Below is my column in the Hill Newspaper on the Trump-like rhetoric coming from Democratic leaders as the 2020 election season ramps up. While correctly criticizing President Trump for many of his comments, the Democrats have been engaging in almost identical commentary with little coverage. What is now missing is a high ground in an election season that seems to be getting more and more irresponsible and hyperbolic.
As the Democratic presidential race gets more crowded and frantic, the rhetoric is rising. As with some of President Trump’s comments, one can dismiss much of these comments as irresponsible efforts to trigger a base of voters. However, some comments raises more troubling issues. That was the case with Beto O’Rourke’s comments on the media. O’Rourke accused conservative media of being the mouthpieces of terrrorism — an attack every bit as chilling as Trump’s calling the media the “enemy of the people.”
As many of you know, I am a constant critic of the loss of civility in our society. For that reason, I was not critical of CNN host Chris Cuomo when he reacted angrily to a guy who went out of his way to insult Cuomo by calling him “Fredo,” a reference to the weak, older brother of Michael Corleone. After calling Cuomo “Fredo,” the man mocks him further by saying “I thought that was who you were.” Cuomo responds with profanity, which is captured on video and went viral. I am sympathetic to Cuomo when people believe that they have license to insult celebrities and suspend basic rules of civility just because someone is on television. It is particularly disturbing to have the President of the United States join in the mockery and lower his office to the level of a troll.
Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the continuing recriminations following the recent massacres. The effort to blame the massacres on Trump reflect an ongoing effort to control speech by declaring certain words to be “triggering.” In this case, the meaning is literal.
Frank Figluizzi, an NBC News national security contributor, voiced a bizarre criticism of President Donald Trump after Trump ordered flags to be flown at half mast because of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Figluizzi said that the date, August 8th, meant that the shorthand date of 8/8 could be viewed as a reference to 88 which could be a reference to HH (the eighth letter in the alphabet) which could be viewed as a salute to “Heil Hitler.” Figluizzi explained that Trump could be simply ignorant of the obvious reference. There is another possibility: Frank Figluizzi is a reference to FF which is a reference to 66 (as the sixth letter in the alphabet) which is a reference to Route 66 which is a reference to the song “Get Your Kicks On Route 66” which is a reference to freeing yourself from any obligations or responsibilities . . . like serious commentary.
This morning I have the great honor of delivering a keynote address before the Federal Bar Conference in Anchorage, Alaska. The conference is being held at the Hotel Captain Cook and I will be speaking at 9:00 am on the foundations and evolution of both free speech and the free press in America.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump shocked many in his own party by indicating that he does not believe that Russia is continuing to try to interfere with U.S. elections. In response to a reporter referring Mueller’s conclusion that the interference is ongoing, Trump responded. “You don’t really believe this, do you?”
Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the name that came up repeatedly in the Mueller hearings to the surprise of many viewers. The name is Joseph Mifsud and we still know little about him because Mueller, like so many others, refuses to discuss him. It is an example of how much of the origins of the Russian investigation remain largely walled off from public discussion.
President Donald Trump has caused considerable confusion in Sweden by first requesting “bail” (which does not exist in Sweden) for rapper A$AP Rocky in this assault case and then accusing Sweden of letting “our African American community down” by not freeing him. Trump’s intervention in the case was both highly ill-informed and inappropriate in tying U.S. foreign policy to the handling of a celebrity’s routine criminal case.
The House Democrats and the media built up the Mueller hearings for weeks as the long awaited moment in the Trump investigations. It appears that the moment came far too late for most Americans. Less than 13 million viewers tuned in for the hearings, which was widely described as a disaster for the Democrats and, frankly, Mueller. In another example of the growth of cable over broadcast, Fox News secured the largest audience for the day — an ironic conclusion given the false report that Fox would not cover the hearing live. Yet, the numbers were down overall from the hearing of former FBI Director James Comey. The hearing undermined the Democratic position with a remarkably ill-conceived plan of having members just read portions of the report to Mueller who came across as befuddled and confused.
Yesterday, I covered the Mueller hearing with CBS and BBC as painful as that duty proved to be. It was an utter meltdown. Some of us had heard months ago that Robert Mueller had “lost a step” and was not viewed as in control of the final report. The Democrats were aware of that but, in what may be the single greatest political blunder in decades, put Mueller in front of cameras for six hours. He proceeded to stumble through his testimony despite being allowed to repeatedly refuse to answer questions that were neither privileged nor classified. While many of use noted the many contradictions and befuddled performance, media stalwarts for the Democrats nevertheless declared the hearing a success. MCNBC’s Rachel Maddow called it a “remarkable day” in which Mueller gave his ‘blunt” review of Trump. Others declared that it was a “victory” for Democrats and succeeded in creating a groundswell for impeachment. This is the problem with the state of media today. Channels and commentators are now part of formula coverage that requires them to advance the expected position regardless of the actual news. It is advocacy journalism and yesterday is an example of how detached it has become from real journalism.
I have always been a critic of President Donald Trump’s “fake news” mantra, which is often directed at stories that are true but embarrassing. However, that does not mean that new media allows the rapid spread of false stories — stories that are quickly replicated and repeated across the blogosphere. An example of this problem arose recently when MSNBC legal analyst Joyce Vance tweeted that Fox News would not air the hearing today with former Special Counsel Robert Mueller because Trump is “afraid” what Mueller will say. That is entirely untrue but the story quickly spread with people like author Stephen King picking up the thread and spreading it to millions. I have had the pleasure of appearing with Vance. While we sometimes disagree, I have great respect for her and her experience as an attorney. The tweet was a mistake but it is the aftermath that is a chilling insight on how fast things spread on our web-based news platforms.
University of Mississippi law professor James Thomas has previously caused a stir with intemperate comments about how conservative senators like Ted Cruz “don’t deserve your civility” and how people should attack them in public. Thomas, who was recently given tenure over opposition at the school, is back in the news by declaring that “MAGA teens are modern day Hitlerjugend [Hitler Youth]. Got a uniform and everything.”
There was an incredibly sad story last week. A terrorist attack in Somalia killed 27 people in the port city of Kismayo. Among the dead was Canadian-Somali journalist Hodan Nalayeh, who was an inspiration for not just Somalians but women around the world who have grown up in highly restrictive religious nations. Nalayeh dedicated her life to showing the beauty of her native country, which is all too often in the news for terrorist attacks and extremists. She moved back to Somalia to work to facilitate the continued development of Somalia.
We previously discussed various cases where academics involved in allegations of sexual misconduct have moved abroad to teach at foreign schools. That has triggered a “MeToo” protests at these schools. One of those cases involved a former GW colleague, Ezra Wasserman Mitchell, who changed his name from Larry Mitchell before leaving for China to join the faculty of the ShanghaiUniversity of Finance and Economics. Students reportedly called for an investigation. Now one of those activists in China who opposed Mitchell’s appointment is claiming that Mitchell was fired after the investigation, but the posted comments only indicate that Mitchell’s contract was not renewed. The website however still shows Mitchell as a faculty member. While I have not been able to confirm Mitchell’s departure, it does appear that the controversy is still raging in China since our previous discussion. However, we are no closer in resolving how such cases should be handled.