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Sean Hannity, the eight-figure archetype of selective moral outrage, last night charged the press with going “completely insane” over the James Comey firing.
Hannity accused it of “selective moral outrage,” proving it takes one to know one amid wall-to-wall Comey coverage replete with reflexive references to Watergate.
Wrote The New York Times’ Peter Baker, “Not since Watergate has a president dismissed the person leading an investigation bearing on him, and Mr. Trump’s decision late Tuesday afternoon drew instant comparisons to the Saturday Night Massacre, when President Richard M. Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor looking into the so-called third-rate burglary that would eventually bring Nixon down.”
CNN quickly noted the Democrats “immediately raising comparisons to the Watergate era and claiming that the FBI chief was fired because his investigation got too close to the White House.”
“Not SNM,” John Dean, a party and observer to Watergate and the Saturday Night Massacre, emailed before a CNN appearance. “But totally botched, and done in a manner that looks guilty — not proceeding as an innocent president would.”
Predictably homogenous coverage prevails. By and large, Fox defends Trump, while MSNBC and CNN attack.
On “Morning Joe,” Mika Brzezinski beckoned Bob Woodward to discuss the “echoes of Watergate” and informed viewers in high dudgeon, “this is bad.” Then, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders called out Joe Scarborough for his own pooh-poohing of the Russian probe (a nothing-there take the White House buys).
In equally alluring TV theater, last night’s CNN coverage found legal expert Jeff Toobin (supported by host Don Lemon) mixing raised eyebrows, shaking of his head and the apparent onset of dyspepsia.
The cause? It was Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz (his former teacher) and Toobin CNN colleague Laura Coates making the case for getting rid of Comey as cable’s penchant for Brady Bunch split screens forced us to stare at the trio.
This morning, returning for CNN duty, he looked rather healthier and composed (wearing more makeup, too) as he opined with those of like mind — The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman (very good on Trump’s mentality), David Gregory and co-host Chris Cuomo — and again called the dismissal an indefensible “outrage” on CNN’s “New Day.”
But long before that major league duel arose last night came perhaps the most provocative articulation of the event. Eric Posner, a University of Chicago law professor, serial blogger and son of legendary judge-academic Richard Posner, wrote this:
“In an ingenious bit of Machiavellian jiu jitsu, Trump fired Comey for incompetence, simultaneously: (1) eliminating an independent official who might act as a check on illegal behavior, (2) paving the way for the appointment of a stooge and (3) enhancing Trump’s tough-guy image.”
Admittedly, jiu jitsu is all about being supple, gentle and using soft power. That’s not Trump. And much of cable news. Or Watergate.
And, given the Trump-driven polarization and increasingly childlike attention span of the public in a social media age, don’t bet on any overwhelming bipartisan indignation.
But there will be selective moral outrage toward “fake news” on “Hannity” each evening, like the sun rising in the East.
Disney’s “ESPN woes”
“Walt Disney Co. failed to assuage investor concern about its cable division, saying profit in the business slumped last quarter as ESPN continued to lose subscribers and spend more to televise games.” (Bloomberg)
“Sales in the cable division totaled $4.06 billion, trailing the $4.2 billion average of analysts’ estimates. The unit’s profit slid 3 percent, the company said, a reflection of higher expenses for NBA games and college football. Disney shares fell in late trading.”
ESPN? “The cable unit’s woes overshadowed positive results in other divisions.” Disney boss Bob Iger was candid about the challenges but also solid in underscoring that ESPN remains a goliath during a Bloomberg TV interview, accentuating its future via mobile devices. “The pessimism is highly exaggerated.”
Another Apple record
“The world’s most valuable listed company just got even more valuable. Shares of Apple rose 0.6 percent to an all-time high of $153.99 Tuesday, sending its market capitalization above $800 billion, a first for any U.S. company.” (The Wall Street Journal)
A unique Comey angle
“Trump’s ousting of FBI Director Comey may open the door for expansion of government surveillance powers.” (Recode)
A wealthy foodie
If you like the business of food, check this Crain’s profile of Rich Melman, 75 and founder of Lettuce Entertain You, the Chicago-based largest independent restaurant group, with 127 very different and very good restaurants nationwide and $580 million in 2016 sales.
Brokaw and Beschloss
Tom Brokaw, 77, surfaced on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show last night after historian Michael Beschloss argued that the Comey firing was Watergate redux.
“I rarely disagree with my very close friend, Michael Beschloss,” he said before correctly making clear, “The Saturday Night Massacre was an entirely different dimension.” Take a deep breath, everyone, he correctly cautioned.
Maddow then informed that every Justice Department she and staff had called “was shocked to the point of disturbed.”
The one former Justice Department official I contacted, a Democrat, was not only not surprised but said he would have canned Comey upon taking office if he were Trump. He, at least, was not disturbed.
Headline of the night
“Trump just fired the FBI director, so the internet recommended a few very depressing replacements.” (Mashable)
Jared Kushner was a favorite choice, especially once he solves the Middle East crisis.
Publishers upset with Amazon
“A new program from Amazon is drawing a range of reactions from those across the publishing industry, from fear to downright anger.” (Publishers Weekly)
“The e-tailer has started allowing third-party book re-sellers to ‘win’ buy buttons on book pages. The program, publishers, agents, and authors allege, is discouraging customers from buying new books, negatively affecting sales and revenue.”
Lost in Comey mania
A total outrage: The Washington Post reports that Dan Heyman, a reporter with Public News Service, was arrested for trying to ask a question to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price as they walked through the West Virginia State Capitol.
Heyman “repeatedly asked the secretary whether domestic violence would be considered a preexisting condition under the Republican bill to overhaul the nation’s health care system, he said.”
“Then, an officer in the Capitol pulled him aside, handcuffed him and arrested him. Heyman was jailed on the charge of ‘Willful Disruption of State Government Processes’ and was released later on $5,000 bail.”
The “dreck” of local newspapers
Though Ben Thompson lives in Taiwan and cranks out Stratechery on the business of tech, the Madison, Wisconsin native has views on newspapers. He’s unconvinced by the suggestion by Jim Rutenberg, a New York Times media writer, that advertisers have a moral obligation to support papers and thus democracy.
He cited The Wisconsin State Journal and local news that is mostly “uninteresting filler…Were a new publication to come along, offering a five-minute summary of Madison’s local news of the day, plus an actually relevant story or two a week with the occasional feature or investigative report, I’d gladly pay, and I don’t even live there anymore.”
Its problem, he says, is “too much dreck to wade through” and an “obsolete business model.”
“Indeed, the real problem with local newspapers is more obvious than folks like Rutenberg wish to admit: No one — advertisers nor subscribers — wants to pay for them because they’re not worth paying for. If newspapers were actually holding local government accountable, I don’t think they would have any problem earning money; that they aren’t is a function of wasting time and money on the past instead of the future.”