Opinion | Smearing Robert Mueller – By Nancy Gertner – NYT

By Nancy Gertner
Ms. Gertner is a retired federal judge.

“April 18, 2018Was Robert Mueller, the special counsel, complicit in one of the worst scandals in the F.B.I.’s history — the decades-long wrongful imprisonment of four men for a murder they didn’t commit?

This question, which has been raised before, is being addressed again — this time by some of President Trump’s most ardent supporters on the right, especially Fox News’s Sean Hannity but also Rush Limbaugh and others. My friend Alan Dershowitz, the retired Harvard Law School professor, has also weighed in.

In an April 8 interview with John Catsimatidis on his New York radio show, Mr. Dershowitz asserted that Mr. Mueller was “the guy who kept four innocent people in prison for many years in order to protect the cover of Whitey Bulger as an F.B.I. informer.” Mr. Mueller, he said, was “right at the center of it.” Mr. Bulger was a notorious crime boss in Boston, the head of the Winter Hill Gang, and also a secret source for the F.B.I.

There is no evidence that the assertion is true. I was the federal judge who presided over a successful lawsuit brought against the government by two of those men and the families of the other two, who had died in prison. Based on the voluminous evidence submitted in the trial, and having written a 105-page decision awarding them $101.8 million, I can say without equivocation that Mr. Mueller, who worked in the United States attorney’s office in Boston from 1982 to 1988, including a brief stint as the acting head of the office, had no involvement in that case. He was never even mentioned.”

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Opinion | Horror of Being Governed by ‘Fox & Friends’ – by Charles Blow – NYT

“This show, with its kindergarten-level intellectual capacity, moved from parroting conservative policies to constructing presidential priorities. “Fox & Friends” has essentially become Donald Trump’s daily briefing.

Countless media outlets have written and talked about the strangely intense connection between Trump and the show.As The Guardian put it, “The show manages to serve as a court sycophant, whispering in the ear of the king, criticizing his perceived enemies and fluffing his feathers.”

Politico Magazine concurred, saying the show “feels intentionally designed for Trump himself — a three-hour, high-definition ego fix.”And the impact that the show is having on Trump is undeniable. Dan Snow, a master’s student at the University of Chicago, analyzed the president’s tweets and found that they are highly concentrated in the hours when the show is on.As Politico wrote, Trump is “live-tweeting” Fox’s coverage. Vox noted that at times he seems to be tweeting precisely what he sees on the show, sometimes even using their exact language.”

Yes and thank you. Here are two of my favorite comments:

ChristineMcM
Massachusetts

“As The Guardian put it,
“The show manages to serve as a court sycophant, whispering in the ear of the king, criticizing his perceived enemies and fluffing his feathers.”

I’ve watched snippets of this inane show selected by other networks to make a point.

It makes me groan to see these two idiotically grinning males with a buxom leggy blond scrunched between them, on this stupid white couch.

Why the couch? Why the lack of notes, pads, papers, pens, mics, you know–the tools of the trade?

It’s unnerving to think this particular show and network are so widely watched given its shallowness fact-free content.

But it does explain what has to be said, which is just when you think America can’t get any dumber, all you need to watch is FOX to find that’s not true either.

If the president merely watched the network it would be bad enough, but that he tweets its talking points and hires its “commentators” for his administration is downright frightening.

Yes, Charles, you nailed it: Fox & Friends is the president’s daily briefing–just not condensed for his limited attention span but expanded to meet his insatiable desire for validation.

But by whom? When I was a girl, my mother used to say, “consider the source” when I complained about what kids were saying at school.

America, consider the source.

Socrates
Socrates
Downtown Verona. NJ

“All this was inspired by the principle – which is quite true in itself – that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. “

Mein Kampf (and Fox and Friends and Daycare Donnie)

Grand Old Propaganda 2018

Nice GOPeople.

Opinion | The Tragedy of James Comey – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“James Comey is about to be ubiquitous. His book will be published next week, and parts may leak this week. Starting Sunday, he will begin an epic publicity tour, including interviews with Stephen Colbert, David Remnick, Rachel Maddow, Mike Allen, George Stephanopoulos and “The View.”All of which will raise the question: What, ultimately, are we supposed to make of Comey?

He may be the most significant supporting player of the Trump era, and his reputation has whipsawed over the last two years. He’s spent time as a villain, a savior and some bizarre combination of the two, depending on your political views.I think that the harshest criticisms of Comey have been unfair all along. He has never been a partisan, for either side. Over a long career at the Justice Department, he was driven by its best ideals: upholding the rule of law without fear or favor. His strengths allowed him to resist political pressure from more than one president of the United States.

Yet anybody who’s read Greek tragedy knows that strengths can turn into weaknesses when a person becomes too confident in those strengths. And that’s the key to understanding the very complex story of James Comey.”

Yes, and thank you. Readers must read the ending of this piece to get its tragic ending, Comey folley, for which he will never be forgiven.
Here are the most popular two comments I endorsed:
Cat Glickman
ArizonaApril 8
As a prosecutor and a Clinton voter, I have terribly mixed feelings about Comey. He did Americans enormous good by stopping Bush & Cheney. He also demonstrated admirable honor & intelligence in refusing to flatter Trump or accede to his demands & in memorializing those interviews right after they happened.
But Comey’s decision to publicly announce why he was not recommending charges against Clinton was just wrong – it is not the cop’s call to make & he clearly did it for self-aggrandizement. As a prosecutor i was dumbfounded – he was so clearly out-of-bounds. But the real damage was done when he announced he was re-opening the investigation. It is very hard to believe he did not make that announcement with intent to influence the election, & there is no doubt that he did it knowing that it would affect the election.

7 Replies 848 Recommended

J
Judith
ny11h ago
Robert Mueller seems to be the only Republican in Washington that knows exactly what he’s supposed to do, is doing it well, and sees no need for public display UNTIL it’s time to present the next result of his investigation. He clearly knows the difference between serious investigation and show business. I wish there were more like him.

1 Reply 628 Recommended

The Republicans’ Real Fake Scandal – Outing Devin Nunes – The New York Times

“In nearly every crime-caper movie there’s a shifty guy on the street corner who, seeing the cops in hot pursuit, flips over a fruit cart to slow them down and give the culprits a chance to get away.In Trump-era Washington, that role is being played with impressive conviction by Devin Nunes, the eight-term Republican representative from California and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. Nunes, supported by a rotating coterie of conspiracists in Congress and the usual suspects on right-wing cable news, has labored to divert attention from the expanding Russia investigation by tossing out sinister-sounding allegations of wrongdoing by federal law enforcement officials.

Mr. Nunes’s act has kept alive the prospect of impeding or ending the investigation even as President Trump has backed off his efforts to fire the man in charge, the special counsel, Robert Mueller.Last year he accused top Obama administration officials of improperly “unmasking” Trump associates in intelligence reports — a charge that turned out to be baseless. No matter: The whole point of this game is to make the job of the actual investigators harder while confusing the public about where the true scandal lies.”

DL; Is this the end of democracy as we know it, or the beginning of another renaissanace?

Everyone in Trumpworld Knows He’s an Idiot – by Michelle Goldberg – NYT

DL: Michelle Goldberg is the newest young voice to join the NYT op-ed page as a regular. What a well written piece. I couldn’t recommend any of the top comments to this essay, since they refused to even acknowledge the gifted writer which provided the platform for their add ons, mostly a pile on.

I finally got to reading my new subscription to the Wall Street Journal the other day, and was disappointed at how hateful, scornful and arrogant the lead editorial was against the Democrats, using fake news to attack the Trump administration. The polarization between the parties is the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime, and over the Vietnam war, it was ferocious.

“Trumpworld” might be misleading. It refers to his White house senior staff, cabinet and senior advisors.

“One of the more alarming anecdotes in “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s incendiary new book about Donald Trump’s White House, involves the firing of James Comey, former director of the F.B.I. It’s not Trump’s motives that are scary; Wolff reports that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were “increasingly panicked” and “frenzied” about what Comey would find if he looked into the family finances, which is incriminating but unsurprising. The terrifying part is how, in Wolff’s telling, Trump sneaked around his aides, some of whom thought they’d contained him.

“For most of the day, almost no one would know that he had decided to take matters into his own hands,” Wolff writes. “In presidential annals, the firing of F.B.I. director James Comey may be the most consequential move ever made by a modern president acting entirely on his own.” Now imagine Trump taking the same approach toward ordering the bombing of North Korea.

Wolff’s scabrous book comes out on Friday — the publication date was moved up amid a media furor — but I was able to get an advance copy. It’s already a consequential work, having precipitated a furious rift between the president and his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who told Wolff that the meeting Donald Trump Jr. brokered with Russians in the hope of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” On Thursday the president’s lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to Wolff’s publisher, Henry Holt, demanding that it stop publication, claiming, among other things, defamation and invasion of privacy. This move would be fascistic if it weren’t so farcical. (While some have raised questions about Wolff’s methods, Axios reports that he has many hours of interviews recorded.)”

Trump’s Attention Economy – by Charles Blow – NYT

“On Tuesday, Donald Trump unleashed yet another tweet storm from within his unceasing drought of competence.

In a series of 16 tweets, Trump lied, boasted, lashed out, bemoaned, provoked, belittled and prodded.In other words, Trump began this year the way he ended the last one: eroding and reducing the office of the presidency on a daily basis.His most consequential tweet was a boast about destructive power:“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Sir, this is not a missile-measuring contest. No one wants to think about the size of your button. You seem to think that the effects of a nuclear strike would be the verification of your virility rather than the loss of innumerable lives.”

Good column and comments. Here is my favorite comment, of the 10 or 15 I read.

Cathy Hopewell junction ny 6 hours ago
We are watching Trump jettison the people who coached him into power, and to try to contain an investigation into the lives of the people he has not yet fired. He exposed his family to harm, by giving them roles they don’t understand in a game they don’t know how to play. And it looks like the Russians, who do know how to play the game, are winning.

And the rest of us suffer. I now understand how it feels to be the hero in a Greek tragedy, who suffers at the hands of capricious gods, for no real reason at all, except that they felt the hero got too uppity. Government is something inflicted upon us, and we can take the consequences, or turn ourselves into laurel trees.

And it is important to understand, if Greek tragedy is our model, not to depend on Mueller to be our Deus Ex Machina, Gods never descend to save the day until it is too late.

217 Recommended

How the Republicans Broke Congress – by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein – NYT

“In the past three days, Republican leaders in the Senate scrambled to corral votes for a tax bill that the Joint Committee on Taxation said would add $1 trillion to the deficit — without holding any meaningful committee hearings. Worse, Republican leaders have been blunt about their motivation: to deliver on their promises to wealthy donors, and down the road, to use the leverage of huge deficits to cut and privatize Medicare and Social Security.

Congress no longer works the way it’s supposed to. But we’ve said that before.Eleven years ago, we published a book called “The Broken Branch,” which we subtitled “How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track.” Embedded in that subtitle were two assumptions: first, that Congress as an institution — which is to say, both parties, equally — is at fault; and second, that the solution is readily at hand. In 2017, the Republicans’ scandalous tax bill is only the latest proof that both assumptions are wrong.”

This is too acurate and articulate to be boring, but it is a painful review.

Here is are some popular comments that I endorse:

ChristineMcM
 is a trusted commenter Massachusetts 1 day ago

“If in 2006 one could cast aspersions on both parties, over the past decade it has become clear that it is the Republican Party — as an institution, as a movement, as a collection of politicians — that has done unique, extensive and possibly irreparable damage to the American political system.”

This is a fine historical retrospective. I spent a good part of my life in NJ as a moderate William Safire Republican.
After moving to Massachusetts in ’06, I gradually liberalized my views; the coup de grace was the GOP’s intense rude and racially motivated obstruction of President Barack Obama.

In 2011, a year after Citizens United, the Tea Party, and the the shut-down wars of Ted Cruz I registered as a Democrat, vowing never again vote Republican.

I agree with the authors that since 2012, Mitch McConnell has presided over a series of breathtaking moves, from holding a Supreme Court appointment hostage for over 9 months, restricting voter rights, and enabling the corrupt, autocratic behavior of Donald Trump.

Citizens United began the wreckage of America and today’s GOP is a cynical, calculating, and intensely greedy bunch. Every day another pillar of democracy falls, the latest being a race to pass a unilateral tax bill that rewards donors, creates permanent oligarchy, and destroys retirement programs middle class voters have paid in their working years.

The GOP seeks permanent power and is doing everything they can, including packing the courts, to make it happen.

Robert

Seattle 1 day ago

An eloquent and forceful expression that probably captures the clear majority of Americans’ dismay and outrage. I wish I could feel that Republicans would read it, reflect on what it says about their behavior, and act to reclaim at least some of their shattered moral and ethical standing. But I hold out no hope at all for that to happen–and that speaks to the correctness of this piece, and to the dreadful (and I think permanent) harm they have done. The Republicans have essentially said to America what the Athenians said to the citizens of Melos, before slaughtering the males: “The strong do what they will; the weak suffer what they must.” In Thucydides’ account, this was certainly a profound fall from grace for a city-state that laid claim to ethical and reasonable standing among the Greeks–and the Republican party essentially stands with bloody swords over the helpless American body politic today. I for one will never forget, and never forgive, this despicable murder of our expectations of decency and fairness.

 

David Lindsay:  I am a big fan of Chritine McMorrow, and often repost her comments, rather than struggling with my own. Her comment that she was a William Safire Reublican made we look up William Safire. There is a very professional article about him in Wikipedia. Here is a large part of that article:

Early life[edit]

Safire was born William Lewis Safir in New York City, New York, the son of Ida (née Panish) and Oliver Craus Safir.[3][4] His family was Jewish, and originated in Romania on his father’s side.[5] Safire later added the “e” to his surname for pronunciation reasons, though some of his relatives continue to use the original spelling.

Safire graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, a specialized public high school in New York City. He attended Syracuse University but dropped out after two years. He delivered the commencement address at Syracuse in 1978 and 1990, and became a trustee of the university.

Career[edit]

William Safire memo to H. R. Haldeman to be used in the event that Apollo 11 ended in disaster.

He was a public relations executive from 1955 to 1960. Previously, he had been a radio and television producer and an Armycorrespondent. He worked as a publicist for a homebuilder who exhibited a model home at an American trade fair at Sokolniki Park in Moscow in 1959—the one in which Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev had their famous Kitchen Debate. A widely circulated black-and-white photograph of the event was taken by Safire.[6] Safire joined Nixon’s campaign for the 1960 Presidential race, and again in 1968. After Nixon’s 1968 victory, Safire served as a speechwriter for him and for Spiro Agnew; he is well known for having created Agnew’s famous term, “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

Safire prepared a speech called In Event of Moon Disaster for President Nixon to read on television if the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon.[7] According to the plans, Mission Control would “close down communications” with the LEM and a clergyman would have commended their souls to “the deepest of the deep” in a public ritual likened to burial at sea. Presidential telephone calls to the astronauts’ wives were also planned. The speech originated in a memo from Safire to Nixon’s chief of staff H. R. Haldeman in which Safire suggested a protocol the administration might follow in reaction to such a disaster.[8][9] The last line of the prepared text contained an allusion to Rupert Brooke‘s First World War poem “The Soldier“.[9] In a 2013 piece for Foreign Policy magazine, Joshua Keating included the speech as one of six entries in a list of “The Greatest Doomsday Speeches Never Made.”[10]

He joined The New York Times as a political columnist in 1973. Soon after joining the Times, Safire learned that he had been the target of “national security” wiretaps authorized by Nixon, and, after noting that he had worked only on domestic matters, wrote with what he characterized as “restrained fury” that he had not worked for Nixon through a difficult decade “to have him—or some lizard-lidded paranoid acting without his approval—eavesdropping on my conversations.”[11]

In 1978, Safire won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary on Bert Lance‘s alleged budgetary irregularities; in 1981, Lance was acquitted by a jury on all nine charges. Safire’s column on October 27, 1980, entitled “The Ayatollah Votes”, was quoted in a campaign ad for Ronald Reagan in that year’s presidential election.[12]

Safire also frequently appeared on the NBC‘s Meet the Press.

Upon announcing the retirement of Safire’s political column in 2005, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of The New York Times, said:

The New York Times without Bill Safire is all but unimaginable, Bill’s provocative and insightful commentary has held our readers captive since he first graced our Op-Ed Page in 1973. Reaching for his column became a critical and enjoyable part of the day for our readers across the country and around the world. Whether you agreed with him or not was never the point, his writing is delightful, informed and engaging.

Safire served as a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board from 1995 to 2004. After ending his op-ed column, he became the full-time chief executive of the Dana Foundation, where he was chairman from 2000. In 2006, Safire was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.

Portions of Safire’s FBI file were released in 2010. The documents “detail wiretapping ordered by the Nixon administration, including the tapping of Safire’s phone.”[13]

Writing on English[edit]

In addition to his political columns, Safire wrote a column, “On Language“, in the weekly The New York Times Magazine from 1979 until the month of his death. Many of the columns were collected in books.[2] According to the linguist Geoffrey Pullum, over the years he became less of a “grammar-nitpicker,” and Benjamin Zimmer cited his willingness to learn from descriptive linguists.[14] Another book on language was The New Language of Politics (1968),[2] which developed into what Zimmer called Safire’s “magnum opus,” Safire’s Political Dictionary.[15]

Political views[edit]

Safire described himself as a “libertarian conservative.” A Washington Post story on the ending of his op-ed column quotes him on the subject:

I’m willing to zap conservatives when they do things that are not libertarian. [After the 9/11 attacks,] I was the first to really go after George W. on his treatment of prisoners.

After voting for Bill Clinton in 1992, Safire became one of the leading critics of Clinton’s administration. Hillary Clinton in particular was often the target of his ire. He caused controversy in a January 8, 1996, essay when, after reviewing her record, he concluded she was a “congenital liar”. She did not respond to the specific instances cited, but said that she didn’t feel offended for herself, but for her mother’s sake. According to the president’s press secretary at the time, Mike McCurry, “the President, if he were not the President, would have delivered a more forceful response to that on the bridge of Mr. Safire’s nose”.[16]

Safire was one of several voices who called for war with Iraq, and predicted a “quick war” and wrote: “Iraqis, cheering their liberators, will lead the Arab world toward democracy.”[17] He consistently brought up the point in his Times columns that an Iraqi intelligence agent met with Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 attackers, in Prague,[18]which he called an “undisputed fact”, a theory which was disputed by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.[19] Safire insisted that the theory was true and used it to make a case for war against Iraq. He also incorrectly predicted that “freed scientists” would lead coalition forces to “caches [of weapons of mass destruction] no inspectors could find”.[20]

Safire was staunchly pro-Israel. He received the Guardian of Zion Award of Bar-Ilan University in 2005. President George W. Bush appointed him to serve on the Honorary Delegation to accompany him to Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008.[21]

We’re All Part of Trump’s Show – by Brett Stephens – NYT

“If you want to understand the ways in which Donald Trump’s presidency is systematically corrupting the American mind, I have a book recommendation for you. It’s about Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The book is Peter Pomerantsev’s “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible.” It was published in 2014, and it brilliantly tells the story of the (Soviet-born) British author’s sojourn as a producer for Russian TV. As the title suggests, at its heart it’s the tale of the substitution of reality with “reality,” of factual truth with interpretive possibility.

That’s also the central task of Donald Trump’s presidency.”

“This is why there’s a Colosseum in Rome, and why public spectacle, theater, cinema, TV and now the internet have always been handmaids of dictators. In Russia, it’s all about casting the president as a bare-chested action hero, pumping out anti-Western conspiracy theories and serving up remakes of Western sitcoms and reality shows.

“The new Kremlin,” Pomerantsev notes, “won’t make the same mistake the old Soviet Union did: It will never let TV become dull.” Authoritarian dominion requires effective methods of mass distraction.

Trump isn’t a dictator, and his influence over media that isn’t Fox or Breitbart is negligible. But Trump does control his Twitter feed, with its 43.6 million followers. And he exerts a deeper level of control simply through his ability to bait hostile media at will with his every seemingly nutty utterance.The benefits, for Trump, are threefold: a political opposition that is exhausting itself — and much of the public — with its perpetual state of moral apoplexy; a political base that thrills to his readiness to scandalize the bien pensant; and an effective means of distraction from his electoral, legislative and foreign policy failures.

In other words, the president is conducting a kind of meta-politics, the purpose of which is to erase ordinary standards of political judgment. The question is not “How am I doin’?” as the late New York City mayor Ed Koch used to ask. It is, gladiator-like, “Are you not entertained?” Even those of us most aghast at this administration must confess we are.”

es. I just wrote this morning, that Trump is diverting attention from his tax cut bait and switch, moving wealth from the middle class to the to 5%, with his ludicrous tweets and untruths.

Here is another comment in that vain.

chambolle

Bainbridge Island 8 hours ago

Indeed. And this week, while we are being kept thoroughly diverted and amused by the clown show that is all things Trump, the Roy Moore horror show and other cheap entertainment, the GOP will pull off a magic trick: stealing about $1.5 trillion in federal tax revenues and handing them over to the nation’s wealthiest individuals and entities – courtesy of the sick, the elderly, students and others who will be bled and have nothing to say in the matter.

Oh, by the way, does anyone remember that $1.5 trillion federal infrastructure restoration and improvement program touted by both parties during the 2016 campaigns? Shucks, I guess we can no longer afford that, either. Unless your name is Ponzi, you can’t spend the same $1.5 trillion twice.

Robert Mercer- Bannon Patron- Is Leaving Helm of $50 Billion Hedge Fund – The New York Times

“Robert Mercer, a billionaire investor and top financial backer of conservative causes, is stepping down as co-chief executive of Renaissance Technologies, as the giant hedge fund faces a backlash from some clients who resent Mr. Mercer’s embrace of polarizing political figures.

Discomfort with Mr. Mercer’s political activism — including protests aimed at university endowments, foundations and pension funds with money invested in Renaissance — has showed signs of taking a small but growing toll. The retirement fund for Baltimore’s police and firefighters, for example, last week asked that all of the $33 million it had invested in Renaissance be refunded, said David A. Randall, the retirement fund’s deputy executive director.

The Baltimore fund had been contacted by a local reporter about whether the pension was bothered by Mr. Mercer’s political activities. Seeking to avoid bad publicity, the pension’s directors convened an emergency conference call and decided to pull their money.”

David Lindsay:
It is not a complete coincidence that we learn today that the new Republican tax plan fails to raise the tax rate on hedge fund billionaires from the 20% capital gains rate to the 39.6% rate that is supposed to be for our richest citizens.

The comments at NYTimes.com are enlightening, such as:

SJM

Florida 20 hours ago

Some believe, including HRC, that the Mercers were instrumental in providing sophisticated social research that identified hot button issues of controversy among select voters in key electoral districts. This “research” focused on wedges in the community: immigration, policing, racial divides, etc. Some also believe that this social trending may have “fallen” into the hands of Russian hackers and misinformation specialists. The connection is Mueller’s to make, but could be part of Mr. Mercer’s resignations.