Part 5—Allegedly, the ambassador: At the New York Times, the editorial board just can't quit that intern.
They returned to her last Sunday, in a fiery editorial which revealed their ongoing moral greatness. As it turns out, the board is opposed to sexual harassment and sexual assault.
In the course of displaying this soul-stirring fact, the editors returned to their girl:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (10/29/17): Has America at last reached a turning point on sexual harassment? Watching the events of the past three weeks, one can hope.The "intern" to whom the savants refer is, of course, Monica Lewinsky. For the record, President Clinton did indeed show very poor judgment in conducting that sporadic (consensual) affair.
In the wake of Harvey Weinstein's sudden and overdue expulsion from Hollywood for his serial predation, hundreds of long-silent women are calling out powerful, influential men at a remarkable clip and accusing them of sexual misconduct...
This reckoning is all to the good, even if it is far too late. It feels as though a real and lasting transformation may be afoot—until you remember that this isn't the first time women have sounded the alarm.
Remember Anita Hill, who told a firing line of skeptical senators the story of constant harassment by her boss, Clarence Thomas, more than 25 years ago. The lawmakers, every one of them male, seemed less concerned with the alleged misconduct of a Supreme Court nominee than that a woman would drag such a tawdry subject into the halls of Congress. While Ms. Hill's brave testimony prompted a sharp rise in sexual-harassment claims, she was vilified in public; nearly twice as many Americans said at the time that they believed now-Justice Thomas's account of what happened over hers.
Remember former President Bill Clinton, whose popularity endures despite a long string of allegations of sexual misconduct and, in one case, rape—all of which he has denied. Mr. Clinton did eventually admit to the affair with an intern, Monica Lewinsky, that nearly toppled his presidency, but he pointed out that it was not illegal.
But did he conduct that sporadic affair with an "intern," as the editors say? Well basically, no, he did not. The editors can't seem to quit the story they and their guild have so loved.
To their vast credit, people of this small-minded ilk finally stopped referring to Lewinsky as a "21-year-old intern" at some point, but they didn't quit that pleasing novelization without an extended fight. Back when The Crazy was still getting started, Clinton's lawyers actually devoted time to this novelistic point during the Senate impeachment trial, telling the world that the press corps' famously 21-year-old intern had never been 21.
In fact, Lewinsky was 22—almost 22 and a half!—when the sporadic affair began. In fact, she was 22 to 24 years old during its actual tenure.
This hadn't stopped our "none too humans" from calling her 21. It made their novel so much more pleasing to cite this iconic marker of youthful innocence! One thinks of Gurov, Chekhov's unhappily married protagonist in the great and brilliant story, The Lady with the Lapdog:
“Every new affair...inevitably developed into an extremely complicated problem and finally the whole situation became rather cumbersome,” Chekhov says of Gurov. And yet, “at every new meeting with an attractive woman he forgot all about this experience, he wanted to enjoy life so badly and it all seemed so simple and amusing.”
Chekhov's story is brilliant. But like Gurov, our "none too humans" seem to "want to enjoy life so badly" that they're willing to feed their lust for simplicity and amusement with skillfully novelized tales.
Jay Leno would cite Miss Lewinsky's real age. Again and again and again and again, our major journalists would not! Eventually, they dropped the misstatement about her age, but the editors at the Times can't seem to quit the amusing claim that she was "an intern" at all.
Did President Clinton conduct this affair with an "intern?" Well pretty much no, he did not. During the bulk of the time during which the sporadic affair took place, Lewinsky was a (22- to 24-year-old) federal employee, as even several journalists must know by now.
Technically, she was still an intern in November 1995, when her first encounter with Clinton occurred. But she had already accepted a full-time federal position, which she would begin within roughly a week. As such, she was an intern for roughly one week over the course of the several years during which she and Clinton conducted their sporadic affair.
She was an intern for roughly one week! But because our journalists want to enjoy life so badly, they didn't want to describe, and rail about, an affair with a federal employee.
Instead, they employed two iconic markers of youth, thereby making their preferred, inaccurate story simpler and more amusing. In this way, a "21-year-old intern" was born. Even today, the latter part of that status survives among the amusement-seeking, deeply moral Times editorial board.
(Additional question, for extra credit: Was Clinton's sporadic consensual affair a matter of "sexual misconduct?" So the editors seem to imply. For extra credit, discuss.)
We discuss Lewinsky's status as the eternal intern, the intern-for-life, to justify a usage we'll employ in our discussions of "the 29-year-old intern," the Trump campaign's youthful striver, George Papadopoulos.
Yesterday, a new dispute erupted concerning this fellow's adventures overseas. The none too humans within our press corps, the types who still can't quit their own preferred intern, began to frame some new events as the latest proof that Attorney General Sessions has lied lied lied. Under oath!
Sensible people will be wary concerning anything these none-too-humans present. Like Gurov, these journos "want to enjoy life so badly" that they're willing to fashion affairs that will make their worlds, and their broadcasts, "all seem so simple and amusing.”
Many of these neo-Gurovs could be spotted taking this approach last night. Let's consider one of many examples:
At 9:58 PM Eastern, Rachel Maddow was completing her latest hour-long "performance of the Rachel figure" (Janet Malcolm). As she tucked us in for the night, she served us some warm, pleasing porridge.
As you can easily see, this porridge doesn't parse:
MADDOW (11/2/17): Quick update to a story that we brought at the top of the show regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the new questions about his repeated denials that he was aware of any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the campaign.Lawrence presented some flim-flam too. Let's stick with Maddow's presentation.
Those questions have now put the attorney general in a very difficult position now that the Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos has admitted in a plea agreement that, in fact, he did meet with Russian officials in the campaign and he told the campaign about it, and he later lied to the FBI about it.
Well, tonight, Carter Page, who also served as a foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign, he tells NBC News in an e-mail tonight that during the presidential campaign, in June of last year, he says he informed now attorney general, then Senator Jeff Sessions, that he, Carter Page, was making a trip to Russia during the campaign. Page tells NBC News, quote:
"Back in June 2016, I mentioned in passing that I happened to be planning to give a speech at a university in Moscow."
Now, a source familiar with the conversation says Page told the House Intelligence Committee in closed testimony today that he shook Jeff Sessions' hand, told him he was on the Trump team, and he told him that he was heading to Russia.
According to the source, Sessions did not respond and moved on to the next person, but this is yet another instance in which Jeff Sessions appears to have been told about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, contact that he unequivocally and without condition later denied under oath.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. Now, it's time for The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. Good evening, Lawrence!
The cable star began with a statement [A] concerning Sessions' "repeated denials that he was aware of any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the campaign."
She proceeded from there to some exciting news, in which [B] Carter Page says he told Sessions—after feeling he had to introduce himself—that he was "planning to give a speech at a university in Moscow."
Dittoheads, please! In what way does Exciting News B relate to, or seem to contradict, Statement A? Consider:
In Statement A, we're told that Sessions has denied knowing of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. In Exciting News B, we learn that Sessions was told that Page was going to give a speech in Moscow, full stop.
In the story told by this excitable child, Page says nothing to Sessions about meeting with Russian officials! Somehow, though, we're supposed to quiver with excitement about the latest sign that Sessions has lied lied lied in the not too distant past.
It may well be that Sessions has lied, or done something like it. It also may be that he hasn't. For now, let's keep our focus on the multimillionaire cable star Maddow, widely known among Zevon fans as our own excitable girl.
Long ago, the excitable girl was sold to us as Our Own Rhodes Scholar. Tell the truth! Do you believe she was unable to see the obvious problem with her recitation?
That said, other heroes of cable news labor were offering similar non sequiturs last night in service to the chase after Sessions. CNN was ripe with such plays. So too MSNBC.
At one time, our mainstream journalists hunted Clinton, then took out Candidate Gore. Today, they're hunting a set of fellows who we liberals don't support.
Despite the shift in targeting, their slippery techniques are largely unchanged. To our eye and ear, they want to enjoy life very badly; they very much long to make the world seem simple, amusing and fun. They may also know that their careers, and their vast paydays, turn on pleasing the herd.
The adventures of the 29-year-old intern are heavily involved in yesterday's new and exciting excitement. As usual, the New York Times' Michael Schmidt is involved.
His report appears on the front page of today's New York Times. He tells an exciting story of something Candidate Trump was told, with Sessions sitting right there!
Schmidt places his emphasis on the idea that Trump has lied, with Sessions discussed a bit later. At any rate, you should be wary of anything you're told by these "none too human" scribes.
Schmidt's report begins as shown below. By paragraph 4, there's trouble:
SCHMIDT (11/3/17): Standing before reporters in February, President Trump said unequivocally that he knew of nobody from his campaign who was in contact with Russians during the election. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has told the Senate the same thing.Exciting! Mueller's unsealed charges "represent the first concrete evidence that Mr. Trump was personally told about ties between a campaign adviser and Russian officials!"
Court documents unsealed this week cast doubt on both statements and raised the possibility that Mr. Sessions could be called back to Congress for further questioning.
The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, unsealed his first charges Monday in a wide-ranging investigation into Russian attempts to disrupt the presidential election and whether anyone close to Mr. Trump was involved. Records in that case show that George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser, had frequent discussions with Russians in 2016 and trumpeted his connections in front of Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions.
For months, journalists have revealed evidence that associates of Mr. Trump met with Russians during the campaign and the presidential transition. But the court documents represent the first concrete evidence that Mr. Trump was personally told about ties between a campaign adviser and Russian officials.
That's exciting, front-page stuff; yay yay yay yay yay! Unfortunately, we don't know where that happens in this week's court documents.
Below, you see what Mueller's court documents say about the meeting where the 29-year-old intern is said to have "trumpeted his connections in front of Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions." To search for more, click here:
On or about March 31, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS attended a "national security meeting" in Washington, D.C., with then-candidate Trump and other foreign policy advisers for the Campaign. When defendant PAPADOPOULOS introduced himself to the group, he stated, in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.That's all it says in those documents. Whatever the 29-year-old intern actually may have said, the court documents do not record him making claims concerning "Russian officials."
People like Schmidt tend to function this way, so much do they long to be happy. As Schmidt continues, he offers the claim which was pimped widely last night:
SCHMIDT (continuing directly): “He went into the pitch right away,” said J. D. Gordon, a campaign adviser who attended the meeting. “He said he had a friend in London, the Russian ambassador, who could help set up a meeting with Putin.”Wow! According to that single source, the intern said he had a friend—and that friend was the Russian ambassador! But is that what he actually said? Did he really make such a silly-seeming statement?
Mr. Trump listened with interest. Mr. Sessions vehemently opposed the idea, Mr. Gordon recalled. “And he said that no one should talk about it,” because Mr. Sessions thought it was a bad idea that he did not want associated with the campaign, he said.
Like you, we have no way of knowing. But it doesn't say that in the court documents, which note in a footnote that the 29-year-old never met the Russian ambassador, despite promises from Vladimir Putin's non-niece.
What did Papadopoulos say? We have no idea. We do know what the court documents say—and we know that Michael Schmidt seems to maybe and perhaps be embellishing once again.
On and on and on this goes, and it never stops. Cable was a cesspool last night—or in the end, do we all secretly want to get played by "the Rachel figure," followed by Morning Joe?
Go ahead—reread what Rachel said. Surely everyone can see that her dog won't parse—that her pleasing presentation made no earthly sense.
Such presentations were legion on cable last night, all part of the latest chase. A 29-year-old intern is a leading figure in this new exciting hunt. He's first cousin to the eternal intern the editorial board can't quit.
These games are played every night. They're played because the people who play them "want to enjoy life so badly."
For our money, Franken, Leahy, Blumenthal and them have been embarrassing themselves in this latest chase; we find their conduct appalling in an array of ways. But we write about the "press corps" here, if that's what you want to call them.
Go ahead! Read it again! It's what Our Own Rhodes Scholar said, our lauded "Rachel figure."
Tomorrow: The logic of "collusion"