These are three news stories that came to my attention over the last 24 hours. I think they tell us a lot about the current, degraded state of public life in America.
First, the Boston Globe organizes a media protest against the Trump administration’s “assault on the press.”
The Boston Globe has been contacting newspaper editorial boards and proposing a “coordinated response” to President Trump’s escalating “enemy of the people” rhetoric.
“We propose to publish an editorial on August 16 on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press and ask others to commit to publishing their own editorials on the same date,” The Globe said in its pitch to fellow papers.
As of Saturday, “we have more than 100 publications signed up, and I expect that number to grow in the coming days,” Marjorie Pritchard, the Globe’s deputy editorial page editor, told CNN.
The American Society of News Editors, the New England Newspaper and Press Association and other groups have helped her spread the word.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Pritchard said. “We have some big newspapers, but the majority are from smaller markets, all enthusiastic about standing up to Trump’s assault on journalism.”
Personally, I am more unhappy about the press’s assault on President Trump than about President Trump’s assault on the press. To listen to our heroic journalists, you might think that Trump is sending secret policemen to cart them off to prison.
No such thing, of course. Rather, Trump is saying things about left-wing press outlets that are nowhere near as nasty as what they have been saying about him since before his inauguration. Democratic Party journalists declared war on the president, and they now pretend that his fighting back is somehow an infringement of their rights. Boo freaking hoo.
Next, on a similar theme, we hear from Dani Rodrik, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Rodrik is concerned lest educational institutions “normalize” historically low unemployment, steady wage increases and a pro-America foreign policy:
The Trump administration confronts universities with a serious dilemma. On one hand, universities must be open to diverse viewpoints, including those that conflict with mainstream opinion or may seem threatening to specific groups. …
On the other hand, there is the danger of normalizing and legitimizing what can only be described as an odious presidency.
It requires a peculiar sense of self-worth to think that your approval is needed to legitimize a president who was elected by the American people. Left-wing academics may think that ordinary Americans don’t notice their arrogance, but they are mistaken.
How, exactly, does Rodrik propose to avoid “normalizing” and “legitimizing” a Republican president? Academic institutions should have nothing to do with anyone who serves in the administration, just as restaurants shouldn’t serve them:
Those who serve with him are necessarily tainted by the experience. Trump’s close associates and political appointees are his enablers….
The stain extends beyond political operatives and covers economic policymakers as well. Trump’s cabinet members and high-level appointees share collective responsibility for propping up a shameful presidency. They deserve opprobrium not merely because they hold cranky views on, say, the trade deficit or economic relations with China, but also, and more importantly, because their continued service makes them fully complicit in Trump’s behavior.
Then again, they have “enabled” millions of Americans to go back to work at higher wages. And they have helped Trump to stand up to countries like China, which have fleeced U.S. companies of intellectual property for years with no effective response from prior administrations. But how, exactly, are educational institutions to avoid “normalizing” or “legitimizing” success?
Trump’s immediate circle and senior appointees…should not be accorded the degree of respect or deference that their seniority and government positions would normally merit. We do not, after all, have a normal administration that can be served honorably.
This means no honorific titles (fellow, senior fellow), no named lectures, no keynote speeches headlining conferences or events. While individual faculty members and student groups should be free to invite Trump appointees to speak on campus, as a rule such invitations should not be issued by senior university officers. And lectures and presentations should always provide an opportunity for vigorous questioning and debate.
No honorific titles? No named lectures? No keynote speeches? Invitations to speak delivered by underlings? The horror! My friends will attest that I am not normally a profane person, but I join a large majority of Americans in saying, f*** you, a**hole.
Finally we come to–who else?–the New York Times. The Times was one of several media outlets that, in their eagerness to find ammunition that Senate Democrats might use to torpedo Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, submitted public records requests to get dirt on his wife, because she happens to work for a public entity as the town manager of Chevy Chase, Maryland.
I criticized this tactic in New York Times Targets Kavanaugh’s Wife. Others did as well. I published this Times email with a list of “key words” for which the paper wanted the City of Chevy Chase to search Mrs. Kavanaugh’s emails:
Now the Times has seen fit to respond to me and its other critics while reporting on the failure of its investigation of Mrs. Kavanaugh:
In the case of Mr. Kavanaugh, The Times requested records under Maryland’s public records law from Chevy Chase Section 5, where the nominee’s wife, Ashley, serves as town manager.
We sought email records involving Judge Kavanaugh and communications that referenced hot-button topics. We believed that the records, if they existed, could provide a unique and personalized view into the nominee.
Fortunately, the Times didn’t have standing to get a subpoena covering the Kavanaughs’ bedroom, or they surely would have used it to acquire “a unique and personalized view into the nominee.” Just like they did when Sonia Sotamayor and Elena Kagan were nominated to the Court. You remember those Times investigations, don’t you?
Sadly, the Times admits that this phase of its anti-Kavanaugh effort came to naught:
Ultimately, our request yielded 85 pages of emails, none of which provided any substantive insights into Mr. Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophy. Instead, the records were largely what you would expect from a town manager’s email account — mundane dispatches about town business, from snow removals to local newsletters.
Heh. No surprise there. But, as the Times concludes, “we had to try.” Sure: when there is a risk that a judge who will actually read the Constitution and federal laws and apply them objectively might be confirmed, the Times has to try. Anything goes.
You could assemble stories like these pretty much any day of the week. But when I read them together, I thought they were a stark example of how malignant America’s self-appointed “elites” are, even though, as we never tire of pointing out, they are anything but elite. In fact, they are below average. Which is why most Americans rightly don’t think much of them.