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Another Riveting Afternoon of Television

James Holzhauer’s continued dominance of the Jeopardy! game show notwithstanding, the most compelling television show on Wednesday afternoon was Attorney General William Barr’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the “Russia thing.” Barr wound up taking such a beating that he’s declining to participate in today’s scheduled interrogation by the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee, even though that’s likely to be the embarrassing big story of today.
If you’ve been following the “Russia thing” reality show you know that Mueller’s report found insufficient evidence to charge that President Donald Trump colluded with a Russian plot to interfere with the past presidential election on his behalf, despite the indictment and convictions and guilty pleas it won against Trump’s campaign manager and personal lawyer and national security for lying about their numerous contacts with Russian officials, and left it up to the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and the slighter Republican majority in the Senate to decide if Trump’s thoroughly documented attempts to impede the investigation constituted obstruction of justice and the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that are impeachable offenses.
Before releasing the redacted 400-plus-pages report Barr released a four page press release summarizing the conclusions, which he chided the press for calling a summary, and it made Trump look a lot better than the eventually released redacted report did, and the redactions are probably even more damned damning. The free if “fake” news media have reported that Mueller and his crack team of investigators thought Barr mischaracterized their findings, so naturally the damned Democrats had some tough questions about that, and for the most part Barr had trouble coming up with answers.
As old-fashioned pre-Trump Republican conservatives we have no rooting interest in these damned Democrats, but we have to admit they scored some points. One of Barr’s inquisitors was California Senator and announced Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who is far too far left for our tastes yet too centrist for the left wingers we watch Jeopardy! with at Kirby’s Beer Store, and as a former California prosecutor she’s probably sent too many young minority males to prison to win a Democratic nomination, but there’s no denying she left Barr stammering. As crazy as she is Harris can eloquently pose a tough question, which Trump’s Attorney General struggled with on Wednesday, and if the Democrats can forgive her occasional resort to common sense she’d probably make a formidable opponent for Trump in the next presidential election.
Trump had clearly hoped that Barr’s four-page summary of the the Mueller report would fully exonerate him of anything to do with the “Russia thing,” but Barr’s testimony on Wednesday and his absence on Thursday will likely keep it in the news for a while. The report confirms the consensus of the national intelligence community and Trump’s own appointees that Russia meddled in the last election on Trump’s behalf, which Trump continues to doubt and has done absolutely nothing about, and we can easily guess why Barr declines today to answer any questions from a Democratic majority on a House Judiciary Committee about that. For now, at least, the “Russia thing” seems likely to linger, and any attempts by Barr and Trump to charge “deep state” conspirators for starting it will only drag it out into the next administration, no matter what it is.
At this point, we wonder if any of it will make any difference at all. By now Trump’s opponents are disposed to believe the the worst about him, even if the Mueller report doesn’t fully oblige them, and Trump’s fans are inclined to believe that he’s making America great again, even if the Mueller report doesn’t quite back up that audacious claim. The economy’s still sluggishly chugging along at the same low-growth rate it was during the last years of the hated Obama administration, more and more brown-skinned people are showing up at our southern border but we’re treating them more harshly than ever, and there are a couple of Trump appointees on the Supreme Court who might or might not back him up in the the looming Constitutional showdowns about all of it, and that’s more likely to settle the next presidential election.
We’ll be watching all the news until then, and taking on an even livelier interest than in Holzhauer’s amazing run on Jeopardy! So far as we can tell, this is serious business.

— Bud Norman

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Wow, What a Press Conference

To his immense credit President Donald Trump frequently fields questions from the press, usually when he’s obliged to do so during a visit with a foreign head of state, or when the noise of the Marine One helicopter allows him to pretend not to hear the questions he’d rather not answer, but he rarely endures a solo press conference in front of the assembled television cameras and microphones. He gave one on Wednesday, however, and it was a nearly 90-minute-long doozy.
Despite the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard quality Trump’s rhetoric has to our sensitive ears, and the unpleasant effect his oleaginous appearance has on our sore eyes, we couldn’t stop watching and listening the press conference’s end. Trump was in true Trumpian form throughout, with the expected insult comic shtick about the “the failing New York Times” and the rest of the “fake news,” as well as the “low-lifes” and “big, fat con jobs” among his other critics, and the requisite amount of wildly exaggerated boasting. As usual, much of what he said was not only provably but quite obviously ¬†untrue.
Trump talked up a major expansion of the American steel industry that isn’t happening. He claimed credit for the construction of that “big, beautiful” border wall he promised Mexico would pay for, even though the Mexican’s aren’t paying up, and he’s recently signed a spending resolution that will avert a pre-mid-term-election government shutdown but doesn’t include any money for any kind of wall, and it also ¬†isn’t happening any time soon. He explained that all those international camera’s footage of the United Nations audience he’d addressed the day laughing at him was fake news, because of course they were appreciatively laughing with him when he opened his speech with the usual braggadocio. Once again he bragged about winning 52 percent of women’s votes in the presidential election, even though he only won 52 percent of the white women’s votes, and lost the overall women’s vote by a landslide, not to mention that Trump garnered only 48.2 percent of the overall popular vote and thus would would have lost all the men’s ballots to Democratic nominee “Crooked” Hillary Clinton by a landslide if that oft-repeated bast were actually true.
He also reiterated an earlier unsubstantiated claim that China is interfering in the mid-term elections to get Democrats elected because they’re so fearful of his trade war, and failed to answer a question about why he also claimed once again to be such good friends with China’s dictator.
Maybe it was because he had a rare open 90 minutes on his busy schedule, but our best guess is that Trump granted the rare press conference yesterday because he knew that today’s news will be mostly devoted to the testimony of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate’s judiciary committee, and the testimony before the same committee California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they both students at elite sexually-segregated prep schools in Maryland back in the early ’80s. The nationally-televised-on-several-channels testimony of what he said and she said will surely generate boffo ratings even by the Trump reality show’s standards — to put it in Trumpian terms, that much we can tell you, believe us, OK? — and by now we’ve noticed that Trump likes to get ahead of the next day’s stories.
By now this subplot of the Trump reality show is pretty darned complicated, though, and even for such a wily reality show star as Trump it’s a damned hard story to get in front of. By now another couple of women have come forward by name to accuse Kavanaugh of far-worse-than-boyish sexual behavior during late teens and early 20s, male and female classmates of Kavanaugh’s are telling the press that he wasn’t the choirboy he claimed during an unusual and ill-advised interview on Fox News, the Republicans on the legislative committee are reluctant to call Kavanaugh’s prep school friend Mark Judge, an alleged eyewitness to and participant in the sexual assault, who has since penned a roman a clef titled “Wasted: Tales of a a GenX Drunk,” which featured a drunken friend named “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” and the “fake news” has found some admittedly circumstantial but undeniably evidence in Kavanaugh’s prep school yearbook that the Supreme Court nominee was once upon a time a rather party-hearty kind of dude.
The two latest accusers are both being treated with more skepticism by most of the “fake news,” on the other hand, and the third comes courtesy of the same media-savvy lawyer who represents pornographic video performer and best-selling author Stormy Daniels, and it’s worth noting the “failing New York Times” declined an offer to report the third accuser’s accusations. Kavanaugh has an unchallenged record of sexual propriety since his early college days, and plenty of well-educated and well-respected former classmates who vouch for high moral character, and that’s also well worth taking into account.
Kavanaugh also has the whole-hearted backing of Trump, but it remains to be seen if that proves helpful. Trump has been accused of adult sexual misbehavior by more than a dozen women, and of course Trump was asked about that during the news conference, and he eventually conceded that as a result of his experience he tends to not believe women accusing men of sexual misbehavior. He misstated some key facts about a couple of his accusers, ignored the fact that another one of them has civil suit for slander still pending in the courts, didn’t bother to deny that his voice boasting about grabbing women by the pussy, and generally came across as the sexist pig that all the polls show even most white women regard him. Short of that Mark Judge fellow the Republicans won’t call testify, Trump is probably the least convincing character witness you’d want on your side if accused of sexual misbehavior.
Most people will judge today’s he said and she said testimony according to their political prejudices, but in the end we don’t think it will help the Republican party much with the upcoming mid-term women’s vote. We’ve seen polling that a slight majority of Republicans support Kavanaugh’s nomination even if the appalling allegations are proved true, and the Senate majority leader has pledged to “plow” Kavanaugh’s nomination through no matter what is revealed today, and we can’t blame any woman voter we know for resenting that.

— Bud Norman