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There have been no hotter topics than John McCain and Anthony Scaramucci. There have been no more tough-minded analyses than in Teen Vogue.
That’s right. Yes, there are reams of reporting and punditry in Politico, National Review, The Washington Post or Rachel Maddow, among other venues. But Teen Vogue has been very sharp.
As the press, present company included, lavished praise on McCain after his dramatic return to the Senate last week, the magazine offered five “problematic things John McCain has done during his 40-year career in politics.”
The bill of particulars included, “McCain voted against the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day,” “McCain has been quoted using a racial slur in reference to Vietnamese people” and “In 2013, McCain made a racist joke about Iran’s former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”
Did those undermine the thrust of his Senate speech? No. But they did offer some needed leavening, perhaps, of the reflexive thrust to unequivocally laud the nervy Arizonan.
Sunday brought Rebecca Chamaa’s op-ed in the publication, “I Have Paranoid Schizophrenia, and This Is Why Scaramucci’s Insult Was Offensive.”
It’s a response to his nasty comment about then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in his stunning phone chat with The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza.
“I have paranoid schizophrenia, hid my diagnosis for almost 20 years and came out publicly approximately two years ago,” she writes. “Yet my diagnosis has not held me back from being happily married and working as a social worker, library technician, and marketing coordinator.”
“The fact that I was able to live without even my in-laws and friends knowing about my mental illness for almost two decades proves that people with schizophrenia don’t always stand out like the stereotypes suggest. What’s more, my story is not remarkable or unique. Many people live under the radar with schizophrenia, and their lives should not be distilled down to an insult.”
Of course, there is no evidence that Priebus has been diagnosed with it. But Chamaa’s point remains: “Schizophrenia is a disturbance of thought and not of character. To use it as an insult is degrading to those of us who live with this brain disorder or disease.”
She concludes with the reminder that all of us can make the environment around us less harsh for those who do indeed have mental illnesses. That includes the language we all use.
“This includes both reporters news anchors, who could take the conversation a step further by calling people like Scaramucci out on his insults of choice. Because people are listening, and whether you are the Director of Communications or someone tweeting at Donald Trump, how you communicate matters.”
A giant media merger tanks
“Charter Communications Inc. said it isn’t interested in buying Sprint Corp., rebuffing a gigantic merger offer and potentially ending several weeks of deal talks between the media and communications companies.” (The Wall Street Journal)
A New Yorker traffic record
As of Sunday, Anthony Scaramucci’s telephonic tirade with Ryan Lizza “has generated: 4.4 million unique visitors, making it newyorker.com’s most-read piece of 2017 so far and 1.7 million entries from social-media platforms.”
It also generated “more than 100,000 concurrent visitors in the hours following publication, a record for newyorker.com.” And brought a hike in typical average new subscriptions for July. (Poynter)
Oh, if you haven’t signed up for New Yorker podcasts, this might be a good week to start as Lizza and executive editor Dorothy Wickenden discuss the call.
Two rivals, one truth
It’s the day’s great newspaper war: The New York Times and The Washington Post competing ferociously in covering the new disorder in Washington. Top talent, serious investment, a story that gets more notable and confounding just when you figured it could not.
Here’s my long take for Vanity Fair, with the ultimate question involving the role of quality journalism in a nation where increasing numbers of conservatives may not buy into the notion of the media’s watchdog role in a democracy.
The right movie analogy for Trump
Have you seen the film version of David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” about a bunch of desperate real estate salesmen? It includes Blake, a character written for the movie and played by Alec Baldwin with nasty gusto as he berates the likes of Shelley Levene (played with brilliant melancholy by Jack Lemmon in the movie).
Well, Kevin Williamson is right on the mark in The National Review about the movie version’s relevance to Anthony Scaramucci’s “cartoon tough-guy act.”
As he writes, “Scaramucci’s star didn’t fade when he gave that batty and profane interview in which he reimagined Steve Bannon as a kind of autoerotic yogi. That’s Scaramucci’s best impersonation of the sort of man the president of these United States, God help us, aspires to be.”
“But he isn’t that guy. He isn’t Blake. He’s poor sad old Shelley Levene, who cannot close the deal, who spends his nights whining about the unfairness of it all.”
“So, listen up, team Trump: ‘Put that coffee down. Coffee is for closers only.’ Got that?”
If you’ve not seen the Baldwin monologue in the movie, it’s a classic, so take a look.
Headline of the weekend
“‘The Emoji Movie’ got dumped on by critics. These are the best lines from their reviews — who could have possibly predicted this was a bad idea, except everyone?” (Recode)
Drew on Trump
In The New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Drew dissects the healthcare vote in the Senate, notably the not necessarily stunning vote of John McCain, whom she’s chronicled for many years:
“And there was another thing: candidate Trump had delivered a particularly low blow to McCain by saying that he had greater respect for military personnel who weren’t captured. He charged McCain with not helping veterans. McCain doesn’t forget such things. McCain also had long had an at-best tense relationship with McConnell — the leading Senate opponent of campaign finance reform. Besides, the rather free-spirited McCain and the grim, win-with-whatever-works McConnell, both of them big figures in the Senate, were rarely in tune.”
“And so Congress prepared to recess for August with many of its members as well as political observers concerned that Trump might create chaos by trying to stamp out the Russia investigation, and nervously wondering how the tempestuous president’s fractured and faltering administration, even with a new chief of staff, would perform in an international crisis.”
Chance the Rapper
Nice work by the Chicago Tribune’s Christopher Borrelli on Chicago’s very own Chance the Rapper:
“Chance the Rapper has become a cultural nesting doll, occupying many spaces simultaneously and seamlessly. He is a national act who also maintains an intimately Chicago footprint. He is a broad pop culture figure who also remains woven into a tight, Chicago-centered collaborative circle. All of this is funneled through a constant online presence that is complex, promotional yet nuanced, agreeable yet opinionated, blunt yet familial. But that he’s done it without appearing cloying — that he seems approachable, eager to be all things to all people, and not too insistent — is his greatest feat. His brand is no brand, a shrewd marketing of independence that often seems a lot like a brand.”
Trump and the Gatling gun
The New York Times’ Peter Baker wrote, “No longer daunted by a president with a Twitter account that he uses like a Gatling gun, members of his own party made clear that they were increasingly willing to stand against him on issues like healthcare and Russia.”
Gatling gun? I had to reconnect with Julia Keller, a Pulitzer-winning former Chicago Tribune stalwart and author of “Mr. Gatling’s terrible marvel: The gun that changed everything and the misunderstood genius who invented it.” (Amazon)
“In my catalog of the cultural significance of Richard Jordan Gatling’s great invention, I’ve seen the Gatling gun used as a metaphor in everything from ‘Gilmore Girls’ (Lorelei and Rory and their ‘Gatling Gun dialogue’) to ‘Green Acres’ (someone knitted a vest for Arnold the pig, and included ‘a little pocket for his Gat.’)”
“It’s an apt and nifty metaphor for President Trump’s tweeting — a Gatling Gun is fast, efficient and leaves a lot of destruction in its wake. And once you get the hang of it, you can do it with your eyes closed.”
Hammered from the right
Writes Mona Charen, “Having viciously attacked and humiliated his attorney general for acting ethically; hinting that he would abuse the pardon power for his family and himself; threatening Republican senators who voted against health care reform; and ‘joking’ that he might fire his Health and Human Services secretary, Trump may have thought to toss some red meat to conservatives in the form of the transgender military ban.”
Rising to Blumenthal’s defense
Writing in The Atlantic, James Fallows defends Sidney Blumenthal, the journalist-author and controversial longtime ally of the Clintons, from a broadside via Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa.
Grassley somehow responded to disclosures that one-time Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort had not registered as a foreign agent by saying that Blumenthal hadn’t, either. Huh?
“Love him or hate him, no one has produced any documents indicating that at any point he was in the pay of any foreign government, which is a clear contrast to Manafort.”
A new Times podcast
The New York Times’ “The Daily” is a huge success. (Poynter) Now comes “The New Washington,” on Trump’s Washington, with analysis weekly from reporter Carl Hulse and colleagues in the paper’s D.C. bureau.
The morning babble
Can John Kelly restore order to the White House and understand Trump is the problem? That was the “Morning Joe” question to Andrew Card, a George W. Bush-era chief of staff, who made clear what’s required, which does not include lots of end-arounds the chief of staff by other allies, friends and family.
CNN’s “New Day” wondered about that and the future of Jeff Sessions, with Republicans nervous about Sessions being moved elsewhere as a prelude to dumping Robert Mueller as special counsel. John Avlon of The Daily Beast called moving Sessions “idiot cunning,” while Vladimir Putin’s retaliation over the congressional sanctions bill (a rebuff to Trump) and the North Korean missile tests were both cited as evidence of Trump fumbling.
“Trump & Friends'” line of attack, ah, inquiry partly involved the failures of, yes, Nancy Pelosi. It also had a “Fox News Alert” about a prison break in Alabama, albeit one that mistakenly included the chyron at the bottom, “Sen. McCain Battles Brain Cancer” and a photo of a smiling Joe Biden. Oops, it’s a Monday.