Weekend Links

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Is Donald Trump softening? By Daniel Oines from USA (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
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Is Trump fuzzy like this American fuzzy lop rabbit? By Lithonius [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a tough week for those who would prefer that Donald Trump not become the next president of the United States. Sure, Hillary Clinton is still the clear favorite to win the election, but the anti-Clinton tenor of recent news coverage threatens to make it closer than it might otherwise be. It’d be one thing if there was a good reason for tearing Clinton down. It’s another that many in the media air and publish unjustified insinuations about Clinton while ignoring actual violations of both laws and norms by Trump. He can still win this election, and the media will deserve much of the blame if he does. Follow the links for context and examples:

  • Paul Krugman reminds readers how reporters grading an unqualified candidate on a curve, mostly ignoring that candidate’s falsehoods and ignorance, and dwelling on the opponent’s made up “character issues” helped George W. Bush win the presidency in 2000 over Al Gore.
  • TPM has a reader-compiled list of instances of the NY Times inserting inappropriate opinion into its reporting, suggesting Clinton has done something wrong. Here’s Crooks & Liars on a particularly egregious example from yesterday’s NY Times.
  • Jonathan Chait finds Frank Bruni, one of the NY Times columnists who was guilty of fluffing Bush back in 2000, now blaming liberals for Trump. Chait eviscerates his claim. In fact, liberals were right all along about how dangerously racist and ignorant a bloc of Republican voters was becoming. Trump is certainly not the first leader to come along and give voice to that bloc.
  • Throughout her career, Clinton has had to endure a lot of non-scandals getting inappropriate and/or excessive attention. It’s hard to say whether it’s “the foundation” or “the emails” that qualifies as the most damaging non-scandal this election.
    • “The Foundation” “scandal” is nuts because no accusations based on the actual facts of the case have been made. Indeed, though it is a classic non-scandal of the “no there there” variety, “the foundation” has somehow become shorthand for “those Clintons are just so corrupt” for many people remarkably fast.
    • That’s bad, but what makes “the emails” worse is the fact that Clinton did misbehave. That complicates things. She has apologized and admitted she should have done things differently. Reasonable people can disagree about the severity of Clinton’s misbehavior. What makes “the emails” a non-scandal is that we have yet to hear anyone explain what nefarious intentions Clinton had in the email practices she chose. In fact, Clinton chose to ensure her work emails were retained as required by law, unlike the sainted Colin Powell. Also, the idea that she and her staff were willy-nilly sending classified emails is ignorant of or held with blatant disregard of the facts. At it’s worst, “the emails” is a work process story about Clinton following custom and practice rather than going by the books. It’s no scandal because nobody intended any harm, no harm occurred, and nobody even knows what harm was supposed to ever have been intended anyway. Plus, Clinton agrees she should have behaved differently!
  • Meanwhile, there is a candidate who personally and through his organizations has actually broken the law and misbehaved in ways morally wrong and injurious to others. Just recently we learned of this instance: Donald Trump’s Trump Foundation gave an illegal political contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi after she declined to investigate Trump University for fraud. Not only did Trump’s organization break the law, the facts suggest the people involved went to great lengths to hide what they were doing and are now lying about it. Now that’s a scandal! And nobody disputes that Trump’s foundation violated the law! Yet our mainstream political shows are dominated by parades of doofuses talking about how they feel “the foundation” and “the emails” “raise questions” that contribute to voters’ feelings that Clinton is dishonest.

Of course we should hold those up for election to rigorous vetting and high standards. There’s nothing wrong with investigating Clinton’s past and present in order to understand her record and character. If it turns out that she committed a crime, willfully harmed others, or otherwise behaved in a reprehensible way, then that should be judged accordingly. There’s just no evidence she did any such thing. Making a weekly story about wondering if one of her non-scandals should be a story does Clinton and the country a disservice. It intensifies feelings that she’s dishonest when a fair reading of the facts suggests the opposite.

If new facts come to light, then naturally we’d have to reconsider. Recent facts have shown no wrongdoing on Clinton’s part. Repeated suggestions otherwise are inappropriate editorializations.

I didn’t even get to these issues, so quickly: no, Trump is not softening, and no, Trump is not fuzzy like the American fuzzy lop rabbit.

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