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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


#EndorseThis: John Oliver Dubs Trump’s Wiretapping Claims ‘Stupid Watergate’

Donald Trump took to Twitter this weekend to dive deeper into his alternate reality where down is up, the Bowling Green Massacre actually happened — and President Obama tapped his phone last year.

It’s hard to ignore the parallels between that other infamous wiretapping scandal involving a past president, but HBO’s John Oliver noticed an aspect other pundits missed. As he explained during Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight: “I’m going to call it ‘Stupid Watergate,’ a potential scandal with all the intrigue of Watergate, except everyone involved is really bad at everything.”

As always Oliver argues cogently, starting with the fact that Trump’s revelation apparently derives from a Breitbart post detailing baseless claims by conspiracy-loving talk show host, Mark Levin. And after observing Speaker Paul Ryan’s reaction to Trump during last week’s presidential address to Congress, Oliver coined a perfect slogan for the embarrassed GOP: “Don’t laugh, he’s the president.”

Trump’s Spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway Returns From Exile

For a whole surreal week, Kellyanne didn’t appear on television anywhere. Apparently the gag order came straight from the top.

It was so unfair, not to mention untimely. Yanking her off the air robbed the country of a burgeoning comic icon at a time when we desperately needed to laugh.

Kellyanne had always been there for us, on practically every network newscast — day or night — spouting easily disproven falsehoods with glazed conviction. She was reliably unreliable, and her appearances became an improbable source of humor and comfort.

We were amazed how swiftly she was able to dash from one live interview to the next. She seemed to possess a supernatural sixth sense that alerted her whenever a TV camera crew was in the same zip code.

It was Kellyanne who first described the administration’s daily lies and misstatements as “alternative facts,” a fantastic concept hatched in what is obviously an alternative universe.

It was Kellyanne who introduced us to the “Bowling Green massacre,” a terrorist attack that never occurred, despite her repeated references to it. (In 2011 a pair of Iraqi men were arrested in Bowling Green for plotting to ship money and weapons to al Qaida in Iraq. There was no attack on the Kentucky city, except perhaps in Kellyanne’s imagination.)

It was also she who declared that soon-to-be-fired national security adviser Mike Flynn had “the full confidence of the president.” No one but Kellyanne was remotely surprised when Flynn got canned soon thereafter.

For sheer entertainment, though, it was hard to improve upon Kellyanne’s spontaneous on-air pitch for Ivanka Trump’s fashion products after Nordstrom announced it was dropping the line.

“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff is what I would tell you,” Kellyanne chirped on Fox & Friends, adding, “I hate shopping. I’m going to get myself some today.”

She proudly characterized her riff as a “free commercial,” a clue that she was hilariously unfamiliar with the ethics rules prohibiting White House staff from endorsing products or companies.

But that’s exactly the sort of carefree jabbering that makes her so darn fun to watch.

We were crestfallen when Kellyanne got blackballed by CNN after her Bowling Green hallucinations, and we were elated when they let her back on the air. Then we were crushed again when she was banished from MSNBC’s Morning Joe for habitually saying false things.

Talk about a double standard. Kellyanne’s boss says false things all the time, yet he’s never been barred from any TV programs.

Just a few days ago the president stood before a pep rally in Florida and denounced a non-existent terror attack in Sweden. The folks in Stockholm were just as baffled as the folks in Bowling Green.

It was reported that the Trump pulled Kellyanne out of circulation because she’d strayed “off-message.” This is like Keith Richards firing a roadie for rolling a messy joint.

Sources are now telling reporters that Kellyanne had become a pest by calling up producers and trying to book herself as a guest on news shows, instead of waiting for an invitation. Evidently, all the attention she received during the presidential campaign left her addicted to the bright lights of broadcast studios.

Being silenced by the White House must have been devastating. We are left to wonder if, deprived of video contact with Mika Brzezinski and Jake Tapper, Kellyanne suffered clinical symptoms of withdrawal.

We could almost picture the poor woman reeling and adrift, cornering strangers in Starbuck’s and delivering a feisty if not factual defense of whatever the president happened to say or do that day.

It’s better to imagine that she remained stoic during her week-long exile. Radiant in Ivanka’s Mother of Pearl fan bracelets, or perhaps the Rainbow Moonstone pendant, Kellyanne would have posed defiantly in front of the bathroom mirror.

Interviewing herself, and believing every muddy answer.

But now she’s back on television, flashing that lovable rictus grin and denying that the White House kept her off the air. The queen of alternative facts is all fired up, and totally “on message.”

America is ready to laugh again.

IMAGE: Counselor to U.S. President Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway prepares to go on the air in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Trump’s Chaotic And Bizarre First Month Is Unprecedented

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

Presidential historians and veteran Washington correspondents say President Donald Trump’s first month in office — which has been marred by numerous scandals and vicious attacks on the press — is more “chaotic” and “bizarre” than any administration’s first month in history.

Trump put his anti-press venom on display again last Thursday in a wild press conference, during which he doubled down on claims that the press is out to get him and traffics in “fake news.”

“This is a new level of bashing the press,” Yale University history professor David Blight said shortly after the press conference ended. “It’s a complete disaster. All he is doing is daring the press to keep hunting.”

Blight is among several historians and veteran D.C. correspondents who spoke to Media Matters about how Trump’s first month in office compares to those of his predecessors. They painted a picture of Trump’s first weeks as an unprecedented mix of chaos and mounting scandals.

“In all the administrations I’ve observed, and all the ones I’ve studied, I’ve never seen such confusion and internal tension so early as in this one,” H.W. Brands, a presidential historian who has written books on Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Ronald Reagan, said via email. Referencing the recent resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn, Brands added, “I can’t recall a top adviser being forced out so soon. The knives are out; more casualties seem likely.”

According to Brands, “This administration, with very little experience of Washington — and with often expressed contempt for Washington’s ways — has had a rougher start than any in living memory.”

William H. Chafe, a Duke University history professor and former president of the Organization of American Historians, called Trump’s early weeks “totally unprecedented.”

“There’s been so much instability, so many scandals, and no legislation,” Chafe said. “By this time, Obama had already passed his stimulus package in Congress. You are talking about a completely unprecedented situation.”

Patrick Maney, a Boston College presidential historian, said many presidents have started out with troubles, but not at this level.

“This is sort of like warp speed. What is amazing to me is that this has happened in such a short time,” he said, later pointing to Trump’s anti-press approach as “rawer than any I have ever seen. Even Nixon and Clinton at their angriest with the press, it wasn’t at the same level as Trump.”

Longtime Washington, D.C., journalists and former White House correspondents also say Trump’s first month is unprecedented.

“Everything about Trump is a whole higher level of confusion because of the way he operates,” said Ron Hutcheson, a former Knight Ridder White House correspondent and past president of the White House Correspondents Association. “The media part is truly unprecedented.”

He added, “There appears to be no effort at message discipline. I am sure the comms team has one, but the president keeps stepping on it. That’s a huge change. He has experienced comms people who get the concept of, ‘let’s figure out what we want to deliver our message.’ But inevitably it gets fouled up, and usually because of something the president does.”

Marilyn Thompson, a former three-year Reuters Washington bureau chief during the Obama Administration and 27-year D.C. journalist called the administration “a rudderless ship.”

“He feels like he has stumbled in a very short time into any number of serious national security and ethical breaches that are just uncustomary,” she said. “They are hostile to the press in a way that I have never seen before and it is not a good recipe for running the country.”

Andy Alexander, a former Cox Newspapers Washington bureau chief, echoed that view: “It’s nothing new for White House officials to spin stories, shade the truth, conceal information or intentionally mislead. But what we are seeing today is routine prevarication on a large scale, with frequent assertions that are demonstrably false.”

Marvin Kalb, a D.C.-based reporter from 1963 to 1987 and former Meet the Press host, pointed to the ongoing questions about the Trump administration’s alleged ties to Russia.

He called it a “thoroughly remarkable inability of Congress to launch a top to bottom investigation of the Trump-Russia connection. It’s one of the most important stories at the beginning of any administration that I have ever seen.”

Clark Hoyt, a former longtime Washington reporter for Knight Ridder who covered the Nixon White House and resignation, also ran its D.C. bureau from 1987-1993 and 1999-2006. He also found no past equal to Trump’s first weeks in office.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Hoyt said. “From the moment that you come in, I have never seen an inaugural address that failed to reach out. Then declaring you are at a running war with the media, then the disorganization from within, the chaotic nature of activity within the White House.”

Asked how the press should approach such an unusual administration that attacks them, lies constantly, and seeks to divert attention, presidential historians said journalists should dig in even deeper.

“You have to ask the toughest questions you possibly can,” said Duke University’s Blight. “The press should be asking for evidence, evidence, evidence, examples, examples, examples” when claims are made.

Maney of Boston College said reporters should not let every little item or tweet distract them from focusing on bigger, in-depth stories such as Russia or large-scale policy plans.

“One error the media has made is this across-the-board criticism and ignoring some more serious issues,” he said. “Some of this is just bizarre, some of it I don’t know how the press can handle it.”

Meg Jacobs, a presidential historian at Princeton and Columbia universities, also urged journalists not to back off, even when they are attacked.

“They have to continue to call him out where they see him fabricating and straying from the truth,” she said. “They have to cover his efforts to transform the relationship with the press as a story as well as the substance of what the administration is doing.”

IMAGE: U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a translation during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Swedish Paper Lists ‘Everything’ That Happened Friday

IMAGE: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a “Make America Great Again” rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque