Documentation. Witnesses. Facts. Truth. That's what they're afraid of.

Monday, November 28, 2016

I Read It So You Don't Have To, But You Get To Vomit As If You Did

I finally got to reading the full transcript of the interview the NYT did with the (shudder) President-Elect last week, and it made my stomach churn.

The issue I have is less about the content -- there's nothing new in there and it's mostly, unsurprisingly, word salad -- and more about the tone. I don't, at this point, expect the Times to challenge him very hard. It's just not what they do with someone like him. It's the cordiality and feeling of good humor between the Times, and their subject. They really are treating him and his incoming presidency like they're normal, and they're just not.

The opening gives us a good idea of where this is all going:

SULZBERGER: All right, so we’re clear. We had a very nice meeting in the Churchill Room. You’re a Churchill fan, I hear?
TRUMP: I am, I am.
SULZBERGER: There’s a photo of the great man behind you.
TRUMP: There was a big thing about the bust that was removed out of the Oval Office.
SULZBERGER: I heard you’re thinking of putting it back.
TRUMP: I am, indeed. I am.
SULZBERGER: Wonderful. So we’ve got a good collection here from our newsroom and editorial and our columnists. I just want to say we had a good, quiet, but useful and well-meaning conversation in there. So I appreciate that very much.
TRUMP: I appreciate it, too.
First off, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the Times' Chairman and Publisher, affirms that they had already had a what he termed a "nice" meeting. I think he's giving him a cookie for not walking out on them or threatening to arrest them. Which is not something the Times should even have to acknowledge. But new normal.

Then, Sulzberger pats him on the back for potentially acting on a false right-wing shibboleth that was disproven years ago. If Sulzberger believes that Barack Obama sent back a bust of Winston Churchill to Britain in order to insult them (though they've certainly earned it), that says that the head of the "paper of record" in the United States cannot take the time to discern between truth and a lie made up by, well, liars.

He also acknowledges his own hero-worship for a mythologized character, which does not bode well for the next four years, given that we're going to be governed by a man whose entire career has been built on a myth.

TRUMP: [...] I think that’s the genius of the Electoral College. I was never a fan of the Electoral College until now.
SULZBERGER: Until now.


TRUMP: Until now. I guess now I like it for two reasons. What it does do is it gets you out to see states that you’ll never see otherwise. It’s very interesting. [...{
Rather than challenge their subject on his 180 degree change about one of the (unfortunate) fundamental underpinnings of our democracy, Sulzberger makes a quick joke and lets Trump ramble from there.

Now we move on to the inevitable question of Trump's white supremacist support. That's where they're going to get him, right?

DEAN BAQUET, executive editor of The New York Times: As you describe it, you did do something really remarkable. You energized a lot of people in the country who really wanted change in Washington. But along with that — and this is going to create a tricky thing for you — you also energized presumably a smaller number of people who were evidenced at the alt-right convention in Washington this weekend. Who have a very …
TRUMP: I just saw that today.
BAQUET: So, I’d love to hear you talk about how you’re going to manage that group of people who actually may not be the larger group but who have an expectation for you and are angry about the country and its — along racial lines. My first question is, do you feel like you said things that energized them in particular, and how are you going to manage that?
TRUMP: I don’t think so, Dean. First of all, I don’t want to energize the group. I’m not looking to energize them. I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group. They, again, I don’t know if it’s reporting or whatever. I don’t know where they were four years ago, and where they were for Romney and McCain and all of the other people that ran, so I just don’t know, I had nothing to compare it to.
But it’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized I want to look into it and find out why.
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BAQUET: So I’m going to do that thing that executive editors get to do which is to invite reporters to jump in and ask questions.
I believe this is what they in the journamalism field call a "shit sandwich." At least I hope they do, because I'm otherwise not sure to call a turd between two other turds. Baquet precedes this impossibly-softly-tossed question on FREAKIN' NEO-NAZIS by complimenting Trump and playing into his own legend, he then cracks a cutesy joke and moves on without a followup after not receiving a clear answer about FREAKIN' NEO-NAZIS.

Also, you probably didn't notice because you've already bathed your retinas in bleach, but I replaced the final 217 words of Trump's "answer" with standard lorem ipsum text infused with a "big league" every line or two. Even if you did read it, you emerged no less enlightened than if I'd just kept the original text. Oh, and for the record, he did use "big league" in said "answer."

MAGGIE HABERMAN, political reporter: I’ll start, thank you, Dean. Mr. President, I’d like to thank you for being here. This morning, Kellyanne Conway talked about not prosecuting Hillary Clinton. We were hoping you could talk about exactly what that means — does that mean just the emails, or the emails and the foundation, and how you came to that decision.
I'm not going to go into the Clinton/"lock her up" aspect of this; it's been done to death already. But the level of obsequiousness it takes for someone who Trump referred to by name as a "third-rate reporter" and about whom a friend of hers told me a month or so that she worried for her safety because of the things Trump said regarding her to open with a polite, "I’d like to thank you for being here" is just mind-boggling. Historians will need to coin a special term for that sort of treatment as they conduct a post-mortem on this era.

I'd expect our next player to provide nothing of insight, and he does not disappoint. Tom Friedman, please step into the batter's box and shank the potential game-winning field goal.

FRIEDMAN: I came here thinking you’d be awed and overwhelmed by this job, but I feel like you are getting very comfortable with it.


We're officially through the looking glass. Aside from the fact that Tom Friedman should have deleted the word "awe" from his vocabulary bank by now, holy crud, they can't even confine the normalization process to the subtext only three weeks into this debacle. I think the frog just jumped out of the cooking pot, the shark missed its chance to chow down on the Fonz, and several other water-dwelling creatures committed hackneyed metaphorical acts that the Mustache of Understanding (TM Atrios) will one day butcher as he describes a conversation he had with a rickshaw driver in Nairobi about how more McDonald's franchises in Mosul would have prevented the rise of ISIS.

Now that I've tripped onto an extremely slippery slope of sports, metaphors, and sports metaphors, I'll just say that Skipper Sulzberger puts Mark Thompson to close this one out, and Trump crushes his first pitch with a bat somehow constructed entirely out of 100% pure platitudinum...

MARK THOMPSON: Thank you, and it’s a really short one, but after all the talk about libel and libel laws, are you committed to the First Amendment to the Constitution?
TRUMP: Oh, I was hoping he wasn’t going to say that. I think you’ll be happy. I think you’ll be happy. Actually, somebody said to me on that, they said, ‘You know, it’s a great idea, softening up those laws, but you may get sued a lot more.’ I said, ‘You know, you’re right, I never thought about that.’ I said, ‘You know, I have to start thinking about that.’ So, I, I think you’ll be O.K. I think you’re going to be fine.
SULZBERGER: Well, thank you very much for this. Really appreciate this.
TRUMP: Thank you all, very much, it’s a great honor. I will say, The Times is, it’s a great, great American jewel. A world jewel. And I hope we can all get along. We’re looking for the same thing, and I hope we can all get along well.

... and then both teams line up to have a friendly handshake before they leave the field.

Thanks for playing.