scandal

The Donald Trump National Convention (Movin’ Right Along)

Melania Trump delivers a speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, 18 July 2016. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It’s worth noting that the New York Times headline, “Melania Trump’s Speech Bears Striking Similarities to Michelle Obama’s in 2008”, is rather quite generous.

Melania Trump earned praise for her speech on Monday at the opening night of the Republican National Convention, but her remarks almost immediately came under scrutiny when striking similarities were discovered between her speech and one delivered by Michelle Obama at the Democratic convention in 2008.

The phrases in question came when Ms. Trump―who told NBC News earlier Monday that she had written her speech herself―was discussing her upbringing in Slovenia and her parents.

(Haberman, Rappeport, and Healy)

On the upside, though, apparently Mrs. Trump’s dress was something of a hit; Bruna Nessif of E! reports that the $2,190 Roksanda “Margot” dress sold out in under an hour: “Now that’s how you make a fashion and political statement.”

Yeah, it’s a fabulous dress, and all, and a bunch of people apparently really did shell out nearly twenty-two hundred dollars per. And that’s the good news. All of it.

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Image note: Melania Trump delivers a speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, 18 July 2016. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Haberman, Maggie, Alan Rappeport, and Patrick Healy. “Melania Trump’s Speech Bears Striking Similarities to Michelle Obama’s in 2008”. The New York Times. 19 July 2016.

Nessif, Bruna. “Melania Trump’s Dress Sells Out Less Than an Hour After Her Republican Convention Speech”. E! 18 July 2016.

Just Some Dude Asking a Question

Detail of the Huffington Post front page, 15 December 2015.

MEMORANDUM

To: Huffington Post, Jamie Feldman (Associate Style Editor)

re: Stylish sexism

In the first place: Why do I care?

The Huffington Post sidebar is, of course, notorious; I can discover all manner of fascinating insights about how you think of your readers, because, you know, some of us just so want to know about Martha Stewart’s sex life, or what slits were too high for comfort. Something about cherries, and something about sex toys; yeah, that was the sort of moment I would never experience without the Huffington Post.

It is not so much a question of why I care about the notoriously obnoxious lack of decent character shown by the HuffPo sidebar; it is, after all, merely software.

But the question persists why I care what Kate Middleton wore yesterday. Nor was this merely in the sidebar; someone chose to put the article about the Duchess of Cambridge being an “outfit repeater” on the front page of the Huffington Post.

'Outfit Repeater': For some reason, Huffington Post thought this article was a good idea.Royals: They’re just like us―when it comes to recycling outfits, that is.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge took her new haircut out to a holiday party at the London’s Anna Freud center Monday, a charity she has visited before as part of her ongoing work for children’s mental health.

Dressed for the holidays, Kate opted for an all-red Alexander McQueen outfit that she has worn not once but twice before

Perhaps Jamie Feldman, associate style editor for HuffPo, might explain if this is one of those moments in which I am suppsoed to squee! uncontrollably.

Maybe weep?

Fall to my knees in prayer? How about just shake my head sadly?

“Outfit Repeater”? Really? Yeah, okay, I can shake my head sadly at that.

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The Carly Fiorina Show (See Dick)

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina talks to a restaurant patron during a campaign stop at the Starboard Market, Friday, 14 August 2015, in Clear Lake, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

“There was no major scandal or faux pas to bring Fiorina down. While the impact of her debate performance may have worn off over time, why did she suffer this fate while Trump, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio have continued to gain from their debating styles?”

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann

Call it a personal weakness: I love me some Dick.

Dick Morris, that is.

It is an eternal question: How does Dick Morris still get work? After all, who the hell still listens to Dick frickin’ Morris? True enough, people like me, but that’s the thing. Check this out:

Fiorina showed an eclectic knowledge of national affairs and fluently recited key facts about our weakened defense posture. She seemed like a nonascorbic, scandal-free alternative to Clinton.

Then, what happened?

There was no major scandal or faux pas to bring Fiorina down. While the impact of her debate performance may have worn off over time, why did she suffer this fate while Trump, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio have continued to gain from their debating styles?

While The New York Times contributed to her fall with a front page article chronicling―and bashing―her record at Hewlett Packard, it was the bloggers who brought Fiorina down. The Times story regaled the saga of how Fiorina had induced HP to buy Compaq despite evidence of its declining clout, and emphasized the 30,000 layoffs under her tenure as CEO.

The bloggers really did a number on Fiorina, explaining her lack of conservative credentials. They quoted her 2010 comment, during her contest with Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer that Roe v. Wade was “settled law” and noted her endorsement of Marco Rubio’s plan for amnesty for immigrants here illegally, her support for Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court and her willingness to weaken Proposition 13, which holds down property taxes in California.

The blogs left Fiorina bleeding.

For Morris and McGann, “the larger story here is the extreme sensitivity of the Republican primary electorate’s evidence of impurity in the presidential candidates”, which itself leads off the sort of petulant paragraph that reminds why we all love us some Dick. The entire article is historical-romantic comedy―hiroco? Gesundheit!―gold. And the thing is that there is plenty of evidence of conservative electoral puritanism, but what of the rest of the Republican Party? It is not just that Morris and McGann omit entirely Ms. Fiorina’s astounding dishonesty about Planned Parenthood, and her stubborn, clumsy retort to the resulting controversy really would not seem encouraging to establishment Republicans who still bear questions of electability in their analyses.

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The One About When the Pope and the Adulterer Walked Into a Bar

Pope Francis adjusts his glasses in front of his chair, which has an image of the Shroud of Turin woven into the red fabric, as he leads a mass during a two-day pastoral visit in Turin, Italy, June 21, 2015. REUTERS/Giorgio Perottino

A whiff of scandal always helps grab the interest:

Williams is a vulnerable messenger for such a critique: He was a priest of a secretive and influential religious order, the Legionaries of Christ, a longtime favorite of the Catholic right, which the Vatican has been trying to overhaul after revelations of lurid sex and money scandals.

He later left the priesthood to marry a woman — the daughter of Mary Ann Glendon, a conservative Catholic law professor and ambassador to the Holy See under President Bush — with whom he’d secretly had a child while he was still a cleric.

(Gibson)

Okay, that’s not the real scandal, except it probably should be, and there is no actual, real scandal.

So here’s how it goes. Among those invited to a very large reception for Pope Francis are some gay Catholics, gay advocates, and even a gay Episcopal bishop. Oh, and a nun who apparently doesn’t know how to keep her mouth shut, or something, because we’re all supposed to be really, really upset about the lot of them, or something like that.

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Every Little Thing the Reflex Does (Clarence Mark Remix)

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas laughs while talking with other guests at The Federalist Society's 2011 Annual Dinner. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

This seems significant:

Justice Clarence Thomas has not asked a question from the Supreme Court bench since 2006. His majority opinions tend to be brisk, efficient and dutiful.

Now, studies using linguistic software have discovered another Thomas trait: Those opinions contain language from briefs submitted to the court at unusually high rates.

The findings that the taciturn justice’s opinions appear to rely heavily on the words of others do not suggest misconduct — legal writing often tracks source materials — but they do illuminate his distinctive role on the court.

Since his views on major legal questions can be idiosyncratic and unlikely to command a majority, he is particularly apt to be assigned the inconsequential and technical majority opinions that the justices call dogs. They often involve routine cases involving taxes, bankruptcy, pensions and patents, in which shared wording is particularly common.

Justice Thomas’s seven majority opinions in the last term were on average just 12 pages long and contained little but a summary of the facts and quotations from or characterizations of the relevant statutes and precedents. Since opinions are signed by justices but often drafted by law clerks, it may be that any borrowed language was the work of Justice Thomas’s clerks.

(Liptak)

It is true that such notions and the details from which they arise seem to many people obscure, or even petty. But to even casual observers of the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas is something of an enigma. And every time we get a glimpse into how he undertakes his role and duties as a Supreme Court Justice, we only end up with more questions, each stranger than the last.

But that’s the thing; compared to other aspects of his tenure, this isn’t exactly scandalous. In questions of scandal, it is just another piece of data that could be construed as relevant. Without worrying about such questions of scandal, this really is fascinating.

No, really:

In June, he slipped in a playful aside. What he had just read, a description of synthetic drugs, he said to laughter, was “a sentence which I completely do not understand.”

Still, there is actually a lot more to Adam Liptak’s report for the New York Times; and, yes, it really is fascinating.

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Image note: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas laughs while talking with other guests at The Federalist Society’s 2011 Annual Dinner. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

Liptak, Adam. “A Supreme Court Justice of Few Words, Many of Them Other People’s”. The New York Times. 27 August 2015.

The O’Reilly Spectacle

Bill O'Reilly in undated photo from NBC News.

There are so many unfortunate things about this rising scandal:

Three weeks ago, a Nassau County Supreme Court justice ended a bitter three-year custody dispute between Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly and his ex-wife, Maureen McPhilmy, by granting custody of the couple’s two minor children to McPhilmy. Though nearly all documents pertaining to New York family court cases are sealed, Gawker has learned that the justice in the case heard testimony accusing O’Reilly of physically assaulting his wife in the couple’s Manhasset home.

According to a source familiar with the facts of the case, a court-appointed forensic examiner testified at a closed hearing that O’Reilly’s daughter claimed to have witnessed her father dragging McPhilmy down a staircase by her neck, apparently unaware that the daughter was watching. The precise date of the alleged incident is unclear, but appears to have occurred before the couple separated in 2010. The same source indicated that the daughter, who is 16 years old, told the forensic examiner about the incident within the past year.

As J. K. Trotter explains for Gawker, this is the latest sordid chapter exposed in an ongoing ugly dispute between FOX News host Bill O’Reilly and his ex-wife.

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A Problem with the Politics of Distraction

Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the media in regards to her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State in New York, on March 10, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Gombert/EPA)

This would seem one to keep an eye on:

The chairman of the House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks asked Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday to appear for a private interview about her exclusive use of a personal email account when she was secretary of state.

(Schmidt)

Obviously, there is more to the New York Times report than just the lede, and for the moment we might pause for an exercise in contrasts. To wit:

Mr. Gowdy said the committee believed that “a transcribed interview would best protect Secretary Clinton’s privacy, the security of the information queried and the public’s interest in ensuring this committee has all information needed to accomplish the task set before it.”

But Mrs. Clinton indicated on Tuesday that she wanted to give her testimony in a public setting. In a written statement, a spokesman for her said she had told the committee months ago that she was prepared to testify at a public hearing. “It is by their choice that hasn’t happened,” said the spokesman, Nick Merrill. “To be clear, she remains ready to appear at a hearing open to the American public.”

There is, actually, a lot going on with this story that amounts to essentially nothing, which in turn allows such moments to slip beneath notice. Kevin Drum noticed―

Go ahead and call me paranoid, but this sure seems like the perfect setup to allow Gowdy—or someone on his staff—to leak just a few bits and pieces of Clinton’s testimony that put her in the worst possible light. Darrell Issa did this so commonly that it was practically part of the rules of the game when he was investigating Benghazi and other Republican obsessions.

Who knows? Maybe Gowdy is a more honest guy. But since Clinton herself has offered to testify publicly, why would anyone not take her up on it? It’s not as if any of this risks exposing classified information or anything.

―and perhaps what is most significant there is the reminder that while much of the nitpicking going on around our political discourse often seems petty and pedantic, it is sometimes important to check these aspects because they are, in fact, revealing about the nature and condition of the discourse itself.

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Not Shocking

U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL18) speaks to reporters in this undated photograph.  (Seth Perlman/AP)

So … it didn’t play in Peoria?

Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock resigned Tuesday, less than 12 hours after POLITICO raised questions about tens of thousands of dollars in mileage reimbursements he received for his personal vehicle.

(Sherman, Palmer, and Bresnahan)

It really is a strange scandal, beginning in the most banal of fashions when questions arose about the Peoria Republican’s office decor styled after Downton Abbey.

Over the course of about a month and a half, Mr. Schock has seen his prestige plummet from that of a rising, charismatic star in the Republican firmament to a laughingstock hounded into resignation by his own apparent inability to exercise even a modicum of basic ethical restraint.

It does occur to wonder at the nature of ethical scandals in Congress. After all, if Charlie Rangel can manage to find an excuse for failing to pay property taxes, one would expect his colleagues to figure out the problem with behaving in that crass manner that writes personal expenses to the business account.

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Image note: U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL18) speaks with reporters in this undated photograph. (Seth Perlman/AP)

Sherman, Jake, Anna Palmer, and John Bresnahan. “Aaron Schock resigns after new questions about mileage expenses”. Politico. 17 March 2015.

Terris, Ben. “He’s got a ‘Downton Abbey’-inspired office, but Rep. Aaron Schock won’t talk about it.”

Some Guy Who Thinks He Can Be President

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during the Iowa Agriculture Summit, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa.  (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

“Satire is tough when some politicians become caricatures of themselves.”

Steve Benen

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has potsherds. Some of the finest-grained potsherds in existence.

Again we reiterate the importance of narrative; the tale sounds silly enough in the straightforward reporting, but the commentary can lend appreciable dimensions:

When reports surfaced last week that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) may face criminal charges as part of a federal corruption probe, it seemed like a possible opportunity for Republicans. Because so many of the recent political scandals have involved GOP officials, I thought Republicans might connect Menendez and Oregon’s John Kitzhaber to make the case there’s something rotten in the Democratic ranks.

But Kasie Hunt reported from Iowa over the weekend that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has a very different attack in mind.

Cruz also suggested pending federal charges against New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez were politically motivated – tied to Menendez’s support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition to a U.S. deal with Iran over their nuclear program.

“The timing is curious,” Cruz said .... “It raises a suggestion to other Democrats that if you dare part from the Obama White House, that criminal prosecutions will be used potentially as a political weapon as well,” Cruz said. “That’s a serious concern.”

The Texas Republican added, “This investigation has been going on for over a year and yet the very week they announce a pending indictment comes within hours after Sen. Menendez showing courage to speak out against President Obama’s dangerous foreign policy that is risking the national security of this country.”

Greg Sargent noted the other day that he was planning to joke about the right concocting a conspiracy theory involving Menendez, the White House, and Iran, but the mockery was already too late. “They’re already saying [it],” Greg said.

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