QUESTIONS REMAIN: McCaskill couldn't restrain herself!


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.

Also this:

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


  1. "At that point, a long string of major questions remained."

    Meh. Only one major question remains, in our humble opinion. And the question is, dear Bob: has this country been banana-republiced enough?

    ...and we'll know the answer soon, presumably in October. Y'know, just in time for the elections...

  2. From Political Wire, finally an explanation for Somerby's baffling support for Trump:

    "Political scientists Eric Knowles and Sarah DiMuccio write in the Washington Post:

    “From boasting about the size of his penis on national television to releasing records of his high testosterone levels, President Trump’s rhetoric and behavior exude machismo. His behavior also seems to have struck a chord with some male voters.“

    “But our research suggests that Trump is not necessarily attracting male supporters who are as confidently masculine as the president presents himself to be. Instead, Trump appears to appeal more to men who are secretly insecure about their manhood. We call this the ‘fragile masculinity hypothesis.”

    1. I don't know about this, but it must drive Bob crazy he can't lay a glove on Joyce Vance.

    2. I wouldn't call Trump "confidently masculine" when he got so upset about those mocking the size of his hands. I'd call his bragging "overcompensation".

  3. "Given the structure of these events, they were more like the type of presentation offered in an occasionally one-sided term paper. "

    This is disingenuous on Somerby's part. He must be aware of how the Committee came to be constituted as it is. He must also understand that the testimony being given is largely by Republicans who were former staff members and associates of Trump.

    The hearings should be called hearings because that is what they are, and because that is what they are called by the Senate. Somerby doesn't get to make up his own personal names for them -- that would be propagandistic. It would also show disrespect for the process, an official function of the legislative branch of our government. Somerby might as well call the hearings "show trials," as Mao has been doing.

    But at least we see a glimpse of Somerby's motives today, in his attempt to redefine what is going on in this Congressional investigation.

  4. Evidence of preplanning was found in the meeting at the Willard Hotel, which Hutchinson did testify about, including Mark Meadows' participation. Further exploration of that meeting was set aside to allow testimony by Cipollone. That doesn't mean there was no more evidence of preplanning, as Somerby hints today. The hearings will resume in September. It might be better for Somerby to take his own advice and show some patience about further answers to his question, instead of implying that the committee changed course because it didn't have anything to tie Trump to the preplanning.

    Does Somerby not recognize that Trump's own invitation to his followers to be in Washington on 1/6 "it will be wild" is itself evidence of preplanning (on Dec 19)? There is a longstanding connection between Trump and Roger Stone, and video of Stone being bodyguarded by Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, and even reciting their oath.

    Somerby's insistence that the committee doesn't have the goods on Trump is another kind of "Big Lie" in the sense that he must overlook a lot of evidence already provided in order to maintain any hope that this is all a big coincidence. There are all kinds of big lies, including Somerby's big lie that he is a liberal -- liberals are not working overtime these days to maintain Trump's innocence in the face of what he plainly did.

    1. Bob knows all this. He is not of "our tribe." He despises the left. That's what this is all about.

    2. Tweeting "be there, it will be wild" is certainly outrageous; unfortunately, that's a far cry from a full-fledged conspiracy. If I am on the jury, I am not convicting -- and I take backseat to no one when it comes to hating Trump.

    3. If you are on the jury, you will hear all of the evidence and witnesses, instructions from the judge regarding the requirements of the law, and be given the chance to deliberate with other jurors. That is way different than the way people make judgments based on selective TV watching and preconceived opinions about politicians.

      Trump has already been convicted by the court of public opinion, since the polls are now showing that 60% believe he did something criminal, tried to change the election, and should be charged.

    4. Some elemental questions might expose your obvious desire to let Trump walk, and you would get knocked off the jury.

    5. Some elemental questions might expose your obvious desire to let Trump walk, and you would get knocked off the jury.
      Setting aside that you know nothing about my "desires", what questions do think that they could ask during voir dire that would get me kicked off. I guess one thing I can think off: have you watched all the hearing. I have. Have you?

    6. They often ask questions to get at whether you would convict based on circumstantial evidence, or whether you need a direct tie or confession to convict.

  5. Even if Trump genuinely believed in election fraud, would it justify his attempt to overturn the certification of the election, after losing 61 court cases? No -- regardless of his beliefs, Trump is expected to go along with the peaceful transition of power. That has been a key point made by legislators during these hearings. Trump lost in court. That is the end of his recourse. He is not permitted by law to overturn an election simply because he doesn't believe the outcome was fair. Why doesn't Somerby understand this? Is he as demented as Trump?

  6. "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?"

    On Trump's part -- lust for power, a desire to remain President, an expectation that he will get his own way.

    On Flynn and Giuliani's part -- desire to please Trump and advance his goals, to share in the power by being close to a strongman/dictator.

    This dynamic has been repeated in human history numerous times.

  7. Sorry, but I’m not taking any advice from Bob Somerby, a rube who got taken by a failed real estate developer from Queens.

  8. "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.)"

    This is a lie by Somerby. Several blog sites and newspapers that I read reported that the hearing schedule was changed because of the sudden willingness of Cipollone to testify. There was analysis by Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo about how the content of the latest hearing changed to accommodate Cipollone's appearance, also on Daily Kos.

    Maybe Somerby is only talking about "blue cable" but there is no such thing as blue cable. There is mainstream media with some liberal cable hosts, such as Rachel Maddow, but there is no blue cable in the sense that Fox News is a red cable station.

    If no one had described the rearrangement of the hearing content to include Cipollone, how would I know about it? Somerby didn't tell us about it.

  9. Somerby may be describing blue cable as monolithic in order to advance his contention that we have a segregated media, as he asks:

    "Can a modern nation expect to survive our current, wholly "segregated" media regime? "

    I do not believe we have such a segregated media. For one thing, the NY Times includes both liberal and conservative content, as do many newspapers nationwide. The Hill's website includes conservative opinion pieces and an underlying conservative slant despite also featuring relatively fairly reported news items about Democrats, and an absence of Trump propaganda and disinformation. That is a mix.

    Here is a chart of the leanings and reliability of content by a media observer, assessing the breadth of news sources. Note that there is not a deep divide between left and right media, but an inverted U shape. That is far from the situation Somerby describes:

    It also shows that there are more biased and unreliable (disinformation and propaganda) sources on the right than on the left, but most are in the middle.

    Somerby's longstanding goal here appears to be deepening distrust of the media among those on the left. His picture of what is going on is very different than that of professional media watchers.

  10. Somerby speculates that Donald Trump is not guilty by reason of insanity. Some blue cable hosts speculate that the secret service may have helped Trump put pressure on Pence (or remove him as an obstacle to his plans). These are just different speculations. Somerby is not automatically right and these cable hosts are not automatically wrong, simply because Somerby disagrees with them.

    Somerby doesn't seem to be able to tolerate differences of opinion from his, especially when stated on TV. But this is a free country in which a diversity of opinions may be expressed. That is a good thing, not a tragedy in which the US is sliding into the sea, or whatever gloom and doom Somerby predicts when people disagree with him.

  11. Bob’s work today is filled with invective and loaded language, boarder-line insults, that belie
    any effort to be dispassionate or accurate. Conway’s presence does not make him a “major hero,” but is an attempt to illustrate those who have issues on Trump’s behavior or crimes are not liberal partisans. Those testifying in a damaging way to Trump have not been liberals. Bob will always spin this to discredit them.
    Then there is Bob’s very, very tired insanity defense for Trump. Well, he is insane, but it’s hard to imagine this would scare off a decent prosecutor at this point. You really have to be crazy to kill someone, if that got you off no murder would be prosecuted.
    Bob’s underscores the divide in American politics, but to him that is always one side’s fault, one side’s responsibility. And it’s not the one raping the Capitol Building.
    Again, on the issue of Trump having mental problems and the Press not exploring this, that’s bullshit. Bob now tries to qualify this whopper with demands for “specialists.” Just the kind of political reporting BTW, Bob had previously always found suspect.
    Whatever. Does Bob think those misguided but virtuous, salt of the earth MAGA people are waiting for PHD’s to explain to the that there hero is nuts? Tell us another Bob….
    Bob takes a stab here at delegitimizing the Committee itself. Bob knows damn well why it’s not a more traditional, 9-11 style panel.,He knows why, outrageously, there were no Senate Hearings. He seeks to mislead his audience here beyond anything Rachel Maddow ever did.

  12. Last week Fox News accused the President of lying about the rape of a ten year old girl. The story turned out to be completely true. Crickets. He is only concerned about the sins, real and imagined, of the blue.

  13. It certainly looks like the DOJ is moving in on Trump.
    There are two glaring would be fall guys, but it's possible
    they will go ahead and indite Trump.
    Asshats who have indeed shown a tendency for
    violence may indeed get pretty nuts. People who are indeed at some level good people will be humiliated, and will lash out at others.
    There will be endless garbage about "Partisanship"
    from people who only delight in not playing fair for their
    There will be thoughtful people who may have insight
    into the situation that is useful. Bob removed himself from
    this group a long, long time ago. He is an insane child.

    1. I faithfully watched all 7 installments of the January 6th hearings. While it's obvious that Trump wanted to disrupt the proceedings, it's less obvious what crimes he might have committed. It was brought up that he had been a military leader, he could've been charged with dereliction of duty. He was a civilian leader, so he cannot be charged with that.

    2. Disrupting the proceedings, if we are talking about certifying the election strikes me as a fairly obvious crime. Most of what mitigates it is no one ever attempted such rotten things before.

    3. Ilya, there were 8 hearings. Check youtube for the one you missed.

    4. Ilya, try this one:

      sedition definition: conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch

    5. Yeah, sorry, actually finished watching the 8th a day ago.
      Yes, there were people who disrupted the proceedings, and they were charged. Trump wasn't one of them. Unless they manage to find some emails tying him directly into the conspiracy with Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, etc., it's hard to hang a conspiracy on him.
      sedition definition: conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch
      I am going to say that it would be very tough to hang the above charge on him.
      As it stands now, I am satisfied with all the new information that has come out, and I am quite certain that Trump has been damaged.

    6. sedition doesn't mean he "disrupted the proceedings" -- it means he tried to overturn the certification of a valid election. He did that by pressuring Pence, creating alternate fake elector lists, pressuring state officials to "find" extra votes, threatening state officials and pence, and finally by siccing the mob on the Congress, putting them in fear for their lives and killing 6 people and injuring hundreds. He told the secret service to stop blocking entry to those with weapons, to let his people in. He aided the mob by failing to provide sufficient security, and he did nothing to control the crowd while the insurrection was in progress. All of that was attested to by sworn witnesses during the hearings. Trump isn't being accused of disrupting the proceedings. He will probably be accused of seditious conspiracy, like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys who did his dirty work. It is easy to hang a conspiracy on Trump when his co-conspirators are testifying against him, as they are now.

  14. Why wouldn’t Somerby admonish “red tribe cable” for not speculating about Trump’s sanity? It would ostensibly do more good over there, and a one-sided speculation (from just “blue tribe cable”) does no good. It would actually be counterproductive.

    In reality, we see exactly what would happen if “blue tribe” cable engaged in such a discussion. Fox News would trot out competing psychiatrists to say that, not only is Trump not insane, he has the sharpest mind on the planet. And we see what it means to engage in one-sided speculation, because it’s already happening over there. They describe Biden as an addled tired old man with dementia.

    What does Somerby ultimately think should come of this speculation about Trump’s mental state? A day or so ago Somerby said “Vastly disordered people may be dangerous and may need to be restrained, but we would recommend sorrow and pity for people are so deranged.” He can’t even make a definitive statement about this. A man as demented as Somerby claims Trump is quite clearly ought to be institutionalized for the good of himself and the country (in this case).

    But guess what? If a “blue” pundit suggested that Trump should be institutionalized, Somerby would just change his mantra from “ we love to lock the others up because we can’t win elections any other way” to “we love to institutionalize the others because we can’t win elections any other way.”

  15. Is it possible that Donald J. Trump believed, and still believes, his various unfounded and / or false claims about the 2020 election?
    I am not sure I understand what difference this would make? He still had exhausted all of his legal means to contest the election. Now, if he believed, that goading an armed mob into invading the Capitol was one of the acceptable options to contest the election, that would be a different matter. But he didn't believe that.

  16. Wrong comparison on the hearings. It was, more than anything else, a grand jury presentation. One sided,. but the public can vote on whether the former President should be charged. And that vote need not be unanimous

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