And how can The Times be so bad: Matt Shuham is two years out of college (Harvard 2015).
Yesterday, his TPM report about Trump's latest tweets had us gnashing our teeth. This passage sent us over the edge:
SHUHAM (2/18/18): Trump is incorrect in saying “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election.” At times he has specified that his campaign did not collude with Russia. But he has also frequently tossed nuance aside and called the entire Mueller investigation a “witch hunt,” or declared that “Russia is fake news.”According to Shuham, Trump was "incorrect in saying 'I never said Russia did not meddle in the election.' " Shuham's chesty words of assurance made TPM readers feel good.
That said, Shuham offered no examples in which Trump made the inaccurate statement in question. He simply said, or seemed to say, that Trump has "frequently" done so.
Stating the obvious, that was terrible work. On the brighter side, hiring extremely young reporters presumably lets Josh Marshall make more money. Like every tribe in prehuman history, we liberals want our tribal sachems to be very rich.
That said, Shuham's post left us wondering. Has Trump ever flatly said that Russia didn't meddle?
At this point, let's offer a word of warning. Trump's statements tend to be extremely fuzzy. He tends to work on insinuation, suggestion and association rather than explicit statement. It's often hard to articulate what he has actually said.
(Example: We don't think we've ever seen anyone offer an accurate paraphrase of Trump's famous remark about the Mexican rapists. In our view, it was an appalling remark. It's also hard to paraphrase.)
Shuham's example-free assurance had us gnashing outr teeth. This morning, though, Linda Qiu really took the cake in the New York Times.
Qiu is three years out of college (Chicago 2014). For unknown reasons, the New York Times has hired her to be the paper's official fact-checker.
Qiu's skills are virtually non-existent. This morning, in a full-length, hard-copy report, she attempts to fact-check that same assertion by Trump.
Her failure is astonishing. Headline included, here's how her report begins:
QIU (2/19/18): Trump Falsely Claims, ‘I Never Said Russia Did Not Meddle’According to Qiu, the tweeted statement by Donald J. Trump was "false." She proceeds to offer eight examples in support of her claim—but only one of her examples seems to support her claim in anything like an unambiguous fashion.
President Trump falsely claimed in an early Sunday morning Twitter post that he had never rejected the notion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
“I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said ‘it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer,’” Mr. Trump wrote. “The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia—it never did!
How absurd are the bulk of Qiu's examples? Good lord! The bulk of the examples she cites are as absurd as this, her second example:
September 2016: “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the D.N.C.”Good lord! In that alleged example, Trump explicitly said it could be Russia who hacked the DNC.
As the presidential nominees of their political parties, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton began receiving government intelligence reports in August. On Sept. 22, top Democrats on congressional intelligence committees issued a public statement blaming Russia, “based on briefings we have received.”
Four days later, during the first presidential debate, Mr. Trump declined to agree:
“I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the D.N.C. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t—maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, O.K.?”
In that statement, Trump didn't say it wasn't Russia. He said he didn't know.
In even a slightly rational world, it would be astounding to see the New York Times present that statement as Qiu does—as an example of Trump denying that Russia did it. In a slightly rational world, it would be astounding to think the New York Times' fact-checker, and her editor, possessed such limited analytical skill.
That's how it would be in a slightly rational world. But in this world, the New York Times is a hotbed of journalistic and intellectual dysfunction. As part of that routine dysfunction, the paper hired someone barely out of college to serve as its official fact-checker, despite her remarkable lack of basic skills.
Her unnamed editor lacks those skills too. Amazingly, this is the intellectual norm at our floundering nation's most famous daily newspaper.
On the brighter side, Times readers aren't likely to notice. According to today's page A3, yesterday's "most emailed article" was the one you'll find at this link.
"Why Yoga Pants Are Bad for Women." As the Times is happy to note, that's the report from the Sunday Times we brainiacs emailed most!
We claim to be appalled by Trump. Our utterly fatuous upper-class values just keep pointing the way toward our decline, perhaps toward our society's death.
Reviewing Qiu's examples, we find one example where Trump seemed to deny that Russia did it. Based upon Qiu's other examples, it looks like he quickly abandoned that stance.