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Reflections on the President and the Porn Star Subplot in Our National Reality Show

“In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked upon as something shocking,” as the great Cole Porter once wrote, “but now, God knows, anything goes.” Porter penned that memorably musical lyric way back in the Great Depression ’30s, but it somehow seems more apt than ever in the Roaring Teens of President Donald Trump. Once upon a time in America, and as recently as the day before Trump took that famous escalator ride down Trump Tower to launch his improbable presidential campaign, it would have been a pretty big deal that a sitting president sure seems to have had a sexual encounter with a pornographic video performer shortly after his third wife gave birth to his fifth child.
But now, God knows, it’s just another one of those Trump stories that most newspapers relegate to the inside pages and most cable news networks mention at the bottom of every other hour, and that Fox News happily ignores and the smutty late night television comics giddily lampoon. God also knows that according to all the public opinion polls approximately 80 percent of our evangelical Christian brothers and sisters still believe Trump is going to make America great again, and we wonder what He makes of that.
All of those back page and bottom-of-the-hour news stories and even the late night comics concede there’s no videotaped or otherwise definitive evidence and one party denies it and the other is being quite coy about it, which gives Fox News and our evangelical Christian brothers and sisters a plausible reason to ignore the matter, and we’ll also concede that one never really knows about these things. Even so, we’ll edge up against those loosened libel laws that Trump has threatened and reiterate that it sure does seem to us that a sitting president once had a sexual encounter with a pornographic video performer shortly after his third wife gave birth to his fifth child. The circumstantial evidence is so convincing that we doubt any of Trump’s apologists would ignore it if Trump was still a self-proclaimed pro-choice Democrat and check-writing supporter of President Bill Clinton and his presumptive first woman president wife “Crooked” Hillary.
The story had been rumored and reported and denied by Trump for nearly ten years, but surfaced again when The Wall Street Journal reported that during the presidential campaign Trump’s attorney had formed a shell company to make a $130 thousand payment to a pornographic video performer called Stormy Daniels in exchange for an agreement she wouldn’t disclose anything she might know about Trump. The shell company was set up with phony names for both the payer and payee, but the attorney used his own name on all the papers and is not issuing any denials that might lead to disbarment, and the story has similarly liable-proof documented evidence for the real identities of the payer and payee. One of the callers to one of the right wing talk radio dismissed it as “fake news” from a “foreign-owned tabloid,” but even the left wing admits The Wall Street Journal is no tabloid and the wing should know that its Australian owner is the same Rupert Murdoch who owns Fox News, so we’ll the paper’s word for it that for whatever reason Trump did write a $130 thousand check to a porn performer during his presidential election.
Perhaps we should be generous and assume Trump was just trying to help the wayward lass get back on the straight and narrow path, but by now even his most die-hard supporters aren’t buying that.
After the Journal’s big scoop a publication we’d not previously heard of called In Touch Magazine published an interview it had with Daniels back when Trump was just another reality television star and long before any non-diclosure payments had been made, and in it she gave a luridly detailed account of a sexual encounter with a future president. So far as we can tell In Touch is a sort of tabloid, but at least it seems to be American-owned, and they claim to have verifiable audiotapes of the interview, and we assume their lawyers verified that before they put their own names on any court filings Trump’s lawyers might have made. All the parts about Trump and Daniels both being in Las Vegas during a professional golf tournament have been confirmed, and there’s even a picture of a beaming Trump with his arm around the buxom Daniels at the event, which looks pretty bad.
After that one of Daniels’ fellow porn performers was telling both People and Newsweek magazines and the National Broadcasting Company that she had declined Trump’s invitation to make it a threesome, and both news organizations confirmed the parts about her also being in Las Vegas during that golf tournament. After that Daniels her buxom self did an interview on the “Jimmy Kimmel Show,” and that looked so bad it almost upstaged the president’s State of the Union address.
Kimmel is one of those uniformly liberal late night comedians who relentlessly bash Trump every night, but he’s not so smutty as most and has a reputation as a faithful family man that allowed him to have some emotional sway in the debate about repealing and replacing Obamacare, and he’s no dummy. He ran some footage of some conservative woman criticizing him for booking an interview with Daniels but never saying anything about President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal with much-younger intern Monica Lewinsky, he was able to follow it with videotape of him interviewing Lewinsky on three separate occasions in previous talk show incarnations. When Daniels opened the interview by saying that she could neither confirm nor deny that she had accepted money in a non-diclosure agreement, he noted that if she had not she would be free to deny that she had, and the pornographic video performer replied “You’re so smart, Jimmy.”
When Kimmel asked Daniels about her signature on the official statement she’d just issued denying any sexual encounter with Trump, which all the pro-Trump media had seized on, and why it didn’t remotely resemble her signature on an earlier statement or any of the autographed glossy photographs he’d somehow and encountered, she dodged it by talking about all the other crazy rumors about her on the internet. She didn’t quite deny that the In Touch interview was more or less accurate, and dodged some of the smuttier questions about the more lurid details just as carefully, but the pornographic video performer seemed instinctively self-revealing and left the viewer with the impression that, yeah, all that’s been alleged sure seems to have happened.
There’s a case to be made that Daniels and her fellow pornographic video performer friend are exploiting that fifteen minutes of fame Andy Warhol predicted everyone would eventually have, and there’s something to it. Until that Wall Street Journal broke we’d never heard of Stormy Daniels or her friend, but after a Bing search and a few not-safe-for-work mouse clicks on the internet we now feel we know them more intimately than any of our exes, and Daniels has been promoting her strip club tour with the slogan “Make America Horny Again.” Daniels can now add “As seen on TV” to her handbills, even if it is late night comedy, and we don’t doubt it’s good business for a pornographic video performer.
The question is whether she’s cashing in on “fake news” or something that sure seems to have actually happened, though, and that still looks bad. We’re disinclined to take the word of a pornographic video performer, but by now neither do we put much stock in what the President of the United States has to say. Trump has long bragged in undisputed interviews and his own ghost-written memoirs about his enormous sexual appetites and numerous exotic conquests, and his flagrant disregard for his own or anybody else’s marital vows, and that lurid In Touch detail about him wanting to be spanked with a rolled-up copy of Forbes Magazine with his picture on the cover also has a disturbing verisimilitude about it.
But now, God knows, Trump’s critics can only chuckle about it along with the late night comics, and Trump’s fans can either deny it altogether or make some sort of rationalizations. The afternoon talk radio hosts and other fans will note that the male Clinton had several just as tawdry encounters with far less buxom women, and that even the self-righteous sorts of feminists now admit that the awful female Clinton was complicit all along, and we was president at time, and they have a point. We shared their disappointment that Clinton’s peccadilloes had so degraded the Oval Office at the time, as did that smart-ass liberal late comic Kimmel, and at this point we’re on the side of anybody who’s been consistent on insisting some reasonably attainable standard of moral behavior in the White House.
Not that we’re blameless, as God knows and our recent internet browsing history will attest, but over our many years we have managed to hew to some old-fashioned moral rules about married people and hygienic concerns about porn stars, and as lowly as we are we feel entitled to expect a higher standard from those who occupy high office. It doesn’t say anything more to about that tax bill Trump signed than Clinton’s transgressions had to do with his budget-balancing deals, but then as now we can’t shake a certain depressing sense that it’s a pretty big deal.

— Bud Norman

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Of Hurled Stones and Glass Houses

All through the Republican primaries one of the arguments most often made for the candidacy of Donald J. Trump was that he was the only one in the field who would be willing to wage a ruthlessly negative campaign against pre-ordained Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The others might politely criticize her policies or make some mention of her many scandals, we were told, but Trump alone would be willing to raise the issue of her character. We never doubted that he would, given the way he bullied his way past “Lyin'” Ted Cruz and “Little” Marco Rubio and “Low Energy” Jeb Bush and Carly “Look at That Face” Fiorina and the rest of the competition, but that only further confirmed our suspicion that his own character was the most susceptible to counter-attack.
Trump has lately been in the down-and-dirty mode that his admirers promised, regaling his rallies with verbal attacks on the Clinton Family Foundation and the Clinton family itself, but his adversaries in the press are having great fun noting the many ironies involved.
After congratulating himself on all the networks for being too gentlemanly to say anything about Clinton’s ex-president husband’s famously tawdry sex life, Trump is now more forthrightly saying things about it. He reminded a New Hampshire audience that President Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, his surrogates are speaking about his numerous other alleged affairs and sexual misbehaviors, which includes allegations ranging from general creepiness to outright rape, and it’s always implied that the current Democratic nominee was complicit in it all.
Which seems fair enough to us. All through Bill Clinton’s presidency we were appalled by the tawdriness of Clinton’s all-too-public private life, being the blue-nosed sort of red-staters who bitterly cling to an old-fashioned notion that a president ought to set some sort of moral example, and after so many years we’re still no more pleased by the idea of him being First Gentleman or whatever he’d be called if his wife gets elected. Even such polite media as The Washington Post have lately been obliged to acknowledge that the Democratic nominee did play a leading role in disparaging the women her husband was involved with and accused by, and given that she’s running as a feminist standard bearer who has insisted that any woman alleging sexual assault must believed it seems a legitimate issue. Alas, it’s Trump who is raising it.
A thrice-married casino-and-strip-club mogul who has publicly boasted about his penis size and all the married babes he’s bagged over the years sounds rather ridiculous when tsk-tsking about anyone else’s behavior, and that illegal immigrant nudie model he’s currently married to doesn’t seem much a role model, so his fans are left to dispute the levels of tawdriness. Some note that Trump hasn’t been accused of rape, but one of his ex-wifes did once make the accusation and another woman has a lawsuit pending alleging that Trump raped her when was 13 years old, which thus far haven’t gotten the press attention that Trump is now inviting. Bill Clinton is a friend of the billionaire and convicted ephebephile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, and has travelled with him on the “Lolita Express” to his Caribbean orgy sites, but Trump has also boasted of his friendship with Epstein and joked about his affinity for younger woman and that woman with the pending lawsuit alleges that she was assaulted at one of Epstein’s parties. The press is also happily pulling up old stories about how Trump had once said that Clinton’s impeachment was “nonsense” about “something totally unimportant,” which his surrogates are having a hard time explaining, and noting that he also disparaged the women involved with his “good friend” and future wedding guest. He called Paula Jones, the Arkansas state employee who alleged that Clinton exposed himself to her in a hotel room she had been summoned to by the Arkansas Highway Patrol while he was governor, a “loser.” He also noted that Lewinsky was less hot than Marilyn Monroe, the screen siren and illicit lover of President John Kennedy, and at the time that was his only criticism of the affair.
Even some of Trump’s most loyal admirers think it better that Trump should stick to his attacks on Clinton’s family foundation, which raised a lot of money from countries and companies and various shady characters who had business before the Secretary of State which often turned out in their favor, but even that very legitimate issue leaves him vulnerable to counter-attacks. Trump has his own charitable foundation, which he doesn’t seem to have contributed much to over the past many years, and lately the press has happily reported that it was forced to pay a fine for a contribution to that Florida Attorney General who decided shortly afterwards not to join three other states in a suit against the seemingly fraudulent “Trump University,” along with other highly questionable activities. Trump’s admirers will point out that he was merely buying rather selling political favors, but the criticism of Clinton are still somewhat blunted in a way that those of other possible Republican candidates wouldn’t have been.
At least Trump fights, we’re told.

— Bud Norman

The Conventional Wisdom and the Race Ahead

There’s a seasonal shortage of news at the moment, with the politicians at home for the holidays and the stock markets still mulling over the Black Friday sales figures and the rage of the Ferguson rioters seemingly chilled by the early winter weather, so the pundits are availing themselves of the opportunity to speculate about the next presidential election. Our powers of prophecy are limited, especially about matters two years away, but lacking a more urgent topic we will be so bold as to venture a few thoughts about the matter.
The conventional wisdom is that Hillary Clinton will inevitably be the Democrats’ nominee, but that was also the conventional wisdom at this early point in the ’08 election cycle and we all know how that turned out. According to the prevailing theory Clinton has all the name recognition, organization, and money, and no one in her party has the resources to challenge her, but all of that was also true in ’08. We are suspicious of conventional wisdom and prevailing theories in every case, but especially so about Clinton’s inevitability.
Since ’08 Clinton has added a four-year stint as Secretary of State to her lengthy resume, but even the State Department’s well-paid spokeswomen have trouble naming anything good that came of it while her critics can point to the “reset” with Russia and the failure to provide adequate security to the diplomatic staff in Benghazi and the scapegoating of a filmmaker in the aftermath among a number of very bad things came of it. The rest of that lengthy resume looks even less impressive than it did ’08, too. Her legal career was mostly known for her ability to parlay her husband’s more well-heeled constituents into clients until an audio recording surfaced of her chortling about the child rapist she had ruthlessly defended despite being convinced of his guilt, intermittent publicity tours by Monica Lewinsky will continue to remind a scandal-weary public that her time as First Lady was mostly spent defending her husband’s serial adulteries when she wasn’t firing White House travel agents for her friends’ benefit or attempting to foist some crazy health care scheme on the public, and at this point no one can remember anything from her brief time in the Senate except for some very harsh-sounding orating against a George W. Bush administration that will also be largely forgotten by the time ’16 rolls around. Her more recent career as a memoirist has proved equally disastrous, with countless gaffes and some surprisingly negative press accompanying her publicity efforts. In ’16 she’ll be eight years older than she was when the Democrats rejected her in ’08, and no more appealing.
The conventional wisdom further holds that this time around there are no challengers to Clinton who have the necessary credentials to be president, but this overlooks the fact that last time around the Democrats preferred a candidate with no qualifications for the job whatsoever. That “weak bench” all the pundits seem to mention is filled with equally unqualified potential challengers, which means that none of them will have less to explain on their shorter resumes, and any of them could at least claim to be a fresher face. One shudders think that a Saul Alinsky groupie such as Clinton is insufficiently liberal for the primary voters and caucus-goers of the Democratic Party, but her lucrative ties to big business and reputation for high living leaves her vulnerable to a challenge from a further left that is consumed with anti-corporate sentiment and obsessed with income inequality. Many of our liberal friends are already enthused by the possibility of nominating Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the fake Indian who will have been in the Senate for as long as the last Democratic nominee had been and is best known for delivering a ridiculous speech arguing that because government builds roads and hires cops businesses should be obliged to pay for any cockamamie idea the government comes up with.
Over on the Republican side, the conventional wisdom holds that the Republicans have a deep bench but no front-runner. Such mixed sports metaphors leave us unsure if this is a good thing or not, but we think it means Republicans are in better shape than the other team. The deep bench part strikes us as true enough, as the possible candidates include such a diverse lot as Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, as well as Rep. Paul Ryan as well as several past and present governors such as Texas’ Rick Perry, Michigan’s Rick Snyder, Ohio’s John Kasich, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Florida’s Jeb Bush, and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. Throw in pediatric neurosurgeon and non-politician Ben Carson and other a few dark horses who are bound to emerge, and it’s a very competitive field. If none are thought to be inevitable, that only suggests there is much to choose from.
The conventional wisdom is partial to one of the Senators or Christie or Bush, but that’s because the conventional wisdom always puts too much stock in name recognition, organization, and money. Cruz is beloved by conservatives for his willingness to employ all the constitutional means at his disposal on behalf of his stands, but those same tactics will make him easily caricatured as an out-of-control right winger. Paul is too much an isolationist for a party that hasn’t been isolationist since Eisenhower. Rubio has hurt himself with a soft-on-illegal immigration policy. Ryan was was Mitt Romney’s running mate and has since been perceived as too willing to make deals. All are unavoidably associated with Washington, which is currently regarded unfavorably by both parties as well as independents, and even the Republicans inclined to favor gridlock can argue that no one in Congress has made it gridlocked quite enough. The conventional wisdom’s infatuation with Christie and Bush is downright fanciful, as both have stacked out important positions that are anathema to the typical Republican primary voter. Christie’s suspicious bridge closings and infuriating embrace of President Barack Obama are enough to remove him from his contention, but he’s also shown a soft-on-Islamism streak and has views on gun control and immigration that are too northeastern for a party dominated by the south, middle-west, and west. Bush has also ruined his chances with his sentimental views on illegal immigration, and his outspoken support for a ridiculous Common Core that would federalize school curricula is another problem, and at this point the party faithful seem to have had enough of Bushes or any other dynastic line of politicians.
Our guess is that one of the other governors will likely wind up with the nomination. Several have impressive records of balancing budgets and promoting economic growth and not bossing their citizens around, all of which will have more appeal to the average voter than any Democrat’s promise to equalize incomes and enforce proper attitudes regarding homosexuality or whatever the civil rights cause of the moment might be, and several have made this case in states usually inclined to vote for Democratic presidential nominees. All have faced ferocious opposition from the public sector unions and legal establishments and press in their home states, so any debilitating scandals they might have should be well known by now. We’re most intrigued by Walker, who has won election and staved off a recall effort and then won re-election in a traditionally liberal state despite the best efforts of well-funded and ruthless enemies, and somehow retained a reputation for being polite.
The same conventional wisdom that admires Christie’s confrontational style regards Walker politeness as bland, even if Walker has proved himself adept at the most bare-knuckle sort of political combat, but we think the public might be inclined to appreciate a more low-key and accomplished candidate after eight years of soaring rhetoric and crashing results. Although we forget the title, we recall a novel that featured a political consultant character saying that the only campaign themes that had ever been invented were “bright shiny day” and “back to basics,” and after two terms of bright shiny days the Republicans could do well with the alternative. The Republicans face daunting demographic challenges and a stubborn presidential electoral map and the usual disadvantage in the mass media, as even the conventional wisdom can see, but with their deep bench and the opposition’s flawed front-runner they might have a fighting chance.

— Bud Norman

The Good Ol’ Days of Media

The old media are dying, and Tina Brown mourns their passing. That she is one of the causes of the death of old media, and another reason to celebrate it, seems not to have occurred to her.
For those of you who are enviably unaware of Tina Brown, she used to be a big deal in the old media. After making a name for herself in the rough-and-tumble Fleet Street journalism of her native England, she emigrated to the United States in the ’80s to edit Vanity Fair and became as notable a celebrity as any of the rich and famous subjects of that plutographic magazine’s posterior-kissing stories. In the early ’90s she took control of The New Yorker, where she cured that one-venerable publication’s stodgy reputation for literary excellence with an infusion of Vanity Fair-style frivolousness. The resulting revival of The New Yorker’s fortunes made her such a sensation that she signed a lucrative deal with Miramax Films to become a multi-media mogul, which resulted in the short-lived and utterly forgettable Talk Magazine and a boutique publishing house that released titles by the likes of Queen Noor of Jordan and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright of Clintonland. Since then she’s started The Daily Beast, which is one of the internet’s more widely read sites but a mere internet site nonetheless, and when the site bought comatose Newsweek for the bargain basement price of $1 she wound up as editor of that. Now she’s written a whopper of an editorial for The Daily Beast about the media in wake of the sex scandal involving President Bill Clinton and intern Monica Lewinsky, and the unsurprising gist of it is that she’s nostalgic for the good old days when she was a big deal.
The editorial is well worth reading, as it is a masterpiece of self-serving snarkiness and a perfectly illustrative example of what is really killing off the old media. She opens with worries that Lewinsky’s recent reappearance in the news “plunges us straight back into the frothing world of ’90s gossip,” as if she had not become rich and famous in that same frothing world, but bravely marches into her subject because “It may be painful but it answers so many questions about today’s media.” The pain apparently derives from having to recall l’affaire Lewinsky, with its “appalling cast of tabloid gargoyles who drove the scandal.” She doesn’t mean the serial sexual predator who used his position as President of the United States to exploit a starry-eyed and dim-witted twenty-something in his employ, but rather those nasty people who told the truth about it. Even after all these years Brown feels obliged to heap scorn on Linda Tripp, who was dragged into the scandal because she had the misfortune to befriend Lewinsky, and is described by Brown as a “treacherous thatched-roof-haired drag-queen” with “dress-for-success shoulder pads. Conservative commentator and activist Lucianne Goldberg gets similarly snooty treatment, being described as a “cackling, fact-lacking hack.” Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who did the job he was given by Congress all too diligently, is explained as a “mealy-mouthed Pharisee.” The greatest object of Brown’s scorn, however, is the pioneering internet journalist who broke the Lewinsky scandal with a post about how Newsweek had nailed down the story but declined to run it. “Hitting ‘send’ on each new revelation that no one else would publish, the solitary, perfectly named Matt Drudge,” is how Brown introduces the real villain of her piece, “operating in pallid obsession out of his sock-like apartment in Miami.”
None of Brown’s “tabloid gargoyles” were using the Oval Office of the White House to do cigar tricks with a young woman who would soon be subjected to their politics of personal destruction, nor were they guilty of the tawdry and boorish behavior by the president that soon were revealed in the light of the Lewinsky investigation, but Brown somehow faults them for “driving” the scandal. There would have been no scandal to drive if Clinton had acted as a responsible married president rather than a lecherous reprobate, but Brown apparently finds that more forgivable than telling the truth about a politician with the correct opinions and right party affiliation. What’s most unforgivable, in Brown’s telling of the saga, is that “The press was at the height of its power when the Monica story began, and Drudge was its underbelly. The ascendant media that looked down on him has been pretty much destroyed.”
This is a bad thing, Brown explains because it is “how the death of privacy started.” She’s not referring to the National Security Agency’s snooping into every American’s phone records, or the mysteriously unsealed divorce records of candidates who challenge Barack Obama or formerly anonymous plumbers who ask him questions that provoke controversial answers, or the Internal Revenue Service’s illegal interest in the donors who contribute to causes the president dislikes, or any of the other troubling concerns about privacy that have nothing whatsoever to do with conservative journalism, but rather the outrageous idea that a president can’t exploit an intern without having to read about it on some arriviste web site. Perhaps Brown would hold steadfast to the same conviction that what happens inside the Oval Office isn’t a legitimate matter of public interest even when a Republican occupies it, but there is reason for doubt. We can’t recall Brown complaining about the Special Prosecutor who spent millions hunting for imaginary witches in the phony-baloney Valerie Plame investigation that dogged the Bush administration and found nothing but a small fish named “Scooter” telling an inconsequential lie about a scandal that didn’t happen in the first place, and we can’t imagine her ever employing such mean-girl insults against any women on her side of the political divide no matter how thatched-roof-haired or cackling they might be.
So long as it’s acceptable to speculate in print about others’ motives, we’ll venture that Brown is mostly miffed that the once-ascendant media that are still looking down their patrician noses at the upstarts have indeed pretty much been destroyed. For Brown, who enjoyed considerable prestige, power, and an unequal income in the ancien regime, it must be a bitter disappointment to see the likes of Matt Drudge with millions more readers and vastly greater power to make the public aware of a story. That these uncouth sorts who would have never besmirched the pages of Vanity Fair or The New Yorker during Brown’s reign are using that usurped power to expose facts that don’t serve Brown’s preferred politics is surely all the more galling. Lewinsky made her comeback in Vanity Fair, the folks who bought Newsweek for a dollar are now looking to sell it at all, the only television news organization that concerns itself with Democratic scandals is trouncing the competition in the ratings war, and obscure internet sites from obscure places such as Wichita, Kansas, are snearing back at Brown, and that has to hurt as well. Ah, for the good old days of monopoly media and unchallenged opinion-making power when a president could exploit an intern in the Oval Office or lie about a terrorist attack without any pesky questions being asked.
We can well understand such nostalgia, as we were working for a mid-sized newspaper back in the days after every town had been reduced to one daily and before talk radio and the internet and new means of classified advertising changed everything. The money was good, better than in most of the industries that the editorialists railed against for their corporate greed, and there was a satisfying sense of power in hearing the fear in a politician’s voice when you called up with a good question, and there was an even more seductive sense of power in knowing that anyone who wanted to know where the Kansas City Royals stood in the American League Western Division standings or the latest quote on that hot stock they bought or which of their neighbors had recently been arrested had to pony 50 cents for the latest copy of whatever we decided to print. For all their cocksure predictions about the dire future that others were inflicting on the world the titans of journalism never saw the cataclysm that was coming in their own industry, and most still refuse to acknowledge it even as they preside over the death throes of the once-grand institutions they somehow inherited. Technological change was a contributing factor, but just as important was a failure by those titans of journalism to recognize that they could no longer suppress any facts that were not to their liking.
That was another change in journalism, and one that the new technology was required to fix. In an era prior to Tina Brown the solitary fellow in the sock-like apartment putting out each new revelation that no one else would publish was a heroic figure than an object of ridicule, and Drudge would have been considered fitting because of the drudgery that is always involved in getting at the truth. That was an era when journalism was expected to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” an old cliché that journalists still spout when they’ve had a few too many to realize how very ridiculous it now sounds, and we doubt that Tina Brown would have found it any more comfortable than these changing times.

— Bud Norman