Patterico's Pontifications

5/2/2018

Fascinating: Giuliani vs. Trump on the Payment to Stormy Daniels

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:20 pm

This is a fascinating clip, for many reasons.

Most obviously, the claim made here by Rudy “WTF did I just say?” Giuliani, that the payment to Stormy Daniels was “funneled” through Michael Cohen’s law firm and reimbursed by Trump, makes Trump’s professed ignorance about the payment on April 6 seem … can I be kind here and say “Clintonian”? Yeah, let’s go with “Clintonian.”

But the other fascinating thing is more subtle: the spin. The spin involved when Laura Ingraham tries to tamp down her astonishment about this — phrasing the apparent contradiction as something the left will “seize on,” and rushing to remind everyone of the awful bias faced by poor President Trump. The spin involved when Byron York cheerfully seems to say that this version of events was perhaps offered by Giuliani because they are worried about the “campaign finance vulnerability” — thus cheerfully implying (without seeming to realize that he is implying) that the truth may have been massaged to address whatever threat the administration thought most worrying. And, most delicious of all, the spin involved when some yutz of a Congressman explains that, hey, Trump is so wealthy that he may have authorized a $130,000 hush money payment to a porn star and maybe it just got “lost in the shuffle.”

UPDATE: The Donald congratulates Rudy on his performance tonight:

Thanks to DCSCA.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

The Firehose Effect: The Challenge That Trump’s Non-Stop Craziness Poses to Media

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:47 am

I’m going to discuss the latest entry in the Trump Insanity Files today, but I’m doing it to make a larger point about the challenge that Trump’s constant craziness poses to people trying to cover him. I’m going to propose a term — the Firehose Effect — to explain this challenge. But let’s start our analysis with the latest story.

Remember Trump’s former personal physician, Harold Bornstein, the disreputable hippie doctor who wrote: “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” Every sentient person in America noticed how much that sounded like Donald Trump — and if you believe Bornstein now, that’s because Trump dictated the letter:

When Dr. Harold Bornstein described in hyperbolic prose then-candidate Donald Trump’s health in 2015, the language he used was eerily similar to the style preferred by his patient.

It turns out the patient himself wrote it, according to Bornstein.

“He dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter,” Bornstein told CNN on Tuesday. “I just made it up as I went along.”

Bornstein

Bornstein is not a particularly credible character, and I’m not just talking about his countercultural appearance. He previously claimed he had written the letter. The only solid conclusion we can draw from this episode is that it is more evidence that Trump surrounds himself with lunatics.

But if the story were indisputably true, it would not be out of character for Trump — and his fans would shrug it off, as they shrug off every story about him. Literally anything that you are currently criticizing anyone in public life for today, you would shrug off if it were about Trump. And so we are confronted with the phenomenon of journalists trying to explain, as they have tried to explain about so many stories before, that this story (if true) really says something alarming about Trump.

For example, Chris Cilizza has a piece today Here’s 4 reasons why Donald Trump faking a doctor’s note actually matters. The plaintive tone of that headline must be endlessly amusing to the fiercest Trump supporters, for whom neither this story nor any conceivable story could possibly matter. There is something pathetic in watching Cilizza pile up the reasons that any logical person would deem this is important, if true. The reasons are all perfectly rational and accurate. It’s another instance of the President of the United States being deceptive. He made Hillary’s health an issue. Trump will do or say anything to win no matter how unethical. Trump turns on literally everyone in the end. All quite true, and all stated in a tone I recognize well: Do you see what I’m saying now? I know the previous 500 stories about this guy’s insanity didn’t move you, but surely this one will!

A similar move is made by the people who ask the eternal question: what if it were Obama?

Of course it would have been different for Obama, or any other politician in public life. And I think I know why. I’ll call it the Firehose Effect.

Basically, there is a firehose of totally insane stories coming out about this guy almost daily, and it has been that way now for years. When you are barraged with a daily firehose of insanity, sometimes all you want is to turn the hose off.

The Scott Adams types who are insistent on characterizing Trump’s 24/7 buffoonery as genius will love this concession: maybe this is a sort of counterintuitive genius. The strategy is to simply act like the world’s biggest ass in every way for 71 years, and then people will get to the point where literally no story can touch you, because they have heard it all before.

if Trump were 1/10 as bad as he is, or 1/100 as bad, arguably there would be more time to discuss each individual crazy thing that comes out about him. There are any number of stories about him that would have been disqualifying for anyone else. Complaining about immigrant labor hurting Americans while going out of his way to employ immigrants. Praising the massacre at Tiananmen Square. Bursting into the dressing room of teenaged pageant contestants who were working for him to catch them naked. Paying porn stars six figures not to disclose that he had slept with them shortly after his son was born. For me, the breaking point was when tapes emerged of the guy calling up journalists pretending to be someone else (“John Barron” or some kind of nonsense). The evidence was overwhelming that it was him — and even though it had happened years before, he blatantly lied about it on “Fox & Friends” as a presidential candidate.

And people shrugged. That’s the moment when I felt the world had gone insane.

I figured his candidacy was going to blow up when he was confronted about it by a major news figure like Jake Tapper and Chris Wallace — someone who would be relentless in pressing him on how he could possibly claim this wasn’t him. But it never happened. Some other crazy story came flying out of the firehose and the media ran and chased that like dogs chasing cars. This brazen and laughable and blatant lie never even came up in any of the debates.

So now, a story comes out saying that Trump dictated an absurd-sounding letter for Doctor Counterculture to transcribe and sign his name to — and nobody cares. We’ve all become desensitized to the lunacy, to the point where it seems like the President of the United States is untouchable.

What is the media supposed to do in this environment? What am I supposed to do? If evidence emerges that the president has engaged in pathologically grandiose and deceptive behavior, am I supposed to ignore it?

It’s tough to ignore stuff like this. Look: I wanted to talk about James Comey this morning. I wanted to talk about his crazy recent claim that Hillary Clinton was “deeply enmeshed in the rule of law.” But this doctor story is far crazier and more newsworthy and interesting to talk about. Because it’s just so nutty.

And, as desensitized to these stories as you are, you still want to read them. There, I said it. Somehow, at the same time, you’re tired of stories about Trump, and yet all you want to talk about is Trump. You gain positive enjoyment from reading these stories, and then complaining that I am writing about them.

I know this because I have tried not writing about Trump in the past, and people were uninterested in those posts. In late November 2015, I made a personal decision to stop writing about Donald Trump. I believed he was getting too much media attention and I wanted to counteract it in my own small way. I wrote about the election, but I did not mention Trump directly. I kept this up, I believe, throughout December 2015.

I’ve gone back this morning and looked at the headlines of my posts from December 2015 and the number of comments on the posts. Aside from a handful of posts about hot-button issues like JVW’s breaking story on the San Bernardino shootings, it was rare for posts to get over 100 comments. The ones that did were the ones that came closest to discussing Trump — like posts about Ted Cruz’s rejection of any notion of banning all Muslims from entering the U.S. I didn’t mention Trump by name or his own proposed Muslim ban; I just said that Cruz rejected any such policy. And a flood of comments came into that post — and they were all talking about Trump and his policy. What a relief! the numbers said. Finally we can talk about Trump!

As I scroll down my page this morning, I see posts where Trump are currently garnering over 700 comments in one case, and over 300, in another.

I honestly don’t know what to do about this. I know that people like me, who believe that Trump is unfit for office, morally, intellectually, and temperamentally, are concerned with the willingness of his supporters to cast aside norms, and disparage entire institutions such as the FBI in service of a single man. We worry about how Trump will behave in a crisis, given his authoritarian tendencies as shown by his past praise for dictators. But nothing we say seems to matter. If we seem frustrated at times, that’s why.

It’s the Firehose Effect. And I’m in the curious position of both wielding one of the hoses and feeling forced to drink from it at the same time. I’m not really sure what to do about it. My stance in the past has always been to just keep soldiering on — saying what I believe and standing for the principles that the Republican party used to stand for.

I’m not sure what else I can do.

One thing that I have noticed is that there is great comfort in realizing that there are other people out there who feel the way you do. Since the RedState firings, we have some new readers and commenters here (hi guys!), and they are among the most sensible people I have met on the Internet. Similarly I recently discovered a podcaster named Sam Harris, who shares my views about Trump almost to the letter and is very well-spoken. It’s nice to know that there are people out there who have the same views about this president as I have, and yet are not dyed-in-the-wool leftists who want to use government to fix every wrong. I seek such people out now, and try to ignore the rest. (Side note: I found Harris as a result of this article in National Review, about Harris’s being smeared by Ezra Klein for standing up for Charles Murray. Harris is one of the those free thinkers who will infuriate you when he talks about Christianity or climate change, but will thrill you when he defends Murray against politically incorrect attacks or joins with Bill Maher to discuss the dangers of radical Islam.)

As those people are a comfort to me, I try to be a comfort to them. So I keep saying exactly what I believe — not filtering it to try to be persuasive or reasonable or kind to the president’s most enthusiastic supporters — because the best way to attract like-minded people is to say precisely what you think. There may be very few people who are willing to both stand for conservative principles and yet reject a moral monster like Trump. But those people are very special to me. I owe it to them not to moderate my beliefs to appeal to wider group of people. This might lose me a gig at this or that Web site, or cost me a bunch of readers here. But I don’t have to censor myself, and the new friends I make — and especially the old friends I retain — are pearls. They’re far more valuable to me than hordes of partisans.

So: I guess the orders are to march ahead just as before.

I still would welcome advice from my new and old friends about what to do with this firehose.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]


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