Patterico's Pontifications


Let’s All Act Dreadfully Regarding the Covington Catholic HS boys

Filed under: General — JVW @ 8:22 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Dana, Patterico, and I were trading email last night discussing which one of us wanted to address the big contretemps over the weekend regarding the boys from Covington Catholic High School and Nathan Phillips of the Omaha Tribe of Native Americans. Dana and I both concluded that this was a ridiculous story that had snowballed into something unimaginably stupid and that neither one of us looked forward to trying to unpack it. The host wisely kept quiet. I eventually told them that I would take a hack at addressing it, but I spent a couple of hours reading through accounts of what happened and various opinions concerning it, and I came away no more excited about sharing my opinions than I was going in.

Suffice it to say, this whole kerfuffle was a misanthrope’s dream. I am just going to assume that everyone here has a basic idea of what happened, because, honestly, one of the things I struggled with last night was trying to recount the events and the various spin that was spun by advocates and agendavists (yeah, I just made up that word). If you haven’t yet seen what happened, take an hour (if it’s worth your time, and it’s probably not) and watch the brief three minute clip that circulated Saturday morning (the events took place the day before), then watch a different video with more context, and finally watch the longer version (fast-forward though as much as you want) that started to make the rounds later that evening and yesterday.

Here’s what I think about all of what happened:

1. The boys were stupid to wear their MAGA gear to the rally, and their chaperones were asleep at the wheel for permitting it. Sure, you can give me the free speech argument, but I’m pretty sure these boys were on a school-sponsored bus tour and the school had every right to dictate the day’s dress code. I would also fault the boys if they showed up wearing I’m With Her regalia, or John Kasich clothing, or even Kamala Harris duds. That brought a partisan element to an event, the March for Life, that should have been party-neutral.

2. The Black Hebrew Israelites didn’t do anything to shake my image of them as a bunch of nut jobs. I was acquainted with a fella some years ago who fell for their flim-flam and became more than somewhat unhinged (or perhaps his association with the group just shone a light on his existing problems with reality). The way these grown men provoked the boys with racial slurs is typical of the thuggishness of so many members of that sect.

3. Nathan Phillips’s actions here are either self-aggrandizing or intentionally inflammatory. To hear him tell it, he waded into the crowd of boys to defuse the situation brewing between them and the Black Hebrews. But if that’s true, why did Mr. Phillips not speak to any of the boys — perhaps introduce himself to them and talk them like a respected elder might to young men — instead choosing to bang his drum and chant his prayer face-to-face just inches away from a young man? At best Mr. Phillips tried to help in a tense situation but badly blundered; at worst he was hoping to draw attention to himself by confronting the young MAGA kids. Also, let’s ask how we would feel if Mr. Phillips had done the same thing to a 16-year-old girl. Wouldn’t that come off as creepy and menacing? I also join those who think that Mr. Phillips is not an accurate chronicler of the truth. There is a cacophony of noise on the video, but I don’t hear any chants of “build that wall” that he claimed to hear, and I have a hard time buying into his claim that he feared for his safety in the presence of those boys.

4. Regarding that now infamous young man in the video, Nicholas Sandmann (I use his name because he has gone public with his side of the story), as an old man sitting here today I wish he hadn’t stood there staring down Mr. Phillips, but I have a very strong feeling that 16-year-old JVW would have done pretty much the exact same thing. A young boy loaded up with testosterone in the presence of his friends as they are verbally sparring with another group is not suddenly going to back down to an old man beating a drum and chanting in his face. If he had, the left side of the Internet would no doubt be crowing about how a brave Native American elder stared down an unruly MAGA teen and made the boy back down, and I know that a 16-year-old isn’t going to let himself be in that position. Dammed if he did; dammed if he didn’t.

5. And what would 2019 be without an immediate internet lynch mob assembled to punish the boys. Naturally the trolls and the keyboard commandos emerged with calls for doxxing all of the boys, leading to at least one Covington Catholic student who was not present at the march being harassed with death threats after being mistakenly identified in place of young Mr. Sandmann. The usual cacophony of Hollywood half-wits, intersectionality idiots, and journalism jackasses certainly thought it appropriate to issue snap judgements. Sadly, even some conservative outlets decided not to get left behind in the parade and also bought into the idea that the boys were entirely to blame, only to then walk back their reactions with apologies and mea culpas when the other videos began to emerge (pseudo-conservatives took part as well). And of course, there are those media hacks who continue to double (and triple) down on their initial wayward perspectives.

6. Finally, perhaps the worst offender of all was the school itself along with the Diocese of Covington. Instead of protecting their young charges, instead of calmly calling for a timeout on the hate in order to gather all facts and make an informed judgement, they surrendered to the mob by issuing a statement blaming the students for the entire situation. Imagine you are a parent of a Covington Catholic student; how satisfied are you that your son is going to be in a supportive environment with adults who look out for his well-being in return for your $8,000 tuition check? Considering that bashing Catholics — especially bashing white male Catholics — is one of the new hip progressive hobbies (although, to be sure, the Church does itself no favors with its inexplicably poor decisions), considering that members of Congress, from Ted Lieu (Dem – Twitter) to the boys’ homestate Congressman in an adjacent district all thought it proper to pile on, the last thing these boys need is for their own side to covet the forty thirty pieces of silver of secular approval. Fortunately for the boys, their own Congressman, Thomas Massie, did excellent work in making the case against the rush to judgement. The people of Kentucky’s Fourth District are lucky to have Rep. Massie on the case. [Disclosure: I went to college with Rep. Massie and am friends with his chief of staff.]

There’s plenty more to pontificate about, but I’m going to wrap it up here. There’s work to be done for sure: some young men who could behave with more decorum in public settings, several chaperones who ought to take seriously the idea that their charges are representatives of the school and community, plenty of activists who have to stop thinking that they can intimidate and harass with impunity, lots of media members who really should quit falling for stories that neatly confirm their deeply-held biases, and uncountable numbers of outside observers who need to stifle themselves rather than regurgitate some predictable hot take that is appropriate to their side.


BuzzFeed Is Probably Not Entirely Wrong About Trump, You Know

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:25 pm

I have been at the forefront of warning people not to take anything Jason Leopold says at face value — especially when he is relying on anonymous law enforcement sources. However, my best guess is that there is something to what BuzzFeed is saying about Trump having been involved in discussing Michael Cohen’s false Congressional testimony with him in advance. One reason I think that? Rudy Giuliani is all but admitting it. Here’s the whole ten-minute trainwreck of a clip:

Much of this is Clintonian parsing of what the word “deal” means — it depends on what the meaning of “deal” is. But remarkably, Giuliani does not deny that Trump talked to Cohen about the testimony in advance. He says he doesn’t know one way or another. Then Giuliani hints that maybe he (Giuliani) is actually lying about that, and actually does know that Trump had the conversation, but can’t acknowledge it because it’s attorney-client privilege. Then Giuliana ultimately comes out with this gem: “And so what if he talked to him about it?” Giulianai’s position appears to be: sure, Trump talked to Cohen about his testimony, and believes that what Cohen was going to testify to was the truth.

Here’s the critical 90 seconds, if ten minutes is too much for you:

TAPPER: But you just acknowledged — but you just acknowledged that it’s possible that President Trump talked to Michael Cohen about his testimony.

GIULIANI: Which would be perfectly normal, which the president believed was true.

TAPPER: So it’s possible that that happened, that President Trump talked to Michael Cohen about his testimony?

GIULIANI: I don’t know if it happened or didn’t happen. And it might be attorney-client-privileged if it happened, where I can’t acknowledge it. But I have no knowledge that he spoke to him. But I’m telling you, I wasn’t there then.


GIULIANI: It’s not significant, because the version he gave to the…


TAPPER: Well, Michael Cohen is — but he’s convicted of — I mean, one of the things he pled — pleaded guilty to, I believe, is lying to Congress about the Trump Tower deal.

GIULIANI: Well, which time? Which time, Jake?

TAPPER: Well, I’m talking — well, he…

GIULIANI: You can pick your time.

TAPPER: Right, but about the Trump Tower deal, about the Trump Tower deal.

GIULIANI: He under oath — under oath — but he’s pleading guilty to get a reduced sentence, which means he’s saying what the prosecutor wants him to say. If Corsi…

TAPPER: But you just acknowledged that President Trump might have talked to him about his testimony.

GIULIANI: And so what if he talked to him about it?

TAPPER: Well, is it not possible that Michael Cohen had that conversation…

GIULIANI: If it’s the truth.

TAPPER: I’m just asking you for what happened or what didn’t happen.

GIULIANI: It’s not possible. Not possible.


TAPPER: Michael Cohen left the conversation thinking, well, this is what the boss wants me to say; the boss wants me to say…

GIULIANI: Not possible.


GIULIANI: The guy driving this testimony was Michael Cohen. In other words, you and I are in a deal together. You are the guy running it. I’m the guy sitting that is back there doing 50 other things. When it comes time to remember what happens, I go to you and you tell me what happened. I don’t tell you what happened.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you…

GIULIANI: So, Michael Cohen was telling people what happened.

I don’t know if the president was briefed by him or wasn’t. He certainly was briefed by his lawyers, all attorney-client privilege.

TAPPER: Right.

GIULIANI: But I can tell you this. Michael Cohen’s lawyers believed him at the time.

Full transcript here.

So ultimately, this probably isn’t going to come down to whether Trump and Cohen talked about his testimony. He almost certainly did. Trump is just going to say that he believed what Cohen said. And when documentary evidence comes out to show Trump was aware of facts inconsistent with Cohen’s testimony — and I’ll betcha Mueller has such evidence — Trump is going to say he didn’t remember any of that. And his superfans will believe him.

So BuzzFeed overstepped by saying they have proof that Trump told Cohen to lie. What’s much more likely is that Trump and Cohen agreed Cohen would testify to x; there’s evidence to show Trump knew the truth was not x, and Trump is going to shrug it off as a case of “who can remember every deal they have in the works with the Kremlin?” and his superfans will buy it.

So, although nobody ever knows anything for sure, that’s my best guess as to what happened and how this is all going to play out. We’ll know soon enough whether I’m right or wrong.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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