The children play in the "dirt:" We first heard about Trump's remarks while watching Chris Matthews play Hardball.
Chris was highly exercised. We were reminded of the remarkable evenings in early 2000 when he went on and on, then on and on some more, misstating every possible fact about Candidate Gore's 1996 visit to the Buddhist temple.
Back in early 2000, the liberal world just sat there and took it. Everyone wanted to get on Hardball back in those days! There were very few cable shows at that time, so who cared if Bush ended up in the White House and people ended up dead in Iraq?
We recalled those Buddhist temple rants as Chris sputtered and bellowed last night. At one point, we saw him say this:
MATTHEWS (6/12/19): A Perry Mason moment from the president. "So what if I did?"But did Trump actually say that? Moments later, Matthews returned from a break, at which point he said it again:
President Trump, in a stunning admission, says he is willing to accept the help of a foreign government in future elections and accepting dirt on a political rival from a global rival is not interference. Think about that.
MATTHEWS: Back with tonight's breaking story, the shocking admission from President Trump that he thinks it's okay to take political dirt on his opponent from a foreign government.We'll offer several quick reactions to the hubbub about what Trump said. We'll start by directing you to last evening's post by Kevin Drum.
What Trump actually said: As Drum noted in his post, it isn't entirely clear that Trump said "it's okay to take political dirt on his opponent from a foreign government."
What happened in Trump's exchange with George Stephanopoulos happens remarkably often. First, Stephanopoulos asked a somewhat fuzzy question. He didn't specifically ask Trump about taking information from a foreign government.
Trump then gave an even fuzzier reply, as is his norm and his wont. He talked about the possibility of taking information from "somebody from Norway." Foreign governments weren't explicitly mentioned.
In this manner, Trump was never placed firmly on the record about the practice of taking information from a foreign government. But so what? In another entirely typical move, the entire press corps began to describe the conversation as if he explicitly had!
Drum noted this fact in last evening's post. This is very much the way our ridiculous pundit corps works. Anthropologists say that this was always the best our limited species could do.
Speak like a child: It's embarrassing to see the way the press corps talks about receiving "dirt," eschewing such grown-up terms as "negative information."
In the emails which set up the Trump Tower meeting, the word "dirt" was never used. Donald Trump Junior was offered "sensitive information," not dirt.
Big boys and girls will often decide to use their grown-up words. The children of the mainstream press corps propagandize you by deep-sixing the word "information" (or the phrase "negative information"), turning instead to the highly emotional, heavily loaded term "dirt."
It's embarrassing, but everyone does it. Reporters even put "dirt" inside quotation marks in news reports. See the first paragraph of this report from today's New York Times.
What is a "foreign national?" Do we really think it's against the law to take information during a campaign from a "foreign national?" If so, what the heck what Christopher Steele doing in 2016?
Steele was himself a foreign national. He was seeking negative information about Trump from other foreign nationals, presumably from Russians.
But the children who people our pundit corps seem unable to draw the distinction between "foreign nationals" and "foreign governments." They often seem to have made a sacred vow never to draw the most basic distinctions at any point in their lives.
Trump actually gets something right: In our view, our pundits corps had an embarrassing evening last night. They almost seem to have taken a vow never to make clear sense.
One person who did make clear sense at one point was commander in chief Donald Trump. He drew an instant sane distinction in this exchange with Stephanopoulos:
TRUMP (6/12/19): I'll tell you what. I have seen a lot of things over my life. I don't think, in my whole life, I have ever called the FBI in my whole life. I don't—you don`t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office. You do whatever you do.Oof! Trump actually got that one right! Presumably, there's a difference between receiving stolen information and receiving information which has been legally observed or obtained.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Al Gore got a stolen briefing book. He called the FBI.
TRUMP: Well, that's different, a stolen briefing book. This isn't a stolen—this is somebody that said, "We have inflammation on your opponent."
For the record, Donald Trump Junior was never told that the Russkie lawyer would be offering stolen information. According to the Mueller report's account of the meeting, she never did.
Donald Trump actually got that one right! As his conversation continued, we'd even say that he may have gotten the better of this exchange as well:
STEPHANOPOULOS (continuing directly): The FBI director says that's what should happen.Every pundit has agreed to be shocked, just shocked, that Trump would say such a thing. But there's no reason why a president had to defer to the head of the FBI on any particular point.
TRUMP: The FBI director is wrong.
If Trump thinks Director Wray is out over his skis on this matter, he has every right to say so. Judging from what we see on cable, many former intelligence types think they belonged to some royal guild whose judgments must never be challenged.
Sad! It wasn't all that long ago that it was liberals and progressives who reflexively doubted the judgments and pronouncements of powerful insider orgs like the CIA and the FBI. Now, because of Donald J. Trump, we act like there's no possible way the great public servants who people such orgs could ever display imperfect judgment or be wrong about some point.
For ourselves, we're eager to see the results of the Inspector General's probe of the intelligence community's investigation of the Russkies and Trump.
We liberals today! We seem to find it hard to believe that a great man like Comey the God could have done something unwise or wrong in his conduct of this probe. We're behaving this way even after observing Comey's reckless behavior in attacking Candidate Clinton—and in the face of Mueller the God's squirrelly conduct over the past few months. (What the bleep's wrong with that guy?)
The Inspector General is just one person, but we're curious to see what he says. After that, we'll be curious to see the results of the Barr probe.
Meanwhile, could the children pretty please maybe stop saying "dirt?" It's a thoroughly childish term of propagandistic importuning—nothing more, nothing less. We think it's time for Chris to start using his indoor voice, and for the rest of these lost boys and girls to start using their grown-up words.
In fairness, experts say our limited species was wired to function like this.