We are now post-every debate, we are post-Hunter Biden stories (maybe), and we are post-lots of people actually voting. What left is there to say? Overall, I think there is actually a lot.
First off, I wanted to touch on an extremely important moment in the debate from Thursday. The exchange came when Joe Biden brought up a horrific report about 545 immigrant children who had been separated from their parents at the border and could not be reunited with their families. Conservatives reveled in Trump’s response to Biden’s accusations, as he asked Biden, “Who built the cages, Joe?”
I think some Trump-voting conservatives want to believe the President’s defense because they know that if the child separation policy is true, then it essentially throws every other argument for the Trump Administration out of the window; it is a thought that is so horrific and cruel that conservatives actually try to keep the reality from entering their brains.
The reality is, of course, that the child separation policy is a unique Trump Administration initiative that had nothing to do with the Obama White House or any other Administration before it. An Inspector General report is coming soon that will document the Administration’s goal of separating families as a deterrent from entering the United States. It will explicitly document how this was a Trump Administration directive, how it was driven by people in his office, and how those people had full understanding of what chaos their policy initiative would create.
The Order that began the “Zero Tolerance” policy was issued on April 6, 2018, by Jeff Sessions, whose quote is partially cited above. Here’s maybe the worst part: The Administration knew how potentially bad their policy change could be; in January of 2018 the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo outlining some of the potential negative effects of the new policy. One of those listed “negative effects?” New populations of U.S. orphans. In other words, they knew that if they separated children from their families that they would not be able to reunite some children with the parents.
When a Trump supporter tells you that this was a policy that began under Obama (or Bush) that Trump continued, you are being gaslit. This is another dark chapter in America’s long history book of bad immigration policies (which sits juxtaposed to a separate book on our very good and open immigration policies), but it is a chapter that was written by Trump.
So, there is a really important piece in the New York Times by Ben Smith which details how the Trump Campaign hoped to make the Hunter Biden story into a final, “…but her emails!” moment that would help the Campaign dig out of its hole. The mistake the Campaign made, ultimately, was trying to give the story to the Wall Street Journal, which did its due diligence and ultimately concluded that there was “no role” for Joe Biden in his son’s dealings overseas.
The Wall Street Journal’s refusal to jump on board was a devastating blow to the Trump Campaign. As Smith details in his piece, the Campaign wanted to validate the story by having one of the legacy newspapers cover it. It’s a little hilarious to note that Rudy Giuliani initially said that he shopped the laptop story to the New York Post because if another outlet took it, “…they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out.” In other words, Giuliani didn’t want an outlet to do what the Journal essentially did: Investigate.
This is where the second prong of Smith’s piece really comes into play: He outlines how the mainstream news outlets have taken back some of the power they ceded in 2016. By not touching the Hunter Biden story, the media essentially killed it in the general discourse. While it is still alive on Fox News and in conservative media, Trump’s own citation to it during the debate fell flat because most voters generally had no idea what he was talking about.
I wrote a piece a few years ago about the long-standing effort to delegitimize the major legacy outlets like the Washington Post and the New York Times. The goal for conservatives in this effort isn’t to delegitimize these papers because they are too liberal, but to delegitimize them because they report on reality, and sometimes reality is too liberal. I was sort of flabbergasted recently when someone questioned the legitimacy of the New York Times story on Trump’s Chinese bank account, despite the fact that the Times currently has copies of Trump’s tax records.
This isn’t to say that the Times shouldn’t be criticized for allowing a revolt over Senator Tom Cotton saying mean things in its pages, or for pushing out Bari Weiss because she did not agree with every liberal at the paper, or for publishing a heavily-flawed retelling of America’s “real” founding. But note that all of these controversies largely occurred on the opinion side, which is heavily partisan. The news side of the paper (and other publications) should be considered legitimate, even if readers don’t like it the reporting. How many conservatives will criticize the New York Times without realizing that the paper broke the Clinton Email story, which liberals did not like?
I loved this piece on fracking in Pennsylvania by Will Bunch. I think many people (including Biden’s own team!) were nervous about the anti-oil comments made by Uncle Joe during the debate, but pundits and politicians actually seem to be behind the times: An overwhelming majority of Americans support transitioning away from oil, and it is bipartisan.
I am going to be on a podcast this weekend talking about polling and who stands the best chance of winning EIGHT DAYS OMG from today. I will try to include a link to that with the next edition, which will hopefully have a little bit more detail.
Pic is from Denver’s first major snow of the winter season. Have a great week my habibis.