Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lawrence O'Donnell Play Both Sides do it Between Hillary and Trump

I have to admit that I almost fell out of my chair watching Lawrence last night. After being relentlessly shrill and alarmist about Trump for months now he's suddenly drawing false equivalences between Trump and Hillary Clinton.

He has joined the Beltway chorus that she lied on Saturday night in saying that Trump is ISIS's best recruitment tool. This is amazing. The media-and the GOP Establishment have been shrill in arguing just that for weeks. But now that Hillary says the same thing, now suddenly the Beltway is less sure.

Maybe Trump's antics are a great recruitment tool. Maybe they aren't. You know the talk of Muslim databases, a ban on Muslim immigration, and repeating the false story of cheering Muslims-maybe this is bad thing but maybe it's not.

Hillary went too far and saying that it is a bad thing. This is all very telling. I shows that my characterization of the media as being phony and sanctimonious has been shown again.

I-and Matt Yglesias-argued recently that the media is in such a furor over Trump not because because they only want Honest Abes in office but because he breaks their rules. They let all kinds of lies and distrotions thorugh, but when they decide something is 'too far' they expect an abject apology.

They want the power to rub the offending politician's face in the dirt and to feel that if he or she doesn't apologize abjectly enough they are finished.

The problem with this is that the things the media focus on are very selective. Usually it's not about policy, it's usually around some trivial issue of fact that really doesn't matter whether it's' true or not anyway. During 2000 the media was all over whether or not Al Gore really invented the Internet or was really the inspiration for the book Love Story.

You know stuff that really doesn't matter either way anyway. The media absurdly claims that these questions were very important ones about Gore's character. This was before we had Ben Carson that has certainly moved the Upton Window on what's considered reasonable embellishment of your biography.

Krugman compares the the treatment of Trump vs. that of George W. Bush. I agree-the media allowed W to falsify and distort a lot and that opened the door down the line for Trump.
Anyway, Lawrence is upset that Hillary is not apologizing. Thank God she's not-it'd be obscene if she did. He's saying that she's no better than him if she won't apologize. Which shows you the rather worthless nature of Lawrence' idea of the truth if he really sees an equivalence here.

What stands out is the extremely legalistic nature of the media's 'fact checking.' In their zeal to show that both sides do it and they're evenhanded they again give equal time between the truth and lies. Here is in all it's dogmatic glory:

"Clinton said that ISIS is “showing videos of Donald Trump … to recruit more radical jihadists.” There’s no evidence of that, though experts have said it’s likely."

Note as well that she didn't say it's an ISIS video but simply a video of Trump's various utterances. If it's likely than how can she be categorically false?

Again, a big part of the trouble here is the legalism with which the fact checkers do their jobs. There is no attempt to distinguish between the letter of the law and the spirit. Only through a very narrow and legalistic lens could you claim she told a lie. Everyone has been saying that this is what Trump is doing for weeks but when Hill says it, suddenly it's treated as an empirical claim that must be investigated very closely.

Which is instructive of the overall media complex today. What this means is that while the media has been shrill in castigating Trump this has been in the form they feel comfortable with. They've acted like Trump is his very own uncasued cause, that he is just an outlier and not representative of the larger Republican party.

This is a frame with which the media-post Rush Limbaugh-feels comfortable with. It's ok to treat Trump as crazy and irresponsible as long as he's not seen as typical of the Republican party-he needs to be seen as an outlier.

This is Krugman's definition of the Very Serious People-they are very concerned to be 'evenhanded' and to frame things as the idea that both parties have lots of reasonable people in them and a few wild eyed outliers that are basically equal. So in discussing Trump they are happy to be able to also mention Bernie Sanders.

But now that Hillary is criticizing Trump-particularly as she's the frontrunner-the frame is different. When she attacks Trump she is not just attacking  him but the Republican party. And the media can't go there in it;s Very Serious poise. Once it becomes a Democrat-Republican issue then the only correct response is to declare that both sides do it. 

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