America Definitely Needs A “Day Of Reckoning”; After Yesterday, Our News Media Needs One Even Worse

America’s news media had a really bad day yesterday. That means America had a really bad day. Ironically, that really bad day happened in the midst of a series of much better days as America slowly begins to reacclimate to the idea that our government can actually govern if so inclined. It was the news media that bristled at the lack of formal news conferences — their star turn, in their minds. Though plenty of reporters have heaped plenty of questions on President Biden informally — and gotten good, long answers — apparently none of that counts; the White House Press Corps has its ways and those ways, it tells itself, must be respected. Over a thousand Americans died yesterday from Covid19 yet the White House Press Corps — hungry for a chance to ask the new POTUS the most important questions their readers want and need answered — asked instead about election 2024 and whether or not Biden plans to run. Wow. That wasn’t just a terrible, lame, dumb-assed question, it was a tell. We know — having lived through it — that the overwhelming majority of America’s press absolutely blew the story of their lives because they’ve convinced themselves that “both sides do it”. That lack of perspective continues to haunt their coverage of Donald Trump. Yesterday, that lack of perspective revealed itself again except this time, in a way that even people in the news media finally saw for themselves.

Why has our news media been so incapable of covering Donald Trump? Maybe a better question is “why, if SOME in the news media can see Donald Trump and the GOP for the corrupt, treasonous players they are, can’t ALL in the news media see it?” For instance — how can MSNBC’s excellent Nicolle Wallace, Ali Velshi, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell or Joy-Ann Reid report the Trump story one way, filled with detail and hard evidence that paints a picture of massive corruption and treason, while, say, Chuck Todd acts like no such detail or hard evidence even exists? He seems to walk around in a news universe where Trump maybe isn’t corrupt or a traitor. Maybe that’s just the Democrats “playing politics”.

The fallacious notion that “Both sides do it” completely fogs the environment. Right off the bat, it jettisons perspective. It gleefully points at all instances of “it” as being equal. It doesn’t see or distinguish proportionality. All thieves are created equal; a woman stealing a loaf of bread so her children can eat is no different to this way of “thinking” than Bernie Madoff stealing billions from billionaires. They’re both thieves of a kind so therefore “both sides do it”.

For four years, the White House Press Corps regularly embarrassed themselves though they still don’t get that that’s what happened. Consumed by the fear of losing access, the press corps allowed themselves to be openly lied to. Yeah, yeah — a few dutifully tried to call out the lies — some even succeeded and they stood apart! — but the overwhelming majority of news people, given the chance to demand Trump tell the truth for once in his life balked at the opportunity and watched silently as the moment passed. No one wanted to be the kid pointing out how incredibly naked the bloated orange emperor was. Now, some of them can’t wait to be the kid asking the most pointed questions.

Democrats rarely play the access game. We simply don’t approach power the same way. We don’t see it as a possession. We see it as something the electorate has granted us the authority to use on their behalf and for their good. Yes, as the reporter added, Trump (Biden’s “predecessor”) registered to run again on the day he was sworn in, but why the hell would any reporter assume that Joe Biden would behave exactly like Donald Trump did? When Trump did it, it was remarkable — for all the wrong reasons. And yet, this reporter assumed that doing something that cynical and power mad was just “how presidents are now” since, to the reporter’s way of thinking, obviously it must be part of Biden’s thinking. Of course it’s not!

Even members of the news media were excoriating the White House Press Corps bad showing yesterday. Has any member of the WH Press corps stepped forward to say “yeah, we really screwed the pooch!” No, they haven’t. Don’t hold your breath either.

That day of reckoning will come regardless.

I’m not sure how exactly our news media came to embrace “both sides do it”. We need to make them rue the day. Journalism is the only non-governmental job mentioned in the Constitution. The Fifth estate is supposed to be our final check on power. But a press obsessed with access won’t be up to the task because they’re always too afraid to offend those in power which, ironically, is what they’re supposed to be doing).

The thing is, it’s not the entire American news media. There ARE some talented, smart, intuitive journalists who’ve managed to aggregate this story all along. I cannot, for the life of me, wrap my head around how MSNBC can have a deeply perceptive Nicolle Wallace on its payroll and, at the same time, a hack like Chuck Todd. Does MSNBC really expect its audience to forget everything it knows because it watched Nicolle’s excellent Deadline White House the second MTP Daily begins and they see Chuck Todd’s facial tics and bad haircut?

Hell, I bet if MSNBC’s & CNN’s lineups consisted of nothing but Nicolle and Nicolle clones, we’d have dealt with Trump and the Republican Party eons ago.

The Reason “Both Sides Do It” Is Bad Journalism

In the “Pantheon Of Wrongheaded Common Wisdom”, “Both Sides Do It” is king, queen and the rest of the demented Spanish Aristocracy. It takes a nubbin of “maybe” and makes it incontrovertible fact. Bad behavior does not belong to any political party. Yes, both sides are physically capable of doing things they shouldn’t and then lying about them to keep from being revealed. Historically, both sides have “done those things”. But (and here’s where “both sides do it” hits a wall and loses), if we put it all on a scale and measured the two piles of awfulness against each other? As with right here, right now, Republican-brand awfulness is exponentially worse for America than Democratic-brand awfulness in large part BECAUSE THERE’S SO MUCH MORE OF IT!

Proportion and perspective are two things “Both Sides Do It” journalism jettisons from the get-go. It says a thief is a thief is a thief — regardless of whether it’s Bernie Madoff stealing billions because he’s a greedy pig or Jean Valjean stealing bread to feed hungry people. “Both sides ‘do it’.” See what I mean? Though theoretically correct, it is absolutely wrong in its framing because it equates two things that shouldn’t be equated.

I’ve worked as a journalist. I’ve been held to journalistic standards. In the absence of hard evidence, one must be skeptical. That’s SKEPTICAL as opposed to CYNICAL. There is a difference.

If your starting point for every story is “both sides do it”, you’re not being skeptical about human beings, you’re being cynical; you’re assuming the very worst for no reason other than you’re assuming it. Authoritarians want the population they control to be deeply cynical — making authoritarianism the only means to control all that irredeemable, inevitable bad behavior. When the press equates an act of extreme corruption with Joe Citizen claiming a few deductions he’s not entitled to — that puts a smile on a cynic’s face.

“See?” he’ll say, smiling, “Both sides do it!”

Take this to the bank, American news media: both sides DON’T do it and never have. You need to expunge “Both Sides Do It” from your way of thinking — from your brains entirely. That’s not a helpful suggestion, that’s a demand. Going forward, America needs “moral journalism”. I don’t mean phony “moralistic” journalism puked out by phony journalists who place themselves above the fray (though both sides “do it”, they apparently don’t), I mean journalists who bring perspective to work every day.

This is not an impossibility. MSNBC has multiple journalists hosting multiple shows that DON’T “Both Sides Do It” — Ali Velshi (an awesome journalist), Nicolle Wallace (fearless as hell!), Rachel Maddow (relentless and so articulate), Joy-Ann Reid (equally relentless). So, it IS possible for news networks to hire and keep journalists on their roster who DO bring perspective to work with them every day. But they also have Chuck Todd — the King of “Both Sides Do It”. They have other reporters like Stephanie Ruhl (who, though excellent when reporting on the financial world, gets lost in “Both Sides Do It” the instant she turns to reporting politics) — let’s call them “Both Sides Adjacent”. And they have Kelly O’Donnell — the QUEEN of “Both Sides Do It”.

“Both Sides Do It” refuses to take sides — even when there are no sides to take other than “pro-democracy” and “pro-athoritarianism” and the pro-authoritarian side accuses the news media of being fake. To accept that statement because you dare not get involved is to validate bullshit — even if that’s not the intent. THAT’S the biggest, baddest ripple effect rolling off of “Both Sides Do It’s” cynicism — the validation of bullshit.

Want to know why America felt so ripped apart at the end of the Trump years? Because we were facing the terrible consequences every day of being told the lie — that both sides would take us to this same, awful place.

Want to know why this morning feels so wonderful — on top of the change in leadership coming less than two weeks from now? Because we now look forward to breathing air that doesn’t stink of bullshit. That doesn’t stink of “both sides doing it”.

America’s News Media Has Confused Being “Skeptical” (What They Should Be) With Being “Cynical” (What They Are)

Skepticism and cynicism are not the same thing. Don’t believe me — look em up. If I was being skeptical, I’d want to see proof of something before going along with it. If I was being cynical though? I wouldn’t care about any proof because I’ve already assumed the worst. A pox on everybody’s house — “both sides do it”. If I was cynical, I wouldn’t need proof that “both sides do it”. And if there was any sort of “proof”, it wouldn’t need to be equally distributed; most on one side and a little on the other is the same as fifty-fifty; it’s still a matter of “both sides do it”!

“Back that up or it’s bullshit!” would be a perfectly legitimate response to a politician saying something for which he has zero receipts. It’s appropriately skeptical. Are you telling the truth? Okay — prove it. By contrast, asking someone a “But, what if bullshit is true?” type questions — that’s not being skeptical at all. “What if bullshit were true?” is the quintessential cynical question.

The only place where bullshit can be true is in a completely cynical world. It can be true, it can be untrue, it doesn’t matter. The ending has already been decided. Everything sucks and there’ll be no changing it; we might as well all fold up our tents and go home. Seeing the world cynically means seeing the very worst in people no matter what. Even if they prove their worth, the cynical have an explanation ready to go. They’re not what they seem. Nothing is so don’t trust it. Assume the worst and you’ll never be disappointed.

You might not be disappointed, but you’ll never be happy either. And you’ll never see the truth or be able to discern it. There’s really no advantage to becoming cynical — unless you want to end your days living in a police state where survival is what matters. Cynicism assumes that the bad guy will get away with it in the end — that, on some level, everyone’s a bad guy, so what difference does it make who wins? Everyone’s motives are suspect. Everyone has a political agenda — even if they don’t think so.

That’s rubbish. It’s stupid too. And offensive.

When a Republican suppresses a Democratic voter, the Republican is doing it for an entirely political reason: to win an election so as to put the power of government into his hands and not the Democrat’s hands. When the voter whose vote is being suppressed raises their hand to complain about what the Republican is doing to them? They’re NOT being political. They’re the victim of a crime. One of their rights has been taken from them and that needs to be addressed. Not for political reasons but for reasons of justice and free and fair elections.

If the news media had taken a more skeptical approach to Donald Trump than the cynical approach they took, things might have turned out better for them. They would have demanded to know WHY Trump thought “Mexicans are rapists” before moving on to “pussy-grabbing”. And a skeptical press would never have been content to let that slide. A skeptical (rather than a cynical) press would have handled “But her emails” a lot better. Rather than cynically assuming the worst about Hillary Clinton, the press would have taken a more moderated, evidence-based approach. They would have concluded – as they did – that there was no “there” there.

If you want to see rock solid journalistic skepticism hard at work, watch Nicolle Wallace’s Deadline Whitehouse on MSNBC. Watch Rachel Maddow and JoyAnn Reid. Watch Ali Velshi and Chris Matthews. Watch Lawrence O’Donnell.

If you want to see empty-headed cynicism, watch Chuck Todd. Chuck is the “dean” of “both sides do it” journalism. He has zero intellectual curiosity. Zero perspective. Zero critical thinking skill.

We’ve survived Trumpism. A rejuvenated Department of Justice is going to make the next few years a rolling smorgasboord of corruption prosecution. There’ll always be a dozen or so pots on the boil with a few more waiting in the wings. From the second he stops being POTUS, Trump will have legal problems that no amount of bullshit pardons can assuage. He’s not running in 2024. The only running Trump will do between now and then is, maybe, a run for the border. I suggest slashing the tires on the Trump jet to prevent that from happening.

The Reason “Both Sides Don’t Do It” Is Because Both Sides Are NOT The Same

The core conceit at play when a “journalist” like Chuck Todd (which means we’re using the term “journalist” as loosely as we can) insists that “both sides do it” is that both sides do what they do for entirely political reasons. That is empirically untrue.

To act politically is to attempt change. If you are acting politically, you are trying to change the current situation. You’re trying to motivate people to alter what’s happening now — how they’re doing what they’re doing — so that they’ll do what you want them to do in the way you want. You want them to vote against all forms of gun control, for instance. Because you’re desperately afraid that gun control nuts will literally take your weapons away, you resort to all sorts of “persuasion” to stop that from happening. All those acts of persuasion — that’s you being political.

By contrast, when parents mourn their dead children — shot to death in their school — they’re NOT acting politically. When they turn to their political leaders and say “This must stop” — that also is NOT a political act. To see their desires realized out in reality, that WILL demand political action (they’ll have to affect change. But the thing they want to see happen — their children returning from school at the end of the day, not bullet-riddled — that’s NOT political.

It takes politics to negotiate the varying and conflicting needs of different people. But, the common good — the goal everyone’s after — that’s NOT political. It has to be reached via political means. And that, right there, is the source of the confusion.

The dimwits like Chuck Todd see people reacting to politics impacting their lives and call those reactions political.

The Republicans have gerrymandered everywhere they could (as Democrats have also done) for entirely political reasons. When Democratic voters get deliberately under-served as a result, their anger at what’s been done to them isn’t a political reaction, it’s a reaction to dishonesty, corruption and possibly even a crime being perpetrated on them. An African American voter being denied their right to vote is being denied for a political reason — but their anger, resentment and insistence that justice be served — that’s NOT political.

What the Republican Party & Donald Trump are doing to America — dragging it backward in time to the 1850’s — is entirely political. It’s a power grab.

That’s the thing our Main Stream News Media cannot get through its thick head. The reason someone becomes a Democrat is very different from the reason someone becomes a Republican. The reason one goes to a Trump rally is very different from the reason one watches bits and pieces of it on TV instead — with bile and disgust rising in one’s throat. The bile isn’t political. Neither is the disgust.

The Democrats reacting to stolen elections (via voter suppression and Russian involvement) aren’t being “political”, they’re being CRIME VICTIMS. The Rule Of Law could feel equally aggrieved. Ditto the Constitution. They’re both crime victims — and any Democrat rushing to their aid -isn’t doing it for political reasons.

They’re doing it because they’re patriots.

What Both Sides Actually DO Do…

When all this is done & dusted, I want us to promise ourselves that we’re going to enshrine in law the illegality of “Both Sides Do It” journalism.

The Chuck Todd-ification of American journalism has not worked out well for us because (Duh!) it’s based on bullshit — and the nincompoop notion that everyone and everything is political. It’s not. If a Republican mugs me, my issue is with him mugging me, not his political affiliation.

Similarly — when a Republican violates the Constitution or commits treason, my objection is entirely to the fact that he’s committing a crime. The fact that the crime is being committed against me — a law abiding registered Democrat who demands that the Constitution be upheld — STILL isn’t political.

Ironically, the Republican has behaved politically at every step along the way.

When a reporter like Chuck Todd gets his hands on a story though — if the Democrat is objecting to the Republican (even the Republican was literally murdering him), Chuck would insist that the Democrat is objecting solely because the guy trying to kill him had a different political affiliation.

I’m watching live right now as Katy Tur debates the idea that we’ve come to see actual RIGHT & WRONG in political terms. That’s insane. The fact that Republicans refuse to even read transcripts — that the press knows (having read them) are filled with actual EVIDENCE OF CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR) should tip them off to that fact. This isn’t about politics.

Both sides do not commit treason as a means to hold onto power.

But one side clearly does. One side continues to defend a president whose ties to Russia are flat out treasonous. I’m old enough to remember when that word could NEVER be uttered on a cable news set without creating a firestorm of controversy.

Now? Who DOESN’T speak the word “treason”?

That’s no because the word suddenly got popular, it’s because treason is actually afoot.

I sure do wish CNN & MSNBC would get this through their thick skulls — only one side commits treason to hold onto power.

Only one side stands between traitors and the end of our Republic.

Dear MSM — No, It ISN’T About POLITICS

This picture is not political. It depicts a crime happening en flagrante. A CRIME against the Constitution & We The People.

The most insidious form of “Both Sides Do It” journalism is its insistence that, no matter what, it’s always about politics.

Democrats objecting to Republicans suppressing Democratic votes (they never do seem to suppress votes evenly between Republican voters and Democratic voters) is — in this view — political rather than legal. Those stolen votes are… what? Collateral damage? When a Democratic voter loses their right to vote — because a Republican TOOK it from them — the only politics being played are by the REPUBLICAN. The Democrat here is the VICTIM OF A CRIME.

That little analogy goes Big Time with Donald Trump. It’s the exact same deal. Trumpified.

What most Democrats objected to as Trump plowed his way through the Republican field back in 2016 was his racism, his misogyny, his corruption. We objected to hearing a presidential candidate say that “Mexicans are rapists”. Our objection, MSM, wasn’t POLITICAL, it was MORAL.

The fact that we were Democrats (while most Republicans stayed silent or quickly bought in) was relevant. Not because of our political affiliation but because of our morality. As usual, the MSM ate the icing and forgot that a cake even existed.

Even today, a cable news show could play thirty seconds of Trump talking about anything. The talking heads would get their shot — and the Democratic Congressperson on the panel will state the obvious: Trump lied, lied, LIED.

The news panel’s host will (with one or two exceptions) flip it to whatever Republican Talking Head is there — “Is that true? Did the president lie?”

The rest of the conversation is irrelevant. The Talking Head Host just assumed (on the audience’s behalf?) that the Democrat’s take wasn’t motivated by the truth, it was motivated by politics. To get to the truth? We need to hear the other side, too.

Both sides DO NOT DO THIS. Both sides do not commit treason to win elections. They don’t.

Both sides do not suppress the other side’s votes to win elections. They don’t.

Both sides do not wage political campaigns based on fear and outright hatred of the other to compel their voters. They don’t.

Both sides do not obstruct justice as easily as they breathe. They don’t.

Both sides do not put forward ludicrous explanations that couldn’t pass smell test in a shit factory. They don’t.

Both sides do not make excuses for a president who consistently behaves in ways that would get any other citizen arrested. They don’t.

Both sides do not have a relationship with Vladimir Putin that is so flagrantly, obviously, how-in-our-faces-does-it-have-to-be TREASONOUS that it boggles the mind we don’t call it TREASONOUS yet. Both sides absolutely, positively do not.

What the MSM cannot get through its titanium skull is that one can object to Donald Trump, to Republicans and their outright corruption, as a concerned citizen first and a Democrat second. It’s possible to think country over party. Why, we should be demanding, does our Main Stream News Media think every single American thinks like a goddamned Republican?

Both sides do not do it. Both sides do not always — ALWAYS — play politics.

And, while we’re at it – Chuck Todd is an idiot.

Dear MSM – Connecting Dots Isn’t Rocket Science – Except Apparently To YOU…

“Gosh. I wonder what it could be,” said the American Journalist…

Storytelling, at its core is simple dot-connecting. We start at the beginning and connect the dots all the way to the end – with lots of zigging and zagging in between.  The image that all those connected dots ultimately form – that’s our story. 

As the dots connect, they form the larger context for each of the dots.  They aren’t just dots floating in space.  They’re part of a much larger picture.  Dot Number 2 and Dot Number 50 are related if distantly.  They’re both part of the same context.

Journalists are storytellers first and foremost.  The difference (in theory) between them and regular joe’s who write blogs is “rigor”.  Journalists need to back up their stories with multiple sources.  Or one really, really good one.  The point of all that rigor is to make sure the dots connect correctly.

But too many American journalists bore so deeply into the one point they focused on that they forget that a larger context even exists.  Or they started connecting dots already infected by “Both Sides Do It”.  When that happens, perspective is impossible.  Then you get mavens of journalistic malpractice like NBC’s Chuck Todd.  Chuck is good at connecting dots.  Problem is, he connects dots that shouldn’t be connected because, though they’ll make a picture, it’s not a real picture. 

For example – Bernie Madoff is a thief.  He stole billions (from rich people).  Jean Valjean, the hero of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is also a thief.  He steals bread to feed people who are hungry.  In Chuck Todd’s world, that means “both sides do it” because Bernie Madoff and Jean Valjean are both thieves.  Scale (perspective) never enters into it.  Chuck Todd regularly compares things of wildly different scale and insists they’re the exact same thing.

So – putting the Chuck Todd’s of the journalistic world aside, the rest of American Journalism needs to remind itself that a picture made up of connected dots remains a picture regardless of whether you stop looking at it.  When you turn from one part of the larger story to another – those dots don’t suddenly disconnect.  They STAY connected.  The story THEY tell remains valid and true.

Just because you go from a story about Donald Trump and his curious relationship with Vladimir Putin (and Putin’s “possible” impact on election 2016) to a story about Donald Trump trying to extort the Ukraine as part of his 2020 campaign strategy doesn’t mean the “Putin Cheats For 2016 Donald” dots aren’t related to the “Extort The Ukraine As Part Of The 2020” dots.  You have to bring all the connected dots with you from story to story – especially because you want to see if the dots from one story connect to any others.

The answer here is – YES!  All dots connect.  And all dots lead to Donald Trump being a Russian intelligence asset working against America’s interests and for his own interests and Russia’s. 

Today, the three Republicans trying to primary Trump all accused Trump of committing Treason.  They see clearly now how the dots all connect.

Why America’s News Media Sucks — The “Nicolle Wallace” Exception

By all rights, a left wing loon like me should detest Nicolle Wallace from a thousand miles away. But I adore her. I adore her show, Deadline White House on MSNBC. If you aren’t watching it or listening to it, you’re missing one of the few bright spots in the American News Media firmament — I’m also a Maddow fan, a Lawrence fan, a Joy-Ann Reid fan, an Ali Velshi fan and mostly an Ari Melber fan).

A good news show should be redolent of its host. Bad news shows work the same way of course. Meet The Press Daily is dopey as hell regardless of whether or not Chuck Todd is actually hosting it. I won’t go off on Chuck here — this ain’t about him). Accordingly, Deadline White House seems to flow directly from host Nicolle Wallace’s id.

Before she scored her own show, Nicolle co-hosted a season of ABC talk show The View. Before that she was GWBush’s White House Communications Director then served as a senior advisor for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign — tasked with handling Sarah Palin. She appeared frequently on network and cable news programs as the campaign’s spokesperson and defender. Nicolle has solid Orange County Republican bona fides.

I used to have family down in Orange County. I used to feel — driving down to San Clemente to visit — like we were driving into a strange foreign country with distorted values. That’s how different Republican Orange County felt from Democratic LA. On paper, I should watch Nicolle’s show the way I watch, say Alex Witt or Chuck Todd — with teeth gritted (Alex because she’s so mediocre, Chuck because he’s such a “Both Sides Do It” douche nozzle).

In 2016, Nicolle quit the Republican Party as it went Trumpian. Either the leap spurred something in her or she was always a softer version of an Orange County Republican.

Watching her show these days, if you didn’t know Nicolle’s past — deep in the Republican core — you’d be shocked to learn about it. She sounds so much like… like me. Yes, I’ll own it — I like Nicolle Wallace & her show because I agree with them. But I agree with the politics on a lot of MSNBC’s shows. Strangely, I rarely feel as justified after watching those shows. After watching Deadline White House, I often feel even more justified in my left wing loonie position than when I started.

That’s because Nicolle’s bottom line is receipts. Ya gotta bring receipts. Nicolle’s view of the news and the news landscape is fact-based, not feeling-based. Years of watching her convince me that this matter-of-fact, limited melodrama, relentlessly honest worldview reflects who she is down to her toes. The discussions are almost always smart, informed, savvy, clear-eyed and fearless.

And when it comes to pillorying Donald Trump and every Trumpanista, no one delivers a clean kill the way Nicolle does. She shies away from playing too much Trump on her show. But, when she does and the camera returns to Nicolle’s face — wow.

Sometimes there’s a laugh. It’s so particular, that laugh. It’s the laugh of a woman who knows she’s just had a man bullshit her. It skewers all by itself. But throw in Nicolle’s laser-like eyes — she’s good on camera, too — and you’ve got something that crosses rock solid news analysis with poetry.

How Many Republicans Does It Take To Screw In A Lightbulb? Zero — There’s No More House – They Burned It Down

I’m not the first person to compare Donald Trump to an arsonist who sets fires then calls the Fire Department — then does everything he can to get in the Fire Department’s way when they show up to put out the flames. Incompetence is bad. Malicious incompetence is worse.

Republicans going back to Lee Atwater — one-time head of the RNC, political consultant to Ronald Reagan and George H W Bush’s campaign manager — have taken not so much a Machiavellian approach to governing as the approach Sherman took to Atlanta — he burned down the idea of government for the people by the people of the people and put up instead a strategy based on culture war against the left and outright refusal to even compromise with anyone not a Republican.

WASHINGTON – MARCH 21: Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Lee Atwater are young political operatives who have set up lobbying firms. (Photo By Harry Naltchayan/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

If you can measure a man by the company he keeps, measure Lee Atwater by the company he CO-FOUNDED — with Paul Manafort and Roger Stone.

Quick — If Lee Atwater, Paul Manafort or Roger Stone (or anyone in the Republican Party) had great ideas to sell, don’t you think they’d have sold them to us instead of always relying on cheating? The Chuck Todd’s of the world will insist that “both sides do it”. I dare anyone to point to a similar outfit that uses dirty tricks, deception & flagrant dishonesty to further Democratic Party ideals and goals. It doesn’t exist because it just isn’t how Democrats think.

Atwater wasn’t the first American political consultant to play dirty. We’ve done that since the Republic’s founding. Atwater however brought media savvy to the dirty. He made the dirty dirtier.

In his time, Atwater used racism to help elect George HW Bush (the Willie Horton ads) and the inference that House Speaker Jim Wright was gay. Atwater went after the voting rights act (cos isn’t that what Republicanism really is about?) and gave this honest answer to a journalist’s question about Atwater’s thinking (I’ve softened the language — taking out Atwater’s repeated use of “the N-word”)…

Y’all don’t quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying, “N-word, n-word, n-word”. By 1968 you can’t say “n-word”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busingstates’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this”, is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N-word, n-word”. So, any way you look at it, race is coming on the backbone.”

Whatever ya say, Lee, whatever ya say… Newt Gingrich picked up the mantle when Atwater was gone — cut down at 40 by a grade 3 astrocytoma — an aggressive form of brain cancer. Gingrich turned a hose running lighter fluid onto what Atwater had started. We’re still living in the ashes.

To Atwater’s credit, when an aggressive brain cancer cut his life short, Atwater had an actual “Come To Jesus” moment. He saw (most of) the error in his ways. He realized how greed (for money and power) had skewed his values — and, in the pages of Life Magazine, Atwater repented:

“My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The 1980s were about acquiring – acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.”

That “tumor of the soul” metastasized into Donald Trump. That sound you hear are the last embers of what was our Democracy flickering out.

It’s Time To Play “BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT”

The “Benefit Of The Doubt” Theme Song

Hi there, ladies ‘n germs — I’m your host Chuck Todd (excuse me while I roll my eyes thoughtfully as if I was physically capable of having thoughts) —

— And welcome to another installment of “Benefit Of The Doubt — the game show where we give the benefit of the doubt to folks who we probably shouldn’t ought to give it to. But, hey — that’s what I think journalism is cos otherwise, I’d have to do research and prep for interviews! Did I say “Welcome to Benefit Of The Doubt yet? I can’t remember — I get so easily distracted.

Tonight’s panel are, first, my co-worker over at NBC News, Chris Matthews —

Chris — say something to the folks!

CHRIS: I miss Bobby Kennedy.

[While Chuck rolls his eyes thoughtfully] CHUCK: Do you think… What I mean is… What if… Is it possible that Sirhan Sirhan was aiming at someone else that night in the Ambassador Hotel kitchen?

CHRIS: No. Sirhan was Palestinian. He said he hated Bobby’s position regarding Israel. It wasn’t really a question of— Now, wait a minute, Chuck — were you playing the game without saying?

CHUCK: Guilty! I bet if I hadn’t spent the whole time rolling my eyes thoughtfully, you’d have never caught me.

CHRIS: It’s true… Umm… could ya stop now, Chuck — it’s starting to weird me out.

CHUCK: I’ll try, but — now I’m just trying to see if my bangs are straight… I wish they hadn’t left those pruning shears on my makeup table… Our other panelist tonight is CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

WOLF: Hi, everyone. I just want everyone to know that the look on my face isn’t because I’m thinking about anything, I’m doing math — I’m figuring out how long much longer I can hold onto the fart now in the chamber. Not much longer to judge from my expression, right?

CHUCK: Thanks for the heads up, Wolf. I’ll just move my chair way over here. [As Chuck moves his chair] Our first guest tonight is Climate Change.

[Polite applause as Climate Change enters and takes the seat next to Chuck’s.]

CHUCK: Welcome, Climate Change! You’re really in demand right now. I feel like we were lucky to get you as a guest.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Well, I am trying to get around — what with the book coming out and–

CHUCK: What– wait– what? You have a book coming out? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

CLIMATE CHANGE: Probably cos you can’t read.

[Chuck flashes angrily] CHUCK: What? I can read just fine. Don’t blame me cos I bore easily. Wait — are my bangs straight?

CHRIS: Please, Chuck, I’m begging ya — stop rolling your eyes! In two seconds I’m going to start hurling last year’s St. Patrick’s Day’s corned beef and cabbage. And that disagreed with me then.

WOLF: I bet the gas was intense.

CHRIS: You know it was.

CHUCK: So, Climate Change — We know… what I mean is…

CHRIS: Chuck — stop rolling your eyes–

CHUCK: I’m trying, Chris, I swear it but it’s gone a little autonomic on me. I’m not that in control of it–

CHRIS: Well, I’m not that in control of what I’m about to puke up either.

WOLF: Please stop saying “puke”, it gives me gas.

[Meanwhile, Chuck has continued rolling his eyes]. CHUCK: Are my bangs…? Is it… Would you say…What if the climate deniers are on to something?

[Everyone stops to stare at Chuck]. CHUCK: What?

WOLF: Are you saying climate change isn’t real?

And… SCENE!