The Times IDs its source: As major news orgs conduct The Chase, an amazing amount of what we read and hear is now pure novelization and chatter now.
It's stories we're asked to take on faith. Just consider Monday night's explosive bombshell report.
Monday's night's explosive bombshell came from the New York Times. On cable, the children leaped into action. Michael Schmidt's report started like this:
SCHIMDT (4/30/18): Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s election interference, has at least four dozen questions on an exhaustive array of subjects he wants to ask President Trump to learn more about his ties to Russia and determine whether he obstructed the inquiry itself, according to a list of the questions obtained by The New York Times.Fascinating! According to Schmidt, Mueller wants "to penetrate the president’s thinking" about a range of issues!
The open-ended queries appear to be an attempt to penetrate the president’s thinking, to get at the motivation behind some of his most combative Twitter posts and to examine his relationships with his family and his closest advisers. They deal chiefly with the president’s high-profile firings of the F.B.I. director and his first national security adviser, his treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
But they also touch on the president’s businesses; any discussions with his longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, about a Moscow real estate deal; whether the president knew of any attempt by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to set up a back channel to Russia during the transition; any contacts he had with Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime adviser who claimed to have inside information about Democratic email hackings; and what happened during Mr. Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant.
Presumably, everyone already suspected that. Schmidt's explosive claim was this—the New York Times had obtained an actual list of the questions Mueller wants to ask.
Mueller "has at least four dozen questions," according to Schmidt's report. On its face, that seemed like a rather fuzzy census.
Where the heck had that number come from? Possibly more to the point, what sort of list had the Times obtained? And where had this list come from?
In paragraph 5, Schmidt described his source. Who except the New York Times ever writes something like this?
SCHMIDT: “What efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon?” Mr. Mueller planned to ask, according to questions read by the special counsel investigators to the president’s lawyers, who compiled them into a list. That document was provided to The Times by a person outside Mr. Trump’s legal team.Say what? According to that account, investigators had read a bunch of questions to the president's lawyers. Those lawyers then "compiled the questions into a list"—and the list was given to the Times "by a person outside Mr. Trump’s legal team."
"A person outside Trump's legal team?" We're not sure that formulation qualifies as English. But if it does, could the person in question have been Kanye West?
He's "outside Trump's legal team." Of course, except for maybe four or five people, so is everyone else!
Does anyone write like that but the Times? Please understand why this matters:
The press corps settled on 49 as the number of Mueller's questions. Schmidt is asking us to believe that these questions really did come from Mueller, and that there aren't maybe 49 more which somehow got lost in the shuffle.
Why should anyone believe such things? Schmidt's attribution, which was laughable, seemed to suggest that this explosive bombshell list had been compiled by Trump's lawyers. Why are we supposed to believe that any such list is authentic and complete?
We don't have the slightest idea. On cable, nobody cared!
Did Mueller's team really read 49 prospective questions to Trump's lawyers? If so, are we really sure that a bunch of other prospective questions didn't get disappeared on their way to Schmidt?
Schmidt made no attempt to explain—and on cable, nobody cared. They mainly wanted to get the evening's excited chatter under way. Schmidt made his usual cable stops—and no one pushed him in any serious way about these obvious questions.
Here's the way prime time "cable news" currently works:
Some time after 4 PM, some news org publishes the evening's "explosive bombshell report." Everyone immediately accepts the report as accurate, even when its accuracy is in no way clear.
Last night, everyone ran with Dr. Bornstein's latest claims, even though he seems to be out of his mind and even though, in the course of telling his latest story, he admitted that he had lied in the course of telling his previous tale.
Consider another example:
On Monday, NBC's phlegmatic Carol Lee issued a bombshell report about General Kelly allegedly calling Trump an "idiot." That afternoon, on Deadline White House, everyone enjoyed the original story since it made Kelly look bad.
But uh-oh! Just like that, Heidi Przybyla said "this feels like the kitchen sink," like a cabal inside the White House had decided to try to "kill Kelly." In short, she was suggesting that the bombshell report was just a bunch of bull being peddled to NBC by an anti-Kelly cabal.
On Deadline White House, no one acknowledged the contradiction. Instead, Nicolle Wallace's panel got to thrill to two tribally pleasing stories:
1) Kelly has been calling Trump an idiot.Each story was tribally pleasing. The fact that one story undercut the other didn't intrude on the fun.
2) A bunch of *ssholes in the White House are pimping some bullsh*t around.
Has Kelly been calling Trump an idiot? Are there really 49 questions, no more? Was Dr. Bornstein's office "raided" in the way the fellow described?
No one cares anymore! Cable news is all chatter now. They wait for the day's explosive report. Then the blather starts.
Our thoughts on Dr. Bornstein: Dr. Bornstein is visibly nuts. Our thoughts on his latest story:
1) He said a patient in his office was frightened during the raid. We're frightened by the thought that Bornstein still has patients!
2) Apparently, Bornstein frequently asks for donations to his alma mater, Tufts Medical School. By way of contrast, we'd like to see the school shut down pending a federal probe.
3) Trump was Bornstein's patient for 35 years, followed by one year with Dr. Ronny Jackson. Question:
Does the fact that Trump is still walking around qualify as a medical miracle? If he ever gets an actual doctor, Trump may live for two hundred years!
Tomorrow: After she figures out who he is, Chozick assesses Obama