Once again, the there is so much news that I can’t possibly address everything. The Republican governors of Florida and Texas are engaging in childish behavior that actually could be categorized as human trafficking. Investigations of Trump at the DOJ, the New York Attorney General’s office, and the House January 6 Committee are moving forward. Last night CNN broke the news that Trump’s final chief of staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with a subpoena from the DOJ.
Sometime today, we should get a decision from Judge Loose Cannon about whether she will name a special master to examine government documents that Trump stole; if she orders a third party to look at highly classified documents, the DOJ will appeal to the 11th Circuit Court. Justice Elena Kagen issued a scathing critique of the Supreme Court. And finally, there are revelations from a new book by married reporters Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. I’ll get to as many of these stories as I can.
DeSantis and Abbott Use Migrants in Despicable Stunts
The Vineyard Gazette: Planeloads of Venezuelan Migrants Arrive at Martha’s Vineyard Airport.
Planes carrying approximately 48 migrants from Venezuela and Colombia landed unexpectedly at Martha’s Vineyard Airport Wednesday afternoon. Island officials and volunteers quickly rallied to find temporary shelter for the group.
“We’re immigrants,” Eliase, who said he was from Venezuela, told the Gazette. “We came here because of the situation in our country, for the economy, for work, for lots of things. I came here walking. We went through 10 different countries until we got to Texas. There a refugee association put us in a plane and told us there would be work and housing here. I feel good, despite everything. We spent four days in Texas so it’s good to be here.”
State Sen. Julian Cyr said the planes originated in San Antonio, Tex., and appeared to be part of a larger campaign to divert migrants from border states.
“Just like the reverse freedom rides in the 1960s, this endeavor is a cruel ruse that is manipulating families who are seeking a better life,” Senator Cyr said. “No one should be capitalizing on the difficult circumstances that these families are in and contorting that for the purposes of a “gotcha” moment.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis later issued a statement to media outlets confirming that the airlift “was part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”
A coalition of emergency management officials, faith groups, nonprofit agencies and county and town officials were organizing food and shelter for the migrants, who spent Wednesday night at St. Andrews Church in Edgartown. The Salvation Army, among others, was providing food.
In a news release Thursday morning, the Martha’s Vineyard Humanitarian Response effort asked that inquiries about how to help be sent by email to EMD@dcsoma.org.
DeSantis used taxpayer money for this, and the immigrants were never even in Florida.
More from NPR this morning: Migrants on Martha’s Vineyard flight say they were told they were going to Boston.
The unannounced flight drew anger from Massachusetts officials.
“We have the governor of Florida … hatching a secret plot to send immigrant families like cattle on an airplane,” said state Sen. Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha’s Vineyard. “Ship them women and children to a place they weren’t told where they were going and never alerted local officials and people on the ground here that they were coming. It is an incredibly inhumane and depraved thing to do.”
NPR was able to interview three of the migrants late Wednesday. “They (the migrants) told us they had recently crossed the border in Texas and were staying at a shelter in San Antonio,” NPR’s Joel Rose said on today’s Morning Edition.
The migrants said a woman they identified as “Perla” approached them outside the shelter and lured them into boarding the plane, saying they would be flown to Boston where they could get expedited work papers. She provided them with food. The migrants said Perla was still trying to recruit more passengers just hours before their flight.
Andres Duarte, a 30-year-old Venezuelan, said he had recently crossed the border into Texas and eventually went to a shelter in San Antonio.
“She (Perla) offered us help. Help that never arrived,” Andres said. “Now we are here. We got on the plane with a vision of the future, of making it.” He went on to explain why he boarded the plane with so little information in hand. “Look, when you have no money and someone offers help, well, it means a lot.”
Two buses of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border were dropped off near Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in residential Washington on Thursday morning in the bitter political battle over the Biden administration’s immigration policies.
It wasn’t immediately clear which Republican leader had sent them. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been busing migrants out of Texas to cities with Democratic mayors as part of a political strategy this year because he claims there are too many arrivals over the border to his state. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also has adopted this policy, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also got in on the act recently. It was first dreamed up by former President Donald Trump.
About two dozen men and women stood outside the U.S. Naval Observatory at dawn, clutching clear plastic bags of their belongings brought with them over the border, before moving to a nearby church. Harris’ office had no immediate comment.
This story is still developing.
Multiple Trump Investigations
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena from the Justice Department’s investigation into events surrounding January 6, 2021, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, making him the highest-ranking Trump official known to have responded to a subpoena in the federal investigation.
Meadows turned over the same materials he provided to the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack, one source said, meeting the obligations of the Justice Department subpoena, which has not been previously reported.
Last year, Meadows turned over thousands of text messages and emails to the House committee, before he stopped cooperating. The texts he handed over between Election Day 2020 and Joe Biden’s inauguration, which CNN previously obtained, provided a window into his dealings at the White House, though he withheld hundreds of messages, citing executive privilege.
In addition to Trump’s former chief of staff, one of Meadows’ top deputies in the White House, Ben Williamson, also recently received a grand jury subpoena, another source familiar with the matter tells CNN. That subpoena was similar to what others in Trump’s orbit received. It asked for testimony and records relating to January 6 and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Williamson previously cooperated with the January 6 committee. He declined to comment to CNN.
Meadows’ compliance with the subpoena comes as the Justice Department has ramped up its investigation related to January 6, which now touches nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss – including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts, CNN reported this week.
The New York Times: N.Y. Attorney General May Sue Trump After Rejecting Settlement Offer.
The New York attorney general’s office has rebuffed an offer from Donald J. Trump’s lawyers to settle a contentious civil investigation into the former president and his family real estate business, setting the stage for a lawsuit that would accuse Mr. Trump of fraud, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
The attorney general, Letitia James, is also considering suing at least one of Mr. Trump’s adult children, the people said. Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., have all been senior executives at Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.
The likelihood of a lawsuit grew this month after Ms. James’s office rejected at least one settlement offer from Mr. Trump’s lawyers, the people said. While the Trump Organization for months has made overtures to the attorney general’s office — and the two sides could still reach a deal — there is no indication that a settlement will materialize anytime soon.
Ms. James, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, is focused on whether Mr. Trump fraudulently inflated the value of his assets and has mounted a three-and-a-half-year inquiry that has cemented her as one of the former president’s chief antagonists. Mr. Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing and derided the investigation as a politically motivated witch hunt, has fired back at her, filing an unsuccessful lawsuit to block her inquiry and calling Ms. James, who is Black, a racist.
A lawsuit from Ms. James would supercharge their drawn-out battle, offering her an opportunity to deliver a significant blow to the former president and his business, which she vowed before taking office to “vigorously investigate.”
The chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack said Wednesday that the panel has received “thousands of exhibits” from Secret Service agents in response to its July subpoena of the agency.
Why it matters: Uncovering information from the Secret Service has been a major focus for the panel since testimony during its public hearings in June and July revealed the agency’s role in key events on Jan. 6.
Driving the news: Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters that the materials obtained are “a combination of a number of text messages, radio traffic … thousands of exhibits.”
— Thompson said the the materials consist “primarily” of texts from agents on Jan. 5 and 6, but declined to go into further detail because the committee is still reviewing them.
— “The tranches we’ve received have been significant,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”
— Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), another committee member, said on MSNBC on Wednesday “it’s been a large volume of information that we really pressed hard for the agency to release.”
The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack is seeking another 3,200 pages of emails from John Eastman, the Trump attorney who spearheaded the far-fetched legal theory that then-Vice President Mike Pence could block Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s win.
The committee told a federal judge in California in a filing late Wednesday that it needs the additional documents “so that it may complete its efforts, including preparation of the final report” before the end of the year.
In the filing, House counsel Douglas Letter asked US District Court Judge David Carter to review the remaining batch of emails and decide whether Eastman’s claims of executive privilege are valid.
“In light of this exchange over the past month or so, it seems clear that further consultation with Plaintiff’s counsel will not result in the Select Committee receiving the material that it seeks in a timely manner,” the filing states. “Accordingly, the Select Committee now moves for this Court to review and rule on Plaintiff’s claims of privilege” for the remaining documents.
Judge Loose Cannon
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is expected to announce shortly a third-party attorney to review hundreds of confidential documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last month, how long that special master will have to review the material and whether the Justice Department will be allowed to continue its investigation in the name of national security – highly anticipated decisions that will set the course of the prominent federal investigation.
The Justice Department has asked that Cannon rule on these matters by Thursday or it will appeal her ruling appointing a special master to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
Earlier this week, Trump’s lawyers told the judge that the Justice Department should not be able to continue its review of classified material taken from Mar-a-Lago. In the 21-page filing, his legal team attempted to discredit the federal investigation, which they called “a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control,” and repeated previous claims that Trump had the ability to declassify documents while president as well as broad authority to control his records – even after he left office.
The Justice Department filed a motion on Tuesday in response, slamming Trump’s lawyers for attempting to delay and discredit the investigation into his mishandling of national security documents, which they argued could cause “irreparable harm” to national security.
“Plaintiff [Trump] has characterized the government’s criminal investigation as a ‘document storage dispute’ or an ‘overdue library book scenario,’” the Justice Department said in a court filing. “In doing so, Plaintiff has not addressed the potential harms that could result from mishandling classified information or the strict requirements imposed by law for handling such materials.”
As it stands, the Justice Department said it would accept one of the three judges Trump’s legal team proposed as a special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, a nominee of former President Ronald Reagan who has served as a federal judge in New York since the 1980s. He retired in 2011 and is now a senior judge on the circuit. Trump rejected the candidates put forth by the Justice Department.
Justice Elena Kagan Speaks
Justice Elena Kagan warned again on Wednesday that unsound reasoning and politically convenient conclusions have infected the Supreme Court’s recent opinions and are doing damage to the court’s standing with the American public.
“When courts become extensions of the political process, when people see them as extensions of the political process, when people see them as trying just to impose personal preferences on a society irrespective of the law, that’s when there’s a problem — and that’s when there ought to be a problem,” Kagan said during an event at Northwestern University School of Law.
Kagan has offered similar criticism of the high court on several occasions over the past summer, following its momentous, 5-4 decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade and wiping out a federal constitutional right to abortion that had been recognized for nearly half a century.
However, the recent criticisms from Kagan, an appointee of President Barack Obama and a former Harvard Law School dean, now seem more pointed because they come just days after Chief Justice John Roberts expressed concern publicly that the court’s reputation is being unfairly battered.
In her remarks on Wednesday, Kagan did not mention the landmark abortion ruling she dissented from in June, but she did refer to other decisions where, she said, the court had colored outside the lines….
Among them was a ruling the court delivered on the final day of decisions in June, striking down a key element of the Biden administration’s climate change policy on the ground that Congress should have been more explicit if it was granting the Environmental Protection Agency authority over such a “major question.”
Revelations from New Book by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser
Book review by David Greenberg at the New York Times: A Sober Look at the ‘Cartoonishly Chaotic’ Trump White House.
“His job wasn’t to get things done but to stop certain things from happening, to prevent disaster.” This line from Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s detail-rich history of the Trump administration, “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” technically applies to his first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. But in truth it describes any of several dozen beleaguered helpmates to the former president, whose propensity for petulant rage kept Washington in a fit of indignation and the White House in a mode of perpetual damage control for the better part of four years. Comprehensively researched and briskly told, “The Divider”is a story of disasters averted as well as disasters realized.
Squeezing the tumultuous events of the long national fever dream that was the Donald Trump presidency between two covers — even two covers placed far apart, as is the case with this 752-page anvil — would tax the skills of the nimblest journalist. Yet the husband-and-wife team of Baker and Glasser pull it off with assurance. It’s all here: the culture wars and the corruption, the demagogy and the autocrat-love, the palace intrigue and the public tweets, the pandemic and the impeachments (plural).
To be sure, asking readers in 2022 to revisit the Sturm und Drang of the Trump years may seem like asking a Six Flags patron, staggering from a ride on the Tsunami, to jump back on for another go. But those with strong stomachs will find a lot they didn’t know, and a lot more that they once learned but maybe, amid the daily barrage of breaking-news banner headlines, managed to forget.
Read more at the NYT.
Links to revelations from the book:
That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts, and what other stories are you following?
As usual, the news is pretty depressing today–Covid-19 is still raging and the media is still viciously attacking President Biden on Afghanistan while ignoring the roles of Trump, Pompeo, and Stephen Miller in setting up the current state of affairs. I have a mix of reads to share, beginning with the obituary of a brilliant author and anti-racist who worked to change Americans’ understanding of our history.
The New York Times: James W. Loewen, Who Challenged How History Is Taught, Dies at 79.
James W. Loewen, a sociologist and civil rights champion who took high school teachers and textbook publishers to task for distorting American history, particularly the struggle of Black people in the South, by oversimplifying their experience and omitting the ugly parts, died on Thursday in Bethesda, Md. He was 79.
His death, in a hospital, was confirmed by Ellen Adler, his publisher at the New Press, who said he died after an unspecified “long illness.”
“Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat the 11th grade,” Dr. Loewen wrote in “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” (1995), the best known of his dozen books attacking historical misconceptions.
Dr. Loewen was a relentless contrarian who challenged anyone who imagined academic life as a passage through genteel lectures on settled matters for drowsy students on leafy campuses. He charged through history like a warrior, dismantling fictions and exposing towns for excluding minorities; teachers and historians for dumbing lessons down; and defendants in 50 class-action lawsuits who, according to his expert testimony, victimized people in civil rights, voting rights and job discrimination cases.
A Northerner fascinated with Mississippi, he wrote his first book about the Chinese population there. He wrote another about how America’s historic sites distort our knowledge of the past. And it was a mistake to get him started on the origin of Thanksgiving: Plymouth was already a village with cleared fields when the Pilgrims found it deserted by plague victims. No turkey was served in 1621 — perhaps it was duck. And there was no pie. The settlers had no wheat flour for crust and no oven for baking. The holiday Americans celebrate has nothing to do with the Pilgrims. It was invented 242 years later by Abraham Lincoln to celebrate the North’s victory at Gettysburg.
“History is by far our worst-taught subject in high school,” Dr. Loewen told The Atlantic in 2018. “I think we’re stupider in thinking about the past than we are, say, in thinking about Shakespeare, or algebra, or other subjects. Historians tend to make everything so nuanced that the idea of truth almost disappears.”
Loewen’s work is more important than ever with the current rise of disinformation and conspiracy theories.
Trumpists are organizing a pro-January 6 rally in Washington D.C. on September 18, and this time the Metropolitan Police are taking the warnings seriously. The purpose of the rally is to free the “political prisoners” who are being prosecuted for attacking the U.S. Capitol building.
WASHINGTON — In a flash notice sent to all officers and members of the department Thursday, Metropolitan Police activated the entire force and postponed vacation days, in anticipation of a Sept. 18 protest organized by supporters of Jan. 6 defendants.
The rally, known as “Justice for J6,” is planned for the Union Square area of the Capitol grounds, the section of the west front encompassing the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial and Capitol reflecting pool.
The full activation alert, sent as Thursday’s Capitol Hill bomb threat investigation continued, assigned specific notice to MPD civil disturbance units trained for First Amendment demonstrations. The department-wide notification has not been previously reported.
When asked for comment, MPD responded with this statement:
“In anticipation of First Amendment activities on Saturday, September 18, 2021, the Metropolitan Police Department will be fully prepared. As with all First Amendment demonstrations, MPD will be monitoring and assessing the activities and planning accordingly with our federal law enforcement partners. MPD will have an increased presence around the city where demonstrations will be taking place and will be prepared to make street closures for public safety.”
Read more about the known goals for the event at the link, but here’s a brief summary from The Daily Beast:
The event, organized by former Donald Trump flack Matt Braynard, hopes to seek justice for those who stormed and defiled the Capitol on Jan. 6. Braynard announced the rally on former Trump adviser and current crackpot Steve Bannon’s podcast. “As we continue to raise the profile of these individuals, it makes it harder and harder for the left’s phony narrative about an insurrection to stick,” Braynard said, according to WUSA9. “What’s going to define [the rally] is where it’s going to take place: we’re going back to the Capitol.” He said the event has obtained permits. U.S. Capitol Police said it was aware of the event, but declined to comment.
Covid-19 is raging all over the country, but especially in the South. CNN reports: Governor sees ‘astronomical’ number of new Covid-19 cases.
Overall hospitalizations are continuing to increase across Alabama as the “pandemic of unvaccinated people continues,” state health officer Dr. Scott Harris said on Friday. Alabama hospitals have a negative capacity of ICU beds available, he said, and the state is seeing the highest number of Covid-19 cases among children than at any other time during the pandemic.
Louisiana has seen an “astronomical” number of Covid-19 cases during the latest surge, according to Gov. John Bel Edwards, as infections are increasing particularly among younger populations.
“I can tell you that for the last couple of days, 28% of all the new cases that we’re reporting are in children zero to 17,” he said on Friday.
In Orlando, Florida, Mayor Buddy Dyer warned residents to conserve water. Orlando Sentinel: Orlando urges reduced water usage as liquid oxygen used to purify water goes to COVID patients.
The city of Orlando and its water utility made an urgent appeal Friday afternoon for residents to cut back sharply on water usage for weeks because of a pandemic-triggered shortage of liquid oxygen used to purify water.
If commercial and residential customers are unable to reduce water usage quickly and sufficiently, Orlando Utilities Commission may issue a system-wide alert for boiling water needed for drinking and cooking. Without reductions in water usage, a boil-water alert would come within a week, utility officials said.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer asked residents to immediately stop watering their lawns, washing their cars and using pressure washers. Landscape irrigation consumes about 40% of the water provided by OUC….
Medical authorities have reported that along with a spike in hospitalizations for COVID cases, hospitals are relying increasingly on treatment involving high flows of supplemental oxygen for patients.
That has spurred a nationwide shortage for liquid oxygen, which has been exacerbated by a lack of available tanker trucks and drivers.
In Mississippi, many people have been using a livestock deworming medication to treat or prevent Covid-19 that has been promoted on Fox News. ABC News: Mississippi officials warn against using livestock ivermectin to prevent COVID-19 after rise in poison control calls.
Mississippi’s poison control center has seen an increase in calls of people taking ivermectin, including versions of the deworming drug intended for livestock, to treat or prevent COVID-19, according to state health officials.
The Mississippi Health Department took to social media Friday to issue a warning about the phenomenon, which has been reported throughout the pandemic.
“Do not use ivermectin products made for animals,” it said in a Facebook post.
The Mississippi Health Department also issued an alert Friday to health care providers in the state regarding the increase in poison control calls due to potential ivermectin toxicity.
“At least 70% of the recent calls have been related to ingestion of livestock or animal formulations of ivermectin purchased at livestock supply centers,” stated the alert, which did not specify the number of total calls.
Meanwhile, there’s a free vaccine readily available that has emergency approval from the FDA.
Also in Mississippi: Mississippi threatens fines, jail time for Covid patients who don’t isolate.
Mississippi’s top health official Friday threatened jail time for people diagnosed with Covid-19 who don’t isolate in their homes.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs issued an “isolation order” that states, “All persons residing in Mississippi must immediately home-isolate on first knowledge of infection with COVID-19.”
Failure to do so could result in fines and jail time. Dobbs’ order mentions two possible levels of violation. One, a refusal to obey a health officer, comes with a $500 fine and, possibly, six months behind bars.
But the order says that where a life-threatening disease is involved in a refusal to obey, violators could face a fine of up to $5,000 and possibly five years behind bars.
State epidemiologist Paul Byers said Mississippi has the highest number of new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the nation. “These numbers are staggering guys,” he said during a weekly Mississippi pandemic update.
Big media is still focused tearing down Joe Biden, so much so that they hardly paid any attention to bomb threat standoff in DC.
John Stoer at Raw Story: How the media enables a political minority to steal the majority’s freedoms.
Peter Baker is a reporter for the Times. He said this yesterday: “The Biden team’s cold political calculation is that Americans won’t care what happens in Afghanistan as long as Americans are safe. To their point, today there are no front-page stories on Afghanistan in cities like Boston, Austin, Chicago, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Fresno or Miami.”
This is in keeping what I’ve been saying in the Editorial Board. Most people most of the time have something better to do than pay attention to politics. This goes double for August, that time of the year when normal people are thinking about vacations or preparing for the reopening of school. The Washington press corps barely paid any attention at all to Afghanistan, because most people most of the time stopped paying attention to it a decade ago, after the US killed the man responsible for murdering nearly 3,000 Americans a decade prior.
But Baker’s use of “cold political calculation” carries with it at least one presumption. It’s that Joe Biden is doing something obviously morally wrong; that “informed people” (i.e., elites) know he’s doing something obviously morally wrong; and that the obvious moral wrong is rooted in the fact that US forces are leaving Afghanistan. Moreover, it’s that Biden is betting he won’t pay a price for that obvious moral wrong given that voters have short attention spans and short memories, especially in August. It’s a presumption that itself presumes everything is as good or bad as everything else and nothing really matters.
“Cold political calculation” does not accurately represent reality, however. The Associated Press released this week the results of a new poll showing that two-thirds of the population does not think “America’s longest war was worth fighting.” That’s 67 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans. The poll, moreover, shows a gigantic switcher-roo over the duration of the “forever war.” In 2001, most people were worried about foreign terrorists. Now, according to the AP’s poll, most people see “major national security threats as being internal. Roughly two-thirds say they are extremely or very concerned about the threat of extremist groups based inside the United States.”
My point here isn’t to pick on Peter Baker. My point is to note how the press corps often overlooks, or ignores, majority opinion, especially as it relates to the dynamics of power in Washington. When put in its proper context, you can see the president and his team were not making a “cold political calculation.” To the contrary, they were acting in accord with the will of the majority. Everything is not as good or bad as everything else. Some things are good. Some things are bad. Some things are so clearly and morally one or the other, there’s a bipartisan consensus. A president is wise to take such preferences into account. I wouldn’t call this “cold political calculation.” I’d call it good politics.
Read more at Raw Story.
Here’s a link to Peter Baker’s article at The New York Times: Biden Ran on Competence and Empathy. Afghanistan Is Testing That.
More Afghanistan reads:
Franz J. Marty at The Guardian: I was in Kabul when it fell to the Taliban. The speed of the collapse stunned me.
As always, this is an open thread. I hope you all have a great weekend!
This is mysterious. In the morning post, I linked to a short piece by Josh Marshall on some disturbing changes the New York Times made its story on how Mitt Romney came to unleash his bizarre attacks on President Obama over a message posted on the website of the American Embassy in Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday.
I’m not sure what’s up with this. But earlier this evening the Times ran a story entitled “Behind Romney’s Decision to Attack Obama on Libya.” The byline was David Sanger and Ashley Parker. The big news out of the story was that Romney himself had been the driver of last night’s decision making. That and a lot of other color and interesting news. As I write, it’s still that piece and lede that’s on the front page. But now it’s been replaced (same url) by an almost unrecognizable piece entitled “A Challenger’s Criticism Is Furiously Returned”, bylined by Peter Baker and Ashley Parker….
The thrust of the piece is dramatically different and, unless I’m missing something, leaves out this critical quote from a Romney senior advisor explaining their rationale. “We’ve had this consistent critique and narrative on Obama’s foreign policy, and we felt this was a situation that met our critique, that Obama really has been pretty weak in a number of ways on foreign policy, especially if you look at his dealings with the Arab Spring and its aftermath.”
So basically, this “senior adviser” was saying that the campaign had built a specific narrative to use against Obama, and the events in Cairo appeared to meet the criteria of the manufactured narrative. Therefore, the decision was made to issue an immediate attack on Tuesday night before they really knew what was happening.
Late this morning, Marshall put followed up with another post.
A number of media reporters have now followed up with reports about the Times switcheroo. And the answer from the Times is that it was part of the normal editing process and the preference for on-the-record quotes over blind quotes. The specific response we got from Eileen Murphy, spokesperson for the Times, reads as follows …
As reporting went on during the day yesterday, we were able to flesh out the story, add more context and get more sources on the record, which is obviously what we prefer. Having said that, we stand by the reporting in all versions of the story.
Peter Baker, who replaced David Sanger as the lead byline, told Buzzfeed, “It’s just normal journalism — as more reporting comes in, you improve the story. On the record Republican criticism beats anonymous Republican criticism.”
But why was the damning quote left out of the second version of the story? Actually the missing quote was the first half of a longer quote, the second part of which was retained in the new version of the article. Here’s the entire original quote:
“We’ve had this consistent critique and narrative on Obama’s foreign policy, and we felt this was a situation that met our critique, that Obama really has been pretty weak in a number of ways on foreign policy, especially if you look at his dealings with the Arab Spring and its aftermath,” one of Mr. Romney’s senior advisers said on Wednesday. “I think the reality is that while there may be a difference of opinion regarding issues of timing, I think everyone stands behind the critique of the administration, which we believe has conducted its foreign policy in a feckless manner.”
The first part of that quote makes the advisor seem callow, frivolous, and shabby. We’ve had the critique out there, “this was a situation that met our critique”, and that was good enough for us. We just let fly.
In the edited version of the Times piece, as Politico’s Dylan Byers notes, that quote is replaced by an on-the-record quote from policy director Lanhee Chen …
Mr. Romney’s camp was surprised by the blowback. “While there may be differences of opinion regarding issues of timing,” Mr. Chen said, “I think everyone stands behind the critique of the administration, which we believe has conducted its foreign policy in a feckless manner.”
As you can see, the second portion is identical. So it really sounds like the blind quote was from Chen as well.
What the hell? Is the NYT suddenly in the business of helping the Romney campaign clean up their messes?
In an update to his piece, Politico’s Dylan Byers responds to NYT writer Peter Baker’s quote mentioned above:
UPDATE (11:06 a.m.): Missed this, but Peter Baker talked to the Huffington Post earlier this morning:
“As we reported more through the day, we found Republicans criticizing Gov Romney on the record, so why use an anonymous one?” Baker said. “There are too many blind quotes in the media and we try not to use them when it’s not necessary.”
Here’s why: Because there’s a big difference between “Republicans” and a Mitt Romney campaign adviser.
At New York Magazine, Joe Coscarelli has a piece headlined: Romney Adviser Admitted Libya Flub Before New York Times Scrubbed Story. Coscarelli notes a second quote that was left out of the “scrubbed” NYT article:
A front page New York Times article this morning describes how Mitt Romney “personally approved” his apology-less campaign statement yesterday accusing Barack Obama of sympathizing with terrorists, but an early iteration of the story was far juicier. In a version posted online last night, the Times quoted “an adviser to the campaign who worked in the George W. Bush administration” who went so far as to say that Romney “had forgotten the first rule in a crisis: don’t start talking before you understand what’s happening.” That’s more or less the criticism that was pelted at Romney throughout the day yesterday by pundits, and by President Obama himself, but to hear it from the mouth of an adviser, even an anonymous one, in the Times, really stings. Or stung — that quote has since disappeared from the article.
Coscarelli brings up a stunning possible explanation for the altered/dropped quotes: “Could this be that campaign quote approval we’ve heard so much about?” He then links to a story he wrote in July: Political Campaigns Reserve the Right to Neuter Journalism in Exchange for Access.
A front-page story in the New York Times today describes the process by which reporters at major news organizations — including Bloomberg, the Washington Post, and yes, the Times — agree to let political campaigns not only have veto power over which quotes get used, but allow after-the-fact editing on remarks from insiders. “The quotations come back redacted, stripped of colorful metaphors, colloquial language and anything even mildly provocative,” the Times reports.
Afraid of losing their access to top spokesmen and strategists, journalists agree to the tweaks. Both the Obama and Romney campaigns have their own quote-approval demands, and the results are official lines that always stay on-script, lack any off-the-cuff qualities, and on top of that, are often anonymous anyway. And in playing by the rules written for them by those they’re supposed to be covering, print journalists falls further behind the times.
That’s a new one on me. News organizations allowing the subjects of their articles to make changes after the fact? Here’s hoping Josh Marshall or one of the other big bloggers who can get access to the NYT will force them to publicly admit they took orders from the Romney campaign.