On Monday’s Presidential Performance

President Donald Trump is clearly in a foul mood. He spent Sunday sending out angry “tweets” at a rate one of every 17 minutes, and on Monday he snarled his way through a press briefing before abruptly ending it and walking away in an unmistakable huff.
Trump’s perpetually enraged die-hard supporters surely loved it, but to the rest of the country it looked as if the man who has promised to get coronavirus under can’t control his temper. Most viewers probably also noticed that Trump continues to say a lot of things are provably untrue, and that he doesn’t have any answer to a lot of fair questions about it.
One of Trump’s more than 100 “tweets” on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of “the biggest political crime in American history, by far!” Except for “re-tweeting” a conservative writer’s unsubstantiated claim that Obama “attempted to “target incoming officials and sabotage the new administration,” Trump did not elaborate. So we can hardly blame The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker for asking exactly what crime Trump was alleging, and whether he wants to the Justice Department to lock Obama up.
“You know what the crime is,” Trump explained. “The crime is very obvious to everybody. All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.” Rucker didn’t seem to know any better than we do, although we assume he reads as many newspapers as we do. “Obamagate,” Trump further explained, “It’s been going for a long time, it’s been going before I got elected. It’s a disgrace that it happened, and if you look at what’s gone on and you you look at now all of the information that is being released, and from what I understand, that’s only the beginning. Some terrible things happened, and it should never be allowed to happen in our country again. You’ll be seeing what’s going on in the coming weeks.”
In other words, which we hope are more parseable, Trump can’t quite say what Obama did or provide any evidence to back up the allegations, at least for now, some reason, but you can believe it’s coming, that he can say, OK? Rucker didn’t get a chance to ask why Trump is withholding evidence of the “biggest political crime in American history, by, far,” but the die-hard supporters have faith that everything will eventually be explained.
Ever since the coronavirus started crowding everything else out of the news, Trump has been trying to convince the public that’s really not such a big deal, and has lately suggested that it’s no reason not to go to work or on a shopping spree. So naturally he was asked about the news that testing has found a military valet who served Trump’s meals and Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary — who is also the wife of senior advisor Stephen Miller in the nepotistic administration — had been infected with the coronavirus.
Trump assured the nation that he’s safe because everyone he comes into contact with has been tested, quite falsely claimed that every American and all of their co-workers can now be tested before returning to work, and then explained that testing is overrated because people can get negative results until they acquire the virus. He also endorsed the White House’s new rules about everyone, except for himself and Pence, wearing a face mask while in public. Questions about an appearance of inconsistency and double standards were simply sneered at rather then answered.
A face masked Weijia Jiang of CBS news asked why Trump boasted of how much testing the United States was doing relative to other countries, “as if it were some kind of international competition,” and by that point Trump had clearly had enough pesky questions for the day. He could have been grateful she hadn’t asked why the United States was lagging behind so many other countries on a per capita basis, or simply explained that international comparison were a useful benchmark, but instead he replied “Well, they are losing their lives everywhere in the world. Maybe that is a question you should ask China. Don’t ask me. Ask China that question. When you ask China that question you may get a very unusual answer.”
We’re sure that if Jiang did ask China why Trump says the things he does that she’d get a very unusual answer, but we would have liked to have heard Trump take a stab at the question. Jiang asked why he would direct his question to her, apparently thinking that her Chinese ancestry might have had something to do with, but he ignored and pointed to another reporter. When she didn’t immediately step, waiting for the president to answer her colleague’s follow question, Trump scolded her and refused to hear her question and ended the briefing with a terse “Thank you, thank you very much.
Somehow, we are not reassured Trump has everything under control.

— Bud Norman

The Scandal is the Press

The terrorist attack on America’s consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the deaths an ambassador and three other Americans, was a multi-faceted scandal. There was the ill-advised “leading from behind” military strike that deposed a despicable but defanged dictatorship and created an anarchy where terror groups thrived, the shockingly lax security provided to the Americans sent into that chaos, the bald-faced lie that the subsequent deaths were a result of a spontaneous demonstration rather than an organized al Qaeda terror attack, the scapegoating and eventual imprisonment of a filmmaker who had exercised his constitutional right to criticize Islam, and the ongoing attempts to cover it all up. The lack of interest by the most prominent media is a scandal, too.
Despite the indifference of the big papers and wire services and television networks, more information about the Benghazi affair is slowly being made public. A newly released batch of e-mails offer further proof that White House officials were directly involved in concocting the false story that United Nations ambassador Susan Rice and other officials, including President Barack Obama, told the American public in the days leading up to the 2012 presidential election. In one of the e-mails White House Deputy Communications Director clearly states that among the “goals” of the story were “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, not a broader failure of policy,” and “to reinforce the President and the Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”
Such intriguing information was not unearthed by The New York Times or The Washington Post or CBS News, but rather by a conservative group called Judicial Watch. A search of The New York Times’ web site finds that the Paper of Record’s last mention of Benghazi came in a short item about Rhode’s account of the affair in the “Sunday Breakfast Menu” of last January. The Washington Post’s only forthright account of the new e-mails came in a blog post by token and tepid conservative Jennifer Rubin. Over at CBS News, where Rhodes’ brother is the head honcho and ace reporter Sharyl Attkisson has quit in frustration over the network’s resistance to her reporting on Benghazi and other administration scandals, there was a story about how Republicans are still demanding answers about the terror attack, as well as another story about a Central Intelligence Agency official’s assurances that there’s nothing political going on here. USA Today also went with the partisan, prefacing a rather straightforward account of the facts with the words “Republicans say.”
They could just as easily write that “newly released e-mails say,” but that sounds rather damning. The ladies and gentlemen of the press are quite busy these days explaining a fresh batch of foreign policy blunders, from the “apartheid state” of Israel to the formerly independent portions of Ukraine to those countries neighboring an increasingly aggressive China where Obama was recently trying to convince the nervous populations that the president and administration is strong and steady in dealing with difficult challenges, and what with racist basketball team owners in Los Angeles and botched executions in Oklahoma they have little time for four brave Americans who died more than a year-and-a-half ago. They might even be wondering what difference, at this point, does it make?
The truth still matters, though, and the woman who notoriously first asked that callous question is a front-runner to be the next strong and steadfast question. A lack of outrage is perhaps the biggest scandal of them all.

— Bud Norman