The press needs to grill consultants for Trump and Clinton
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The Wall Street Journal's estimable Washington bureau chief Gerald Seib asks, "Will enough Americans get comfortable with the idea of Donald Trump as president? If they do, the presidential race likely will be a close one — and one he could well win." (The Wall Street Journal)
But if they see a brash and unpredictable soul given to chiding the parents of a Muslim Army captain killed in Iraq, he might just hit a ceiling and watch as Hillary Clinton wins. And then, too, there's the curious presence of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who resembles a capo in a Sicilian mob outfit, replete with husky voice, what appears to be auburn-tinted Brylcreem in his hair and perhaps a hidden pair of brass knuckles in his suit coat.
Well, Manafort's business dealings in Russia and Ukraine, especially in assisting an exiled former Ukrainian leader, are worth scrutiny. As a mini-New York Times expose put it, "With Mr. Putin’s Russia, and its interference in Ukraine, becoming a focus of the United States presidential campaign, Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine has come under scrutiny — along with his business dealings with prominent Ukrainian and Russian tycoons." (The New York Times)
What to think? A shrewd reporter, who's written about Manafort's international lobbying and consulting, asks that I not use his name. But, yes, Manafort's long pre-Trump life has included representing some morally dubious leaders who just happened to be hold-your-nose U.S. allies. But, he says, "The world of influential Americans in the international political consulting industry is a fascinating subject that does not get enough coverage."
What if The New York Times, Washington Post, BuzzFeed, ProPublica, Politico, CBS News or The Hill spent time on this: a nice fat graphic that offers a quickie primer on the past and current clients of 10 or 15 consultants, aides and chums central to both Trump and to the Clinton campaign and pro-Clinton PACs? Check out both folks who have been registered lobbyists and the vast army of "communications specialists," meaning folks who don't call themselves lobbyists but get pretty close to such work without having to make the same public disclosures.
As both candidates rail about one corporate outrage after another, and how the little guy is being screwed, let's get a detailed look on how very well many of their insiders have done playing the Washington power game.
Denton files for bankruptcy
It was no surprise when Nick Denton, the founder Gawker Media, filed for personal bankruptcy Monday "to protect himself from a legal judgment awarded in March to the former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan in an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit." (The New York Times)
Writes Gawker, "Denton is personally responsible for $10 million, and jointly responsible, along with former Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio, and Gawker Media itself, for $115 million. Chapter 11 bankruptcy will prevent Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, from draining Denton’s bank accounts or seizing any of his assets." (Gawker)
Trump vs. CNN
"On Monday afternoon, Trump fired off six tweets in a row attacking CNN's news coverage and accusing the network of being the 'press shop for Hillary Clinton.' He commented that 'people believe CNN these days almost as little as they believe Hillary....that's really saying something!'" CNN's Brian Stelter noted that Trump claims not to watch the network. (CNN Money)
Twitter boots communications chief
When Jack Dorsey took on the job as permanent CEO at Twitter last fall, there was somewhat typical chatter about improving the company's ability to tell its own (presumably upbeat!) story.
Well, "Natalie Kerris, who joined Twitter as its VP of communications in February, is leaving the company, BuzzFeed News has learned. Leslie Berland, Twitter’s chief marketing officer, will lead both marketing and communications in a combined role. BuzzFeed News confirmed the departure with a Twitter spokesperson. 'During her time leading communications at Twitter, Natalie helped us share the Twitter story with the world.'" (BuzzFeed)
Beware the pollercoaster
The folks at Pew Research offer a perhaps ever-needed firm grasp of the obvious: "Can polls be trusted? This question is on the minds of seemingly everyone who follows the 2016 campaign, though it is hardly unique to this election cycle." (Pew Research Center)
Ah, yes, this is true. So as you watch what seems like a daily tsunami of polls, which are often offered to you by cable news networks as "news," be mindful, "Some polls are conducted literally overnight with convenience samples and undergo little or no adjustment. Others are painstakingly fielded for days or even weeks with robust designs and may be adjusted using cutting-edge techniques. These dramatic differences, which have been shown to affect accuracy, are often opaque to news consumers."
The Washington City Paper's Laura Hayes just got what she deems "the smallest taste of what Takeru Kobayashi feels when he sits down to obliterate his opponents in Nathan's Coney Island hot dog eating contest."
But rather than chow down on boiled franks, she hustled her way through "the likes of crispy pig ears in a sarsaparilla glaze, Filipino chicken wings, and guava and queso pastelitos."
This happened as she essentially hit seven restaurants — or at least seven stations of new "hot" restaurants — in four minutes and 13 seconds, with video to prove it. (City Paper)
Oh, for the sake of historical accuracy, the hot dog champ these days is really Joey Chestnut, who downed 70 in ten minutes last month. (USA Today)
"Fox & Friends" was abuzz this morning with their guy, Donald Trump, saying last night that Bernie Sanders mistakenly made a deal "with the devil," namely Hillary Clinton. Then it moved on to the matter of dining etiquette with a photo and this chyron: "FINGER LICKIN' GOOD: TRUMP EATS KFC WITH FORK & KNIFE ON JET."
Joe Scarborough was repeating a refrain about Hillary Clinton still "lying" about what the FBI director said about her emails. But "most disturbing" for him is how Republican elites won't yank their endorsements from Trump, especially as he bashed the Khan family.
CNN's "New Day" went big on Warren Buffett's "scathing attack" on Trump during a Trump rally, largely for not releasing his tax returns. CNN's ever-sober political director David Chalian wondered whether Buffett could really rally public opinion on this topic.
Errol Louis of NY1 felt that Buffett and Mark Cuban were "blue-collar billionaires" whom Trump can't dismiss in the same fashion as he now does former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who came out blazing against him at the Democratic Convention. While they were chatting, a Libertarian Presidential Town Hall Countdown Clock was hitting 38:48:07.
From the decorous Zakaria
In a discussion of Russia's Crimean takeover in 2014, Fareed Zakaria yesterday told Wolf Blitzer that Donald Trump is "a bullshit artist." (Poynter)
Yes, he's probably correct but, given his own battles with journalistic integrity, Zakaria is probably not the most suitable messenger here. His own ethical missteps, in particular theft of words and ideas, have been well chronicled previously, including by current CNN colleague Dylan Byers and longtime Zakaria observer Michael Kinsley.
One might wish for both a bit more rhetorical self-control and a somewhat less righteous air from the CNN foreign affairs pundit even as he wades in the Trump cesspool.
The "general consensus" on good journalism
"I definitely believe that the period of existential crisis in journalism — 'does anyone really want to read journalism anymore? Is there a future for it at all?' — has passed," says Kyle Pope, new editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. (Poynter)
Then there's this: "I think the general consensus is, people definitely want to read this stuff, and there's definitely an audience for it, and they're definitely going to find good stories. It's just a question of, 'OK, how are we going to pay for it? And how are we going to structure businesses to make this work?'"
Oh, really? "General consensus?" It's a nice thought, if wishful thinking.
Politics in the Hamptons
Bloomberg's Henry Goldman and Amanda Gordon nicely capture how the presidential campaign is playing in the land of the overprivileged, the Hamptons:
"Stars of Wall Street and Hollywood who enjoy the beaches, hedge-rowed estates and $100,000-a-month rentals talk about income inequality and expanding economic opportunity. Residents who provide the seaplane set with everything from lobster to massages rail against over-regulation and worry about the country’s direction." (Bloomberg)
For example, "Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross this month had 61 summering Hamptonites and visitors show up for a lunch with Trump — $100,000 for co-hosts, $25,000 per couple — at his Southampton retreat, including real estate developer Richard LeFrak, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and SkyBridge Capital’s Anthony Scaramucci." Ah, yes. Another gin and Dubonnet, please?
Fact-checking at NPR
Elizabeth Jensen, NPR's ombudsman, tells listeners, "NPR posted an online fact-check piece on the first night of the Republican National Convention, and that piece's author, Scott Detrow, talked about the findings with 'Morning Edition.' There was no comparable piece for the Democratic National Convention." (NPR)
Arizona's most corrupt
Forget Illinois, New York or Florida. By one assessment, Arizona is our most corrupt state! On Monday, the Phoenix New Times offered its top-10 and, alas, gave the most dubious distinction to a Donald Trump fave, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, 84 and "Arizona's most scandalous lawmaker."
It cites his involvement in "more than two dozen controversies involving everything from crappy jail conditions to abuse of power, improper clearance of cases, failure to investigate rape cases, feuds with judges, misuse of funds, racial profiling, and even staging a failed assassination attempt." (New Times)
I asked Dan Bernstein, an ace sports radio host on Chicago's CBS-owned WSCR, if there was any journalistic malpractice during yesterday's big deadline day for Major League baseball trades.
"No, other than the ongoing scourge of 'fake Twitter,' with jerks creating phony copies of national reporters to dupe people into retweeting made-up stuff," he said.
Ah, yes. I'd been duped Saturday by one set of tweets purporting to be from Ken Rosenthal, Fox's bow-tied baseball reporter. As Dan notes, some people (present company included) just forget to look for the blue check mark.
For ESPN fans, Woody Paige is a rarely equivocal regular on "Around the Horn." In Denver, he's been an ace columnist for The Post for 35 years...until Sunday.
In what was rumored to be a pay dispute, he's exiting to the Colorado Springs Gazette but not before a finale that itself was a reminder of the days of big newspaper budgets.
"Over the past 35 years I was fortunate The Denver Post paid for me to go to dozens of Super Bowls and hundreds of other major sports events — World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, Triple Crown races, Indianapolis 500s and NASCAR races, Winter and Summer Games on four continents, NCAA national championships in football and basketball, Masters, U.S. Opens, British Opens, Wimbledons, U.S. (tennis) Opens, world skiing championships, heavyweight title fights, the Tour de France, World Cups, five Democratic and Republican conventions, events in 41 states, the Colorado state high school wrestling championships and the 8-man football championship in Woodrow." (Denver Post) In other words, he had a very nifty deal.