The greatest challenge since that facing Lincoln!

FRIDAY, JULY 12, 2024

Also, JFK:  It's known as Lincoln's Farewell Address. We know it from the closing pages of Sandburg's Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, Volume II.

The president-elect was leaving for Washington. He spoke to neighbors and friends from the back of his train at the Springfield rail station:

Springfield, Illinois, February 11, 1861

My friends—No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every thing. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. 

I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington...

You can read one version of the full address by clicking here. In Sandburgh's rendering, Lincoln closed his brief remarks by saying this:

Friends, one and all, I must now bid you an affectionate farewell.

With a young nation on the brink of war, he saw himself confronting a task "greater than that which rested upon [General, then President] Washington."

According to Sandburgh, the last stop in Illinois was at Tolono station. Volume Two of his master work ends with this:

Tolono station was the last stop in Illinois. There he said, “I am leaving you on an errand of national importance, attended as you are aware with considerable difficulties. Let us believe as some poet has expressed it, ‘Behind the cloud the sun is still shining.’ I bid you an affectionate farewell.”

And there were voices, "Good-by, Abe."

At that stop, Lincoln declared himself to be "leaving you on an errand of national importance." Though of course, as it turned out, no, he didn't return.

We had started this with a thought to relating President Lincoln's words to the monumental task we ourselves now face. We refer to the task of convincing denizens of Blue America that it wasn't a good idea to abandon the traditional journalistic / political rule against the use of the L-bombs:

LIAR, but also LIES.

Is convincing us liberals of that idea commensurate with the task which once rested upon General Washington? We're not completely sure how to rank such things.

That said, as we post Lincoln's sacred words, it occurs to us that we should all be fully aware of the challenging task we ourselves face today, as this time of political and cultural crisis. 

Lincoln saw his Illinois neighbors as friends. That said, there was no cable news in his day. There had been no "democratization of media," with the concomitant striving for maximum profit through separation of a large, sprawling continental nation into a set of angry, squabbling, disinformed rival entities.

With respect to JFK, we're going to wait for tomorrow! A new book about the way the men of his family were apparently raised helps describe what we would describe as a human / American tragedy.

"Behind the cloud the sun is still shining?" According to the historical record, Abraham Lincoln said that!

For extra credit only: According to photographic evidence, a plaque in Tolono says this.


FAILS: Candidate Biden seemed to exhibit a cognitive fail!

FRIDAY, JULY 12, 2024

Then again, so did Candidate Trump:  Did E.J. Dionne get it right when he offered the warning in question?

He issued his warning four days before the fateful June 27 debate. This was the text of his warning:

DIONNE (6/23/24): Because the “age issue” has been raised relentlessly against [President Biden], the media have a tendency to overlook or downplay Trump’s many moments of incoherence and even lunacy. Biden and his lieutenants must turn this side-by-side performance into an opportunity to have the two men judged by the same standards.

So Dionne wrote, before the debate. Four days later, President Biden's performance was so strange that it has routinely been described as "shocking." 

That brings us to Candidate Trump's performance at the same debate. Has it been judged by a different, less aggressive standard?

We'd have to say yes, it has been.

Was President Biden's performance "shocking?" We'd say that it pretty much was. Two weeks later, it largely remains unexplained. We've seen little effort by mainstream news orgs to consult with medical specialists concerning what might have happened that night.

President Biden's performance was quite strange. Then again, there was Candidate Trump, issuing a stream of groaning misstatements—many of which entered a realm which may seem to take us to a cognitively challenged place.

Trump issued a stream of groaning misstatements that night. As we noted in Tuesday's report, CNN's fact check team instantly summarized matters as shown:

Trump made more than 30 false claims during CNN’s presidential debate—far more than Biden

Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump made false and misleading claims during CNN’s presidential debate on Thursday–but Trump did so far more than Biden, just like in their debates in 2020.

Trump made more than 30 false claims at the Thursday debate. They included numerous claims that CNN and others have already debunked during the current presidential campaign or prior.

[...]

Biden made at least nine false or misleading claims in the debate. 

According to the CNN census, Trump made "more than 30 false claims." Biden made at least nine.

President Biden's physical appearance and apparent confusion qualified as "shocking" that night. But there were two candidates on the stage during that evening's ersatz debate. What about the steady stream of bogus statements issued by Candidate Trump?

CNN issued a long list of misstatements by Trump, with links to previous fact checks. That said, a certain taxonomy may been missing from the detailed fact check. 

With merciful brevity, we would offer this:

Some of Trump's false or misleading claims qualified as misstatements of the fairly typical kind. This would be one example:

TRUMP:  We now have the largest deficit in the history of our country under this guy.

In fact, we don't have the largest deficit in history at this time. That said, that false assertion qualifies as a misstatement of a fairly typical kind. 

At one point in the evening, Candidate Trump even issued a type of throwback misleading claim. This was a standard type of misleading assertion back at the turn of the century:

TRUMP: Now, when we cut the taxes—as an example, the corporate tax was cut down to 21 percent from 39 percent, plus beyond that—we took in more revenue with much less tax.

If you lower the tax rate, you take in more revenue! Sean Hannity used to live off that silly, misleading claim way back in the dim, distant past. Suddenly, Donald J. Trump brought it back!

Some of Trump's misstatements were fairly typical. That said, many others weren't. Example:

One familiar claim by Candidate Trump—the claim that President Biden wants to "quadruple your taxes"—is more than a typical political misstatement. The claim is absurd on such a scale that it qualifies as something more than false or misleading, or as simply inaccurate or wrong.

The statement is so absurd—defies plausibility to such an extent—that it takes us close to the realm which we would describe as "crazy."

So too with other claims by Trump that night—for example, with patently ludicrous claims of this now-familiar type:

TRUMP: Fifty-one years ago, you had Roe v. Wade, and everybody wanted to get it back to the states. Everybody, without exception. Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, everybody wanted it back. Religious leaders.

And what I did is I put three great Supreme Court justices on the Court, and they happened to vote in favor of killing Roe v. Wade and moving it back to the states. This is something that everybody wanted.

That claim moves us past the realm of mere misstatement. It takes us past the point of mere error into a dumber and stranger land.

So too with these related statements:

TRUMP: As far as the abortion’s concerned, it is now back with the states. The states are voting, and in many cases, they—it’s, frankly, a very liberal decision. In many cases, it’s the opposite.

But they’re voting and it’s bringing it back to the vote of the people, which is what everybody wanted, including the founders, if they knew about this issue, which frankly they didn’t. But they would have—everybody wanted it brought back...

Everybody wanted it brought back and many presidents had tried to get it back. I was the one to do it. And again, this gives it the vote of the people. And that’s where they wanted it. Every legal scholar wanted it that way.

TRUMP: Now, ten years ago or so, they started talking about how many weeks and how many of this—getting into other things. But every legal scholar, throughout the world, the most respected, wanted it brought back to the states. I did that.

Every legal scholar wanted it that way? 

Every legal scholar throughout the world? Even the founders would have wanted that, had they only known?

Every legal scholar in the world wanted Roe returned to the states? That claim is so baldly absurd that it needs to be separated from the realm of mere misstatement.

Many of Candidate Trump's statements this night wandered across the borderline into the realm of the baldly absurd. Then too, we come to the array of self-affirming claims which barely qualify as actual statements at all.

We refer to the types of claims this disordered man delivers in bushel loads when he's out on the stump. These are statements in which he alleges the unparalleled greatness of everything he's ever said or thought or done.

It's a type of greatness no one has ever seen before! Everyone was amazed by his greatness! So we're routinely told:

TRUMP: We had the greatest economy in the history of our country. We had never done so well. Every—everybody was amazed by it. Other countries were copying us.

TRUMP:  First of all, our veterans and our soldiers can’t stand this guy. They can’t stand him. They think he’s the worst commander in chief, if that’s what you call him, that we’ve ever had. They can’t stand him. So let’s get that straight.

And they like me more than just about any of them. And that’s based on every single bit of information.

TRUMP:  So, I want absolutely immaculate clean water and I want absolutely clean air, and we had it. We had H2O. We had the best numbers ever. And we did—we were using all forms of energy, all forms, everything. And yet, during my four years, I had the best environmental numbers ever. And my top environmental people gave me that statistic just before I walked on the stage, actually.

TRUMP:  Jake, we’re doing very well at addiction until the COVID came along. We had the two-and-a-half, almost three years of like nobody’s ever had before, any country in every way

TRUMP:  And if you would see my statements that I made on Twitter at the time, and also my statement that I made in the Rose Garden, you would say it’s one of the strongest statements you’ve ever seen.

TRUMP: All of the things that we’ve done, nobody’s ever—never seen anything like—even from a medical standpoint. 

Nobody's ever seen anything like the astonishing things this amazing leader has accomplished. Routinely, were told that no one had ever seen anything like it before.

Routinely, these self-affirming claims of greatness are based on no discernible or imaginable evidence. 

His top people just gave him the statistic, we are inanely told. His claims are based on every single bit of information!

In fact, these claims are based on no imaginable type of information. As such, they barely qualify as statements at all.

They take us into an unfamiliar realm. They move us past the point of error into a realm which seems to border on something which might be compared to a second cousin to lunacy, to borrow a term from Dionne.

Does this disordered person's cognitive state perhaps come into question as he churns this endless array of emissions? Behind the high walls of the mainstream press, the answer is typically no.

In our view, the reason for that seems to be fairly obvious. It involves an unwise and childish decision which has infected the world of the mainstream press corps and of Blue America's thought leaders.

It involves the enjoyable use of the childish term LIES. 

It happened some time back. In the face of President Trump's endless stream of weird misstatements, the mainstream press corps decided to abandon a long-standing prohibition on the use of that highly fraught term.

In our view, that decision was unwise on the basic merits. The decision has also had the effect of empowering Candidate Trump. 

In our view, that decision drives the dimwitted double standard which is now general within the mainstream press corps. According to that double standard, Candidate Biden seems to exhibit a possible cognitive shortfall—but for all his apparent lunacy, Candidate Trump does not!

Candidate Trump is a LIAR, full stop. We regard this stance by the mainstream press, and by Blue America, as silly, childish, unwise, destructive—as a very large cognitive fail.

"The media have a tendency to overlook Trump's lunacy," Dionne wrote on June 23. Given the strength of the language he used, we'd have to call that a remarkable claim.

We'd call it a remarkable claim! Sadly, we're going to rule that Dionne got it right—and that his colleagues in the press, and in Blue America, have long been caught in their own extremely large, very unhelpful, all-too-human cognitive fail.

Still coming: What's wrong with calling a LIE a LIE? Gene Brabender helps us explain.


Had you ever seen the president like that?

THURSDAY, JULY 11, 2024

Here's what Chris Coons said: BREAKING! We ourselves had a "one-off" once! 

It happened somewhere around 1990. It was caused by a prescription drug error. 

We were taking steroids as a treatment for poison ivy, something we'd done a few years before.  In this instance, we hadn't been told that we needed to taper the dosage of the steroids as the treatment proceeded, and we didn't remember doing that from the earlier episode. 

As a result, we simply took the initial daily dosage until the prescription ran out. At that point, we stopped cold turkey.

That wasn't a good idea! It led to a few slightly odd occurrences on that first day, then to (what was described to us as) a strange performance at The Comic Strip in Fort Lauderdale that night. 

(Millions now claim they were there.)

At any rate, management was extremely unhappy. In the immediate aftermath of the show, it somehow suddenly came to us that the day's peculiar events had occurred because we hadn't tapered the steroids, the way we'd done before.

We spent the next several days sick in bed. Always taper your steroids!

We'd describe that weird event as an obvious "one-off." The episode had a fairly obvious pharmaceutical cause. There was no reason to think it would recur. It didn't seem to be a manifestation of some underlying condition. 

With that, we jump ahead to President Biden's performance at the June 27 debate. Can that be viewed as some strangely unexplained but isolated event? Putting it another way:

Had anyone ever seen President Biden behave that way before?

On this morning's Morning Joe, that key question was addressed in the 7 o'clock hour. Joe Scarborough said he's spoken to the president a fair amount, though usually on the phone. 

He said he'd never seen or heard the president confused in the way he was at that debate. I never saw anything approaching this, Scarborough said at some point. 

(We can't give you perfect quotes at this point. The video from today's program still hasn't been posted by the invaluable Internet Archive.)

For us, an obvious question had come to mind several days before. That said, in the world of "cable news," even the world's most obvious questions routinely go unasked.

But then, dear God, a major surprise! Up popped Senator Coons! 

Coons was introduced at roughly 7:12 a.m. Since 2010, he's been the junior (Democratic) senator from Delaware.  He won a special election that year to fill Vice President Biden's former seat.

There's more! According to the leading authority on the matter, "Coons is seen as among President Biden's closest allies in the Senate and is a co-chair of his 2024 reelection campaign." 

Senator Coons is all in on Biden. There's no reason why he shouldn't be—but for that reason, we were surprised by something he now said.

It happened at 7:15. Scarborough said he's never seen (or heard) the president in the state of confusion he exhibited at that debate. According to our notes, the then directly asked Senator Coons if he'd ever seen such a thing.

Coons said no, he never has. He said he found the debate performance "shocking."

At that point, he answered the question we'd had in mind without ever having been asked. According to our notes, he said something very much like this:

I don't see Joe Biden every day. Often, [when we speak], it's by phone, and it's him calling me.

And it's him calling me! We almost wondered if Senator Coons, who's very bright, was trying to tell us something.

If the president has a debilitating condition which comes and goes, that may mean he has times of high lucidity mixed with episodes of confusion. As with Scarborough, so too here:

If the phone conversations only happen on the days, and at the times, when President Biden calls, that doesn't tell us what the president might be like on the days, and at the times, when he doesn't call.

We would have asked Scarborough that very thing about his phone calls with President Biden. Does Scarborough place phone calls to the president, and do his calls go through? Or instead, does he have to wait until the president calls?

It seems like the world's most obvious question. But in the world of cable news—in the world of human cognition—even the world's most obvious questions will typically go unasked.

As for Senator Coons, he's very bright. He answered the question without being asked. Because the guy is very bright, we wondered why he did that.

For ourselves we would guess that the debate performance actually wasn't a "one-off." We've seen a fair amount of videotape in the past year in which President Biden seemed to be lost and confused.

They play that kind of videotape on the Fox News Channel. It gets disappeared on cable channels whose business models are built around the goal of keeping us Blue Americans happy. 

(On cable channels where we get pleasured by "our favorite reporters and friends.")

We've seen a fair amount of such videotape. To our eye, a lot of it looked unmistakable. 

For that reason, we were surprised when the Biden campaign agreed to do a debate. We can't tell you the ultimate truth about this unexplained situation, but we certainly would have asked that one fairly obvious question.

By the way:

Diminishment with age often presents as a tragedy. Along with everything else, the situation under pseudo-review within our ersatz "public discourse" is a deeply human affair.


FAILS: Advanced cognition isn't us!

THURSDAY, JULY 11, 2024

Could this be the latest fail? Long ago and far away, Al Pacino made a famous statement. 

"This whole trial is out of order," the gentleman famously said.

He was denouncing a fictional trial, one part of a fictional movie. The film's official title was somewhat odd:

...And Justice For All

Those three little dots are often forgotten. And according to the leading authority, Al Pacino's famous speech is often flatly misquoted. 

According to the leading authority, Al Pacino didn't say, "This whole courtroom is out of order," as people often claim. He only denounced that one trial.

Question: How could a famous speech end up being misquoted? Given the way our imperfect cognition works, it happens all the time!

In fact, our national discourse is driven by widespread "cognition fails."  Consider the incident Nicholas Kristof cites at the start of this morning's column.

In his new column for the New York Times, Kristof calls for President Biden to step aside as a candidate. For ourselves, we don't have a firm, finished view on that particular matter. 

We do have a hard-and-fast view concerning a type of incident Kristof describes near the end of his column.

Late in the column, Kristof takes us back to one part of the 1976 White House campaign. As he does, he describes a fairly serious fail—a serious cognition shortfall:

President Biden, Voters Want Change

[...]

Perhaps Biden might recover his political footing, but I suspect it’s more likely that he’ll face a steady drip-drip of troubles. That’s partly because of biases that lead us to highlight information that buttresses pre-existing narratives.

Gerald Ford, for example, was one of the most athletic and graceful of presidents, but he took one tumble and the story took hold (quite unfairly!) that he was a klutz. From then on, every time he slipped, tripped or fell—even while skiing—a clip of it made television news and confirmed the narrative. And because cameras are always on the president, slips on camera are inevitable.

Likewise, fair or not, Biden is under a microscope: Every time he misspeaks or has a senior moment, voters will see clips of it, amplifying the discussion of whether he is infirm. And that’s without another disastrous episode like the presidential debate last month; if something like that happens again, God help the Democrats.

In that passage, Kristof describes a tendency to submit to "biases that lead us to highlight information that buttresses pre-existing narratives." (We'd call that a jumble of words!)

In the specific incident Kristof cites, he mainly seems to refer to the tendency of the mainstream press corps to submit to such "biases." In fact, a second branch of American discourse was also strongly involved in that particular incident.

At any rate, it's true! As a college student, President Ford was a football star at the University of Michigan. 

The young Gerald Ford was a football star, but let's not overstate it! According to his presidential library, he "did not earn All-America honors as popularly believed." 

He actually wasn't an All-American! That was another one of those bogus stories which somehow got all around.

That said, President Ford was a highly accomplished college athlete. As a senior, he played in several post-season all-star games. He turned down contract offers from the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions in the NFL of that time, opting for Yale Law School instead.

Ford wasn't a world-class athlete, but he was surely one of the most accomplished athletes in the history of the White House. Having said that, so what? 

On one utterly meaningless occasion, in June 1975, he slipped while descending the stairs from Air Force One. For whatever reason, a certain type of "bias" pretty much took over from there. 

In the passage we've quoted, Kristof refers to the conduct of "television news," but the spreading of this particular "narrative" was also accomplished by an endless series of performances by pratfall expert Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live.

In this report from CNN in 2008, Chase acknowledges that he behaved in the way he did because he wanted Jimmy Carter to get elected. So it goes when the giants of the journalism and comedy worlds submit to their penchants for "bias."

Down through the years, our mainstream press corps has routinely submitted to this penchant for "bias." In the case of our presidential elections, they've cast various candidates in certain stereotypical roles.  They've then begun disappearing and inventing "facts" to support the silly, novelized stories they've apparently wanted to tell.

So it will go with a Candidate Biden, Nicholas Kristof now says. Almost surely, what he says is correct. This is a type of cognitive "fail" which has routinely occurred within our elite mainstream press. 

This very evening, at 6:30, President Biden is now scheduled to engage in a freeform press conference. For those who would like to see President Biden remain a candidate, it could be much as Nestor says in the wake of one of Agamemnon's meltdowns:

This is the night that rips our ranks to shreds or pulls us through.

It could be like that tonight. Or then again, maybe not!

Will President Biden remain a candidate? We have no idea.

Should be remain a candidate? To a large extent, that depends on what you think about his performance  at the June 27 debate.

Was that a single, inexplicable, weird event—in modern parlance, a "one-off?" Or was that terrible performance the result of some ongoing condition—one in a series of such events, with more of the same to come?

Based on lots of videotape from the past, we'll guess that it wasn't a "one-off." Also, and for whatever it's worth, George Clooney, in today's New York Times, has now offered this:

George Clooney: I Love Joe Biden. But We Need a New Nominee.

[...]

Last month I co-hosted the single largest fund-raiser supporting any Democratic candidate ever, for President Biden’s re-election. I say all of this only to express how much I believe in this process and how profound I think this moment is.

I love Joe Biden. As a senator. As a vice president and as president. I consider him a friend, and I believe in him. Believe in his character. Believe in his morals. In the last four years, he’s won many of the battles he’s faced.

But the one battle he cannot win is the fight against time. None of us can. It’s devastating to say it, but the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fund-raiser was not the Joe “big F-ing deal” Biden of 2010. He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate.

That was the event where it seemed, to some people, that Barack Obama had to step in to help President Biden find his way off the stage. 

You can see what Clooney has said about that particular night. He seems to be saying that President Biden was "lost in space" that evening too, just like at the later debate.

On today's Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski seemed to say, without providing any evidence, that President Obama wrote that essay and Clooney merely signed it. That's the way these things tend to go when people start picking up teams.

On that same Morning Joe, a fascinating moment occurred when Senator Coons (D-Del.) was asked if he has ever seen President Biden behave the way he did at that debate.

This afternoon, we'll tell you what Coons said. For now, we'll offer this:

President Biden seemed to have a substantial cognitive fail at that ersatz debate. Having said that, we'll also add this:

Candidate Trump's basic cognition seemed to be AWOL too. 

Candidate Trump made many inaccurate claims that night. Some were crazily so. 

A wide array of other claims barely qualified as "claims" at all. All in all, this takes in the slightly deeper end of the conceptual pool, where our nation's sunbathing journalists may not be inclined to go.

Full disclosure! All in all, our upper-end, mainstream press corps just isn't highly skilled. Indeed, the distinctions we're talking about take us well beyond this group's normal level of functioning. At any rate, they've been involved in quite a few fails of the type Kristof describes.

Four days before that fateful debate, E. J. Dionne issued a prescient warning. He said the two candidates might not be judged by the same standards in the aftermath of the debate.

Dionne had predicted that Candidate Biden would exceed expectations that night. This Monday, in another column, Dionne has described that prediction as an "epic fail."

That said, the columnist pretty much called his shot when he spoke about double standards.

Cognition fails are not unknown among our upper-end press corps. In the matter of Candidate Trump, our journalists been engaged in a type of fail for some time.

Tomorrow, we'll start to discuss that fail. It might even rate as an epic fail. 

It starts with a simple word:

LIE.

Tomorrow: What's in a word?

This afternoon: Senator Coons, on the phone


More postcards from the garbage can!

WEDNESDAY, JULY 10, 2024

This is your "public discourse:" With apologies, we're going to take you back, once again, to the current cutting edge of the societal garbage can.

We refer, of course, to the Fox News Channel's nightly Gutfeld! program. 

Last night, the angriest little chimp in the world started things off with a few minutes of his usual angry "jokes."  (Full disclosure: As we've noted in the past, this under-developed, angry child is 59 years old!)

Last night, the chimp in question started the program with two minutes of jokes. Joke 3 went exactly like this:

GUTFELD (7/9/24): According to Fox News Digital, during a meeting with his national finance committee, Biden told people to stop questioning him. 

That was after someone asked, "Why are you pooping on the rug?"

[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

At Fox, that represents standard fare for a prime time nightly "news" program. Jokes 5 and 6 went like this:

GUTFELD: Whoopi Goldberg said she didn't care if Biden pooped his pants, she'd still vote for him. 

Who knew that when Joe said, "If you don't vote for me, you ain't black," he meant his underpants?

[LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE]

Terrible. You like the poop jokes!

[...]

GUTFELD: Today, congressional House Democrats held closed-door meetings focused on Biden's viability as a candidate...Reporter Jake Sherman said that one attendee said that the meeting felt like a funeral.

True! People were crying. Others were paying their last respects. And soon, Hunter would be trying to bang the widow.

[PHOTO OF HUNTER BIDEN AND JILL BIDEN]

[AUDIENCE GROANS]

Yeah! You don't get this [BLEEP] on Special Report!

Thankfully, no—you don't! At least, you don't get that [BLEEP] on that conventional news program yet.

Last night, the program became truly astonishing when the termagant devoted an entire segment to Whoopi Goldberg's bizarre remarks concerning the frequency with which she says she poops her pants.  

Anthropologically, it remains hard to believe that Fox can assemble collections of people so stunted that they're willing to serve on this stunted man's nightly panels. (Also, that people like Goldberg serve as the stars of this nation's "mainstream" discussion shows.)

We'll sketch out the problem again:

The "jokes" we've transcribed are now standard fare on a nightly, prime time program on our nation's most-watched "news channel." It's the virulent anger of the program's stunted host which stands out, night after night.

Once again, we'll state the obvious—this is the latest example of the ancient angry revolt from below. An early example:

Professor Knox described the Iliad as a siege of the highly civilized city of Troy conducted by an army of rage-filled men who only wanted the city's destruction. In the passage shown below, Knox describes the inevitable result, after Achilles has slaughtered Hector and dragged his body through the dust before the high walls of Troy.

After Achilles' slaughter of Hector, Troy's mighty walls were finally breached. In this passage, Professor Knox describes what happens as the angry revolt from below is finally able to exercise its will:

The whole poem has been moving toward this duel between the two champions, but there has never been any doubt about the outcome. The husband and father, the beloved protector of his people, the man who stands for the civilized values of the rich city, its social and religious institutions, will go down to defeat at the hands of this man who has no family, who in a private quarrel has caused the death of many of his own fellow soldiers, who now in a private quarrel thinks only of revenge...And the death of Hector seals the fate of Troy; it will fall to the Achaeans, to become the pattern for all time of the death of a city. 

The images of that night assault—the blazing palaces, the blood running in the streets, old Priam butchered at the altar, Cassandra raped in the temple, Hector's baby son thrown from the battlements, his wife Andromache dragged off to slavery—all this, foreshadowed in the Iliad, will be stamped indelibly on the consciousness of the Greeks throughout their history, immortalized in lyric poetry, in tragedy, on temple pediments and painted vases, to reinforce the stern lesson of Homer's presentation of the war: that no civilization, no matter how rich, no matter how refined, can long survive once it loses the power to meet force with equal or superior force.

The Fox News Channel's angry termagant spews his venom each night from below. 

The flimsy walls protecting our own Blue America may soon be leveled. In our view, no one can really say that we Blues haven't managed to earn out way out—for example, by the way our own highly refined "news orgs" ignore the ugly venom spewed by the termagant and his ever-changing gaggle of stooges on the Fox News Channel each night.

That night assault came to Troy from below. So too with the termagant's fury, with this little chimp's ugly rage. 

Go ahead—click those links! Fox opens this garbage can every night. Just offstage, Watters smirks.

FAILS: When the two debaters agreed on a claim...

WEDNESDAY, JULY 10, 2024

...it was called Trump's latest LIE! A funny thing happened to America's discourse in the aftermath of the June 27 Biden-Trump ersatz "debate."

We wouldn't call what happened a "fail." We would say it was fail-indicative—a hint of a failed public discourse.

Here's what happened:

During the course of the debate, the dueling candidates agreed on a factual claim! The claim in question was made by each candidate—repeatedly so in the case of Candidate Trump. 

The claim involved the tax cut which was passed by President Trump. Presented in chronological order, here's some of what was said during the ersatz debate:

BIDEN (6/27/24):  Well, look, the greatest economy in the world? He’s the only one who thinks that, I think. I don’t know anybody else who thinks it was great—he had the greatest economy in the world.

And, you know, the fact of the matter is that we found ourselves in a situation where his economy—he rewarded the wealthy. He had the largest tax cut in American history, $2 trillion.

[...]

TRUMP:  But he—he made a statement. The only thing he was right about is I gave you the largest tax cut in history. I also gave you the largest regulation cut in history. That’s why we had all the jobs.

[..]

BIDEN:  He had the largest national debt of any president four-year period, number one. Number two, he got $2 trillion tax cut, benefited the very wealthy.

[...]

TRUMP:  Nobody’s ever created an economy like us. Nobody ever cut taxes like us. He’s the only one I know. He wants to raise your taxes by four times. He wants to raise everybody’s taxes by four times. He wants the Trump tax cuts to expire so everybody, including the two of you are going to pay four to five times. Nobody ever heard of this before.

[...]

TRUMP: What we did was incredible. We rebuilt the military. We got the largest tax cut in history, the largest regulation cut in history.

The dueling candidates agreed on that one particular point! When he was president, Donald J. Trump engineered "the largest tax cut in history."

According to Candidate Biden, it was a tax cut of $2 trillion! Each of the candidates described it as the largest tax cut in history. 

In a vastly jumbled debate, the hopefuls managed to agree on that one basic factual statement. They only disagreed about the effects of this largest of all tax cuts:

Candidate Biden seemed to say that the effects were very bad. Candidate Trump said the cut had produced the greatest economy in history.

As the pseudo-discussion jumped all about, little effort was made to examine the candidates dueling claims about the effects of this largest tax cut. The debate included drive-by mention of various topics, but little real discussion of any.

At any rate, the candidates agreed that President Trump's tax cut was the largest in history. We'd like to say that was all well and good.

That said, here's the problem:

On Monday morning, July 1, economic analyst Steven Rattner made one of his regular appearances on Morning Joe. As best we can tell, Rattner is thoroughly competent.

With Joe away at re-education camp, Mika brought him on:

"President Biden largely failed to fact check Trump in real time on Thursday night," she said. "Joining us now to take up that mantel is former Treasury official and Morning Joe economic analyst Steve Rattner and his famous charts."

Rattner proceeded to debunk there of Candidate Trump's "lies" from the great debate. 

Courtesy of MSNBC, you can see the whole segment on this videotape. Courtesy of MSNBC, the videotape appears beneath this possibly curious headline:

'Completely laughable': Rattner debunks Trump's tax cut claim

Had Rattner proceeded to debunk the claim that Trump's tax cut created a great economy? Actually, no! As you can see on the videotape, Rattner debunked three LIES told by Candidate Trump during the great debate. 

As you can see on the videotape, the second of Trump's three LIES was now said to be this:

TRUMP LIE #2: LARGEST TAX CUT IN HISTORY

In fact, Rattner had proceeded to debunk the claim that the Trump tax cut was the largest in history!

During the actual debate, that claim was made first by President Biden! But Morning Joe viewers were now told that this "completely laughable" claim was one of Trump's LIES.

Viewers weren't told that President Biden made the same claim during the debate. As he debunked the second of Trump's three LIES, Rattner said—accurately, as far as we know—that Trump's tax cut was "nowhere near the largest in history."

It was only the eighth largest tax cut in history, Rattner said. In this way, the Morning Joe team had debunked Candidate Trump's latest LIE.

Sad! Biden and Trump had said the same thing during the ersatz debate. It was now presented as Trump's latest LIE, with no mention of the fact that Biden had made the same statement.

Sad! In part, we'd call attention to the pleasing use of that pleasing term—to Rattner's pleasing use of the L-bomb, which has become a standard weapon in Blue America's hapless attempt to wage war against Donald J. Trump. We'd also note the fleeting nature of the pseudo-discussion which took place during the pseudo-debate.  

At any rate, President Biden had aggressively said it—but it was now one of Trump's LIES. 

For liberal viewers of Morning Joe, was there a bit of a whiplash?  Four days later, did they remember the way President Biden had complained about "the largest tax cut in history?" 

Were they puzzled, if only for the briefest of moments, to see the president's claim denounced as a LIE by Donald J. Trump—with no mention of the fact that it was actually President Biden who had introduced the claim a mere four nights before?

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but any claim that we enjoy an actual national discourse now comes from the dark side of Neptune. Nothing will turn on the clownish concatenation of events which we've briefly described today, but these events offer a hint of the way our alleged discourse is routinely an "imitation of life."

In roughly a decade of chasing Trump, Blue America has largely run on the rocket fuel of such pleasing terms as LIAR, LYING and LIES. 

We'll start to discuss the problems with this approach before the week is done. For today we invite you to marvel at this peculiar turn of events, with Mika sitting silently by as an angry claim by President Biden was now described as the latest of Trumps many LIES.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. In the main, our flailing nation's public discourse is a midsummer night's illusion. 

In that sense, so of course is "our democracy," which we now claim we're trying to save.

Having said that, we'll also say this:

In one of the excerpts we've posted above, Candidate Trump made one of his favorite claims. The claim is so silly, so completely absurd, that its constant promulgation out on the stump makes a joke of our failed public discourse.

To which claim are we referring? We refer to the transparently ludicrous claim lodged inside this presentation:

TRUMP:  Nobody’s ever created an economy like us. Nobody ever cut taxes like us. He’s the only one I know. He wants to raise your taxes by four times. He wants to raise everybody’s taxes by four times. He wants the Trump tax cuts to expire so everybody, including the two of you are going to pay four to five times. Nobody ever heard of this before.

Really? Did the candidate really say that as two major journalists sat by?

Really? Does President Biden really "want to raise your taxes by four times?" Does he really "want to raise everybody’s taxes by four times?" 

Candidate Trump made this transparently ludicrous claim right there during the ersatz debate. The two moderators—Tapper and Bash—sat silently by, casting themselves in the role of potted plants.

Candidate Trump makes this transparently ludicrous claim on a regular basis out on the stump. When he does, he typically uses a bigger word:

He tells his supporters that President Biden wants to quadruple their taxes.

The claim is transparently ludicrous—silly to the point of being next door to insane. That said, Tapper and Bash played potted plant, and so does the national press corps.

In a recent column for the Washington Post, E. J. Dionne copped to an "epic fail" in a pre-debate column. 

He had predicted that President Biden would exceed expectations at the debate. In the new column he has published this week, he called that an epic fail.

In fairness, Dionne had also said this in that pre-debate column:

DIONNE (7/23/24): But there is a trap [in the upcoming debate] for Biden, too: Because the “age issue” has been raised relentlessly against him, the media have a tendency to overlook or downplay Trump’s many moments of incoherence and even lunacy. Biden and his lieutenants must turn this side-by-side performance into an opportunity to have the two men judged by the same standards.

In that passage, Dionne made a prophecy to rival any ever made by Cassandra inside the doomed walls of Troy.

"The media" tend to overlook Donald Trump's "lunacy," the columnist said. The transparently stupid claim we've cited would be only one example. Other emissions by Trump that fateful night may have been different and worse. 

In fact, the candidate spilled with ludicrous claims. Should his cognition be called into question? Why don't our high-end journalists notice or comment or ask?

Tomorrow: Attempting a taxonomy of his peculiar emissions


Which would work better, Plan A or Plan B?

TUESDAY, JULY 9, 2024

Like you, we have no idea: We awoke this morning to videotape of the rubble—of the destruction—at Ukraine's largest children's hospital

From 6 o'clock until 6:15, we then watched the rubble of the pseudo-discussion being conducted on Fox & Friends. We then switched over to Morning Joe, with Joe Scarborough seemingly back from re-education camp.

More on that some other day! For now, at least as a matter of theory, Blue America still has two possible ways to go:

Plan A: President Biden is nominated as the candidate again.

Plan B: President Biden decides to step aside. Someone else becomes the candidate through a makeshift nomination process.

As before, so too today! We don't know which approach would be more likely to produce an electoral win.

(We'll admit we find it hard to believe that a Plan B could ever come off.)

For ourselves, we were off with the doctors for the bulk of the day. Tomorrow morning, we'll return to the array of fails which have brought us to this highly instructive strange place.

Some of those fails have been epic fails! The gas-powered clown cars never stop rolling into the studios over at Fox—but in our view, the fails which have brought us to this place haven't all occurred Over There.


FAILS: CNN said Biden made nine bogus claims!

TUESDAY, JULY 9, 2024

The challenger Trump made way, way more, CNN also said: As we noted yesterday, E. J. Dionne—to his credit—has copped to an "epic fail."

His confession may have been a but puckish, but he confessed nonetheless. 

As we noted yesterday, the epic fail to which he copped involved a column in the Washington Post. The column appeared on June 23, four days before the June 27 Biden-Trump debate.

In that column, Dionne made the prediction shown below. In his most recent column, he now calls this prediction an epic fail.

Below, you see the failed prediction from Dionne's June 23 column:

Forget conventional wisdom. Trump needs the debate more than Biden

[...]

Debates are not about everyone watching. Many will absorb it the way I took in the glorious Boston Celtics playoff run: as partisans rooting unreservedly for victory, cheering every great moment and worrying about every mistake.

To the extent that partisans matter at all, they are likely to be Democrats who need constant hand-holding and reassurance that Biden can prevail. This, along with the 78-year-old Trump’s months-long denigration of Biden’s capacities at age 81, sets a low bar for Biden’s performance. Given his success at other big moments, such as his State of the Union addresses, he is likely to meet or surpass it.

Dionne predicted that President Biden would likely meet or surpass expectations at the June 27 debate. Plainly, that didn't happen. 

Yesterday, he puckishly copped. His referred to that prediction as an "epic fail." 

Predicting the future is hard! That said, we also noted an important point in yesterday's report. We said that. as Dionne continued in that original column, he raised this important point:

...This, along with the 78-year-old Trump’s months-long denigration of Biden’s capacities at age 81, sets a low bar for Biden’s performance. Given his success at other big moments, such as his State of the Union addresses, he is likely to meet or surpass it.

But there is a trap here for Biden, too: Because the “age issue” has been raised relentlessly against him, the media have a tendency to overlook or downplay Trump’s many moments of incoherence and even lunacy. Biden and his lieutenants must turn this side-by-side performance into an opportunity to have the two men judged by the same standards.

Dionne may have offered a bungled prediction, but he also offered a somewhat prescient warning:

As the great debate approached, he said "the media" have a tendency to downplay the incoherence—indeed, to downplay the lunacy—of Candidate Donald J. Trump. He seemed to say that the two candidates, post-debate, wouldn't be judged by the same standards. 

That was a type of prediction too. In that case, did Dionne get it right?

For today, we're going to build a certain framework around that important question. We're going to look at what Daniel Dale said in the aftermath of that debate.

Daniel Dale is CNN's long-standing resident fact checker. Few people dispute the claim that President Biden's performance that night was extremely poor—but what about the performance of Candidate Donald J. Trump?

Dale and his team quickly swing into action. For starters, this is part of what Dale and his team reported that very night:

Trump made more than 30 false claims during CNN’s presidential debate—far more than Biden

Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump made false and misleading claims during CNN’s presidential debate on Thursday—but Trump did so far more than Biden, just like in their debates in 2020.

Trump made more than 30 false claims at the Thursday debate. They included numerous claims that CNN and others have already debunked during the current presidential campaign or prior.

[...]

Biden made at least nine false or misleading claims in the debate...

So said the CNN team.  For the record, we compliment Dale and his team for eschewing the fraught term, "lies." (More on that journalistic / political issue as the week proceeds.)

So said Dale and the CNN team! There is, of course, no such thing as a perfect fact check. A different team of fact checkers might have generated a different census of the evening's bogus claims.

That said, Dale's team seemed to be saying that it hadn't even been close. Candidate Trump had murdered sleep in a way which dwarfed the bungles of President Biden. 

It hadn't even been close! To give you a better idea of what we mean, here's some of the text from the CNN team which we omitted above:

Trump made more than 30 false claims during CNN’s presidential debate—far more than Biden

Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump made false and misleading claims during CNN’s presidential debate on Thursday – but Trump did so far more than Biden, just like in their debates in 2020.

Trump made more than 30 false claims at the Thursday debate. They included numerous claims that CNN and others have already debunked during the current presidential campaign or prior.

Trump’s repeat falsehoods included his assertions that some Democratic-led states allow babies to be executed after birth, that every legal scholar and everybody in general wanted Roe v. Wade overturned, that there were no terror attacks during his presidency, that Iran didn’t fund terror groups during his presidency, that the US has provided more aid to Ukraine than Europe has, that Biden for years referred to Black people as “super predators,” that Biden is planning to quadruple people’s taxes, that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned down 10,000 National Guard troops for the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, that Americans don’t pay the cost of his tariffs on China and other countries, that Europe accepts no American cars, that he is the president who got the Veterans Choice program through Congress, and that fraud marred the results of the 2020 election.

Trump also added some new false claims, such as his assertions that the US currently has its biggest budget deficit and its biggest trade deficit with China. Both records actually occurred under Trump.

Biden made at least nine false or misleading claims in the debate. He used false numbers while describing two of his key Medicare policies, falsely claimed that no US troops had been killed on his watch, repeated his usual misleading figure about billionaires’ tax rates, baselessly claimed that Trump wants to eliminate Social Security, falsely said that the unemployment rate was 15% when he took office, inaccurately said that the Border Patrol union had endorsed him before clarifying that he was talking about agents’ support for the border bill he had backed, and exaggerated Trump’s 2020 comments about the possibility of treating Covid-19 by injecting disinfectant.

For the record, Dale's team failed to mention at least one additional claim by President Biden—a long-standing claim we would have included in that list.

Our assessment? Based on that presentation, President Biden couldn't be given a stellar grade with respect to this particular metric. That said, Candidate Trump had spent the evening in the dumpster, which starts with a capital D. 

At best, Candidate Trump could have been given a gentleman's D for his effort that evening. More likely, he should have been given an F—an F for epic fail.

Briefly, let's repeat:

Daniel Dale's team is not infallible. No collection of humans is.

A different journalistic team might have scored this matter differently. It's also true that this metric—How many false or misleading statements?—is only one way of scoring a presidential candidate's performance in a debate.

That said, Dale has been at this task a long time. In their report for CNN, his team includes links to a large number of previous fact checks—detailed fact checks about many of the claims which were scored as misleading or false.

In CNN's scorecard concerning this metric, the debate hadn't even been close. And yet, the vast preponderance of press corps attention has gone to President Biden's performance—to President Biden's "bad night."

Does this mean that E. J. Dionne actually called his shot? He has now described his one prediction as an "epic fail." Had his other prediction—his warning about a double standard within "the media"—possibly been right on the mark?

In this morning's New York Times, Paul Krugman starts his new column with an assessment which tends to validate Dionne's original warning. 

He also calls for President Biden to step aside as a candidate for re-election! Wisely or otherwise, headline included, his column starts like this:

Please, Mr. President, Do the Right Thing

Here are three true things about President Biden: He has done an excellent job as president. He has been ludicrously mistreated—his every verbal or physical stumble dissected and analyzed to a degree far beyond any scrutiny applied to the incoherent torrent of lies and vileness routinely issuing from Donald Trump. And he should step aside as his party’s nominee for president, probably in favor of Vice President Kamala Harris.

In his column, Krugman is calling for President Biden to step aside as a candidate. He also seems to be saying that a major double standard has been applied to the performances by these candidates at that disastrous debate.

Dionne copped to an epic fail. We'll add this unfortunate point:

Over at least the past thirty years, "epic fails" have been one of the distinguishing characteristics of our upper-end, mainstream press corps.

Dionne says that he himself staged an epic fail in his June 23 column. By almost everyone's account, so did President Biden at that fateful debate.

That said, Candidate Trump has been generating epic fails for a very long time now. As we'll start to note tomorrow, some of his fails are so bizarre that they're hard to categorize and critique. 

These fails by Trump have taken us well beyond the poor powers of our mainstream press. That said, the gentleman's fails have been general, and they've routinely been epic.

Epic fails are no longer unusual within our flailing culture. In our view, the first fifteen minutes of today's Fox & Friends was a pseudo-journalistic disgrace. Beyond that, the standard collection of useful idiots were screeching on Gutfeld! last night, with "the little chimp" screeching the loudest as he leaped about the stage,

Then too, there's the possible collection of fails which we ourselves have possibly authored over the past sixty years. We refer to those of us who live over here, inside the towering walls of the sacred Troy of our own Blue America.

We Americans! Our discourse has been full of fails. Some of those fails have been epic.

Tomorrow: A taxonomy of Candidate Trump's endless array of misstatements


The New York Times published a fact-check!

MONDAY, JULY 8, 2024

Was it a bit of a fail? What explains President Biden's performance at the June 27 debate?

We still can't answer that question! Last Friday, the president spoke with George Stephanopoulos for twenty-two minutes about that very topic.

In this morning's print editions, the New York Times published Linda Qiu's fact-check of that high-profile interview. Our question about her fact-check is this:

Was it a bit of a fail?

Was the fact-check a bit of a fail? We ask because of the statements Qiu chose to check—and because of a few of the statements by President Biden which she chose to skip.

Qiu fact-checked six statements in all. At times, she engaged in what we'd describe as quibble-adjacent behavior. As an example of what we mean, this was her first presentation, headline included:

Fact-Checking Biden’s ABC Interview

[...]

WHAT WAS SAID
“After that debate, I did 10 major events in a row, including until 2 o’clock in the morning after the debate. I did events in North Carolina. I did events in — in — in Georgia, did events like this today, large crowds, overwhelming response, no — no — no slipping.”

This is exaggerated. Since the debate on June 27, Mr. Biden has traveled up and down the East Coast and participated in more than a dozen events, according to his public calendar. Whether or not the events can be considered “major” and crowds “large” are matters of opinion, but Mr. Biden did misspeak at several.

Before the interview on Friday, Mr. Biden said of Mr. Trump at a rally in Wisconsin that he would “beat him again in 2020.”

At a Fourth of July barbecue with military members and their families, Mr. Biden referred to Mr. Trump as “one of our former colleagues” before correcting himself.

And at a fund-raising reception in East Hampton, New York, he confused Italy and France when referring to the location of a veterans’ cemetery he recently visited.

In our view, that specific fact-check comes dangerously close to being quibble-adjacent. So too, we'd have to say, were some other presentations by Qiu.

Qiu selected several fuzzy statements by Biden—statements in which the embattled president certainly could have been more clear. There was nothing "wrong" with these presentations by Qiu, but several of her presentations had the flavor of rather thin stew. 

On the other hand, she completely bypassed the strangest factual claim the president made that night. We discussed this claim the very next day. Here is the relevant transcript:

PRESIDENT BIDEN (7/5/24): Well, look. After that debate, I did ten major events in a row, including until 2 in the morning after the debate. I did events in North Carolina. I did events in—in in Georgia, did events like this today, large crowds, overwhelming response, no— no— no slipping. 

And so, I just had a bad night. I don't know why.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And how— How quickly did it come to you that you were having that "bad night?"

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, it came to me I was having a bad night when I realized that even when I was answering a question, even though they turned his mic off, he was still shouting. And I— 

I let it distract me. I— I'm not blaming it on that, but I realized that I just wasn't in control.

Say what? At the June 27 debate, was Candidate Trump "still shouting," whether at Biden or into the ether, after his mic was turned off? 

We saw no sign of any such conduct during the split-screen telecast. As far as we know, no one made any such claim until the president did, in this ABC interview, some eight days post-event.

At the Washington Post, Dana Milbank was also puzzled by this claim. In a July 5 column, he included these observations about the president's session with Stephanopoulos: 

Biden’s determination not to give an inch was belied by his delivery: some of the same mouth-agape looks while listening to the question, a couple of meandering answers where he seemed to lose his train of thought. Incredibly, he said he hadn’t re-watched the debate that threatens to sink his candidacy. “I don’t think I did, no,” he said after a pause. He also said he had been distracted during the debate because of Trump’s behavior: “Even when they turned his mic off, he was still shouting.” The debate was broadcast in split screen, which did not show this.

Milbank was puzzled by this claim too. Like many others in the mainstream press, Qiu completely ignored it.

Why did the president make that claim? Is there any evidence that his statement was true?

At the Times, the peculiar claim was completely passed over in favor of some fairly trivial stuff. Aside from Milbank, we don't think we've seen anyone in the mainstream press corps question this strange-seeming statement.

In our view, the woods are lovely, dark and deep—but the judgement and skills of our upper-end press corps are often remarkably limited. Assumptions to the contrary will often lead us astray, however understandable such assumptions may be.

Was the New York Times' fact-check a bit of a fail? We'll be discussing questions like this all through the course of the week.


FAILS: Columnist cops to epic fail!

MONDAY, JULY 8, 2024

That said, have the fails been general? The Washington Post's E. J. Dionne has long been a good, decent person.

In a column in today's paper, he cops to an "epic fail."

That unflattering term belongs to Dionne himself. As we type, his column is listed as the third MOST READ article in the whole of the Washington Post.

Dionne says he committed this epic fail in an earlier column. The earlier column was published on June 23, four days before the recent Biden-Trump debate. 

In that earlier column, Dionne submitted to the lure of prediction, a latter-day form of prophecy—of attempts to interpret the fight of birds. 

According to Dionne's assessment, his prediction in that column has turned out to be wrong. Headline included from June 23, Dionne's failed prediction went exactly like this:

Forget conventional wisdom. Trump needs the debate more than Biden

[...]

Debates are not about everyone watching. Many will absorb it the way I took in the glorious Boston Celtics playoff run: as partisans rooting unreservedly for victory, cheering every great moment and worrying about every mistake.

To the extent that partisans matter at all, they are likely to be Democrats who need constant hand-holding and reassurance that Biden can prevail. This, along with the 78-year-old Trump’s months-long denigration of Biden’s capacities at age 81, sets a low bar for Biden’s performance. Given his success at other big moments, such as his State of the Union addresses, he is likely to meet or surpass it.

That was Dionne's prophecy in his earlier column, the one he published on June 23. In today's column, he quotes that specific passage, and he calls it an epic fail.

Dual headline included:

The words about Joe Biden I never wanted to write
It’s hard to acknowledge that those who worried about Biden’s age may have been right all along.

[...] 

Among the many words I have written over the years, these, offered a few days before the debate, may have aged worse—and certainly more quickly—than almost any others. I poked fun at “Democrats who need constant hand-holding and reassurance that Biden can prevail.” I predicted confidently that given the “low bar for Biden’s performance” and “his success at other big moments, such as his State of the Union addresses,” he would [sic] “likely to meet or surpass” expectations.

I think the contemporary expression for that prediction is: epic fail.

Predicting the future is hard! In today's column, Dionne puckishly refers to his prediction as an "epic fail."

Basically, it's true! In the June 27 debate, it's obvious that President Biden didn't "meet or surpass expectations." In fact, his performance trailed expectations to such an extent that it has created a political crisis which has yet to be resolved.

To his credit, Dionne has copped to that bad prediction. For today, we'll offer two more observations about that June 23 column. After that, we'll cite a different part of that original column—a part of the column in which Dionne was basically right.

Concerning the earlier column:

Ugh! In that earlier column, even Dionne chose to denigrate the people whose concerns about President Biden have perhaps turned out to be right.

In fairness, he didn't describe those people as "bedwetters," the current term of denigration from major elements of Blue America's elite. He didn't use that unfortunate term, but his statement that such people "need constant hand-holding" did come fairly close.  

Given the powerful state of play which now prevails between the nation's Red and Blue tribes, even a decent person like Dionne felt the need to denigrate those with whom he disagreed. And not only that:

As shown above, the sub-headline to Dionne's new column makes this slightly odd statement:

"It’s hard to acknowledge that those who worried about Biden’s age may have been right all along."

That matches something Dionne says in the actual column. Question:

Why should it be "hard to acknowledge" an apparent fact which Dionne himself now seems to affirm? Why not offer a tip of the cap to those whose assessment may have been stronger than his, if only in this one instance—to those who may not have purchased the talking-points which were driving Blue America's "thought leaders" as the debate approached?

Dionne didn't see the debacle coming. Presumably, the same is true of President Biden's campaign staff, or they would have moved heaven and earth to keep the debate from occurring.

Presumably, Biden's performance on June 27 doesn't represent the way he seems to be on a typical, round-the-clock basis. That said, there were many episodes in the past year which should have suggested the possibility that the president might not hold up well in a 90-monite debate.

Why didn't Dionne (and others) heed these warning signs? We'll ponder that important question as the week proceeds.

For today, we'll call it quits after performing one more service—after showing you part of Dionne's original column in which Dionne pretty much got it right. We refer to the part of the June 23 column in which Dionne advanced the highlighted point:

To the extent that partisans matter at all, they are likely to be Democrats who need constant hand-holding and reassurance that Biden can prevail. This, along with the 78-year-old Trump’s months-long denigration of Biden’s capacities at age 81, sets a low bar for Biden’s performance. Given his success at other big moments, such as his State of the Union addresses, he is likely to meet or surpass it.

But there is a trap here for Biden, too: Because the “age issue” has been raised relentlessly against him, the media have a tendency to overlook or downplay Trump’s many moments of incoherence and even lunacy. Biden and his lieutenants must turn this side-by-side performance into an opportunity to have the two men judged by the same standards.

After denigrating the worried hand-holders, Dionne raised an excellent point:

He suggested that "the media" might hold Candidate Trump to a lesser standard in the aftermath of the debate. Given how awful Trump's performance actually was, we'd say that Dionne called his shot when he advanced that warning.

President Biden was awful that night, but so was Candidate Trump. That said, Biden's performance is currently being frisked in a way which seems to exceed the attention paid to the gruesome performance by Trump.

Does that suggest the possibility that an array of "epic fails" might be involved in the matter at hand? For example, that the unflattering term might characterize the way this ersatz election campaign has been covered, in recent years, by our ersatz mainstream press? 

Dionne has copped to an epic fail. We can't say his specific confession is wrong. 

But has it been epic all the way down? Repulsive fails in Red America (though only of a certain type), but relentless, unacknowledged fails in our own Blue America too?

Tomorrow: Calling the roll of the possible fails

This afternoon: In our view, a rather strange fact-check


SUNDAY: CNN's Blackwell noticed something!

SUNDAY, JULY 7, 2024

Having noticed, he asked: To his credit, Victor Blackwell did his job—performed his role within our failing "democracy."

Victor Blackwell had noticed something. Having noticed, he asked!

Blackwell serves as host of CNN's early morning weekend program, First of All. To his great credit, he noticed something yesterday.

Such people rarely do.

Blackwell had noticed something when he listened to a pair of radio interviews—major market radio interviews with President Biden. 

According to the New York Times, this is what we the people learned because of what Blackwell noticed:

Biden Aides Provided Questions in Advance for His Radio Interviews

The questions asked of President Biden by two radio interviewers this week were provided in advance to the hosts by members of Mr. Biden’s team, one of the hosts said Saturday morning on CNN.

Andrea Lawful-Sanders, the host of “The Source” on WURD in Philadelphia, said Biden officials had provided her with a list of eight questions ahead of the interview on Wednesday.

“The questions were sent to me for approval; I approved of them,” she told Victor Blackwell, the host of “First of All” on CNN. Asked if it was the White House that had sent the questions to her in advance, she said it was.

“I got several questions—eight of them,” she said. “And the four that were chosen were the ones that I approved.”

Simply put, but rather plainly, this sort of thing never stops. It never stops with the Biden team. In our view, the other team, broadly defined, may be even worse.

Later in the news report, readers are told why Blackwell asked this radio host about her interview with President Biden. He was speaking with the two (2) radio hosts, from two different radio stations, who had been given the chance to interview the president:

Mr. Blackwell, interviewing the two radio hosts Saturday morning, appeared surprised by the answer about the preapproved questions.

He had asked Ms. Lawful-Sanders about her four questions because he said he had noticed that they were almost identical to the four that Mr. Ingram had asked in his interview with Mr. Biden the same day.

Mr. Ingram, who was on Mr. Blackwell’s show with Ms. Lawful-Sanders, did not dispute her description of how the questions were selected.

“The reason I ask is not a criticism of either of you,” Mr. Blackwell told the two anchors. “It’s just that if the White House is trying now to prove the vim, vigor, acuity of the president, I don’t know how they do that by sending questions first, before the interviews, so that the president knows what’s coming.”

For the full CNN transcript, you can just click here.

For the record, the campaign (not "the White House") had provided the questions to the two radio hosts. As the Times news report describes, President Biden stumbled at times as he tried to answer them.

You may agree with Blackwell's assessment of this practice. Then again, you may not. 

Without question, the gaslighting of us the people can (and does) get much, much worse. That said, Biden officials have now said that they won't engage in this practice again.

All in all, we the people continue to live inside a ball of fictitions. 

Our presidential candidates seem like a pair of fictitions. They aren't fictitions in the same way, but they both seem like fictitions nonetheless.

Our journalists, and our other thought leaders, often seem like fictitions too. 

Our candidates frequently make statements which are inaccurate or incoherent. Sometimes, the statements they make are transparently crazy—are the apparent sign of a badly disordered mind.

Recent example, from Candidate Trump: 

ELIZABETH LYNNE CHENEY IS GUILTY OF TREASON. RETRUTH IF YOU WANT TELEVISED MILITARY TRIBUNALS.

That statement was transparently crazy. Sometimes, our journalists and our news orgs take notice of such transparently crazy statements. Remarkably often, they don't.

We're returning today to the framework introduced by Michael Moore at the 2003 Oscars. As we noted a few weeks ago, Moore introduced the framework—a new paradigm, built around a new word—in these brief remarks:

I've invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us, and we would like to—they are here. They are here in solidarity with me because we like non-fiction.

We like non-fiction and we live in fictitious times.

We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. 

Whether it's the fictition of duct tape or the fictitions of orange alerts, we are against this war, Mr. Bush.

Moore invented a new term—a term we plainly need. That new term was "fictition." In our view, it's a useful word.

At the time, that was a partisan speech. Today, the state of fictition strikes us as being "general over [the nation]."

Today, the culture of fictition is grotesquely widespread. The human message machines on the Fox News Channel reek of round-the-clock fictition—but are the message machines on MSNBC really that far behind?

We'll explore such questions in the week which lies ahead. That said, who could have predicted such an event? 

CNN's Blackwell noticed something. Having noticed, he asked!


SATURDAY: Three takeaways from those 22 minutes!

SATURDAY, JULY 6, 2024

How did we get to this place? For starters, a frank admission:

 We don't know which of these plans is more likely to produce a win in November:

Plan A: President Biden is nominated as the candidate again

Plan B: President Biden steps aside. Someone else becomes the candidate through a makeshift nomination process

Our guess would be that we denizens of Blue America have already earned our way out—that sacred Troy is destined to die this fall. 

That said, anything can happen! With that in mind, we sat and watched President Biden's twenty-two minutes last night.

For the full transcript, just click here. We'll offer three reactions. 

For starters, we'll go with this. This is what was said at one point—but did this actually happen?

PRESIDENT BIDEN (7/5/24): Well, look. After that debate, I did ten major events in a row, including until 2 in the morning after the debate. I did events in North Carolina. I did events in—in in Georgia, did events like this today, large crowds, overwhelming response, no— no— no slipping. 

And so, I just had a bad night. I don't know why.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And how— How quickly did it, did it come to you that you were having that "bad night?"

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, it came to me I was having a bad night when I realized that even when I was answering a question, even though they turned his mic off, he was still shouting. And I— 

I let it distract me. I— I'm not blaming it on that, but I realized that I just wasn't in control.

Even though they turned his mic off, Candidate Trump was still shouting? Did that actually happen? 

Frequently, CNN aired a split screen during the debate. At such times, Candidate Trump was visible when President Biden was speaking.

We never saw or heard any sign that Candidate Biden "was still shouting" as the president spoke. Nor had we seen anyone make any such claim until last night.

We'd never seen anyone say that! Eight days later, this became the latest explanation for the president's "bad night."

Did that actually happen? We don't know, and Stephanopoulos didn't ask.  Meanwhile, President Biden said he still doesn't know why he had that historic bad night. 

We were puzzled by the claim that Candidate Trump was shouting. We came close to being actively offended by this:

STEPHANOPOULOS: The number of Americans who think you're too old to serve has doubled since 2020. Wouldn't a clear-eyed political calculus tell you that it's gonna be much tougher to win in 2024?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Not when you're running against a pathological liar. Not when he hadn't been challenged in a way that he's about to be challenged. 

Candidate Trump is "about to be challenged?" When exactly was President Biden actually planning to start?

To all appearances, President Biden was running behind Candidate Trump as he walked on the stage that night. He was going to have two major opportunities to challenge his vastly disordered opponent.

One of those two opportunities lay before him that night. But after a disastrous performance, we're now told that Candidate Trump is "about to be challenged!" 

Here is the fuller exchange to which we refer:

STEPHANOPOULOS: The number of Americans who think you're too old to serve has doubled since 2020. Wouldn't a clear-eyed political calculus tell you that it's gonna be much tougher to win in 2024?.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Not when you're running against a pathological liar. Not when he hadn't been challenged in a way that he's about to be challenged. Not when people—

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've had months to challenge him.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Oh, sure, I had months, but I was also doin' a hell of a lot of other things, like wars around the world, like keeping NATO together, like working—

Anyway. But look—

"You've had months to challenge [Candidate Trump]," his interlocutor accurately said. 

It's true that President Biden, like any incumbent president, had many other things on his plate. That said, we'd be inclined to add this to what Stephanopoulos said:

President Biden has also had months—indeed, he's had more than three years—to perform the fundamental presidential function of speaking to us the people. 

Over the course of the past year, the president has been massacred with respect to what is happening at the southern border. He's been massacred with respect to various aspects of the cost of living (as distinct from the narrow technical meaning of "the inflation rate").

The president has had months and years to conduct a fireside chat, or an Oval Office address, in which he could have explained what he was doing in those two important arenas—in which he could have made it clear that he understands why so many people are concerned.

Like the silence of the absent God in Bergman's blubbering film, The Seventh Seal, the president has taken a pass on that obligation of office. He too has performed a vast silence with respect to those major concerns.

We would assume he hasn't explained himself because, for reasons which may lie beyond his control, he hasn't been capable of doing so. 

Tragically, his ability to explain himself may lie beyond his control. But in the process on performing that silence, he has slid behind the most disordered presidential candidate in modern American history.

In our view, he's taken a pass on a major obligation of office. That said, we denizens of Blue America have been happy to stand in line to repeat unconvincing scripts about how amazingly great he has been.

We'll skip the early part of the interview in which the president said he "doesn't think" he "ever watched the debate afterwards."

Eight days later, he doesn't know if he has ever watched the tape of the debate? We found that answer weirdly hard to believe. Stephanopoulos let it go.

Completing the rule of three, we'll let you ponder this exchange as the discussion continued:

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've had months to challenge him.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Oh, sure, I had months, but I was also doin' a hell of a lot of other things, like wars around the world, like keeping NATO together, like working—

Anyway. But look—

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you really believe you're not behind right now?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I think it's in— All the pollsters I talk to tell me it's a tossup. It's a tossup. And when I'm behind, there's only one poll I'm really far behind, CBS Poll and NBC, I mean, excuse me. And— uh—

STEPHANOPOULOS: New York—New York Times and NBC both have, have you about six points behind in the popular vote.

PRESIDENT BIDEN: That's exactly right. 

In fairness, it's conventional for a candidate who's running behind to say that he doesn't believe the polls are right.

That said, President Biden may be the only person in the country who believes the race is a tossup at this point. Beyond that, recent history suggests that the Democratic candidate has to win the popular vote by at least several points to squeak out a narrow win in the electoral college.

If that recent history holds, that means a tie goes to Candidate Trump! With that possible outcome in mind, might we talk Tom Turkey?

President Biden was never a major political talent on the national level. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were. Joe Biden never was.

That isn't a moral assessment. Almost no one qualifies as a major political talent on that scale. Almost no senators qualify. Also, almost no governors.

That isn't a moral assessment. But even when he was at his best, President Biden didn't possess those rare abilities. Almost no one does.

Today, we would assume that President Biden's abilities have been diminished to some degree by some undiagnosed medical problem. Obviously, that isn't a moral failure either—but the reaction of his inner circle to this unfortunate state of affairs pretty surely is.

Under Plan A, he stays in the race. Under Plan B, he doesn't.

Anything can still happen, of course. But it seems to us that sacred Troy is likely destined to die under either of those approaches. Also, it seems to us we denizens of Blue America have relentlessly earned our way out. 

In the coming week, we'll start to explain that assessment. On Monday, we'll start with the ridiculous performance by Candidate Trump at last Thursday's debate. 

Long ago and far away, "Candidate Dukakis" made this exasperated statement as part of a famous sketch on Saturday Night Live:

"I can't believe I'm losing to this guy!"

Sacred Troy now seems to be losing to Trump. The question we need to ponder is this:

How did we get to this place?

The lonesome death of FDR!

FRIDAY, JULY 5, 2024

The things we the people aren't told: In his new column for the Washington Post, David Ignatius reviews some of the history of presidential health evets in the 20th century.

He starts with Woodrow Wilson:

IGNATIUS (7/5/24): Past presidents have struggled with problems of old age, but public discussion has usually been suppressed. President Woodrow Wilson suffered a pre-stroke breakdown in late September 1919 (“I don’t seem to realize it, but I seem to have gone to pieces,” he said). Then came a debilitating stroke on Oct. 2. But Wilson officially served out the last year of his term, largely invisible. His wife, Edith, took control, writing in her memoirs that she decided “what was important and what was not,” according to biographer August Heckscher.

For well over a year, so it went.

The lonesome death of Franklin Roosevelt is a sadder and richer story. In the middle of the war against the Third Reich, he successfully struggled to election for a fourth term. 

After serving only five weeks of that term, he died at 63 years of age:

IGNATIUS (continuing directly): President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s frailty was obvious a year before his death on April 12, 1945. But, again, it was shielded from public view. Biographer Jean Smith writes that by the early spring of 1944, “the president was slowing down: the dark circles under his eyes grew darker; his shoulders slumped; his hands shook more than ever when he lit his cigarette.”

A doctor examined FDR that spring. His heart was enlarged; his blood pressure was 186 over 108. He was slowly dying, but his wife, Eleanor, and his inner circle pulled the veil of privacy tight. As FDR grew weaker, he made one decisive move: He replaced Vice President Henry Wallace with Harry S. Truman. It was one of the wisest and most consequential decisions of his presidency, for Truman turned out to be a president who could safeguard the future.

This (relatively young) wartime president struggled forward in the face of vast health challenges, and in the face of impending death. The leading authority on this history offers this brief account:

When Roosevelt returned to the United States [in February 1945] from the Yalta Conference, many were shocked to see how old, thin and frail he looked. He spoke while seated in the well of the House, an unprecedented concession to his physical incapacity. During March 1945, he sent strongly worded messages to Stalin accusing him of breaking his Yalta commitments over Poland, Germany, prisoners of war and other issues...

On March 29, 1945, Roosevelt went to the Little White House at Warm Springs, Georgia, to rest before his anticipated appearance at the founding conference of the United Nations.

In the afternoon of April 12, 1945, in Warm Springs, Georgia, while sitting for a portrait by Elizabeth Shoumatoff, Roosevelt said: "I have a terrific headache." He then slumped forward in his chair, unconscious, and was carried into his bedroom.

Continuing: 

"The president's attending cardiologist, Howard Bruenn, diagnosed a massive intracerebral hemorrhage. At 3:35 p.m., Roosevelt died at the age of 63."

What might this history suggest with respect to the matter at hand? Needless to say, you can teach it flat or you can teach it round. Our general impression would be this:

Here in Blue America, the people we're trained to trust have perhaps behaved rather poorly over the past year or so, and they continue to do so today. We know of no obvious way out of the current dilemma.

At any rate, we the people weren't aware of the medical situations involving Presidents Wilson and Roosevelt. Beyond that, a fair amount of secrecy was maintained about some of President Kennedy's health challenges—and, needless to say, about aspects of his personal conduct during his years in the White House.

(More on that below.)

Also, there's the case of former Senator Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.), a major presidential candidate in the 1992 Democratic primaries and by all accounts a good, decent person. He died in January 1997, at age 55, two days before his first term as president would have ended. 

Due to a previous episode with cancer, he had worked quite hard, during Campaign 1992, to tell us the people that he had no serious health concerns. Needless to say, the press corps anointed him as the fearless truth-teller in the campaign, as opposed to the Big Liar Bill Clinton.

(As politicians so favored may tend to do, Candidate Tsongas sometimes seemed to agree with this standard bit of casting.)

It's our impression that the Biden team has perhaps behaved rather poorly in recent years. It's also our impression that it's too late to do anything about the situation which exists, and that Donald J. Trump is quite likely to end up back in the White House.

Many different groups have contributed to this situation down through the many long years. If it's the simple truth you want, we self-impressed denizens of Blue America have been one part of the problem, though the chances are slim that you'll ever convince us of any such fact.

That said, also this: We denizens of Blue America! (Most especially, we refer to the people who have scripted us, down through the years, from their roles within the upper-end mainstream press.)

We Blues! We still love Dear Jack and his glamorous wife! For that reason, we disappear the 19-year-old actual intern he crudely procured and assaulted during his term in the White House.

In fairness, it was a different time, and according to at least one major biographer, he and his brothers had been very poorly raised, with respect to such matters, by their lecherous father. That said, the appalling story was finally told in 2012, in an extremely well written memoir, and we're fairly sure that no one actually doubts the truth of what was described in that thoughtful, well-composed book.

That said, so what? We simply continue on preferred paths, as if Mimi Alford's story had never been told:

For example, we continue to be shocked at the thought of the fictitious "21-year-old intern" who was neither 21 nor an intern during the period in question. 

Most pathetically, we insist that we somehow needed to know if Donald J. Trump had consensual sex, on one occasion, ten years before he ran for president, with a fully grown adult woman who shockingly wasn't his wife.

We continue to love and revere Dear Jack. On the vastly other hand, we very, very strongly feel that we needed to know about that!

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Our main impressions at present are these:

Cummings got his reporting right about the way "humanity" tends to behave. Also, it's possible that our flawed human race wasn't built for this line of work!

FRIDAY: Citizen Scarborough, back from camp!

FRIDAY, JULY 5, 2024

What New York's correspondent has said: When we awoke this morning, C-Span 2 was re-airing this broadcast from a twelve-part series last year:

OCTOBER 9, 2023

Books That Shaped America
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass  

In part four of Books that Shaped America, historian, author, and Howard University professor Edna Greene Medford explored the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the first autobiography of abolitionist Frederick Douglass after his escape from slavery, published in 1845...

We're going to go ahead and admit it. When the conduct of Edward Covey was described, it called Greg Gutfeld to mind. 

Yesterday, we spent a chunk of time attempting to research the peculiar claim which formed the basis for the second segment on Wednesday night's Gutfeld! program. 

The termagant—perhaps more accurately, the little chimp—and his usual assembly of hacks spent the segment making a joke of what's left of "our democracy." We'll have to postpone our report on the way they leaped about, flinging their poo, until tomorrow at best.

Today, there's only one report you should be reading online. We refer to the new post by Kevin Drum, a post which starts off like this:

The press and Joe Biden

Has the press been covering for Joe Biden over the past few months? Until now I've considered this to be little more than typical Fox News nonsense, but I'm beginning to wonder...

Why has Kevin started to wonder about what the (mainstream) press has been doing? At that point, he links to a lengthy report by New York magazine's Olivia Nuzzi—and he posts excruciating excerpts from her lengthy report.

Nuzzi's lengthy report sits behind a paywall. The excruciating excerpts which Drum has posted are available for all to see. 

As he starts, Kevin says he's beginning to wonder about the past conduct of the mainstream press. But if Nuzzi's detailed account is accurate, it's hard to believe that anyone would still have to wonder about President Biden—more specifically, about his fitness to continue to serve for almost five more years at this point.

For ourselves, we've always tended to place an asterisk next to Nuzzi's work. We've done so because of what we regard as the somewhat unattractive way she broke into the upper-end press, way back in the somewhat better old days.

That said, we agree with Kevin's assessment, except perhaps a bit more so:

DRUM: As Nuzzi acknowledges, she's been skeptical of Biden's stamina for years, and is hardly a Biden family favorite. Still, there's no reason to believe she's making this up.

"There's no reason to believe she's making this up?" For the record, Nuzzi's report takes us well beyond an assessment of "Biden's stamina." That said, we would tend to agree with what Kevin says.

For ourselves, we've seen footage of President Biden, again and again, in which he displays what we would regard as an unmistakable look. Such tape has been widely aired on the Fox News Channel, has been disappeared everywhere else.

We've been actively concerned about President Biden since last August. A few weeks later, major insider David Ignatius wrote the mild-mannered column in the Washington Post in which he suggested that President Biden shouldn't seek re-election.

(For the record: Even then, Ignatius was able to report this: "According to a recent Associated Press-NORC poll, 77 percent of the public, including 69 percent of Democrats, think he’s too old to be effective for four more years." That's what respondents were saying even way back then.) 

Few insiders stepped up to agree with that column by Ignatius. As the months went by, the president appeared in public less and less often.

He made few attempts to speak about the major issues which were dragging him and his party down. With respect to the cost of living, he chose to adopt a ludicrous focus on the evils of "shrinkflation."

Then came the amazing performance at last Thursday night's debate. The other candidate's performance was utterly ludicrous, though in a more familiar way.

Adding the little chimp into the mix, this is the state of "our democracy" on this Fifth of July. Regarding the workings of us the people, we'll direct you to two observable sources:

First, we'll suggest that you scroll through the comments to Kevin's post. It's filled with comments by angry partisans who insist that there's nothing to see here—that this phony point of concern has all been made up. 

Some don't seem prepared to believe their own lyin' eyes! Here are four of the first five original comments:

COMMENT 1: [This has] been going on for months and you're only now, just now, hearing about it, at this carefully choreographed, time-critical moment?

What this is they're trying to reflect back all the bad press Trump has been getting about his mental state, and there is nothing else here at all.

COMMENT 2: Or they all could be orchestrated anonymous GOP ratf*ckers. YOU make the call! PS: Remember how HRC was at death's door in 2016? Have we learned nothing?

COMMENT 4: Olivia Nuzzi was saying this in 2020, before Biden's impressive to very impressive accomplishments over the last three-plus years. And told in the first person? Who does she think she is, Hunter Thompson?

I'll give her gonzo points though for saying the President didn't know who she was, as if it was evidence of mental decline as opposed to evidence that she's extremely small potatoes, butt-hurt potatoes at that.

COMMENT 5: Sigh. Look, it MAY be that there really HAS been significant deterioration very recently. It hasn't been materially evident at other public events (deliberate barbering of things like video from the Normandy remembrances notwithstanding), but mmmmaybe so.

One thing that IS clear is the overt bias—hell, active favoritism—of much of the major media... I don't put ANY stock in what the Olivia Nuzzis of the world publish.

IF there is a "conversation" to be had, I have confidence in the people around Biden—Dr. Jill, Obama, his Three Wise Men, Schumer, et al.—to have it, and I have confidence in him to have the wisdom and self-awareness to listen to it—very much UNlike the Felon, I would add. And if it leads to action, we'll hear about it.

With respect to Commenter 1, are we hearing about this at a "carefully choreographed moment?"

For whatever it may be worth, the moment in question follows directly upon the most peculiar debate performance in modern political history.

Meanwhile, Olivia Nuzzi is small potatoes—butt-hurt potatoes at that! The commenters don't place any stock in what "the Nuzzis of the world" may report.

It could be that Nuzzi's just quoting GOP ratf*ckers! By way of contrast, we can trust the people around President Biden—and we can trust President Biden himself. If they decide to make a move, eventually we'll be told!

If we might borrow from Robert Frost at this point:

Trust us, The Voices said.

The fifth commenter has confidence in the people around the president. The commenter also has "confidence in him to have the wisdom and self-awareness" to do the right thing.

For better or worse, some people never stop trusting The Voices! Meanwhile, let's state a point which is blindingly obvious:

If President Biden has slipped around a type of bend, he now lacks the type of judgment required to make sound decisions. He would now lack that type of judgment, like Senator Feinstein before him.

Anthropologically speaking, it isn't clear that we the people—that our vastly limited species—is wired for this sort of work. The meltdowns which have brought us to this point have involved the conduct of many groups—but those of us in Blue America have been an active part of this process, dating back three or four decades, or possibly five or six.

Then too, there was this:

We were surprised to see Joe Scarborough back on today's Morning Joe. He'd been away, on what was described as "a vacation," all week. It was surprising to see him back on the air for just one show, on the Friday of a four-day holiday weekend no less.

To appearances, Scarborough was back from a successful stay in re-education camp, where he was taught to say different things about President Biden's performance. We'll offer examples of what we mean when the links become available.

Meanwhile, we human beings don't seem to be built for this type of work! In our view, the bitter and caustic E. E. Cummings pretty much had it right, though only in his reporting about humanity, not in his moral assessment.

Nuzzi's report is a kick in the pants, but it's one of many such reports emerging on this topic. We ourselves became actively concerned last August, based on something we saw right there on our TV machine as we watched a live event on CNN.

Along the way, Vladimir Putin seems to have placed a wager. He seems to have wagered that we won't be able to make this work.

The strongman seems to have paced a wager. As President Biden slides in the polls, is "Putin's wager" in the process of possibly paying off?

Tomorrow: What the chimp, and his court of baboons, offered this Wednesday night