Trump Meets The Press

It turns out, he wasn't all that truthful.

Kristen Welker took over from Chuck Todd yesterday as host of NBC’s venerable Sunday interview show. Daily Beast media reporter Corbin Bolies is unhappy that she chose a certain former President as her first guest (“Kristen Welker’s ‘Meet the Press’ Debut Derailed by Trump Derangement“):

Journalists and commentators for years have wrestled with the question of how to approach Donald Trump, a former president who is both a prolific liar and facing dozens of criminal charges in federal and state court. In her debut turn as moderator for Meet The Press, Kristen Welker wanted to be the latest to prove to critics that he could be challenged.

But like those who have tried before, her inherent skills as an interviewer were no match for a chaotic interview subject like Trump.

Welker managed to squeeze a plethora of topics into the hourlong exchange—a mighty feat when dealing with a man known to meander on a topic long enough to derail the overarching conversation. She approached Trump with the respect gifted to former presidents—often calling him “Mr. President”—and infrequently interrupted him, even when an in-the-moment fact check could be justified. Welker even managed to nail down semi-specific answers from a candidate who made a talent out of skirting specificity. (“I don’t think you should be allowed to have abortions well into a pregnancy,” he said at one point.)

But Welker’s relative control and composure during the sit-down also allowed for some of the steam-rolling Trump successfully landed in his garbled CNN town hall.

He repeatedly refused to answer questions—directly telling Welker “I’m not going to tell you” when asked if he watched the chaos on Jan. 6 from a White House dining room—and made multiple ludicrous claims that were left largely unchallenged, or weakly so. (Democrats want to kill babies after birth! Nancy Pelosi was responsible for Jan. 6!)

NBC produced multiple post-interview fact-checks on air and online, including after each interview segment during the broadcast, but that is no replacement for an on-the-spot confrontation. Presenting an evidence-backed fact check to Trump’s face allows an audience to watch him reject truth in real time. That serves a greater purpose than roundups scattered throughout NBC’s online platforms.

The framing of her questions was also puzzling. Welker introduced some subjects to Trump like a writer would script a pilot episode of a television show. “Tell me how you watched all this unfold,” she asked about Jan. 6. There would be some merit if an item was a fresh development, as was the case with Hunter Biden’s criminal indictment, but Americans have heard Trump ramble on the issues of Jan. 6, abortion, Vladimir Putin, and immigration for years. A new platform for Welker should not be a reason to treat these ongoing stories—and Trump’s position on them—as new, as it permits Trump to challenge the basis of fact in the question while regurgitating false information.

Welker herself attempted to head off the inevitable criticism during the broadcast. “He is the former president,” she noted to a panelist. “He’s facing four indictments, as journalists just set the scene, the backdrop why there is still news value and value for the public to hear from him.”

Trump is indeed the former president, and Welker is an established professional who can conduct an inquisitive interview. Perhaps current President Joe Biden would have been a better interview subject for her first episode as Meet the Press moderator, as they at least would have been able to start from the same set of facts.

But since the White House declined to make Biden available, she was left with the Trump train wreck.

LAT television critic Lorraine Ali piles on (“‘Meet the Press’ debuts with Kristen Welker and treads familiar ground with Trump“:

“Meet the Press” premiered Sunday morning with a new moderator, a former president and a disturbingly familiar pattern of mainstream media normalizing extremist chicanery for ratings.

Kristen Welker, NBC News’ co-chief White House correspondent, sat down with the Republican front-runner for president for a segment that was teased as Donald Trump’s “first network interview since leaving office,” a tame descriptor for someone who’s been indicted on numerous felonies involving efforts to overturn the 2020 election and who’s been found liable of sexual assault in a civil trial since losing the White House to Joe Biden.

But the television event also highlighted a problem that traditional news outlets have faced since Trump emerged as a potent figure on the political scene in 2016. Treating the former reality TV star like any other presidential candidate or victor before him assumes that he’s playing by the same set of rules as his predecessors. News flash: He’s not.

One storming of the U.S. Capitol and four indictments later, it’s clear that interview dynamic that “Meet the Press” has employed since Harry Truman was in office does not work in 2023. At least for folks who would actually like to see a substantive conversation — or grilling — of past or future leaders.

Sunday’s “new chapter” of “Meet the Press” set the stage for the interview with an opener mentioning impeachment, the president’s legal troubles and how his questionable dealings with family members might affect his chances in the 2024 election. But they were talking about President Biden, not Trump. The set-up validated long-held complaints of bothside-ism in legacy journalism, when an issue between opposing beliefs is presented as more balanced than evidence supports.

[…]

But it’s doubtful that Sunday’s show moved the needle one way or another. There was no chance at arriving at any sort of shared truth in response to Welker’s questions about abortion policy, Ukraine, China, the storage of classified documents or his involvement in a deadly Jan. 6 insurrection.

Trump steamrolled over his interviewer, attacking his opponents with a barrage of insults while pushing the narratives he wants to push. To her credit, Welker did better at challenging him than most of her peers, including Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly. She pressed him on federal versus state bans on abortion, his slow response to the Jan. 6 attack and whether — if he were elected — again, he would send troops to Taiwan if China were to invade. There were no great revelations in his answers but plenty of bluster about Florida Gov. Ron “DeSanctimonious” DeSantis and the “deranged, lunatic prosecutor” whom he says targeted him.

Welker asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s praise of him after Trump criticized Biden’s handling of the Russia-Ukraine war, arguing that if he were in office, he would quickly put an end to the conflict. In an earlier report, NBC News covered Putin’s praise of Trump at the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia last week, where he said, “We surely hear that Mr. Trump says he will resolve all burning issues within several days, including the Ukrainian crisis. We cannot help but feel happy about it.”

Trump’s response, “Well, I like that he said that, because that means what I’m saying is right.”

Although Trump’s admiration for Putin shined bright, he toned down his combative nature for the pretaped interview. Instead of charging at his questioner and silencing her with bully tactics, he complained that Welker was cutting him off and not allowing him to finish his thoughts. Quite a comment coming from the King of Interrupters.

He responded to harder questions with untruths that may have shocked us seven years ago but that are par for the course now. “What did you do when the Capitol was attacked?” asked Welker.

“Nancy Pelosi was in charge of security,” he claimed. “She turned down 10,000 soldiers. If she hadn’t, the attack wouldn’t have happened.

“Nancy Pelosi didn’t have the authority, you did,” pressed Welker.

“Pelosi is responsible for Jan. 6,” insisted Trump.

It was futile in the moment to correct the outright lies, so Welker did so before commercial breaks. “A bit of context here on Mr. Trump’s allegations. He ordered troops in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 attack. The Defense Department says the former president never gave a formal order to have 10,000 troops ready to be deployed to the Capitol. Of course, it’s unreasonable to blame former Speaker Pelosi or lawmakers on Capitol Hill for what happened that day. Pelosi’s office said at the time that the claim that she turned down troops was quote ‘completely made up.’”

The sit-down may prove to be a ratings boon for the network, and perhaps even further boost Welker’s career, but it failed to cut through the usual low-information bluster of past interviews with the former president. Trump was Trump. Legacy media was legacy media.

But somewhere in between is the high-stakes story of ratings versus journalistic responsibility and the dangers that dance presents to our democracy.

While these critiques are fair, they’re familiar. We’ve been hearing variations on this theme since 2016. Yes, Trump is super entertaining for many and draws huge ratings. Of course that factors into his being invited back despite producers and show hosts knowing he won’t give honest answers to questions.

But it’s also the case that, during that period, Trump has been either the overwhelming frontrunner for the presidential nomination of one of our two major parties or the sitting President of the United States. He is simply unignorable. It would be the end of what little general credibility these outlets have if they eagerly brought on Joe Biden but refused to bring on his presumptive opponent in next year’s election.

A somewhat more novel argument is presented by Raw Story‘s Sarah K. Burris (“Rhetoric expert explains why there’s no way to fact-check Trump’s ‘layers of lies’“):

Rhetoric expert, Professor Jennifer Mercieca, explained that the way that new “Meet the Press” host Kristen Welker held the interview with Donald Trump had no hope of ever being able to adequately fact-check the president.

“Meet the Press” conducted the interview “live to tape,” with the claim that they would be fact-checking him. Mercieca outlined that in an hour-long show, there simply isn’t enough time to cover the pile of false claims.

“His whole ‘reality’ is layers upon layers of lies. It’s honestly a waste of time,” she said. “He lives in a very dark fantasy world. So does the whole right-wing media audience. It’s a real shame.”

When Trump answers a question, she explained that “he tells 20 lies in the process and you can’t stop each of those 20 lies.” Especially, she noted, when the reporter simply wants to get to the answer of their actual question.

“It’s called a ‘Gish Gallop‘ by old-timey propaganda folks,” she said.

MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan wrote about it for The Atlantic when his book about winning debates and arguments came out. The Gish Gallop “aim is simple: to defeat one’s opponent by burying them in a torrent of incorrect, irrelevant, or idiotic arguments. Trump owes much of his political success to this tactic — and to the fact that so few people know how to beat it. Although his 2024 campaign has been fairly quiet so far, we can expect to hear a lot more Gish Galloping in the coming months.”

Mercieca said that Trump uses a “tone” that makes him sound like a reasonable man, while saying “insane” things. It ultimately confuses the listener.

[…]

“I’m not sure who the audience is for this interview,” said Mercieca about the Trump interview. “I assume MTP viewers are high information voters. Highly engaged/high information voters in the reality-based community would see through his lies. Low-information voters wouldn’t know better, but they’re not watching this.”

“Fascism throughout the interview,” she continues. “He calls himself a hero, a martyr. Everything is corrupt, according to him. He is the only truthteller, according to him. The only one who has common sense and wants what is good for the nation. Consuming fascist propaganda like this makes you even more vulnerable to fascist propaganda. It is engineered/designed to create the conditions under which fascism flourishes. You cannot put Trump on TV without normalizing fascism in America.”

She cited his tactics including “ad hominemtu quoqueconspiracyliesfalse accusations of corruptionattacking the interviewer, [and] frame warfare.”

“Every response he gives is an evasion,” she closed. “He will never answer your questions to your satisfaction. You cannot hold him accountable. You just can’t. Trump using anchoring (they like me, we’re the same) to talk about his relationship with fascist leaders while also claiming that he wants peace is the kind of rhetorical trick that confuses the brain and makes it difficult to understand what he actually believes.”

But, of course, this argument works both ways. Anyone reading this, save perhaps JKB, knows damn well that Trump is a liar. They know damn well what the facts are on January 6. So he’s not only not fooling anybody, he’s repelling high-information voters who are open to an alternative to a geriatric sitting President.

Mercieca is likely right that folks who don’t pay regular attention to politics are less likely to be able to spot the obvious lies. But they’re not watching MTP. (Then again, neither am I.) Who is it that watched the program and thought to themselves, “You know . . . I really miss this guy being my President”?

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2024, Media, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. charontwo says:

    No interest at all in taped interviews of TFG, but I would take interest in seeing him live on the TV machine.

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  2. DrDaveT says:

    Still waiting for someone — anyone — to respond in real time to his lies with the laughter they deserve, and a “No, seriously…” I think being helpless with mirth by the end of the interview would have been the best possible journalism.

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  3. Kathy says:

    @charontwo:

    I’d love to see him squirm live on cross examination. I don’t think that will ever happen.

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  4. Tony W says:

    he’s repelling high-information voters who are open to an alternative to a geriatric sitting President.

    Dude, Trump is just as geriatric as Biden – probably more so. They are essentially the same age.
    And at least Biden is very, very healthy.

    I would bet a lot of money that Biden outlives Trump, and I’d love to see an actuary make that statement.

    Let’s not feed false narratives that promote the bothsides stuff.

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  5. MarkedMan says:

    I had forgotten this was taking place. The fact that she led off with this clown and pretended to take him seriously sets a bad beginning to her show. What’s next, “Is He Really the Father?” segments?

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  6. MarkedMan says:

    save perhaps JKB

    I think this is a category error. Truth/Lies, reality/fantasy, none of this has any real meaning to a trumper. Whether they simply don’t value such things or they are incapable of understanding the very concepts is beside the point. When a trumper is talking about Trump all you are going to get is reflexive defense and mindless boosterism. So it’s not that they believe His Royal Orangeness, it’s that belief/disbelief has zero relevance to them. When we challenge a trumper with reality they get that words are coming out of our mouths but it is simply noise we are making until it’s their turn to regurgitate the sanctioned talking points, to the best of their limited ability.

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  7. DK says:

    he’s repelling high-information voters who are open to an alternative to a geriatric sitting President.

    Ha. Joe Biden is attracting voters open to an alternative to a geriatric, obese, unhealthy former president.

    🙂

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  8. Charley in Cleveland says:

    Meet the Press has been a joke since Russert decided access was more important than truth and substance, and Chuck Todd backstabbed his way into the gig (undermining David Gregory) and continued the Russert tradition that prompted some to call the show “Meet the Republicans.” Dick Cheney specifically wanted to go on MTP to push his Saddam has WMD crap because he knew Russert would allow it. And now it is Welker attempting to normalize the campaign of a corrupt, mentally ill grifter while NBC and the rest of the “liberal media” maintains that Biden being 80 is equivalent to, or actually offsets, Trump’s criminality and unfitness for office.

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  9. DK says:

    @Charley in Cleveland:

    while NBC and the rest of the “liberal media” maintains that Biden being 80 is equivalent to, or actually offsets, Trump’s criminality and unfitness for office.

    And nevermind that Trump is 77, literally bursting out of his clothes, and looks as if he’ll die of a heart attack at any moment.

    Being “geriatric” is only bad if it’s a Democrat. #ButHerEmails

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  10. drj says:

    While these critiques are fair, they’re familiar. We’ve been hearing variations on this theme since 2016.

    This demonstrates – after all what happened – that some people still don’t want to see who Trump is and what he wants to do.

    It’s utterly infuriating.

    The man sicced a violent mob on Congress in order to throw out the outcome of a legitimate election and keep himself in power. People in his administration were talking about calling up the military and using the Insurrection Act against the inevitable uproar.

    The problem isn’t that Trump lies, is that he is actually dangerous. Do you even value your political liberties??

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  11. CSK says:

    On the subject of Jan. 6 to Kristin Welker, Trump said: “I behaved so well.”

    Behaved so well.”

    What, is he a toddler telling his mommy how he acted in nursery school that day?

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  12. James Joyner says:

    @Tony W: @DK: @Charley in Cleveland: I absolutely agree that both Biden and Trump are old men and that Biden is healthier than Trump. Overwhelmingly, though, the polls show voters—including a majority of Democrats—are more concerned about Biden’s age than Trump’s. That’s the state of play.

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  13. matt bernius says:

    On a different note regarding the interview, this is example one-bajillion of how political PR interests are often at odds with one’s interests as a defendant in a criminal case.

    The interview was great for Candidate Trump–again demonstrating, as JKB has pointed out in the past that “he’s a fighter” (which seems to be more important than someone who actually has a track record of winning… beyond 2016 of course).

    However, this was arguably disastrous for Donald Trump, defendant in a number of criminal trials. In particular, his going on record that the decision to contest the election was his alone:

    Former President Trump admitted that he challenged the 2020 election, despite top administration officials and lawyers advising him that there was no evidence of fraud. Asked why he ignored them, he said: “I didn’t respect them as lawyers.” He added that he did not listen to campaign attorneys because those lawyers were “RINOs,” which stands for Republicans in Name Only.

    Trump, however, did abide by the suggestions given to him from other outside attorneys. But the ultimate decision was his. “I listened to myself. I saw what happened… my instincts are a big part of it, that’s been the thing that’s gotten me to where I am, he said.

    https://time.com/6315068/donald-trump-meet-the-press-interview/

    This has a very good chance of being played back in court by Jack Smith and Fani Willis’s teams as it goes to the heart of his “state of mind” which is critical for a conviction. The fact that he said he intentionally ignored the advice of legal staff he disagreed with is a gift to prosecutors. That alone demonstrates willful disregard.

    Equally bad is that he also decided to state that all of this was his decision–which disarms an argument that his lawyers have already signaled: laying off of this at the feet of Guiliani and Eastman giving Trump bad legal advice.

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  14. gVOR10 says:

    NBC decided to launch Welker’s tenure by interviewing Trump. They probably could have gotten Hillary or anyone else they wanted. But they chose to give Trump a prestigious forum in return for the “clicks”. It’s 2016 all over again.

    This appears to be the only reference on the FOX website to the interview. It’s patented FOX, quoting Trump as saying Pelosi turned down 10,000 Nat’l Guard troops while artfully telling their readers it’s true without quite saying so. If you have the stomach for it, read comments. For them the takeaway from the interview is that it’s all Pelosi’s fault. People like the FOX commenters outnumber “high-information” voters a hundred to one.

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  15. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    Aw, he so misses his owner calling him a good boy, he has to do it himself.

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  16. DK says:

    @James Joyner:

    Overwhelmingly, though, the polls show voters—including a majority of Democrats—are more concerned about Biden’s age than Trump’s. That’s the state of play.

    That state of play doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Voters are partly more concerned about Biden’s age than Trump’s because pundits have spent the last two months harping on Biden’s age and not Trump’s. If bloggers and others described Trump as ’77, old, and bloated’ as much as they love to point out that Biden is ’80 and geriatric,’ then voters would likely be more concerned about Trump’s age and health.

    The pundit class loves play this game, pretending the double-standards they help promote exist prima facie, as if journalists are potted plants and not active players. It’s similar to the press repeating “emails emails emails emails emails” in 2015-2016, then playing stupid with “What? Polls show voters are more concerned about Hillary’s emails than Trump’s shady enmeshment with Russian election meddling.” Well, yeah, because y’all told them to be. Spare us the Alfred E. Neuman act.

    We can smell a rat when corporate media election coverage will specifically point out that Biden is 80 but the number “77” is nowhere to be found. The refs are back to their old tricks, predictably, but the rest of us should not quietly play along. The stakes are too high.

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  17. CSK says:

    @Kathy:

    I’m surprised that he didn’t add: “Many people are saying that.”

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  18. Scott says:

    @DK: I think a large part of the problem is the Democratic messaging machine. You can blame the pundit class and the media all you want but when your own PR department is fractured and incompetent, then this is what happens. The problem has been going on since the 90s. Karl Rove’s insight was to keep messaging to 3-4 items and pound it relentlessly. That why people believe Trump’s economy was the best ever; why Hunter Biden is in the news every day; why Hilary’s emails were mentioned every day. And it should be primarily negative messaging on the other guy. Every comment about Trump should include “the failed Trump Administration”. Whining about the media is not going to hack it.

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  19. ptfe says:

    @DK: “The pundit class loves play this game, pretending the double-standards they help promote exist prima facie, as if journalists are potted plants and not active players.”

    This exactly. You get the same crap in every article about these guys, as though the only salient facts about them are the ones that are repeated ad nauseum. “Trump, the indicted former President, …” vs “Biden, the oldest major party candidate in history at age 80, …”

    But we’re again up against the information wall and mental latching. For low-information voters, “indicted” isn’t super understood and doesn’t say anything about the person, but “old” is something they know. So when you lay these next to each other, the typical person who’s later asked to describe the candidates comes up with “old” for one and “former President” for the other, instead of the obviously more-relevant information that one guy is in serious legal trouble – let alone that they’re almost the same age.

    The latching word is simply never going to be “indicted”.

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  20. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    I’d love to see him squirm live on cross examination. I don’t think that will ever happen.

    He’s faced interviewers who have done a decent job of pushing back against his lies, such as Jonathan Swan and Chris Wallace. Whether he “squirmed” in those encounters is up for debate. He’s got no shame, and he’s typically oblivious to being exposed as a fool. I don’t think he looked exactly comfortable, but the larger question is why we should care how he behaves under this kind of scrutiny, as if it’s some kind of triumph on his part when he confidently brags about saying “Person woman camera man TV.” At a certain point all we can do is realize, anyone who doesn’t think Trump sounds like a blithering idiot, fuck ’em. I have plenty of criticism of the media’s coverage of Trump over the years, but at the end of the day it isn’t the reporters’ fault that he didn’t poop his pants on camera. If he doesn’t “squirm,” that’s a choice, not an accomplishment.

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  21. CSK says:

    Trump’s Rosh Hashanah message on Truth Social was to list his accomplishments vis-a-vis Israel and then excoriate “liberal Jews” who “voted to destroy America and Israel because you believed false narratives!”

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  22. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: Goysplaining.

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  23. DK says:

    @Scott:

    Whining about the media is not going to hack it.

    I don’t know about that. Republican whining works well at bullying the press into bothsidesing too many issues. If Democrats want to improve messaging, they might indeed consider working the refs much more.

    I think that would bear more fruit than whining about Democratic messaging, as simplistic messages by definition are less motivational to Democratic persuables. The types of voters most open to lowest-common-denominator simplistic thinking are, at the moment, more likely to vote Republican. The Democratic voter is party to a coalition more multicultural and heterogenous — and on average more educated. She is thus more likely to be chased away and insulted by a barrage of sophomoric buzzwords and slogans.

    If there were a way to motivate Democratic voters through simplistic messaging, they would have figured that out already. If you lean towards Democratic Party policy right now, you are more likely to crave complexity and nuance.

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  24. gVOR10 says:

    @ptfe: Dem messaging certainly should be improved, but GOP messaging word with an EZ button. They have their own captive media in FOX et al while Ds have to work through the supposedly liberal MSM. I’ve seen any number of claims surveys show newsroom people are predominantly D. Has anyone surveyed owners and managing editors? I suspect they run heavily “socially liberal but fiscally conservative”, i.e. conservative wrt/ their taxes, which is what matters to them.

    Ethno-nationalism is an easy sell. Blood and soil populism has always been the go-to for an elite trying to maintain power. They used to dog whistle. Trump showed them they didn’t have to. Ds are majority white, but need to maintain a multi-ethnic coalition. Much more complicated and demanding of nuance, which makes bumper sticker messages hard.

    And GOPs lie shamelessly. They have no platform to talk about. They have to keep quiet about high end tax cuts and easing regulation and they’ve got nothing else. Hence the official 2020 platform of whatever Trump says. Once you start lying, and getting away with it, apparently it gets easy. Ds seem to still try to maintain some grip on the handrail. Or maybe it’s just that the MSM seem, in the interest of pretend balance, to be more eager to attack Ds stretching the truth. And their willingness to support high end tax cuts and deregulation buys GOPs a ton of big money donations to work with, mostly dark money.

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  25. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    Trump’s message is a perfect illustration of the term.

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  26. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    My prediction is that if Benito takes the stand in one of his many trials, he’ll either admit to a crime or perjure himself. Further, he’ll be surprised by arriving at this juncture.

    That will make him squirm.

    He may try, for example, to assert his fifth amendment rights. He’ll find it hard, if not impossible, after he makes a false claim related to that.

    So, yeah, I want to see him squirm.

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  27. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: Did you watch any of the deposition in the E. Jean Carroll case? I did, and I think he did perjure himself a few times. (The moment where he identifies the woman in the picture as Marla Maples, and then is told it’s actually E. Jean Carroll, and is asked by the judge to explain how that squares with his claim that Carroll was not his “type,” is kind of glorious.) Perjury is rarely pursued in civil trials, and it’s hard to prove anyway. He can probably fall back on faulty memory, and that’ll be enough.

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  28. Scott says:

    @DK: May be true vis a vis Democratic voters. But there are two sides to this game. Encourage and motivate your voters. Discourage and demotivate the opponents voters. Negative partisanship works.

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  29. Kurtz says:

    @DK:

    That state of play doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

    The night JKB posted that Turley link, I started a response to it. I read a few of Turley’s other pieces as well. I decided to do other things instead of writing it that night. Steven ended up writing a front page post about it the next day, so I just never circled back.

    The Hill published a Turley piece about the Georgia grand jury report.

    However, the 160 individual acts detailed in Willis’s report include speeches and social media postings by Trump and others claiming evidence of widespread voting fraud.

    I disagree with those claims, but many citizens held the same suspicions of the election. Many still do.

    Well, no shit, Mr. Constitutional Scholar™. Failing to acknowledge that a large reason for that belief is due to the speeches and social media postings cited in the report he is criticizing is a basic error.

    Turley does not mention the obvious thing that happened recently. But there is more to it–the belief that Democrats can only win office by rigging elections has been fostered over decades.

    Here is a line from Turley’s “Five Facts” piece:

    The suggestion that this evidence does not meet the standard for an inquiry into impeachable offenses is an example of willful blindness.

    Willful blindness may be the least damning indictment of Turley. For me, the alternatives–cynical mendacity for status and money, or a title that hides mediocre intelligence–are far worse.

    More:

    It has been alleged* that Turley repeated a claim on a live broadcast about Dominion machines switching votes, only to be corrected in real time by noted genius Steve Doocy.

    *I really don’t feel like digging up a transcript. And I’m sure as hell not going to watch a video of the segment. At the risk of being too charitable: there is a non-zero chance that the exchange is mischaracterized.

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  30. Scott says:

    This is where I think California Democrats are just stupid. There is no upside and all downside to this.

    California Dems consider unique approach to getting Trump off ballot

    Democrats in the California Legislature are trying a novel approach to remove former President Donald Trump from the state’s March 5 primary ballot.

    Nine California lawmakers wrote a letter to Attorney General Rob Bonta over the weekend, arguing that Trump isn’t eligible to be on the ballot for inciting an insurrection when a mob of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

    100% probability that Trump will lose California anyway. And may motivate voters at local level to vote against Democrats. Why do this?

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  31. gVOR10 says:

    @Scott: Indeed, a silly thing to do. Volokh Conspiracy seems to be engaged in a marathon debate over the Fourth. I love them all pretending the six Federalist on the Court would care about the finer points of originalist or textualist interpretation. Although they may be providing draft material for the Court’s eventual rationalizations.

    The only thing I find interesting about this Fourth Amendment thing is that a fair number of conservative legal scholars are pushing it. I take it as sign of the Republican Establishment’s (funders) discomfort with Trump. Said discomfort comes, I think, from two sources. One, obviously, the recognition he’s costing them elections. Two, the conservative need to believe that they represent the best people, a belief hard to support with Trump as the poster boy.

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  32. CSK says:

    Trump claims that “it is true” that his “intervention” on Truth Social saved Ken Paxton from impeachment.

    He simply confronted the Naysayers (like Paul Ryan and Karl Rove) and the Dems in Texas with the facts, and they backed down trembling.

    Whatta guy!

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  33. mattbernius says:

    @Kurtz:
    Honestly the best I can come up with WRT Turley, who I understand was an excellent litigator and legal theorist in his prime, is that he has allowed his advocate side to overcome his scholar side. For example:

    However, the 160 individual acts detailed in Willis’s report include speeches and social media postings by Trump and others claiming evidence of widespread voting fraud.

    This is correct, and gets to the difference between overt acts (which he is counting above that point to criminal acts) and predicate acts (criminal ones). See https://popehat.substack.com/p/overt-acts-and-predicate-acts-explained for more one this.

    It’s one thing to feel that RICO statutes are overly broad (honestly I agree with that). But Turley seems to take it further than that to suggest at there cannot be overt acts involving speech. And that feels like Con Law 101 mistakes.

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  34. Kingdaddy says:

    Mainstream press outlet schedules interview with Trump.
    Speculation rises about how the interview will go.
    The interview goes as expected: disastrously.
    Pundits fume over the interview, how it plays to different audiences, Trump’s hyper mendacity, and the stupidity of the press.
    A short time passes.
    We start the cycle all over again.

    All of this crowds out a substantive discussion of real issues.

    It’s like serial binging on cotton candy.

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  35. CSK says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    If the ratings for Meet the Press were high, the press will keep showcasing Trump.

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  36. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    IMO, they’d get much better ratings if they ridiculed or gotcha’d Benito.

    Case in point, he’s afraid Joe Biden will lead the US into World War II (two). He should be told he made a mistake, that way he’ll double down on it, and even bring out the Sharpie.

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  37. CSK says:

    @Kathy:

    I would love, love, love to see such a show. But recall what Les Moonves said: “Trump is great for ratings.”

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  38. Kurtz says:

    @mattbernius:

    Thanks for adding that context. I was taking a different angle. Mainly, that treating public opinion as if it forms in isolation from high-profile politicians and media personalities, is a fundamental mistake regardless of the legal aspect of it.

    It’s easy to get into the weeds on this, because it touches so many areas–the boundaries of free speech in a criminal context, political norms vs. formalized legal constraints on office holders, the responsibilities of holding a megaphone, just to name a few.

    I think what really chaps my ass is that Turley exemplifies a couple issues I have with public discourse.

    I’ve probably consumed roughly equal amounts of media by Turley and Popehat. But the latter comes across as more educational, more scholarly, and clearly operates in good faith. Turley, whatever he may have been at one point, seems like the legal world’s Niall Ferguson–one time scholars who are more focused on maintaining a brand than producing sound analysis. But I am quite sure that Turley has a much higher Q score than Popehat.

    Turley seems to stick mostly to his area of expertise, but the quality of his reasoning doesn’t meet the expectation set by his professional reputation. It seems mediocre to me. But his work passes as expert opinion because that bar is so fucking low.

    How many times have you read an opinion from someone widely considered to be a public intellectual and immediately thought back to a piece by Steven or James that reveals the ignorance of the author?

    Shit,

    Chris Rufo is held up as an expert on CRT.

    James Lindsay has a PhD in Math, but is mostly known for criticizing postmodernism and wokeness. But you and I both know that understanding postmodernism enough to provide serious criticism requires more than taking a couple classes and reading on weekends.

    Jordan Peterson influences people’s politics even though he shows up to a debate on Marxism in which he admits he has never read anything by Marx.

    I could go on and on.

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  39. gVOR10 says:

    @Kurtz:

    one time scholars who are more focused on maintaining a brand than producing sound analysis.

    I recall seeing years ago a longish article about the accuracy and career success of pundits. It may have been occasioned by a HS government class project with some more scholarly stuff added. The class had combed old papers and magazines for columns with checkable predictions. IIRC they found Krugman the most accurate and Cal Thomas the least. But the article added Cal Thomas was one of the best, or the best, paid pundits. In fact they found an inverse correlation between accuracy and income. The conclusion was that to succeed as a pundit one didn’t need to be smart and insightful, one needed to find an audience and tell them what they wanted to her.

    David Brooks, George Will, etc. anti-Trumpers didn’t take a brave stand for truth, they made a marketing decision that their audience wanted to hear non-Trump moderate, centrist (TM) conservatism. Turley looked around and saw which side his bread was buttered on.

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  40. CSK says:

    Apparently what Trump told Welker about getting all sides together and negotiating the number of weeks at which abortion should be legal–a number he promised would make everybody happy*–has enraged the MAGAs, who believe abortion should never be legal**. He’ll have to backtrack soon if he wants to keep his base. This is the first thing I can recall him saying that’s upset them.

    *He seems to have given up “happy AND proud” as his favorite locution when discussing his plans for the American people.

    **I wonder how many abortions Trump has subsidized.

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  41. dazedandconfused says:

    I suspect the career TV pundits are afraid of being truly hard-hitting in interviews, as it would drastically cut down on the number of interesting people who would allow themselves to be interviewed by them.

    The first, most obvious question such an interviewer would ask Trump would be, after citing about a dozen of his most egregious lies, is “Why do you lie so much?” As Trump loves talking about himself and the primary issue is his character, or lack thereof, it is relevant and stands a fair to middlin’ chance of trapping his attention…but it will never happen. It’s not that it’s impossible to trap Trump, it’s that nobody who has the power to do so is willing to do it.

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  42. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    **I wonder how many abortions Trump has subsidized.

    I suspect at least three fewer than he should have.

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  43. al Ameda says:

    For me, Meet The Press (MTP) is almost unwatchable and cringe-y.

    MTP has been selling out to the ‘Both Sides Do It’ Republican crowd for years. It’s almost a textbook example of how constant conservative criticism of ‘the Liberal Mainstream Media’ has had a significant effect on the rotation of all these weekend opinion/news/talk shows. Lots of talking points from the guests, and lots of softball ‘Captain Obvious’ questions from the host. Unless hosts are willing to bring forth information that contradicts those of the guests, or they go to real-time on-air fact checking, I just don’t see this changing any time soon.

    All of these hosts don’t want to hit hard because they might lose access to important political players. But what’s the downside to losing access to politicians like Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, or Ted Cruz? I see none.

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  44. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    Overwhelmingly, though, the polls show voters—including a majority of Democrats—are more concerned about Biden’s age than Trump’s.

    I’m worried that Biden will drop dead before the next election. I’m also worried that Trump won’t.

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  45. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Trump is the eyeballs gift that keeps on giving. As long as he keeps bringing eyeballs, they’ll keep “interviewing” him. MAGAs buy products featured in ads too.

    To succeed in interviewing Trump—you’d need to have a Joe Rogan styled “just asking questions” approach to get him responding to things “many are saying and believe” that amount to how he’s a secret Democrat and/or selling out Republicans for personal gain. Of course—none of it would have the slightest bit of journalistic ethics or value—but neither is the standard interview format where he’s “fact checked” with what actually happened.

    In other words—Welker should have asked him why he cut a deal wit

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  46. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Trump is the eyeballs gift that keeps on giving. As long as he keeps bringing eyeballs, they’ll keep “interviewing” him. MAGAs buy products featured in ads too.

    To succeed in interviewing Trump—you’d need to have a Joe Rogan styled “just asking questions” approach to get him responding to things “many are saying and believe” that amount to how he’s a secret Democrat and/or selling out Republicans for personal gain. Of course—none of it would have the slightest bit of journalistic ethics or value—but neither is the standard interview format where he’s “fact checked” with what actually happened.

    In other words—Welker should have asked him “why some are saying” he cut a deal with the National Guard to ignore any orders from Nancy Pelosi and arranged to have Antifa planted in the J6 crowd so the peaceful protestors were left to take the rap for invading the capital?

    Trump will eat anyone playing the straight man (or woman) alive. One has to force him into the straight man role. Until the eyeball appetite for reality TV subsides—you have to play to the audience you have—not the one you wish you had.

    Ditto on the comments about “what’s concerning to Americans”.— TOTALLY ENGINEERED based on the frequency and intensity of news stories. I could have Americans concerned about being struck by lighting if given the helm of CNN for 60 days.

    Frankly, I think it embarrassing that the non-Fox cable news is trying to coax out a primary challenger for Biden for no other reason than Biden doesn’t gin up a lot of eyeballs. Biden has put more black men and women in positions of power than any POTUS in history—-now the white liberal media wants to kneecap him for eyeballs.

    We can’t have nothing in peace…

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  47. mattbernius says:

    @Kurtz:

    I was taking a different angle. Mainly, that treating public opinion as if it forms in isolation from high-profile politicians and media personalities, is a fundamental mistake regardless of the legal aspect of it.

    TY for clarifying. Totally missed that point and now that you said that, it makes total sense.

    I’ve probably consumed roughly equal amounts of media by Turley and Popehat. But the latter comes across as more educational, more scholarly, and clearly operates in good faith. Turley, whatever he may have been at one point, seems like the legal world’s Niall Ferguson–one time scholars who are more focused on maintaining a brand than producing sound analysis. But I am quite sure that Turley has a much higher Q score than Popehat.

    Completely agree on all points. You also just laid out why I have such a respect for Ken White (even if he platforms Josh Barro who constantly rubs me the wrong way).

    Turley seems to stick mostly to his area of expertise, but the quality of his reasoning doesn’t meet the expectations set by his professional reputation. It seems mediocre to me. But his work passes as expert opinion because that bar is so fucking low.

    Especially his recent work. Earlier things I read from him I enjoyed much more. But in recent years he’s definitely fallen into the “performed iconoclast” category with a hefty dose of “too smart for their own good” thrown in.

    Which gets to:

    Chris Rufo… James Lindsay… Jordan Peterson…

    100% to each of those as examples of being empty intellectuals and polemicists who sadly gained prominence by giving cover to existing biases in audiences that desperately wanted to told they were smart and right.

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  48. OzarkHillbilly says:

    he’s repelling high-information voters who are open to an alternative to a geriatric sitting President.

    Which one James, The one who is old?

    Or the one who is old, decrepit, morally bankrupt, a liar and a thief, a gutless weasel who blew Putin in Helsinki, who monetized the WH and is nothing more than an ongoing criminal enterprise… Yeah, I know, I’m preaching to the choir.

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  49. Gavin says:

    an alternative to a geriatric sitting President

    James, I’m looking for an alternative to a gibbering idiot President.

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