Developing now, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019
RUSH TO JUDGMENT – AND ITS LESSONS: The much-discredited BuzzFeed story alleging that President Trump urged former personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress and the viral video of the encounter between Covington High School students and Native American protestors in Washington, D.C. last weekend have two things in common and one very important lesson… Both were examples of the media’s rush to judgment before the facts surfaced. And both illustrate the media’s hatred of Trump and shows how that anti-Trump bias infects the way they cover the news.
BuzzFeed still stands by its report, even though Special Counsel Robert Mueller has said it was “not accurate.” But as “Media Buzz” host Howard Kurtz points out, the damage had already been done, with several media outlets repeating the erroneous report, drumming the impeachment alarm, seemingly on loop, with the somewhat flimsy caveat “if true.” Pundits and Democratic lawmakers followed in tow, on the airwaves and on social media.
Coverage of the encounter between the Covington students and Native American group – specifically student Nick Sandmann and activist Nathan Phillips – was arguably much worse. Initial coverage, fed by an abbreviated video of the encounter and a rabid social media mob, portrayed Sandmann, a junior, and his classmates as young “MAGA” hat wearing, Trump-supporting racists who were taunting Native Americans and people of color. And people on both the left and the right jumped to condemn the students before a longer video told a different, more nuanced story.
Kneejerk pundits rushed to delete their kneejerk tweets. Some journalists, pundits and celebrities, like actress Jamie Lee Curtis, owned up to their own mistakes in rushing to judgment. But not everyone did. The lesson learned here, as Kurtz writes, is this: “There’s no harm in waiting for more details before denouncing people based on fragmentary information, even if you have to restrain yourself from joining the hot-take crowd.”
Collaborators sense the sinking ship.
At least one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers saw Mr. Cohen’s congressional testimony before he delivered it in August and October 2017, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.
But here’s the question: In your heart, do you think it’s believable that the president told Michael Cohen to lie to Congress? I mean, do you really think given his character, history, and temperament that it’s inconceivable that he would do such a thing?
I think it’s believable because we already know that the president has no problem with lying and encouraging others to lie about his dealings with Russia (and a few other things). During the campaign and after being sworn in, he categorically denied business dealings — ongoing or potential — with Russia. Before Cohen told Mueller that he had lied to Congress, Trump’s position was unequivocal... So yeah, sure, the BuzzFeed story may be wrong in whole or in part, and if it is, BuzzFeed should pay dearly for it. But the fact that the story is so believable is both damning and significant.
There’s an old joke about how the best form of government is the “good Czar.” The problem is that if you create a system dependent on the wisdom of a good Czar, you leave society defenseless against the rise to power of a bad Czar.
This insight, perhaps more than any other, is at the heart of the American political system envisioned by the founders. If men were angels, we wouldn’t need government, and if you could guarantee that every Czar is an angel, you wouldn’t need democracy, checks and balances, or divided government of any kind, either.
.. The founders were acutely aware of this, which is why they opposed an established church like the Church of England. They saw how minority faiths had been persecuted in the name of national solidarity. The exhaustion after the religious wars of Europe minted the right to be wrong in the eyes of the majority or the state. In other words, they championed pluralism. As Ben Sasse writes in Them, we should all see ourselves as members of minorities.
.. The founders, especially James Madison, understood that the kind of national solidarity Reno desires and Rousseau celebrated is not scalable for a large, diverse, ultimately continent-spanning nation — at least not while preserving liberty. Even Rousseau thought his (largely totalitarian) conception of the General Will could not work on a polity larger than his beloved Geneva.
The way to prevent tyrannical invasions into the liberties of others was to divide power, not just between the three branches of government, but between the central government and the states and smaller jurisdictions. Each state has divided government, as do most cities and even towns and counties. And it’s not just state power. Institutions, starting with organized religion, must be given substantial immunity to interference by the state – at any level.
Delaware’s John Dickinson put it well at the Constitutional Convention: “Let our government be like that of the solar system. Let the general government be like the sun and the states the planets, repelled yet attracted, and the whole moving regularly and harmoniously in their several orbits.”
.. This is preposterous. The New Dealers wanted to crush the normal divisions of power (and had considerable success). Planners like Rex Tugwell thought they were smarter than the market and could set the prices for everything from Washington. They believed individuals could have enough knowledge to plan other peoples’ lives better than they could. That’s not bottom-up-trial and error from the little platoons of society (nor is it Catholic subsidiarity). It’s what Hayek called the Road to Serfdom.
.. And even if this ridiculous pipe dream were to come to be, how corrupting would it be of those institutions in the long run? The very thing that has corrupted the elites Rusty denounces would in all likelihood corrupt the new elites too. How faithful is Catholicism in China today? How much witness did the Russian Orthodox Church bear in the old Soviet Union? Hell, give some religious “leaders” a taste of good radio ratings or a sweet land deal and a little fame these days and you can see how far they stray. Imagine what compromises they might make for the greater good and for the cause of national solidarity when they had real power. Power and status are more seductive than 30 pieces of silver.
.. Conservatism Inc. these days is the lusting for the power, relevance, and fame we see all around us, and I guess Rusty wants his slice.