- Glenn Sonnenberg
Musings from the Bunker 10/29/20
I start today’s Musing with The Atlantic’s endorsement of Mr. Biden, which is interesting for several reasons.
THE ATLANTIC’S ENDORSEMENT
The Atlantic has endorsed only three candidates for office in its 160+ year history—Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson, and Hillary Clinton. Interestingly, the Atlantic notes that only one of the prior three endorsements was based upon choosing a candidate—Abraham Lincoln. The others were endorsements that were, rather, affirmative rejections of the alternative choice, which would pose great danger to our country. To their mind, Barry Goldwater and Donald Trump were two such people.
As they noted in their 2016 endorsement:
…Trump “traffics in conspiracy theories and racist invective; he is appallingly sexist; he is erratic, secretive, and xenophobic; he expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself … He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.”
If their conclusions were not clear in 2016, they seem borne out by these chaotic and dangerous four years. As they state in this year’s endorsement:
What we have learned since we published that editorial is that we understated our case. Donald Trump is the worst president this country has seen since Andrew Johnson, or perhaps James Buchanan, or perhaps ever.
Here is the article in its entirety:
MY SPIN ON THE LAPTOP AND THE EXECUTIVE ORDER EXPANDING POLITICAL POSITIONS IN THE EXECUTIVE
My good friend, David Suissa, Editor of the Jewish Journal, published an article decrying the failure of the mainstream media to adequately cover the story of Hunter Biden’s alleged laptop and the materials that may have been included on its hard drive. Many, myself included, believe this story, peddled to the media by the Trump administration, is little more than a move of political deflection from the real issues before us (COVID, the economy, the judiciary, foreign trade, economic disparity, health care) and the indiscretions and kleptocracy of the current administration. I wrote a letter to the editor that should appear today in the Jewish Journal. Please note that this is not an indictment of the publication or its Editor. Here it is, in what is close to its final form:
On the supposed “Biden Laptop Story”
I admire what the Jewish Journal does in creating a forum for intelligent dialogue among Jews in Los Angeles. At the same time, I feel that the op-ed titled “At What Point Should the Mainstream Media Report On the Biden Family Story?” made an error in its assertion that the mainstream media failed to adequately cover the dubious story of Hunter Biden’s laptop. The “mainstream” media (which I consider a categorization worthy of admiration) investigated the story and made the right choice in providing only limited coverage of this questionable story.
The article was exactly right that the press exercises great latitude and power in how they report on stories and in the stories they elect to cover. But the example the article gives hardly supports the proposition. The laptop’s provenance is unclear, it is unclear if the FBI’s investigation is complete or even ongoing, the story was disseminated by President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and the story was curated and spun by the Trump campaign.
In this instance, the press did its job. Giuliani did his best to find the “weakest link” in the media, stating he took the story to the New York Post because, in his words, they wouldn’t “spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out.” That’s shorthand for a desire to evade scrutiny. Yet, even though the Post is known for its tabloid journalism, some staffers were not convinced of the credibility of the story. The New York Times did its investigation and “could not independently verify the data in the Post article.”
Some may argue that the New York Times’s dismissal of the story after its own investigation is just another liberal outlet burying a story for political purposes. But the respected and generally conservative Wall Street Journal, which discussed the story with the Trump campaign, declined to support the narrative, stating, “Corporate records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show no role for Joe Biden.” The Jewish Journal’s article excoriates the media for doing their job.
Let’s remember that, whatever Hunter Biden’s indiscretions and business relationships may be, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal have not found one shred of evidence to corroborate these emails or the alleged ties to former vice president Biden. Were the media to continue to report the Trump campaign’s allegations of Biden’s corruption — without any corroboration — it would be placing its thumb on the scale of the election in Mr. Trump’s favor with a half-baked story.
Remember the devastating effect the accusations regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails had on the 2016 election (now, of course, these are almost quaint in light of the indiscretions of this administration)? To suggest that the press should publish stories that further this conspiratorial narrative, when it is insufficiently corroborated, is irresponsible. The press did not take the bait in this instance because there wasn’t much there, and they were unwilling to be led to questionable journalistic decisions by the Trump campaign.
What the press covers matters. And a story that is far more important for our society is the President’s recent Executive Order regarding what currently are non-political civil service positions and politicizing them by their reclassification. This Order, issued by a President whose signature line in his prior job was “You’re Fired! will remove employment protections from people “in positions of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character,” allowing them to be fired more easily. These career public servants include public health professionals, scientists, and other non-partisan experts.
This is one of many actions — small and large — that this President takes to eat away at our democracy and move us to a system of spoils and authoritarianism. Yet the story about the Executive Order, confusing on its face but devastating in how it would bring the instrumentalities of our government further to heel to a president who seeks fealty from these theoretically non-partisan positions, has received remarkably little coverage.
This President, who already interfered with the Justice Department and used the Secretary of State for heretofore unprecedented politicking, now wants to further control layers of civil servants holding positions that are essential to our safety, health, security, and defense. That’s a story worth reporting. It has the benefit of being true, well documented, and frightening.
BERTOLT BRECHT SAYS IT ALL ABOUT THE CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY TO BE POLITICALLY LITERATE
“The worst illiterate is the political illiterate... He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.”
Peter Bain commenting on the Anaheim Colonists: “Colonists, eh? Well, that brings up the legendary high school Orange County Oppressors….”