full transcript, click here.
There was no recording, just notes. We'll explain that in a little bit. The top take-aways from the notes:
Clinton claims she did not understand basic classification procedures. She didn't recall any training how to handle classified information.
In fact, Clinton told the FBI that, quote, she could not recall or could not remember key details more than three dozen times.
She even told the FBI she thought the C on an e-mail referred to the order of paragraphs instead of, quote, the word confidential, which is the lowest level of classification.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell advised Clinton, according to her, to be, quote, very careful in how she used private e-mail.
And the FBI notes show that a computer specialist, whose name was redacted, deleted an archive of Clinton e-mails just weeks after the existence of Clinton's private server became public in March of 2015.
In our view, that represents the latest case of seven- or eight-figure corporate journalistic misfeasance. (We haven't seen Chuck's pay stubs.) In that passage, Todd recites a set of claims which have been shorn of all context. In all cases, the withholding of context paints Candidate Clinton in a less flattering light.
For one example, consider that advice from Colin Powell:
In the context of the FBI document (see page 11), it seems fairly clear that Powell was advising Clinton to be "very careful" to handle her email in a way which would let her evade freedom of information requests.
In other words, Powell was advising Clinton to be evasive with her emails. By dropping the fuller context, Todd inevitably conveyed the impression that the famous "good guy" Powell was telling Clinton to be very careful with the now-controversial security aspects of her email use.
It also seems fairly clear in the report that the FBI directly quoted an email from Powell telling Clinton to be "very careful" (again, see page 11). Todd made it sound like those were Clinton's words. Given the money the corporation pays Todd, that's pure journalistic malpractice.
Given what's at stake in all this, we'd call that a firing offense. But remember—the character of corporate journalists like Todd will never be discussed by anyone in the corporate press. The corporate press corps will only discuss the "character problems" of those they target. Their own remarkable character flaws will always go unmentioned and unexplored.
Todd omitted basic context from all the statements shown above. After reciting these talking-points, he then returned to his interview with Pence, who instantly told him this:
"It's just more evidence that Hillary Clinton is the most dishonest candidate for president of the United States since Richard Nixon."
When claims like those are floating around, a multimillionaire like Todd has a responsibility to be extremely careful with his presentations. At best, we'd say he was "extremely careless," if we might borrow a shopworn term.
Might we note another problem with Todd's work? We refer to the way he repeatedly uses the term "quote" in this passage without ever saying "unquote."
Inevitably, this practice can produce confusion about where his "quotations" end. And yes, this actually makes a difference. Here's the way the Nexis Meet the Press transcript punctuates part of Todd's recitation:
TODD: In fact, Clinton told the FBI that, quote, she "could not recall or could not remember key details more than 3 dozen times."As best we can tell, that apparent quotation doesn't exist in the FBI document. We'll guess that Todd should have said "unquote" after the word "recall."
Indeed, the official NBC transcript punctuates that passage like this:
TODD: In fact, Clinton told the F.B.I. that, quote, she, "could not recall" or "could not remember" key details more than three dozen times.In some cases, the text of the actual quotations to which Todd referred appeared on the screen, letting viewers see where the actual quotations ended. That wasn't the case in this instance. There was no way for a Meet the Press viewer to know what the true quotation was. Whoever assembled the Nexis transcript presumably just took a guess.
Again and again, this is the slipshod, slapdash way our seven- and eight-figure corporate news stars work. The more these people get paid, the lazier they seem to be with their journalistic practices.
Having said that, let us also say this—the passage we just posted is the worst talking-point of them all.
All over our big news orgs, everyone is repeating some version of that claim. Hillary Clinton kept saying she couldn't recall! She said she couldn't recall 37 times!
In the past several decades of scandal promulgation, this may be the dumbest play our "journalists" have placed in their playbook. In this instance, it's dumber than dumb. Our explanation takes two steps:
First, nothing is dumber than counting up the number of times someone says she can't recall in the course of a lengthy interview. In a matter like this, the subject is being asked about events, including some rather minute events, which occurred years before. Inevitably, the subject won't recall the details of many such transactions.
Inevitably, the subject will have been instructed to say that she doesn't recall, rather than to take the risk of making a statement which will turn out to be false. Such interviews almost always produce a lot of "I don't recalls."
For these reasons, it's very, very, very dumb to count up the "I don't recalls." For that very reason, our pseudo-journalists love this procedure more than life itself.
In this case, though, the journalistic offense is even worse than that. We'll let Tommy Christopher of The Daily Banter explain how gruesome it actually is:
CHRISTOPHER (9/5/16): If you've been watching the news, you probably think Hillary just sat there and told the FBI "I can't recall" over and over again during her interview, because that's what they're saying she did:By definition, a person can't "recall" an event if that event never happened. According to Christopher's count, fifteen of Clinton's "don't recalls" fit that general description.
The fact is, though, the notes themselves don't contain a single instance of that, because as has been feverishly noted, this report was not a transcript of the interview, because the interview was not recorded. What we have here is not Hillary Clinton “(telling) the FBI ‘I do not recall’ 39 times,” but rather, 39 examples of an FBI agent saying Hillary could not recall something.
That seems like a minute distinction, until you actually look at the examples being cited. “Did not recall” is FBI-speak that doesn’t actually mean someone can’t remember something that they should be able to remember, as evidenced by the 15 times Hillary Clinton is said to “not recall” things that she would have no reason to recall because there’s no evidence they happened.
For example, “Clinton did not recall receiving any emails she thought should not be on an unclassified system” because she, in fact, did not receive any emails she thought should not be on an unclassified system. She couldn’t recall using a flip-phone while she was at State because as far as anyone knows, she didn’t use a flip-phone while she was at State.
If you read the FBI document, you'll also see quite a few passages where Clinton says she doesn't "remember specifically" some specific email from six or seven years before. The talking-point the chimps are reciting is built on nonsense like that.
In a rational world, that performance by Todd would get him fired. He'd be looking for a job.
That said, he was just doing what everyone else is currently doing. The chimps on Morning Joe were leaping about their cage today as they toyed with this talking-point. Our upper-end "celebrity press corps" has functioned this way for years.
In this way, they're driving along a "character narrative" which goes back some twenty-four years. They defeated Candidate Gore this way. They may well do it again.
Why do our corporate TV stars do such things? We don't have the slightest idea, and they will never tell.