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It's the essence of responsibly provocative, with an accent on provocative: a Harvard Law School professor making a case for impeachment of Donald Trump based on his badmouthing of the press.
Noah Feldman, who contributes to Bloomberg News, offers a suggestive if debatable case during the latest episode of "Trumpcast," a podcast hosted by Slate boss Jacob Weisberg.
In sum, the fact that the Founding Fathers meant the Constitution to protect the press as essential to democracy, he says, could lead to an impeachment precisely because of Trump's "subtle, careful, slow, undercutting of press freedom."
Feldman and Weisberg head to Ankara, or at least the subject of Turkey, and the government's insidious assault on the media. They find some equivalence, even if they don't wind up quite on the same page.
The Feldman scenario is clearly premised on the Democrats winning back at least the House of Representatives in next year's midterm elections. And while Feldman underscores his deep belief in the First Amendment, he argues "I'm not talking about criminalizing the president's actions, I'm talking about holding him accountable, and holding him accountable under the rubric of impeachment."
"The real purpose of impeachment at the deepest level is for Congress to express its beliefs about what the right way to be president is, with respect to respect for democracy and the rule of law. And that includes not taking actions that are effectively intended to curtail press freedoms, to frighten the press, especially through corporate pressure, into ceasing to be effective critics. That is how democracy erodes."
Weisberg is a Trump critic but not convinced. He understands the point Feldman is making and how that can be an abuse of power. But he thinks the press would itself like the idea of impeachment based on being attacked and that the best antidote is more speech, not less. And might such a precedent justify going after most any president for most anything?
"I don't think Trump's activities are so ordinary, so boring, so plain vanilla that going after him would set a precedent for going after everybody," says Feldman.
Then current odds on the Democrats retaking the House are long. But those elections are far away. And were they to pull the upset, some would quibble with skeptical Weisberg's guess that there would then be a 50-50 chance of impeachment against a man who calls the press "the enemy." (Trumpcast)
Is O'Reilly's vacation his Fox finale?
Gabriel Sherman, a chronicler of Fox News at New York magazine, said last evening that Bill O'Reilly's announcement to viewers that he's headed on a previously planned vacation "has the appearance of a suspension, but O’Reilly worked to dispel that notion."
"But according to four network sources, there’s talk inside Fox News that tonight’s show could be his last. Lawyers for the law firm Paul, Weiss, hired last summer by 21st Century Fox to investigate Roger Ailes, are currently doing a 'deep dive' investigation into O’Reilly’s behavior. They’re focused now on sexual harassment claims by O’Reilly guest Wendy Walsh after she reported her claims via the company’s anonymous hotline."
Two of those four sources "say 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch would like O’Reilly to be permanently taken off the air, while his father Rupert and older brother Lachlan are more inclined to keep him."
A buck here that he returns after his holiday — unless Fox manifests belated moral misgivings tardy even for a spineless corporation. And one hopes he's at least informed the H.R. Department, itself perhaps belatedly distracted by sex harassment matters at the company, that he's leaving town for a bit so that it's got the correct tabulation of vacation and time due left.
Jim Cramer on United Airlines mess
If you had a dollar for every time the media has played that video, could you fly to Marrakesh and back? It's a tale of corporate incompetence and a communications disaster as the CEO offered his third statement in 48 hours.
The first of two Tuesday statements by the CEO was "tone deaf," says Tim Calkins, a marketing and branding expert at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. Was Oscar Munoz serious in apologizing for "having to re-accommodate these customers?” Ah, the customer, singular, was dragged from the damn plane.
So, what's the ultimate damage?
"Means very little," CNBC's Jim Cramer emails. "Ever since the Obama antitrust division OK'd the big mergers there is very little route competition and the planes are all pretty full on their routes so unless Amtrak or Greyhound makes a comeback there will be no blowback at all a few weeks from now."
"If we had Continental and United and American and U.S. Air, we would have had a free-for-all." We don't.
"Launched in 2014 and based in London, Puss Puss magazine publishes twice a year. It is an entirely sincere celebration of people who love cats and is the brainchild of Maria Joudina-Robinson." (Adweek)
And one of four separate covers for the current issue features Grace Coddington, creative director at large of American Vogue. "It’s a big get for Puss Puss." It's next target: designer Karl Lagerfeld.
Stuart Varney frustrated with Trump
Fox Business Channel ran video of remarks Trump made to a meeting of business honchos, including declarations about doing away with Dodd-Frank financial oversight regulations and enacting big tax cuts. His specifics were, per usual, nonexistent.
"The President is talking and talking and we have no action," said Varney, offering an inadvertent reminder as to what qualms about Trump from the right can be more interesting than those from the left.
The Voice of America
The New Republic argues that Trump is on the way to turning the Voice of America, a lynchpin of government broadcasting operations overseas, into a mouthpiece for his brand in "Will the Voice of America Become the Voice of Trump?"
The VOA has huge problems and this largely repeats lots of recent claims about alleged Trump aspirations, including in a January piece in Politico. But there's no real evidence of Trump angling to turn it into some Breitbart-like or Newsmax-like clone. Further, even a Republican Congress probably wouldn't tolerate it for the foreseeable future, given its big say with both VOA's budget and direction, while having lots of greater legislative priorities, like tax reform and health care.
Could Trump turn VOA and its more than 40 separate language services into a mouthpiece? Just given federal hiring guidelines, he'd have a tough time hiring all those editors and reporters. The human resources challenge alone are daunting in the best of times. Fat chance.
And this misses the historic problems with our sprawling, flawed and little understood international broadcasting endeavors. Even Hillary Clinton called the place, which includes Radio Free Europe, dysfunctional. There are some very good journalists there, and fine work done, but the place is quite the mess, with reflexive resistance to most any change probably more than enough to thwart Trump even were he truly interested in the joint.
Breaking the death of J. Geils
From Boston's WCVB-TV last night: "5 Investigates has learned John Warren Geils Jr., the artist known professionally as J. Geils and part of the rock group The J. Geils Band, was found dead in his Groton, Massachusetts home."
And this music news...
Pitchfork informs, "Today was a big one for British DJ Paul Oakenfold, who just performed at Mount Everest’s Base Camp. Really. He dubbed the occasion 'the highest party on Earth,' as he was the first DJ to perform at the 17,600-ft. location...The show was chronicled for a forthcoming live album and documentary."
Hasan Minhaj as the Correspondents' Choice
So is "The Daily Show's" Hasan Minhaj a good idea or bad to host the Trump-less White House Correspondents' Dinner? Writing in Salon, Max Cea recounts a trek to a club where "Minhaj performed a short set that was not explicitly about Trump but was entirely Trump-adjacent. He joked about the difficulty of buying a gun in the South as a Muslim and about how Muslims should eat their boogers to create a stereotype that is less damaging than their portrayal as terrorists."
"A few comedians have expressed to me that rather than being a comedic goldmine, Trump is a nightmare. He’s the elephant in the room but audiences are tired of hearing about the elephant. And because he self-parodies, every joke becomes low-hanging fruit."
Golden Age not quite that for TV writers
"The world’s largest media companies returned to the negotiating table Monday with Hollywood screenwriters, seeking to avert a strike that could cost the entertainment industry billions of dollars and take popular TV shows off the air indefinitely." (Bloomberg)
More shows means more jobs and more money for writers, right? Not so fast. "This Golden Age hasn’t been so lucrative for the writers who made it happen. Writers say they are earning less per show because the business model for many of the newer programs differs from what came before them."
The morning babble
"What I did should have been done by the Obama administration a long time before I did it,"Trump told Fox Business Channel's Maria Bartiromo in an interview highlighted by "Fox & Friends." And, with the usual Fox story-bending aplomb, it blamed "the mainstream media for having a meltdown" over Sean Spicer's Hitler remarks and apology. Huh?
CNN's "New Day" was all about U.S.-Russia relations as Rex Tillerson was meeting with his counterpart in Moscow as CNN underscored its story that classified documents contradict Devin Nunes surveillance claims and don't back the notion that Susan Rice committed a crime. It essentially called the congressman a liar.
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" preceded its daily anti-Steve Bannon jihad by ridiculing Spicer, with Joe Scarborough correctly noting that at least he was faster with his damage control than United CEO Oscar Munoz. But the airline's problem are really that "United mistreats us all," as Crain's Chicago Business puts it. (Crain's Chicago Business)
The media's short attention span
So now that Neil Gorsuch is sworn in to the Supreme Court, he's old news, meaning folks missed this:
"Presiding over the dimly lit chamber during the small hours of the morning, newly sworn-in justice Neil Gorsuch was reportedly forced Tuesday to work the Supreme Court overnight shift."
Even the PBS "NewsHour" missed this, so, ah, thanks to The Onion.