Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/15/18: Spin Wars (Part I)

Good Morning…

…from a galaxy not nearly far enough away…

1. Quick takes on a remarkable 51 minutes on the White House lawn. I just, and I mean just, finished watching President Trump’s spontaneous press conference on the White House lawn, standing within easy spitting distance—brave, given how much so many of these people detest him—of a pack of reporters as Fox’s Baby Doocy held a microphone for him, and picking questions, often hostile, out of the cacophony. Has any previous President done something like this? I’ve never seen such a thing.

If you can’t admire this performance, your anti-Trump virus is raging out of control. I miss the reflex, knee-jerk Democrats and progressives who have, I hope temporarily, taken a hiatus from Ethics Alarms because, in my assessment, they no longer can muster credible defenses of the way this President has been treated by the news media and the resistance, so they have retreated to the warm cocoon of the left-wing echo chamber. Trump’s appearance this morning as well as the Inspector General’s report on the Clinton email investigation are integrity tests. I’d like to think the otherwise intelligent and analytical progressives here would pass them. Ducking the challenge is not a good sign.

Of course, Trump was Trump. As I wrote long ago, constantly harping on what we all know is wrong with Trump is boring and pointless. (See: The Julie Principle) He exaggerated. He spoke in infuriatingly inexact and colloquial word clouds. He celebrated himself and pronounced himself brilliant. I know, I know: if his very existence in the universe is offensive to you, then this performance would be painful. (When Donald Trump isn’t the elected President of the United States, his existence  will probably be offensive to me once again, just as as it was right up to November 8, 2016.) However, the fact is that President Trump showed mastery of the situation. He managed the chaos and maintained his dignity while a generally angry and adversarial mob was shouting at him and interrupting him. I run interactive seminars with lawyers for a living, and I am qualified to say this: what he did is difficult, and he handled it very, very well. Anyone who watches those 51 minutes and refuses to say, “Well, he’s not senile, demented, unstable, dumb or teetering on the brink of madness, I’ve got to give him that much”  had disqualified themselves as a credible Trump critic. He was in command, quick, calm, and in his own way, masterful.

The response of the anti-Trump news media will be to “factcheck” him. He said, for example, that the IG report “exonerated” him, as the pack screamed, “But the report doesn’t discuss the Russian investigation at all!”  This is the old, dishonest and so boring, “Trump is lying when he expresses his feelings and impressions in the cloudy, semi-inarticulate imprecision that he always speaks in, which we will pretend isn’t what we already know it to be.” Of course the report doesn’t formally or actually exonerate him. It does,  in his view (and mine), show a corrupt and untrustworthy culture in the FBI and the Obama Justice Department that treated the Clinton investigation in exactly the opposite fashion that they have used to investigate him. This means, to Trump, that the Mueller investigation is a political hit job, and he regards that as the equivalent of exoneration. Well, he can regard it as cheesecake, if he chooses. His opinion is not “a lie.” (I am being sued, you may recall, by an Ethics Alarms commenter who maintains in his complaint that opinions are lies, so I am rather sensitive on this point.)

Several of Trump’s responses were succinct and effective, as well as infuriating to the anti-Trump journalists, I’m sure. He said that President Obama lost the Crimea when he refused to enforce his own “red line,” thus destroying his credibility and causing Putin to correctly assume that he could move on the Ukraine without consequences. True. He said that he was not worried that Michael Cohen would cooperate with the Mueller investigation, because he, the President, had done nothing wrong. (Headlines like “Will Cohen flip on Trump?” over the last few days imply that there is something to flip about, because the Left, “the resistance,” the news media and those AWOL Ethics Alarms readers have assumed from the beginning that Trump is guilty of some dire and impeachable conduct.

I have called Donald Trump an idiot here, many times. He certainly does and says some idiotic things. As these 51 minutes showed, however, to anyone willing to admit it, he has some impressive skills and talents, and they are skills and talents that are assets in leadership, and in trying to do the job of President of the United States. They also exposed Plan E,  the “resistance’s” dishonest call to declare the President “disabled” under the 25th Amendment, as the indefensible scheme that it is and has always been.

2. A dishonest spin classic. One of the New York Times more outrageously partisan op-ed writers, David Leonhardt, headlined his spin-attempt of the Justice Department’s Inspector General’s report, “The Report’s Real Message: Trump Is Lying.” This is Trump-style logic from one of the Trump critics who routinely declare Trump logic as “lying.” Here’s the theory:

The report addresses one question that’s more important than any other: Did the Justice Department and F.B.I. use their power, as Trump has repeatedly claimed, to help Clinton’s campaign and hurt his?….And the report’s answer is clear: No.

Federal investigators and prosecutors did not give preferential treatment to Clinton. They pursued the case on the merits. They were guided by, as the inspector general’s report puts it, “the prosecutor’s assessment of the facts, the law, and past Department practice.”

The most significant mistake in the investigation didn’t help Clinton. It hurt her, badly. It was James Comey’s decision to violate department policy and talk publicly about the investigation. If it weren’t for that decision, the polling data suggests Clinton would be president.

See, because Trump has said that the Justice Department was trying to save Clinton to hurt him, these conclusions prove he was “lying.” This is technically known as “crap.” The report doesn’t even prove that Trump is wrong, much less lying. Leonhard, however, is lying:

  • Anyone who reads the report, or, for that matter, who was paying attention to the Clinton investigation, has to be struck by the difference between how the FBI handled the Clinton investigation and how the Mueller investigation is being handled. Of course they gave Clinton preferential treatment, and the IG never says it didn’t. She was never interrogated under oath.

No independent prosecutor was appointed, so the Obama administration was allowed to investigate itself during a Presidential election. That alone shows preferential treatment, or the appearance of it.

  • The IG report does not say or prove that the FBI and Comey were biased in favor of Clinton and against Trump. It does show that anti-Trump bias was rampant in the FBI. It does  show that agents leaked to the press, and we know that the news media was and is biased in favor of Clinton and against Trump. I believe that the report shows a partisan and corrupted culture that does not deserve the benefit of the doubt regarding how bias may have infected the investigation.

I wrote in 2016 that I did not want to see the election decided by the FBI, and that the decision not in indict Clinton was in the best interests of the country. There is no way to say with certainty, however, that the agency making that decision was not influenced by its biases, or the fact that it was operating within a hyper=partisan Justice Department committed to Barack Obama.

  • “The polling data suggests Clinton would be president.” How can anyone write such a sentence now and not place their head under a bag? The same biased pollsters produced polls saying that Hillary’s election was a lock after the FBI’s final word on the matter. Indeed, Comey said that the reason he made his late revelation regarding the emails on Weiner’s laptop was that he assumed Hillary would win.

David Leonhardt continues a basic deceit that has persisted all this time. What cost Hillary the election was not the investigation of her devious and incompetent email maneuvers and evidence destruction. What cost her the election (among other things, like the fact that she was a horrible candidate in every respect) were her devious and incompetent email maneuvers and evidence destruction, as well as her endless lying about it.

[More to come!]


8 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/15/18: Spin Wars (Part I)

  1. I must say that despite his boorishness and narcissism, Trump has a pair. As far as the media, they have demonstrated again how small and petty they have become.

    • Yup. Whatever else Trump is, he is a master negotiator who empathizes with his opponent, all the better to come to an agreement.

      And he wrote in his book how to control the media. He has not done anything not written in that book. The media are just too stupid to read it and adapt.

  2. 1) Juxtapose this with Obama for a second… There is no scenario where he would have done this. Even though the press at large was basically tripping over eachother to gag on whatever bullshit he was selling that week… Obama’s relationship was in many ways just as broken as Trump’s.

    And I’m not even saying ‘broken’ in terms of their fawning obeisance to Obama or their raging hate-on for Trump… Obama didn’t talk to the press. Ever. The number of press conferences he put on in his second term could be counted on the hands of a bad shop teacher. My take on it was that Obama is the kind of narcissist that REALLY hates the ‘got’cha’ kind of questions and he didn’t want to risk it.

  3. I would respectfully submit that when the President of the United States says that report exonerates him, when in fact it does not exeronate him, it is the job of the media to say, “this report does not exonerate him.”
    The Julie Principle seems unevenly applied here, to say the least. If we are to forgive Trump’s blather as hopelessly hard-wired and thus not worth critiquing, we ought to apply the same to the blather of reporters who are seeking to factcheck something which you seem to be saying is not factcheckable.

    • I would respectfully submit that when the President of the United States says that report exonerates him, when in fact it does not exeronate him, it is the job of the media to say, “this report does not exonerate him.”

      Absolutely. And they should do so without misrepresenting the report, which they appear incapable of doing.

      In my view, it does exonerate him of the “obstruction of justice” canard. It shows that Comey should have been fired for cause (not that we didn’t know that); in fact, he should have been fired by Obama. I cannot find any case in which any official was found guilty of or indicted for obstruction for an action that 1) was entirely legal 2) was objectively justified and necessary 3 )was done openly 4) was entirely within an individual’s responsibilities and 5) did not in fact impede the administration of justice because the official may have had a questionable motive mixed in with the legitimate ones. I doubt there has been one.

      • Jack wrote, “Absolutely.”

        I agree, absolutely.

        Jack wrote, “And they should do so without misrepresenting the report, which they appear incapable of doing.”

        This is a point that so many anti-Trumpers really just don’t give a crap about – the ends justifies the means.

  4. I thought Trump did a good job with the interview and how he handled himself I think he knew that there would be people who would shout out things and ask questions against him, so it wasn’t a shock to him as it might have been in a normal conference in the past. But even with that, he kept his composure and handled answering the questions well. And some of the answers were on point (like Obama and Crimea). That’s one thing with him. He can be dead on correct with one thing, and then be off with the next statement.

    The Trump being Trump. I still have trouble reconciling the Julie Principle vs a Rationalization of “That’s how he is/always does it/the norm” or however that one goes. It’s still feels wrong. Plus I feel it could be put to so many topics that would thus be ignored if we followed that (Clinton being Clinton, for example) but shouldn’t be.

    2. One thing with spin is, it can be spun many ways. (By the way, if Trump giving his opinion on something is just an opinion, but not lying, then why is it considered for Leonhard to lie here? Seems somewhat the same).

    As for it, yes, it was handled differently. Probably to Clinton’s detriment. If the investigation on her server was kept as quiet as the one into Trump during the campaign, she probably would be President now. It was the fact that her investigation was open for people to hear about it that hurt as much as what she did (particularly the excuses she had for why, where, and when things were done after the investigation started).

    Like the previous comments in the last blog entry, I still doesn’t see evidence of “rampant” Anti-Trump biasness. Outside of Strzok, whom it can’t even been shown actually used his biasness to affect anything in the investigation, there are various quotes with no context to them and Comey acting incompetently (which hurt Clinton more then Trump). Some people aren’t going to like Trump, some aren’t going to like Clinton, no where is there any showing of personal feelings to that creating any biasness in the actual investigation. Five person, out of an untold number, had various quotes that if you think they’re biasness can be thought that way, or could be interpreted other ways if you want to. Just like there is no huge showing of hyper-partisan commitment to Obama, unless you want to interpret it that way because you already believe it to be true.

    Using the polls by people on the left as an argument is silly. They obviously had errors in them. Do I think there was a shift when Comey re-opened the case shortly before the election? Yes. Based on what I read, the mood of public discourse, and the mood of people I personally knew. Do I know if she would have lost anyway? Nope. No one does, which is why it’s a useless topic for them to bring up.

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