Politics & Policy

How Do You Keep False Information Away from the President?

How Do You Keep False Information Away from the President?

At the climax of the movie version of The Sum of All Fears, Jack Ryan has learned that Baltimore was just nuked by a weapon stolen from the Israelis, and not by the Russians. At a check point in the Pentagon, Ryan desperately pleads with a general to let him past a check point, needing to stop the escalating tensions between the U.S. and Russia, who are inching closer to a full-scale nuclear exchange: “General, the president is basing his decisions on some really bad information right now. And if you shut me out, your family, and my family, and 25 million other families will be dead in 30 minutes!”

I thought of that when I read this in Politico this morning:

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus issued a stern warning at a recent senior staff meeting: Quit trying to secretly slip stuff to President Trump.

Just days earlier, K.T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, had given Trump a printout of two Time magazine covers. One, supposedly from the 1970s, warned of a coming ice age; the other, from 2008, about surviving global warming, according to four White House officials familiar with the matter.

Trump quickly got lathered up about the media’s hypocrisy. But there was a problem. The 1970s cover was fake, part of an Internet hoax that’s circulated for years. Staff chased down the truth and intervened before Trump tweeted or talked publicly about it.

What’s really egregious about this hoax is that it’s completely unnecessary. No, there was no Time magazine cover about a coming ice age. But the other newsweekly ran an article with the same general theme:

On April 28, 1975, Newsweek published a provocative article, “The Cooling World,” in which writer and science editor Peter Gwynne described a significant chilling of the world’s climate, with evidence accumulating “so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it.”

Right now, the president may be “basing his decisions on some really bad information.” Of course, we should recognize that even the world’s finest intelligence agencies can be fooled by elaborate efforts to sell a lie — i.e., when Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister is secretly recruited by Western intelligence, and he believes his country has an extensive program to develop weapons of mass destruction, our spies will believe him. But at least the intelligence agencies have their own methods for attempting to sort out truth from misinformation.

Even if you’re a fan of K. T. McFarland, keep in mind this informal system of giving President Trump unverified information can be used by the advisers you don’t like:

Priebus and White House staff secretary Rob Porter have tried to implement a system to manage and document the paperwork Trump receives. While some see the new structure as a power play by a weakened chief of staff — “He’d like to get a phone log too,” cracked one senior White House adviser — others are more concerned about the unfettered ability of Trump’s family-member advisers, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, to ply the president with whatever paperwork they want in the residence sight unseen.

“They have this system in place to get things on his desk now,” the same White House official said. “I’m not sure anyone follows it.”

What are Americans supposed to do when Trump’s inner circle is feeding him Internet hoaxes?

The Perpetual Threat (or Promise) to Emigrate over Politics

In the New York Times, Lee Siegel contemplates moving permanently to Norway, giving up on America.

This is where I’m supposed to chuckle and say, “don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya,” but honestly… maybe liberals really would be happier if they moved to Europe.

This time around, though, I’m thinking of living again in Scandinavia more seriously than I ever have before. Something fundamental has changed in America, for the worse.

It’s not just Donald Trump’s volatility, or the unfitness of his cabinet appointees, or his possible collusion with Russia, or the certain prospect that everything from health care to quality education will soon be inaccessible to great numbers of Americans.

Notice the instant revisionism of the Obama years as a golden era of prosperity and good feelings. If health care and quality education were accessible to great numbers of Americans, do you think the American people would have elected Trump?

This argument is pretty fascinating: “There is no impassioned, continuous, organized opposition to the present political establishment… The Democrats are powerless, often more eager to fight one another for ascendance in their party than to fight a threat to the Republic.”

“The Resistance,” Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March on Washington, the judicial setbacks for the administration, the Trump administration’s difficulty in getting big legislation through Congress… Siegel finds it all pretty meaningless.

He decides against moving to Norway. That might be for the best, if you look at the news out of Norway recently. The government is running classes for immigrants, telling them that rape is against the law:

Mr. Kelifa, 33, attended the education program at an asylum center in this town near the western Norwegian city of Stavanger. Like similar courses now underway in the village of Lunde and elsewhere in Norway, it was voluntary and was organized around weekly group discussions of rape and other violence.

The goal is that participants will “at least know the difference between right and wrong,” said Nina Machibya, the Sandnes center’s manager.

A course manual sets out a simple rule that all asylum seekers need to learn and follow: “To force someone into sex is not permitted in Norway, even when you are married to that person.”

The country’s Islamic Council has a new spokeswoman who wears the full niqab.

A major party just voted to take the position of banning circumcision, but say they don’t want it to become law.

Every place has its problems, pal. You’ve just got to choose which problems you can live with.

I also can’t help but notice he’s eager to move to an ethnically homogenous oil-exporting nation with a national church.

This Guy Has His Standards

Our David French offers the long, detailed, well-thought-out argument against that long New York Times feature article about open marriages that seemed to not-so-subtly cheerlead for the concept.

I’ll just focus on this quote from Kevin Patterson from the article: “I don’t have many jealousy triggers. But I don’t like it when someone my wife is seeing takes the parking spot in front of my house.”

Really, pal? That’s where you draw the line? That’s where you feel insufficiently respected?

ADDENDA: A limited number of copies of The Fall of the Berlin Wall, a rare out-of-print William F. Buckley book, is now for sale from National Review directly…

Last night, Showtime aired the final episode of Twin Peaks again; this coming Sunday, mere 9,477 days after that episode aired on ABC, the story continues. I’m going to write a lot about Twin Peaks the coming months, so… might as well get used to it.

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