Also, What Donald Trump said: In a word, Amy Chozick's new book, Chasing Hillary, is, in a word, jaw-dropping.
It's also a type of confession, though perhaps an unintentional example of same. It's a book you should purchase today. We aren't sure that we've ever read such a remarkable document.
To what inanity or cultural illness does the author confess? With an instant nod to Isaac Chotiner for this on-target interview, we'll only say this much today:
Chozick was sent to Iowa, in October 2007, to cover the Hillary Clinton campaign. She was sent there by the Wall Street Journal, a well-known newspaper for which she'd already worked for several years.
Chozick was 28 years old when she journeyed to Iowa, a state at which she constantly snarks. (People are too fat in Iowa, plus their cities are too small, and they don't have enough food restaurants.)
Chozick says that, when she went to Iowa, she didn't know what a caucus was. A million times more amazingly, she also says this, right there on page 51:
"The name Barack Obama sounded only vaguely familiar."
Say what? In October 2007, Obama's name sounded only vaguely familiar to Chozick? Readers, let's review:
Obama had become a Very Big Thing at the 2004 Democratic Convention. Two and a half years later, it had been a Very Big Deal when he made his formal announcement for president.
Obama made his formal announcement in Springfield, Illinois in February 2007. Within the world of American politics, Obama had been an extremely big deal from that cold winter day on.
According to Chozick's peculiar confession, Obama's name was only vaguely familiar to her, eight months later, when she arrived in Iowa eight months later. She also says that when Clinton arrived on stage for the first town hall meeting Chozick covered, she, Chozick, "stood up from [her] seat and clapped," until a fellow reporter told her she shouldn't do that.
Chozick says she stood and clapped when Clinton came on stage. It's very, very hard to believe that she actually did that, but she actually names the Chicago Tribune reporter who, "tugging at the right side of [her] parka," managed to get our barefoot girl with zero knowledge but plenty of cheek back into her seat.
We've only read the first 56 pages of Chozick's appalling book. On virtually every page, it reads like a very strange confession by a very peculiar "journalist."
Over and over and over and over, it reads like a strange set of revelations from within an extremely strange journalistic culture. We've rarely read a stranger book, or a more striking anthropological work.
That said: concerning our failing press corps culture, consider what Donald Trump said.
We refer to Trump's remarks on Thursday morning concerning Michael Cohen. On cable, pundits thrashed his remarks all day long, then on into the night. We refer to these specific remarks, delivered on Fox & Friends:
DOOCY (4/26/18): Mr. President, how much of your legal work was handled by Michael Cohen?Speaking of our broken press culture, Trump was speking with Steve Doocy, one of the most ridiculous figures within a ridiculous guild.
TRUMP: Well, he has a percentage of my overall legal work—a tiny, tiny little fraction. But Michael would represent me and represent me on some things.
He represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me and, you know, from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong.
All day long, pundits battered Trump for saying that Cohen did "a tiny, tiny little fraction" of his legal work. Logic went on holiday, as it so typically does on our corporate "cable news" programs.
Let's examine the basic logic of what Donald Trump said. As any child can see, he said the vast bulk of his legal work has been handled by other lawyers—not by Barrister Cohen.
Almost surely, that's accurate. In fact, we don't know if Cohen has ever handled any "legal work" for Trump.
(If you hire a lawyer to rob a bank, that isn't "legal work." Your communications won't be protected under terms of attorney-client privilege.)
Has Cohen done any actual legal work for Donald J. Trump at all? We have no way of knowing. But duh! To the extent that he has done legal work, that work would be protected by attorney-client privilege.
It wouldn't matter that other lawyers had handled more of Trump's work. The legal work that Cohen had done would, of course, be protected.
All day long, we hadn't seen a single pundit articulate that blindingly obvious distinction. Pundits stampeded off to say or suggest that Trump had undermined his and Cohen's right to claim legal privilege with that crazy remark about the vast amount of work other lawyers had done.
Barrister Bluster even implied that Trump had done himself in! Under terms of current cable law, that had to mean it was true!
Then, it actually happened! During The Eleventh Hour, Jennifer Rodgers showed that she understood the logic of what Trump said, though she didn't quite seem to want to cop to that fact.
Brian Williams played tape of Trump's remarks, then threw to Rodgers. Fifteen hours into the latest cable stampede, we finally saw a TV pundit voice an obvious distinction, though she quickly moved to undercut her own remarks:
WILLIAMS (4/26/18): Let's turn to our lead-off panel on a Thursday night. Jennifer Rodgers back with us, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now the Executive Director for Columbia Law School Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity..."Those are two different things!" Rodgers showed that she understood the distinction between these two possible statements:
Jennifer, it was interesting to watch all this sitting next to you in our studios here in New York. I'll keep your reactions between us, but what did Donald Trump do today, in your legal view, to his own case and that of Michael Cohen?
RODGERS: Well, there were really three things that stuck out to me kind of from a legal perspective. You know, the first is this comment about how much legal work Michael Cohen did for him.
You know, Michael Cohen's attorneys are in there in the Southern District of New York trying to kind of claim a broad privilege so that the prosecutors get as few documents as possible. And here's the president in there saying, "Well, you know, I have a lot of lawyers. He did very little legal work for me."
That's not exactly the same as saying of all the things he did for me, not much of it is legal. Those are two different things. But still, he's generally kind of backing away from the notion that he wants a broad assertion of privilege here, which is different from when he was tweeting out that, you know, the attorney-client privilege was dead and that sort of thing.
He didn't do most of my legal work.Duh! Rodgers showed that she understood the difference! Then, she backed away from what she'd just said, moving on to tell Brian what Donald J. Trump had "generally kind of" done.
He didn't do any of my legal work.
Just a guess! Everyone else, all day long, had misinterpreted Trump's remark. Rodgers didn't want to assume the burden that would come with saying that. On cable news, with its millionaire hosts, such things simply aren't done!
Let's return to our basic point. What possible difference would it make if other lawyers had done the bulk of Trump's legal work? That would have zero effect on any legal work Cohen had done for Trump.
Any such work by Cohen would still be protected by attorney-client privilege. But over the course of a long, silly day, Rodgers was the first person we saw who was able to state this distinction, even in a fleeting manner.
That said, pundit culture and cable culture run on stampede, not on logic. Sadly but typically, this is what Our Own Rhodes Scholar had said two hours earlier:
MADDOW (4/26/18): I watched the president's remarks in this remarkable cable news interview that he did today, and obviously the president's emotional state was one of the takeaways that you couldn't avoid. But the president made really specific remarks about what seems to me to be the central case that he and Michael Cohen have been making to try to fend off this federal investigation in New York. He seemed to undercut that claim by saying Mr. Cohen doesn't do much legal work for him and he doesn't believe anything Cohen is being investigated for touches on his legal practice as an attorney.The utterly bogus, it burns! As she is inclined to do, Maddow had granted herself the right to embellish, indeed misstate, Donald J. Trump's remarks.
Readers, please! At no point had Trump said that "he doesn't believe anything Cohen is being investigated for touches on his legal practice as an attorney." In fact, as you can see in the passage we posted above, Trump said exactly the opposite! That bogus remark was pure invention on the Rhodes scholar's part.
In fairness, everyone else had bungled the logic of Trump's remarks every since that morning. It was now 9 PM, so Maddow improved what Trump said, making her presentation even more definitive, and even more pleasing, than everyone else's had been.
Moments later, legal expert Barbara McQuade failed to correct what Maddow had said. But that's the way the game is played on big-time partisan cable.
All day long, pundits wildly over-interpreted that comment by Trump. Federal prosecutors even made silly claims in court that day—claims which were cheered by our pundits.
(Especially on Maddow's show, accusations by prosecutors can never be faulty or wrong.)
All day and all night, pundits stampeded, claiming Trump had ruined his case. But uh-oh! The following morning, up jumped the Washington Post, saying the judge's decision that day had been "a win for Cohen."
In short, the judge didn't buy what the prosecutors said! That said, watching cable, who knew?
That foolishness happened this Thursday. Eleven years earlier, Amy Chozick was sent to Iowa to cover the Clinton complain.
Obama's name sounded only vaguely familiar to the Wall Street Journal scribe. On Monday,we'll start discussing her other confessions, which seem to occur on every page as we read her remarkable book.
Chotiner cut to the heart of the matter. Chozick's answers are so bad that the interview's quite hard to read.