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Corey Lewandowski faced lots of liberal ridicule as Donald Trump’s fleeting campaign manager and then as a hired gun for CNN.
On Wednesday he’ll confront the “heckler’s veto” as he’s interviewed by a Washington Post reporter at a students-only gathering at the University of Chicago.
Fittingly, that’s a phrase seemingly coined by the late Harry Kalven Jr., a law professor and free speech advocate at the University of Chicago. In 1967, he shepherded something called the Kalven Committee Report amid Vietnam War student protests at the university and nationwide.
The report eloquently detailed a university policy of neutrality on social and political issues. It’s an enduring defense, too, of university life, maintaining by both by design and effect, a great university “is the institution which creates discontent with the existing social arrangement and proposes new ones.”
Why relevant now? It’s because the session between Lewandowski and Post reporter Robert Costa is threatened by a consortium of student groups at a higher education bastion of free speech.
By coincidence, the late professor’s son, Jamie, is a longtime Chicago journalist-activist-human rights advocate who’s broken a bunch of Chicago police and crime-related stories out of the box in recent years.
He’s won awards, including the 2016 A. Polk Award for Local Reporting, for beating the pants off the local competition in covering the police shooting of the innocent Laquan McDonald (he was leaked the video that went viral and the autopsy report that further proved the city was lying).
Kalven is a harsh Trump critic (not a rare species at the university) who supports protesting Lewandowski’s appearance, sponsored by the Institute of Politics.
But it’s totally appropriate for him to come and have his say. The student groups want the speaking offer rescinded by the sponsoring Institute of Politics (run by David Axelrod, a CNN paid pundit confrere of Lewandowski before the latter moved to the more cozy confines of Fox News).
The term “heckler’s veto” is found in some law review articles by Kalven’s dad, who died in 1974, and in “A Worthy Tradition: Freedom of Speech in America,” a book of his dad’s work that took the son 12 years to edit after his passing. It’s a term that “vividly captures the issue at hand and the consequences to democracy” if protesters get a veto Wednesday.
“Imagine an intensely unpopular speaker on a soap box and a crowd of angry people,” says the reporter son. “Do you solve the situation by taking the guy off the soap box? Unless there is an immediate threat of violent disorder, the answer is no.”
Yes, it’s important that policies and actions of a de facto spokesperson for the Trump administration be protested effectively. But the line that’s not to be crossed is silencing the speaker. It’s the confusion of exhibiting dissent and shutting down debate.
So let Costa interview Lewandowski at a gathering that one might have hoped would have been open to the public. And don’t mistake censorship for civil disobedience.
Good for Scott Pelley
On CBS’ very solid evening newscast last night — replete with a fine David Martin piece on Cold War-like aggressive Russian nuclear and other military moves — the anchor called Kellyanne Conway “a fearless fabulist.”
The morning babble
Russian military aggression, including a spy ship off the East Coast, was the “Fox & Friends” top story. It also bashed both the evil mainstream liberal media for poor coverage and pro-Obamacare activists (“alt-left” and “crusaders,” they were tagged), while offering lengthy coverage of the Westminster Kennel Club show and Kate Upton on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover for the third time.
On “New Day” The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman argued, “This White House has a really hard time embracing” their governing as an act of public trust, while co-host Chris Cuomo underscored that there’s no public evidence yet of Michael Flynn undermining U.S. sanctions against Russia even as he screwed up about his having spoke to at least one big Russian official.
“Morning Joe’s” Willie Geist literally held up The New York Times story on communications between Trump folks and Russian officials, detailed its essence but said NBC could not itself corroborate it before asking Times reporter Michael Schmidt about it. Where would the cable folks be without their morning fix of The Times or Washington Post?
Move to protect email privacy
“Vice News Tonight” on HBO heralded legislation co-sponsored by Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder to force the government to get an actual warrant to search your emails. There’s “a huge privacy loophole,” reporter Nellie Bowles noted, under a 1986 law that lets agencies search with a warrant any email older than 180 days stored on third-party servers, like Google and Yahoo.
Yoder got strong opposition from the Obama administration and thinks one of his problems is there are senators “who have never sent an email. The idea of cloud storage, cloud computing isn’t an experience they have had themselves personally.”
It passed the House last year and died in the Senate. Once again, it’s in the Senate’s hands but, Yoder, suspects will wind up the vehicle for the attempt to broaden the reach of government surveillance. That’s what then-Sen. Jeff Sessions tacked on “surveillance friendly amendments” and it died. He’s now got some other, potentially relevant ob.
As for Breitbart…
“House Intelligence Committee Chair: Leakers of Flynn Call ‘Belong in Jail’” (Breitbart)
That’s revealing as underscoring how Trump & Co., which includes Breitbart and Fox News (including “Fox & Friends” today), seek to make criminal leaks the central issue in the Trump-Russia mess. (“We’ve got to figure out who this leak is…Does it put all of us at risk?” said Ainsley Earhardt) It’s a bit of a smokescreen but not irrelevant. Somebody in law enforcement told somebody who told the press about NSA intercepts. Or they told the press directly.
The NSA and CIA folks who’d know are pretty secrecy-minded men and women on national security, legal and even moral grounds. Might it have been somebody outside the core, narrow group, perhaps somebody at the Justice Department? This is a side-show, but far from irrelevant even given the media’s reflexive condescension toward Flynn.
Trump & Co. and Russian spies
The estimable Mark Salter, the former longtime John McCain aide and co-author, tweeted “I’m curious. What benign reasons could campaign aides have for talking to Russian spies?” (@MarkSalter55)
But what if you didn’t know you were talking to a Russian spy? Would not Putin’s nefarious underlings have all the reason in the world to talk to as many people in multiple U.S. presidential campaigns as possible?
Amid the head-turning Trump fumbling, and the Michael Flynn and Kellyanne Conway deceits, one awaits examples of the substance of conversations.
Commentary Editor John Podhoretz tweeted, “This Times story crumbles a bit as you’re reading it. No evidence of collusion. Contacts between people near Trump and some Russians.” (@podhoretz)
A headline of the day
“Goldman Stock Hits Record on Bets Trump Will Unleash Wall Street” (Bloomberg)
File that one away. Let’s see.
MTV unit goes union
MTV agreed to recognize voluntarily the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) as the collective bargaining representative of a 50-person unit of digital editorial staff at MTV News.
This means that negotiations will beckon on a first contract. Lowell Peterson, executive director of the union, told me the union now has contracts for 500 digital media employees and “the digital space is where, if you will, journalism is headed.”
“It’s significant that people at various digital companies are seeing the value of collective bargaining — Huffington Post, Vice, Gawker, now MTV News, among others. “We have clearly have struck a chord with digital writers, editor producers and reporters.”
A line of the day
In an “Is Trump Finished?” blog post, the question that serves as title of University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner’s post, he declares:
“Not yet. But it’s hard to see how Trump can survive even one term unless his top advisers take away his phone, lock him in a closet, and let him out only for carefully scripted ceremonies which are taped so that they can be edited before broadcast to the public.” (Posner)
Nostalgic romance in the digital age
Nineteen years after meeting through a personal ad in the Canton, Ohio Repository, a couple is return to the newspaper to get married on April 1. (Repository)
“That is the only way you could do it back in the day,” said Scott Krol, 58, of Hartville, Ohio, who reminded of an age in which newspaper personal ads were hot item. “You could use an expensive dating company that you had to pay $500 to $1,000, but this was the inexpensive way to do it and it was better than the bar scene.”
So they will say “I do” at a newspaper.
Well, Obama-ites are for sure watching Pete Souza’s Instagram postings of shots from his tenure as Obama White House photographer, many meant to compared Obama and Trump. (Instagram)
I asked then-Chief of Staff William Daley for reaction to the one of him and Obama at a secure location in El Salvador, posted after word of Trump’s loosey-goosey, Mar a Lago dining room consideration of a North Korean nuclear test.
“When I saw Trump pics it was stunning as to the amateur nature of their actions and what that conveys about how they view the presidency.”
A story, then a bigshot, is canned
“If you’re a marketer thinking about putting your brand in the hands of a social-media influencer, you just took a deep breath. And if you’re a big media company that’s invested a lot in the untamed world of YouTube talent, you might be looking to rethink your deals.” (The Wall Street Journal)
That was all because one Felix Kjellberg, a videogame-loving creator better known as PewDiePie to his 53 million YouTube subscribers, “has been posting anti-Semitic videos to the web of late.”
He was central to “Walt Disney’s $500 million-plus deal in 2014 to acquire Maker Studios, the web video network/content company that included Mr. Kjellberg on its roster of talent.” But The Journal nine video clips to Disney’s attention and it quickly dumped the guy.
On the drawing board
“Amazon, Google Dial Up Plans to Turn Smart Speakers Into Home Phones — The tech giants are working on adding voice-calling features to Echo and Google Home” (The Wall Street Journal)
Great! Less reason for interaction among families as mom and dad turn their living room speakers into phones and the kids play NBA2K in the basement.
Here are some Trump transcripts
Obviously, there was lot of attention given that New York Times story last evening, suggesting rampant communications between Trump-ites and Russian intelligence during the campaign. As right-of-center observers (some no allies of Trump) did note, it it was rather fuzzy on what was the improper substance, if any, of such discussions.
But far less attention was given these transcript snippets of late-night Trump voicemails:
“Hi Kellyanne, it’s DJT. I can’t sleep. I keep thinking about Flynn. Remember that weird pen he had that made camera noises? I think it was a camera. I’m going to walk around. You told me to call you if I ever I left the TV room, so I’m calling you. Heads up, I’m in a golf shirt and some Hanes. You made me throw out my bathrobes. This is on you.”
“Hey Melania. Happy Valentine’s Day. I got you another month in New York. It’s worth about four million dollars or something. I threw in a Skype seat at my press briefing. You can do a fun filter. This is DJT. Call me back.”
You won’t find it in The Times. But we can thank the fertile imagination of New York’s Liz Meriwether.