Lazy Caturday Afternoon ReadsPosted: November 23, 2019
I’m feeling under the weather today, but I’ll do the best I can to share some interesting reads. I think everyone has probably been following the breaking news pretty closely this week, so I’m just going to post some random stories.
I’m no fan of Joe Biden, but I still found this article in The Atlantic interesting and even moving. John Hendrickson who had a very bad stutter as a child, convinced Biden, to talk about his own history of stuttering: What Joe Biden Can’t Bring Himself to Say.
His eyes fall to the floor when I ask him to describe it. We’ve been tiptoeing toward it for 45 minutes, and so far, every time he seems close, he backs away, or leads us in a new direction. There are competing theories in the press, but Joe Biden has kept mum on the subject. I want to hear him explain it. I ask him to walk me through the night he appeared to lose control of his words onstage.
“I—um—I don’t remember,” Biden says. His voice has that familiar shake, the creak and the croak. “I’d have to see it. I-I-I don’t remember.”
We’re in Biden’s mostly vacant Washington, D.C., campaign office on an overcast Tuesday at the end of the summer. Since entering the Democratic presidential-primary race in April, Biden has largely avoided in-depth interviews. When I first reached out, in late June, his press person was polite but noncommittal: Was an interview really necessary for the story?
Then came the second debate, at the end of July, in Detroit. The first one, a month earlier, had been a disaster for Biden. He was unprepared when Senator Kamala Harris criticized both his past resistance to federally mandated busing and a recent speech in which he’d waxed fondly about collaborating with segregationist senators. Some of his answers that night had been meandering and difficult to parse, feeding into the narrative that he wasn’t just prone to verbal slipups—he’s called himself a “gaffe machine”—but that his age was a problem, that he was confused and out of touch.
Detroit was Biden’s chance to regain control of the narrative. And then something else happened. The candidates were talking about health care. At first, Biden sounded strong, confident, presidential: “My plan makes a limit of co-pay to be One. Thousand. Dollars. Because we—”
He stopped. He pinched his eyes closed. He lifted his hands and thrust them forward, as if trying to pull the missing sound from his mouth. “We f-f-f-f-further
support—” He opened his eyes. “The uh-uh-uh-uh—” His chin dipped toward his chest. “The-uh, the ability to buy into the Obamacare plan.” Biden also stumbled when trying to say immune system.
Fox News edited these moments into a mini montage. Stifling laughter, the host Steve Hilton narrated: “As the right words struggled to make that perilous journey from Joe Biden’s brain to Joe Biden’s mouth, half the time he just seemed to give up with this somewhat tragic and limp admission of defeat.”
What follows is a fascinating and enlightening discussion between the two men about the pain of being mocked and bullied as children and continuing to struggle with expressing themselves as adults. It won’t make me vote for Joe Biden, but it did give me some insight into his history of verbal gaffes and some sympathy for his struggle with words.
The New York Times: ‘Tuesday Afternoon Impeachment’ Is as Big as ‘Monday Night Football’
On the third day that impeachment hearings blanketed American televisions, from morning talk shows to late-night monologues, Representative Devin Nunes came out with a public service announcement.
“TV ratings are way down, way down,” Mr. Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, declared — on live television — to a pair of witnesses seated before him in Congress. “Whatever drug deal the Democrats are cooking up from the dais, the American people aren’t buying it.”
Mr. Nunes was wrong.
In fact, America’s impeachment drama, titled “Days of Our Impeachment” on a recent “Saturday Night Live,” is drawing “Monday Night Football”-level viewership. On some days, its ratings have topped popular procedurals like “NCIS.”
After five full days of hearings across two weeks, the average live TV viewership for impeachment has been roughly 12 million people, according to Nielsen. Ratings have dipped slightly from a peak on Day 1, Nov. 13, which drew an audience of 13.1 million, but the drop-off is less than what many sitcoms see after a season premiere.
And the numbers for cable news are superlative: Last week, Fox News notched its highest-rated week of the year in terms of total viewership. MSNBC enjoyed the best week in its 23-year history for total viewers.
We definitely need more hearings, but for now Schiff’s committee is going to work on a report that will be submitted to the Judiciary Committee so they can decide on articles of impeachment.
Susan Glasser thinks Trump and the GOP’s “facts be damned” approach is working: The Awful Truth About Impeachment.
A couple of weeks ago, before Dr. Fiona Hill, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, and Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch showed Americans what it means to speak unapologetically wonkish truth to Trumpian power, before the Republican donor turned diplomat Gordon Sondland gave a bad name to rich-guy dilettantes everywhere and tried to redeem himself by throwing Trump and his senior advisers under the bus, I wondered whether President Trump was already winning. From the start of the inquiry into his scheme to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations for his personal political benefit, the President has defined winning as making sure that impeachment remained an entirely partisan issue, with Democrats pushing it and Republicans standing with him to oppose it. By that standard, he was winning before the hearings—and he is still winning after them. If anything, his political hand is now even stronger as Republicans, presented with incontrovertible facts, have chosen not to accept them—and to become even more vociferous in Trump’s defense….
On Thursday morning, in what was meant to be the powerful culminating moment of the hearings, Hill gave a searing statement to Republican members of the panel about the big lie behind Trump’s demand that Ukraine investigate its own alleged intervention in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, an obsession of the President’s because he hoped to disprove the massive Russian interference on his behalf in that campaign. Trump and his defenders, she made clear, are simply trafficking in Russian-fuelled conspiracy theories. It is a “fictional narrative,” Hill told the committee calmly and authoritatively, a hoax “perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.” What’s more, Russia’s sweeping effort has been confirmed by the U.S. intelligence community, as well as by Congress and the very Intelligence Committee holding the hearing. “The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016,” Hill, who served as Trump’s top National Security Council expert on Russia until she announced her resignation, in July, said. “It is beyond dispute.”
Republicans, though, chose to dispute it. They had accepted this fact in the past, but now it was politically inconvenient for the President. Trump did not want to believe it, and so Republicans wouldn’t, either. If anyone thought that Hill’s stirring insistence on the facts would have any effect, that notion was quickly dispelled. By 11:23 a.m., the Trump campaign had sent out a “rapid response” to its e-mail list, with the subject heading “Ukrainian election interference.”
Read the rest at The New Yorker.
Jack Holmes at Esquire on Trump’s crazy Fox News rant yesterday: President Fox News Grandpa Had Himself a Morning on Fox & Friends.
If you are in any way tethered to observable reality, you will have noticed that this was not a good week for Donald Trump, American president. A parade of witnesses testified under oath that he’d engaged in a corrupt scheme to force a foreign government to attack American democracy for his personal benefit. Luckily for him, he’s not tethered at all, and neither is his favorite teevee network, The Fox News Channel. The impeachment hearings over the last fortnight have exposed that we do indeed live in two worlds: one, where members of Congress interviewed witnesses familiar with events, under penalty of perjury, to better understand what happened; two, the world of CrowdStrike, and Bruce and Nellie Ohr, and the Steele Dossier, and the “nude photos,” and whatever the hell else the reprehensible Devin Nunes kicked off every hearing by ranting about.
It was that world in which the president elected to keep himself safely ensconced on this Friday morning, as he joined his best friends in the whole world—the Fox & Friends—to discuss the week’s events. But as you will see, his view on events is no longer merely filtered through the kaleidoscopic bullshit of The Fox News Channel. He is now living in an entirely alternate reality, one where Ukraine attacked us in 2016, not Russia, who were framed, and Ukraine was in some kind of cahoots with the Democratic National Committee, and then the DNC gave the Ukrainians a server, which the Ukrainians refused to give the FBI, and if we could just get the server, which he asked President Zelensky for “very directly,” then we’d all get to the bottom of this little spy caper.
That is to say: the president is a Fox News Grandpa who phones into his favorite teevee show and sounds like one of the more deranged callers on C-SPAN who’s cut off midway through their third sentence. Trump was on-air for nearly an hour.
Andrew Feinberg at he Independent: After a damaging week and a bizarre Fox rant, psychiatrists and GOP strategists are worried for Trump.
….when Friday finally arrived without an impeachment hearing to capture anyone’s attention, Trump decided to air the grievances he’d been nursing for past 10 days, with — as the Beatles put it — a little help from his [Fox and] Friends.
For just under an hour, whatever dam that had held back the presidential logorrhea that had accumulated while most eyes were trained on the Capitol broke with spectacular results.
And as the faces on hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade vacillated from excited to fascinated to very concerned, Trump spewed forth some of the same conspiracies that a succession of witnesses had debunked at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
From his baseless claim that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped him to the equally baseless claim that Ukraine — not Russia — interfered in the 2016 election and there’s a server secreted away in the former Soviet republic which can prove it, it was a parade of Trump’s favorite fever dreams.
He even threw in some self-incrimination for good measure by directly tying his attempt to withhold $391 million in military aid to Ukraine to his desire for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government to investigate that non-existence server. He then admitted — for the second time — that he’d fired former FBI Director James Comey to stave off an investigation into him.
Read the rest at the link.
A relaxing musical interlude:
More stories to check out:
Daily Beast: Trump’s Gatekeeper Put Rudy in Touch With Pompeo: Emails.
The Washington Post: The 66-year alliance between the U.S. and South Korea is in deep trouble.
How about some more music?
Have a nice weekend Sky Dancers!!