Category: media

Great moments in PR

Jonathan V. Last writes on …

So . . .
That’s not a joke I’m Ron Burgundy?
[Monday] the government of South Dakota announced their anti-meth campaign, the slogan of which is, “Meth. We’re on it.”
This is a real thing that people spent money on. $450,000.
The internet is, as you might imagine, highly amused.
I mean, it’s not “Just Say No.”
Or, “This is your brain on drugs.”
Or, “From you, dad. I learned it from watching you.”
And on first glance this seems destined to be one of those advertising case studies where future scholars ask, “So, they wanted an anti-drug slogan and they settled on Look at me I’m on drugs!?!
And the designers were so committed that they even trademarked the thing. (That “TM” is like a splinter in my eye. Make it stop.)
But here’s the thing: Isn’t this campaign also kind of genius?
Let’s stipulate that you can’t hang a value on “awareness.” Maybe it’s worthless. Maybe it’s really important. I don’t know.
For the sake of argument, though, let’s assume that “awareness” is a valid goal and evaluate this logo purely on how it achieves that goal.
Mission: Accomplished.
I could think of a dozen ways to stand up an anti-meth campaign that you would forget in an hour.
But “Meth. We’re on it.” is never going away. People will goof on it for a generation. There will be parodies. T-shirts. Stickers. Every middle schooler in South Dakota will, some day when they’re old, laugh with their buddies about that crazy “Meth. We’re on it.” thing.
I mean, if they don’t die from meth.
The goal of a piece of design like this is to hit people so hard that they have to take notice, that they talk about the concept, that they remember it and it resonates in the culture over time.
I would say that the South Dakota meth campaign achieves all of that.
Good for them.

A local example would be in the late 20th century, when what Wisconsin Energy, which formerly was Wisconsin Natural (Gas) and Wisconsin Electric (I know, because I wrote monthly checks), decided to call itself WE Energies, which Milwaukee talk radio host Charlie Sykes dubbed “WEnergies.” (Pronounced “wiener-jeez.”)

This is sort of a corollary to an incredibly annoying commercial that isn’t annoying merely from overbroadcast, but because of a feature that sets your teeth on edge. Some would say that’s good because you remember the ad. It’s not good, however, if you refuse to patronize the business because of their bad ads. (That would be me.)

Bad business decisions happen when there is no skeptic in the room, someone to point out how the brilliant idea could go horribly wrong.

 

The highest form of art, and if you don’t agree, you’rrrrrrrrre des-PICCCCC-able

Annie Holmquist:

I recently picked up Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for the first time. Finding the plot rather amusing, I began relaying it to my father over the weekend. Because he had never read the book, I was rather surprised when he began asking informed questions about the story. In no time at all, he was the one schooling me on plot elements I had not yet reached.

“Wait a minute,” I asked. “Are you sure you’ve never read this book?”

“No, never have,” he replied, “but I saw a cartoon version of the story when I was younger and everything I know comes from that.”

His revelation was intriguing, and to be honest, not the first of its kind. Like many in the Boomer generation, my father grew up watching classic cartoons, numbers of which were produced by the likes of Warner Bros.

But those cartoons did more than mind-numbingly entertain a generation of children. They also introduced millions of young people to key facets of cultural literacy, particularly in the realm of literature and music.

Beyond the aforementioned case of Mark Twain’s novel, these cartoons introduced children to stories such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde through the medium of Bugs Bunny. Key quotations and scenes from William Shakespeare’s works were the main theme in a Goofy Gophers cartoon known as A Ham in a RoleAnd Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha was placed front and center in a Walt Disney short called Little Hiawatha.

Perhaps even more famous than the literature references are the many ways in which cartoons introduced children to the world of classical music, including both instrumental and operatic selections, one of which is the famous Rabbit of Saville. American film critic Leonard Maltin describes the situation well:

“An enormous amount of my musical education came at the hands of [Warner Bros. composer] Carl Stalling, only I didn’t realize it, I wasn’t aware, it just seeped into my brain all those years I was watching Warner’s cartoons day after day after day. I learned Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody because of the Warner Bros. cartoons, they used it so often, famously when Friz Freleng had a skyscraper built to it in Rhapsody and Rivets.”

But Maltin wasn’t the only one learning from these classical music forays. In fact, as the famous pianist Lang Lang testifies, it was Tom and Jerry’s rendition of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody in The Cat Concerto which first inspired him to start piano at age two.

These examples just brush the surface of the cultural literacy lessons which the old cartoons taught our parents and grandparents. Even if they never learned these elements in school, they at least had some frame of reference upon which they could build their understanding of the books and music and even ideas which have impacted culture and the world we live in today.

But can the same be said of the current generation? Admittedly, I’m not very well-versed in current cartoon offerings, but a quick search of popular titles seems to suggest that the answer is no. A majority of the time they seem to offer fluff, fantasy, and a focus on the here and now.

In short, neither schools, nor Saturday morning cartoons seem to be passing on the torch of cultural knowledge and literacy. Could such a scenario be one reason why we see an increased apathy and lack of substance in the current generation?

Donald J. Kennedy

UW–Madison graduate Jeff Greenfield has a provocative thought:

Have we ever had a president before this one who so disdains the advice and policies of those who have spent their lives working for the government he leads? Have we ever had a chief executive who is so skeptical of the judgments of career diplomats and military leaders, who rejects the advice of top intelligence leaders, who trusts his family more than those with a lifetime of experience?

Yes we have. His name was John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Kennedy and Donald Trump are hardly similar men, nor are they similar presidents. JFK’s 14 years of experience in the House and Senate, his knowledge of history and his prudence in public (as opposed to private) matters make that notion absurd. But in one way they are alike: Throughout Kennedy’s presidency, he came more and more to distrust the received wisdom of the “permanent government” or “deep state” or “military-industrial complex” or whatever term seems apt today. In his case, that skepticism may have saved the planet from nuclear annihilation.

During the tumult of the Trump years, generals like H.R. McMaster and Jim Mattis have been glorified as steadying influences in the room—military wise men whose opinions on everything from Syria to NATO Trump has recklessly disregarded. And that is true. Trump deserves censure for his refusal to listen to the advice of experienced hands, and his White House can be faulted for jettisoning decades worth of scientific, economic and military expertise.

But in the reflexive rush to criticize Trump, we risk forgetting the lesson of the Kennedy years: There is danger in relying too heavily on the “wisdom” of the elders. A president with a well-honed resistance to the certainties of experts and a strong sense of history can be a crucial protection against disaster. Unlike Kennedy, Trump possesses only one of these traits. But we shouldn’t let the current president’s lapses reset our expectations for civilian control over the military and foreign affairs.

JFK campaigned in 1960 as a conventional Cold Warrior, warning that the United States was falling behind the Soviet Union, arguing that a (nonexistent) “missile gap” was threatening our security, embracing the idea that the fall of any nation to communism would threaten surrounding nations—the domino theory. But he had also come to office with a strong belief that the power of nationalism was changing the dynamic of world politics. He’d been skeptical about France’s ability to hold Indochina in the early 1950s. And in his first days in office, Kennedy rejected the advice of his military advisers to place troops in Laos—advice that included the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

His skepticism about the military grew steadily. After the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, he said, “Those sons of bitches with all the fruit salad just sat there, nodding, saying it would work.” He was furious when it took hours for the army to deploy troops to deal with rioting at the University of Mississippi when the first black student was admitted. And in the closest brush with nuclear war ever—the 1962 Cuban missile crisis—Kennedy repeatedly refused to strike at Soviet missile installations on the island.

Side note: Those of us who went to John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Madison in the 1970s could tell you that Kennedy was in the Navy Reserve during World War II as a PT boat captain. Perhaps that’s where he got his disdain for higher military authority.

His judgment may well have made the difference between war and peace. But the military and intelligence heavyweights saw it otherwise. “The greatest defeat in our history,” Air Force Chief Curtis LeMay called it. Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson—the ultimate “wise man” who had confidently assured JFK that the Soviets would not respond to a military strike in Cuba—called the peaceful resolution of the crisis a matter of “luck” and later said, “We have to face the fact that the United States has no leader.” And Allen Dulles, the longtime CIA chief cashiered by JFK after the Bay of Pigs, said in retirement: “Kennedy is weak, not a leader.”

Kennedy, in turn, was sufficiently worried about his military advisers that he encouraged director John Frankenheimer to make a movie out of Seven Days in May, a novel about an attempted military coup, and even vacated the White House for a weekend to accommodate the movie’s shooting schedule.

By June 1963, Kennedy was signaling his intention to break with the Cold War consensus. In a speech at American University, he called for a new approach toward the Soviet Union. While condemning its totalitarian system, he said: “Let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

Lyndon Johnson inherited Kennedy’s “new approach” to the Soviet Union. So did Richard Nixon, who inherited one of LBJ’s advisors, Henry Kissinger. Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter had the same approach to the U.S.S.R. It took Ronald Reagan to come up with better strategy: “We win, they lose.” In other words, the hawks ultimately were right and the doves were wrong about the Soviets.

Kennedy sought to lessen criticism of his proposed new approach to Moscow with huge increases in the defense budget. And he bears substantial responsibility for sending 15,000 “combat advisers” into Vietnam. But history suggests that he was looking for ways out of that quagmire, while dealing with the harsh domestic political realities. He told a friend: “We don’t have a prayer of staying in Vietnam. Those people hate us. They are going to throw our asses out. … But I can’t give up a piece of territory to the communists and then get the people to reelect me.”

Keep that last quote in mind for everyone who continues to lionize Kennedy more than 50 years after his death.

Kennedy pushed back against the “permanent government” by relying on different eyes and ears for advice and information. Most obvious was his turn to his brother, Robert Kennedy, as a key adviser on any and all matters, beyond RFK’s job as attorney general. During the Cuban missile crisis, JFK used ABC correspondent John Scali as a go-between with Alexandr S. Fomin, a KGB official in Washington and a personal friend of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. When Kennedy learned that French journalist Jean Daniel was going to interview Fidel Castro, he met with Daniel and asked that they meet again on his return. He encouraged Deputy U.N. Ambassador (and former journalist) William Atwood to maintain contacts with members of the Cuban delegation.

This was dramatized in …

No one can know, of course, whether JFK would have moved further from the Cold War consensus in a second term. What we do know is that throughout his presidency, he was one of the few voices pushing back against the assumptions of those around him. Virtually every “wise man”—McGeorge Bundy, Walt Rostow, Dean Rusk, the joint chiefs—argued for escalation in Vietnam, but Kennedy pushed back. He would say, for example, if you can convince Douglas MacArthur that a land war in Asia is a good idea, let me know. And after his death, his successor—far less grounded in history or foreign policy, and without Kennedy’s deep doubts about the wisdom of the military, presided over the full-scale tragedy that was Vietnam.

The wrong lesson, then, is that it is acceptable for a president like Trump to carry out an ignorant, narcissistic foreign policy. But it is equally wrong to think that presidents should mindlessly defer to their military and diplomatic advisers. It was “the best and the brightest” who led us into Vietnam; it was the counsel of seasoned, experienced leaders who led us into Iraq in 2003; it was a team of well-versed experts who presided over the descent into the Great Recession of 2008.

Under Trump, we have seen that a president without the gifts of knowledge and judgment is ill-served by ignoring advice from the grownups in the room. By relying on his own instincts in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president greatly strengthened the hands of Iran, Russia and ISIS while shaking our allies’ faith in America’s judgment.

The heavy costs of ignoring sound advice may lead the next president to reaffirm respect for the “deep state.” But if respect becomes veneration, if the next president does not know how and where to look for alternatives to the consensus, that could well lead to a new series of destructive policies. A president without the ability to thoughtfully contest the conventional wisdom, without the ability to argue for new alternatives to old problems, does the office and the nation no favor.

 

First Amendment self-sabotage

Charles Lipson:

Because our country is so deeply split and so distrustful of its basic institutions, it needs solid, dispassionate reporting now more than ever. We are not getting it.

Americans know this, and we’re angry about it. Polls show we don’t trust the media any more than we trust Congress, the president, universities, or big business. And we don’t trust them at all. That’s deeply troubling since those institutions should be the secure foundations of our public life. Only one is still trusted by more than half the population — the military. Our men and women in uniform certainly deserve our trust and respect, but it’s grim news for a democracy when only the armed forces merit it.

The media has added to this sulfurous climate of distrust and division. Take the country’s most important newspaper, the New York Times. After badly misjudging voter sentiment during the 2016 election, the Times publicly promised to reevaluate its biases, take occasional trips across the Hudson, and try harder. That lasted about a week.

The Times soon joined every other media organization in the race to discredit Donald Trump’s election, imply it was the product of Russian interference, and paint him as an illegitimate intruder in the White House. Although they were right to investigate Russian interference, they were wrong to pump up a thinly based conspiracy story that served their political aims.

Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation showed the Russians did interfere, primarily to create chaos and assist Trump. The special prosecutor documented multiple Russian contacts with the Trump campaign, a troubling revelation for any fair-minded American. But the report did not show any impact on the election outcome or charge any Americans with aiding the Russians. Asked point-blank if the president had not been charged because he was in office, Mueller mumbled a befuddled answer (like much of his testimony) and eventually said “no.”

Mueller’s report left gaping holes. It made no effort to find out why the CIA and FBI began investigating Trump and his campaign in the first place, whether that was warranted, why a counterintelligence investigation became a criminal one, or why candidate Trump was never warned about Russia’s malicious efforts. The report never addressed whether James Comey’s FBI was secretly targeting Trump for partisan or illicit purposes or how it justified this unprecedented action. Ultimately, Mueller’s report was a dud, and his testimony a disappointment for those alleging a vast, treasonous conspiracy.

Did the proprietors of the Fourth Estate learn their lesson? No, siree. Like all true believers who have been thwarted, they have redoubled their efforts, reinforcing the impeachment drive by House Democrats. Even as Trump wrongly smears all news as “fake,” damaging our country (as well as his targets), those newspapers, online outlets, and cable channels are doing their best to prove him right. They have embraced their new role as active partisans, while still denying it. Who trusts their denials?

This media sinkhole was exposed once again after U.S. forces launched a daring raid that killed ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The Washington Post beclowned itself with a headline, since changed, that depicted the murderous terrorist and serial rapist as “an austere religious scholar.” The Twitter universe responded with parodies. Bonnie and Clyde were called “wealth re-distributors in the banking sector,” John Wilkes Booth “a noted thespian and member of a prominent theatrical family.” My favorite is Osama bin Laden, who was “killed in a home invasion.” Note that all of them are true, just as the Washington Post’s headline was. They are funny because, like the Post headline, they miss the point so egregiously.

How did CNN do? Not well, but thanks for asking. At 3 p.m. Eastern time, when I tuned in, the news channel’s editors had decided that al-Baghdadi’s death was not the top story. The day after the raid. Really? They led with two minor pieces, neither of them urgent, and then took a commercial break. Afterward, CNN turned to the al-Baghdadi story, but its main point was that it was far less important than killing Osama bin Laden. I agree, but what was troubling was how CNN essentially stage-whispered to its viewers, “Trust us, this story is not that important and certainly cannot compare with President Obama’s achievement.”

Burying important stories is as significant as misreporting them. Over the next few weeks, we will learn about a huge one the mainstream media has buried in a shallow grave for nearly three years. It deals with surveillance on members of the Trump campaign, based on warrants the FBI and Department of Justice gained from a secret court charged with counterintelligence investigations. DoJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz will report on his extensive probe of those FISA warrants and whether top FBI and DoJ officials committed fraud on the courts in obtaining them. We may learn who leaked classified materials, a crime we know happened repeatedly in 2016 and early 2017. We may learn about massive, illegal access to intelligence databases by outside contractors, who were spying on Americans without court permission. Expect criminal referrals. Expect indictments on related matters being investigated by U.S. Attorney John Durham, a highly respected, non-partisan professional. Did the CIA, which cannot spy on Americans, simply outsource the task to foreign counterparts? This is likely to be big and ugly.

Our country’s leading news organizations have done almost nothing to investigate these issues and far too little to report on them. When they do report, they editorialize to downplay them. If the worst allegations turn out to be true — and we simply don’t know yet — they will have missed the biggest story since Watergate. Worst of all, they will have missed it deliberately because they feared any investigation might aid a president they hated. That position should be reserved for the editorial pages. In the news sections, such distortion and willful blindness is an abdication of journalists’ responsibilities. Democracy dies in that kind of derangement.

Speaking of deranged, Nick Gillespie reports a different form of derangement:

If you need more proof that free expression is under serious and sustained attack, look no further than The Washington Post, that legendary and often self-congratulatory bastion of First Amendment support, which has just published an op-ed calling for hate speech laws because “on the Internet, truth is not optimized. On the Web, it’s not enough to battle falsehood with truth; the truth doesn’t always win.”

What’s even more disheartening is that the author is Richard Stengel, a former managing editor of Time, chairman of the National Constitution Center, and Obama-era State Department official whose soul-searching apparently began when challenged by diplomats from a part of the world notorious for particularly brutal forms of censorship. As a journalist, Stengel avers, he loved, loved, loved the First Amendment and its commitment to free speech. But then he got stumped by unnamed representatives of unnamed governments who asked banal questions:

Even the most sophisticated Arab diplomats that I dealt with did not understand why the First Amendment allows someone to burn a Koran. Why, they asked me, would you ever want to protect that?

Is he kidding? “Why would a country founded in large part on the Enlightenment values of free speech and religious freedom allow free speech and religious freedom?” doesn’t seem like a tough question to answer. He doesn’t name the countries his “most sophisticated Arab diplomats represented, so we need to fill that detail in. Let’s assume they were from Saudi Arabia, a country completely unworthy of emulation when it comes to respecting basic human rights and whose Prince Mohammed bin Salman has taken responsibility for the brutal torture and murder of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. We allow the burning of the Koran for the same reasons we allow the burning of King James and St. Jerome Bibles, the desecration of the U.S. flag, and the potential libeling of elected officials: We believe that individuals have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. With a few exceptions such as “fighting words,” “true threats,” and obscenity, we know that it’s better to allow more speech rather than less. Surprisingly, people get along better when they can more freely speak their minds. The search for “truth”—or at least consensus—benefits from free expression, too, as ideas and attitudes are subjected to examination from friends and foes alike. But the pragmatic answer is ultimately secondary to the expressive one: We allow free speech because no one, certainly not the government, has a right to curtail it.

As befits a man who helmed a legacy media outlet that is slowly being reduced to rubble like a statue of Ozymandias in the desert, Stengel is particularly distraught over “the Internet” and the “Web.” He implies that the “marketplace of ideas” worked well enough when John Milton and, a bit later, America’s founders pushed an unregulated press, but, well, times have changed.

On the Internet, truth is not optimized. On the Web, it’s not enough to battle falsehood with truth; the truth doesn’t always win. In the age of social media, the marketplace model doesn’t work. A 2016 Stanford study showed that 82 percent of middle schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and an actual news story. Only a quarter of high school students could tell the difference between an actual verified news site and one from a deceptive account designed to look like a real one.

If you’re basing the erosion of constitutional rights on the reading comprehension skills of middle schoolers, you’re doing it wrong. And by it, I mean journalism, constitutional analysis, politics, and just about everything else, too.

Stengel pivots from discussing truth in media to “hate speech,” a ridiculously expansive term he never defines with precision (he even writes, “there’s no agreed-upon definition of what hate speech actually is”). But because mass shooters such as Dylann Roof, Omar Mateen, and the El Paso shooter “were consumers of hate speech,” it’s time to chuck out hard-fought victories that allow individuals and groups to express themselves in words and pictures. Hate speech, laments Stengel, doesn’t just cause violence (though strangely, violence is declining even as social media is flourishing), it also

diminishes tolerance. It enables discrimination. Isn’t that, by definition, speech that undermines the values that the First Amendment was designed to protect: fairness, due process, equality before the law? Why shouldn’t the states experiment with their own version of hate speech statutes to penalize speech that deliberately insults people based on religion, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation?

All speech is not equal. And where truth cannot drive out lies, we must add new guardrails. I’m all for protecting “thought that we hate,” but not speech that incites hate. It undermines the very values of a fair marketplace of ideas that the First Amendment is designed to protect.

A quick reading of the First Amendment would have reminded Stengel—the former chairman and CEO of the National Constitution Center, fer chrissakes!—that the First Amendment isn’t about limiting speech that bothers the sensibilities of people. It’s actually all about Congress not making laws that would create an official religion or restricting individual speech and freedom of the press; it also guarantees that we have the right of assembly and petition. The values it reflects involve pluralism and tolerance, not shutting down, regulating, or restricting speech that makers of “new guardrails” find offensive, annoying, or inconvenient.

If you grew up any time in the past 60 years or so, you’ve taken freedom of speech for granted. That’s due to a series of legal rulings that struck down the ability of elected officials to strangle speech they didn’t like, ranging from potentially libelous personal attacks to once-banned literary works as Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Howl, and Ulysses, along with materials such as the Pentagon Papers and the rise of technology that made producing and consuming all sorts of texts, images, music, video, and other forms of creative expression vastly easier.

It’s incredibly dispiriting to see baby boomers like Stengel brush aside the incredible wins in free expression because of concerns about vaguely defined terms such as “hate speech.” He gives off a strong whiff of internet and Cold War paranoia—”Russian agents assumed fake identities, promulgated false narratives and spread lies on Twitter and Facebook, all protected by the First Amendment”—that seems widely shared by his generational peers. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) is an increasingly strong presidential candidate who has vowed to regulate explicitly political speech, especially its online iterations …

Older boomers are syncing with millennials and younger Americans, who show a strong predilection to limiting “bad” speech (a 2015 Pew survey found 40 percent of millennials supported censoring “offensive statements about minorities”). These are not good developments, and neither is an op-ed in The Washington Post calling for an effective revocation of the First Amendment. Throw in bipartisan interest in regulating social media platforms as public utilities, the president’s interest in “opening up” the libel laws so he can more easily sue his critics, the rise of “cancel culture,” and we’re one Zippo lighter short of a good, old-fashioned book burning.

Resigned to stories like this

I’m not sure how much weight to give to this CNN Business story, but we report, you decide:

A former Trump Organization executive says she thinks President Donald Trump may resign rather than face possible removal from office by impeachment.

“He does a lot of things to save face,” Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization vice president, told CNN’s Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources [Oct. 6].

“It would be very, very, very bad for him to be impeached,” Res said. “I don’t know that he’ll be found guilty but I don’t know that he wants to be impeached. I think that’s what this panic is about. And my gut [instinct] is that he’ll leave office, he’ll resign. Or make some kind of a deal, even, depending on what comes out.”

Res said she was hesitant to share her opinion, because “I could very well be wrong.”

But Res has first-hand experience working with Trump. She was the construction engineer on some of his key projects, including Trump Tower, and she is the author of “All Alone on the 68th Floor: How One Woman Changed the Face of Construction,” which partly chronicles her time working for the President while he ran his company.

She has been critical of Trump in recent years, including during the 2016 campaign, when she said he wasn’t fit for office.

Her comments come as the impeachment inquiry over Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president intensify. House Democrats on Friday subpoenaed the White House as part of the investigation into Trump. And on Sunday, the lawyer for the first intelligence whistleblower to come forward with accusations concerning Trump and Ukraine said he is now representing a second whistleblower regarding the President’s actions.

The inquiry has sent Trump into a tweetstorm in recent days, defending himself and denouncing both Democratic lawmakers and critics within his own party.

Res said she is not surprised by Trump’s reaction.

“He was always very quick to react, he never responded to anything, always reacted to it and got very, very angry,” Res said. “He had this notion that everything that happened that was bad was directed at him, like they were after him, people were after him.”

She said there have, however, been some elements of the Trump campaign and presidency that she wouldn’t have expected, saying his behavior has gotten worse than when she worked for him. Res was surprised to see reports that Trump told Russian officials he was unconcerned about the country’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election because, she said, “that was a stupid thing to say and I never thought of him as stupid.”

But most of the time, Res said the President is still the Donald Trump she knew while working for him for over a decade.

“This is Trump — I say Trump Squared because he’s had, since I knew him, many, many years of fame and fortune and getting richer and now he actually does believe he’s a stable genius and he does believe he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue, and so far it looks like he can,” she said. The president famously said during the 2016 campaign that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and his supporters would not abandon him.

As for Trump’s fitness for office, Res said she agrees with George Conway, the husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, who published a piece in The Atlantic earlier this week saying Trump is unfit for office.

“I thought that when he was running for office,” Res said. “And not necessarily for the mental reasons that you talk about but because he didn’t have the experience, you know, lots of different things.”

So here we have a former Trump employee who claims to know that which is unknowable, the inner workings of Trump’s mind. Notice also that this story is three weeks old, but has only come out beyond CNN viewers over the past day or so. And the source seems to not grasp how the impeachment process works — the House of Representatives decides to impeach or not, while the Senate conducts the trial and must vote by two-thirds margin to convict and remove from office. Anyone care to bet on the last happening in a Republican-controlled Senate?

Newsweek reported this back in January:

Alan J. Steinberg—who served as an adviser to former President George W. Bush—wrote in an opinion piece published this week that he didn’t believe President Donald Trump would be removed from office through impeachment.

Steinberg, a former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator, said that he believed Trump would resign in 2019 in exchange for immunity.

“Trump will not be removed from office by the constitutional impeachment and removal process,” Steinberg wrote in The Star-Ledger. “Instead, the self-professed supreme dealmaker will use his presidency as a bargaining chip with federal and state authorities in 2019, agreeing to leave office in exchange for the relevant authorities not pursuing criminal charges against him, his children or the Trump Organization.”

Steinberg noted in the piece that should the House of Representatives impeach Trump, 20 Republican senators would have to break with the president to remove him from office—and that seems very unlikely. Steinberg wrote that the many legal challenges facing Trump—the investigation from special counsel Robert Mueller, the probe from the Southern District of New York as well as inquiries from the attorney general of New York and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office—could lead him to leave the White House, especially as authorities close in on his family.

Steinberg wrote for The Star-Ledger:

“Aside from all the legal nightmares facing Trump and his presidency, it appears virtually impossible for Trump to be reelected in 2020. The economy appears headed for a severe recession, as evidenced by the recent plunge in the stock market, which appears on pace for its worst December since the Great Depression.

There are only two years left in Trump’s presidential term. With his approval ratings in an abysmal state, and the forthcoming recession making it near impossible for Trump to stage a political recovery, it appears most likely that he will use the continuation of his presidency as a bargaining chip.”

Steinberg is far from the only person who believes Trump will be out of office before his first term is up.

Right! Again from Newsweek, again from January:

Aformer Republican congressman predicts that President Donald Trump will leave the White House “soon” in a “spectacular political crash-and-burn” set to take place during 2019.

John LeBoutillier, who represented New York’s 6th District in the early 1980s, predicted Trump’s downfall in a column for The Hill.

“Donald J. Trump’s presidency will not survive 2019,” LeBoutillier wrote.

“The downward trajectory of every aspect of his tenure indicates we are headed for a spectacular political crash-and-burn—and fairly soon.

“His increasingly erratic and angry behavior, his self-imposed isolation, his inability and refusal to listen to smart advisers that he hired, all are leading him to a precipice.”

There are a number of threats to Trump’s turbulent presidency. The largest of all is the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and allegations that the Trump campaign conspired with agents of the Russian state to help Trump win. …

“The Mueller investigation will unveil evidence of Trump putting himself out to the highest bidder in return for campaign help and financing: Russians, Saudis, Emiratis, Qataris—there will be evidence that millions of foreign dollars illegally flowed into the Trump campaign coffers in 2016,” LeBoutillier predicted.

“In other words, Trump basically said, ‘I’m for sale.'”

 

Great moments in weekend journalism

The Hill reports about this ridiculous editorial decision:

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The Washington Post changed the headline on its obituary for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi after initially calling him an “austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State.”

The Post changed its headline for the obituary at least twice Sunday, starting by describing al-Baghdadi as the “Islamic State’s terrorist-in-chief.” The newspaper then adjusted the headline to call al-Baghdadi the “austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State,” sparking some backlash on social media.

The headline has now been updated to describe al-Baghdadi as the “extremist leader of Islamic State.”

The Washington Examiner called out the Post for referring to al-Baghdadi as an “austere scholar.” While the Examiner acknowledged that the Post said al-Baghdadi led the terrorist organization with “shocking brutality,” the Examiner also noted that the Post spent most of the obituary focused on his academic career rather than his role in ISIS.

“The man who would become the founding leader of the world’s most brutal terrorist group spent his early adult years as an obscure academic, aiming for a quiet life as a professor of Islamic law,” the obituary reads.

Kristine Coratti Kelly, a spokesperson for the Post, tweeted that the headline “should never have read that way and we changed it quickly.”

President Trump confirmed al-Baghdadi’s death Sunday morning at a press conference, saying he died in a U.S. military raid in Syria.

“The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him,” the president said during the press conference.

The corrected version …

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… and the recorrected version …

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… are one or two more than would have happened had a Democrat been president. Remember the orgy of congratulations when Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden? Such things feed Trump’s assertion that the media is the enemy of the country when the media fails to recognize not a victory for whoever is president, but an American military victory.

The reason I’m not part of the celebration is that Middle Eastern terrorist groups seem to easily replace their deceased leaders. Perhaps that suggests a larger required response.

Meanwhile, Business Insider reports:

People are parodying The Washington Post after the newspaper referred to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group, as an “austere religious scholar” in a headline about his death. …

The headline change also inspired people to write parody headlines, under the hashtag #WaPoDeathNotices, describing the deaths of other notorious figures like the Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the “Harry Potter” villain Voldemort.

Saddam Hussein, successful politician, oil baron and noted tough boss, dead at 69. #WaPoDeathNotices

He saw a country wracked by poverty, illiteracy & disease. So he lead a revolution that uplifted the lives of millions. RIP #FidelCastro

Genghis Khan, noted traveler, dies at 64.

Osama bin Laden, father of 23, killed in home invasion #WaPoDeathNotices

Charles Manson, community organizer, dead at 83 #WaPoDeathNotices

Mussolini, proud patriot, loved pasta, hated meat hooks. Died aged 61 #WaPoDeathNotices

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, wealth re-distributors in the banking sector, died today from extreme air conditioning.

Hannibal Lecter, well-known forensic psychiatrist and food connoisseur dead at 81. #WaPoDeathNotices

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who once participated in the Boston marathon, has died #WaPoDeathNotices

Voldemort, austere wizard who overcame a severe facial deformity to achieve dark lordship, dead at 71 #WaPoDeathNotices

The original whistle blower, Judas Iscariot, dead at 41. #WaPoDeathNotices

Ted Bundy, Noted Ladies’ Man and Women’s Rights Activist, Found Dead in Chair

Kristine Coratti Kelly, The Washington Post’s vice president of communications, tweeted on Sunday that the headline “should never have read that way” and that editors “changed it quickly.”

That might be the funniest tweet of all.

Anti-free speech during Free Speech Week

This is, according to the News Media Alliance, Free Speech Week.

(Which I found out too late to include that in the newspaper this week. Media companies and organizations are notorious for bad internal communication.)

David Chavern wrote last year:

Do you remember what it was like to not be able to get the answer to an elusive question as soon as you asked it? Like how long sea turtles live? Or how far away is the sun? Or the name of that actor from that one movie? Before the omni-present Google and smartphone, these answers were likely missing (or required a lot of work to find). So when these questions came up in the past, conversation would stop.

That’s because the language of America is our common understanding of the facts of the world. Knowledge is a type of social currency, allowing us to converse and tackle the problems we collectively face. Without it, no democratic system can continue to function.

These common understandings tie us together. They allow us to communicate effectively and work together. When they are absent or under stress, like they are at this moment in society, it may sometimes feel like we will never recover that common language. But journalists are out there every day on the front lines to uncover the facts and understandings that will allow us to find our way back to a more productive democracy where decisions can be made based on mutually agreed-upon facts.

To fortify and flourish, we need to protect free speech. Journalists must be able to do their jobs without fear of censorship so that readers have unfettered access to the facts. Free speech is our most important tool in challenging abuses of power. It was a team of journalists at the Indianapolis Star that broke the Larry Nassar scandal, leading to his imprisonment this year. It was journalists who revealed the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and journalists who dug into Donald Trump’s suspected tax schemes. We’ve witnessed these brave men and women go into storm surges, disasters and war zones to bring us the news.

Yet across the globe, we have also seen egregious attacks on the press. Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was captured and murdered for practicing his profession; a shooter entered the Capital Gazette newsroom, killing five members of their staff; The Boston Globe received bomb threats – to name a few. So far, 43 journalists this year have been killed simply for reporting the news. These attacks, while unbelievably tragic in their own right, are also denying citizens their right to be informed. They are silencing the language of America.

This year during Free Speech Week, we must remember the sacrifices of these individuals and demand better protections for the Fourth Estate. The freedom of the press is a fundamental principle of the United States and one we must seek to protect.

The News Media Alliance has joined Reporters Without Borders and other organizations to encourage voters in the U.S. to ask their congressional candidates ahead of the midterm elections where they stand on press freedom. I urge you to speak with your elected officials and work to secure free speech and protections for journalists so that the language of America may thrive.

So what a great time (/sarcasm) for the Washington Free Beacon to report:

A majority of Americans believe the First Amendment should be rewritten and are willing to crack down on free speech, as well as the press, according to a new poll.

More than 60 percent of Americans agree on restricting speech in some way, while a slim majority, 51 percent, want to see the First Amendment rewritten to “reflect the cultural norms of today.” The Campaign for Free Speech, which conducted the survey, said the results “indicate free speech is under more threat than previously believed.”

“The findings are frankly extraordinary,” executive director Bob Lystad told the Washington Free Beacon. “Our free speech rights and our free press rights have evolved well over 200 years, and people now seem to be rethinking them.”

Of the 1,004 respondents, young people were the most likely to support curbing free expression and punishing those who engage in “hate speech.” Nearly 60 percent of Millennials—respondents between the ages of 21 and 38—agreed that the Constitution “goes too far in allowing hate speech in modern America” and should be rewritten, compared to 48 percent of Gen Xers and 47 percent of Baby Boomers. A majority of Millennials also supported laws that would make “hate speech” a crime—of those supporters, 54 percent said violators should face jail time.

American hostility to the First Amendment did not stop at speech. Many would also like to see a crackdown on the free press. Nearly 60 percent of respondents agreed that the “government should be able to take action against newspapers and TV stations that publish content that is biased, inflammatory, or false.” Of those respondents, 46 percent supported possible jail time.

The poll was released just two days after two University of Connecticut students were arrested for allegedly saying racial slurs in a viral video. The 21-year-old suspects were allegedly playing “a game in which they yelled vulgar words,” according to the police report. Lystad said such incidents and the rise of social media may be behind the increased willingness of Americans to curb speech rights.

“I think [our findings] are fueled in large part because of a rise of hate speech, but traditionally, hate speech is protected in the First Amendment,” Lystad said. “The Supreme Court has upheld that principle time and time again.”

Lystad launched the Campaign for Free Speech to advocate for preserving free and open dialogue in America. The group emphasizes that hate speech should be denounced, but does not think censorship is the answer. The group plans to push back against efforts to restrict speech at the local, state, and federal levels.

“Hate speech should be condemned, but legally, the answer to speech we don’t like is more speech, not censorship,” he said. “Our primary focus is education, and to help people better understand the First Amendment, free speech, free press, and why it’s so vital to our democracy.”

If that poll is accurate, it proves that a majority of Americans (that is, those who support restrictions on free speech) are idiots who should start restricting free speech by shutting the hell up. I will not. Ever.

 

Bad solutions to questionable problems

PJ Media reports that Andrew Yang is still a Democratic vice presidential candidate:

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, a Democratic presidential candidate, referred to job loss in the journalism field as a “tragedy” in America and proposed investing “public resources” to help support the news business.

Past studies have shown journalism to be among the worst career choices based on average annual income.

Now they tell me.

“Now you have all these measurements attached to any piece of journalism that you produce that did not exist a generation ago. It’s like, ‘how did that piece perform? How many clicks did it get?’ And the natural incentives are for you to become a little bit more aggressive and a little bit more sensationalist with the headline or the angle,” Yang said during a newsmakers event at the National Press Club on Monday.

“And that’s just the way the industry is unfolding because the almighty market is pulling all the strings so if you want to change that in communities you have to actually put some public resources to work,” he added.

Yang noted that he is personally familiar with the struggles of working journalists and aspiring journalists so he is “passionate” about addressing the challenges facing the industry.

“You all do great work. We need to make it so you can do your jobs without fearing getting fired the next day because your stuff didn’t get enough traffic,” Yang said.

Yang said American society should “find a way to support local journalism” even if the free market isn’t supporting its existence.

“If you believe in democracy you have to believe in journalism, particularly at the local level — over 1,200 local newspapers have gone out of business in the last number of years and we all know why. They used to have classified ads and revenue from those ads and now those ads went to the cloud and Craigslist and they didn’t have a new source of revenue to replace it,” he said.

“Studies have shown if you lose your local newspaper, voting becomes more polarized because you don’t know what’s going on in your town anymore and so you just vote along party lines and you have lower levels of government accountability as a result,” he added.

Yang continued, “So that is why I proposed a local journalism fund that would help create cooperative ownership business models and in some cases partner with philanthropy to help create sustainable models of journalism in communities around the country.”

Yang also said the “problem right now is if you are a newspaper, it’s not enough for you to break even. You have to make enough money to keep your shareholders happy and in some cases, those shareholders are private equity firms and hedge funders that bought your paper and then consolidated them.”

According to Yang’s campaign website, the $1 billion fund would operate “out of the FCC” and “make grants to companies, non-profits, and local governments and libraries to help local newspapers, periodicals and websites transition to sustainability in a new era.”

“It’s that or let local journalism die, which I don’t think anyone is in favor of,” Yang said on Monday.

Having government fund the media is absolutely, positively the wrong answer. Then newspapers will be reporting what the government wants them to report, of which we have far too much already.

This, however, is not Yang’s only bad idea, as Graham Piro reports:

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang said the United States may have to eliminate private car ownership to combat climate change during MSNBC’s climate forum at Georgetown University Thursday morning.

He told MSNBC host Ali Velshi that “we might not own our own cars” by 2050 to wean the United States economy off of fossil fuels, describing private car ownership as “really inefficient and bad for the environment.” Privately owned cars would be replaced by a “constant roving fleet of electric cars.”

A video posted by the GOP War Room shows Velshi asking Yang what measures he sees the world taking to fight climate change by 2050.

“You have this ability to envision the future, right, with your proposals on universal basic income. You’ve played the whole chess game out and you see what it looks like on the other end. Play the chess game out on climate change,” Velshi said. “What does the world look like to you in 2050? What physically do you think we will do differently than we do today that will result in us fighting climate change?”

“Well I mentioned before that we might not own our own cars. Our current car ownership and usage model is really inefficient and bad for the environment,” Yang said.

“You guys all probably agree with this because you’re quite young,” he told the Georgetown University crowd, adding an anecdote about driving a 1985 Honda Accord as a young man.

Yang then proposed an alternative to individuals owning their own cars.

“What we’re really selling is not the car, it’s mobility,” he said. “So if you have mobility that’s then tied into a much more, if you had like, for example, this constant roving fleet of electric cars that you would just order up, then you could diminish the impact of ground transportation on our environment very, very quickly.”

Yang’s climate plan calls for nearly $5 trillion in spending over the next 20 years. His proposal includes embracing the impacts of climate change.

“Move our people to higher ground. Natural disasters and other effects of climate change are already causing damage and death. We need to adapt our country to this new reality,” his plan states.

The plan also includes a zero emissions standard for all new cars by 2030 and hundreds of billions of dollars in investments in emission-free ground and air transportation.

Cancel cancel culture

John Tierney:

A modest proposal for my fellow journalists: Could we declare a bipartisan amnesty for the stupid things people did in high school and college—or at least stop pretending that these things have any relevance in judging a middle-aged adult’s professional competence?

I realize that this suggestion will trouble the many liberal journalists who have worked diligently to reveal what might or might not have happened at a party at Yale that might or might not have been attended by Brett Kavanaugh during his freshman year. (The definitive conclusion from thousands of hours of investigative reporting: people at the party were really drunk.) Nor will it appeal to the conservatives now savoring the seemingly endless series of photos of a young Justin Trudeau in blackface. (The Babylon Bee, a news-satire site, delivered the coup de grace: “Rare Photo Surfaces of Trudeau Not in Blackface.”)

I also realize that it’s futile to appeal to my colleagues’ sense of perspective or feelings of compassion. These qualities have always been in short supply in our profession, and they’re rarer than ever in the age of “cancel culture.” We can convince ourselves that anything is newsworthy if it embarrasses the other side and generates enough clicks. Exactly how many beers did Kavanaugh drink in high school? A nation’s fate is at stake! Precisely how many parties in the early 1990s did Trudeau attend in blackface? The public has a right to know!

But now journalists have a selfish reason to behave decently: mutual assured cancellation, a strategic doctrine that has emerged from the recent media furor involving Carson King, a security guard in Iowa. He’d become a media sensation after holding up a sign on ESPN’s College GameDay asking people to send him money so that he could buy Busch Light beer. As the money rolled in, he decided to redirect it from beer to charity, raising more than $1 million for a children’s hospital. Anheuser-Busch kicked in money and planned to include him in a marketing campaign.

It should have been a feel-good story, but then a Des Moines Register reporter unearthed a couple of racist jokes that King had tweeted seven years earlier, when he was 16. The Register’s editors decided that this information needed to be included in the article. Meantime, just before the story ran, Anheuser-Busch independently found out about the tweets and announced that it would honor its donation pledge but sever all ties with King. Just like that, King was demoted from philanthropist to pariah.

King dutifully issued groveling apologies for his teenage sins—the ritual act of contrition for the newly canceled—but then the story took another turn. Newspaper readers and beer drinkers rose to his defense. Other businesses stepped up to contribute money to the cause. The organizers of an Oktoberfest celebration in Iowa declared that they would stop serving Busch Light. In a letter posted to a local news site, WeAreIowa.com, Eric Dolash, the father of a girl who had been treated at the children’s hospital, declared that he would no longer read the Register or drink Busch Light. “You cut ties with a man with objectively superb values whose coat tails you rode in a marketing flurry,” he told Anheuser-Busch, and added ominously, “It must have been an exhausting effort to review all social media posts of your entire workforce, knowing you certainly wouldn’t associate them with your brand for any past mistakes.”

The Register was besieged by readers outraged at its treatment of King, and they didn’t just write letters to the editor. They retaliated by studying the social-media history of Aaron Calvin, the reporter who had written the article—and who’d made a few offensive posts of his own, before joining the paper. The saga was nicely summed up and given a label by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Balaji S. Srnivasan, who tweeted:

1) Man goes viral

2) Man uses attention to raise ~$1M for charity

3) Journalist finds old posts to attack him for clicks

4) Man apologizes

5) Journalist’s old posts now surface

6) Journalist is now getting canceled

Mutually assured cancellation.

As a form of deterrence, mutual assured cancellation—let’s call it MAC—should not be underestimated. After all, the Cold War nuclear strategy of mutual assured destruction (MAD) produced one of the most peaceful eras in human history. But if the response by Carol Hunter, the Register’s executive editor, is any indication, journalists still haven’t adjusted to the MAC era. The sensible strategy for the editor would have been to deescalate: apologize to King, make a penitential donation to the hospital, and vow to stop punishing people for youthful mistakes irrelevant to what they’re doing today. Instead, Hunter wrote two columns defending the editors’ decision and primly announced that her reporter had been fired for his past sins.

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Hunter that she and the rest of the paper’s management are now prime targets for cancellation themselves. Perhaps they’ve been more careful in their tweets than King or Calvin, but did none of them ever do anything stupid? By their standards, anything from high school onward is fair game. And judging by the reactions of many mainstream journalists, an evidence-free accusation based on a distant memory from an anonymous accuser is damning, as long as it seems “credible.”

Journalists in the MAC era should review the seminal text of character assassination, Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky’s 1971 book. Liberals eagerly employed his strategies against their political enemies, particularly rule number 5 (“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon”) and number 13 (“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”) The tactic proved so effective that the standards for smearing got lower and lower. It didn’t matter how long ago the offense had taken place, whether it had anything to do with the person’s job, or whether it hadn’t even been considered wrong at the time. So long as journalists had a monopoly on public shaming, they were happy to judge yesterday’s behavior by today’s standards.

Now that social media has ended that monopoly, non-journalists can pass judgment, too, and they’re following Alinksy’s rule number 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” Journalists would be wise to rewrite these rules, and to remember the adage about people in glass houses. In the age of MAC, everyone has stones.

Remember when the first N in CNN stood for “news”?

Maybe it’s not professional for one media outlet to criticize another, but whether or not it is, Fox News takes aim at CNN:

CNN’s Democratic presidential debate was criticized by everyone from media watchdogs to the candidates themselves following Tuesday’s showdown — with complaints ranging from perceived favoritism of Sen. Elizabeth Warren to attacks on the specific questions asked by moderators.

The Hill media reporter Joe Concha told Fox News that CNN’s debate enhanced its already not-so-respectable reputation.

“The network is under heavy criticism from the left and right today, and rightly so,” Concha said. “Its pursuit of sizzle over steak and focus on social issues over truly substantiate matters – economy, jobs, opioid crisis, border crisis, all-things China – has damaged the network’s credibility even further.”

CNN partnered up with The New York Times for the event, which was moderated by CNN’s Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper and Gray Lady editor Marc Lacey. While viewers complained about several issues with the moderators, a question Cooper asked about Ellen DeGeneres and former President George W. Bush’s friendship was perhaps the most lampooned.

“Three hours and no questions tonight about climate, housing, or immigration,” Julian Castro tweeted. “Climate change is an existential threat. America has a housing crisis. Children are still in cages at our border. But you know, Ellen.”

Sen. Kamala Harris also took to Twitter to criticize the moderators, noting there weren’t questions about climate change, LGBTQ rights or immigration.

“These issues are too important to ignore,” Harris wrote.

While Castro and Harris used social media, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hi., slammed CNN and The Times directly from the debate stage over what she described as “smears” against her on foreign policy.

“The New York Times and CNN have also smeared veterans like myself for calling for an end to this regime-change war,” Gabbard said. “Just two days ago, The New York Times put out an article saying that I’m a Russian asset and an Assad apologist and all these different smears. This morning, a CNN commentator said on national television that I’m an asset of Russia — completely despicable.”

DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall said the major flaw was that moderators allowed Sen. Elizabeth Warren to dominate the proceedings.

“The time imbalance was so obvious and quite unfair to Gabbard, Castro and the others.  That Warren is now or at the top of recent polls is no excuse for allowing such an imbalance,” McCall told Fox News. “A candidate forum is supposed to give all candidates a fair opportunity to engage the dialogue and that absolutely did not happen. The debate moderators apparently don’t own stopwatches.”

McCall said the imbalance “lends credence to the critics who say these forums are all about promoting some candidates over others” and Warren was clearly the favorite.

“The moderators were also quite powerless at times when they tried to move on or determine who would speak next. Candidates tended to ignore the moderators’ directions and interrupt as they wanted,” McCall said, adding that talking over the moderators is nothing new.

“This is standard procedure now in these televised spectacles, but it remains a weakness in the format and relegates moderators to bystanders at times,” he said.

The debate came hours after a secretly recorded video appeared to show a CNN staffer saying the network likes Warren “a lot” and dislikes Gabbard. CNN’s own Twitter account even pointed out that Gabbard received less time than other candidates. According to CNN itself, Warren spoke for over 22 minutes, followed by Biden’s 16-plus minutes, while Gabbard only spoke for roughly eight minutes.

Following the debate, Gabbard’s sister criticized CNN via a tweet sent by the candidate’s verified account that accused the network of cutting off Gabbard to “protect Warren.”

“It was no surprise that CNN began with almost 20 minutes talking about impeachment and defending the Bidens seeing as how CNN’s been obsessed with impeachment for at least three years now,” NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck told Fox News.

“Between cutting off Tulsi Gabbard and asking far-left, leading questions on abortion, gun control, and the Supreme Court, CNN reminded America last night just how invested they are in defeating and removing the President from office,” Houck added.

Conservative strategist Chris Barron told Fox News that the debate was harmful to candidates because liberal moderators were so easy on them.

“CNN is actually doing a disservice to the Democratic candidates and to Democratic voters by refusing to ask tough questions of the front runners,” Barron said. “Whoever the Democrats nominate will have to square off against President Trump on the debate stage and I promise you he won’t treat the nominee with kid gloves”

Media Research Center Vice President Dan Gainor told Fox News that CNN wouldn’t be a “neutral referee” because of its own bias and that was before the debate even started — and the moderators didn’t do anything to change his mind.

“CNN, which has done as much as any outlet in America to promote impeachment, began the entire debate with 12 questions on the subject – one easy one for each candidate,” Gainor wrote following the debate.

CNN and The Times were also heavily criticized for overlooking China, which has been a focal point of the recent news cycle. China made headlines in recent weeks between its trade war with the United States and the growing tensions between the communist nation and the NBA – but the moderators didn’t seem to care what 2020 candidates thought about the situation.

“There hasn’t been one question about China in this entire 3 hour debate. It is shameful,” “The View” co-host Meghan McCain tweeted.

The “foreign policy” portion of the debate featured questions predominately about Trump’s recent troop withdrawal from Syria as well as handling Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s patently amazing that the network couldn’t find the time over three hours to ask one question about arguably a Top-3 topic going into the 2020 election, China, but did ask as its final question of the night about the friendship between Ellen DeGeneres and George W. Bush,” Concha said.

You know no one is serious about this debate when no one thinks it’s a good idea to have candidates questioned from the opposite point of view — for instance, Fox News hosting a Democratic debate, or MSNBC hosting a Republican debate.

At least Fox News watched the debate so you didn’t have to.