DAYS OF SCANDAL AND EXCITEMENT: Hewitt says the corps ran wild!

THURSDAY, MAY 11, 2017

Cooper goes 7 on 1:
"These are the days of miracle and wonder," Paul Simon once alleged.

He advanced his claim in 1986. Times have changed since then.

At the dinner hour this past Tuesday night, Donald J. Trump directed James Comey to spend more time with his family. With that one act, we entered these current days—these days of excitement and scandal.

How vast was the excitement that night? So vast that conservative talker Hugh Hewitt may even have made a decent point in today's Washington Post.

Hewitt is in his early days as a columnist at the Post. He isn't especially troubled by Comey's dismissal. Instead, he makes some unflattering claims about the press corps' reactions to same:
HEWITT (5/11/17): There are, in fact, plenty of superb candidates [for the post of FBI Director] who would bring stature and independence to the job.

But first we have to endure a few days of over-the-top takes from the always overwrought mainstream media. This isn’t the “Saturday Night Massacre.” There are no tapes, no subpoenas for presidential documents, no resignations from the Justice Department, but instead recommendations from the Justice Department. It’s four months into an administration, not four years. In short, the overwrought media has toppled into hysteria again.
That's the way the column ends, with those unflattering claims.

Ignore Hewitt's judgment about Trump's recent action. We focus on the press corps here, not on the politicians.

Try to focus on the press. In the current instance, does Hewitt possibly have a point about their recent reactions?

For ourselves, we're inclined to assume that the actions of Donald J. Trump will almost always look like the work of a badly disordered man. Comey has been a bit of a hot rolling mess, but Trump seems vastly disordered.

That said, what about the men and women of the mainstream press? How have they conducted themselves in the wake of Comey's dismissal? Is it fair to say they've been "overwrought?" Have they "toppled into hysteria?"

We may do several posts on that general topic in the next few days. For starters, let's briefly review the modern history of televised pundit excitement.

To some extent, it started on 60 Minutes, with James J. Kilpatrick (conservative) battling liberal Shana Alexander (liberal). If memory serves, they generated lots of excitement and heat, perhaps some occasional light.

That said, the format was one-against-one at the start. When cable arrived, that format was formalized on CNN's Crossfire:

One liberal host, one conservative host! So too with each show's pair of guests!

(We guested on the program once, in the "liberal" chair.)

Inevitably, the Fox News Channel produced a better idea. Yes, they had Hannity & Colmes for many years—a program which, at least in the formal sense, worked on a one-on-one basis.

(We even guested on that.)

But then, good God! In 2011, the Fox News Channel invented The Five. In an undisguised parody of "fair and balanced," the program featured five co-equal panelists—but four of the five were conservatives!

Only one of the five was a liberal! On Fox, the balance for a fair pundit fight was now set at four-against-one.

Because The Five was quite successful, MSNBC tried to copy its ways. They created an unsuccessful program, The Cycle, where the suitable ideological balance was set at three-against-one.

(Starting in 2013, Abbie Huntsman was the lone conservative. Today, she has massively dumbed herself down, thus qualifying for her current role as the young woman between the two guys on the weekend Fox & Friends. Good God, she plays it dumb there!)

How quaint our early pundit days seem—days when a fair food fight among TV pundits was defined as one-against-one. That said, we were struck by the ridiculous behavior on Anderson Cooper's CNN program this Tuesday night.

On this exciting occasion, Cooper's hugely excited, eight-member panel broke down seven to one.

Ken Cuccinelli was the lone conservative in the eight-member panel. We thought he argued his claims rather well—and his overall claims weren't cartoonish. Beyond that:

In sharp distinction to some other guests, he conducted himself with what is typically called "professionalism."

Some of Cooper's other pundits possibly maybe did not. Most strikingly, David Gregory's excitement kept leading him to direct visible scorn at Cuccinelli as he kept interrupting him.

Especially given Gregory's former status within the industry, his behavior was quite striking. We'd say he was dumbly, overtly rude. He may be the nicest guy in the world. His performance that night was childish, silly, embarrassing.

Others in The Seven did better—but did we mention their number? The Seven kept over-talking each other as they tried to shout down The One. Rather plainly, Cuccinelli seemed to have been cast in the role of Piggy.

As we watched Cooper's program that night, we were struck by the journalistic disorder. Rather plainly, we were watching the start of the current days of excitement and scandal.

Excitement can be very exciting. That said, it isn't a journalistic trait. It tends to produce a lot of heat and over-simplification. without producing real light.

Last night, other cable stars were excited, even on The One True Liberal Channel. In their excitement, they kept pretending they had answers to various questions—answers they didn't yet have.

They kept pretending they were dealing in facts—facts they hadn't established. They kept disappearing other facts—actual facts which would have made their stories less simplistic, less simple-minded.

They rushed to explain the Rosenstein matter. They didn't yet have the slightest idea what had gone on in this typically disordered production by Donald J. Trump.

The children were very excited last night; this can be lots of fun. They were excited about the claim that Comey was fired because he'd asked for more funding. They were excited by the claim that the number-two man at the FBI might be a big Commie too.

(Needless to say, that was Maddow. She seemed to be basing her central claim on something Reince Priebus once said!)

We heard a lot of exciting claims. We kept failing to hear the documentation—the evidence which would establish these claims. Elsewhere, people have been rushing to jump to conclusions. This is the way excited mobs tend to run through streets.

Conduct like this is very exciting. It's also bad journalistic practice.

This is the way our press corps works. While fascinating and comical, it's a tough game to watch.


  1. I don't know if Ad hominem hurts or helps, but it is certainly the order of the day here, and, with more sadness than rancor, it is impossible to escape the fact Bob Somerby is an idiot.

    Donald Trumps lies are not exactly like typical lies, or the typical subterfuge that is politics. They are admonishments to kiss his ass. He more or less grabs his genitals and screams "I've got your common decency right here!!" Such men don't not care about truth and lies. The people who vote for them do not not care about truth and lies.

    And really, neither does Bob Somerby. He has some strange score to settle with evil wise guy liberals, and those who check back in from time to time to see this car accident get nothing but this kind of garbage. And YES, yes, soon enough we will look away for good. I promise.

    1. Go away troll

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  2. What is amazing about all this is that the express rationale for the firing in Rosenstein's memo is that Comey violated DOJ and FBI policy in his July, 2016 press conference by not simply stating that the investigation was closed and leaving it at that; by slamming Clinton for being extremely careless; and by usurping the role of the DOJ in deciding no prosecution was warranted. He compounded that by his letter in October about Huma's computer. The memo is very strong, with cites to various other dem and GOP FBI and DOJ people, all condemning Comey, for basically screwing Clinton. I doubt that many will have read the Rosenstein memo - and I am pretty sure that very view understand its full import - that Comey was fired because of his egregious violation of policy and principles of fairness in trashing Clinton - made worse because it was in the middle of an election campaign. For this dems, liberals, and people with common sense themselves should have demanded Comey's head (some did) - but anyone following the so-called liberal msm will get only a truncated, weak paraphrase of what Rosenstein says - i.e,Comey was fired because of the way he handled the emails (suggesting that Comey was fired because he didn't choose to prosecute Clinton).
    Most of the discussion is about the implausibility of the rationale given - that the real reason is because of the investigation of the Russian connection to the Trump campaign. I don't disagree with that, but the other component, that Trump fired Comey because he egregiously mistreated Clinton, in substance suggesting that Trump won because of Comey, is translated in a very watered-down version in the msm.

    1. Comey had the right to announce there was no prosecution of Clinton because the AG had previously said she would abide by his recommendation, recusing her office because of Bill Clinton's tarmac visit to her.

      Other possible reasons for Comey's firing include: (1) refusing to drop the Russia inquiries, (2) tefusing to drop Flynn prosecution and/or other grand juries, (3) refusing to prosecute/investigate Clinton and/or Clinton Foundation, (4) refusung to intervene in NY Rico prosecution of Trump businesses, (5) refusing to back off Ivanka investigations, (6) refusing to say Obama wiretapped him, (7) refusing to layoff Assange -- and these are just the things we know about.

      I think some excitement is warranted. Trump didn't fire Comey properly but it does matter that he may be obstructing justice.

  3. Scott Adams (Dilbert cartoonist) generally thinks Trump is behaving cleverly, in a way that his critics fail to comprehend. Adams's view of the Comey firing is worth reading in full. Key section:
    Trump cleverly addressed the FBI’s Russian collusion investigation by putting the following line in the Comey firing letter: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

    That one odd sentence caused every media outlet to display the quote and talk about it, over and over. And when you focus on something, no matter the reason, it rises in importance in your mind. President Trump, the Master Persuader, made all of us think about the “not under investigation” part over, and over, and over.

    The trick here is that members of Trump’s campaign might be the ones under investigation, not Trump himself. But that’s where the complexity of this topic is useful to the Master Persuader. The viewing public won’t make that distinction. All they will hear – over and over – is the “not under investigation” part.

    I’ve taught you in this blog that the right amount of “wrong” is what captures our attention and creates a memory. Trump’s odd inclusion of the “not under investigation” line is just wrong enough that we can’t move past it. It is persuasion-perfect.

    1. Is that why Trump is claiming he invented the phrase "prime the pump"? More 10-dimensional chess?

    2. mm -- Is it really against the law for the President to ask the head of the FBI if he's under investigation, and for the head of the FBI to tell the President that he isn't under investigation? Can you show evidence that this would be illegal?

    3. From what I've heard on cable news, it is not illegal but it is obstruction of justice and would be an impeachable offense. It is certainly improper.

      It is also stupid because it leads people to ask why the President would do it. With Trump, he is transparently so anxious about the investigation, acting out so much that he might as well shout his guilt from a rooftop.

    4. If Scott Adams is going to serious suggest that Trump's communication strategy is competent, he needs to address this:

      Why would Trump spend the evening showing off for Time Magazine reporters instead of giving his own staff a head's up so that they could respond to questions about Comey's firing? That is just not smart.

    5. not mm - If Comey's answer were "Yes, Mr. Trump, you are being investigated", and Trump thereupon fired Comey, that would look like obstruction of justice. But, in reality Trump fired Comey even though Comey said Trump wasn't under invesitgation.

    6. Those conversations never happened because Comey would say "I can't discuss that with you." Trump is a liar.

    7. David in Cal

      You are being conned if you think Trump is behaving cleverly. Trump exhibits not a whit of cleverness, he most resembles an impetuous child, forever seeking attention to fill the emptiness of being abandoned by his father (to whom he never showed gratitude for giving Trump millions of dollars and ready-made deals and repeatedly bailing him out of his endless business failures).

      It is reported Comey NEVER informed Trump that he was not under investigation. The reason why that sentence is "an odd inclusion" is because it is apparently FALSE. Indeed, David, Trump famously whines and cries like a pathetic baby about being under investigation by Obama. In fact, in Comey's testimony on March 20 to the House Intelligence Agency, he revealed that Trump has been under investigation for ties with Russia since July 2016.

      In reality, David, Trump fired Comey because Comey was ramping up the investigation into Trump's collusion with Russia to steal the election.

    8. Comrade Dinky, you are an ass. The President did fire Comey right after he testified under oath that there is indeed and ongoing investigation into the trump campaign collusion with Russian interference in our election. That's a fucking fact. Trump was out of line and it was completely unethical for him to even ask Comey about it, the firs time during Comey's job interview where he demanded personal loyalty from Comey. This is fucking mind blowing banana republic bullshit and you are just fine and dandy with it. It wasn't just trump firing the man leading the investigation into his own campaign that indicates clear intent to obstruct the investigation - the First Article of Impeachment of another one of your star presidents, Richard M. Nixon - trump has repeatedly interfered and intruded unethically into the investigation. Including just recently where he was literally slandering and attempting to intimidate a witness - Sally Yates - prior to her testimony to the Senate. The Nunes fiasco, his false slanderous allegations that Obama was bugging him - a clear pattern by trump to impede, distract and obstruct the investigation.

      This is what a real President is supposed to do:

      WALLACE: Mr. President, when you say what you’ve just said, when Josh Earnest said, as he did -- your spokesman -- in January, the information from the Justice Department is she’s not a target, some people I think are worried whether or not -- the decision whether or not, how to handle the case, will be made on political grounds, not legal grounds.

      Can you guarantee to the American people, can you direct the Justice Department to say, "Hillary Clinton will be treated -- as the evidence goes, she will not be in any way protected."

      OBAMA: I can guarantee that. And I can guarantee that, not because I give Attorney General Lynch a directive, that is institutionally how we have always operated.

      I do not talk to the Attorney General about pending investigations. I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations. We have a strict line, and always have maintained it, previous president.

      WALLACE: So, just to button this up --

      OBAMA: I guarantee it.

      WALLACE: You --

      OBAMA: I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department, or the FBI, not just in this case, but in any case.

      WALLACE: And she will be --

      OBAMA: Full stop. Period.

      WALLACE: And she will be treated no different --

      OBAMA: Guaranteed. Full stop. Nobody gets treated differently when it comes to the Justice Department, because nobody is above the law.

      WALLACE: Even if she ends up as the Democratic nominee?

      OBAMA: How many times do I have to say it, Chris? Guaranteed.

    9. Now what are you going to say, Comrade Dinky?

      He's a showboat, he's a grandstander....Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey....And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, "You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should've won."

      As Kevin Drum writes,

      So there's the president himself, on national TV, telling everyone that the Russia investigation was at the top of his mind when he decided to fire Comey. He was angry that Comey had kept the Russia investigation alive even though it was obviously just a bogus partisan smear, so out he went.

    10. OK, that is enough. This unhinged maniac needs to have a subpoena slapped on him immediately, then frog marched out of the WH in cuffs, and placed under oath. Period. Full stop.

      The mad pussygrabber pervert traitor Mad King just tweeted out this morning:

      Donald J. Trump‏
      James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

    11. Trump is warning Comey against leaking false information. Tapes of conversations would be no threat against true leaks.

    12. You are a fucking cretin comrade.

      The President of the United States does not discuss ongoing investigations with the Director of the FBI. FULL STOP PERIOD

      The President of the United States does not secretly and illegally record dinner conversation with the Director of the FBI in which he repeatedly insinuated to the Director of the FBI that his job depended on his loyalty. FULL STOP.

    13. Scott Adams??? He's as unhinged as Trump.

    14. Tapes of conversations would be no threat against true leaks.

      It's a diversionary bluff, you stupid ignoramous. Of course he doesn't have a "tape" you credulous ignorant treasonous cretin. This is throwing distraction mud to get the media chasing another one of his bullying bullshit bluffs. And you bit. You bet, tRump sure knows his marks. bwahahahahaha!!!!

    15. mm - It's known that JFK and LBJ taped some conversations. According to this report, Obama did too:
      Money quote where former White House staffer Ben Rhodes told author Mark Bowden — whose tape recorder died during his interview of Obama — “Ah don’t worry about it. We record everything in here. We’ll get you a trasncript before you leave.”

      In 2012, journalist Mark Bowden gave a talk at the Pritzker Military Museum in Chicago about his new book, “The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden.” As part of the research for that book, Bowden spent 90 minutes interviewing President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. The interview went well — until it didn’t.


      “As I stood up to say goodbye to the president, I looked down and my tape recorder had died. … That thing had always worked like a charm but there it was, just as dead as a nut on the table. So I said my goodbyes and as I was walking out of the Oval Office with Ben Rhodes, I said, ‘Ben, you’re not going to believe this, but my recorder died in the middle of that somewhere.’”

      “‘Ah don’t worry about it,’ he says, ‘we record everything in here. We’ll get you a transcript before you leave.’ And he did.”

      That anecdote speaks volumes about the subject at hand: A recorded, transcribed conversation that was conducted without the subject knowing.
      And according to journalist Yashar Ali, the “Oval Office still has recording capability”:

    16. So let's hear the tapes. I'm sure you'd get behind that, right Comrade?


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