1 One comment thread over the last few days encompassed media fact-checkers and the consistent position here that they are intrinsically biased and untrustworthy. Law prof/blogger Jonathan Turley was so incensed (his term was “floored”) over one of the better factcheckers (Wapo’s Glenn Kessler) spinning for James Comey and against Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that he wrote a column for The Hill exposing it. (Hey! That’s MY job!) He writes on his blog about what prompted the column:
I have discussed previously how there has been a palpable bias in reporting on the Trump Administration. It is often that case that some journalists are not simply satisfied with disagreeing with the Administration. They sometimes take judgment calls or opinions and declare the Trump side to be simply factually incorrect. This relieves the need for readers to address the opposing view of controversies like the alleged misconduct of former FBI director James Comey. Those views are simply dismissed as untrue. This is a prime example.
The professor is right. It’s embarrassing. Read Turley’s whole piece, clearly prompted because Kessler refers to Turley’s repeated indictments of Comey (while saying that he does not believe Comey should actually be indicted). One respect in which the ever-polite and professorial Turley differs sharply from Ethics Alarms: he says that he has ” written for the Washington Post and [has] great respect for the publication. Indeed, I have objected to the attacks by President Donald Trump on the Post and the New York Times which remain two of our premiere journalistic organizations.”
1) Turley obviously wants to keep writing for the Post, I guess, and 2) premiere members of a group that has become unprofessional and untrustworthy are still unprofessional and untrustworthy. Be that as it may, Turley concludes,
The Post concludes that the memos were, despite Comey’s denial, FBI material and that he violated FBI rules in removing and releasing such information. It also accepts that employees under Comey as director could well have been fired for such violations. It also agrees that the memos might have been either classified or privileged, even though there has been no final determination. Regardless, the Post awarded two Pinocchios for Sanders stating that Comey’s actions were “improper and likely could have been illegal.”
I have to give the Post two “Blue Fairies.” (I do not want to steal the Post’s Pinocchio signature motif so the Blue Fairy in the Disney story will do). After all, it was the Blue Fairy who said, “A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as clear as the nose on your face.”
2. There are two items about Hillary Clinton in the Warm-Up today, because she is simultaneously a human ethics train wreck of a failed Presidential candidate, but also needs as little publicity for being so as possible.
Here is #1: As reported yesterday, when Clinton was asked on NPR if she would “completely rule out questioning the legitimacy of this election if we learn that the Russian interference in the election is even deeper than we know now,” Hillary answered, “No. I would not.”
This sounds pretty unequivocal to me, especially since after Gross repeated, “you’re not going to rule it out?” Clinton said, “No, I wouldn’t rule it out.”
Yesterday, at a roundtable interview with Mic in its New York office, Hillary said,
“I think no one, including me, is saying we will contest the election. I’m in the very large group of people who believe that, you know, there’s no legal basis, no constitutional basis for that.”
She won’t contest the election, she’ll just question the legitimacy of the election. Or, in her terms, she’s among the “no ones” who will never say she will contest the election; she just says she won’t rule out questioning the legitimacy of this election.
This is typical of Clinton’s performance throughout the campaign, and indeed her whole career. “I would never say what I said, because it you parse my words, you will see that it didn’t mean what everyone who heard it thought it meant, and what I wanted them to think.” Why did anyone trust someone who talks like this? Why do they still?
3. This is #2: Yesterday, Hillary went on Late Night Trump-Hate Central to explain to Stephen Colbert what she would have said to the U.N.
Are we really going to be subjected to this ugly and presumptuous shadow Presidency forever? Hillary telling Jimmy Kimmel what her State of the Union Address would have been, Hillery telling Trevor Noah what she would be doing about taxes? As I’ve mentioned before, no previous Presidential loser has lacked the basic professional decency to stop kibitzing from the sidelines, not even Richard Nixon, the politician Hillary most resembles, except that he had better legs.
“I thought it was very dark, dangerous, not the kind of message that the leader of the greatest country in the world should be delivering,” she told Colbert regarding Trump’s speech. His approach should have been “diplomatic,” she said: “What I hoped the president would have said is something along the lines of ‘we view this as dangerous to our allies, to the region and even to our country. We call on all nations to work with us to try to end the threat caused to us by Kim Jong-un,'” and emphasized that the message also should be that “when you face dangerous situations, like what is happening in North Korea, to make it clear that your first approach should always be diplomatic.”
This is blather that relies on viewer ignorance and fear.. The history of U.S. relations with North Korea is that the rogue nation rattled its saber and issued threats, then the U.S. gaves it concessions “diplomatically” to stop persuade it from being bellicose until the next time. Our first response, and second, and third, has been “diplomatic,” and now North Korea is firing missiles over Japan.
The seeds of the Cuban Missile Crisis were planted because Kennedy had signaled that the U.S. was weak. To Russia’s surprise, when it came to the existential threat of missiles being aimed at the heart of the U.S. from a Russian ally in our own hemisphere, the U.S. response was “Removing the missiles is non-negotiable. Get them out, or else.”
Missiles fly a lot farther now. To suggest that an outlaw regime perfecting nuclear attack capacity and proclaiming that its goal is to attack the U.S. should be pleaded with, placated, appeased and negotiated with is, at this point, irresponsible. There is no negotiation position other than “Stop this, or else.” Trump was clear as crystal about that, as he should be. Clinton, as we saw in #1, is never clear about anything, which in negotiation and diplomacy, as my teacher in that area, the late Adrian Fisher (chief negotiator of the SALT treaty)explained frequently, is dangerous.
4. No, I wouldn’t have called the North Korea leader “Rocket Man,” and I agree that Trumpian insult-nicknames are unpresidential, at the U.N. and anywhere else.
To be fair, however, Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire” rhetoric was attacked on the same basis by his political critics, and in that case, the direct verbal assault paid off. I’ll also give the President integrity points: for better or worse, that’s him. That’s who we elected. Staying true to his instincts, as crude as they are, also gives his threats extra credibility.
5. UPDATE! In an example of the headline version of res ipsa loquitur, here is the headline on the main New York Times editorial. I opened my edition as if I was defusing a landmine; I knew the Times editors would be absurd, Ikne they would be fulminating against the President’s U.N. speech. It read…
WAR ON PEACE
It really did.
6. Ethics Alarms recently lost its head issues scout Fred, who is moving on to other pursuits than scouring the web for buried ethics stories. His assistance was generous, indispensable, and often brilliant. He also saved me hours, literally, every week. I still have over a hundred links from him, and Fred’s archive will continue to be a resource here. As I just wrote him, my gratitude is bottomless.
Thank you, Fred…from me, from Ethics Alarms, and all of its readers.