Is Perspective-Free Journalism Really “Journalism”?

If the fall of Afghanistan proved anything — aside from the fact that we set ourselves up for failure (alongside the Afghanis who helped us) the instant we landed in country — it’s how little perspective our news media brings to work each day. We knew lack of perspective (like failure of imagination) was a chronic journalistic problem throughout the Trump years — that’s both his pursuit of power and his abuse of it. The news media has always accorded wealthy, white, male Christians undue deference, normalizing their criminality like it was part of the architecture. It’s utter nonsense to think our press begins telling any news story from a genuinely neutral position. The playing field we all step onto is heavily skewed in one direction. If you don’t report that at the start — and if that fact doesn’t inform every last bit of your reporting than, really, you’re telling some other story about an imaginary world that only looks like ours. If you cannot report that bit of perspective because you can’t see it, then what you’re doing every day to pay the rent or the mortgage isn’t journalism.

What’s happening in Afghanistan is a human tragedy of monstrous proportions. What’s about to happen to the women of Afghanistan is even more monstrous. It’s impossible not to be emotionally gripped by video of the genuine terror all those desperate Afghanis thronging Kabul’s airport are feeling. But, leadership demands reacting with one’s head and not one’s heart. One must take off all blinders and see the world for what it is — in realpolitik terms. The reason we were still in Afghanistan is because, up till now, we have refused to see the world as it is. Wanting to make the world a better place for everyone in it is a lovely ideal. But doing good is way more complex than that especially when the good involves changing another culture’s culture or trying to install a form of government that you yourself haven’t mastered.

Journalists describing their own arduous route to the Kabul airport mention having to pay bribes at various points along the way in order to continue along the way. That’s just how it is here, they point out. It’s how it is in a lot of places where they don’t have dynamic economies and corruption is the business model. Now, right there, each and every journalist on the ground is providing deep perspective about the rules on the ground. Put all judgment aside — whether paying bribes is good, bad or a necessary evil. And don’t forget: Afghanistan is only a country because a Western colonial power made it one, drawing up borders that never existed before in the tribal lands where those borders got drawn.

One of those lines got drawn right through the Pashtuns’ tribal territory. One second they were all in one territory, the next, some of them were Afghanis and the rest Pakistanis. The border may have made the Afghani Pashtun Afghani on paper, it did not make them Afghani in their hearts.

There’s yet another layer of complexity here that needs to be in our collective perspective but isn’t yet. Sarah Chayes covered the Taliban’s fall for NPR back in 2001. After reporting from Kandahar — the Taliban’s capitol — Sarah returned and set up base there. She stayed for a decade and “…ran two non-profits in Kandahar, living in an ordinary house and speaking Pashtu, and eventually went to work for two commanders of the international troops, and then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” This Western journalist has very real perspective about the topic she’s writing on. Her knowledge isn’t just surface detail, it’s cultural and deep. She knows whereof she speaks.

Four things brought us to this awful moment, Chayes writes (and I recommend that you read her reporting yourself!): Afghan government corruption, and the U.S. role enabling and reinforcing it, Pakistan, Hamid Karzai and self-delusion. Pakistan is the key. Pakistan is behind most of the other three items on Chayes’ list. To be fair, corruption being a human frailty no matter the country, impoverished Afghanistan (with no real central government to speak of, no infrastructure, no national identity to rally ’round) was and remains organically corrupt. Again — not judging, just trying to describe accurately (so we can judge later).

Chayes writes —

Do we really suppose the Taliban, a rag-tag, disjointed militia hiding out in the hills, as we’ve so long been told, was able to execute such a sophisticated campaign plan with no international backing? Where do we suppose that campaign plan came from? Who gave the orders? Where did all those men, all that materiel, the endless supply of money to buy off local Afghan army and police commanders, come from? How is it that new officials were appointed in Kandahar within a day of the city’s fall? The new governor, mayor, director of education, and chief of police all speak with a Kandahari accent. But no one I know has ever heard of them. I speak with a Kandahari accent, too. Quetta is full of Pashtuns — the main ethic group in Afghanistan — and people of Afghan descent and their children. Who are these new officials?

In fact, Pashtuns make up 48% of Afghanis. The thing is, they identify as Pashtuns first and Afghanis… maybe second. “Afghani” remains a made up designation. The power inside Pakistan — always looking to improve its situation and why not — benefits from controlling not only the Pashtuns but — look at it from their point of view — controlling Afghanistan, the country on the other side of that made up border. Way better to have a staunch ally there than a foe. That’s the context for this —

The Taliban were a strategic project of the Pakistani military intelligence agency, the ISI. It even conducted market surveys in the villages around Kandahar, to test the label and the messaging. “Taliban” worked well. The image evoked was of the young students who apprenticed themselves to village religious leaders. They were known as sober, studious, and gentle. These Taliban, according to the ISI messaging, had no interest in government. They just wanted to get the militiamen who infested the city to stop extorting people at every turn in the road.

Chayes points out “both label and message were lies”. Of course they were!

Within a few years, Usama bin Laden found his home with the Taliban, in their de facto capital, Kandahar, hardly an hour’s drive from Quetta. Then he organized the 9/11 attacks. Then he fled to Pakistan, where we finally found him, living in a safe house in Abbottabad, practically on the grounds of the Pakistani military academy. Even knowing what I knew, I was shocked. I never expected the ISI to be that brazen.

Meanwhile, ever since 2002, the ISI had been re-configuring the Taliban: helping it regroup, training and equipping units, developing military strategy, saving key operatives when U.S. personnel identified and targeted them. That’s why the Pakistani government got no advance warning of the Bin Laden raid. U.S. officials feared the ISI would warn him.

By 2011, my boss, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Taliban were a “virtual arm of the ISI.”

Sarah Chayes, The Ides Of August

As for Karzhai — our choice to pilot Afghanistan after we ousted the Taliban, was “in fact the go-between who negotiated the Taliban’s entry into Afghanistan in 1994! Chayes says “It is my belief that Karzai may have been a key go-between negotiating this surrender, just as he did in 1994, this time enlisting other discredited figures from Afghanistan’s past, as they were useful to him.” Think about this. Chayes can’t say this is a fact because she’s still a journalist at heart and a damned good one. But, she is willing to connect dots that demand connecting if we’re to truly understand what’s happening in Afghanistan with any sort of perspective.

Chayes concludes —

One final point. I hold U.S. civilian leadership, across four administrations, largely responsible for today’s outcome. Military commanders certainly participated in the self-delusion. I can and did find fault with generals I worked for or observed. But the U.S. military is subject to civilian control. And the two primary problems identified above — corruption and Pakistan — are civilian issues. They are not problems men and women in uniform can solve. But faced with calls to do so, no top civilian decision-maker was willing to take either of these problems on. The political risk, for them, was too high.

True leadership — what Joe Biden did and is doing — requires taking those political risks. We fulfilled our original mission — oust the Taliban, get bin Laden and stop Afghanistan from being a terrorist haven quickly. In fact, we could have gotten bin Laden when he was holed up in Tora Bora. We didn’t — a choice made by George W. Bush and Company. We should have exited Afghanistan right about then. It would have messy in its own way as imaginary country Afghanistan tried to set up a government for itself. Of course the Pashtuns would have taken part and if the Pakistani intelligence service wanted to infiltrate them whether as Taliban or some other entity? It would have been easy.

This is just how it is on the ground. It’s the culture — good, bad or indifferent. We can judge it if we like but that won’t change it. And, really, corruption is entirely relative. From the Pashtuns point of view, the West is corrupt. Like everyone else, what they really object to is corruption that benefits the other guy.

If you’re going to report this world journalistically — and by “report”, I mean, at the top of your game — you must have this corruption in mind as you survey the landscape. You also have to understand the corruption’s nature. You have to appreciate the role corruption plays in quotidian life. And you have to understand not just the neighborhood you’re standing in but the entire environment itself. Journalism demands a holistic approach. The details of any one story are vital — bore deeply! But detail divorced from the Big Picture they’re part of can easily deceive. It’s like thinking a piece of the mosaic is the mosaic. No — it isn’t.

Our news media, being corporate, is organically corrupt. The corporation’s fiduciary responsibility is to its own survival. Yeah, sure — most of what any corporation does is within the rules. But every corporation seeks to cut corners. To maximize its profits and minimize expenses. Hey — show me an American who’s never cheated on their taxes (still not judging!) and I’ll show you a null set. All corruption starts locally. We all bend the rules to suit ourselves and our needs. We don’t like to think of it as corrupt but it is.

In journalism, corruption often takes the form of access. The White House Press Corps allowed Donald Trump to get away with literal murder. They refused to ask a known liar pointed questions about his lying because they feared Trump would stop letting them ask questions or, worse, banish them from the White House. They compromised their journalistic integrity in order to “be there”. Game already over from the point of view of corruption. You can’t negotiate with corruption. You can’t quid pro quo it.

But, one thing you can do with corruption is aggregate it. Yeah — if you honestly tell a story about corruption, you’re going to describe how a monster got birthed, how it evolved and thrived and then broke free and ran amok. If that corruption is treasonous — as so much of Trump’s corruption is, was and always will be — you’d expect it to be not just a detail of the Trump story but one of its engines. Once you’ve gone and committed treason, there’s no going back. Even the hint of treason should get a good journalist’s Spidey senses tingling.

Our journalists witnessed the above scene — this moment in time — and refused to call it what it so blatantly was. If they’d applied ANY perspective to this moment, the Trump admin would have ended right there and then.

It didn’t.

In their defense, many of the journalists who covered Afghanistan in country saw with their own eyes what American style democracy could do for Afghanistan’s women especially. If only that had been something we could set in concrete… alas, in order to make that inorganic cultural shift work, America would have had to remain in Afghanistan forever. Pakistan did not want us in Afghanistan and, sooner or later (sooner, as we’re learning) would have moved to remove us. They would have tasked the Pashtuns working for them to step up their aggression. The Taliban never left Afghanistan, don’t forget; they lived in Afghanistan and — if they had passports — those passports would have been either Afghani or Pakistani. They could afford to outlast us because they were home already. And they know their “country’s” culture a lot better than we do.

It sucks what’s going to happen to Afghanistan and its women. Whatever we can do to mitigate it, we absolutely should. But we have to stop lying to ourselves about Afghanistan — why we’re there, who the players are and what they want. And we have to stop reporting on Afghanistan like it was some other country. The stone cold reality is that America staying in any would result in an eventual bloodbath. The longer we stayed, the worse the blood bath because the stronger the resentment.

I’m not faulting a single journalist’s emotional response to this tragedy. But, every time their emotions obscure the true story of how we got here, they’re doing much more harm than good. Not all corruption is malignant. Some of it’s entirely cultural. That goes for the culture of journalism too.

Perspective-free journalism is corrupt journalism. It’s not actually journalism therefore — it’s just another variety of corruption.

In “Both Sides Do It” World, A Politician, A Criminal And A Public Servant Are All The Same Thing

American journalism has a lot to answer for. Given multiple opportunities to be the new Woodward-Bernstein, most American journalists chose to be Judith Miller instead. Judith Miller was the vaunted New York Times Reporter with the remarkable inside access to the George W. Bush White House and to the office of Vice President Dick Cheney in particular. The cost of that access was any pretense that Judith Miller would tell the truth about Dick Cheney and the mountain range of corrupt behaviors Cheney and his office perpetrated in order to put and keep America at war with Iraq. Cheney’s chief of staff Scooter Libby was convicted of leaking the identity of covert intelligence officer Valerie Plame. To Judith Miller, getting and maintaining access to a source (even if it compromised her capacity to tell the truth) was more important than telling the truth. Judith liked the power access gave her. And, frankly, the naked cynicism fit better than the skepticism she’d never quite mastered.

Skepticism v cynicism. That, in a nutshell, is where American journalism went wrong. Skepticism is harder by a long shot. It requires perspective. “Is that really so?” and “Why IS that exactly” should be the guiding principles. The journalist has to appreciate at all times that the story she’s focusing on is a tile in a much larger mosaic. How does that tile fit into the larger picture? That’s a skeptic’s question because it assumes a complex world. Cynics, on the other hand, assume only simplicity. Every story can be boiled down to one opinion versus another. He said, she said. But, if you walk in the door assuming everyone’s an honest actor — or that everyone’s a dishonest actor — you’re going to mis-frame your reporting because neither assumption is true.

A skeptical journalist – bringing perspective to the table – looks and listens for subtle clues that what they’re seeing and hearing has the ring of truth. When they see and hear those signs, the story takes a step forward because their skepticism has established to their satisfaction that their reporting can now add information upon which it can build. Adding information is how good, skeptical journalists build and tell a story. But a cynical journalist can’t do that because they can never establish to their satisfaction that anyone’s telling the truth. Or that anyone’s lying. If journalists won’t be the bulwark for what is versus what isn’t then their subjects will get to do it. That’s how Donald Trump managed to stand in front of the White House Press Corps for four years and spew pure, unadulterated bullshit with only the occasional whimper of complaint.

Counting Trump’s lies was great sport. It didn’t stop him from lying. Perhaps if the White House Press Corps had — just once — walked out en masse (and on camera) in order to make the point: STOP LYING TO US! But, of course, doing that would have risked access to an historically hypersensitive POTUS. Yes, on the one hand, if you’re not there to ask a question, you can’t ask a question. But, then, OTOH? Are you really asking any kind of meaningful questions? It’s all access for the sake of having access. That is pure cynicism.

Let’s compare public servant Adam Schiff to public servant Matt Gaetz.

While in high school, Schiff was both class valedictorian and the student voted by his classmates “most likely to succeed”. He got a BA from Stanford in poli sci and his JD from Harvard Law School. Those are nice names to have on your resume. They don’t automatically convey anything however. Donald Trump has Wharton and the University of Pennsylvania on his CV. Without daddy’s money, Trump wouldn’t have been allowed in the dorms at either institution never mind the classrooms. After law school, Schiff clerked for a judge in California then became an assistant district attorney. He first ran for office in 1994 (but lost), trying again (and succeeding) in 1996. Since then, Adam Schiff has epitomized the very notion of what a “public servant” should be.

Schiff’s closing remarks delivered during Trump’s first impeachment pretty much sum up his public servant bona fides…

Matt Gaetz is one hundred percent the Goofus to Schiff’s Gallant.

In Gaetz’s defense, there’s nothing wrong with being mediocre. Gaetz was an unremarkable high school student, an unremarkable undergrad at Florida State University and an unremarkable graduate of the William & Mary Law School (the country’s oldest, by the way). In 2008, Matt had a run-in with the law after cops pulled him over and booked him for a DUI. Strangely, though Matt SHOULD have lost his license, he didn’t. Pays to have connections apparently.

After a year of “private practice”, Gaetz did what his father and grandfather had done — he ran for office (as a Florida state rep). Having more money than any other candidate in the Republican primary got him through a crowded field. Having waaaaaay more money on hand than his Democratic opponent made a huge difference in the general election which Gaetz won handily. Having a little political power in his hands brought Matt Gaetz’s base awfulness to the surface.

A taste: Gaetz proposed legislation that would hasten the execution of many inmates on Florida’s death row, he joined State Senator Greg Evers in proposing legislation to eliminate the federal ethanol content mandate that 10 percent of gasoline sold in Florida contain ethanol and he was one of two members of the Florida House to vote against a Florida bill against revenge porn in 2015, after having successfully blocked the bill previously.

In 2016, Gaetz took his act national to the US House of Representatives. As we’re about to learn from the flipped testimony of Gaetz’s buddy former Florida Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, the answer to question “Are you a pedophile?” is “yes”.

And lest we forget — Matt said this:

In theory, both Adam Schiff and Matt Gaetz are “public servants”. From the news media’s point of view — that’s certainly true. But beyond the label, the two have zero in common.

But, from a cynical news media’s point of view, that fact’s irrelevant. They’re both “politicians”, too. If Matt Gaetz is also a criminal? Then what’s to say Adam Schiff isn’t one too?

Or, conversely — if Adam Schiff is a paragon of political virtue and public service then so is Matt Gaetz. From the news media’s point of view, who are they to say otherwise? Well, actually, according to the Constitution, they are the ones we most NEED to say otherwise — to employ their most skeptical instincts as the final check on raw political power.

When this assault on our democracy is finally laid to rest — as it will be — after we’ve finished investigating and prosecuting every last perpetrator (to leave an unprosecuted would invite them to try again), we need to turn our focus on the news media. We need to force some very real, very hard self analysis upon them. We need to rub their noses in “both sides do it”. It’s the only way to make them feel the disgust the rest of us feel about it.

We’ll know we’re finally making headway when wastes of carbon like Chuck Todd finally get kicked to the curb.

America’s founders didn’t intend to create a binary political environment but their refusal to outlaw slavery at the outset pretty much guaranteed that America would always be binary — pro-slavery v anti-slavery. Take this to the bank: pretty much every white supremacist would vote to bring back slavery if they could figure out a way to get it onto a ballot somewhere. That’s why their “public servants” — like Matt Gaetz feel less like servants and more like co-conspirators to commit a crime. That’s what they’re doing — committing crimes. But, in order to see that happening, you must have perspective.

A news media that really and truly believes that all politicians and public servants are criminals because some are isn’t doing the democracy they’re serving any favors.

Anyone Who Thinks The Republicans Will Take Back The House Or Senate In 2022 Is An IDIOT!

Our news media keeps proving that conventional wisdom is long on convention but short on wisdom. They also keep proving that most of them suck at storytelling even worse than they suck at journalism. And, make no mistake, the majority of American journalists really aren’t that good at journalism. It’s not entirely their fault. Somewhere along the way, a mentor or a professor or a boss put it into their heads that “both sides do it”. From that point on, whatever talent they had for journalism was screwed. They permanently perverted their sense of perspective. Skewed it & screwed it for good by confusing skepticism (what every journalist should practice) with cynicism — a terrible, dark, judge-y way of thinking that assumes the very worst of people. All people — hence “both sides do it”.

It’s “both sides do it” that caused American journalists to normalize “Mexicans are rapists” — and then “pussy-grabbing” because “But, her emails!”. In hindsight, that decision to follow one lead over the other looks even worse, doesn’t it? Not that in the face of everything that’s happened since, America’s news media got any savvier about Donald Trump. They haven’t. Our news media is remarkably incapable of aggregating any part of the Trump story. If they were capable of aggregating everything we know about Trump into a constantly evolving narrative, Trump would NEVER have become president in the first place. As Fusion GPS did when first hired in 2016 to do oppo research on Trump (for the benefit of Marco Rubio backing The Washington Free Beacon), every member of the press would have done their due diligence so that they fully understood the man they were reporting on. Like Fusion did, the press would have BEGUN its narrative about Trump with Trump already being a Russian mob money-laundering criminal.

Yesterday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson demanded that the Department of Justice release the communications behind Bill Barr’s false assertions that the Mueller Report cleared Donald Trump of wrongdoing — the basis for the Bill Barr DoJ to NOT indict Trump. Apparently (shocking!) there WAS NO “communications”, there was a foregone conclusion that the evidence in the Mueller Report be damned, Bill Barr’s DoJ was NOT going to follow the law and indict Donald Trump. Remember — the Mueller Report itself represents a teeny-tiny tranche of the full Trump Treason Pie. What Bill Barr was covering up was both Obstruction of Justice and insufficient evidence to prosecute Trump for conspiring with Russia BECAUSE OF THE OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE. Why do you think team Trump was working so hard to obstruct justice?

Because “Treason”, of course.

A month before nominating Trump to be their presidential candidate, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy famously walked into a meeting with Republican leadership and said — out loud (it was recorded and the recording was heard by a Washington Post reporter) “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” There was laughter in the room but no shock. But there must have been a degree of concern because then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan felt compelled to rein in any discomfort. No one, Ryan counseled, should speak of the matter outside that room. That, he said (it’s recorded), is “How we know we’re family”. A mafia crime family, more like…

Nothing about the Trump presidency was “normal”. Not a single second of it. And yet — the press worked overtime to normalize the story and Trump no matter how outrageous. To this day, most members of the news media scratch their heads hard enough to carve out a trench in their skulls as they try to figure out why Trump is so chummy with Vladimir Putin. Why, they wonder — like it was the mystery of existence — are the Republicans so friendly toward Russia? In their journalistic way, they’ll consider all the possibilities — well, they’ll consider all the possibilities but one. Giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, they’ll happily assume Trump could be innocent of everything. Being serious journalists, they’ll also assume that maybe Trump could be guilty of some sort of bad behavior (but he insists he’s innocent so, obviously that can’t be the case). They’ll NEVER assume the third choice: Trump is guilty as can be which means, yeah — he’s a rapist and a thief and a racist and an anti-Semite and a traitor.

Donald Trump IS all those things — that’s just what the aggregated story says, all of which the news media itself reported but, apparently, never bothered to read.

Our news media doesn’t know what to do with The Big Lie because “both sides do it” causes them to knee-jerk acceptance of it: if someone says a thing, it must be so because they said it. They confuse someone having a point of view (which even a thief or a rapist has) with having a point (which neither the thief nor the rapist has). There’s no defense for rape and unless we’re talking Jean Valjean stealing bread), there’s no defense for thievery either. Both a rapist and a thief have their “point of view”. That’s not the same as having a “point”. When Trump — as he did last night — insists that Joe Biden’s presidency is “The Big Lie”, he’s not just lying, he’s deliberately speaking utter rubbish. When the news media reports Trump’s assertions without completely contextualizing them first as rubbish, they give bullshit credence. That can never end well for anyone.

Trump WILL BE indicted and prosecuted in Georgia. He WILL be indicted and prosecuted in New York. He WILL be sued successfully by E. Jean Carroll who Trump raped in a Bergdorf’s dressing room in the mid-90’s and then defamed as too ugly to rape.

A direct link will be drawn between the January 6 insurrection, the Trump White House and Donald Trump himself.

And, of course, a direct link is about to be revealed that connects Donald Trump TO Russia and reframes what happened in November 2016 not as a free and fair American election but as a very real coup d’etat carried out by the Republican Party in concert with Russia, the goal being permanent minority rule. The GOP’s relationship with Trump may not have been part of some long-term master plan, but there was a kind of “master plan”; even before Trump’s nomination, Mitch McConnell had done the Koch Brothers bidding and quietly seized control of the judiciary by denying Obama hundreds of lifetime appointments including the SCOTUS seat Merrick Garland should be occupying instead of Neil Gorsuch.

Even now as the GOP eviscerates itself — casting Liz Cheney as an apostate because she won’t spew the Big Lie — they are painting themselves into a corner. Fealty to Trump is about have an even more dire cost than before.

How does one campaign while defending oneself against charges of treason? That will be the GOP’s challenge. That and trying to convince Americans (the majority of whom are finally healthy, back to work (in a booming economy) and happy for the first time in years that instead of the path they’re on, what they REALLY want is more Trumpism. THAT is what the Republican Party is selling — and, to be honest, I’m not sure how one does that — except to the very small clique of hard core Trumpanistas (which, all told, is at most SIXTEEN PERCENT of all Americans).

This is the sliver of corruption that the news media INSISTS will — because it always happens — retake the House and the Senate and dash all of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party’s dreams.

In order to see how ludicrous a forecast that is, however, one MUST see Republicans for who they really are and Trump for who he really is. You’d have to stop normalizing things that should never be normalized. You’d have to stop thinking “both sides do it” and that everyone, no matter what, is always doing it for “political” reasons. Finally, you’d have to get your cynicism in check.

That might be more than American journalism is capable of right now. While outside the mainstream journalists like Sarah Kendzior and Seth Abrahmson write compellingly because they’ve taken a holistic approach and aggregated the story all along, American journalists — especially the broadcast ones — return diligently every day to a kind of “square one” where everything we’ve learned along the way stops existing; all we know now is what we knew when we set out — nada.

The American news media didn’t see the Blue Wave of 2018. They insisted till they really couldn’t anymore that the 2020 race was close; it wasn’t. Yeah, sure — from an Electoral College pov, it got squeakerish at times. But the EC is slavery voting. It over-represents rural Americans and under-represents the urban majority — same as the Senate. “The Democratic half of the Senate represents 41,549,808 more people than the Republican half.” Senate Democrats represent. That’s a huge advantage for the Republicans. Why do you think there are two Dakotas — because there were too many Dakotans for one? Why two Carolinas? Why two Virginias?

To this day — as far as I know — no American journalist has even thought to ask Kevin McCarthy what made him think Putin paid Trump in the first place. If you accept Kevin as an honest actor (when he tells you Liz Cheney needs to go because she won’t pitch The Big Lie), you have no idea who Kevin is. You have no idea who any of the Republicans are or why they’re doing anything. You really don’t know anything. It makes your prognosticism dubious.

Okay, I’ll say it: it makes you an idiot.

The Senate — With Its Weird Rules — Was The WRONG Place To “Try” Donald Trump; A 9-11 Style “Truth Commission” Will Be More Satisfying & Productive

Politics and Justice don’t play nicely together. Politics rarely plays by “the rules”. Justice, on the other hand, is a kind of “prisoner” of them. For a moment, we told ourselves yesterday, when it appeared the House Managers would call witnesses before Donald Trump’s Senate trial, that the Truth would, at long, long last, have its day in court. Then, after negotiations with the Senate and Trump’s defense, the House Managers backed off that call. They entered Jaimie Herrera Beutler’s statement — relating GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s desperate call to Trump to stop the riot — into the record and let it stand there. In that moment, it certainly felt like, again, Democrats were letting Republicans get away with their corruption. That wasn’t what happened. We need to appreciate the perspective the House Managers had when they sought witnesses (it was their right to demand so they demanded it) and when they chose NOT to actually call any. Perspective is the thing we’ve lost sight of over the last four years. Perspective says that what the House Managers did yesterday was as spot on as pretty much everything else they did.

Trust them, America. TRUST THEM. Trump’s Senate trial was entirely POLITICAL. That’s a vital distinction. Being a political process, Truth was not the goal; appearances — THAT was the goal for Republicans. The appearance of loyalty to Donald Trump. The fact that Trump’s defense could spew so many blatant lies on the Senate floor with zero fear of repercussions speaks volumes. For starters, even when you’re certain you know what a witness will say on the stand — under oath — you cannot control it one hundred percent. The recorded, written statement will not change. For the moment, that sufficed. Appearances and politics were satisfied. But not Justice — because Justice doesn’t live in the Senate. It never has, never will and wasn’t going to start yesterday.

Keep this in mind: the Democrats in the Senate represent 45 million more Americans than the Republicans in the Senate do. The Senate is a variation on the Electoral College theme — where white men get over-represented and everyone else gets under-represented. Ask yourself — why are there TWO Dakotas? Is it because there were way too many Dakotans for ONE Dakota? Or is it because TWO Dakotas adds TWO conservative, white, Christian Senators to the mix. Between the TWO Dakotas there aren’t two million people. 1.7 million Dakotans (North & South) have 4 Senators to represent them. Here in California just south of 40 MILLION AMERICANS get just 2 Senators. See how that gives way more political power to rural Dakotans and their desires over literally every single Angeleno? That’s not a level playing field — and it’s by design. It’s also why it’s essential that we make DC, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands ALL separate states with two senators each and the right to vote for president.

The Electoral College is slavery voting in our elections. The filibuster is slavery interfering with the Congress actually governing America.

Had the House Managers gone down the “witnesses” road, the Senate trial would have gone into a period of recess while the process to interview witnesses began. While the truth would have gotten out into the public record, it would have taken a while to get there — and the Republicans would have used the time to take every bit of wind from the Democrats’ sails, add to the chaos, spew more lies and all without ever opening their minds. The Senate remains a minefield — too unpredictable, too political.

A better idea — and this was the House Managers’ thinking: don’t do this “here”, form a 9-11 style “Truth Commission” give it ample power and oversight. Having a functional Department of Justice with Merrick Garland at its helm will help make it happen. And — an important distinction — while the newly formed and empowered Truth Commission is doing its work, Merrick Garland also will be doing what We The People are paying him to do — seek, prosecute and deliver JUSTICE. Ignore Garland’s well-known moderation. He’s a prosecutor. All we want from AG Garland is for him to FOLLOW the rule of law and FOLLOW the Constitution. If he does that? The Republicans and Donald Trump are screwed.

Even if he sucked as a prosecutor, once Garland pulled the first Republican corruption thread he saw, Republican corruption is so massive, so pervasive, so unavoidable that Garland couldn’t help stumbling over it. We have to stop thinking that four years of Trumpian Justice are “justice”. They aren’t — and bet the ranch that all those dedicated DoJ-ers who hung on for dear life while Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein and Bill Barr ran the department are just aching to set their ship aright. That will mean cleaning house of Trumpian corruption both within their department and everywhere they find it.

The State of Georgia is going to prosecute Trump for election fraud. The SDNY is going to prosecute Trump for HIS role in the same case that sent Michael Cohen to prison. All they have to do there is flip Trump’s status from “POTUS” to “Former-POTUS” and indict away. He’s already on their books as “Unindicted co-conspirator #1”. Then there’s E. Jean Carroll’s civil suit. And all the other civil suits about to rain down on Trump, his company, his former charity, his everything.

And, hey — remember that counter-intelligence investigation we all thought was happening? The one Rod Rosenstein told Team Mueller the FBI was doing but also told the FBI that Team Mueller was doing but that, in reality, NO ONE WAS DOING? That’s back on the menu — and that is the bottomest line there is here. Russia. Russia, Russia, RUSSIA.

It all comes down to Russia. “But for Trump”, there wouldn’t have been an insurrection. “But for RUSSIA”, Donald Trump would NEVER have become POTUS.

Deep breath, everyone. Now, take another. And another. Let go of your cynicism — it’s not serving you. Instead, embrace skepticism. Embrace perspective. Embrace Justice — REAL Justice, not the kind of “justice” the US Senate can “deliver”. Until we use REAL Justice to clean every bit of Republican corruption from the Senate, any trial’s a show trial.

Patience is always a virtue. Just a teensy bit more patience on our part and that virtue will begin to feel deeply satisfying too.

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”.

The More Perspective We Gain On “The Trump Era”, The Worse It’s Going To Look For Republicans

We don’t have anything like a “complete picture” of the Trump Administration’s raging incompetence in their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, yet we already know — with that limited perspective — that their incompetence isn’t just “raging”, it’s outright CRIMINAL. Imagine how much worse it will look when we DO know all the nuts and bolts details. Those details will tie THIS treachery into the LARGER Trumpian treachery — Russia. Perspective’s funny that way. It’s like seeing part of a mosaic and thinking that’s the picture. But, then, we pull the camera back — because there’s almost always more room for perspective — and we realize how much more complex and interconnected the world is once we see how vast and complex a world it is.

A huge heaping of the blame for our collective lack of perspective sits heavily on our News Media’s lap. Their stone cold refusal to AGGREGATE the story of Donald Trump cannot go unaddressed! We just had an election where — for the first time ever in our history — a sitting POTUS was running for re-election having been impeached! And the thing he was impeached for? CHEATING in the very election he was now running in! And the cheating — that was via a foreign government’s intervention in our election — a variation on the exact same “cheating strategy” (one of them) he used in the 2016 election! You would think that would get a mention in the run up to that election. You’d think a NEWS MEDIA would want to bathe in it. They’d want to ask that candidate about it repeatedly — and the squirrelier that candidate got on the subject, the more they’d want to ask. Especially if that candidate was the sitting president!

Let’s remind ourselves what “perspective” can do. Back in the early, early days — early in the 2016 campaign, long before Trump became the GOP nominee, all the other candidates were drawing a bead on Trump. Republican mega-donor, hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer — the money behind the conservative Washington Free Beacon — supported Marco Rubio’s candidacy. The Free Beacon hired research firm Fusion GPS to do oppo on Trump. As Fusion GPS’s co-founder, former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017, the first thing Fusion GPS did upon getting hired was their “due diligence”.

They got ahold of every piece of PUBLICLY AVAILABLE material they could possibly find on Donald J. Trump: books, magazine articles, newspaper stories, radio interviews, TV show appearances — literally everything they could in order to create a picture for themselves — in order to create the perspective with which to start the investigation: what do we already KNOW about Donald Trump?

Turned out? What we KNEW — it was all there in PUBLICLY AVAILABLE material — should have set the alarm bells ringing. The former journalists at Fusion GPS saw so much likely EVIDENCE of outright criminal behavior — Trump using his bankrupt Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money — that Fusion hired former MI6 Russia desk legend Christopher Steele (and his company Orbis), to do the “research” inside Russia since, it was agreed, Steele had the best contacts inside Russia bar none.

When Fusion went “fishing” in Russia for dirt on Trump? They knew exactly where to drop their lines. And damn if there wasn’t a whole SCHOOL of treason swimming around. The reason Chris Steele worked so hard to put his dossier of RAW INTELLIGENCE under the right noses was because those noses needed the perspective that raw intel would provide. Was everything in the dossier guaranteed verifiable? Of course not — IT’S RAW INTELLIGENCE. You have to understand what it is and how you need to look at it. There are few smoking guns in this world but plenty of smoke. You have to look for where the smoke is thickest — and make educated guesses from there.

The news media glommed onto the most sensational of the stories in Steele’s work product — the Moscow hotel room and the hookers peeing on each other while Trump watched (maybe or maybe not screaming about Trump and his race). The news media — having zero perspective — assumed that if that one story wasn’t spot on, one hundred percent correctomundo, then every last bit of Steele’s RAW INTELLIGENCE could be discounted. Oy!

Now, the people most intent on undermining the dossier’s authenticity (after Trump) have been almost the entire Republican Party. That, after all, was the whole point of dragging Glenn Simpson before the Senate Judiciary Committee (controlled then as now by Republicans hell bent on interfering with any oversight) — not to get at how true the dossier was or wasn’t but to completely undermine every last vestige of any reliability. People obstructing justice aren’t doing it “just because”. They’re doing it because what the rest of us call “justice” scares the snot out of them.

To this day — more than a MONTH after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 Presidential Election, almost every Congressional Republican (minus 27!) STILL refuses to acknowledge that fact. The news media gazes at that fact, utterly baffled by it. They scratch their heads so hard, as they contemplate it, that they’ve begun to carve divots into their skulls. “Why do the Republicans continue to go along with Trump?” “Don’t they realize what they’re doing to their own legacies?”

If the news media had aggregated this story — adding to it every day, adding to WHAT WE KNOW and then building upon that knowledge base to MOVE THE STORY FORWARD — Donald Trump would not have survived the primaries. His whole candidacy would have gone up in “Mexicans are rapists” flames. That’s because the Trump heading down the gold escalator would NOT have been seen as the “successful businessman” and “master negotiator” that Mark Burnett INVENTED for “The Apprentice”, he would have been seen as the racist, bankrupt FAILURE he was. If the news media had done the same due diligence Fusion GPS had done, they’d have thrown “and likely criminal” into the mix too.

The instant Team Biden takes over at the Department of Justice, our whole perspective on the Trump years will begin to change appreciably. For starters, the DoJ will be re-dedicated to serving Justice and not as a corrupt president’s consigliere. It won’t be a question of should we or should we not prosecute Trump and the entire Republican Party for their transgressions. The SECOND Trump stops being POTUS, he WILL be indicted. He’s already BEEN indicted — but, because he’s been the sitting president, that indictment has gone un-delivered. It WILL get delivered now. And then the litigation-prosecution-punishment merry-go-round will begin. It might never stop.

Donald Trump will not go down alone. He won’t. He won’t keep his mouth shut. He won’t keep his secrets or anyone else’s because those are all worth something to him now. And, don’t forget, he’s not a “master negotiator”, he’s a horrible one. He’s all tells. And Republicans have known at least since before the convention that Trump (and other Republicans) were dirty, dirty, DIRTY when it came to Russia. As current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy put it in 2016, just before the convention, as he entered a meeting of the GOP leadership: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”.

The correct response to such a statement should have been “Whaaaaaat? Kevin, why do you say that? Why do you even THINK that, dude?” Even if the connections Kevin made were tenuous, that they could have been possible should have guided their actions — that is, if Kevin or then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan or any of the other GOP leaders present had had an ounce of integrity. They didn’t, of course.

The Republican Party has known all along the Trump was dirty. They’ve known all along that THEY are dirty. Why, it’s even been REPORTED IN THE NEWSPAPERS. All one has to do — to benefit from that fact — is READ.

Remember the Mueller Report? Same damned thing. The Report itself says one thing but Bill Barr — and then every single Republican — said it said something else entirely. How does one gain perspective in such a situation? YOU READ THE REPORT! And, if you’re even a semi-literate journalist, you get: inside this NARROW SLICE of the Trump-Russia story, it was hard to say with certainty whether or not Donald Trump and his presidential campaign were guilty of crimes (connected to Wikileaks and how information flowed from and to it) — though there’s significant evidence suggesting it — because of all the OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE in our way. THAT is what the Report’s conclusions actually say.

It’s what Robert Mueller himself TESTIFIED to when he answered Congress’s questions July 24, 2019.

Imagine, if you will, where we’d be if the news media had simply added those two pieces of information to the knowledge base they reported from: 1) the Republicans knew Trump had a criminal relationship with Russia and 2) they consistently denied that fact and were actively covering it up. That’s with the Perspective Meter turned down super low so it only catches the most OBVIOUS takeaways.

Our news media — its head stuck deeply up its own “Both Sides Do It” ass — STILL thinks Donald Trump might could go on to “build a media empire” or “run again in 2024” as if we were going to simply deny that anything even remotely CRIMINAL or TREASONOUS happened — as if we were all just going to stand here denying the truth. Even if criminal charges only ever got leveled because we need to prosecute Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic response (and all his friends who got rich off it), it will touch EVERY SINGLE MEMBER of the Trump family. They’ve all profited!

It’s strange — having perspective — when you compare notes with someone who doesn’t. Talk about not reading from the same hymnal. You ain’t even in the same house of worship. But then, that someone experiences a revelation or a catharsis. They open their damned eyes. And they put down the nonsense and read from the real “Good Book” — reality.

Here’s the reality: if we don’t hold Donald Trump, the GOP as an institution and every single Republican responsible for attempting a literal coup d’etat, we will get to experience “Slavery, The Sequel” — a terrible, immoral misjudgment that can never and will never sit right. Perversely, our current crisis is very much a product of not outlawing slavery at the outset. Institutionalized racism (“All men are created equal” did not mean “all men” — or even “all people”) was America’s original sin. It haunts us to this day.

The Republican Party is trying to perpetuate that racism via permanent minority rule. Why else would you BEG state legislators in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan to overlook the popular vote in their states to IMPOSE Donald Trump upon them? Ignore the voters because they voted AGAINST racism — that’s what they’re selling.

The news media though continues to scratch its head, unsure still if what they’re seeing IS indeed racism. There’s an old joke we used to tell on the schoolyard. Kid sees a pile of what could be poop on the street. He picks it up. Sniffs. Smells like poop. Has a lick. Uh huh — tastes like poop, too. He puts it back down on the street and continues on: “Sure glad I didn’t step in it!”

Hey, News Media: you’ve already stepped in it. Pick up some perspective. You won’t make the same mistake again.

“Both Sides Do It” Journalism Is Immoral; It Needs To STOP

I just watched morning host Cris Jansing — while interviewing fellow host Joe Scarborough about his Harry Truman bio — ask if Joe DiGenova (one of Donald Trump’s LAWYERS!) suggesting execution for people with whom they disagree politically was just “some strategy”. The obvious answer is “No, of COURSE that’s not just “some strategy”. Wanting to execute people with whom you disagree is monstrous. It’s evil and indefensible. Yet Chris Jansing called it a “strategy”. What if executing political foes WAS a Trumpian strategy? What would Chris Jansing call it then? What would Chris call such an immoral strategy? Would she break down and call it “immoral”?

She should. But, the fact that we don’t know that she would? That’s as much a reflection on Chris as it is the school of journalism she practices: “Both Sides Do It”.

Journalists need skepticism in their tool belt. Too many think cynicism is just another brand of skepticism. It’s not. They’re two very different things. A skeptical journalist wants receipts for everything — or, hopefully, enough good circumstantial evidence that “equals” a receipt. A cynical journalist just flat out assumes the worst possible outcome because everyone’s a scumbag. End of story.

From that point of view, a thief is a thief is a thief no matter the scope of the thievery. Bernie Madoff stealing billions (albeit mostly from millionaires) is exactly the same as, say, Jean Valjean (the hero of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables) stealing bread to feed hungry people. A thief is a thief is a thief: both sides do it. Except, really, they don’t. Scale matters. Motivation matters. Patterns of behavior matter.

Yet something in “Both Sides Do It” can’t aggregate anything. While assuming the worst of people, it doesn’t aggregate the “worst” — the reasons for thinking the worst. So, if Donald Trump says “pussy grabbing” after insisting that “Mexicans are rapists”, “Both Sides Do It” journalism doesn’t add those two together. By the time Trump said “pussy grabbing”, most “Both Sides Do It” journalists had already forgotten “Mexicans are rapists” as if some “other” offensive candidate had said it.

That’s the normalization process at work. By the time Trump got to “pussy grabbing”, “Both Sides Do It” journalists had already normalized “Mexicans are rapists”. It was just something a “different kind of potus candidate” says. And, eventually — the kind of thing a different kind of potus says. To normalize evil is to be evil. That’s because evil never compromises with anyone. People always compromise with IT. And the moment you do? It’s “game over”. Evil just won.

Among “Both Sides Do It’s” worst offenders is NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell.

Kelly is an award-winning journalist. She’s respected by other journalists. That’s a problem. She’s not just terrible at her job, she’s immoral and every time she gets on camera, she spews immoral journalism at us. Kelly thinks her job is to faithfully report whatever Donald Trump or his administration says without editorializing. In “normal world”, reporting about a “normal administration”, that would be one thing. That has NEVER been the case here. Reporting lies you KNOW are lies without FIRST pointing out that they’re lies is journalistic malpractice at best.

Is there a line in the sand for Kelly? Is there something Trump might say that was so deliberately cruel and egregiously incorrect that even Kelly might hesitate before repeating it? For instance — what if Trump spewed “And, by the way — people tell me Kelly O’Donnell eats children for breakfast!”? Would Kelly O repeat the president’s words faithfully because, well, “they’re the president’s words”? Or would Kelly O FINALLY draw a line in the sand?

Would Kelly O think “Hey, wait a minute — I KNOW I don’t eat children for breakfast (too much cholesterol!)” Would she say to herself “If I repeat these words, people might think they’re true — that I really DO eat children for breakfast!”? Would she put her foot down finally and say “Mister President, NO! I refuse to repeat what you just said because it’s bullshit!”?

I wouldn’t hold my breath. I guess that makes me cynical where Kelly O is concerned.

Yeah, okay — ya got me. I have zero faith that reporters/hosts like Kelly O’Donnell or Chuck Todd or John King or Wolf Blitzer or Andrea Mitchell or Alex Witt or Kris Jansen will ever bring enough perspective with them to work each day to evolve. Even as the Chuck Todd’s shake their heads in consternation, unable to fathom why Trump or Republicans do the seemingly inexplicable things they do, they’re looking for ways Democrats do the exact same things.

Except Democrats don’t do the exact same things. If Democrats did the exact same things as Republicans, they’d BE Republicans. We don’t. We never have. We’re still every bit the same group of whom Will Rogers said “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”. Diversity doesn’t not march in lock step. It does the opposite; that’s its strength. “E Pluribus Unum” — out of many, one — preaches the opposite of “Both Sides Do It”. There are no “both sides”. There’s OUR side. The American side.

We are engaged in a Great Moral Struggle. The American People didn’t just “vote Trump out of office”, we repudiated him. More Americans voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris than have ever voted for any presidential ticket — and by a margin of over six million votes. As for Trump’s number, let’s stick a pin in it. As any journalist with an ounce of perspective would tell you, when Donald Trump complains about something, whining about it relentlessly, pay attention to it: he’s projecting his guilt. If Trump’s accusing Democrats of voter machine fraud, it’s because HE’S COMMITTING IT HIMSELF.

As I wrote here, when you “own” the machines, when you have full backdoor access to them, when you your political interests are tied in to one of the two parties whose elections you’re always tallying — and your business is completely unregulated — it offers opportunities to the less scrupulous. People avoiding transparency (could Diebold and ESS — who make the majority of American voting machines — have tried any harder to resist hand-marked paper ballots for security reasons?) shouldn’t be given a pass just because they’re white, Christian guys running a business. But “Both Sides Do It” journalism refuses to aggregate or judge a story. They get the pass every stinking time.

One could probably count the number of times on one hand that ANY American broadcast journalist or news show host reminded their audience before a segment that Donald Trump was the FIRST POTUS EVER to run for re-election HAVING BEEN IMPEACHED for CHEATING in the very election he was now running in. It’s never happened before. It’s truly extraordinary.

And yet — it never even made it INTO most news stories about the election. Both sides DON’T get impeached for cheating in elections. Both sides don’t get impeached over blow jobs either but that’s a whole other story.

I have to wonder. If we transported the bulk of American journalists from today back to Germany in 1931, how would they “represent”? Would they sniff out Hitler for the monster he was? Or would they “Both Sides Do It”? Would Hitler’s authoritarian violence just be the “Both Sides Do It” counter to those pesky communists protesting? People did see Hitler for who and what he was. Just not enough people in the right places.

That’s what makes “Both Sides Do It” journalism so dangerous to our democracy. Its lack of perspective isn’t just a character flaw, it’s a fatal one. It TURNS political behavior INTO innocuous behavior when Republicans suppress Democratic voters and turns a victim reporting a crime into political behavior when Democrats react to having their votes suppressed. When journalists refuse to judge these acts — and call them what they are up front — crime and crime victim become one and the same thing.

Both sides do NOT do it. They never have. They never will.

Racists Don’t Get To Decide “If” They’re Racists And Illegitimate Politicians Don’t Get To Claim They’re “Legitimate”

Racism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not for the racist to say whether or not he’s racist — how the hell would he know if he’s racist or not? He hasn’t the perspective; that’s why it’s up to the racist’s victim — the person the racist behaved in a racist way toward — to say whether or not racism occurred. They get to say “That was racist!” or it wasn’t. The same goes for political legitimacy. You can claim it — but it’s not yours to bestow.

The Washington Post is reporting that even now, Donald Trump weeps to himself “I won, I won, I won” like the dumbest kid on a losing peewee soccer team. It doesn’t turn the losing peewee soccer team into winners either. This time, we were clever enough to vote in numbers so large they outpaced Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s blatant attempts to steal the result from the majority as they did in 2016. Or — alternative theory: did the Republicans willfully use the voting machines to pad their totals in key Senate and House races (easy enough to do, hard to catch if you don’t compare all the numbers to see the anomalies) but not in the presidential race?

Think of it from Moscow Mitch McConnell’s point of view. Having Trump around your neck is a burden-and-a-half. You’ve accomplished your mission: you’ve hijacked the federal judiciary with lifetime appointments that should set America back a generation while keeping most of the real power in America concentrated into the minority rule-ing hands of the Republicans. Who needs the daily tsoris (that’s the technical term) of Trump yanking everyone’s chain this way and that? While Mitch and the Republicans can’t betray Trump directly (he’s got too much hold over them, too much kompromat, I’m guessing, or too much knowledge of how deep their criminal complicity runs), the American People could — via an election — solve their problem FOR them.

As we just did.

Every single Republican knows that Joe Biden’s win was 100% legit. Every single Republican either knows or suspects that Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 WAS NOT. How could Trump’s win be “legit” if people like current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan suspected even before the GOP convention THAT DONALD TRUMP WAS DIRTY and likely taking money from Vladimir Putin. Putin — let’s remind the class — was actively engaged in a cyber war against us at that very moment.

From that moment on, not a single Republican could honestly say Donald Trump’s campaign was legitimate. They sure have worked hard, the Republicans, to keep Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia and Vlad Putin a secret. These aren’t things that make you go “Hmmmmm…”, these are things that make you go: “I get it”. But then, political legitimacy is not a thing you can claim for yourself. In a democratic republic like ours, legitimacy flows from We The People. We grant the legitimacy and authority required to govern us via our votes. If we do not or did not grant you such legitimacy? You do not have it.

If you STEAL an election result — as Donald Trump and the Republican Party did in 2016 — literally giving the majority of voters the diametric OPPOSITE of what they voted for — you cannot claim to govern legitimately. You can call yourself “the president” all you like. In point of fact, you are not the president. You’re using the power gained via your illegitimate power grab to call yourself “president” but the facts say something else. And the facts are about to land on your head.

The Republicans have done everything in their power to avoid oversight and use their offices to help Donald Trump undermine our democracy. Even now, the majority of Congressional Republicans have refused to acknowledge Joe Biden’s legitimacy — as if that would deny it to him. That, in poker, is called a tell. It’s the Republicans acknowledging very quietly that they know that THEY lack legitimacy.

But then, that’s so on-brand for Republicans — claiming to be one thing (patriots, say) while in fact being another (traitors).

That’s why traitors or criminals or Republicans don’t get to say whether or not they are patriots. That’s for others to say. If Republicans feel so compelled though to talk about themselves, there are plenty of things they could confess to. We The People will be happy to listen. But then, pirates like the Republican Party aren’t exactly down with contrition.

They’re not down with legitimacy either. It’s too hard. Requires too much work. Too much honesty and integrity. For criminals, it’s just easier to do whatever works — to put money that isn’t theirs into their pockets and power that isn’t theirs into their hands. Republicans are all children, their mouths crammed with cookies, a cookie in each hand, insisting that, no, they don’t know anything about any stolen cookies.

Then they puke up the whole jar.

It’s The Corruption, Stupid!

The “Ragin’ Cajun”, James Carville, coined “(It’s) The economy, stupid!” during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. Why would people vote one way(for Bill Clinton) vs the other (for GW Bush)? Back then, in those heady, carefree days (relatively speaking), the economy was our biggest, baddest problem. Oh, the luxury of only having to deal with one mega-crisis at a time! Nowadays — in Donald Trump’s America, every day brings a whole new mega-crisis. Or it seems to. If we’d just pull the lens back as far as we can so we could see Donald Trump, the GOP, election 2016 and election 2020 with the widest possible perspective — we’d see that, really, just like in 1992, we’re only facing ONE mega-crisis: Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party was the GOP’s final and total surrender to the corruption that’s been stalking it… well, forever.

The Republican Party prides itself on being the Big Money Party. Anyone in class today who thinks money doesn’t corrupt? Anyone who doesn’t think that the more money there is the more likely corruption there is? Good. Everyone’s a realist then. That helps.

Politicians and the money that owns them rely on corruption to have their way because relying on the majority of voters to vote for their ideas is pointless. The majority of Americans want the OPPPOSITE of what corrupt Republicans want. That’s why the majority voted the way it did in 2016 and 2020. Let’s stop pretending that the Electoral College reflects anything other than how slavery would vote. In 2016, the Republican Party managed to use both slavery’s vote and a silent vote from Russia to overcome the majority’s will. When you factor in the fact that Russia is and has been waging CYBER WAR against us, you can only conclude that Republicans were SO desperate to win that they even resorted to TREASON.

We The People felt corruption’s grip on us the instant 2016 was called for Trump. Democrats felt (rightfully) cheated of the result THEY’D WON in 2000 when Antonin Scalia stepped in and STOPPED the vote counting in Florida, crafting a mountain of bullshit into an argument that completely contradicted the very originalism he’s been selling from the trunk of his car like hot merchandise. Bush v Gore is the picture portrait of bullshit. Al Gore didn’t concede because he thought he lost to W. He conceded for the good of the country.

In retrospect, OY!

Corruption got us again. It caused us to make a terrible decision; we chose appeasement. Compromise. But, while WE compromised with corruption, corruption did not compromise with us. It simply caused us to NORMALIZE that much more corruption. It caused us to grow that much more cynical about ourselves and our democracy. Want to know why so many Americans went into the streets the moment it became a fact that Joe Biden was President-Elect? Because we’re sick to death of Donald Trump and the corruption he imposed onto our lives.

Remember: we did not vote for Trump. We voted against him. We voted against what he’s doing to us, to our Allies, to the planet.

Our news media needs to stop framing the Donald Trump story from corruption’s point of view as if corruption was just “another way of doing business”. It’s only “another way” if we let it be. If we put our collective foot down every time corruption reared its ugly head, corruption would quickly learn — don’t rear your ugly head (it could get stepped on)! But, when you indulge the boy who cries wolf every time he falsely cries wolf (without ever making him pay a price for doing it), he will cry wolf every chance he gets. If our news media would stop giving credence to the boy crying wolf — if they’d see him for what he is (a fraud) — maybe they’d turn their attention to more important parts of the story.

Like the fact that he’s a traitor.

Oh, What A Tangled Web We Weave When We’re A Corrupt Treason Turtle

When the story of our times gets written — with the perspective of history — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be infamous as one of America’s worst traitors ever. Moscow Mitch’s name will replace Benedict Arnold’s as the epithet Americans use to call other Americans “traitor”. Mitch still thinks he’s on a grand crusade to re-cast the judiciary as the last bastion of white, Christian male hegemony.

That grand plan isn’t Mitch’s. Mitch McConnell doesn’t do grand plans. He’s a functionary. A petty politician doing the dirty working for Big Money Interests. The Big Money has the grand plans — an unfair world where they all get richer while the rest of us fall further behind, our debt growing, our health failing.

Mitch is their bitch. His job — manifest these terrible, repressive, regressive grand plans into our reality.

That’s why Mitch worked so hard to deny Barack Obama all those federal bench openings. It’s why Mitch denied Obama so much as a hearing for Merrick Garland. Mitch was in the middle of pleasing his masters — of hijacking the judiciary on the sly. Here’s the thing: the popular vote reflects the majority’s voice. Barack Obama was the majority’s voice and choice — to fill every judicial vacancy during his tenure. Our voice and choice was denied us by Mitch McConnell — for the benefit of his masters. That is not hyperbole.

And this is not how our democracy is supposed to work. Not according to the rules or the rule of law.

In addition to destroying the judiciary, Mitch also has destroyed the Senate. Anyone suggesting the Democrats aren’t showing enough comity toward their Republican co-workers needs to shut up. Comity will be reserved for whatever party replaces the Republicans. No one who calls himself “A Republican” can do so without also being a Trumpist. Trumpism & Republicanism are now equal in every way.

Mitch has operated in the shadows for most of his career. He’s about to end his career in the spotlight. That is, his corruption is.

The Democrats are about to retake the Senate. What was a likelihood before is now a dead certainty. RBG’s passing — even without all the additional political baggage — would have moved people to action. It would have motivated tens of millions of women at the very least. Now it’s a question of Legacy. And reproductive rights. And basic health.

What happened in 2018 — that massive blue “wave” — wasn’t a wave. It was the leading edge of a much larger wave. The Trump years have torn every last bit of cover off our various failings. Remember — we didn’t vote for this, this was forced on us. Donald Trump — with massive Russian assistance — stole the outcome of election 2016. Together they stole our intention — what WE wanted this country to do for our benefit and in our name. Their aim is to make that theft permanent.

Their problem: America’s women aren’t down with and aren’t going to be. Ever. That’s Mitch McConnell’s biggest miscalculation of all.

Mitch, when he’s done, will have finished the hard work of turning America’s women into the most potent, dynamic, unstoppable political force in America. He’ll be shocked by how socialist they are by nature. Of course women are more “socialist” — they care above all about their babies and they KNOW from pure experience that it DOES take a “village” to raise a child — of family members and community members and teachers and mentors and coaches and friends. The healthier and happier that village is, the healthier and happier their babies will be.

Women — and I’m generalizing, but biology does impact us in particular ways — think communally — and seek the group’s wisdom before making a decision while men think they alone can fix it. If we look at the current world leaders and how they’ve handled the pandemic, the women — Angela Merkle in Germany, Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand — did especially well in both protecting their people but also protecting their economies.

I’ll go further onto this limb. Merkle and Ardern’s success relative to Trump’s stems in large part from their political and personal strengths and skills but also, to a measurable degree, from their chromosomes. They have a little more empathy baked into their genetics. That radiates in the form of humanity — and then policy.

America truly stands on the precipice. We will go one way or the other. There’s no middle route.

Either Mitch McConnell will see the rot he introduced succeed or Mitch will fail spectacularly with dire, terrible consequences for every single Republican legislator who had the least inkling what Mitch was up to. Keep in mind — Mitch is a traitor. That’s not hyperbole either. He’s taken gobs of Russian money into his campaign coffers (though legally via his PAC but not-so-legally with added perspective), denied We The People the knowledge that Russia was fixing the 2016 election for Trump, canned the sanctions Obama implemented BECAUSE of that election interference and TO THIS DAY has refused to spend a penny on election security.

Mitch McConnell is one of the biggest traitors in all American history. And THAT isn’t hyperbole.

It’s vitally important that we not only punish Mitch McConnell for what he’s done but that we punish him to the very fullest extent the rule of law allows. We need to make an example out of Mitch for all time. We need to send the lesson that, perhaps, would have been sent had we punished Richard Nixon instead of pardoning him — abuse of power (especially at the executive level) is wholly unacceptable.

Mitch is already the architect of his own downfall. We owe it to Mitch to see that those plans get carried out all the way.