Monday, January 23, 2017

News That Doesn't Matter

Starting randomly with Thin Skin's trip to Langley.

“He said some of the right things, but it still had a bizarre quality to it,” said one former top CIA official. Trump’s comments included “way too much campaign-related things” and “attacks on the media [that] did not fit and were wrong.”

It was Trump’s ebullient self-promotion that most troubled this former official and others I contacted. “Overall, the self-obsession and campaign-style language was not appropriate in that place,” he said. “It should not be all about you, at a place that memorializes people for whom it was about others and about mission.”

Trump lauded his “great transition,” his “amazing team,” his personal vigor (“I think I’m young”) and his intelligence (“I’m like a smart person”). This rambling braggadocio is part of Trump’s style, and the country (including the CIA) will have to get used to it. The more disturbing part of his address was the attempt to treat agency employees, whose mission is supposed to transcend elections, as political soul mates, along with military and law enforcement.

Yes, he's still doing that "I'm like a smart person" thing. Let's follow that with two actual smart people. E.J. Dionne:

If power shifted decisively Friday to Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress, passion switched sides as well. As the marches showed, the political energy in the country is now arrayed against Trump and his agenda.

Republicans no longer have Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to kick around. For years, they were able to direct the country’s discontents toward a president they loathed and then a Democratic nominee they disliked even more.

With control of both elected branches, the GOP, including Trump, is the establishment. Over time, this will make the faux populist anti-establishment appeal of Trump’s inaugural address ring empty.

And yes, we now have the "alternative fact" administration.

Expressing rage at the media for pointing out how relatively small Trump’s crowds were — a hint of how shallow his movement’s roots might be — both Spicer and Trump lied outright in exaggerating the numbers of those who attended Trump’s inauguration in comparison with the throngs that celebrated Obama’s.

Challenged Sunday by Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press” as to why Spicer was asked to go to the podium and offer falsehoods, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior counselor, came up with a sound bite that George Orwell might have been embarrassed to include in “1984.” It will go down as a defining phrase of the Trump presidency.

“Sean Spicer, our press secretary,” she replied, “gave alternative facts.”

Our boldest liar yet as president. Congrats Donald. On to Margaret Sullivan:

Ari Fleischer, a former George W. Bush press secretary, saw Saturday's bizarre session for what it was.

"This is called a statement you're told to make by the President. And you know the President is watching," Fleischer wrote. (MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski pegged it as "Sean Spicer's first hostage video.")

It's being called bizarre by Ari Fleisher. Will continuous lies as a distraction work? Let's make sure it doesn't. 

As Jessica Huseman of ProPublica put it: "Journalists aren't going to get answers from Spicer. We are going to get answers by digging. By getting our hands dirty. So let's all do that."
She's right. So was Tim O'Brien, executive editor of Bloomberg View and a Trump biographer, who urged journalists to remember that the White House briefing room is "spoon-feeding and Trump is a habitual fabulist."

Journalists shouldn't rise to the bait and decide to treat Trump as an enemy. Recalling at all times that their mission is truth-telling and holding public officials accountable, they should dig in, paying far more attention to actions than to sensational tweets or briefing-room lies - while still being willing to call out falsehoods clearly when they happen.

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