Monday, May 15, 2017

Hoping for a Quiet Trump Week. A Man Can Hope, Can't He?

The Spicer-speak hit the fan last week. The point of this post, however, is not to talk about last week's news, but to plea for a quiet week this week.

If you care enough to read this post you don't really need me recount the week in detail for you, but here's a quick recap for anybody coming in late. Last week's news started energetically enough with former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifying before a Senate subcommittee on several issues, including former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn's potential ties to Russia. Then it exploded into one of the craziest news weeks I can ever recall after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday. After two days of claiming that Trump had fired Comey because of unhappiness that Comey had acted unfairly to Hillary Clinton in his public statements about the investigation of her email server**, Trump ultimately admitted two days later in an interview that he fired Comey because Trump was unhappy about the continued progress of the investigation into his campaign's ties with Russia.

**Yes, Monique thought I was making this part up when I called her to tell her the news. To quote her exactly she said, "No, really. Why did they claim they did it?" In a week of ludicrous news the notion that anybody would believe that White House whopper still may be the most ludicrous item of all.

The entire week was filled with a mix of actual news, analysis of news, analysis of news analysis leaks, counter-leaks, Trump tweetstorms, rest-of-the-world tweetstorms, rumor, innuendo, unbelievably good reporting with salacious details, salacious details spun up from thin air, and enough inches of political columnist outrage to wrap around the globe.

It was such a crazy week that I even broke down and lifted the cable news ban, spending much of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings DVRing and surfing the cable news punditry.

Here's what I learned from dipping my toe back into cable news last week:

  • Anderson Cooper is very good at summarizing the scope and shape a complex news story in 5-10 minutes. He is also good at one-on-one interviews. He then has a panel of eight idiots who yell at each other for the rest of the 45 or so minutes of each hour of his show, making it unwatchable.
  • Rachel Maddow takes a long time to explain anything. But if you do stick around until she finally does get to the point, you find that she's at least given you enough context to understand why that point matters.
  • Brian Williams is back on TV. Who knew? (11 pm EDT on MSNBC.)
  • Fox News is as dishonest as ever. Interestingly, their dishonesty in the Age of Trump has taken a new form. In their earnest eagerness to serve as the State News Apparatus of the Trump Administration they end up parroting utterly dishonest White House statements, whereas during the Obama Administration they ended up making up utterly dishonest statements about the White House. So that was kinda fun to watch for five minutes or so.
  • The DVR and fast forward are your friend if you want to watch cable news. At least you can then zip past the endless hours of pundit-on-pundit filler to get to the genuine news updates and the interviews with people who might actually have something new to say.

I can't say I learned all that much more from cable news than I did from my Twitter feed, but I did appreciate the opportunity to at least see how this story was playing out for the rest of the world. As near as I can tell through the world of information, disinformation, and misinformation this is where the various camps fall right now:

Trump Administration - circular firing squad being assembled in the wake of the media disaster. Since Trump won't find himself to blame I reckon we'll see a lot of staff turnover in the next few weeks.

FBI and the rest of the Intelligence Community - pissed. I'm beginning to believe that if Trump does get taken down the epitaph will read, "Don't f*** with the FBI."

Congressional GOP - nearly all the heads are still buried deeply in the sand. A few are starting to pop their heads up, however. That'll be a trend to keep an eye on. But for now, let's face it. Trump admitted on tape in a televised interview that he fired the head of the FBI to obstruct an investigation the FBI was conducting regarding Trump and his associates. And the collective Congressional GOP response was, "Eh, so what?"

My sense of them remains that nothing changes for them until and unless all of this translates into losing gerrymandered seats. If Democrat Jon Ossoff wins the special election for a US House seat in Georgia on June 20th -- a seat won by the Republican by 20 points in 2016 -- a lot of GOP Congressmen may suddenly rediscover their regard for the rule of law. Right now the polls have him in a dead heat for that seat.

Congressional Dems - a mix of genuine concern, genuine outrage, faux outrage, and unsightly glee. Hey, Congressional Dems, it'd be a bit easier to believe that you are "putting country over party" in this matter if every single damn email you spammed me with last week didn't also contain a fundraising demand.

Twitter - All atwitter.

Me - Freaking exhausted. I'd done a pretty good job through the first few months of the ongoing Trumpiness keeping it all compartmentalized and only letting it intrude on my work day during lunchtime. My ability to do that broke down after Comey got canned. I tried my best to ignore it all, but I simply felt compelled to check in fairly frequently on the decline and fall of Western Democracy. And every time I checked back in on the news, there were genuinely new developments. It was crazy. Plus, aside from Comey and the Russia investigation, there were a lot of other substantial developments and real news that I haven't even mentioned here.

What I really need this week is for the world to not have another crazy news week. I have things to do this week, and I need to be able to focus on them. I can't do that if the news repeats the pace of last week.

Trump is headed off on his first overseas trip on Friday. So maybe he'll spend this week looking at maps of his overseas properties and staying away from Twitter, constitutional crises, and public confessions to obstruction of justice.

I can hope, can't I?

Last week felt like one of the most consequential news weeks I can ever recall. What those consequences will be remain to be seen. Despite the iron-clad pronouncements of clouds of pundits arguing vehemently on my TV last week, only history will tell us if last week was a good week or a bad week for the rule of law.

As I told Monique and a few others last week, I used to think that living through Watergate was probably exciting and maybe even a little fun. I now realize that the only reason I thought that was because I know how it turned out ... with a triumph for the rule of law. In reality, living through this sort of disaster is equal parts frightening and horrifying. I'm hopeful this one will turn out okay, too.

But there are no guarantees. Dark Ages all have starting points.

I'm rooting for the light.

But I'm worried.