In Defense of Whataboutism

Donald Trump, Jr. gets caught in what appears to be a sleazy attempt to use Russian sources to get dirt on Hillary Clinton ahead of the 2016 election. Democrats scream about treason, even though evidence that a crime has been committed is thin to nonexistent–but with the media tying itself into knots trying to connect the Trump administration with Russian skullduggery, it looks bad, bad, bad.

To which Trump defenders say, “Well, what about the time Hillary tried to coordinate with Ukraine to get dirt on Trump?  Or when she gave away 20% of America’s uranium reserves to Vladimir Putin, and then the Clinton Foundation got a $20 million donation from Russian-backed interests?”

The difference:  DJT, Jr. has been dominating the news cycle since the story broke.  The Hillary stuff?  Nary a mention from the mainstream media.

Then there was that time during the election, when the infamous Access Hollywood tape got leaked and “grab ’em by the p*ssy” because yet another meme parents would rather not have to explain to their kids.  That came on top of Alicia Machado, the Miss Universe turned gun moll who accused Donald Trump of fat shaming her, which Hillary extrapolated to mean that Trump hates all women.  Again, no matter how you sliced it, it looked bad, bad, bad.

To which Trump apologists said, “Well, what about the horrible way Bill Clinton treated women?  Hillary not only stood by him, she actively set out to destroy any woman who accused her husband of sexual misconduct!”

The difference:  The news media spent endless hours replaying the tape, and treated the accusations of Machado–a woman who once threatened to kill a Venezuelan judge when her boyfriend was indicted for attempted murder–without the slightest bit of skepticism.

I could go on and on here, but you probably get the picture.  Every time Donald Trump gets accused of something deplorable–and, let’s face it, occasionally the accusation has merit–his allies will fire back with something even worse that the president’s enemies did.  This “whataboutism” has been the subject of some debate lately, with concerns on how this line of argument is corrupting our politics and the culture.  Ben Shapiro, in particular, makes an eloquent point when he writes:

[Moral relativism] is the dangerous form of “whataboutism,” and also the most common. This is the actual message underlying Trump’s tweet: Hillary got away with it, so why shouldn’t I be able to get away with it? This ignores two facts: first, Hillary most certainly did not get away with it in the minds of the American public, which is why she’s not in the White House; second, wrong is wrong. The Right now engages in a fantasy whereby the Left’s dishonesty somehow justifies conservative dishonesty — hey, if Hillary’s corrupt, what’s the big problem with the Trump campaign soliciting information from the Russian government?

In this case, whataboutism is itself dishonesty — it’s pretending to care about the sins of the Left in order to justify the sins of the Right. It actually throws into sharp relief the hypocrisy of the Right: we complained endlessly and justifiably about Loretta Lynch meeting secretly with Bill Clinton, but we’re fine with Donald Trump Jr. meeting secretly with Natalia Veselnitskaya; we ripped President Obama’s “flexibility” hot mic moment, but we’re fine with President Trump saying that America has killed people just like Putin; we correctly targeted Clinton over Chinagate, but now we’re happy to use Chinagate as an excuse to avoid talking about Russiagate. This isn’t conservative. It’s not even moral. Kindergarteners learn that “but he did it, too” isn’t an excuse for bad behavior.

This is absolutely correct.  It also speaks to a hallmark trait of the conservative movement, in that it has historically elevated principle above party, and laid down markers that have guided conservative policy:  the innate value of human life that stands in opposition to abortion, the liberty of the individual that stands in opposition to big government, the rule of law that applies to the powerful and the powerless alike.  Conservatives always had an expectation that their leaders not only espoused these principles, but actually believed in them as well, and would conduct themselves accordingly.

But has the Trump era changed all that?  At first glance, you can see how it would be easy to get that idea.  Donald Trump, as a candidate and as president, has completely upended what we’ve always thought of as traditional conservatism and somehow managed to engender a fierce loyalty among his supporters, even as some unsavory facts have come to light.  Imbroglios that would have caused voters to desert your typical Republican have seemingly made Trump stronger, and made his voters dig in with one “what about?” excuse after another.  What gives?  Have traditional conservatives abandoned their principles entirely in favor of Trumpism?

Long term, I don’t know the answer to that–but I don’t think so.  Conservatives still live their lives according to their principles, which they find and reenforce through family, faith and community, and that will remain so no matter who’s running things in Washington.  Their embrace and defense of Trump is more a reaction to the corrupt media and political establishments, which are telling the public that the president represents a unique danger to American democracy, while at the same time diverting attention away from the festering swamp of corruption that has stuffed the halls of Congress with shysters, saddled the country with mountains of debt, and sustained a political class that sees itself as above the rules.  When they see Trump accused of all manner of malfeasance, while blatant malfeasance is excused and ignored elsewhere, they quickly conclude that the game is rigged just like Trump said it was–and when they see him getting screwed over, it only reminds conservatives of how everything they hold dear has been given the shaft by the media and the popular culture.  Supporting Trump by pointing out that hypocrisy is the best way conservatives know how to give them all the middle finger.  It’s very punk rock–and in many ways, quite refreshing.

It also, hopefully, has the potential to shift the media climate away from a biased model and over to something fair.  I have to believe, stupid and stubborn as they are, that eventually the media will figure out that the more they try to damage Donald Trump, the stronger he’ll become.  At that point, perhaps they’ll try the obvious and actually resort to reporting without favor–and the public will start hating them less.  In the meanwhile, for every accusation they hurl Trump’s way, there will almost certainly be an example of how Democrats under Obama did much, much worse and nobody in the media seemed to care.  So why should the public care now?

Leveling the playing field would go a long way towards curing that attitude, and the moral relativism that incubates it.

Ben Sasse Brilliantly Weighs In On Trump-Vs.-The-Press

Sometimes I wonder if Ben Sasse tires of being the smartest guy in the room. The Republican Senator from Nebraska always seems to have the right things to say and delivers it in just the right way.

This time, Sasse has weighed in on President Donald Trump’s ongoing war with the media. He appeared on Jake Tapper’s State of the Union to discuss Trump’s attacks on various elements in the media. He shared his thought that the president’s words and actions damage America’s view of a free press:

“I mean there’s an important distinction to draw between bad stories or crappy coverage, and the right that citizens have to argue about that and complain about that, and trying to weaponize distrust,” Sasse told [Tapper].

He went on to remind viewers that our First Amendment freedoms are interdependent:

“The First Amendment is the beating heart of the American experiment. And you don’t get to separate the freedoms that are in there,” he told Tapper.

“And you don’t have religion without assembly. You don’t have speech without press. We all need to celebrate all five of those freedoms, because that’s how the ‘e pluribus unum’ stuff works,” Sasse continued.

Brilliant, once again! It’s easy (and presumably fun) for Trump to go after “fake news” and pick at the low hanging fruit of the media, but when he lobs attacks on those who are doing their job well or makes wholesale digs at the press in general, he’s only making himself look bad.

As my colleague Susan Wright said over at Red State:

The majority of mainstream media is depressingly left-leaning. And yes, it’s understandable that some in the viewing public may have reached their limit with being talked down to by some of the liberal elites that make up America’s press rooms. The public has options, however. They can change the channel. They can even rant among themselves, and that’s perfectly acceptable.

For a Republican president, just to take the job is to put themselves in the line of fire. The difference, however, is that they know it ahead of time, and their emotional state is on firm enough ground that they can stand above the fray. They don’t get down in the muck with the leftist media. They just burrow into their work and be about the business of governing.

But Donald Trump is different. He gives them fodder for their abject hatred of him, and it doesn’t seem to occur to him that every second of coverage of one of his ridiculous anti-media tweets is a second of coverage that doesn’t look at what his administration is actually accomplishing. This isn’t the kind of Donald-Trump-is-different that made him attractive as a candidate.

I wish I could get what people are saying when they say that Trump doesn’t take any crap, and that’s why he won the election. There’s a difference between not taking crap – and I’ll admit that I love when he gives back what the left dishes out – and being a jerk.

Maybe one day Trump will learn the difference between the tweets that make him look bad and the tweets that highlight the good things he and his administration are getting done. When he does, a lot of conservatives will breath much more easily.

CNBC Editor: ‘Viewers Not Stupid As We Think They Are’

There are signs that the media is learning. Nikhil Deogun, senior vice president and editor-in-chief of CNBC, recently discussed confirmation bias and trust in the media with Yahoo! News anchor Katie Couric on a panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival and his thoughts were actually encouraging.

“Consumers are increasingly gravitating toward outlets that basically tell them what they want to hear, reinforce their beliefs,” Couric said, quoted by The Blaze. “A friend of mine said, ‘They’re seeking affirmation, not information.’ So, given that, how do you restore trust in the media writ large if people are so divided about which media outlets are actually fair and accurate?”

“I think sometimes there’s too much of a tendency to interpret a fact to a degree that it goes into opinion,” Deogun said. “And I think part of our job is to — again — remind ourselves that our … readers, viewers, users, are not as ignorant, as stupid as we think they are.”

Deogun continued, “I think part of that is to be more transparent. Part of that is to be more forthcoming about what we know and what we don’t know.”

The injection of opinion into news stories to give a biased slant on the news has long been a criticism of the mainstream media by conservatives. Numerous surveys have shown that the vast majority of reporters identify as liberals and Democrats so when a bias exists it almost exclusively reflects a liberal viewpoint.

Journalists were traditionally taught the “five w’s and one h” for their writing. A good news story answers the basic questions of “Who, What, Why, When, Where and How.” Contrary to the apparent belief of many modern journalists, the “What” is a reference to “What happened?” and not “What people should think.”

Deogun’s statement is an admission that at least some journalists realize that they have gone too far and alienated their customers in the process. While 90 percent of journalists may be liberal, political views of the general population are much more mixed. The majority of the population that is not liberal doesn’t like to be talked down to by liberal journalists, especially when they have to pay for subscriptions to outlets that insult their views and values.

There are encouraging signs that the media is trying to fix its ideological problem. Deogun’s admission that there is too much opinion in news stories and that journalists talk down to their readers and viewers is one such sign. CNN’s firing of three journalists who violated the news site’s standards is another action that conservatives should applaud, rather than using it to attack the network’s credibility.

Of course, the media still has a long way to go in regaining lost trust and respect. After all, Deogun didn’t say that viewers weren’t stupid, he just said that they are not “as stupid as we think they are.”

Old habits and attitudes die hard.

 

EXCLUSIVE: Wikipedia Founder Takes On Fake News, Can WikiTribune Solve The Media’s Trust Problem?

Jimmy Wales thinks big thoughts. His first big hit was Wikipedia, which has as its goal to put an encyclopedia in the hands of everyone on the planet. Now Wales is taking on the media’s trust problem and the rise of “fake news” with his latest platform, WikiTribune.

Wales has always believed in communities, the keys being trust, transparency and accountability. Everything that happens on Wikipedia is fairly well in the open. Page edits, histories, and even administrative actions are all tracked and public for everyone to see. This creates accountability for anyone who breaks the rules.

Wikipedia sets a standard

Wikipedia’s quality standards are socially, not algorithmically, enforced. This brings the community together to support and enforce the site’s most cherished values: neutrality, verifiability, respect and civility. They are outlined in the “five pillars” of Wikipedia, the fifth of which is that “Wikipedia has no firm rules.”

Although many controversial topic pages are frequently edited, and certain celebrities and people in the news are targets for vandalism, the site’s cohesive social contract and volume of volunteer editors makes it quick, efficient, and largely self-correcting. Wikipedia is the world’s most-referenced source for encyclopedia research and facts.

Also, Wikipedia is owned by the Wikimedia Foundation, also Wales’ brainchild. The foundation is a non-profit organization that administers the MediaWiki software and Creative Commons “ShareAlike” license. Wales receives no formal compensation from Wikipedia.

The media’s trust problem: show your work

The burning question is: can Wikipedia’s success be duplicated in an arena dominated by for-profit news outlets?

Addressing the rise of “fake news,” Wales wrote in a Quora Q&A Wednesday night (N.B.: Quora is another site in which Wales has invested). He divided the issue into two problems. The first is media bias inherent in professional news outlets, leading to abandoning of journalistic principles and ethics. That in itself isn’t “fake news” per se.

Second is the one I’m more interested in. And that’s that various problems with traditional media have given rise to a real loss of trust, and this has given rise to the plausibility and gullibility. In short, when we get biased news, frequent errors, clickbait headlines, an extreme race to publish first (whether a story is confirmed or not) then the public doesn’t know who to trust or what counts as real.

What’s the solution to that? At WikiTribune what I’m really putting forward is a strong ethos that we must show our work. If we have an interview, we should to the maximum degree possible post the audio and the transcript. If we have quotes from a source, we should to the maximum degree possible name the person we are quoting. If we have documents, we should to the maximum degree possible publish the documents.

Not everyone will read all that background material, of course. But it will be there for a community of people who are interested in holding truth as a core value to read and to edit our work to improve it, in case someone has gone beyond what the source said, or written in a biased manner, etc.

Think about how pool reports are handled at the White House, the Pentagon and other places where a large number of reporters can’t cover events. Pool reports are expected to be concise, just-the-facts narratives that any news organization can use to publish an account of what happened. WikiTribune’s goal is to create a universal pool report, staffed by a small number of professional journalists, augmented by a much larger pool of volunteers.

Since the reporters’ notes (with exceptions for protecting some anonymous sources) will be fully published, everyone will be able to fact check them. And by everyone, Wales means, literally, everyone.

Consider the WikiTribune model of journalism to be a blend of professional newsgathering and blogging. The rise of blogs has simultaneously held the paid media accountable for their reporting, and also competed with that media to the point where some blogs are now in all respects professional media. (Think Huffington Post, Vox Media, The Blaze.)

WikiTribune takes that model and constructs it on top of the flexible, social trust foundation used in Wikipedia. If a reporter gets something wrong, a user can correct it. If the correction holds up under the quality standards of “show your work” and verifiability, then the record stands corrected without editors having to decide if they should publish a correction or retraction. If the correction fails the quality test, then it’s stricken.

If more media outlets take this approach, then the public understanding of what “counts” as real news will shift. Just looking like a newspaper masthead won’t be enough – people will expect to see the source documentation just a click away.

Of course, the tin-foil hat crowd can’t be persuaded on their core issues no matter what documentation appears in front of them. Try persuading a flat-earther, or a moon-landing-hoax believer, or a host of others tethered to their beliefs. But that’s not the target audience.

If trust in the news and media can be improved by small increments, for a majority of the population that consumes news, it’s a huge win.

NPR meets Time Magazine

I spoke with Wales on Tuesday about how he plans to make this site work. In short, he has no idea, but he does have a starting point (he denounced what he called “a priori thinking”). I asked how WikiTribune can be designed to handle the cadence and velocity of a flow of news versus the scholarly march of Wikipedia. “I think for the most part, that is an experimental question, that we will have to feel our way through.”

“There are certain principles of quality, certain principles of timeliness, that you have to design for,” Wales said. “But, you know, this is all yet to come.”

Although WikiTribune has code written, it’s all subject to change based on the actual experience of running the site. “Global in scope, covering the news comprehensively,” Wales said. “Obviously we have to start somewhere.” But the details are far from worked out.

One of the start points is how this is all going to be paid for. First of all, there will be no advertising. That removes the incentive for clickbait and “going viral.” If page clicks isn’t the motive, then content and a devotion to factual reporting can be front and center.

These are the core differences of WikiTribune from traditional media.

First, genuine community control.

“Traditional sources, that you mentioned, are very much top down, very old fashioned way to do things, that don’t really incorporate the community at all,” Wales explained. The closest thing to community they have, he added, is the comments at the bottom, “as we all know, don’t work very well in eliciting useful feedback from the public.”

We at The Resurgent have all experienced the terror of comment sections, which are typically unread by the authors (for good reason). It’s one of the reasons Erick decided that this site would not have a comment section at all.

Wales’ goal is to create a community of shared values, not around political viewpoints or religious or philosophical world views, but around a commitment to accuracy, transparency, and quality. Like I wrote above, he thinks big thoughts.

Second, the business model.

The business model is focused on “getting people to give us monthly support versus chasing ad dollars.”

“Instead of creating sharable content…we want satisfying, rich content,” Wales said. “When people get to the bottom of the story, they’re like ‘Wow! That was really, that was something! I’m going to support that!'”

I summed it up as NPR meets Time Magazine. Wales chuckled, “yeah, maybe so.”

To be clear: WikiTribune will have no paywall, at least to start (remember, this is all “experimental”). If you like what you read, you can subscribe. If you like what you read, you can read it without paying anything. If you don’t like what you read, you can still read it for free.

It’s risky, but all new models carry a boatload of risk. If it fails to pay for itself, Wales will be faced with the decision of going to a paywall, scaling back the professional staff, or going for ad revenue. I’m absolutely certain ad revenue is a non-starter, and any kind of paywall is likely against Wales’ principles, but we’ll see where it ends up.

Facebook and the ‘distribution’ problem

I asked Wales if he has spoken to Mark Zuckerberg about Facebook’s efforts to combat fake news. “I haven’t talked to Mark about this at all, but I do talk to people at Facebook.” In his Quora answer, he refers to Facebook and Twitter as the ‘distribution’ problem. He likened it to the war against spam e-mail.

The bigger problem Wales sees is “how un-factual the political landscape has become.” He wrote “When there was a spat about the size of Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd and Kelly Anne Conway said ‘alternative facts’ I basically blew a gasket.”

In my conversation, I assiduously avoided bringing up politics or Trump. Fake news has been around for a long time, but it’s mostly hidden in the fringes, except for certain viral stories finding their way around social media–the distribution problem. But since now fake news has been politically weaponized, it’s perhaps time to look at a way to rebuild trust in the media and news itself before the foundations are totally destroyed. That’s my personal opinion. I didn’t ask Wales his, although by his response on Quora I think I know what he’d say.

Will it work?

Will WikiTribune work? Of course nobody can know for sure. But Wales put it this way. “Suppose if Facebook offered an option, hey–a new feature–we’d like to show you something that we think you’ll disagree with, but that vis a vis from various signals of an algorithm, of high quality.”

“I think a lot of people…I’d love to see that,” he said. People would be very interested in challenging their assumptions, but with “high quality.”

Today’s business models around the distribution mechanisms and production mechanisms “are really designed to give people what they want,” Wales said. “They’re more designed to react to people’s whims.”

As for bias, Wales believes that he can tackle that. “The traditional values of traditional journalism are actually pretty good,” he said. “But also you’ve got the community there working very hard to implement precisely [procedures for combatting bias].”

“They’re going to call you out on biased language and so forth.” Of course, Wales admitted, “it’s never perfect, but we’ll give it a good go.”

One of the challenges in attempting to be truly neutral is getting a diversity of views on board. One Quora questioner asked “Why has Jimmy Wales picked only left-leaning figures to head his WikiTribune crowdsourced project? Why are there no Conservative advisors?” Good question.

The people listed there now weren’t chosen for their political leanings. I’m not even aware, for example, of what Guy Kawasaki’s politics are.

All were chosen because I have known them for years and trust them – and they have shown a keen interest in my work in various ways.

More advisors will be added, and I welcome the addition of conservative advisors.

In the end, it all comes down to trust. Wales closed his comment with his own question. “Who do you recommend I ask?” I recommended Erick Erickson, but I’m biased, because he signs my check.

But if you look at Erick’s goals when he started The Resurgent nearly 18 months ago, it’s not far from Jimmy Wales in some ways: no chasing viral shares, no clickbait (that’s one of Erick’s pet peeves), no pop-up ads, and no reporting “fake news.” We’ve had our challenges holding to these goals, and WikiTribune will probably face similar problems.

As Wales said, we have to start somewhere. This is as good a place as any, and much better than Vox or Slate or Salon or any of the other liberal blogs who have tried and ended up as simple mouthpieces for the left.

The truth is, WikiTribune has a long way to go before we’ll know if it can work. There might simply be too great a divide between political poles and world views for this to come together without veering into unbridgeable gaps. But as a concept, I wholeheartedly endorse this and believe it can begin to reverse years of devolution of journalism into a weaponized political game.


Note: In keeping with Wales concept of “show your work,” I’d publish my notes here, but they’re sparse and documented in an app I use called “AudioNote” which ties my written notes to a recording of the interview. Therefore I don’t have a useful way of publishing that material. But if anyone asks for backup, I do have both written and audio. That will surely be one of the challenges in keeping WikiTribune as an honest broker–the tools will need to be top notch and usable.

In the spirit of WikiTribune…if you like what you just read, consider supporting The Resurgent.

BREAKING: Fox News Announces New Lineup

With the announcement that 21-year Fox News veteran Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to host his show The O’Reilly Factor, the top-rated cable news network immediately set to work rearranging its weekday programming schedule:

Probably the least surprising move was Tucker Carlson moving to the coveted 8pm time slot.  Ever since he replaced Megyn Kelly last January after her departure for NBC, Carlson’s show has drawn even higher ratings than The Kelly File did, which makes Tucker Carlson Tonight a natural fit to succeed The O’Reilly Factor.  The Five, meanwhile, gets a bump into prime time, where I’m sure Dana Perino will do her best to make sure Greg Gutfeld behaves himself (but not too much, I hope).

The Five will have to soldier on without Eric Bolling, however, since he’ll be anchoring his own show at 5pm.  Martha McCallum will round out the 7pm slot, with Special Report staying in its usual spot at 6pm.

Are the Democrats Screwed?

That seems to be a growing consensus among some political journalists.  Usually known for mincing words when it comes to the Democrat Party, the talk was a lot more direct at a recent panel hosted by the Midwest Political Science Association:

A session chaired by Jennifer Lawless of American University and Danny Hayes of George Washington University included a panel with journalists Molly Ball (The Atlantic), Steve Peoples (The Associated Press) and Nia-Malika Henderson (CNN).

 

“I think the Democrats are kind of screwed at this point,” said Henderson, underscoring what’s clearly the current consensus. “They thought Hillary Clinton would win and their bench is really, really thin.”

 

Ball was especially interesting in part since she’s among a younger generation of journalists that, as Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan would note to me at another session, takes academic research seriously. That’s as opposed to many more senior counterparts who’d often scoff at academics as removed from the nitty-gritty reality the journalists prided themselves on covering.

 

“It will be fun to cover the Democratic civil war for a change,” she said. “It’s hard to underestimate how screwed the Democrats are.”

In other words, reporters (well, these reporters at least) are starting to get a sense of what’s been glaringly obvious to anyone who exists outside of the DC media bubble:  Hillary was a horrible candidate.  Bernie Sanders was well past his sell-by date.  And the rest of the Democrat leadership is old, tired and should have left the stage long ago.  Now all they’re left with are septuagenarian socialists, who sharp-elbow anybody younger, more moderate and with broader appeal.

That is the very definition of screwed.

Before they congratulate themselves on being so clever, though, the panel should know that there are a couple of areas in which their analysis falls short.  First off, any notion of a civil war within the Democrat Party got squashed even before the election of the new DNC chairman.  When your choice is between Tom Perez (hard left) and Keith Ellison (even harder left), the battle for the soul of the party has already been lost to the extremists.  Secondly, the news organizations that employ these journalists haven’t taken any steps to correct the systemic bias that led them to predict a Clinton blowout.  In fact, in many cases the bias has actually gotten worse (I’m talking to you, CNN).  So long as this is the case, it won’t matter how good their polling data is.  The analysis will remain hopelessly flawed with that much confirmation bias baked in.

But there’s also this part, which is worth repeating:

Ball. . .takes academic research seriously. That’s as opposed to many more senior counterparts who’d often scoff at academics as removed from the nitty-gritty reality the journalists prided themselves on covering.

That’s research–as opposed to good, old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting.  This is probably the greatest weakness in modern journalism, the belief that databases, Google and a subscription to Lexis-Nexis can take the place of getting out in the world and observing events firsthand.  Yes, it’s important to have the data to back up your conclusions, and to provide hard facts for your analysis–but data can also become subjective, especially when disconnected from the “nitty-gritty reality” that often challenges our preconceived views.

You know who got the 2016 election right when so many others got it wrong?  Salena Zito.  She actually went out into the country, into the kind of Rust Belt towns that are largely ignored by the media, and talked to people.  They were the kind of people that Democrats used to care about:  working class, largely white, most of them hit hard by the recession of 2008 and many still hurting.  A lot of them had voted for Barack Obama, but told Zito they were receptive to Donald Trump’s message of restoring America’s greatness–and with it, their own lives and futures.  In town after town, Zito heard similar stories, and because of that–and because she kept an open mind–she sensed the coming tsunami.

The journalists at the Midwest Political Science association would do well to follow that example.

Media Bias 101

After the November election last year, a friend of mine asked how many reporters know people with a pick up truck. It seemed a reasonable question. The pick up truck makes up the top three most popular vehicles in the United States. How many truck owners do political reporters know? You would have thought he had accused the American political press of prostitution. Members of the American political press were livid he would dare ask the question.

The American political press is one of the most insular institutions in America and hate being exposed for their insularity. They are mostly coastal, secular, if not flat out atheist, overwhelmingly liberal, and have nothing in common with nor want to have anything in common with the average American.

This past week has been a case study in that media bias starting with Susan Rice, President Obama’s National Security Advisor. I have fond affection for CNN, having gotten my start in television there. Yes, I have seen firsthand liberal bias in their newsroom. But I think it often comes more from worldview and being inside a bubble than it does from aggressive partisanship. I think most of the anchors at CNN, particularly the further in the day one watches, do their absolute best to be objective, fair and cover all sides. If the network would abandon the Democrat Governor of New York’s more dimwitted brother for their morning show, the network as a whole would be improved. The people at CNN are some of the best and most professional in the news business.

But CNN did a real disservice this past week. Two weeks ago, Susan Rice denied unmasking any Trump transition team members. Her denial came as Republicans found more evidence that Obama Administration officials did seek the names of Trump transition team officials talking to foreign governments.

But just this past week, she reversed course but claimed it was not illegal and said she was not the leaker. Rice, however, has a sordid history with truth. She is the one who blamed the Benghazi terrorist attack on a YouTube video, which we all know was not true.

This brings me back to CNN. The network’s national security reporter is Jim Sciutto. After reports circulated Rice was behind the unmasking, Sciutto claimed sources close to Rice told him, “The idea that Ambassador Rice improperly sought the identities of Americans is false.” He was personally dismissive of the allegations. Remember, though, Susan Rice subsequently admitted she had names unmasked.

Jim Sciutto used to be an Obama Administration official who left the Administration for a job at ABC News working with Susan Rice’s husband. Sciutto is one of many Obama appointees who went back into the media with the veneer of objectivity. Sciutto should have been conflicted out of coverage on this story, but he was not.

The Rice story comes as Republicans in Washington blow up the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. On this story, CNN has been intellectually honest and one of the few to be honest. Read most any major newspaper or any news network other than CNN and Fox and you would never know Democrats actually scrapped the filibuster for Barack Obama’s nominees. All the GOP is doing is finishing the Democrats’ job.

Reporters who, when Democrats scuttled the filibuster for nominees, said it was no big deal, now argue that the Republicans are fundamentally destroying what makes the Senate unique. Of course, it is not just them. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who campaigned on destroying the filibuster to advance her liberal agenda, now claims destroying the filibuster is a national travesty. The intellectual dishonesty is amazing. That the media is as intellectually dishonest on this issue as partisan Democrats is not surprising, but should be disturbing.

If the American media wants to restore its reputation, perhaps it could both relate better to the American people and stop giving partisan political appointees the veneer of objectivity. The American people need a media they can trust and instead have a political press that not only does not relate to them, but holds the people in contempt.

America Just Wants Normalcy, Democrats Not So Much

A constitutional crisis is looming, or at least Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) thinks so–which is why he says cannot vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.  It’s not, he insists, payback for Reprublicans refusing to hold hearings to confirm Merrick Garland during Barack Obama’s last months in office, although he admits to still being angry about that.  Rather, it’s because he fears that the Supreme Court will soon be called upon to adjudicate the impeachment of the president of the United States.

Wait, what?

As Blumenthal himself puts it:

The independence of our judicial branch has never been more threatened or more important.  The possibility of a Supreme Court needing to enforce a subpoena against the president of the United States is far from idle speculation. It has happened before in United States vs. Nixon.

And what would justify such a subpoena?  Why, Donald Trump’s collusion with Russia during the election, of course!

To sum up, Blumenthal is saying he can’t vote to confirm Gorsuch because in the event that Trump is impeached for a scandal for which there is literally no evidence–and which is looking more and more like an Obama administration put-up job–Gorsuch couldn’t be trusted to be impartial because. . .Trump appointed him?  By that standard, no president would ever be able to appoint a judge who might end up ruling on a case that involved the administration.  Even fantasy ones cooked up as fever dreams for increasingly unhinged activists.

Hell of a way to run the world’s finest deliberative body, Senator.

If you want to know why most people hate politics, you’ll find fewer finer examples than this.  What should be a straightforward process (i.e., the Senate doing the job it was elected to do) has instead deteriorated into a dysfunctional mess that has nothing to do with the business of the country at large.  Instead, everything is tailored to whip everyone into a frenzy and keep them in a perpetual state of rage.  Republicans can take their share of the blame for this sorry state of affairs–but Democrats have taken it to a whole new level, de-normalizing literally everything that the Trump administration does.

And it’s exhaustingespecially for Americans who, after finally clawing their way out of the misery left in the wake of the 2008 recession, just want some normalcy for a change.

Is that really to much to ask?