Would He or Wouldn’t He? That Is the Question

The fallout from President Donald Trump’s private meeting and public news conference with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin in Finland on Monday was so bad it spilled over into Tuesday, with even the sycophants at “Fox and Friends” finding fault with his abysmal performance, and before the day was over Trump had beat a rare retreat. It looked less like the heroic rescue at Dunkirk than Bonaparte’s famously disastrous retreat, though, and guaranteed at least another another day’s bad news cycle.
In case you’ve been wisely averting your eyes, all the fuss started with Trump having a two-hour meeting with only Putin and himself and a sole Russian translator involved, which somehow raised only a minor and for-now-forgotten fuss but will probably yield many future bad news cycles. The bigger story on both Monday and Tuesday was the international news conference, where Trump told the whole world’s media that the sorry state of Russo-American relations was mainly the fault of past American presidential administrations and the ongoing efforts of America’s justice system and the pesky reporting of its press, making no mention of Russia’s numerous offenses against international law and human decency. He was clearly more concerned about the alleged dastardly deeds of his vanquished Democratic opponents than Russia’s than Russia’s three-pronged cyber attack on the last election, and often seemed to give equal credibility to Putin’s denials that it happened than he did the American intelligence agencies’ and congressional committees’ and his own administration’s top officials that it most certainly did.
At one point Trump was asked by one those pesky reporters who he believed, and offered the President of the United States a chance to warn the Russian dictator that had surely attacked American democracy not to do it again, and Trump replied that he’d spoken with his intelligence officials and “They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin — he just said it’s not Russia … I will say this, I don’t see any reason would it be … I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” Which was too much for even “Fox and Friends” to defend, and had poor Sean Hannity sputtering some incoherent apologia, which soon led to Trump making a rare admission that he had gotten one single word wrong.
Seeming to acknowledge the bad news cycle, Trump said “Now, I have to say, I came back, and I said, ‘What is going on? What’s the big deal?’ So I got a transcript. I reviewed it. I actually went back and reviewed a clip of an answer I gave, and I realized there is need for some clarification. It should have been obvious — I thought it would be obvious — but I would like to clarify, just it case it wasn’t. In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.” The sentence should have been: I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t — or why it shouldn’t be be Russia. So just to repeat, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.’ And the sentence should have been — and I thought it would be a little unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video — the sentence should have been: I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia. Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.”
As with most of Trump’s fourth-grade ¬†verbal gobbledegook this requires further clarification for us, but so far as we can tell he’s making a very rare admission that he misspoke at least one contracted word, which we appreciate. He also seems to be blaming us and of all the rest of the world’s media and most of his country for not immediately understanding that of course he meant “wouldn’t” when he said “would,” though, and we don’t at all appreciate that.
Even if you do add that contraction of “not” to “would” the rest of the rest of the summit with the Russian dictator is still seemed damned obsequious, and even as Trump affirmed in his faith the conclusions of America’s intelligence community that Russia had cyber-attacked America’s democracy he ad-libbed that “Could be other people also, a lot of people out there,” which is not the conclusion of America’s intelligence agencies.
By the end of Tuesday’s bad news cycle Trump had not done much to reassure us or America’s most important allies that there’s not something awfully fishy about what he once called “This Rusher thing with Trump and Russia,” and regularly denounces as a “witch hunt” that’s the main impediment to friendly Russo-American relations, and he should expect another bad news cycle today.

— Bud Norman

Is This the End of RICO?

At the risk of being imprisoned on federal racketeering charges, we will admit that we have our doubts about that whole anthropogenic global warming idea. We might eventually be proved wrong, in which case we will humbly admit our culpability in the end of all life on the planet, but in the meantime we don’t see any reason to to make a federal case of it.
At least 20 climate scientists disagree, though, and have written a letter to President Barack Obama urging that he use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to punish any criticism of their theories. Noting that Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has already proposed a similar idea, they ask ¬†for a RICO investigation “of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change.” Perhaps they don’t mean us, as we are not a corporation and thoroughly disorganized, and we can swear in any courtroom that our doubts about the whole anthropogenic global warming idea are quite sincere and not meant to deceive, but we still find the scientists’ suggestion rather chilling.
Such a ban on public debate also strikes us as illiberal, and anti-scientific as well. Aside from a few quibbles about the First Amendment and the ramifications of a criminal justice system assuming it can read the minds of those citizens who avail themselves of its rights, the plan doesn’t seem likely to advance our understanding of mankind’s effect on climate or, assuming that mankind does some exert some effect, what to do about. We expect the censorious climate scientists will insist that the science is settled, and their policy prescriptions beyond any reasonable debate, but that’s the same thing the scientific community told Galileo when he was espousing a heliocentric rather than geocentric theory of the universe. Ever since then that tawdry episode was blamed on the Catholic church, which is always more fun, but that some overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion being asserted today was also in on it.
There were a few other dissidents against that consensus then, just as there are more than a few now, and we’re glad their arguments somehow survived the official sanctions that were imposed then, and we’re hopeful the current dissidents’ arguments will fare as well. Even so, we’d rather that the debate proceed without any RICO indictments. If the case for anthropogenic global warming is indeed iron-clad, as those climate scientists insist, they shouldn’t necessary. If those scientists are wrong, as any scientifically skeptical thinker would acknowledge is still a possibility, then the American economy will be needlessly hampered, science will be set back, innocent people will be wrongly persecuted, we’ll have to rely on the outside-our-jurisdiction Germans to for rebuttals, and there won’t be any conceivable way to blame it on the Catholic church.
We note that of the signatories of that letter is Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who once wrote an e-mail to his colleagues, since discovered among the hacked “climategate” e-mails at the University of East Anglia, admitting that “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t,” and whose thus-far unfulfilled prophecies of more and stronger hurricanes has been criticized as knowingly deceptive. We’re not suggesting he should be hauled into court, but so long as the First Amendment still applies to scientific debates we thought it worth noting.

— Bud Norman