Rogers frisks first lady Trump: Daniel Dale is a full-time Trump fact-checker for the Toronto Star.
He strikes us as 100 percent sincere. So does Brian Stelter, host of CNN's Reliable Sources, with whom Dale spoke on Sunday, November 3.
Given the important role our press corps plays, sincerity isn't enough. That said, some in the mainstream press corps don't strike us as hugely sincere. Two items in today's New York Times lead us toward the history of this phenomenon.
One such item is Frank Bruni's column in belated praise of Candidate Gore. There's a lot to say about Bruni's piece. We'll set that aside for another day.
Let's focus instead on this front-page report, in which three reporters discuss Melania Trump's call for the dismissal of a John Bolton aide. The aide in question is Mira Ricardel, a deputy national security adviser under Bolton.
Let it be said that, under normal circumstances, the call for the head of a Bolton aide will likely have much to recommend it.
That said, it's unusual for a first lady to state such a public request.
Who the heck is Ricardel, and what the heck has she allegedly done? The Times report offers this overview, focusing on Melania Trump's visit to Africa last month:
HABERMAN, COOPER AND NIXON (11/14/18): Mrs. Trump’s problems with Ms. Ricardel seem to date to the first lady’s trip to Africa in October, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.Could the Times have been more delicate in pimping those admittedly delicious "accusations of inappropriate behavior?" Did the Timesreally have to include that one particular name?
Ms. Ricardel had announced the trip before it was fully planned, according to one of the people, and then threatened to pull resources for it after learning that she did not have a seat on Mrs. Trump’s plane. After the trip ended, Ms. Ricardel made accusations of inappropriate behavior by Mrs. Trump’s most trusted staff members, including Lindsay Reynolds, the first lady’s chief of staff—claims that a person close to the first lady said were false.
Mrs. Trump then complained to John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, about Ms. Ricardel, and Mr. Kelly raised the issue with Mr. Bolton, two White House officials said.
More on those questions below. In this morning's Washington Post, this portrait of Ricardel appears:
DAWSEY AND RUCKER (11/14/18): In her role as No. 2 to national security adviser John Bolton, Ricardel berated colleagues in meetings, yelled at military aides and White House professional staff, argued with Melania Trump regarding her recent trip to Africa and spread rumors about Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, according to three current and two former White House officials.Oof! Needless to say, the fact that these claims appear in the Post doesn't make them true. That said, Ricardel stands accused, among other offenses, of spreading rumors about Mattis and pimping false accusations about Melania's Trump's top staffers.
Kelly has sought for months to oust Ricardel, calling her a problematic hire in the West Wing, and Mattis has told advisers that he wants her out as well, the officials said.
The current problem seems to center on the Africa trip. This brings us back to the New York Times' rather familiar treatment of that good-will excursion.
Long ago and far away, Katherine Boo warned the world about the "Creeping Dowdism" then taking shape at the New York Times. In the 26 years since Boo issued that prophetic warning, the ridiculous, Hamptons-based newspaper has doubled and tripled down on this noxious journalistic framework, with its focus on trivia and throwback gender values.
In many ways, Dowdism sought to recreate (and nuclearize) the unfortunate throwback values of the old mid-century "women's pages." The Times has long hired in that direction—think Amy Chozick, with her lengthy rumination about whether Candidate Obama was too skinny to be president—and those values were on display when Katie Rogers played the usual reindeer games concerning that Africa trip.
The first such report appeared on October 6. For the record, Rogers had found an assistant professor at Cal-Riverside to support the story she liked:
ROGERS (10/6/18): A half a world away from the spectacle of Washington, Melania Trump still managed to create one of her own during a Kenyan safari on Friday, riding out into the grassland wearing a crisp white pith helmet—a common symbol of European colonial rule."To some"—to the always useful "some"—Melania Trump's fashion choice had been "a big error."
It may not have been the most glaring faux pas the hyper-scrutinized Mrs. Trump has ever made. That title probably goes to the ''I really don't care. Do U?'' jacket she wore on the way to visit detained migrant children in Texas in June.
But to some—especially those who study African history—her fashion choice in Kenya was still a big error on the global stage: the sight of a first lady wearing something so closely associated with the exploitation of Africans.
Hours before Washington woke up, critics were pointing out how Mrs. Trump—who is here representing a husband widely reported to have disparaged African nations in vulgar terms—had fumbled this segment of her visit.
Had anyone in Africa felt that way about this outfit? Focusing on the tweets Over Here, Rogers failed to offer any such example.
She quoted one (assistant) professor; at the Times, that was good enough. As she continued, Rogers kept pouring it on:
ROGERS (continuing directly): The criticism was not universal. Several large Kenyan news sites focused not on the safari fashion but on Mrs. Trump's other attention-grabbing activity of the day: feeding baby elephants, and a fall broken by a Secret Service agent.Who cares what a bunch of Kenyan news sites might have said and thought about the day's grab for attention? Angry tweets had come rolling in Over Here. At the Times, that's where the action was.
But on social media, the angry tweets and hashtags about the helmet rolled in: #FLOTUSinAfricaBingo documented what some felt were Mrs. Trump's tone-deaf fashion choices.
Rogers went on and on about Melania's Trump's alleged large fashion gaffe. She then started up again in a longer report the next day. The snark and snide were general:
ROGERS (10/7/18): On one of the most consequential days of her husband's embattled presidency, as the Senate approved his controversial choice for the Supreme Court, Melania Trump traveled to the edge of this sand-colored city and posed before the Great Sphinx, one hand in the pocket of her men's-wear-inspired ensemble. Standing with her back against the enigmatic monument, the equally enigmatic first lady did something unusual: She spoke up for herself.With apologies for our throwback language, "Hiss! Hiss-spit! Meow!!"
''I wish people would focus on what I do,'' an exasperated Mrs. Trump said in rare comments to reporters, ''not what I wear.''
Then came the fashion show.
Dressed in a tan blazer, a white shirt and black tie, and palazzo pants, Mrs. Trump stood in the wind against the desertscape. As dancers performed and music played, she adjusted her jacket (Ralph Lauren), pulled her hat (Chanel) down over her eyes, and ensured that every angle was captured as her tour through Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt came to a close on Saturday.
It was a striking moment for a first lady who, perhaps more than any other in modern times, has been happy to be a walking contradiction. It also felt like a message to old acquaintances who have boxed her out of her glamorous past life because of their opposition to her husband. Stormy Daniels may get an embrace from Anna Wintour, but Mrs. Trump still has the Great Pyramid of Giza.
It was classic Dowdism. Rogers reported Melania Trump's complaint about having her clothing frisked, then immediately launched the latest frisking—the latest frisking of her clothing and, of course, of the way she'd "posed."
Ralph Lauren, Chanel and Wintour got named. Rogers then proceeded to tell us how the whole thing "felt:"
It felt like a message to old acquaintances who have boxed her out of her glamorous past life because of their opposition to her husband. So Rogers was willing to tell us in this New York Times "news report."
For what it's worth, no other major American news org reported this trip this way. When the Washington Post reported the trip on October 6, it did so under this hard-copy headline:
"First lady's Africa trip steers clear of big stumbles"
These are matters of judgment, of course. But the Times had taken a trip into the wilds of its well-established Dowdism, as a consequence of which so many adults and children have died.
Can we talk? When we read that Melania Trump is angry with Ricardel about the Africa trip, we wondered if Ricardel had perhaps spread rumors to the Times about that allegedly appalling pith helmet. We have no way of knowing such things, but we do know this:
Bruni's recollection of Candidate Gore fits right into this framework. No candidate has ever had his wardrobe (and his sincerity) frisked in anything resembling the way Candidate Gore did.
His boots, his suits, his polo shirts? The height at which his pants were hemmed? The number of buttons on his suit jackets? The apparent age of his boots?
The fact that one of his suits was brown, or possibly olive? The undoruced claim that Naomi Wolf had told him to wear earth tones? The defectives of the mainstream press frisked all these factors to the death, generally in ways designed to reinforce the throwback gender insanity of the New York Times, in which all Democratic men were and are, in Dowd's eyes, actually women.
Gore was "today's man-woman," Chris Matthews said (in an array of other ways) as he frisked the candidate's clothing. Naomi Wolf was endlessly slimed; her presence meant that Gore "had hired a woman to teach him how to be a man."
This is the stupid, ugly throwback culture the New York Times built. Children are dead all over Iraq because the Times and its many imitators wouldn't stop playing these games.
The New York Times refuses to stop hiring toward these frameworks. Rogers has played these Dowd-fueled games before; Chozick was a master.
The addled guild which runs the Times is among our least discernibly human. We can't help wondering if Melania Trump's anger at the Bolton aide is tied, somehow, to the Dowd-fueled way this addled newspaper chose to play this trip.
How many children are going to die before we make the Dowdism stop? Daniel Dale is completely sincere. Out in the Hamptons and between some reporters' ears, some others quite possibly aren't.
Is it enough to be sincere? Before the week is done, we're going to tell you it's not.
Still coming: Dale spots an obvious "lie"
Please note: Your lizard will tell you the Times was right on. Your lizard is sometimes unhelpful.