Dale spots obvious "lie:" To our eye, this week's election results look better with each passing day.
That said, we share a perspective which appears in a letter in today's New York Times. We share the writer's puzzlement on a certain point, if not her overall view.
The writer ends her letter by asking a question. We include the heading from the hard-copy Times:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (11/9/18): Shocked by Election ResultsLike the writer, we're struck by the fact that something like 45 percent of voters say they approve of Trump's performance in office, with something like 46 percent of voters supporting Republican candidates for the House this past week.
I switched to “Casablanca” on TCM for large parts of the election returns on Tuesday night. A few moments of sublime romance seemed a fair reward for the debacle being played out on the other networks.
The commentators seemed alternately pleased, dismayed and frustrated by the numbers rolling in from around the country. I had a simpler reaction—I was shocked. I had assumed that the election of Donald Trump two years ago was a mistake, and that a large majority of people who voted for him deeply regretted it and would make it right in this midterm. I counted on Mr. Trump’s being humiliated by the rejection of his bigoted, cruel, disastrous policies.
I was grievously wrong, stupid and naïve.
Democrats won the House? So what? It is not enough to stop Mr. Trump and his Senate and his Cabinet and his Justice Department from continuing to destroy all that we once held sacred.
This is no longer the America of which we were all so proud—and no amount of slick lies can mask the truth. Worst of all, over 40 percent of Americans approve of the president. How can that be?
"How can that be?" the writer asks. We're intrigued by that question too.
That said, we're less inclined to savage those voters, more inclined to want to hear them explain their point of view. We're disinclined to take the Krugman road concerning The Others, a trail he blazes in ugly fashion, or so it says here, in this morning's column.
Why do people approve of Trump? We'd like to see people asked. But we almost never see such things on our own tribe's cable channels. Instead. we're served a steady diet of "our favorite reporters and friends" reciting standard tribal perspectives with other reporters and friends.
These favorite friends are strongly inclined to drop bombs on The Others, as Krugman does in his column. Our warlike, high;y limited species has been inclined to behave this way since roughly the dawn of spacetime.
On Monday afternoon's Dateline: White House, a group of favorite reporters and friends took turns reciting standard tribal/guild dogma. So did a panel of like-minded pundits on Sunday's Reliable Sources.
For better or worse, the greatest skill these tribunes possess would have to be their unparalleled skill at agreeing with each other. For decades, they've been working from standard script in truly remarkable ways. On balance, this tendency has strongly worked against progressive / Democratic interests, and against the interests of many people who are now dead around the world.
Truth to tell, our upper-end mainstream press just isn't stupendously sharp. Consider what happened when Brian Stelter interviewed Daniel Dale.
Dale writes for the Toronto Star. He has received a lot of praise for his work as a full-time Donald J. Trump fact-checker.
He appeared as a featured guest in the second segment of Sunday's Reliable Sources. Along the way, Stelter, the program's host, had teased his appearance:
STELTER (11/4/18): With President Trump holding rallies all over the country, sinking to new lows with his lies and fear-mongering, one of the busiest reporters in America will join me to break it down. His name is Daniel Dale. He is a full-time Trump fact-checker, and at this point, he deserves some hazard pay.Increasingly, Dale is lionized in these ways by others within the circle. As you will see if you watch the tape, Dale seems like the nicest guy in the world. He also seems completely sincere, as does Stelter himself.
STELTER: All right. Quick break. Much more from the panel all hour long. We're also going to talk about Trump's lying and fear-mongering on the campaign trail in the past few days, and whether it will have any effect at the polls. Hear from a full-time Trump fact-checker, right after a quick break.
STELTER: Trump's words and lies are not a joke. Sorry to be the pot of cold water here, but this is serious. And I wonder how much the press is playing in to some of these lies.
Joining the panel now, Daniel Dale, Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star, a full-time Trump fact-checker...Daniel, how are you doing it? You must be exhausted checking every single word the president says.
That said, how sharp is Daniel Dale's work? As his interview began, he responded to Stelter as follows:
DALE (continuing directly): I'm a sleepy man. And I've always been a sleepy man, but I'm increasingly sleepy because the president is getting worse and worse. So, this is—this is a big job.Without any question, fact-checking Donald J. Trump is an exhausting task. It's also true that fact-checking the mainstream press corps was an exhausting task back when we undertook that task in 1998 and 1999, with many disasters to follow.
STELTER: And you made the point again and again on Twitter, that he is repeating the same things over and over again. It's not as if he is saying 100 different unhinged things a day. He is repeating the same lies over and over again every day.
DALE: He is. That's part what have makes it easier as time goes on, because he is still saying the same stuff that he said, you know, in March 2017. But what's different about this period, these last couple of months, is that he has changed it up and he has introduced a number of whoppers. You know, complete fabrications that he had not been uttering before.
So these are not simply the usual exaggerations about crowd sizes and so on. You know, he is making stuff up in the last couple of weeks in a way that I don't think we have seen even from a serial liar, the president, before.
Fact-checking Trump is a very big job; his misstatements are many and endless. That said, we were struck by the casual way Stelter turned to the language of "lies" so soon after he and David Zurawik had agreed that a press corps which is under attack should be thoughtful about its procedures. (See Tuesday's report.)
Stelter was talking about Donald Trump's "lies." Dale had branded Trump as a "serial liar." In this behavior, there could be several problems:
We'll start with a possible political problem. When The Others see the press corps' favorite reporters and friends behave this way in casual fashion, they may think they're observing a form of "bias." In our view, it isn't clear that they will always be wrong about that.
There's also a possible intellectual problem with this bold and lusty pundit behavior. That problem shapes us like this:
For perfectly valid and sensible reasons, journalists have traditionally avoided branding statements as "lies." Stelter seems to be well aware of this fact. As he continued, he asked Dale to explain his thinking in this area:
STELTER (continuing directly): And The Washington Post is also keeping track. You do this full-time, so does the Post. I think we can show the Post data, over 6400, something like that, false or misleading claims.Sometimes Dale goes father than that? Rightly or wrongly, Dale goes farther than that pretty much all the time! Indeed, Stelter himself had been "going farther than that" all through his discussion this day.
Sometimes you go a little farther than that, Daniel. You say he "lies" more often than the Washington Post does. Why is that?
That said, why does Dale "sometimes" use the world "lie?" Dale explained himself:
DALE (continuing directly): Because I think that's the most accurate word for some of these claims. I also say "false claims" in many cases where we're not sure if the president is confused, if he doesn't understand the policy.Dale understands that false statements and claims aren't necessarily "lies." He knows a false statement isn't a lie if the misstatement stems from confusion or from a lack of understanding.
But when he tells the Wall Street Journal that his tariffs that he bragged about don't exist—he said, what tariffs? I don't have any tariffs anywhere—that's a lie. And I think in any other context but, you know, our roles as objective journalist, we would tell each that that was a lie.
But I think if we want to regain the trust that has been lost in media, we have to level with readers. We have to be seen to be straight shooters. I think, in those cases, the word is "lie."
Dale knows that false claims won't always be "lies." But then, he cited a recent obvious "lie."
According to Dale, Trump had told this obvious "lie" to the Wall Street Journal. Anyone would call it a lie, the Trump fact-checker said.
That said, how sharp is Dale's discernment? We told the analysts to research this recent, blatantly obvious recent "lie."
As they worked, they began to wail. Soon they were tearing their hair.
Tomorrow: Who will fact-check our favorite fact-checkers and friends?