As we wait for You-Know-Who's war...


In our tribe, it's mirth all around:
Michael Gerson asked an excellent question in yesterday's Washington Post.

He also wrote an interesting column. His question came at the start of the column, which carried this headline:

"Tribal truths and the lies that bind."

In the heart of his column, Gerson explored the way two warring tribes—one of the right, one of the left—sift all factual claims through rigid tribal filters. He's harder on the tribe of the right than he is on the tribe of the left.

Gerson's whole column is well worth reading. But as he started, he asked a good question about Donald J. Trump's latest ridiculous bundle of claims:
GERSON (3/24/17): It must be confusing to President Trump that the political system, the media and a majority of voters have suddenly called him on a deception, on a lie. It has seldom, if ever, happened before.

It did not seem to matter when he claimed to have evidence that President Barack Obama was born abroad; or when he insisted that crowds of American Muslims celebrated 9/11 in the streets; or when he said that the murder rate was the highest in half a century; or when he claimed the largest electoral-vote victory since President Ronald Reagan; or when he asserted that massive voter fraud cost him a popular-vote win; or when his press secretary claimed the largest inaugural crowd in history.

What about this particular accusation—that Obama ordered the bugging of Trump Tower—was finally too difficult for the body politic to swallow? How was this different from the maggoty meals that preceded it?
Gerson referred to "deceptions" and "lies." For ourselves, we'd be inclined to stick with "ridiculous falsehoods" (or "claims").

That said, Gerson was asking an excellent question:

At least since this time in 2011, Donald J. Trump has emitted a long string of "maggoty" claims. Why was this latest claim "finally too difficult for the body politic to swallow?"

Why were all those earlier groaners tolerated in the way they were? Why did this latest absurdity "finally" produce this degree of rebuttal?

That was an excellent question! In exploring the answer, Gerson considers American history dating back eight years. For ourselves, we'd extend that pitiful history back a great deal farther, at least to 1992.

We liberals! We've been tolerating manifest bullshit for at least the past twenty-five years. Last November, an astonishing price was "finally" paid for our many long naps in the woods.

In the wake of last November's election, our hapless, pitiful, slumbering tribe finally began its heroic "resistance." That's the term we now apply to ourselves in settings like the Maddow Show, where we're applauded each night for our heroic push-back.

KA-CHING! Tribal pandering of that type tends to produce strong ratings.

In the meantime, sad! We're being lionized by a self-adoring corporate stooge who mugged her way through the last election, avoiding every difficult topic, failing to challenge our journalistic elites, failing to spread a loud alarm about what might be happening.

Maddow mugged and clowned and played and self-adored and avoided. Members of our current "resistance" continued to nap in the woods.

Truly, our pitiful tribe has been remarkably hapless over a long stretch of time. We've tolerated decades of bullshit, dating back to the tales about the Clintons' many murders and Candidate Gore's endless lies.

In 2012, we tolerated all that shit about what Susan Rice supposedly said, thereby producing Benghazi. "Finally," we've begun to fight back, now that it may be too late.

Has our "resistance" started too late? This morning, the snark is general over the liberal world about yesterday's health care failure.

At one site, we've found a major blogger enjoying some LOLOLOLOL. Elsewhere, we found a compilation of the snarky tweets which were issued yesterday by some of our dumber members of Congress.

Why do we get to snark today? Because Donald J. Trump's "health plan" went down. Also, of course, for a second reason:

Because our president, Donald J. Trump, hasn't yet started his war.

For today, we'll leave it at that. But Gerson asked a very good question, even if his historical range was slight.

We liberals! We've tolerated "flights of fancy" for the past twenty-give years. No accusation has been so poisonous or so dumb that our self-impressed liberal tribe was willing to rise and fight back.

As Gerson notes, Donald J. Trump's latest flight—his ridiculous blizzard of wiretap claims—has occasioned extended push-back. Why has this flight been different from all other flights? Gerson asked a very good question, even if his historical range was limited.

Next week, we'll examine the way our hapless tribe helped pave the way for Donald J. Trump's upcoming war, the one he hasn't yet started.

Today, we liberals are happily laughing it up. We're laughing it up because, in the wake of our ultimate meltdown last year, Donald J. Trump, our American president, hasn't yet started his war.

It's LOL all over our world. As in so many earlier days, we're perhaps failing to look ahead to where this highly dangerous gong show may in fact be going.

Liberals, let's laugh it up and enjoy this day. This has been our tribal custom for the past twenty-five years!

Coming next week: Who the Sam Hill are Those People? Also, Who are We?

TIME FOR A CHANGE: Columnist Krugman, meet essayist Rich!

FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2017

Part 4—Our own music men, Over Here:
Last Friday night, Carl Bernstein said it was time for a change in the way cable news covers Trump.

It's hard to argue with that! Could it also be time for a change Over Here, in our own liberal world?

We actually think it is! In our view, the liberal world hit rock bottom last year when Donald J. Trump pulled an inside straight and ended up in the White House. When you lose to a ludicrous candidate like that, it's almost surely time for a change in your own tribe's pitiful practices.

In what way should our liberal world change? For one suggestion, let's return to Paul Krugman's column this Monday.

Krugman's column ended as shown below, with a question about Trump voters. For background, see Part 2 in this award-winning series.

Krugman ended as shown below. To us, this passage seemed illustrative, and it seemed somewhat peculiar:
KRUGMAN (3/20/17): [W]hy did so many Americans vote for Mr. Trump, whose character flaws should have been obvious long before the election?

Catastrophic media failure and F.B.I. malfeasance played crucial roles. But my sense is that there’s also something going on in our society: Many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like, mistaking bombast and belligerence for real toughness.

Why? Is it celebrity culture? Is it working-class despair, channeled into a desire for people who spout easy slogans?

The truth is that I don’t know. But we can at least hope that watching Mr. Trump in action will be a learning experience—not for him, because he never learns anything, but for the body politic...
Krugman has long been the journalistic MVP of our liberal world. We were saddened by that passage.

In part, we were saddened because Krugman almost seemed to be searching for "the reason" which would explain 63 million different votes, cast by 63 million different people.

That would be an extremely dumb thing to do. Technically, Krugman doesn't do it in that passage. But he almost seemed to drifting in that deeply tribal direction.

Krugman did something else in that passage. He said that "many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like." He seemed to offer that as a major explanation for all those votes for Trump.

As he cast this aspersion, Krugman seemed to say that the "many Americans" to whom he referred can all be found Over There.
The dumbbells were all Over There, in the tents of Those People, The Others.

He said he doesn't know how they got so dumb, but the dumb ones are all Over There.

We would very strongly dispute each of Krugman's points. We don't think it's gigantically hard to understand why people would vote for Trump. More significantly, the specific dumbness Krugman describes has also been on wide display Over Here, within our liberal tribe.

In our view, it's true! In our view, many conservative-leaning voters have, in fact, unwisely trusted a succession of con men over the past thirty years.

They've trusted Rush Limbaugh; they've trusted Trump. In our view, these assessments were unwise.

That said, we the people have always been inclined to fall for the blandishments of con men. And uh-oh:

Over the course of the past thirty years, we liberals have repeatedly been conned by such types Over Here. In the process, we've tolerated the rise of a world which inexorably led us to Trump.

We failed to see through our own music men, and own music men have been many. We in the liberal rank-and-file have tolerated horrendous leadership.

These leaders have routinely sold our interests away. Just as it has ever been, we haven't been able to see this.

What types of music men have we accepted? Let's start with the behavior of mainstream and liberal journalism during the Clinton-Gore years.

During that period, the crazy claims which constituted "Trump-before-Trump" sometimes came from the right. Jerry Falwell paraded around selling a film about the Clintons' many murders.

The mainstream press corps gave Falwell a pass. As this sick arrangement developed, we in the liberal rank-and-file peacefully napped in the woods.

Jerry Falwell was selling his ludicrous film in the mid-1990s. By that time, the more consequential wars against the Clintons and Gore had taken shape within the upper-end mainstream press.

We've recited this history a million times. Nothing will ever make career liberal con men discuss it.

Whatever! For reasons which are rarely discussed, the most consequential wars against both Clintons and Gore largely came from the elite mainstream press, not from the hard right. These wars were driven and enabled by figures admired by Us.

"Many Americans" couldn't see through Trump? We liberals couldn't see through the figures to whom we refer!

The great turning-point in modern political history came when Candidate Bush nosed past Candidate Gore. People are dead all over the world, though it has become blindingly obvious that we liberals don't actually care.

The war which permitted Bush to squeak past Gore was conducted by mainstream and liberal figures. Unfortunately, "many Americans" in our own liberal tends were unable to see what was being done by the high-profile figures to whom we refer, including those who were being made rich by the near-billionaire Jack Welch, conservative CEO of NBC News and its cable arms.

Even when told, we liberals weren't able to see what was happening. To make a fascinating story short, consider two astonishing facts:

To this very day, no one has ever written a profile of Chris Matthews' astonishing conduct during Campaign 2000, in which he waged war against Candidate Gore and against Candidate Clinton, and in the years which followed, during which time he continued his misogynistic attacks on Candidate Clinton.

Equally astonishing:

To this very day, no one has ever written a serious profile of Maureen Dowd's astonishing journalism—no one except Clark Hoyt, her own newspaper's public editor, whose blistering profile of Dowd's treatment of Candidate Clinton was widely ignored back in 2008.

Simple story: Within the guild, Matthews and Dowd were each too powerful to be discussed by their unprincipled colleagues. In these ways, we liberals were sold down the river by a full battalion of mainstream journalists, many of whom we foolishly regard as our liberal leaders.

"Many Americans" couldn't see through Candidate Trump? As a general matter, we would be inclined to agree with that judgment.

But "many Americans" Over Here have been unable to see through the vast assortment of gong-show artists who have been loosed upon us by various corporate suits. We can't even see through the clowning of Maddow! Why should The Others see through the nonsense of Candidate Trump?

Krugman's lament about Those People's blindness came at a propitious time. In this very same week, one of our dumbest music men would peddle his latest trombone.

We refer to head buffoon Frank Rich, who is known as "the great Frank Rich" when he's dragged out for musical purposes on the Maddow Show. Consider this blowhard's track record:

Start with the headlong chase after Bill Clinton's ten blow jobs. During that period, Rich authored the definitive dumbest remark in support of the greatness of Gennifer Flowers, a disordered person whose credibility ought to rated at zero.

Jump ahead to Campaign 2000. Once the primaries were over, Rich spent the whole of 2000 insisting that Bush and Gore were two peas in a pod. From a very high platform, he kept telling the liberal world that there was no difference between them.

Let's move to September 2002. As war with Iraq was being sold, Al Gore delivered a major speech warning against this move. (Almost no one else did.)

Rather than hail the most prominent liberal to make such a speech, Rich savaged Gore's for his unsightly motives, which Rich had somehow divined.

As for Rich himself, he never made a clear declaration concerning the proposed war; he then went on sabbatical as decision day drew nearer. A few years later, after the war had gone bad, Rich ran around to the front of the line. He wrote a best-selling book about the war which made him a larger lib hero.

In 2006, Gore starred in the film about climate change which went on to win an Oscar. Speaking to his brilliant friend Don Imus, Rich trashed Gore's motives all over again. He compared the Oscar-winning documentary to a high school instructional film.

Even the film's commercial success, and the eventual Oscar, didn't alter Rich's perspective. Finally, when Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Rich executed an instant 180. Overnight, he went from unrelenting ridicule to silly ridiculous fawning, as is the way of his ridiculous kind.

Frankly, "many Americans" in our own liberal tents haven't been able to see through ridiculous figures like Rich. Perhaps we ought to consider such facts before we puzzle over the failure of Those People, Over There, to see through a figure like Trump.

This week, of course, our biggest buffoon continued to give us liberals his trademark bad advice.

In a pitiful essay for New York magazine, Rich implored the liberal world to continue loathing and trashing Those People. This is terrible, ugly, stupid advice, advice which comes to us live and direct from the man who started out as the famous "Butcher of Broadway."

Rich went to Harvard, of course. Given that opportunity, he seems to have learned little except the best ways to kick down. Our Harvard man's pitiful headline is this:

"No Sympathy for the Hillbilly"

Sad! Over Here in our liberal tents, we haven't been able to see him for the false prophet he is.

Alas! We live in a time when a vast array of corporate entities teach us to loathe The Others. In case you haven't noticed, this is a very good way to make money on line, or in cable.

Rush Limbaugh has long been one such major corporate entity. Over Here, we're now creating our own.

It's true! Regular good and decent people will frequently be influenced, in harmful ways, by persuasive music men with prehistoric tribal pleadings.

That said, our tents are full of such music men Over Here. Krugman's column notwithstanding, this phenomenon isn't restricted to the judgments reached Over There, by Those People, The Others, hillbillies.

Krugman's new column moves in a much wiser direction today. He correctly describes the flow of this destructive game, noting the way "the media" have misled the wider world about the works of Paul Ryan.

Regular people, decent and good, have always believed music men. This morning, Krugman's aim is true. On Monday, he was kicking down—and forgetting to kick Over There.

Christopher Matthews was Trump before Trump. He got very rich in the process. He was working for Jack Welch at that time. This couldn't be mentioned because the rest of our liberal heroes wanted those Welch paydays too.

No one has ever told the liberal rank-and-file about that noxious history. On the leadership level, our own moral squalor is rank, epidemic—our own squalor, that of our own music men, the ones who got rich Over Here.

Next week: Who are Those People?

Savaging Donald J. Trump for his claims!


The Journal uses its words:
The Wall Street Journal hit Trump so hard the New York Times took notice.

In this morning's editions, Sydney Ember reported what the Journal said. We were struck by the way the Journal used its words:
EMBER (3/23/17): The editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is known for its conservative tone, but an editorial the newspaper published online Tuesday night would stand out even in the pages of its left-leaning peers.

The editorial was an extraordinarily harsh rebuke of President Trump, calling him “his own worst political enemy” and asserting that he was damaging his presidency “with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.”

In particular, the editorial board pointed to Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that former President Barack Obama had tapped his phones. “The President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle,” the editorial said...
For ourselves, we would have added one word to the Journal's list of crimes. Below, you see what the Journal said, and you can see our one-word addition:
THE JOURNAL: Trump is damaging his presidency “with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.”

THE JOURNAL EDITED: Trump is damaging his presidency “with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other ridiculous falsehoods.”
We would have stuck "ridiculous" in. That said, did you notice the word the Journal eschewed?

The Journal didn't say "lies!"

You can hammer Donald J. Trump without alleging "lies." The Journal, using its many words, did so rather capably.

Why shouldn't the Journal have used the word "lies?" Unless you're seven years old, there are various reasons.

In certain contexts, the word is perfectly sensible. In many others, it creates a pointless distraction—and an instant secondary debate the accuser is likely to lose.

Second-graders can't understand that. Is that the source of our problem?

Time magazine rolls over and dies!


Sympathy for the birther:
Yesterday morning, the New York Times published a report on the subject of false belief.

Many, many people have said that Brendan Nyhan learned everything he knows from us. Modestly, we don't make an opinion on that.

That said, Nyhan teamed with Amanda Taub for a news analysis piece which bore this headline:

"Why People Continue to Believe Objectively False Things"

Given the lunacy of our discourse, this topic would seem important. At one point, the reporters discussed the granddaddy of them all—the objectively false belief that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States.

The writers described the way false beliefs tend to regain their strength in the months and years after they've been refuted. Mainly, we were struck by the overall numbers in this passage:
TAUB AND NYHAN (3/22/17): Mr. Trump disavowed the “birther” myth in September 2016, conceding that Mr. Obama was in fact born in Hawaii. There was an increase afterward in the number of voters who said they believed Mr. Obama was born in the United States, but polling by Morning Consult suggests that part of that effect has already faded. In September, it found that 62 percent of registered voters said they believed Mr. Obama had been born in the United States, but in a follow-up poll early this month, that number had dropped to 57 percent.

This decline cannot be attributed simply to partisan bias; it occurred among both Democrats (who went to 77 percent from 82 percent) and Republicans (down to 36 percent from 44 percent).
In the survey taken this month, 57 percent of respondents said Obama was born in the United States.

In that same survey, 26 percent of respondents said he wasn't born in the U.S. An additional 17 percent said they didn't know.

(Is this an artefact of slobbering racism? Eighteen percent of black respondents said Obama wasn't born in the U.S.; 13 percent said they didn't know.)

Objectively, the fact that Obama was born in Hawaii has been settled. As such, this looks like the granddaddy of them all when it comes to contemporary false beliefs.

That makes Time magazine's interview with Donald J. Trump the latest remarkable bit of avoidance concerning the gentleman's history as king of the birthers.

Time's interview focuses on Trump's assortment of bogus claims. The magazine bills its lengthy report on Trump as "a cover story about the way he has handled truth and falsehood in his career."

The way he has handled truth and falsehood in his career? Strikingly, Michael Scherer never asked about Trump's birther claims during his interview. Trump's birtherism was only fleetingly mentioned in Scherer's cover report.

During the interview, Scherer never asked about the investigators Trump said he sent to Hawaii. He never asked about the mind-boggling, undisclosed facts Trump said his gumshoes had found.

He never asked if there had been such gumshoes, or if it had all been a lie.

Politely, Scherer ducked this topic in his interview, as many before him had done. Once again, it's stunning to see the way our upper-end "press corps" actually handles such tasks.

Before this, the biggest act of "birther avoidance" may have belonged to the New York Times. Last July, the paper did a lengthy, front-page Sunday report about Trump's birtherism. But they never asked Trump or his associates if he had simply been lying when he said he sent those investigators to Hawaii.

In the summer of 2015, the entire press corps took a dive. After Trump announced his presidential campaign, he told a few interviewers that he was no longer willing to discuss birtherism.

The entire press corps crawled away and took a nap in the woods. Basically, Trump was never asked about this topic again until the campaign was almost done.

Our upper-end, mainstream "press corps" is Potemkin all the way down. This is a fascinating, remarkable fact about our highly Potemkin culture.

Our press corps is phony/faux all the way down. Will someone alert Kevin Drum?

Also this: Has any journalistic or academic org ever interviewed survey respondents about this topic? What would all those people say about where they think Obama was born?

This is the grand-daddy of them all in the realm of modern bogus belief. Our big news orgs and our academics have chosen to take it in stride.

Nothing to look at, boys and girls! Children! Please keep moving!

TIME FOR A CHANGE: The fog of (24-hour) war!


Part 3—At CNN and the Times:
Was Carl Bernstein right, last Friday night, when he spoke with Anderson Cooper? Is it time for a change in the way CNN reports on Donald J. Trump?

Inevitably, there's always room for improvement! For one example, consider CNN's latest fuzzy report.

The fog was general over the famous cable channel last night. We'll cite the chunk of CNN's written report which was posted by Kevin Drum.

Last evening, CNN's Pamela Brown—her mother was a Miss America!—delivered this report to Cooper himself. According to Cooper, Brown was one of the reporters who "broke this story."

Presumably, he'd meant to say that she had broken this "news report:"
BROWN (/3/22/17): The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign, US officials told CNN....The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings.

....One law enforcement official said the information in hand suggests "people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready." But other U.S. officials who spoke to CNN say it's premature to draw that inference from the information gathered so far since it's largely circumstantial.
According to a recent confession, Drum was born again on Election Day. Perhaps for that reason, we'd say he may have gotten a tiny tad over his skis in the comments he offered about this fuzzy report.

What's so "fuzzy" about that report? Let's consider the fuzzy term "suspected Russian operatives" as we try to discern what Brown actually broke.

According to Brown, this is what CNN has "learned:"

CNN has learned that information "indicates" that Trumpsters communicated with "suspected" Russian operatives to "possibly" coordinate the release of information. According to U.S. officials!

To us, that's a rather fuzzy claim. Consider the term, "suspected Russian operatives:"

According to CNN, does the FBI claim to know or believe that Trumpsters communicated with actual Russian operatives? Actually, the alleged communications were with suspected operatives, whatever exactly that means.

These questions come to mind:

Who suspects that the people in question may have been Russian operatives?

Presumably, the FBI currently holds this suspicion. That said, did the Trumpsters suspect that these people were Russian operatives, back then in real time?

Also, on what basis are these people suspected to have been Russian operatives? Were these people so suspected back then? Or are they just so suspected now?

We ask these questions for a reason. To wit:

Is it possible that the "suspected Russian operatives" in question are the good people of Wikileaks? At present, would Wikileaks people qualify for the somewhat fuzzy label of "suspected Russian operatives?"

If so, would Trumpsters have known about this suspected connection in real time? If we're talking about Wikileaks people, would the Trumpsters have had reason to suspect that they were in league with the Russkies?

We don't know the answers to any of these questions. Last night, CNN viewers were lost in the fog of war of a 24-hour kind.

In fairness, CNN's report was exciting. It was also remarkably fuzzy. The channel served a cocktail mixed from "possibly" and "suspected." Chasers of "suggests" and "premature" were also served.

At times like these, excitement is driven by such fuzzy reports—reports which will, in standard second-grade fashion, be referred to as "stories." That said, news orgs like CNN are loathe to spot the fuzziness in such exciting reports.

Consider the nonsense on CNN last Friday night, one hour before Bernstein piped up.

Last Friday night, Bernstein said it was time for a change. One hour earlier, Cooper and a panel of thousands had battled the fuzzy, indeterminate claims advanced by Jeffrey Lord.

Lord is the hardest-working, most frustrating man in show business today. Last Friday night, he showcased his ability to bring CNN's story-telling to a screeching halt.

Last Friday, Cooper and a panel of thousands were imagining what James B. Comey was going to say on Monday morning to the House Intel committee. The panelists agreed that Comey the God was going to clean Trump's clock.

The cast of thousands all agreed—Comey was going to say that Trump had been wrong with all that wiretap blather. But then, Cooper was forced to throw to Lord.

Here's what "the great frustrater" said for maybe the ten millionth time:
LORD (3/17/17): Anderson, I guess I'm going to be the lone voice here. I just respectfully disagree with all of my friends here.
Groans were heard across the land. There he went again!

After Lord discussed a transient point, Cooper took him where the rubber meets the road. For perhaps the ten millionth time, Lord lodged these observations about Donald J. Trump's prescient wiretap claim:
COOPER: Again, we'll know more Monday [when Comey testifies]. But according to the latest reporting, the Department of Justice report does not confirm the president's claims. Jeffrey, does the president need to admit he was wrong?

LORD: No! What the president needs to do—and frankly, I am totally dumbfounded at these Republicans on the Hill. What they need to do is take all the news accounts from Maggie's paper and put them out there and investigate those. Notice that Fox News has—

Notice that Fox News has retracted its report. The New York Times has not done so with these stories.
There he went again! For perhaps the ten millionth time, Lord was saying that "stories" in Maggie Haberman's New York Times support Trump's wiretap claim!

How many times had Cooper's panels been through this? Haberman responded with two speeches which were beside the point, then finally offered this:
HABERMAN: For the record, those stories do not say what Sean Spicer said—claimed that they had said. Sean Spicer cited these to suggest they backed up the president's claim that he was wiretapped by the previous president.

LORD: He was surveilled.

HABERMAN: No, that is not what those stories said.

LORD: It is, Maggie. I just read them today.

HABERMAN: No, it is not. No, it is not. What those stories—

LORD: It says people in the Obama administration were responsible for surveillance, and then that surveillance was leaked to the New York Times.

HABERMAN: First of all, that's not what they said.
All the panelists knew what Lord was talking about. They'd all seen this pointless discussion about a thousand times.

At the bare minimum, Lord was talking about this news report from the January 20 New York Times, a rather fuzzy news report with fuzzy claims about "wiretapping." Now it fell to Cooper to play his role in this well-rehearsed, time-killing game:
COOPER: Jeffrey, we've had the reporter that you have cited multiple times. You've cited his reporting claims. We've had the reporter on twice saying you are wrong. "My article did not say what Sean Spicer and the White House and you are claiming it says."

[Silly misstatement provokes good-natured group laughter]

LORD: What I am saying to you is that it is abundantly clear in those stories that people working for the Obama administration—and let's remember, again, as I've said before, when some bureaucrat in the Agriculture Department said ketchup was a vegetable, Ronald Reagan was personally held responsible. That's what we do with presidents. Hence, Harry Truman's "the buck stops here."

This happened on Barack Obama's watch with people in his administration. He was responsible.
As he's said before? Truer words were never spoken! Endless story short:

Cooper referred to Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg. He had appeared on his program several times, saying his January 20 news report doesn't support Trump's wiretap claim.

Now, Lord was saying that he had just reread the report that very day! He said that, properly understood, it did in fact support Trump's insightful wiretap claim.

This silly Groundhog Day discussion had occurred many times. At no point did Cooper ever ask Lord to cite the words of the Times report which supposedly supports Trump's claim.

At no point had Cooper ever cited the language in the report which refutes Trump's claim (or Lord's). And by the way:

If Cooper's panel had ever gotten into the New York Times report, they would have found some fuzzy language and claims, including remarks about "wiretapping." Certain parts of the somewhat fuzzy report could conceivably be taken various ways in these excited times.

One hour later, Bernstein was saying that it's time for a change in the way CNN reports on Donald J. Trump. Concerning that, we'll say this:

Back in the day, TV news ate thirty minutes each night. Today, cable news stars are paid large sums to eat a full twenty-four hours.

The excitement of the fuzzy claim keeps the whole show going. The failure to resolve any point plays a key role in this game.

When you have to fill large chunks of time, the inability to resolve any point is perhaps your best friend. Perhaps for that reason, the stars who are paid to extend this game tend to display analytical skills straight outta second grade.

Again and again, the Coopers seem to be working on second grade level. They seem weirdly unable to settle any point. As a result, like Freddy Krueger, Lord just keeps coming back.

Along the way, fuzzy claims keep things exciting and fun. Lord provides nightly conflict.

On CNN, a cast of thousands battles with Lord on a regular basis. Constantly, the valiant pundit is forced to "guess that he's going to be the lone voice here." He's forced to "just respectfully disagree with all his friends on CNN."

Five nights later, his CNN friends may report that the FBI has information that "indicates" certain things about what Trumpsters "possibly" did with "suspected" Russian operatives.

They push their fuzziness all night long. Excitement spreads; another long day is done.

Tomorrow: In our view, the answer to Krugman's question is, in part, Frank Rich