WEDNESDAY, MAY 17, 2023
...the walls didn't come tumblin' down: In the wake of CNN's town hall, Ross Douthat had a better idea.
His idea concerned the kinds of questions a candidate like Trump should be asked.
He began by noting, quite effectively, the way blue tribe moderators have sometimes failed in their approach to red tribe candidates. And no, he wasn't apologizing for Donald J. Trump. In this part of his New York Times column, he described the problem as he saw it:
DOUTHAT (5/14/23): That dynamic explains the futility of CNN’s town hall with Trump this week... The topics raised by Kaitlan Collins included many issues that would be embarrassing to Trump, were he capable of embarrassment—personal scandals, election lies and so forth. But with an amped-up crowd eager to side with him against the press, it was child’s play for Trump to steamroll her attempts at shaming and her frantic real-time fact checks.
In Douthat's view, Collins was dealing with a candidate who isn't "capable of embarrassment." Also, with "an amped-up crowd eager to side with [Trump] against the press."
By "the press," Douthat plainly meant the mainstream or blue tribe press. Here was his better idea about what Collins could have done:
DOUTHAT: [I]f the press intends to conduct interviews and run debates as normal, then in preparing for them they need to try to think a little bit more like Republican voters as opposed to center-left journalists. Not in the sense of behaving slavishly toward the former president, but in the sense of writing the kinds of questions that a right-leaning American primed to dislike the media might actually find illuminating.
In part, as Ramesh Ponnuru suggests, that means drilling into Trump’s presidential record on conservative terms rather than liberal ones—asking about, for instance, the failure to complete the border wall or the surge in crime in the last year of his administration. In part, as Erick Erickson writes, it means asking obvious questions that follow from his stolen-election narrative rather than just attacking it head-on—as in, if the Democrats really stole the election, why did your administration, your chosen attorney general and your appointed judges basically just let them do it?
Say what? Also, where has Douthat been?
In his first specific suggestion, he suggested asking Trump about his "failure to complete the border wall." As we've described in the past two days, Collins did question Trump about that very topic, at considerable length.
When she did, the walls which separate red tribe voters from mainstream journalists didn't come tumblin' down! Instead, a lengthy Babel ensued, with red tribe voters at the town hall cheering their champion on.
Let's offer a bit of background:
According to the American hymnal, when Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, "the walls came tumblin' down."
According to the leading authority on the matter, "the Battle of Jericho...was the first battle fought by the Israelites in the course of the conquest of Canaan."
Unfortunately, the walls which separate our various population groups will almost surely be much harder to bring to the ground. Consider what happened two days ago when John Durham finally released his long-awaited report.
In April 2019, Attorney General Barr directed Durham to investigate the origins of the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. In October 2020, Barr appointed him special counsel for the Department of Justice on that matter.
Finally, this Monday, Durham released a 300-page report concerning his lengthy search. On Tuesday morning, a front-page report in the New York Times started by offering this:
SAVAGE (5/16/23): John H. Durham, the Trump-era special counsel who for four years has pursued a politically fraught investigation into the Russia inquiry, accused the F.B.I. of having “discounted or willfully ignored material information” that countered the narrative of collusion between Donald J. Trump and Russia in a final report made public on Monday.
Mr. Durham’s 306-page report revealed little substantial new information about the inquiry, known as Crossfire Hurricane, and it failed to produce the kinds of blockbuster revelations accusing the bureau of politically motivated misconduct that former President Donald J. Trump and his allies suggested Mr. Durham would uncover.
Instead, the report—released without substantive comment or any redactions by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland—largely recounted previously exposed flaws in the inquiry, while concluding that the F.B.I. suffered from confirmation bias and a “lack of analytical rigor” as it pursued leads about Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia.
According to Charlie Savage, Durham had made certain accusations, but they were largely old hat. In this morning's New York Times, Savage offers a "news analysis" piece which fleshes out this critique.
Hard-copy headline included, today's analysis piece starts like this:
After Years of Political Hype, the Durham Inquiry Failed to Deliver
The limping conclusion to John H. Durham’s four-year investigation of the Russia inquiry underscores a recurring dilemma in American government: how to shield sensitive law enforcement investigations from politics without creating prosecutors who can run amok, never to be held to account.
At a time when special counsels are proliferating—there have been four since 2017, two of whom are still at work—the much-hyped investigation by Mr. Durham, a special counsel, into the Russia inquiry ended with a whimper that stood in contrast to the countless hours of political furor that spun off from it.
Mr. Durham delivered a report that scolded the F.B.I. but failed to live up to the expectations of supporters of Donald J. Trump that he would uncover a politically motivated “deep state” conspiracy. He charged no high-level F.B.I. or intelligence official with a crime and acknowledged in a footnote that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign did nothing prosecutable, either.
According to this analysis piece, Durham's investigation ended not with a bang but a whimper.
Durham's report had "failed to deliver." It constituted "a limping conclusion" to a probe which failed to live up to red tribe expectations.
Great expectations had gone unfulfilled! Or so American voters are being told if they live inside blue tribe tents.
That being said, hear this:
For voters who live on the other side of a very high wall, the story which is being told is very, very different. Here's the start of the story such voters were told on Monday night if they were watching the well-known Fox News Channel:
WATTERS (6/15/23): Fox News Alert! It only took four years, but the Durham report has finally dropped, and he found out whatever everyone already knew.
The whole Trump/Russia collusion story was a giant hoax started by Democrats.
The FBI knew it was a hoax. The CIA knew it was a hoax, and Barack Obama knew it was a hoax.
Everybody knew it was a hoax the whole time, but they acted like it was real. The CIA knew Hillary started the Russia collusion story, and then went in and told Barack Obama all about it.
That's the way the story began at 7 P.M. Monday night. That was the start of the story as it was told on the nightly program, Jesse Watters Primetime.
Tomorrow, we'll show you more of what Watters said, presumably as he campaigns for the spot vacated by Tucker Carlson. Also, we'll show you what red tribe voters were told when Senator Hawley appeared as Watters' featured guest at 7:08 P.M.
When Joshua fit that famous battle, the walls came tumblin' down. The walls which snake between our nation's population groups will be much harder to dislodge.
In closing today, we'll note a comment Barack Obama made in a CBS interview which aired yesterday morning.
“The thing that I’m most worried about is the degree to which we’ve now had a divided conversation, in part because we have a divided media," the former president said.
"Today, what I’m most concerned about is the fact that because of the splintering of the media, we almost occupy different realities.”
For Joe DePaolo's fuller report, you can just click here. But we do in fact have a "divided" media—a media which is almost wholly segregated by viewpoint.
We do have a vastly divided media! For what it's worth, we see substantial though differing types of fault on various sides of our walls.
Tomorrow: As told to red tribe voters