And when a chase is on: It's a fascinating time to be a press corps watcher.
Also, a time of frustration. A great deal of conduct is occurring all at once. We'll return to full services at the start of the week.
Today, we'll note a few trends:
1) A chase is on: Within the mainstream press, there's hasn't been such a uniform chase since the two years of Campaign 2000.
At that time, the mainstream press was chasing the vile Candidate Gore. Today, they're chasing Donald J. Trump.
In terms of the press corps' selection of targets, we note a slight imbalance.
2) Judgment may disappear: When the mainstream press corps stages a chase, all judgment disappears. Every claim will be credited and bruited, no matter how silly or far-fetched.
Next week, we'll review the way major figures and major news orgs ran with the Washington Post's thrilling report about the way the House majority leader said that Donald J. Trump was in the pay of the Russians. For today, we'll only say this:
(Sad, but typical during a chase. During a chase, all negative-sounding reports are created equal. Normal journalistic practices can be completely ignored.)
3) A "newspaper war" is on: Many pundits are applauding the fact that a "newspaper war" is under way between the Post and the New York Times. In theory, a newspaper war can have beneficial results. In practice, such wars can also lead newspapers to run with exciting pseudo-reports whose contents have been vastly embellished or constitute sheer speculation.
At this time, there's an enormous amount of filler going around.
4) Reinstatement of Comey the God: At exciting times like these, group novels will be adopted, filled with clear-cut character portraits. At present, we invite you to note one major example: the rehabilitation of James B. Comey—Comey the God—as the latest iteration of a press corps perennial, The World's Most Upright Person.
In recent decades, The World's Most Upright Person has almost always been a Republican. "Judge Starr" got his start as The World's Most Upright Person; Paul Ryan is still widely cast in that role. People who get cast in this role almost always take advantage.
Truth to tell, James B. Comey probably isn't The World's Most Upright Person. (Very few people are.) That said, he's very good at selling the car, and he has a lot of friends. Beyond that, he's now being defined in opposition to Donald J. Trump, against whom a chase is on.
For this reason, his godlike status is being restored. This represents our modern "press corps" at its least impressive.
Summarizing, other people focus on Trump. Our focus here is on the press corps.
In itself, Donald J. Trump's apparent craziness tells us nothing about the press. The corps' behavior must speak for itself. Right now, a great deal of that behavior strikes us as underwhelming.
Coming next week: What is a "foreign agent?"
It happens during stampedes: Shortly before he was fired, did Comey ask Rod Rosenstein for additional resources for the FBI's Russia probe?
Not long ago, this "revelation" drove a banner headline atop the front page of the Washington Post. Over the next two days, the Post seemed to walk its revelation back.
Today, the Post says this, at the very end of a news report:
HORWITZ, DEMIRJIAN AND VIEBECK (5/20/17): Rosenstein also told the lawmakers that he is “not aware” of any request by the FBI for additional resources for the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.The fact that Rosenstein said this doesn't prove that it's true. That said, the Post's initial "revelation" was based on third- and fourth-hand sources.
“Moreover,” he said, “I consulted my staff and acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, and none of them recalls such a request.”
Did the Post ever know its "revelation" was true? Quite possibly not.
On the brighter side, the Post's "revelation" met that day's excitement quota. Cable pundits yakked about it for hours the night before.
This sort of thing occurs at times of newspaper wars, and when a great chase is on.