A fascinating event: On this, the fifth full day of the episode, we continue to be fascinated by the pundit corps' refusal to engage in normal journalistic behavior.
We refer to the studied refusal to discuss what the New York Times and the Washington Post have reported in major news reports. Their reports concern the way the FBI went about gathering information from George Papadopoulos.
Journalists are refusing to discuss what the Post and the Times have reported. This morning, for example, Joe Scarborough made this statement early on, at 6:07 AM:
SCARBOROUGH (5/24/18): It's really remarkable, listening to the president of the United States going out there lying about quote "Spygate," and then lying and saying "That 's what you all are calling it." Nobody is calling it that because there was no Spygate. Everybody knows what happened, and David Ignatius, talk about, if you will, just how peculiar, how strange and I think many people would say how dangerous this is...We were especially struck by the highlighted phrase. But let's start with this statement:
"There was no Spygate."
Was there a Spygate? Since nobody knows what such a claim even means, it's hard to know how to answer. That said, the idea that "everybody knows what happened" is especially striking under the circumstances.
We refer to the way the entire liberal punditry has refused to discuss the reports in the Times and the Post which describe what the FBI's informant actually did. To this day, we've seen no one on CNN or MSNBC explain what has been reported in those major papers. Nor has anyone offered a contrary account of what the FBI's informant actually did.
In an amazing break from normal cable behavior, no one is discussing the account which appeared in the Post and the Times. Perhaps there's some sort of reason for that, but with everyone behaving this way, it's especially silly to see Scarborough say that "everybody knows what happened."
In fact, nobody knows what happened! If you didn't read the reports in the Times and the Post, you don't even know what has been reported. We have read the Times and the Post, and we feel quite sure that there's a great deal which we don't know at this time.
Last night, on The Americans, we saw a remarkable bit of action. An FBI agent called an American citizens in Buenos Aires. He identified himself as an FBI agent, then told the man he wanted to ask him some questions!
According to the Post and the Times, that isn't what the FBI did with respect to Papadopoulos. But for some reason, two major cable channels are committed to 1) not telling you what the newspapers have reported; 2) insisting that everyone knows what actually happened; and 3) robotically insisting that the FBI did nothing wrong.
In fact, no one really knows what happened. Also, this is a very strange journalistic event.
In a spin-off of the refusal to speak, consider yesterday's post by Kevin Drum. It ran beneath a headline carved from the liberal world's current script:
Stop It. Stefan Halper Wasn’t Spying on TrumpIn the bulk of his post, Drum explains why Donald J. Trump is excitedly pushing his "Spygate" line. But as Drum starts, he says this:
DRUM (5/23/18): Why is Donald Trump using the word SPY every ten minutes or so even though there’s zero evidence that Stefan Halper was spying in any normal definition of the word?Is that true? Is it true that there’s "zero evidence that Halper was spying in any normal definition of the word?"
"Spying" is a somewhat imprecise term. We wouldn't rush to use the term ourselves in this circumstance, but it seems to us that what Halper did is in the general neighborhood.
According to the Post and the Times, he approached Papadopoulos on false pretenses. He then paid him money to fly across the Atlantic so he could engage him in surreptitious questioning, keeping his true motives hidden.
We wouldn't rush to call that "spying." It's also true that millions of people have no idea that Halper is said to have done those things because everyone from Scarborough on down is refusing to repeat what the Post and the Times have reported. In that sense, it wasn't just Papadopoulos! The public is getting played too!
By the way, what is the normal definition of "spying?" We did something which normally isn't smart or helpful—we decided to "look it up." Here are four online definitions of "spy" used as as a verb:
Dictionary.com:Was Halper "spying" on Papadopoulos? That wouldn't be the first word we'd use.
to observe secretively or furtively with hostile intent
Cambridge English Dictionary:
to secretly gather and report information about another country or organization
to watch secretly usually for hostile purposes
Work for a government or other organization by secretly obtaining information about enemies or competitors.
That said, Halper was gathering information in a secretive, furtive manner. That will strike a lot of people as an odd thing to have done in the context of a presidential campaign—and stating the obvious, none of us has any way of knowing what else Halper or the FBI might have been done.
Last night, Stan Beeman called Pastor Tim and identified himself as an FBI agent. In this other real =world circumstance, an FBI functionary lured Papadopoulos across the ocean in a clandestine manner.
Why didn't the FBI take a less "furtive" approach? As long as every cable pundit agrees to disappear what has been reported, you'll never have to wonder if the FBI used good judgment, and had clean motives, in this particular case.
In one sense, doing this may have been dumb because it's so easy to demonize this conduct in the way Trump has done. Agent Stan IDed himself. Why didn't moneybags Halper? No one is answering the question because the conduct behind the question is being disappeared.
This is strange journalistic behavior. Also this, concerning Scarborough's silly claim:
None of us has any way of knowing what else the FBI may have done. When did liberals start to believe that agencies like the FBI are always smart and honorable? Does opposition to Donald J. Trump require that we too must he defiantly dumb?