August 3, 2017

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In Wednesday’s White House installment of “Can We Top This?” Stephen Miller, a grim-visaged millennial Steve Bannon, was the grand prize winner. And he so clearly relished a few minutes of fleeting combat in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.

His post-Scaramucci-era performance was in English, which was appropriate since the ill-fated and rehashed Trump immigration proposal involves a language test for folks wanting to get into the country.

That clearly rankled CNN’s Jim Acosta, as it should have, and he engaged in a lengthy, prickly dialogue with Miller. As he told me later, “My dad came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1962. My mother was born in Washington, DC. He was only 11 at the time and did not speak English.”

I rolled my eyes, too. My late dad got here from Munich, Germany in 1927, and he didn’t know any English. He learned fast and did pretty well in life and served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

How many others seated before Miller might not be in those spots were it for such a language mandate? How might lives be impacted?

There are a lot of international journalists there each day. Indian, South Korean, French, Russian, among others. There was a reporter there Wednesday who adopted her daughter from India. Another who wasn’t there adopted a son from South Sudan.

Acosta was right on the merits even as Miller so gleefully baited him. It was a performance that surely pleased President Trump even as some White House aides squirmed.

Miller is not quite ready for prime time — as is known by reporters who remember him as a dogmatic aide to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, pushing similar immigration notions. But he should be inspiration for parody when “Saturday Night Live” returns, especially if Sean Spicer does exit. Imagine how it might play with Miller’s charge of “cosmopolitan bias” leveled at Acosta.

And, if you listened closely, Miller gave himself away as he concluded and gave up the podium to Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. This was a very premeditated act of faux combat with the press, aimed at a media-bashing “base” at a time of woeful overall approval ratings for Trump.

For them, Acosta’s unfettered willingness to engage, especially with cameras rolling, was a gift from Central Casting.

“Thank you, and I’ll hand it over to Sarah,” he said, adding, “I think that went exactly as planned. I think that was what Sarah was hoping would happen. I think that was…”

He then added, with transparent smugness, “I think that was exactly what we were hoping to have happen.”

Jared Kushner, testament to affirmative action

Vox is smart to recall “The Price of Admission,” Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Daniel Golden’s 2007 book that detailed how Jared Kushner got into Harvard. It was totally due both to his dad’s money and political clout, shocking officials at his New Jersey high school since his record was so unimpressive.

Nice start in new gig

Carol Lee left The Wall Street Journal for NBC News, and her first story for them is a good scoop: “President Donald Trump has become increasingly frustrated with his advisers tasked with crafting a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and recently suggested firing the war’s top military commander during a tense meeting at the White House, according to senior administration officials.”

Scout’s honor: The Journal blew it

The Wall Street Journal’s handling of its July 25 interview with President Trump looked even worse Wednesday. “Faced with a firm denial from the Boy Scouts, the White House on Wednesday corrected President Donald Trump’s claim in an interview that the head of the youth group called him to heap praise on a politically aggressive speech Trump delivered at the Scouts’ national jamboree.” (The Associated Press)

It’s one of several claims Trump made that the paper didn’t contest at the time or after an Oval Office interview dominated by Gerard Baker, the newspaper’s editor. It was another reflexive mistruth by a man who won’t “emerge as a Jimmy Stewart figure of credibility” anytime soon, said journalist-historian Jon Meacham on “Morning Joe” this morning.

Facebook fiddles with News Feed

“Facebook is once again updating its almighty News Feed algorithm, this time to take into account how quickly (or slowly) a web page loads after a user clicks on a link from their mobile device.” (Recode)

Golf kerfuffle

So what was that Trump tweet about last night? “I love the White House, one of the most beautiful buildings (homes) I have ever seen. But Fake News said I called it a dump — TOTALLY UNTRUE.”

It’s about a 7,424-word article in Sports Illustrated about Trump’s golf game. The piece was apparently edited by steam shovel since it’s way too long and not especially interesting. It’s mostly about his actual game but also claims that he’s called the White House “a real dump” to folks at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club.

Now you have the claim of a “media frenzy” to justify a podcast about the piece. What’s next? A “30 on 30” documentary on ESPN? They’re making lemonade out of lemons.

The real deal with auto sales

Bloomberg does a nice job with the curiosity of auto sales tanking after seven consecutive stellar years. It is odd. The number of licensed drivers keeps going up by two million a year (despite the rise of Uber and Lyft) and there continues to be an annual hike of 3 million in registered vehicles.

What is up?

“The only real wild card in the U.S. car market is the replacement rate, which is to say how often cars and trucks make their way to the junkyard. This is perhaps where auto executives should have seen the slowdown coming. In the past two decades, about 13 million vehicles were dropping out of the U.S. fleet every year, far less than the number of new vehicles sold over the past five years. Customers keen to upgrade kept the market running hot for awhile, but that imbalance finally caught up with automakers. As more vehicles stayed in the driveway, fewer came off the lot.”

Crowdsourcing high school sports

The Associated Press and ScoreStream, a crowdsourcing platform for live local sports, will announce a deal that would allow individual to report scores to the AP.

This will start in the fall with AP running high school football scores in 42 states and boys and girls basketball scores in 33 states. “Fans will be able to report local scores via ScoreStream, where both organizations will validate the information prior to its publication,” according to a joint statement.

The AP has offered scores before but sees this as a faster way of doing business.

Tronc’s poor digital performance

Tech entrepreneur Michael Ferro’s de facto takeover of Tronc, formerly Tribune Publishing, faces problems in the very area that was an obvious priority: digital.

The company, whose papers include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and Hartford Courant, “experienced a rare decline in unique visitors in the second quarter of this year, off 9 percent compared to the same period in 2016.” (Poynter)

Its chief financial officer in part blamed a lack of big news, citing the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando and a shooting on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles as big drivers of traffic. That’s a self-evident challenge to credulity. One media analyst told me, “I don’t go to the (Tribune) mobile website any longer, because it is so crapped up with kinetic banners, popovers and screen blockers that demand you subscribe.”

The basic lesson here is clear if you inspect the ongoing increases at The New York Times and Washington Post: You have to actually invest substantially both in content and distribution. And folks at the top have to know the difference between quality and cost-efficient mediocrity and not blame the lack of events like a nightclub attack.

In a video sent employees last year, chief digital officer Anne Vasquez, promised to “harness the power of our local journalism, feed it into a funnel and then optimize it so that we reach the biggest global audience possible.”

It talked about becoming a global media brand and opening bureaus in Hong Kong; Seoul, South Korea; Mexico City; Moscow; Rio de Janeiro; Mumbai, India; and Lagos, Nigeria. One still awaits those. But there is a funnel, albeit one heading downward.

Shhhhhh. Don’t tell a soul!

The Justice Department denied a New York Times story by Charlie Savage that the administration “is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants.”

It came in a statement attributed to spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores but via Mark T. Pettit, her “Confidential Assistant.”

Please, do not pass that on.

A fabled editor passes

”Judith Jones, a towering icon of book publishing, died at the age of 93….Jones was most famous as the editorial engine responsible for Mastering the Art of French Cooking — and with it, the creation of Julia Child, titanic celebrity — and also worked with culinary luminaries like James Beard, Lidia Bastianich, Claudia Roden, Marcella Hazan, and Edna Lewis.” (Eater)

“Jones refused the idea of herself as a ‘cookbook editor,’ however, and was always quick to point out that she also had her hand in the work of writers like John Updike, Anne Tyler, Langston Hughes, John Hersey and Sharon Olds.”

The morning babble

“Trump & Friends” spent time on Stephen Miller “schooling” Jim Acosta on immigration history and Miller’s “cosmopolitan bias” line. It felt it was a home run for Miller, though conceding this proposal has a snowball’s chance in Congress.

David Drucker, a CNN “New Day” analyst, found the performance and proposal simply in sync with Trump campaign promises, though conceding this proposal has a snowball’s chance (sound familiar?). And, noted John Avlon of The Daily Beast, this is “American Dream Week” at the White House.

But on “Morning Joe,” co-host Joe Scarborough underscored how Democrats “have lost White working-class Americans, and there’s such a blind spot. For a lot of Americans, a flood of immigrants means they lose their jobs and it depresses their wages.”

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New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S.…
James Warren

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