WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15, 2022
Previous concerns disappear: For a good example of imperfect journalism, consult today's New York Times.
This news report previews tomorrow's presentation by the January 6 committee. Headline included, the news report starts like this:
Jan. 6 Panel Hints at Fresh Revelations as Hearing Is Delayed
A day after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Eric Herschmann, a White House lawyer, received an unexpected call from the conservative lawyer John Eastman, who had been working with President Donald J. Trump to try to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
To Mr. Herschmann’s surprise—even after the deadly riot—Mr. Eastman was still pushing to fight the election results, an effort that resulted in mayhem and violence.
Mr. Herschmann cut him off.
“I’m going to give you the best free legal advice you’re ever getting in your life,” he recalled telling Mr. Eastman before recommending he find a criminal defense lawyer, adding, “You’re going to need it.”
In essence, the reporters present these statements by Herschmann as if they're established fact. Truthfully, this is Herschmann's account of this conversation, though it was given under oath.
Stating the obvious, any witness can remember events incorrectly. Witnesses also can lie.
For those reasons, it would have been better journalism to present these recollections, right up front, as Herschmann's account of what happened. And just for the record, Herschmann doesn't strike us as the most reliable possible witness.
In Herschmann's telling, Herschmann is the hero of this particular tale. In the way Herschmann tells it, he lambasted Jeffrey Clark on January 7.
Herschmann is the obvious hero of Herschmann's Trump-bustin' tale. But in the reports to which we've linked, Herschmann was still playing buddy to Donald J. Trump, and to Donald Trump Jr., exactly one day earlier, right there on January 6!
In our view, it isn't the best possible journalism to assume that every word a witness says is the absolute perfect truth. But Herschmann's story pleases our tribe, and it's being widely hailed within our tribal tents.
Meanwhile, alas! We liberals are currently hearing that some of our favorite stories aren't true. Today brings two examples:
As it turns out, Kimberley Guilfoyle wasn't paid for her January 6 speech out of an allegedly shady Trump fund-raising fund. Also this:
As it turns out, Rep. Loudermilk (R-Ga.) didn't take anyone on a tour of the Capitol Building on January 5, as had been suggested and/or alleged.
Every pleasing claim we hear won't necessarily be accurate! That brings us to the latest appearance on cable TV by Harvard's Professor Tribe.
Will the real Professor Tribe stand up? As we noted in this post, Professor Tribe appeared on MSNBC last Saturday night and offered sharp words of warning.
He started by saying that, in his view, Donald J. Trump has committed serious federal crimes. Beyond that, he said he's sure that Attorney General Garland will come to agree with that view.
At that point, Professor Tribe offered his words of warning. According to that earlier version of Tribe, charging Donald J. Trump with a crime might bring our democracy down:
TRIBE (6/11/22): What [Merrick Garland] has to do is make a very difficult choice. A lot of people who think it's easy underestimate the existential significance of indicting a former president.
Many people are telling him that it would cause deep unrest, violent reaction, maybe even civil war, for the popular former president to be indicted. What he'll have to do is ask whether the costs to the country, in terms of having this repeat itself, and in terms of having us absolutely go down the tubes as a democracy, whether those outweigh the undoubted complicated costs of indicting a former president.
That's the balance that I think he will be struggling with.
Professor Tribe went on from there. To see his full interview, click here.
Should Donald J. Trump be indicted? The attorney general will be facing a very difficult choice, Professor Tribe scarily said.
We shouldn't "underestimate the existential significance of indicting a former president," the Harvard professor said.
Tribe said that an indictment of Trump might lead to violent reaction, perhaps even civil wat. We could "absolutely go down the tubes as a democracy," the professor now scarily said.
In our own personal view, those are valid concerns. That said, we were surprised to see Tribe saying such things on MSNBC. By this time, we would hgve thought everyone knew that such things simply aren't done!
We're going to guess that Professor Tribe got some pushback from the masses after he stated those views. We say that because, when Tribe appeared with Lawrence O'Donnell last night, he bruited Trump's crimes all up and down—but he did so without saying a word about the existential concerns to which he had given voice only three nights before.
Concerns about violence, even about civil war? Those concerns were totally gone when Tribe appeared last night.
You can see the new Laurence Tribe in this four-minute tape. Because MSNBC is slow-walking its transcript production, we can't link you to a full account of all the things he said.
If you watch the tape of last night's interview, you'll see Tribe asserting that Trump would have no serious way to defend himself at trial should he be indicted. You will hear nothing about any possible civil disorder.
This was the new Laurence Tribe, taking the place of the old Laurence Tribe. We can't judge his legal claims, but we can say that Professor Tribe had executed a rather substantial flip.
Needless to say, Lawrence O'Donnell didn't ask him about his new attitude. As everyone surely knows by now, such things simply aren't done on corporate "cable news" channels.
Long ago and far away, Bob Dylan wrote a brilliant song (Tears of Rage). At an earlier time of major upheaval, a heartbroken father was asking his daughter why she had left him and her mother behind:
We pointed you the way to go
And scratched your name in sand,
Though you just thought it was nothing more
Than a place for you to stand.
I want you to know that while we watched you
Discover no one would be true
That I myself was among the ones who thought
It was just a childish thing to do.
Teenagers in the 1960s were deciding that "no one [in their parents' generation] would be true." In this song, Dylan's heartbroken father says "it was just a childish thing" for his daughter to reach that conclusion.
Today, our floundering nation desperately needs a way to recover from the age of Trump. In our view, it isn't childish to be surprised when people like Tribe seem to shapeshift in the way the professor did last night.
It isn't childish to be upset when cable stars like Lawrence O'Donnell fail to inquire about their flips. In truth, very few people "will be true" is our current cable environment.
One last point about the various things we liberals sometimes hear:
Last Saturday night, Professor Tribe opened with an unusual statement. As far as we know, he made an unfounded claim:
TRIBE (6/11/22): There was a huge group at the Ellipse. Long before [Trump] fired up that group, the Proud Boys, who he had told to stand by and stand back, and the Oathkeepers had engaged in reconnaissance of the Capitol with the help of members of Congress who acted essentially as insiders in the Capitol...
Say what? Tribe said that members of Congress had conducted reconnaissance tours of the Capitol for the two violent groups who led the January 6 incursion.
He made this claim as if it was an established fact. He seemed to say that the January 6 committee had made this claim at its first hearing.
In fact, no one had said any such thing at that initial hearing. As far as we know, no one has ever established the fact that any such tours took place.
Ayman Mohyeldin didn't challenge or question what Professor Tribe said. Today, we learn that Rep. Loudermilk led no such tour, just as he had said.
It seems to us that Professor Tribe has been all over the place in the past four nights. That said, on our own cable channels, no one—not Lawrence O'Donnell, not anyone else—is going to keep us posted when pleasing claims fall apart.
With regard to the possible indictment of Trump, we can tell you this:
We watched Professor Tribe last Saturday night. Possibly after a bit of pushback, a different version of Professor Tribe seemed to appear last night.
Even after 22 years, we're still surprised when we see such things. We don't think our reaction is childish. We think it goes straight to the point.
This afternoon: With what crimes could Trump be charged?
When the professor flipped on guns: Regarding that intriguing event, remind us to tell you some time.