The Other Steadily Dripping Flood

The historic and ongoing natural disaster in Texas and Louisiana has flooded almost everything else out of the news, except for a few stray reports about the nutcase regime in North Korea escalating nuclear tensions, so you might not have noticed that the steady drip, drip, drip of leaks about “Russia” is also approaching flood levels.
The past week has provided at least three new plot twists in the ongoing unnatural disaster, none of which are helpful to President Donald Trump. None are the evidence of impeachable offenses that his most strident critics have been hoping, but they all require some creative explaining from his staunchest admirers.
The Washington Post reported that the congressional investigating committees will soon have documentary evidence that in October of 2015 Trump signed a letter of intent for an ambitious skyscraper project in Moscow, which isn’t necessarily illegal but doesn’t look good. Trump was four months into his presidential campaign at the time, running on a strikingly Russia-friendly foreign policy platform and offering unusual praise for the country’s dictator and predicting on “Face the Nation” that “I think I would probably get along with him very well,” while indignantly denying any suspicion that it might be for self-interested reasons. At the time he categorically denied any business dealings with any sorts of Russians, seemed quite offended that anyone would suspect otherwise, so the skyscraper project he was pursuing with the apparent help of a Russian-mob connected associate who kept dropping the Russian dictator’s name in the ensuing e-mail chain might not be illegal but doesn’t look good.
If we know about that letter of intent it’s a safe bet that so does famously dogged special-counsel-into-the-matter Robert Mueller, who apparently already had enough reason to suspect other fishy deals between Russians and people near to Trump to obtain all sorts of extraordinary subpoenas and search warrants, and it’s another interesting plot twist that Politico reports Mueller has lately been working on the case with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The more attentive fans of the long-running Trump reality show might recall Schneiderman as one of the attorneys general who brought a civil case against Trump University, which ended with Trump paying a $25 million settlement but not having to acknowledge the undeniable fact it was pretty much a scam all along, and how Trump had frequently “tweeted” about what a “lightweight” Schneiderman is, so his reintroduction into the plot does not bode well.
There’s widespread press speculation that Mueller brought Schneiderman aboard because a few people who held high levels in the Trump campaign that he clearly regards as criminal suspects can’t get a presidential pardon on state charges, a concern heightened by Trump’s controversial pardon of an Arizona sheriff for seemingly political reasons last week, and that seems reasonable to us. Anyone Trump did preemptively pardon would forfeit a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, though, and Mueller seems to think he has even higher-level fish to fry this in this investigation, so it also seems reasonable that Schneiderman’s longstanding scrutiny of Trump’s New York-based and still wholly-owned business empire has come up with some hard-to-explain evidence of its own.
One of the people near to Trump that Manafort clearly considers a potential criminal suspect is the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has plenty of Russian connections from his lobbying-for-dictators business that he doesn’t even deny, and Mueller has enough reason to suspect Manafort of something or another that he persuaded a federal judge to grant an extraordinary pre-dawn search warrant on Manafort’s home, so of course Manafort was also back in the news. The National Broadcasting Company reported that the notes he took on his smart phone during a meeting he took with the president’s son and son-in-law and a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer and a couple of other fishy Russians, which are now in the hands of those pesky congressional investigations and presumably Mueller, and that they mention the word “donor.” Trump’s most staunch defenders described the meeting as meaningless, and pointed to everyone’s account that Manafort was staring at his smart phone the whole time as proof, but they’d also previously insisted that no one near Trump ever had any sort of meeting with anyone remotely Russian.
It might nor might not have anything to do with all this, but Bloomberg News also reported that Trump’s son-in-law and highest-level advisor Jared Kushner and his family’s still wholly-owned New York-based real estate empire is desperately seeking foreign financial aid to stave off bankruptcy. That happens to the best of families and isn’t illegal, we suppose, but neither does it look good.
Sooner or later the sun will shine down on the good people of Texas and Louisiana, and the hard work of recovery will commence, and we’re hopeful that politics won’t prevent the federal government from doing its part. All the drip, drip, drip from the Korean peninsula to the ongoing investigations in Washington and New York will sooner or later bob up above all the water on the front page, though, and don’t say you weren’t warned.

— Bud Norman


The News Makes News

Maybe it’s just a post-holiday lull in what surely be a more news-making year, but for now all the big papers are treating Megyn Kelly’s move from Fox News to the National Broadcasting Company as a big deal. They might be right, for all we know, but these days it seems that even the big papers aren’t such a big deal.
We cut off our cable many years ago, but you had to spend the past year hiding under a bigger rock than the one we were hiding under to not know who Megyn Kelly is. She was about as well-known as a cable news broadcaster can be even before the presidential election, and then her televised and endlessly re-televised confrontations with eventual Republican nominee and president-elect Donald Trump brought her the sort of fame usually reserved for androgynous pop music performers and transgendered reality show stars. It all started when she had the temerity to ask about his long history of making vulgar and sexist statements about women, and he somehow persuaded a Republican debate audience that such vulgarity and sexism was a much-needed blow against the stifling influence of something called “political correctness,” which we had thought meant an attempt to impose limits on Republicans in political debates about race and sex and such but apparently referred to an old-fashioned code of civil decorum that Republicans used to insist on. When Trump railed afterwards that it was an unfair question from the smug leftist news media that her permeated even Fox News, and said that Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” when asking it, he had pretty much sewn up the Republican nomination and she had become a household name.
The feud continued throughout the primary campaign, with occasional moments of making nice with one another, although at another point Trump declined to appear at a Fox-moderated event where Kelly would be threateningly on the panel, and it made for riveting and ratings-driving reality television. Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters saw Kelly as a smug elitist and probably even globalist media villain, even though she worked for Fox News, and many of those who were inclined to think that a candidate’s long history of vulgar and sexist comments about women were a legitimate issue to raise in a debate and that “blood coming out of her wherever” was not proper presidential rhetoric were disinclined to come to Kelly’s defense, entirely because she worked for Fox News. Both came out of it pretty well, with Trump as president-elect and Kelly inking a gazillion dollar deal with one of those over-the-air networks that everyone on cable used to aspire to, but it remains to be seen how it works out for everyone else.
We expect that Kelly, at least, will fare well in her new job. So far as we can tell she’s a competent and fair journalist by television standards, and she’ll bring a reputation for standing up to Trump that should endear her to NBC’s dwindling audience. She’s quite the hottie, too, and we mention that objectively true fact not for the puerile reasons that Trump might bring it up during his next appearance on the Howard Stern show but rather because it seems to make a difference in television news. Trump is a trickier question, of course, but we can be sure he’ll be a boon to all the networks.
How the Fox News network will fare is less certain, so much of the rest of the media’s attention has focused on that. Fox News had already been shaken by the forced resignation of its longtime boss, who had been accused of a long history of all sorts of sexually harassing sleaziness by many of the women at the network, where we’ll also note as a relevant matter of objective that they’re almost all quite the hotties, so the loss of its most famous face surely poses some difficulties, even if she was reviled by all the so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone Trump supporters who make up such a large share of the audience. There are plenty of other competent and fair journalists at the network, such as Shep Smith and Chris Wallace and Brett Baier, so if the network decides to go in that direction they have plenty of options, even if their competence and fairness has also sometimes aroused the ire of those so-loyal-they-might-shoot-someone Trump supporters.
In any case the liberals will continue to call it “Faux News,” and the newly ascendent sorts of conservatives will continue to call the last of the big papers “The New York Slimes” and “The Washington Compost,” Trump will have more followers on “Twitter” than the other media have readers or viewers, and most  people simply won’t listen to anything they don’t want to hear. How that works out also remains to be seen.

— Bud Norman

Media Critic in Chief

After a weekend largely spent “tweeting” his indignation about a curtain call oration at a Broadway play and a skit on a satirical comedy show, president-elect Donald Trump returned to work on Monday with an effort to bully the television news media into giving him more favorable coverage. That’s how we’ll describe his off-the-record-but-inevitably-leaked meeting with the heads of several networks, at any rate, at least while we still can still do so without fear of recriminations.
The meeting was first reported by the tabloid New York Post, which described it as a gerund-form-of-the-F-word “firing squad,” quoting an unnamed source, and the more polite broadsheets found more suitable language to say pretty much the same thing. The New York Post’s unnamed source recounts Trump telling Cable News Network’s head honcho Jeff Zucker that “I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar, you should be ashamed,” with a second unnamed source saying that Trump called the news outlet “a network of liars” and singled out the National Broadcasting Corporation for similar disparagement. The Washington Post’s article, headlined “A defiant Trump meets the TV news crowd in private — and let’s them have it,” corroborates that “The president-elect specifically called out reporting by CNN and NBC that he deemed unfair, according to four people who attended the meeting, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting was off the record.” The scooped New York Times headlined its report with a familiar-sounding “Trump Summons TV Figures for Private Meeting, and Lets Them Have It,” citing unnamed sources with the same information. Each paper added some quotes by Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway about how very “cordial,” “productive,” and “congenial” the meeting was, but even she acknowledged it was also “very candid and very honest,” which we’ll interpret to mean a gerund-form-of-the-F-word firing squad.
All of which was lustily celebrated in the newer and more Trump-friendly media. The Drudge report linked to the New York Post story with the headline “BEAT THE PRESS: TRUMP TOWER SHOWDOWN WITH MEDIA ELITE,” and the Breitbart News site, until recently run by Trump’s newly appointed “Chief Strategist,” went with “Trump Eats the Press.” We spent our driving-around time on Monday listening to old rockabilly and garage band mix tapes rather than talk radio, but we’re quite sure all the hosts were happy to hear that all the media they constantly rail against got a presidential dressing-down. The more die-hard sorts of Trump supporters, who routinely harassed the same networks and newspapers at Trump’s urging during his rallies throughout the campaign, were no doubt similarly delighted.
Which is not hard to understand, given that much of the ancien regime media have indeed long been relentlessly hostile toward Republicans in general and the putatively Republican Trump in particular, and often unfairly, but we still find it somewhat unsettling. Although we are also frequent critics of the press, we think that Trump’s critique is conspicuously self-serving, and in many cases unfair. We wonder why Trump isn’t thanking CNN for all those endless hours of live coverage of his raucous rallies while almost completely ignoring his many vastly more qualified challengers during the Republican primaries, and although we have to admit that he’s got a point about NBC he should admit they also didn’t do those primary challengers any favors, nor did they do his Democratic rival much good. The Washington Post and The New York Times and other singled-out media gave thorough coverage of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s countless undeniable scandals, even if it was less prominent than on the front pages than their thorough coverage of Trump’s countless undeniable scandals, and by now their biases are as familiar to the public as those of The Drudge Report or Breitbart News or any of those talk radio show hosts.
Our view is that all of the media, both those hostile to Trump and those angrily supportive of him, should be able publish or broadcast whatever they want. They should all be subject to the same sort of scrutiny to they apply to public figures and one another as well, and a president or president-elect should have the same rights to express an opinion about it as anyone else, but no one should have the power of retribution or censorship. Trump’s past vows to “open up the libel laws” and to target certain press barons’ other business interests and cut off media access to his administration lent an air of menace to Monday’s meeting, and those cheering him on should take a moment of self-interested consideration about how it might affect them during an inevitable future Democratic administration.

— Bud Norman

About That Poll

Everything seems to be spinning out of control, from foreign affairs to the domestic economy to those ever more scandalous scandals, but everyone on the right has been taking some time out to enjoy that Wall Street Journal-National Broadcasting Company poll that shows that President Barack Obama is at last taking some of the blame for it all. The poll shows widespread disapproval of the president’s handling of the economy and especially of his foreign policies, with an especially precipitous drop in his popularity among Hispanics, and it’s bad enough that such a reliable apologist as NBC’s Chuck Todd has declared that “Essentially the public is declaring that (Obama’s) presidency is over.”
Obama’s presidency won’t actually be over for another two and half years, alas, but there is some consolation in reading that so many Americans have belatedly concluded that it should be done. The poll bodes well for the Republicans’ chances in the mid-term elections, which traditionally reflect the popularity of the sitting president, and that offers a chance a to at least limit some of the damage over the last two years of the era of hope and change. Deeper in the poll there are also contains some numbers on presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton that provide hope for the presidential election in ’16. and the possibility that some of the damage can be undone. We can’t begrudge anyone the faint glimmer of optimism that the poll provides, but it remains to be seen if the Republicans will once again squander its possibilities.
Much of the public’s dissatisfaction is with the administration’s foreign policy, which will likely also be a problem for the former Secretary of State who is the presumptive Democratic nominee, but the Republicans will find it difficult to offer a popular alternative. The last Republican administration’s forceful response to Islamism’s war against America remains unpopular, even if the public is just as discontented with the results of both Obama’s apologetic and appeasing repudiation of that approach and his bomb-first-and-ask-questions-later adventures in Libya and Pakistan and elsewhere, and the next Republican nominee will have to find an appealing middle ground that eschews long commitments of troops without letting the international order slide into chaos. The presumptive Democratic nominee and her as-yet-unknown challengers will be trying to strike the same balance, and while they won’t be able to promise deterrence through a stronger and better-funded military they will have a helpful press explaining that all of the world’s problems are still the fault of the last the Republican administration. Events are proceeding at such a pace that is impossible to predict the challenges that will be debated in the next but election, but it is safe to say they’re headed in a direction that will make the debate lively and difficult for both sides.
Things are going so badly from Ukraine to the Middle East to the South China Sea that foreign policy will play a larger-than-usual role in the next elections, but the pocketbook issues will as always be important. This should also play to the Republicans’ benefit, especially when Obamacare has been fully implemented and the consequences of all those foreign policy mistakes become apparent at the gas pump, but the Republicans’ penchant for political ineptitude could also negate that advantage. The Democrats have already indicated that they’ll run on the argument that the problem isn’t the impoverishment of the middle class that their policies have caused but rather the wealth of a few people that Republican policies have allowed, and human nature being prone to envy it will be a popular line. The presumptive Democratic nominee has lately encountered some unaccustomed bad press because she’s one of those wealthy people her party wants the public to resent, but the Democrats can always come up with another nominee who’s been getting by on a few hundred thousand dollars a years from government or academia, or come up with some more satisfactory explanation for why they’re running a woman who got filthy rich on writing books and giving speeches for the corporate world.
That precipitous drop in the president’s popularity with Hispanics is also encouraging, especially if it reflects a realization that his kind-hearted Hispanic-kids-get-in-free policy has created a humanitarian crisis for tens of thousands of Hispanic children, but the Republicans will still have to make a convincing case that their more hard-headed approach will have less heartbreaking consequences. The growing Hispanic population will remain a political challenge for the Republicans, and the demographic trends that are providing more unmarried women and children of unmarried couples bring challenges that will be hard to overcome with just a strong case for better policies.
Still, those poll numbers provide a grumpy right-winger will some small measure of satisfaction. These days, we’ll take whatever  we can get.

— Bud Norman

The Hillary Treatment

The big trend in movies these days is Hillary Clinton, of all things. Pre-production work is already underway on a much-ballyhooed big-budget feature titled “Rodham,” about our heroine’s historic yet previously unknown role in the Watergate scandal as a 26-year-old congressional staffer. CNN is currently at work on a documentary slated for theatrical release, with an Academy Award-winning lefty as director. Meanwhile, NBC is preparing a four-part biographical mini-series, which the network is hoping to air before the expected announcement of Clinton’s presidential candidacy so as to avoid messy equal-time rules and the necessity of producing a mini-series about Chris Christie or Rand Paul or some other icky Republican. Hollywood is hot for Hillary, as the alliteration-loving Variety headline writers might put it.
Ever eager to cash in on any Hollywood trend, and having had no luck pitching our Transformers-meet-zombie-Abe-Lincoln-meets-the-Hunger-Games concept, we’ve hastily penned a treatment for our own Clinton bio-pic. Our proposed movie is tentatively titled “Hillary!” — if the focus groups don’t like that we are willing to add another exclamation mark or two — and we think we can bring it in at well under a mere $250 million or so. An earlier movie about Clinton, boringly titled “Hillary: The Movie,” was critical of her career, but that wound up in litigation all the way to the Supreme Court as the Citizens United case, which annoyed the liberals to such an extent that ads are still popping up all over the internet with Sen. Al Franken’s smiling face demanding that the ruling somehow be overturned, and we don’t need that kind of trouble, so our effort will focus only on her accomplishments. Filling out a feature-length movie under these constraints will require some poetic license, of course, but ours is fully up to date and will surely be renewed by the feds when they see how sympathetically we have portrayed Clinton.
We’ve written the following treatment on “spec,” as they say around the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel, so if you know any agents looking for a hot property feel free to pass it along. Agents with colorful nicknames such as “Swifty” are preferred, but at this point we are not picky.


The movie opens in suburban Chicago with HILLARY as a first-grader, resembling a young Shirley Temple in her girlish sailor outfit, leading a general strike of her classmates to protest segregation at the school. When she defiantly presents her demands to the principal he patiently explains there are no black children within her suburban community to be segregated, but she snarls her insistence that some be provided at taxpayer expense. Cowed by her obvious moral authority, as well as the dog-eared copy of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules For Radicals” she is wielding as a cudgel, the principal relents. As Hllary triumphantly marches off to the cheers of an adoring throng of first-graders, the principal watches wistfully and mutters to himself “By gum, that girl is going places.”
After the credits roll over a slow-motion montage of academic award ceremonies, sporting triumphs, live-saving heroics, and other highlights of Hillary’s girlhood, accompanied by a swelling symphonic soundtrack from John Williams, if we can get him, we move ahead to the green lawns of Yale Law School in 1972. Hillary, now dressed in the fashion of Xena Warrior Princess, is seen leaving a building with a group of awestruck professors following behind to pepper her with arcane questions about the law. Looking across the lawn she sees BILL, a handsome young fellow in a patched hat, overalls, and bare feet, with a piece of straw dangling from his sultry lips and a stack of law books tucked under his muscular arm, watching her with a smitten look. As their eyes meet and the music swells, a group of young men dressed in prep school fashions, one of them resembling a young Mitt Romney, come along and begin to push and poke at Bill, telling him that they are Republicans and don’t like having his kind around. Hillary drops her books and rushes to intervene, felling each of the bullies with a series of highly stylized kicks and karate chops. Bill, still trembling with fear, professes his undying love for Hillary and swears that he will never, ever cheat on her.
Cut to a year later, with Hillary and Bill sitting forlornly in the McGovern campaign headquarters as they watch the electoral map light up for Richard Nixon on a fuzzy black-and-white television. Rising slowly from her chair, her face contorted with rage but still somehow alluringly feminine, Hillary raises a defiant fist and vows that she will avenge this injustice. Moving ahead two years to the Watergate hearings we see Hillary whispering folksy witticisms into SEN. SAM ERVIN’s ear, which he repeats verbatim in his endearingly cornball southern accent, then slipping away to a dark parking garage somewhere in Washington. Under atmospheric dark lighting she confronts G. GORDON LIDDY, E. HOWARD HUNT, BOB HALDEMAN, and JOHN ERLICHMAN, each slapping baseball bats against their palms as they chuckle deviously, then fells the bullies with a series of highly stylized kicks and karate chops. After some Tarantino-esque slapping around of the suspects by Hillary, each of the men offers a whimpering confession that leads to the resignation of President Nixon, thus ushering in the golden age of Jimmy Carter. A slow-motion montage of gas lines, unemployment lines, price increases, hostage-takings, killer rabbits, and leisure suits illustrates the era.
After a slow dissolve we find Hillary in Arkansas, where she is living with Bill in the gubernatorial trailer. While Bill busies himself with such mundane state business as caving into the teachers’ union and hiring interns, Hillary dabbles in the cattle futures market and establishes herself as the greatest lawyer in the history of jurisprudence. She takes the case of a young black man who has been falsely accused of raping a white woman, defying the condemnation of the racist townsfolk and the effect it has on her daughter, SCOUT, who has a subplot of her own involving the creepy and reclusive neighbor BOO RADLEY, who bears a slight resemblance to Dick Cheney. Despite her moving closing argument, delivered in a faux-black accent reminiscent of Butterfly McQueen in “Gone With the Wind,” the man is unjustly convicted, but unlike the wimp in “To Kill a Mockingbird” Hillary responds by felling the jury with a series of highly stylized kicks and karate chops.
Although the entire country is clamoring for Hillary to become president, as demonstrated by a slow-motion montage of “Draft Hillary” headlines, she decides to let Bill take the office in hopes that it will bolster his perpetually low self-esteem, which she suspects is the reason for his recently flagging libido. Moving ahead to the White House, we find Hillary bravely riffling through Federal Bureau of Investigation files and uncovering a criminal organization operating out of the White House travel office. She hires Bill’s cousin to set things righ at the office, then infiltrates and sabotages a plot to reform the health care system and thus makes possible the miracles of Obamacare.
All is then well in the land, but shortly after Bill wins re-election by a landslide plurality a vast right-wing conspiracy is launched to frame him for adultery. When the conspirators produce a stained dress as proof of Bill’s misdeeds, Hillary stands over it shouting “Out, damned spot” — a Shakespearean reference that will wow the high-brow critics — but the conspiracy proves so successful Bill is forced to confess. Afterwards Hillary devotes herself to world peace, and during a trip to Bosnia she finds herself under sniper fire and zigzags through an open field to fell the would-be assassin with a series of highly stylized kicks and karate chops.
Hillary then wins election to the Senate on a campaign promise to continue Bill’s highly successful policy of forcing banks to make subprime loans, and quickly earns a reputation as the greatest Senator in the history of representative democracy. She bravely wages a marathon filibuster against a bill that would build a dam where she had hoped to create a national boy’s camp, and the public is so moved by her conviction that evil Republican SEN. CLAUDE RAINS is forced to withdraw the bill. Unlike that wimp in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” however, Hillary then fells the corrupt politician with a series of highly stylized kicks and karate chops. The incident leads to another slow-motion montage of “Draft Hillary” headlines, but she selflessly contrives to hand the presidency to young BARACK OBAMA in hopes that it will bolster the lad’s perpetually low self-esteem.
Eager to keep an eye on her young protégé, Hillary becomes Secretary of State and quickly earns a reputation as the greatest diplomat in the history of international relations. She is joined by constant companion HUMA ABEDIN, who dresses in the fashion of Xena Warrior Princess’ sidekick, Gabrielle, and provides the same subtle lesbian undertone. The two quickly act to prevent the villainous Czechs and Poles from obtaining missile-defense technology that they are plotting to use to deviously defend themselves from Russian missiles, intervene on behalf of a Marxist coup in Honduras, and prevent the construction of an apartment building in Jerusalem that might have been used to house Jews. In a musical number, done in the flamboyant style of Busby Berkeley, Hillary sings a rousing rendition of Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” to VLADIMIR PUTIN, who then takes her in his muscular arms and says “You have reset my heart, you hot, tempestuous American girl.” Hillary pushes him away and says that her heart will always belong to Bill, prompting Huma to stifle an annoyed laugh, and Putin promises his full cooperation with America despite his heartbreak.
Another series of highly stylized kicks and karate chops to dictator HOSNI MUBARAK brings lasting peace and prosperity to Egypt, and with all well in the world Hillary begins to plan a return to a quiet private life of baking cookies and standing by her man. A group of crazed Tea Party members launch a deadly assault on an American consulate in Libya, however, and another vast right-wing conspiracy attempts to hold her responsible for failing to provide adequate security. Hillary boldly responds by finding the obscure filmmaker whose YouTube video hailing Obama as the messiah had so enraged the Tea Party members, then felling him with a series of highly stylized kicks and karate chops. In the climactic scene she confronts a congressional investigative committee that hopes to question her about the matter, and with the same hazy cinematography that accompanied Scarlett O’Hara swearing that with God as her witness she would never go hungry again we reach Hillary’s memorable closing line: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”


That’s all we’ve got, so far, but by the time “Hillary!” ends its run on the premium cable networks there should be plenty of material for a sequel. Hillary will at last become president, quickly earn a reputation as the greatest president in the history of presidents, lead the country to new heights of greatness, and administer many series of highly stylized kicks and karate chops. Bill’s hijinks will provide plenty of comic relief as well as some much-needed nudity, and we can envision a sort of “A Star is Born” story arc for their relationship. The one with Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand, we mean, and not those boring old Judy Garland or Janet Gaynor vehicles. Also, the Huma character has spin-off potential, and a pre-quel about Hillary’s high school days might do well with the pre-teen market.
Bidding for the screen rights will begin soon, so all you Hollywood big-shots out there should be ready with seven-figure checks. If your own Clinton bio-pic projects somehow prove less worshipful, there could be trouble.

— Bud Norman

An Extraordinary Coincidence

Try as we might, we just can’t imagine how NBC might have accidentally edited the tape of George Zimmerman’s now famous 911 call on the night of the Trayvon Martin shooting into the version that it aired on the “Today Show” and other network programs.

In the actual call, which is widely available to anyone who wants to hear it, Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher that “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about.” The dispatcher then asks, “OK, and this guy — is he white, black or Hispanic?” Zimmerman then replies, “He looks black.”

The way that NBC’s viewers heard it, Zimmerman told the dispatcher that “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

NBC has fired the unnamed producer responsible for the editing, but nonetheless insists that it was simply a honest mistake. That Zimmerman sounds far more racist in the edited version than in the actual call, network executives say, is just one of those unfortunate coincidences that will happen from time to time in the pursuit of the truth.

Maybe so, but it does seem a most extraordinary coincidence. Had the change occurred as a result of a simple slip of the finger on a machine or a glitch in the tape the call most likely would have wound up as “This guy looks like he’s up to black,” or “This guy looks like he’s raining,” or “It’s raining black,” or any of the many other incomprehensible possible outcomes. That it should accidentally result in the only possible elision that makes Zimmerman seem an unabashed racist, and fit so neatly into the version of the story that NBC and its affiliated networks have been presenting since the beginning of the controversy, does seem suspiciously convenient.

Readers of a certain age will recall the ridicule that was directed toward President Richard Nixon when he claimed that an 18-and-a-half minute gap in the Watergate tapes was caused by his secretary’s accidental switch of a button while transcribing the tape. The gap occurred just as a conversation between Nixon and his advisors was getting interesting, and some curious reporters found that the location of the tape machine and the typewriter being used for the transcription would have required some unusual contortions for the story to be true, so the incident did much to contribute to the public’s disbelief about Nixon’s honesty.

We doubt that NBC will be subjected to the same sort of scrutiny, however, nor that the network will endure the same public disdain that fell on Nixon. They’re not the Fox network, after all.

— Bud Norman