Daniel Dale gets it right about Schiff!


Elsewhere, standards going and gone:
In our view, Daniel Dale got it right on CNN last night.

The fabled fact-checker was responding to a question from the perpetually over-matched Don Lemon. According to the CNN transcript, the question went like this:
LEMON (9/30/19): Listen, Daniel. Ever since House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff paraphrased and added some analysis to Trump's Ukraine call transcript, that occurring with the acting DNI, he has become the president's target on Twitter.

Just today, [Trump] said this: "Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a fake and terrible statement
pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian president, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore no relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for treason?"

Fact-check this for us, please.
Lemon was referring to Schiff's opening statement at last week's hearing with acting DNI chief Joseph Maguire. He also referred to Donald J. Trump's deranged and heinous behavior in suggesting that Schiff should be arrested and charged with treason because of that opening statement.

Donald J. Trump seems to be mentally ill; Rep. Schiff is not. For that reason, we expect more of Schiff than we do of Trump.

At this highly partisan time, we cheered when Dale was willing to criticize Schiff's performance:
DALE (continuing directly): I did a fact-check of what Schiff said. I said that what he said was confusing. It was a confusing paraphrase. I think Trump can make a fair argument that it was even misleading. But it's not illegal.

In fact, the Constitution has a whole clause that basically says you can say whatever you want in the House and the Senate or in committees of the House and the Senate. It is not illegal, much less treason.

You know, we have seen over and over the president alleged treason for things that are just not even close. He is just making up his own definition of a word that has an actual specific meaning in the Constitution.
According to Dale, Schiff's opening statement at last week's hearing was "a confusing paraphrase." He even said it was fair for Trump to claim that Schiff's presentation was misleading.

We agree with these points. As we watched Schiff's opening statement in real time, we thought he was engaging in a practice we'd call "creative paraphrase."

We thought Schiff was embellishing what Trump had said in his now-famous phone call with the Ukrainian president. We recalled the many times we've criticized the nation's ivory tower logicians for failing to initiate a public discussion of "the logic of paraphrase."

(This dates to Campaign 2000, a White House campaign which was decided by twenty straight months of bogus group paraphrase on the part of the mainstream press corps.)

These are clownishly partisan times. Watching CNN and MSNBC in the past twenty-four hours, it seems to us that these channels have completely abandoned journalistic procedures in favor of sardonic propaganda and the promulgation of tribal stampedes.

For those reasons, we were glad to see Dale say what he said to Lemon. In this morning's New York Times, the review of Schiff's opening statement actually got a bit worse, even as Linda Qiu predictably tried to defend him:
QIU (2/1/19): Later in the hearing, Mr. Schiff said that his “summary of the president’s call was meant to be at least part in parody.” Mr. Schiff described Mr. Trump’s side of the call as a “classic organized crime shakedown.” His account veered from the transcript in chronology and details at points, and seemed intended to put additional attention on the implication that Mr. Trump was demanding something from Ukraine in return for the assistance the United States had provided the country, but it generally tracked with the transcript’s version of what Mr. Trump said on the call.
Very sad but true! Schiff did in fact describe his opening statement as "meant to be at least part in parody.” This is what can happen when tribal fervor melts traditional standards down.

Opening statements in impeachment-related hearings should not be "meant to be at least part in parody.” We'd describe such an impulse as Creeping Maddowism, and we'd strongly advise against it.

This morning, we were embarrassed by the ridiculous conduct of the ridiculous Joe and Mika. (They were helped by their trusted sidekick Willie and their compliant guests.) Trump won't be stopping his heinous behavior until he finally gets someone killed, but our own side is now tilting very strongly in the direction of clown car values.

In large part, cable news is a corporate-run entertainment/propaganda medium. Important people like Adam Schiff should try, very hard, not to adopt its standards, procedures and values.

Dale's written fact-check: In real time, Dale's written fact-check of Schiff went on too long. But you can read it here.

He mentioned Schiff's "parody" comment too. It's time for such bullroar to go.


  1. For Schiff to "quote" incriminating things that Trump hadn't said was bizarre. Why did he do it? My guess is that in Schiff's mind, Trump meant what Schiff said. In reality, Trump said nothing incriminating.

    Can someone be convicted based on something he didn't say?

    1. "Why did he do it?"

      Because Trump doesn't make a lot of sense. You have to take his words in aggregate to understand what he is getting at. Schiff did that.

      If Trump said nothing incriminating, why did he hide his conversation?

      Schiff's opening statement is not the evidence upon which Trump would be convicted. Schiff was opening an investigation, not even a trial. Trump DID do something incriminating and that will be made clear in articles of impeachment and a subsequent trial.

    2. If Trump said nothing incriminating, why did he hide his conversation?

      Conversations between the President have traditionally been kept confidential. Obama did the same thing. In fact, the surprising action was Trump's release of his Ukrainian conversation. Of course, the actual conversation helped Trump, because it contradicted much of the whistleblower's version.

    3. "You have to take [Trump's] words in aggregate to understand what he is getting at. Schiff did that."

      You can't convict someone on something he didn't say. Schiff's interpretation is not a fact, it is not evidence.

    4. "You can't convict someone on something he didn't say. "

      "Russia, if you're listening..."

  2. Schiff was not engaging in parody. He was drawing a comparison between what Trump did and a mafia boss (e.g., criminal).

    Schiff says "shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the President communicates". That means he is warning his audience that he is not quoting the president but has modified the conversation.

    The only deviation from what Trump actually said (in so many words) is that Trump didn't tell Zelensky not to call him (don't call us, we'll call you).

    Schiff then refers to his summary as "This is in sum and character what the president was trying to communicate..."

    These phrases should have alerted readers that he was not directly quoting the president's conversation.

    In my opinion, Schiff should not have said his summary was "meant to be at least part in parody". Nothing in it was funny but it was the substance of what Trump said. But it would be wrong to signal that impeachment is anything but a very serious proceeding.

    1. Perhaps the poor fella got confused and imagined himself auditioning for a talk show host on MSNBC.

      Hopefully, that's where he'll end up, eventually.

  3. Having heard the criticism of Schiff, I watched his disputed introduction. I thought 1) he was quite clear that he was interpreting, not quoting, and 2) I thought his interpretations were generally (perhaps entirely) supportable. I understand Somerby's leeriness of creative paraphrase masquerading as quote, from which so many Democratic candidates have suffered in the past, but I have much less problem when the "paraphrase" is fair and the fact that it is paraphrase is made explicit.

    That said, it is possible that, given the existence of a powerful and shameless right wing noise machine and the incompetence of most spokespeople for the left, Schiff made a tactical error.

    1. This is the same tactical error that Kerry made when he won a silver star, not anticipating that it would later enable the right to Swiftboat him.

    2. Exactly right, 5:28.

      Al Gore made a similar tactical error when he boasted about helping development of the internet during his time in Congress.

    3. 'given the existence of a powerful and shameless right wing noise machine'

      Absolutely ! Somerby is an aspiring part of the right wing noise machine, but fortunately lacks the audience to create too much noise

    4. @Anonymous, 9:20. To describe Somerby as part of the right wing noise machine is a gross injustice. He was there, calling out the mainstream press as it lied about Democratic presidential candidates, when few others were doing so, and he is as responsible as anyone for getting that acknowledged, if only quietly and in but a few places. Where were you and I, Anonymous?

      His criticisms of elements of current liberal positions, tactics and competence may annoy some true believers, but to me it always seems to me that he is still very much one of us.

    5. Whatever he may have been in the past is irrelevant. He is a Trumptard now.

  4. “At this highly partisan time, we cheered when Dale was willing to criticize Schiff's performance”

    Exactly when has the mainstream press *not* been willing to criticize a Democrat?

    Republicans can lie, cheat, steal, and threaten, with the full weight of a corrupt Executive Branch, but a Democrat isn’t allowed to accurately paraphrase a conversation without half of the news media jumping down his throat. (And, no, it wasn’t just Daniel Dale who criticized Schiff.)

    Trump is “trying to get someone killed”, he wants Schiff arrested and tried for treason, but Somerby cheers when Schiff is criticized for something that could *possibly* be seen as a tactical mistake. Schiff clearly indicates he was not quoting from the transcript and was trying to convey the essence of the conversation as he sees it. Every prosecutor lays out the case against the defendant as that prosecutor understands it. Schiff sees the conversation as implying what he said in his statement, and it explains why Trump’s phone call has led to an impeachment inquiry.

    The news media, and Somerby, are still letting Trump drive the narrative, by giving the Mad President the benefit of the doubt regarding his violent overreaction, and demanding penance, yet again, from a Democrat.

  5. Somerby accuses Schiff of adopting the “standards, procedures and values” of corporate media by using paraphrase to describe Trump’s phone call. Paraphrase is a perfectly valid rhetorical technique that does not exclusively belong to the corporate media, and its use is not prima facie evidence of “clown-car values”, as described by Somerby. That is hugely unfair to Schiff, who is trying to hold this fricking administration accountable and is a highly serious individual. There isn’t anything at all clownish about this impeachment inquiry.

  6. Well Boris, in that case the guy you are paid to promote, i.e. Trump would be in even hotter water. Dale has fact checked Trump and pointed out this lies hundreds of times.

    Better get back to your Moscow buds for a better line.

  7. Steve Benen at Maddowblog describes Trump's use of the word "coup" to describe the impeachment process. He quotes Peter Navarro:

    "The Republican added that presidential impeachment would "take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!"

    This argument, that impeachment takes away the voting rights of citizens who voted for Trump, is what Somerby has been saying (before he got on this country music kick).

    Once again, Somerby is repeating right wing, Trump supporter memes. There shouldn't be any doubt now that Somerby is a tool of the right and not any kind of liberal.

  8. But, of course, TDH never says that (conviction upon) impeachment does any of the absurd things that Peter Navarro claims. TDH merely points out that in fact such a conviction reverses the outcome of an election, and that we should not be surprised that many on the other side will be exercised about that.

    There shouldn't be any doubt now that you can't read for comprehension.

    1. Is any liberal, anywhere, unaware of how the right will feel about impeachment? If all Somerby is doing is telling us this, and only this, then he is Captain Obvious.

    2. Bob should criticize the media, if the media's reaction to those exercised isn't "Fuck 'em. They're dead-enders."

    3. Impeachment and removal makes Clinton President ? If not, then it doesn't reverse the outcome of an election.

      Somerby is concern trolling, as befits a Trumptard.

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