Impeachment Is Forever

The Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has said it several times, before and after, Donald trump’s Senate trial, “impeachment is forever.” One of the consequences of this, even though he wasn’t removed from office, is that Trtump can’t parson anyone who connected to his impeachment, even Roger Stone. Corey Brettschneider, a professor of political science at Brown University and visiting professor of law at Fordham Law School, writes at Politico that the Constitution makes this very clear.

Speculation that President Donald Trump might pardon Roger Stone has reached a fever pitch after Stone’s sentencing by a federal judge and the president’s repeated hints that he thinks the verdict unfair. But fortunately, the Constitution’s framers imagined this nightmare scenario—a suspected criminal president pardoning a co-conspirator—and they put in the Constitution language to legally prohibit the pardon power in exactly this kind of case.

Both the plain meaning of the Constitution’s text and the historical evidence show that once a president has been impeached, he or she loses the power to pardon anyone for criminal offenses connected to the articles of impeachment — and that even after the Senate’s failure to convict the president, he or she does not regain this power.

Under Article II, Section II of the Constitution, the president is given the “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” Pardons are supposed to be used as acts of mercy. The framers thought of the pardon power as a “benign prerogative”—prerogative because it was mostly unchecked by courts or Congress, but benign because presidents would use it for the public good.

But the framers knew not to place blind trust in the president to wield the power justly. That’s why they explicitly forbade a president from exercising the pardon power in “cases of impeachment.” The clause prevents the worst abuse of the pardon power: a president’s protecting cronies who have been convicted of crimes related to the president’s own wrongdoing. [..]

The limit on pardons for co-conspirators wouldn’t affect many of the president’s pardons. Pardoning convicted criminals like former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich might be ill-advised, but it is still permitted. By contrast, pardoning longtime adviser Roger Stone would not be permitted, as his crimes relate directly to the impeachment case.

Stone was convicted on seven criminal counts centered around allegations that he had lied to Congress during his September 2017 testimony to the House Intelligence Committee as part of the Mueller investigation. The investigation of Stone relates to the charges that the president abused power by soliciting foreign intervention into our election and that he obstructed justice in trying to hide that “high crime and misdemeanor.” The best evidence that Stone is tied to those charges is his own self-described role as a protector of the president. “I will never roll on [Trump],” Stone declared in one of many statements. That makes him exactly the type of person Madison had envisioned while limiting the president’s pardon power.

It is true that the Stone investigation concerned Russian involvement in the election and that the House charges focused on the more recent Ukraine accusation. But the articles of impeachment focused on the accusation of “abuse of power,” and it is that general high crime at play in Ukraine and elsewhere that links the impeachment and Stone. [..]

The framers deliberately used the phrase “cases of impeachment,” not “conviction.” One reason why is simple: A president convicted by the Senate would be removed from office, and thus unable to pardon anyone. As such, there would be no reason for the Constitution to curb a convicted president’s pardon power. No exception to the pardon power needs to be granted, because no such power exists.

Moreover, the framers provided no explicit avenue for him to regain the power they took away after a House impeachment vote. Time limits are common in the Constitution—think of the president’s four-year term—and the absence of one connected to the pardon power suggests that the power is not in fact lost for a limited duration. In the absence of an explicit reinstatement of pardon power in the text, the strong presumption has to be that it is still lost. [..]

The argument for a constitutional limit on the power to pardon co-conspirators is strengthened by the widely acknowledged implicit limit on “self-pardons.” The Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, prompted by the possibility that President Richard Nixon would try to grant clemency to himself for his role in Watergate, argued that a president could not pardon himself. According to that office, no person should be a “judge in his own case”; therefore, no president could self-pardon. Although not technically a self-pardon, pardons for co-conspirators are similarly aimed at self-protection, so should also be barred.

The dangers of Trump’s pardoning someone “connected” to his own alleged high crimes in a “suspicious manner” have not abated after the Senate vote. They have, if anything, been amplified because he appears to have interpreted the failure of the Senate to convict him as evidence that he is unchecked in his power. Both constitutional law and common sense suggest that he loses the pardon power forever in cases related to the impeachment. But the Constitution requires people to enforce it. If the president attempts to pardon Stone, his own lawyers and those in the Department of Justice should inform him that such a pardon would exceed his powers as president, just as Nixon’s Office of Legal Counsel told Nixon he could not self-pardon. [..}

If Trump’s lawyers and advisers fail to stop him, and the president moves ahead with a pardon for Stone, it is incumbent upon any judge asked to enforce that pardon to deny it on constitutional grounds. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the meaning of the impeachment exception to the pardon power because such a pardon of a co-conspirator by a president who has been impeached is unprecedented. But the need to stop it is dire. Otherwise, the original purpose of the pardon power—to show mercy to others—will be turned on its head. Instead, the pardon power will be converted into a self-serving tool of an aspiring despot, precisely the danger Mason warned against.

Keep in mind, Trump has repeatedly said he can do whatever he wants according to Article II. He obviously hasn’t read it.

It’s Over Dudes. You Lost.

On May 10th 1865 Jefferson Davis was captured attempting to flee the last Seat of the Confederate Government, Washington Georgia. Reputedly he was dressed as a woman to avoid recognition, I see no necessity to slander him beyond his fundamental failures, it’s probably apocryphal. June 23rd Cherokee leader Stand Watie was the last Confederate general to surrender his forces.

Which is my way of saying-

The War’s been over for 155 Years!

The Myth of the Lost Cause, carefully crafted by bigoted racists, is persistent and some see nothing wrong with the open display of Traitorous Symbols.

The Commandant of The Marine Corps disagrees.

Top General Orders Removal of All Confederate Paraphernalia From Marine Bases
By Elliot Hannon, Slate
Feb 27, 2020

The Marine Corps took a welcome step toward modernizing after the service’s top general ordered the removal of all Confederate paraphernalia from all Marine installations around the world. The directive from Commandant Gen. David Berger came last week, shortly after a congressional hearing on the rise of the racist ideology of white nationalism in the military. The directive did not specify what exact forms of paraphernalia would now be prohibited beyond, presumably, the Confederate flag. The move was a long time in coming and could draw the Marines further into what has been a divisive societal issue that has morphed into a political issue in the Trump years: the push for the removal of Confederate statues and iconography across American life.

The U.S. has witnessed a troubling rise of white nationalist extremism since Trump’s election, and the military is no different. Several Marines have been punished or kicked out of the service for racist social media posts, prompting Congress to push the Pentagon to better monitor extremism in its ranks. A survey published by the Military Times earlier this month found more than 50 percent of minority service members reported recently witnessing instances of ideological racism, like white nationalism. More than a third of all active-duty troops reported witnessing such instances of racism, including “racist language and discriminatory attitudes from peers, but also more specific examples like swastikas being drawn on service members’ cars, tattoos affiliated with white supremacist groups, stickers supporting the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi-style salutes between individuals.” Those types of extremist attitudes rose by nearly two-thirds from the previous year’s survey.

The debate over the appropriateness of the American military using Confederate names and allowing its symbols is not new. “Ten Army bases are named after leaders of secessionist states, a point of contention for many—especially after a 2015 racially motivated attack on a South Carolina church thrust the debate over honoring Confederate history onto the national stage,” according to “But the military’s response to Confederate names, flags and other materials was less clear. The Defense Department didn’t take any immediate action on the issue, Military Times reported at the time, opting to leave it up to individual services to address.”

In addition to the ban on Confederate symbols, the general also ordered Marine leadership to work to deploy more women in combat roles, including positions leading infantry battalions. Directives also pushed the Marines to explore the possibility of yearlong maternity leave and to extend current parental leave benefits to same-sex couples in the service.

M… M… My Corona

I can spell too.


Roy Wood Jr.



Your Are What You Eat

The EU has made it clear that if the UK wants a trade agreement, Chlorinated Chickens are right out.

Oh, that would be almost every Chicken produced in the US where we cram them into boxes, chop off their beaks so they don’t peck each other to death, pump ’em full of antibiotics so they don’t infect each other and wash them in Chlorinated Water to remove the remaining bacteria from their filthy carcasses.

Mmm… yummy.

The Guardian view on food and Brexit: trust is not on the menu
The Guardian
Wed 26 Feb 2020

Most people pay little attention to the chain of production that brings food to their plates. Americans eat tonnes of chicken every year, unaware of, or unconcerned by, the chemical rinse applied to its pre-cooked carcass. British consumers might also eat chlorine-washed chicken if they had acquired the habit, but since they haven’t the idea is unappetising. This is a problem in transatlantic trade talks because US agribusiness wants access to UK dining tables. The politics of serving food prepared to US safety standards is tricky on a number of levels. Alongside chlorinated chicken, the use of growth-promoting hormones and antibiotics in meat production are more tightly regulated in Europe than in many countries that want to export their surplus meat. After Brexit, the UK can abandon EU standards, but if it does so it will find its produce barred from continental markets.

Eurosceptics call that protectionism, and partly it is. European food safety standards have a scientific rationale – the idea is that hygiene should be maintained all along the chain, not dealt with at the last stage by blasting microbes with disinfectant. But those rules are bundled up with a system that insulates the sector from global competition. The EU subsidises farmers, recognising how destabilising it would be if a glut of cheap American produce was dumped on their markets. Some Eurosceptics embrace that destabilisation as an economic tonic, others deny it would happen. Pro-leave campaigners advertised cheaper food as a benefit of Brexit, omitting to explain that a price would be paid by farmers. That sleight of hand was easier to accomplish in propaganda than as government policy. The National Farmers’ Union vehemently opposes lowering regulatory barriers to American produce. The NFU president, Minette Batters, this week said doing so would be “insane” and “morally bankrupt”. Downing Street insists high standards will be maintained, but Boris Johnson wants a trade deal with the US and is not renowned for keeping his word. George Eustice, the environment secretary, tries to assuage farmers’ fears without giving them explicit guarantees.

The EU has been less ambiguous. Michel Barnier insists that the application of common standards across the single market will not be compromised as a favour to Britain. Access depends on alignment and, as Mr Barnier noted this week, the geographical proximity of the UK to the rest of Europe makes the enforcement of standards across post-Brexit borders all the more important. As the European commission sees it, such a near neighbour could easily become an entrepôt for substandard produce. That explains EU frustration at Tory MPs’ habit of downplaying or dismissing the requirement for controls at Irish Sea ports. The preservation of an all-Ireland regulatory space under the withdrawal agreement makes such checks necessary once mainland Britain diverges from EU rules. Northern Ireland’s Unionists hate that idea and Mr Johnson hates admitting that he let them down, but those are not grounds to renege on a treaty.

The prime minister can try persuading Mr Barnier to turn a blind eye to changes in UK food standards; he can try persuading British consumers to eat chlorinated chicken; he can try persuading farmers to accept being undercut by American imports. But he will struggle in two ways. First, standards are settled by law, not trust. Second, Mr Johnson has proved that he cannot in any case be trusted. The prime minister keeps serving up rehashed Brexit promises, but they get ever harder to swallow.

The Breakfast Club (Keeping On)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

This Day in History

Germany’s Reichstag burns, giving the Nazis under Adolf Hitler a pretext to seize absolute power; A cease-fire ends the Persian Gulf War; Actress Elizabeth Taylor born; Children’s TV host Fred Rogers dies.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

I think that the thing that we learned back in the day of the civil rights movement is that you do have to keep on keeping on.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault

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Fidel Castro was a Bad, Bad Man

He executed Thousands (though for scale you really have to compare him to Batista), Packed a bunch more off to “Re-Education” Camps which are by definition much, much worse than a Political Prison.

Oh, and he stole all their Mafia and Graft money when they fled to Miami and started raising an Army of Catholic Cavaliers and Mercenaries to retake the stuff they stole first back from those Roundheaded Apostates and Atheists.

Sure the CIA thought that was a great idea, and they organized the Bay of Pigs which if it weren’t such a bloody defeat would be a farcical physical comedy of the Three Stooges type (Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. Woo, woo, woo, woo. Said I didn’t like it, never said I didn’t know it).

We sent him an exploding Cigar!

I mean, how basic. Yeah it was actually poison something or other and we had this showdown draw over Nuclear Missiles (Mutually Assured Destruction works, 72 years and counting. Who wants a heap of glowey ashes?) and then Fidel killed JFK unless it was Sam Giancana or somebody else (Oswald? In the Book Depository? With a Sears Roebuck Rifle? Who’s naive now Kate?).

Finally we decided simmering hate and hostility rather than active aggression was the best course of action until Obama came around. I would have gone to Havana, still might at some point. They say it’s beautiful and it’s very historic in an Age of Exploration/Piracy/Colonial kind of way.

I must say I remember the bad old days quite well enough.

I also remember (120+ you know) all the Red Baiting from 1917 to 1940 when, after Hitler attacked, they became our temporary military ally, and then again from 1946 to 1989.

Besides Putin is our pal, he’s KGB not a Commie. Xi is a Commie right enough but we owe him money (not a lot in the grand scheme of things actually) so we’ll posture against him in meaningless economic ways that only harm United States Consumers, Farmers, and Manufacturers.

But heaven forfend you have a nice word about Cuban Literacy or their Global Humanitarian Health Care (not Insurance, actual Doctors, Nurses, Hospitals, Medicine, and Equipment) outreach.

Only good Red is a dead Red.

I’ll let digby take it a little-

Trump’s authoritarian buddies have his number
Published by digby, Hullabaloo
February 26, 2020

There has been a lot of discussion over the past few days about Bernie Sanders’ comment on “60 Minutes” that the authoritarian Cuban leader Fidel Castro had boosted literacy among his people. Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist so I suppose it’s not surprising that this would attract some attention, but his comment really wasn’t anything a standard-issue liberal wouldn’t have made. In fact, the most revered Democrat in America, Barack Obama, said pretty much exactly the same thing when he moved to normalize relations with Cuba in his final years in office.

Nonetheless, the subject was raised again at the presidential debate on Tuesday night when the moderators asked Sanders whether Americans could trust that a socialist would give authoritarians a free pass. Seriously.

I don’t know whether anyone’s noticed this, but Fidel Castro is dead. It’s interesting that such a dull observation about literacy programs in communist countries would cause such hand-wringing when you consider that our current president’s favorite global leaders are all authoritarian strongmen who are very much alive. In fact, Donald Trump was being fêted and fluffed by one of those at the very moment the press was calling for the smelling salts over Sanders’ mundane comments.

It’s easy to see why Trump would be anxious to please the leader of an enormous nation with a fast-growing middle class, and it isn’t because he is concerned with the geopolitical implications of a U.S.-Indian partnership.

Trump is likewise unconcerned with human rights violations, either in India or anywhere else. In the past he’s excused Russia’s authoritarian President Vladimir Putin’s killing of journalists, admired Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent crackdown on drug users and, of course, has relentlessly bragged about his bromance with Kim Jong-un, the sociopathic leader of North Korea. We can add to that list Chinese President Xi Jinping, Brazil’s thuggish Presidnt Jair Bolsonaro and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, all of whom know that Trump is a fool. Modi is just the latest of those to flatter him and shame America in the process.

It’s never been so starkly demonstrated how little Donald Trump cares about anything but himself as it was in India this week. As he was being unctuously massaged and fawned over by the Indian government, there was mass violence in the streets of New Delhi against India’s Muslim minority, spurred on by Modi’s recent decree that threatens their citizenship.

Of course Trump didn’t say anything to Modi about his increasingly violent anti-Muslim Hindu nationalist movement. He doesn’t know the first thing about Hinduism, of course. But he agrees with a vicious crackdown on Muslims.

Trump had to water down his “Muslim ban” somewhat in order for the Supreme Court to put some lipstick on it and call it constitutional. But he got ‘er done. And he’s sent a message to every strongman in the world that the U.S. will reward them for such actions as well. You just have to give President Trump a little sugar and put on a little show.

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Thomas B Edsall: Does Anyone Have a Clue About How to Fight Back Against Trump’s Racism?

Moderates and progressives have a lot to lose by ignoring each other on this crucial question.

Can Democrats diminish the bigotry that Donald Trump has unleashed in this country?

Stung by the success of Trump’s anti-immigrant, racist campaign themes in 2016, left-of-center advocacy groups — think tanks, unions, progressive academics and Democratic consultants — are developing tools this year to counter the continuing Republican assault on liberal values, based on the optimistic assumption that the reservoir of white animosity is not so deep that Trump is assured re-election.

These efforts on the left challenge the long history of Republican success in exploiting race and a host of ancillary issues — crime, welfare, social disorder, family breakdown, homelessness — a history that includes Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972, Ronald Reagan in 1980, George H.W. Bush in 1988 and Donald Trump in 2016.

That history points to the relentless power of racial resentment in American politics. Despite polling that shows greater acceptance of racial equality, this issue is as potent a source of political strength for Trump today as it was for Nixon a half century ago.

Michelle Cottle: Cheer Up, Democrats

In the midst of Tuesday’s brawl of a debate, there were illuminating, even hopeful, moments.

Dumpster fire, train wreck, meltdown — pick your unflattering metaphor and odds are that someone is using it right now to describe Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate in Charleston, S.C.

It was not a pretty scene. Anyone tuning in hoping to gain clarity about the field was instead treated to a two-hour collective panic attack. There was too much yelling and cross talk for a coherent discussion to emerge, and the moderators seemed helpless to impose order. The more punches that were thrown and the more blood spilled, the harder it was to tell who was getting the better of whom. As a result, it’s unlikely much damage was done to any particular candidate — as opposed to the field overall, which wound up looking frantic and fractured. And there was precious little fire focused on the current president. The whole fractious spectacle was like a scene out of Vladimir Putin’s anti-American fantasies. Or a Trump campaign commercial.

This is how democracy works. It’s messy, and it rarely runs like most people think it should — especially when the stakes are as high as they are in this race. But even in the midst of Tuesday’s brawl, there were a few illuminating, even hopeful, moments to be extracted, even if the effort left you with a headache.

Michael Fuchs: India Trump and Modi are undermining the pillars of the US-India relationship

The leaders of the world’s two biggest democracies are pursuing dangerous, nationalist visions at odds with their countries’ founding values

As the global tide of populism challenges the very idea of liberal democracy, Donald Trump’s visit to India highlighted how Trump and India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi – leaders of the world’s two largest democracies – are a central part of the problem, pursuing dangerous, nationalist visions that corrode the tenets of democracy. While the United States and India should exemplify the virtues of democracy and respect for universal rights, Trump and Modi are undermining those values.

In the last 20 years the US-India partnership has blossomed, and its potential continues to grow. Trump’s trip was intended to highlight this potential with defense equipment sales, talk of a future trade deal and big crowds at a rally.

Despite the show, the real story is how Trump and Modi’s divisive policies are undermining the three pillars of the US-India strategic partnership: shared values; a robust economic relationship; and an interest in building a peaceful Asia-Pacific in which China is a player, but not a hegemon.

Moira Donegan: The Democratic debate was heavy on vitriol and light on substance

Instead of an informed discussion, voters were treated to a bad-faith fiasco in the service of narcissism, dishonesty and petty grievance

For reasons that remain unclear, there was yet another Democratic primary debate on Tuesday night, the 10th such event of the presidential contest. The seven candidates who qualified convened in Charleston, South Carolina, ahead of the South Carolina primary on Saturday and the slew of Super Tuesday contests next week. It will not be the last debate that we are subjected to – yet another is scheduled for 15 March. Tuesday’s debate, hosted by CBS, was mercifully short compared to some others, wrapping up after just two hours. For my sins, I watched the whole thing.

Perhaps because there have been so many of these debates, the candidates seemed determined to make it dramatic television. At times, they seemed to be vying for ratings. Much of the evening was spent in shouting and cross talk. Biden pointed; Sanders threw his hands in the air in exasperation; Bloomberg delivered practiced jokes he had paid someone to write for him, exuding all the charisma of a rubber chicken. Everyone had grievances; everyone had accusations and recriminations to make against the others. Not that you could hear them: the shouting often made it hard to make out just quite what anyone was saying. The event was heavy on vitriol and light on substance.

Richard Wolffe: Moderates just blew their best shot to stop Bernie Sanders

The Democratic candidates seemed torn between attacking the Vermont senator and attacking each other. That benefited Sanders once again

Who is the happy warrior?

Apparently not a single one of the seven Democratic candidates locked in a doom-laden downward spiral in the final debate before Super Tuesday.

The last Democrat to win the presidency printed posters with HOPE slapped all over them. Judging from Tuesday’s debate in South Carolina, most of the party’s leading voices are either breathless or hopeless.

Yes, the stakes are high, after three years of the presidential dumpster fire called Donald Trump. But the stakes sound even higher if your presidential campaign is also on fire, as it seemed to be for just about everyone on stage.

CBS News, the host of the verbal calamity that was Tuesday’s debate, helpfully placed the two least appealing candidates on the outer edges of the stage.

Text Mike to 55563

He’s a news dude and you’re wrong fella. 38 foot is plenty to single hand without being unwieldy and if you need to sleep more than 4 you should consider your floating Hospitality Suite that you carry as a Business Expense.

Of course you need to pay the crew even just to bob in the water so it’s the marginal cost of gas for your Aircraft Carrier. I’d still tug around the Day Tripper just for fun though.

Debate Live




The Breakfast Club (Wall Of Illusion)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

This Day in History

The 1993 bombing of New York’s World Trade Center; President Ronald Reagan rebuked over Iran-Contra; France’s Napoleon Bonaparte escapes exile on Elba; Singers Fats Domino and Johnny Cash born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

We were talking about the space between us all and the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion. Never glimpse the truth – then it’s far too late when they pass away.

George Harrison

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Democratic Debate 2020 South Carolina

The tenth Democratic debate will air tonight on CBS at 8 PM ET ahead of South Carolina’s primary on Saturday, February 29. There wil be one more candidate on stage tonight, the other billionaire, Tom Steyer. Super Tuesday in March 3 in 14 state and will include California, for the first time, and Texas, the country;’s two most populous states.. Over 1300 delegates will be awarded, 1991 is needed to secure the nomination. A big win by Bernie Sanders could end several campaigns. While there has been much rending of garments in the mainstream media, Dan Froomkin of Salon notes that Nevada should be a wake up call for the news media:

Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post media writer and highly respected former public editor of the New York Times, called on the political media to ditch the false equivalence and the credulity and the euphemisms — in favor of honest and direct language describing the urgent threat that a newly unbound Donald Trump poses to democracy.

Anand Giridharadas, the noted author and chronicler of the elites, went on MSNBC, where he is a contributor, to call upon his network colleagues and others to stop freaking out about the Bernie Sanders groundswell and instead ask themselves: “What is going on in the lives of my fellow citizens that they may be voting for something I find it so hard to understand?”

Naomi Klein, whose writing so effectively champions social, economic and ecological justice, called on the mainstream media to dispel rather than spread “the barrage of lies” about democratic socialism. “Journalists make choices at key moments in history,” she wrote, “they aren’t mere spectators.”

These three powerful, emotional and urgent calls for fundamental change in the way the elite media covers politics all came on one day – Sunday — and taken together strongly suggest that we are at (or past) what should be an inflection point for the political-journalism industry.

This should be a time to take stock. To reconsider whether core journalistic values are being served by arguably anachronistic methods like “neutrality-at-all-costs,” as Sullivan wrote. To ask if our most dominant news organizations are sleep-walking through “a wake-up moment for the American power establishment,” as Giridharadas said. To rededicate to the most essential job of journalism, which, as Klein put it, is to “educate people.”

Read the entire article and the links to the Sullivan, Klein and Giridharadas pieces. It will change how you watch and read the news..

After the last week’s debate in Nevada, which was the most watched ever, Salon’s Amanda Marcotte has a run down on what to expect from the seven candidates:

Will this be a repeat of Warren’s performance from last week? Coming out of the Las Vegas debate last week, the only news was Warren’s barn-burner of a debate performance. Most of the focus was on how she wrecked Bloomberg, but unfortunately his advertising blitz has held him steady in the polls behind Sanders. But every candidate took some devastating criticism from Warren, who decided to stop trying to be a “unity” candidate and start showing voters she has what it takes to beat Trump.

Will she do it again? Sequels, as we all know, can be risky — but sometimes they can be “Godfather II” or “The Empire Strikes Back.” Warren has nothing to lose at this point: If she doesn’t make significant gains on Tuesday, she’s probably out of the race. She would be well-advised to come out swinging again.

Will Sanders finally take some real damage? So far, most candidates — besides former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg — have been reluctant to court the vicious backlash that comes from criticizing Sanders, a decision that has no doubt contributed to his current poll leader status.

Still, Sanders has some weak spots that are no doubt tempting to go after, especially since this may be the last real chance for other candidates to slow his roll. Just this week, Sanders went on “60 Minutes” and was asked about his 1980s comments that Cubans didn’t rise up against dictator Fidel Castro because “he educated their kids, gave their kids health care, totally transformed society.”

Instead of backing down, Sanders complained that while he condemns authoritarianism, Castro promoted “a massive literacy program” and that’s not “a bad thing”. On Monday, he dug in, saying that while “China is an authoritarian country,” it is also true that the Chinese regime has “taken more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history.”

These comments are widely viewed as politically toxic, particularly if one desires to win Florida, where an increasingly Democratic Latino population is seen as likely to snap back to the Republicans if provoked on the issue of the Castro regime in Cuba. Sanders has a perceived electability problem, and it’s an open question whether his opponents will overcome their fear of backlash enough to challenge him directly on this stuff.

Last stand for Buttigieg, Biden and Amy Klobuchar. The Minnesota senator burned up all of the goodwill from her surprisingly robust finish in New Hampshire by spending the last debate bickering with Buttigieg. She finished a dismal sixth in Nevada and has no realistic path forward after (maybe) winning her home state on Super Tuesday. Mayor Pete, in turn, got in a number of licks on other candidates, but they got lost in the maelstrom Warren brought to Las Vegas. It’s difficult to imagine Buttigieg winning any states in the next week, or even amassing more than a handful of delegates. Similarly, although Biden may yet squeeze out a victory in South Carolina on Saturday, he’s been unable to come up with a viable narrative or even a vaguely compelling reason why people shouldn’t abandon ship now that his star is fading.

It’s just possible that one of those three could turn in a debate performance that puts them back in the running, especially now that voters outside political-junkie circles are tuning in. It’s also incredibly unlikely.

Will Bloomberg live up to his ads? Bloomberg had a miserable debate for his debut in Las Vegas last week: He came off as prickly, wooden and contemptuous of the mere mortals who live without billions of dollars. No doubt many pundits expect him to have learned from his failures and do better this time. Those pundits are failing to understand how being unbelievably rich can shield a person from the self-awareness required for such improvements, especially in such a short period of time.

Tom Steyer will be there. Money really can buy a lot of support, and the presence of two comically inept billionaires on the debate stage is proof of concept. If Steyer is less obnoxious than Bloomberg, that’s a really low bar — and given that he more or less echoes Sanders and Warren’s positions, it’s unclear why he’s not supporting one of them.


Objective Journalism Is Why American Politics Has Been Allowed To Be So Corrupt For So Long

So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here–not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.

We have entered the Trump Unbound era — and journalists need to step it up.
By Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post
February 23, 2020

When Donald Trump was elected, the media spent months figuring out how to cover a far-from-ordinary presidency.

Some will argue that many journalists never rose to that challenge — that they normalized Trump at every turn and never successfully conveyed to the public a clear and vivid picture of how he has toppled democratic norms and marched the country toward autocracy.

To be sure, they made adjustments.

Big Journalism began to call a lie a lie. It began to call racism by its name. It began to offer fact-checking in real time.

In other words, journalists adapted — within the framework of their tried-and-true beliefs.

We’re not “part of the resistance,” said New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet; “We’re not at war with the administration; we’re at work,” Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said. These were thoughtful, reasonable remarks, and they set the tone for much of how the mainstream media — from NPR to the broadcast nightly news to regional newspapers — has proceeded.

And then came Trump’s impeachment. And his acquittal. And now, a new era for this president who chooses to believe he’s been vindicated.

Call it Trump Unbound.

In this new era, Trump has declared himself the nation’s chief law enforcement official. He has pardoned a raft of corrupt officials. He has exacted revenge on those he sees as his impeachment enemies — Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the decorated military veteran and national security staffer; and Gordon Sondland, Trump’s own handpicked ambassador to the European Union — simply because they testified under subpoena to what they knew about the White House’s dealings with Ukraine.

In other words, we are in entirely new territory now. Should the news media continue as usual? Should it retain its own traditions as the nation slides toward autocracy? Should it treat the Trump presidency as pretty much the usual thing, with a few more fact-checks and the occasional use of a word like “lie”?

No. We need a new and better approach if we’re going to do our jobs adequately.

First, we need to abandon neutrality-at-all-costs journalism, to replace it with something more suited to the moment. Call it Fairness First.

I’m talking about the kind of fairness that serves the public by describing the world we report on in honest and direct terms — not the phony kind of fairness that tries to duck out of difficult decisions by giving “both sides” of an argument equal time, regardless of their truth or merit.

Now more than ever, with a president feeling empowered and vindictive after his acquittal, we need to apply more scrutiny and less credulity to his increasingly extreme actions and statements.

Second, we need to be far more direct in the way stories are put together and presented.

I often talk to news consumers — citizens by another name — who insist that they want “just the facts” reporting. They’re understandably frustrated that they can’t seem to find that when so many news organizations, especially cable news, seem to have chosen political sides for commercial purposes. They want news that is unbiased — that doesn’t come with a side helping of opinion. Just tell me what happened, they say. I’ll make my own decisions about what it means.

That sounds good in theory. In practice, every piece of reporting on national politics is unavoidably the product of choices: What’s the angle? Who is quoted? What’s the headline? How much historical context is there? How prominent is it on a front page, a home page, an app?

It’s in these small but crucial decisions that mainstream media often fails its audience: We simply are not getting across the big picture or the urgency. This happens, in part, because those news organizations that haven’t chosen up sides — those that want to serve all Americans — fear being charged with bias.

And so they soften the language. They blunt the impact.

Take the story of Trump’s angry reaction to the warning that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to help his reelection. After hearing this, he reportedly moved to dump the acting director of national intelligence.

That’s big news that ought to be told with real urgency, right?

But not all of mainstream journalism saw it that way. On Friday morning, I searched and scrolled the home page of ABC News, whose evening news show attracts millions every night, the most-watched program of its kind. There were stories about the coronavirus, about the “mom of Idaho kids arrested in Hawaii,” and even a breathless in-case-you-missed-it piece about new fish sandwiches at Arby’s and Bojangles as Lent approaches. I could find the story in question only after a search for the term “Russia.”

And even those news organizations that did emphasize the story were using words that failed to get the importance across — headline after headline used the word “meddling” to describe the reported Russian intrusions into America democracy.

Meddling sounds like your nosy neighbor getting involved, over the backyard fence, in your family’s squabble.

The Daily Beast was more straightforward: “Russia Is Helping Elect Trump Again, Intel Official Says.”

There are dozens of examples every day. Too often, news organizations are cautious to a fault, afraid of their own shadows, and worried about being labeled anti-Trump or biased.

In this new era, my prescription is less false equivalence, more high-impact language and more willingness to take a stand for democracy.

With Trump unbound, the news media need to change. Yes, radically. The stakes are too high not to.

Should I tell the poor bastard? No, he’d be seeing the bats himself soon enough.

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