FOX News

The Impossible Successor

#PresidentRyan | ¿#WhatTheyVotedFor?

Republican U.S. vice presidential nominee Mike Pence speaks at a campaign rally, Oct. 22, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Amid everything else over the last week or so, we ought not forget this:

We’re left with an unsettling picture. Flynn told the transition team he’s the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, and either that information either reached Pence or it didn’t. If Pence was out of the loop, he was dangerously incompetent at his job. If Pence knew, and Flynn became National Security Advisor anyway, that’s worse.

Remember, as the turmoil surrounding Flynn grew more serious, the vice president said he was completely unaware of Flynn’s alleged misdeeds. In March, when Fox News asked Pence about Flynn having to register as a foreign agent, Pence said he was hearing the story for the first time.

Except, as Rachel has explained on the show, that’s literally unbelievable. Not only were there multiple news reports for months about Flynn’s foreign work, but Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote to Pence’s transition team to make sure Team Trump was aware of this.

(Benen)

Because, quite frankly, it still cracks me up that once upon a time, when Rubio was fumbling for water, Paul was drowning in plagiarism, and Christie apparently had nothing to do with that bridge, we might have heard Mike Pence’s name whispered as the cyclical dark horse. The Indiana governor, by Republican accounts, was politically savvy and a dedicated conservative. And while others might disagree about the savvy, it seemed for naught when he signed a RFRA and failed to comprehend what happened next. Except, of course, his dramatic revitalization as Donald Trump’s vice presidential candidate, and then vice president. It was easy enough to joke that we might yet see a President Pence.

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The Moralist, the Moralizing, and the Moral of the Story

Fight: Mikasa awakens ― Detail of frame from Attack on Titan episode 6, 'The World the Girl Saw: The Struggle for Trost, Part 2'.

There is no moral to the story; it is convenient word play in an age of professional moralists and societal resentment toward morals of stories.

A personal moment: Something strange occurred by which a blog accustomed to calling thirty hits an outstanding day pulled about sixty for two in a row. The phenomenon on this occasion is one of a scant few posts written directly about the infamous former FOX News personality Bill O’Reilly, on an occasion he appeared to throw his own mother under the bus.

One of those weird curses of privilege: Since people are reading it, do I deliberately write a follow-up? Great, who wants to read that much of me crowing about the demise of Bill O’Reilly’s tenure at FOX News? And can I really muster the will to wallow in such sordid tales when it means putting Bill O’Reilly’s face on a protracted discussion of sexual harassment and belligerence? And how much should I really complain about the world when this is the question I’m nibbling through lunch time?

Maybe it’s these conundra, even more than the low ethics, that we come to disdain about conservatives. I can still remember a Doonesbury episode from the Time of the Blue Dress, and the idea that Mike was relieved that his twelve year-old daughter already understood enough about fellatio that he need not explain that aspect of the headlines. The idea of putting Bill O’Reilly‘s face on any discussion of sexual harassment almost feels like harassing belligerence of its own.

To the other, it is not so much a question of passing on opportunity; rather, well, damn it, the smartest thing to do would be to stop now.

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Carter Page

#NoPuppetNoPuppet | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite — Donald Trump: Detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc; Carter Page: AP Photo; Puti-Toots: Artist unknown.

This is Carter Page. Honestly, it is pretty much what it looks like. The headlines can tell you quite a bit, and either read along or don’t; there is a lot there, and the tale really is as clumsy and ridiculous as it seems.

• Milder, Zachary. “Trump’s New Russia Adviser Has Deep Ties to Kremlin’s Gazprom”. Bloomberg. 30 March 2016.

• Ioffe, Julia. “The Mystery of Trump’s Man in Moscow”. Politico. 23 September 2016.

• Nechepurenko, Ivan. “Carter Page, Ex-Trump Adviser With Russian Ties, Visits Moscow”. The New York Times. 8 December 2016.

• Schwarz, Jon. “Carter Page, at Center of Trump Russian Investigation, Writes Bizarre Letter to DOJ Blaming Hillary Clinton”. The Intercept. 15 February 2017.

• Woodruff, Judy. “Former Trump adviser says he had no Russian meetings in the last year”. News Hour. 15 February 2017.

• Reilly, Steve. “Two other Trump advisers also spoke with Russian envoy during GOP convention”. USA Today. 2 March 2017.

• Helsel, Phil. “Carter Page, Adviser Once Linked to Trump Campaign, Met With Russian Ambassador”. NBC News. 3 March 2017.

• Herridge, Catherine, Pamela K. Browne, and Christopher Wallace. “Ex-Trump adviser Carter Page rips ‘false narrative’ on Russia collusion”. FOX News. 30 March 2017.

• Ross, Brian and Matthew Mosk. “Trump campaign adviser Carter Page targeted for recruitment by Russian spies”. ABC News. 4 April 2017.

• Groll, Elias. “Russian Spy Met Trump Adviser Carter Page and Thought He Was an ‘Idiot'”. Foreign Policy. 4 April 2017.

• Kaczynski, Andrew. “Former Trump adviser Carter Page says he didn’t disclose Russian spy contacts to campaign”. CNN. 5 April 2017.

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A Headline That Should Not Be

#trumpfoil | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A Yoma feeds. (Detail of frame from 'Claymore the Series', episode 1, "Great Sword".)

‘Tis a grim headline: “Trump wiretapping controversy goes global”. The lede is pretty straightfoward: “President Trump can’t seem to get past the wiretapping controversy,” writes Niall Stanage. “It’s not even clear that he wants to do so, despite Republican lawmakers joining Democrats in rejecting his claims.”

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers a question at a news conference before a campaign rally in Hampton, New Hampshire, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder)The whole thing is a mess. The Trump presidency, that is. To wit, the problem is not that Stanage, of all people, gets that headline, or anything like that. It has an iconic ring, and his coverage of Donald Trump for The Hill managed to pull that one out. Somebody eventually would have, and it’s easy enough to say Stanage deserves it.

During the previous day’s White House media briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer had read remarks from a Fox News commentator, Judge Andrew Napolitano, who claimed that GCHQ—a British intelligence facility—had been “used” by Obama to get “transcripts of conversations” involving Trump.

This has sparked fury in London. GCHQ itself, which generally refrains from public comment, called the allegations “nonsense.”

But Trump insisted on Friday that “we said nothing,” and instead sought to put full responsibility for the claim onto Fox News. “You should be talking to Fox,” he told the German reporter who had asked about the episode.

Soon afterward, a Fox anchor, Shepard Smith, said on-air that the network “cannot confirm” what Napolitano had alleged, and added, “Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time, any way. Full stop.”

Or, rather: Whatever. The problem is that anyone gets to write that headline. It is some manner of thing that should not be.

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Image notes: Top ― A Yoma feeds: Detail of frame from Claymore the Series. Right ― Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder.

Stanage, Niall. “Trump wiretapping controversy goes global”. The Hill. 17 March 2017.

A Brief Sketch (Not Quite Caviar)

#nihil | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), January, 2014. (AP Photo)

We should probably sketch this detail of the cycle:

• Press Secretary defends Attorney General:

Sessions called the report “false” in a statement last night, saying he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign.” He repeated this morning that he would recuse himself wherever it is appropriate to do so.

However, Spicer said that would not apply in this case.

“There’s nothing to recuse himself [from]. He was 100% straight with the committee,” said Spicer, adding that Democrats should be “ashamed of themselves” for playing “partisan politics” on this issue.

(FOX News)

• President defends Attorney General:

President Trump defended Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday night, insisting that the former Alabama senator “did not say anything wrong” amid swirling criticism over his testimony earlier this year about contacts with Russian officials.

Trump appeared to be referring to Sessions’ statements before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation, when Sessions said he had not spoken to Russian officials. It was revealed this week that Sessions twice spoke with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. last year.

“Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong,” Trump said in a statement posted on Facebook. “He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional.”

(Greenwood)

• The Attorney General runs to FOX News for a friendly interview:

Sessions explained that the question he received from Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) at his January confirmation hearing focused specifically on whether he had spoken with Russia continually about the presidential campaign. While Sessions has now admitted he met twice with the Russian ambassador last year, he said they did not have any such conversations about political campaigns.

Why, though, Carlson wondered, did former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s own Russian scandal not raise any red flags with him? After all, Flynn was eventually pressured to resign.

“It was never a thought,” Sessions insisted. It was “unrelated.”

The Russian officials and any one else in the room at the times of his meetings would corroborate that he “did not say one thing that was improper.”

(O’Brien)

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A Memo to Kellyanne Conway (Beltway Grind)

#poseurs | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Kellyanne Conway speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, 4 March 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

MEMORANDUM

To: Kellyanne Conway

re: Fake indignance

Politico explains:

In her first TV interview in over a week, Kellyanne Conway explained her recent lack of broadcast appearances Wednesday by noting President Donald Trump’s ability to disseminate his own message and her challenges as a working mother.

“I don’t think I have to explain myself if I’m not going on TV if I’m out with four kids for three days looking at houses and schools,” the counselor to the president told Fox News’ Sean Hannity during an interview taped from the floor of the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor.

She added: “A lot of my colleagues aren’t trying to figure out how to be a mother of four kids, I assure you.”

The fake indignance is the problem. Well, okay, one among so many others, sure; but for the moment, yeah, the rest of us might wonder if that posturing works outside #DimensionTrump.

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Your National Security Council (Flynntastic | Great)

#downhill | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump's incoming National Security Adviser, listens during the presidential inaugural Chairman's Global Dinner, Tuesday, 17 January 2017, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)

There is a moment in the New York Times’ account of “Turmoil at the National Security Council” in which the Trump administration pitches apparent incompetence as an asset:

In a telephone conversation on Sunday afternoon, K. T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, said that early meetings of the council were brisker, tighter and more decisive than in the past, but she acknowledged that career officials were on edge. “Not only is this a new administration, but it is a different party, and Donald Trump was elected by people who wanted the status quo thrown out,” said Ms. McFarland, a veteran of the Reagan administration who most recently worked for Fox News. “I think it would be a mistake if we didn’t have consternation about the changes―most of the cabinet haven’t even been in government before.”

It remains uncertain just how that should make anyone feel any better, but at least we know why McFarland is there.

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A Reflection on an Echo of a Cartoon

Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via Daily Kos Comics, 3 January 2017.

To the one, winter is as winter does, and we should probably leave it at that. Nonetheless, a month later, Jen Sorensen’s point still echoes:

Hillary has certainly frustrated me at times over the years, but I came to admire her intelligence and poise over the course of this election cycle. Her performance at the debates with Trump was nothing short of heroic. She also ran on the most progressive Democratic platform ever, but since policy has become almost completely divorced from politics, she gets little credit for that. I could go on, but as my husband says, this was not so much an election as an exorcism, the culmination of a decades-long smear campaign by the right.

The term “political correctness” has been the cornerstone of conservative efforts to transform the ideas of civil rights and equality into something frivolous and stupid. The right loves plucking silly examples from obscure, powerless people and blowing them up into huge “culture war” issues that supposedly threaten the nation. “PC” is an insult that plays into their hands.

Along these same lines, “liberal elites”―long a Fox News favorite―is designed to shift attention away from the actual economic elites hoovering up the world’s wealth and resources, such as the Koch Brothers or Trump, and instead make one think of poodle-owning urbanites supposedly looking down their noses at everyone (while in reality voting to raise the minimum wage). It’s a frame, not a fact, and hides a deep anti-intellectual agenda.

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A Dwindling Conservative Pretense

#PutiToots | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)

“Note, in this three-sentence statement, Team Trump (1) attacked the U.S. intelligence community in order to defend Russia; (2) flagrantly lied about the 2016 election results; and (3) and made no effort to deny the accuracy of the revelations, saying instead that we should ‘move on,’ rather than acknowledge Russian intervention in the American election, which Republicans chose to overlook, apparently to advance their own interests.”

Steve Benen

This is, genuinely, extraordinary. For all people wish to carry on about “both sides” and all that, some days it seems worth noting that there really is a difference.

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Sean Hannity (Poor Donny)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (left) with campaign surrogate, FOX News host Sean Hannity.  (FOX News, 2016)

“I have had it. Thirteen freaking days. Wake up. This can be won. But it’s very, very hard. And I’m telling all of you who is important here. And basically every red state’s important. If you think, ‘well, my state doesn’t matter, it’s Texas,’ no, you better vote. ‘My state’s Georgia,’ well we’ve seen polls that are close in Georgia. ‘My state’s Utah.’ Who’s this idiot that’s running third party that’s killing Trump out in Utah. Who put him up? What was it? The Bush people? The Romney people? Seriously? Really? You’re going to elect Hillary because we lose Utah? What a disaster that would be for the country.”

Sean Hannity

This is just a distraction. Media Matters offers a glimpse into Sean Hannity’s not quite struggle to wear both FOX News and Trump surrogate caps. Two hats, one tongue, half a brain? Right. Seriously: What joke goes here? Are not the words, “Sean Hannity”, enough?

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Image note: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (left) with campaign surrogate, FOX News host Sean Hannity. (Credit: FOX News, 2016)

Media Matters Staff. “Listen To Sean Hannity’s Unhinged Rant Over ‘Idiot’ Evan McMullin Beating Trump In Utah”. Media Matters for America. 26 October 2016.