Baaaaad Morning for me, GOOD MORNING to you, I hope.
1. The New York Times, I thought, has an unusually fair story on the two phantom Trump phone calls that roiled “the resistance” yesterday. The President had said that he had received “calls” from the President of Mexico and the Boy Scout leadership, the former to salute him for getting tough at the border and the other to praise his controversial remarks at the annual Jamboree. There were no such calls, as the Mexico and the BSA had strongly suggested, and the White House confirmed this yesterday. In its piece this morning, the Times included a germane quote from pre-politics Trump in his 1987 book “The Art of the Deal”:
“People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”
Germane, except that we already know that he thinks this way—and I don’t think referring to a conversation (in the case of Mexico) or multiple members of the Boy Scouts leadership”praising his speech in person after he was done (“Nice job!” “Great speech!” “The boys really appreciated it!”) as phone calls qualifies as “hyperbole,” truthful or otherwise.
These are examples of the President’s well-established addiction to speaking in word clouds and approximations. He “saw” (well, maybe not literally) “thousands of Muslims” (Okay, maybe he didn’t see them, but they were there! ) celebrating the doom of the Twin Towers in New Jersey. He never supported the Iraq invasion (saying otherwise to Howard Stern doesn’t count). Now add the hundreds of others we either discussed here or that were flashpoints during the campaign. The President’s attitude toward these little and large imprecisions of language has been, apparently since childhood, “Whatever.” He really doesn’t think they matter, because to him the difference between, for example, “calls” and other communications doesn’t matter.
It’s a terrible habit. It undermines his credibility. It weakens his ability to persuade and lead. It makes him look foolish, careless and stupid, and shows a lack of discipline. It gives his intractable foes easy bullets to shoot at him. It’s also an established trait, at this point. This is, again, the Julie Principle. This is how he is, and both his supporters and detractors know it. What is accomplished by treating each new example as a major scandal? “Well, you can’t just let him get away with it!” is the reply.
He doesn’t get away with it. It undermines his credibility. It weaken his ability to persuade and lead. It makes him look foolish, careless and stupid, and shows a lack of discipline.
2. The Times seems to make a mild “everybody does it” excuse for the President, citing the examples of two Presidents the Times also hated, LBJ and Reagan, mostly Reagan. “It is hardly unprecedented for a president to use a story to inspire or motivate, or to embellish a yarn for the sake of punctuating a poignant message,” the Times says. Then it recounts this:
“For his first inaugural address — the first to be delivered from the West side of the Capitol facing Arlington National Cemetery — Mr. Reagan wanted to recount the story of a World War I soldier, buried in Arlington, who had written in his journal about his pledge to give everything for his country and died in battle the next day. The only trouble, his speechwriter told him, was that the fallen soldier was buried in his hometown, not at Arlington, according to H. W. Brands, a historian at the University of Texas and biographer of Mr. Reagan.
But the president, enamored of the story, left it in his speech, and said the soldier was buried “under one such marker,” leaving his actual resting place vague. The White House later conceded that the man in question was not under a marker at Arlington.”
How is this remotely related to President Trump saying he received two phone calls that he didn’t? It’s not. It’s just an excuse for the Times to bash another Republican President.
3. The big ethics story yesterday was the Trump-endorsed bill to overhaul to the immigration system by eliminating green cards granted to siblings and grown children of current immigrants and green-card holders while holding steady the number of green cards based on job skills. Employment-based immigrants would be selected according to a point system that would favor English speakers with higher levels of education and high-paying job offers.
This isn’t morality and it isn’t xenophobia, as the knee-jerk reaction of hysterical progressives would have it. It’s a legitimate policy and priorities choice, with pros and cons like any other. The Washington Post’s headline today calling it “Trump’s war on legal immigrants” is unethical journalism. Many experts and scholars have argued that the U.S. should raise the quality of of its immigrants. Others disagree, but as usual, progressives are casting a policy direction that goes against their cant as evil. You can’t have a coherent debate from that starting point…which, I suppose, is the whole idea.
4. The Post, like CNN’s increasingly unprofessional Jim Acosta at the White House briefing yesterday, actually stooped to citing The New Colossus,” Emma Lazarus’s poem that was placed on the Statue of Liberty in 1903. This is a poem. It is not law, it is not policy, it does not relate to the Constitution, or modern immigration issues, or the preset day, being, after all, 114 years old. Its author opposed property and income taxes. She is not an authority, or relevant. Nonetheless, it is the default go-to emotional argument for advocates of open borders and sanctuary cities, the intellectual equivalent of “Think of the children!” and “Give peace a chance!” The Ethics Alarms test of whether someone has a legitimate and respectable argument regarding immigration begins with whether they cite the poem. Last time someone did that to me in person, I began reciting “The Highwayman” ( “The wind was a torrent of darkness, among the gusty trees…“) and wouldn’t stop. It is just as relevant.
5. Acosta had a complete meltdown at the briefing, taking the role of ideological adversary and abandoning all hint of objectivity and fair reporting. White House spokesman Stephen Miller did an excellent job of making Acosta appear as biased, emotional and unprofessional as he was. From the transcript (the “Q” s are all Acosta):
Q What you’re proposing, or what the President is proposing here does not sound like it’s in keeping with American tradition when it comes to immigration. The Statue of Liberty says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It doesn’t say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer.
Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you’re telling them you have to speak English? Can’t people learn how to speak English when they get here?
MR. MILLER: Well, first of all, right now it’s a requirement that to be naturalized you have to speak English. So the notion that speaking English wouldn’t be a part of our immigration system would be actually very a historical.
Secondly, I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty and lighting the world. It’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to, that was added later, is not actually a part of the original Statue of Liberty.
But more fundamentally, the history —
Q You’re saying that that does not represent what the country —
MR. MILLER: I’m saying that the notion —
Q — has always thought of as immigration coming into this country?
MR. MILLER: I’m saying the notion —
Q Stephen, I’m sorry, but that sounds like some —
MR. MILLER: Jim, let me ask you a question.
Q That sounds like some National Park revisionism. (Laughter.)
MR. MILLER: No. What I’m asking you is —
Q The Statue of Liberty has always been a beacon of hope to the world for people to send their people to this country —
MR. MILLER: Jim — Jim, do you believe —
Q — and they’re not always going to speak English, Stephen. They’re not always going to be highly skilled. They’re not always going to be somebody who can go to work at Silicon Valley right away.
MR. MILLER: Jim, I appreciate your speech. So let’s talk about this.
Q It was a modest and incremental speech.
MR. MILLER: Jim, let’s talk about this. In 1970, when we let in 300,000 people a year, was that violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land? In the 1990s, when it was half-a-million a year, was it violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land?
Q Was it violating the Statue of Liberty and the —
MR. MILLER: No, tell me what years — tell me what years —
Q (Inaudible) call for a deportation force?
MR. MILLER: Tell me what years meet Jim Acosta’s definition of the Statue of Liberty poem law of the land. So you’re saying a million a year is the Statue of Liberty number? 900,000 violates it? 800,000 violates it?
Q You’re sort of bringing a “press one for English” philosophy here to immigration, and that’s never been what the United States has been about, Stephen. I mean, that’s just the case —
Mr. MILLER: But your statement is also shockingly ahistorical in another respect, too — which is, if you look at the history of immigration, it’s actually ebbed and flowed. You’ve had periods of very large waves, followed by periods of less immigration and more immigration. And during the —
Q We’re in a low period of immigration right now. The President wants to build a wall and you want to bring about a sweeping change to the immigration system.
MR. MILLER: Surely, Jim, you don’t actually think that a wall affects Green Card policy. You couldn’t possibly believe that, or do you? Actually, the notion that you actually think immigration is at a historic lull — the foreign-born population in the United States today —
Q The President was just with the new Chief of Staff on Monday talking about how border crossings were way down.
MR. MILLER: I want to be serious, Jim. Do you really at CNN not know the difference between Green Card policy and illegal immigration? You really don’t know the —
Q Sir, my father was a Cuban immigrant. He came to this country in 1962 right before the Cuban Missile Crisis and obtained a Green Card.
Yes, people who immigrate to this country can eventually — people who immigrate to this country not through Ellis Island, as your family may have, but in other ways, do obtain a Green Card at some point. They do it through a lot of hard work. And, yes, they may learn English as a second language later on in life. But this whole notion of “well, they have to learn English before they get to the United States,” are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?
MR. MILLER: Jim, it’s actually — I have to honestly say I am shocked at your statement that you think that only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English. It’s actually — it reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree that in your mind —
Q Sir, it’s not a cosmopolitan —
MR. MILLER: No, this is an amazing moment. This an amazing moment. That you think only people from Great Britain or Australia would speak English is so insulting to millions of hardworking immigrants who do speak English from all over the world.
Q My father came to this country not speaking any English.
MR. MILLER: Jim, have you honestly never met an immigrant from another country who speaks English outside of Great Britain and Australia? Is that your personal experience?
Q Of course, there are people who come into this country from other parts of the world.
MR. MILLER: But that’s not what you said, and it shows your cosmopolitan bias. And I just want to say —
Q It just sounds like you’re trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country through this policy.
MR. MILLER: Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you’ve ever said, and for you that’s still a really — the notion that you think that this is a racist bill is so wrong and so insulting.
Q I didn’t say it was a racist bill.
MR. MILLER: Jim, the reality is, is that the foreign-born population into our country has quadrupled since 1970. That’s a fact. It’s been mostly driven by Green Card policy. Now, this bill allows for immediate nuclear family members to come into the country, much as they would today, and it adds an additional points-based system. The people who have been hurt the most —
Q You’re saying that people have to be English speaking when they’re naturalized. What is this English-speaking component that you’ve inserted into this? I don’t understand.
MR. MILLER: The people who have been hurt the most by the policy you’re advocating are —
Q What policy am I advocating?
MR. MILLER: Apparently, just unfettered, uncontrolled migration. The people who have been hurt the most by the policy —
Q (Inaudible) is for open borders. That’s the same tired thing that —
MR. MILLER: The people who have been hurt the most by the policy you’re advocating are immigrant workers and minority workers and African-American workers and Hispanic workers.
6. Acosta should be banned from the briefings after this. If CNN was concerned with professionalism and ethics, it would either fire him or give him a long vacation. Said former Obama paid liar Tim Carney on “Morning Joe,” “This is why people hate the press.”