THURSDAY, JULY 28, 2022
A dangerous tribal regime: The January 6 committee finished its first round of presentations last week.
At that point, a long string of major questions remained.
One week later, it now seems that Donald J. Trump may be in the sites of the Justice Department. Even as "blue tribe cable" celebrates that apparent fact, a long string of questions remain:
Will Donald J. Trump be charged with a federal crime? If so, what would that federal crime be?
Also, what kind of federal crime would it be? Would it be the kind of crime which can be explained to the average person?
"Shooting someone on Fifth Avenue" would be that type of crime. "Committing a fraud against the United States" might be harder to parse.
Here at this incomparable site, other major questions remained after the committee finished its initial round of presentations.
(We're inclined to avoid the term "hearings" in referring to these efforts. Given the structure of these events, they were more like the type of presentation offered in an occasionally one-sided term paper. That may be a thoroughly valuable type of work, but it differs in various ways from the standard congressional hearing.)
Here are two questions which remained after the committee finished its first round of presentations:
Did Donald J. Trump, or the "Trump orbit," engage in the preplanning for the (plainly preplanned) violence which occurred on January 6?
It seemed to us that the January 6 committee had teased this possibility during its session with Cassidy Hutchinson. But when the committee offered its next presentation, there was no attempt to address this possibility.
(Needless to say, this omission was mention by no one across the sweep of blue cable. Under current media arrangements, such things simply aren't done.)
Needless to say, it may be that Donald J. Trump did engage in this preplanning. If so, the committee has apparently failed to establish that fact, at least up to this point.
Is it possible that Donald J. Trump believed, and still believes, his various unfounded and / or false claims about the 2020 election?
This second question leads to the most salient unaddressed question of all—the question of Donald J. Trump's cognitive or psychological state.
Under general terms of the so-called Goldwater Rule, the mainstream press has steadfastly agreed to avoid considering any such question—to consult no medical specialists.
In that way, the corps has conducted a thoroughly childish analysis of these potentially existential events. They've happily restricted themselves to the intellectual level of the 8-year-old child, in which Trump's endless battery of howling misstatements are pleasingly rejected as "lies."
Is it possible that Donald J. Trump still believes his wild claims? Beyond that, what might explain the bizarre behavior of such major players as Giuliani, Powell and Flynn?
Could Donald J. Trump believe his claims? We'll return to this question tomorrow when we look at What (George) Conway Said.
Conway, the multimillionaire tobacco lawyer and past co-conspirator with Coulter and Drudge, is now a major hero in our blue tribe's eyes. Tomorrow, we'll look at the silly things he said on CNN last Friday morning, the morning after the committee's final presentation.
For today, we continue with a very serious "question which remains."
To some extent, this question encompasses some of the work of the January 6 committee itself. But in a very major way, it's a question about the devolving behavior of high-end Blue Tribe Cable:
Can a modern nation expect to survive our current, wholly "segregated" media regime? Can our nation hope to survive under current arrangements?
Can our nation hope to survive under current arrangements? Under those arrangements, red tribe pundits misinform and proselytize red tribe voters. Meanwhile, blue tribe pundits increasingly perform the same misshapen functions for us in the blue tribe crowd.
This question takes us back to the hopeless blue tribe pundit behavior which followed last week's final presentation. All of a sudden, these questions were at issue:
Had "the Secret Service"—presumably, someone in the Secret Service—plotted to kidnap Vice President Pence on January 6? Also, had "the Secret Service"—presumably, someone in the Secret Service—plotted with President Donald J. Trump to create an "intended assassination" of Pence?
Let's stick with that first question. Had "the Secret Service"—presumably, someone in the Secret Service—really planned to whisk Pence away from the Capitol Building and then refuse to bring him back, thereby making it impossible for Candidate Biden's victory to be certified?
It wound have been a wonderful episode of 24. But had it actually happened? Did "the Secret Service" actually do that?
Yesterday, we showed you the way Jill Wine-Banks pushed this unfounded theory on last Thursday evening's Last Word. Today, we'll show you what former senator Claire McCaskill said after Wine-Banks was done.
In part, Wine-Banks seemed to be basing her lurid speculations upon a factual error. To her, it was obvious that someone in the Secret Service had deliberately erased a bunch of texts—and it seemed that someone in the Service Service had conspired with Trump to whisk Pence away.
No one corrected the apparent factual error on which her lurid speculations were based. And when Wine-Banks was done, McCaskill chimed in with the statements shown below, following a highly slanted feed from Lawrence O'Donnell:
MCCASKILL (7/21/22): And why was Pence so adamant about not going with them, Lawrence? Think about that. Think about what was going on in Pence's mind.
Uh-oh! Just like that, we were being asked to "think about"—to imagine—what was going on in Pence's mind at a given point in time.
Major aides to Vice President Pence had explained his thinking on several occasions. They'd done so before the January 6 committee, in one of their televised hearings.
Needless to say, their explanations may not have been fully accurate. As far as that goes, their explanations may not have bene accurate at all!
That said, viewers of Lawrence's program weren't told what Pence'a aides have said. Instead, McCaskill began instructing us to imagine "what was going on in Pence's mind."
This was pure speculation—and the speculation pleased the great god, Lurid:
MCCASKILL (continuing directly) Because if Pence believed this was just about his safety, I think he might have gone, even temporarily, to another location. But you have to think, maybe Pence was thinking what we're thinking. That there is an effort here to get me out of the building and keep me away from the building so I cannot certify these votes. Because that's obviously the goal of the day for Team Trump.
Warning warning warning warning! McCaskill was now telling us what "you have to think." She was telling us what you had to think about what someone else had been thinking at a given point in time.
According to McCaskill, you had to think that Pence was thinking that he was about to be kidnapped. That's what the pundits were thinking on The Last Word—and for some reason, you had to think that Pence had been thinking the very same thing!
In fact, a person doesn't have to think any such thing at all. More importantly, if a prominent person considers such a possibility, she doesn't have to go on TV and bruit this imagined possibility all around her tribe.
That's especially true when Pence's team has offered a different explanation of the decisions he made that day. And yes—under traditional rules, responsible journalists would have reported what Pence's top aides have said.
Responsible journalists would have done that. McCaskill and Lawrence didn't.
McCaskill was spreading a lurid theory, one that would thrill our tribe's viewers. We were being offered an episode of 24—and McCaskill continued from there:
MCCASKILL (continuing directly): And you know, the sad thing about all this is that of all of the institutions that Donald trump has degraded during his time, I remember thinking of the Secret Service, the times that I've been around them, and I've been around them many times in my career, how reassuring it was that they were not political.
This is real serious, corrosive damage that has been done to this institution. There needs to be a cleanup here. There needs to be a new set of management. There needs to be a new set of ethics. And there needs to be a new commitment to this agency not being political.
We agree that there needs to be a cleanup, a new set of ethics. That said, we'd suggest that the cleanup in question should be conducted within the hallowed halls of red and blue tribal cable, a deeply corrosive institution which is doing great harm to us all.
That said, is it true? Has the Secret Service never been political in the past?
Dearest darlings, please! Early in the Clinton years, there was a great deal of consternation about the behavior and attitudes of certain Secret Service agents, even of the agency's director.
(That director was John Magaw. Even then, his last name began with MAGA!)
We won't try to take you through all the pain and the turmoil. We won't attempt to judge the questions which arose at that time—but in her book about the Secret Service, Carol Leonnig offered this:
LEONNIG (pages 185-186): The Secret Service culture is steeped in deference and discretion when it comes to the First Family. But many agents had a very negative reaction to the Clintons and didn't work to conceal it from friends and co-workers. Politically, most Secret Service agents leaned Republican and law-and-order, so they didn't see eye-to-eye with Clinton on his Democratic social agenda. Most of the agents had also served Republican presidents of the past twelve years, two presidents they very much admired.
Leonnig goes into substantial detail about the apparent problems which developed—problems involving some of the agents, but also Director Magaw, who Clinton found a way to replace.
We can't judge the ultimate truth about these widely-discussed events. But we wondered what planet McCaskill was on as she assured our blue tribe crowd that the Secret Service has never displayed a hint of partisanship at any time in the past.
At any rate, blue tribe cable was really hopping by last Thursday night! Our tribunes were assuring us that (someone in) the Secret Service had deliberately erased a bunch of text messages from January 5 and 6.
As we noted yesterday, it seems to us that this claim hasn't yet been established. But by the end of last week, this assumption had quickly led to explicit, unfounded suggestions that (someone in) the Secret Service had been planning to kidnap Vice President Pence on January 6.
O'Donnell, Wine-Banks and McCaskill pleasured themselves, and us, with these conspiracy musings. The next morning, presidential historian Michael Beschloss took The Crazy one step further, saying on Morning Joe that someone in the Secret Service may have been plotting with Donald J. Trump to have Pence assassinated that day.
He was speaking about an "intended assassination," the handsome historian said.
No one questioned or challenged Beschloss's lurid speculation that morning. Indeed, no one challenged Beschloss last night, when he pushed his explicit "assassination" musing once again on—what else?—Lawrence's show, The Last Word.
A month from now, MSNBC will let you see the transcript of last night's program. As we await that glorious day, we're left with the following question:
Can a modern nation expect to survive a media regime in which segregated gangs of excitable pundits offer unfounded, dueling conspiracy theories to segregated gangs of viewers? Borrowing from Lincoln's famous admonition, can our sprawling, continental nation survive half red and half blue?
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but blue tribe cable is spinning downhill. There's no end to the dumbness which can result when the great gods, Speculation and Rumor, are given free rein in such ways.
McCaskill couldn't help herself last Thursday night. She couldn't help thinking that Pence must have been thinking what she and Lawrence were thinking. Nor did she restrain herself from sharing these speculations with a waiting tribal world.
There is no end to where this can lead. If you doubt that claim, just look at red tribe "cable news" any night of the week!
Tomorrow: Childishly, Conway speaks