“In the First Place, ‘60 Days’ is Not a Thing” (part 1 of 2)

The former president of the United States called into Fox News and described what he saw at the Capitol on January 6th:

“Some of them went in, and they are hugging and kissing the police and the guards, you know, they had great relationships…”

Anyone else see that?

To that claim and five years of Trump propaganda one should bear in mind and apply the (Sidney) Powell Doctrine as proclaimed by her attorneys in the defamation case against her by Dominion Voting Systems: “reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact.”

Or should not.

“60 days” is not even a thing but the problem with Tim Smith’s Usually Right column on March 25th (Biden’s first 60 days: Not so hot) is not just that it rings down the curtain two thirds of the way through the informal 100-day period the press typically gives new administrations to get up and running. The problem is that it “floods the zone”—as Steve Bannon famously advocated—with misrepresentations and flat-out false assertions.

Space prohibits a comprehensive point-by-point response to each of the column’s inaccuracies–which is the point, after all, of flooding the zone–but the whopper which opens the column is a perfect illustration of the technique and merits attention.

“In a rare moment of apparent fairness,” it begins, “the Washington Post recently admitted that it had misreported conversations that occurred between former President Trump and Georgia state election officials.”

The event misrepresented is a correction by the Post to a story it had published on a conversation between then-president Donald Trump and Georgia’s chief election investigator Frances Watson in which he pressures her to find evidence to overturn his loss to Biden.

No. The conversation was not “misreported” nor did the Post “admit” (as alleged by Smith) that the language was “fraudulent.”

The Post article was based on information by a source who spoke to Watson shortly after the conversation took place. Neither the fact nor the intent of the conversation are in dispute, even now.

An audio tape of the conversation was released by the Office of the Georgia Secretary of State to the Wall Street Journal (not the Post). Two direct quotes previously attributed to the former president were not accurate although they were consistent with other language used during this and other calls in Georgia and Michigan.

The Post immediately made the correction.

“Lest you see in this a return to journalistic ethics,” the reader is warned, “the Post did not make it to this admission on its own; they only came out after a recording of the the phone call was made public.”

That’s not how journalism works. Or ethics.

Editors are not omniscient. Newspapers publish the best information available to them when they go to press. When errors inevitably occur, corrections or (less often) retractions are made. As to how the Post could have published the correction before the audio version was made public, the column does not venture to say.

Whether by error or intention, Smith seems to have confused the Watson call with a call on January 2nd between Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger and former president Trump in which Trump begs Raffensperger to “give me a break.” Different skirmish. Same campaign.

Smith’s column proclaims that “prior reporting…clearly implied that Trump had asked officials to ‘find’ additional votes.”

He did!

The former president said precisely that:

“So look,” Trump says in the call to Raffensperger, “All I want to do is this. I just want to find…” and he pauses as though squinting at a number on a pad, …” 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.”

So. Viewers who saw insurrectionists trash the Capitol didn’t see what they saw. Those who heard the former president throw one conspiracy theory after another at the Georgia secretary of state in an attempt to get him to falsify the results of the election in his state didn’t hear that either.

Give the Etch-a-Sketch a shake and prior bad acts disappear– no dots to connect between the Georgia shakedown, say, and the same play the former president tried with the Michigan vote where he invited Republican canvass board members from Wayne County to the White House in order to twist their arms to get them to rescind their votes and wipe Democratic Detroit off the electoral map.

Believe none of what you see and none of what you hear either is the foundation of the radical Republican approach to journalism, history and politics.

Real problems exist in America that require the combined talents of all Americans to solve:

The coronavirus is not going away by itself.

There is a decades-long problem with immigration on the southern border that needs to be brought under control.

The consent of the governed is more than rhetoric— elections need to be free and fair; the results need to be acknowledged. Political violence in American cannot become the norm.

Tim Smith is right— “a robust, free and fair press” has an essential role to play in the process.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s