Interlude—Speculations, enjoyment, distractions: Did the events described below really occur?
Lawrence seems to thunk they didn't. The events are described right at the start of a New York Times news report:
SCHMIDT AND HABERMAN (8/2/18): President Trump pushed his lawyers in recent days to try once again to reach an agreement with the special counsel’s office about his sitting for an interview, flouting their advice that he should not answer investigators’ questions, three people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.Has Donald J. Trump been flouting his lawyers' advice? Is he eager to meet with Mueller's maulers? Has he been pushing his lawyers to find a way to let the interview happen?
Mr. Trump has told advisers he is eager to meet with investigators to clear himself of wrongdoing, the people said. In effect, he believes he can convince the investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, of his belief that their own inquiry is a “witch hunt.”
Please note! The New York Times hasn't reported that those events did happen. Schmidt and Haberman have merely reported that this is what "three people...said."
Who are those three people? Times readers aren't told. Also, please note this:
Based upon the attribution, the three unnamed people cited as sources didn't claim that they actually saw Trump making this heartfelt plea. The three people had merely been "briefed on the matter," the two Times tyros said.
The three unnamed people had been told that these events occurred. Or so they said, to the New York Times—and the Times then wrote it on up, without attempting to explain why we should believe this.
Let's be fair! It's always possible that the events in question really did occur. It's possible that Donald J. Trump really has been pushing his lawyers to get him a date with the witch hunt.
It's possible that these events occurred, but Lawrence O'Donnell's a skeptic. Last night, on his "cable news" show, he did something very rare—he openly mocked the work of the Times, though of course without naming scribe names.
Lawtence spoke with Tim O'Brien, a reliable "cable news" guest:
LAWRENCE (8/1/18): Tim, there's a report in the New York Times tonight about the status of the interview discussion, which this program's official position is, it's always been fraudulent. There's never a chance that Donald Trump would ever sit down for an interview with the special prosecutor.Lawrence said the New York Times had been especially gullible. He seemed to say there was no chance that Trump had actually pushed his lawyers in the way Schmidt and Habo described.
There's an especially gullible passage in the New York Times report tonight saying, "Mr. Trump has told advisers he is eager to meet with investigators to clear himself of wrongdoing, the people said. In effect, he believes he can convince the investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, of his belief that their own inquiry is a 'witch hunt.' "
Now, I don't believe the New York Times has ever printed a more gullible sentence that [sic] Donald Trump believes he can convince Mueller's team that what they're doing is a witch hunt.
Lawrence may be right in his several speculations. That said, Tim O'Brien came right back with this:
O'BRIEN (continuing directly): You know, I'm going to surprise you, because I actually think that sounds very much like Donald Trump to me.In effect, O'Brien went on to say that Trump is so crazily self-assured that he probably does want to meet with the Muellermen. David Corn joined Lawrence in enjoying a good solid laugh about the surprising demurral.
LAWRENCE (laughing): You think he's that sick! (Laughs again)
So it goes on "cable news," where speculation rules. So it goes in the New York Times, where news reports are based on what three unnamed people say that some other unnamed person said.
So it goes all through the upper-end press as The Chase provides readers and viewers with exciting "true crime" dynamics. We get to enjoy the thrill of The Chase as the artifacts of traditional news all but disappear.
Night after night after "groundhog night," the same conversations occur. These conversations are drawn from the same pleasing scripts. Attempts at developing real information very rarely appear. The entertainers rarely get around to important ancillary questions.
Does Donald want to sit down with Bob? Lawrence offered one speculation; O'Brien offered another. There's no way to know what's actually true, but laughter occurred all around.
That said, there was also plenty of good solid fun as Anderson Cooper spoke with Jessica Schneider about the Manafort trial. Schneider delivered a capsule report. Cooper provided distraction:
COOPER (8/1/18): I was very confused yesterday, as you know, about the notion of an ostrich coat, which I thought meant ostrich feathers. Sadly, it apparently doesn't. There were pictures introduced into evidence, right?We're not sure if Schneider was right about the jury seeing those pictures. She didn't mention the fact that the judge has been treating much of this bullshit as a distraction—in effect, as "more prejudicial than probative."
SCHNEIDER: So, there were pictures. Prosecutors have plenty of these pictures not only of that illustrious ostrich coat, but these luxury watches, all of the luxury clothing that Paul Manafort had. And what's interesting about this is they have entered it into evidence. However, the jury has not actually seen these photos...
However, the jury will see these pictures once they go back into the jury room after the case, both sides have rested. When they go into their deliberations, of course they're not allowed to watch TV, not allowed to see any of the news articles about this trial. So likely, Anderson, they won't be seeing it on your show or elsewhere. But yes, they will get these pictures that show just how lavishly Paul Manafort lived.
COOPER: The ostrich coat is a little disappointing, to be honest, now that I've seen the pictures. Did the prosecution say why they might not call Gates as a witness?
Anderson used the non-existent ostrich feathers as a helpful distraction too. He livened up the dreary hour with some good solid fun concerning a humorous fiction.
He knew there were no ostrich feathers, but he played the card anyhoo. On Tuesday night, the silly featherweight piddle had made its cable debut:
COOPER (7/31/18): So what did we learn today at the trial?On Tuesday night, "Coop" was like, "Oh please let there be a picture of Paul Manafort in a jacket of ostrich feathers!" By that time, he already knew that there was no such jacket, but so what?
SCHNEIDER: Anderson, we learned a lot. It was only the first day here, but this courtroom is definitely living up to its "rocket docket" reputation. They managed to whittle down this jury pool of 65 people down to 12 jurors plus four alternates, and then, of course, we heard the fiery opening statements here.
In this, prosecutors shed some light on Paul Manafort's lavish lifestyle, and they did it by talking about his 30 hidden foreign bank accounts they say existed in three different countries and they say that funded that lavish lifestyle that included seven different homes ranging from Virginia to Manhattan all the way to the Hamptons on Long Island.
They also talked about his $500,000 luxury clothing. They mentioned a $21,000 watch, and they even, yes, mentioned a $15,000 jacket made of ostrich...
COOPER: I've been thinking about a jacket the Paul Manafort is wearing, made out of ostrich, and when you said that, initially I thought you meant ostrich feathers, and I was like, "Oh please let there be a picture of Paul Manafort in a jacket of ostrich feathers!" I realize it's ostrich skin.
SCHNEIDER: There may be.
COOPER:It's probably leather. How does Rick Gates fit into all of this?
Coop knew there were no ostrich feathers, but so what? He played the amusing card again last night! In short, cable news is good solid fun—just as it was, back in the day, when it was the (perfectly normal) clothing of Candidate Gore these multimillionaire corporate idiots were endlessly clowning about, night after night, for months.
That horseplay sent Candidate Bush to the White House, and thus sent us into Iraq.
Cable news is fun—and it isn't just cable! This morning, the New York Times is also fun as Katie Rogers has some fun with Trump's latest ridiculous comment.
We refer to the commander's comment about needing ID at the grocery store. Rogers did a stand-alone news report in which she briefly discussed—and baldly distorted—past press corps amusements:
ROGERS (8/2/18): Past presidents have also faced charges of out-of-touch, knife-and-fork elitism.It's true. People like Rogers have been pimping these inanities for the past 30-plus years.
President George Bush was teased for not knowing how to work a grocery store scanner—in his defense he was actually marveling over the newfangled technology—during his failed campaign for re-election in 1992. President Barack Obama was once heckled by Sean Hannity, Mr. Trump’s favorite human megaphone, for ordering Dijon mustard (too fancy!) on a cheeseburger.
Even Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s current personal lawyer who once had Oval Office ambitions, made headlines in 2007 when it was clear he had no idea how much a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk might cost a consumer.
Trump's statement this week didn't seem to make, like so many things he says. But back in 1992, President Bush was widely mocked—he was very much not "teased"—by a bogus report about that scanner, a bogus report which originated, where else, in Rogers' own New York Times.
Four years later, Candidate Lamar Alexander was mugged at the end of the New Hampshire primary by a press corps jihad about the price of bread and milk. It's entirely possible that this brain-dead press corps jihad swung New Hampshire to Candidate Pat Buchanan. To all appearances, the silly behavior by the journos badly hurt Alexander's chances.
The press corps' behavior that fateful week was silly, dumb, addled and stupid. They'd occasionally played the price of bread-and-milk card ever since David Broder invented it long ago.
According to Professor Harari, our species conquered, long ago, because our ancestors developed 1) the ability to "gossip" and 2) the ability to create, believe and affirm highly potent group "fictions." To this very day, our press corps tends to specialize in those very same low-grade skills.
As the journalists gossip, simper and play, little effort is made to explore extremely basic questions.
We'll try to list some such questions tomorrow. We'll start with what Natasha wrote.
Tomorrow: Isn't that what Hillary did?
The winter of 96: Back in the winter of 96, we parodied the assault on Alexander through our weekly hard-copy publication, The Election Town Crier.
Our award-winning headline winningly said, in part, "Witty scribes put the pun back in pundit." Our report went something like this:
DERRY, N.H.—What’s the price of milk and a dozen large eggs? And shouldn’t “outsider” hopefuls be able to tell you?Let's face it, folks. That's entertainment!
To USA Today’s Judy Keen and Joe Urschel, it was news when Lamar Alexander couldn’t answer. They filed page-one reports from New Hampshire this week that had candidates scrambling for cover.
Reporters love the old-fashioned “price-of-milk-and-eggs” story because it involves information so simple that even they can explain it. And it lets talented wordsmiths like Keen and Urschel showcase their staples-based punning.
On Wednesday, Keen milked the story for all it was worth, leaving the Tennessee walker with egg on his face. When the hard-boiled Urschel followed suit the next day, Alexander must have felt drawn and quart-ered!
The next hapless hopeful to be knocked “over easy” was the bumbling ex-front runner, publishing magnate Steve Forbes. He would be rendered a real Grade A foil by his collection of Faberge eggs.
Straight-faced reporters asked the whipping-boy Forbes what he thought a dozen large eggs might be running. When he priced the twelve “eggs” around six million dollars, his high-priced campaign was now toast!
Others would handle the question better, made aware of the mayhem out on the trail. Pat Buchanan received reports from the nation’s storm cellars describing the cost of survivalist rations. And Morry Taylor punished scribes with long-winded raps on the cost of a good set of tires.
But the press corps had worked its time-honored magic, forcing the hopefuls to focus on issues. For this wasn’t some silly straw poll, after all. This was New Hampshire—the cream of the crop!
Oh yes. Buchanan rolled to an upset win over Dole. Winning margarine? What else—one percent!