The Morning Jolt


A Good-News Jobs Report to End the Week

May the Fourth be with you. Stay tuned to the Corner today for coverage of the National Rifle Association’s Annual Meeting in Dallas.

Good Morning. How Does a 3.9 Percent National Unemployment Rate Sound?

Hey, let’s have some good news to end the week!

The unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent in April, an 18-year low, even as nonfarm payrolls rose by just 164,000, according to a report Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected payroll growth of 192,000 and the jobless rate to drop by one-tenth of a percent to 4.0 percent. The official jobs tally showed an increase from an upwardly revised 135,000 in March.

A more encompassing measure of unemployment that includes discouraged workers and those holding part-time positions for economic reasons fell to 7.8 percent, the lowest since July 2001. Unemployment for blacks fell to a fresh record-low of 6.6 percent, down three-tenths of a point.

When you take the portrait of the economy from the jobs numbers, stock market performance, wage numbers, and data like that . . . and match it up against the general public’s really-modestly-optimistic, nothing special, nothing like the dot-com-boom poll responses on economic confidence . . . it becomes clear that for a significant portion of respondents, their perception of the economy is only loosely connected to the actual performance of the economy.

Where Do You List ‘Secret Payments to Mistress’ on Government Financial Disclosure Forms?

The New York Times raises the question of whether the president violated the law by not listing his alleged payments to Stormy Daniels through Michael Cohen on his financial disclosure forms.

Legally, the failure to disclose the payments could be a violation of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, which requires that federal officials, including Mr. Trump, report any liabilities of more than $10,000 during the preceding year. Mr. Trump’s last disclosure report, which he signed and filed in June, mentions no debt to Mr. Cohen.”

Government watchdog groups warned that willfully violating the financial disclosure laws can be punished by a fine of up to $50,000 and a year in prison. Although federal officials who lie on the forms are also typically charged with other, more serious offenses such as bribery or fraud, more than 20 officials or former officials have been charged in the past 12 years with making false statements to federal officials, a felony offense. An Environmental Protection Agency official who failed to report a source of income on the form, for instance, was convicted and sentenced to probation.

Anybody think Jeff Sessions is going to want to charge Trump with violating the Ethics in Government Act?

Our Andy McCarthy points out that this all stems from fighting the Stormy Daniels fight with every tool imaginable, when a quiet admission would have caused just another quick-passing thunderstorm of media outrage. Trump’s no-holds-barred approach to every fight, big or small, may work legally but cause much worse political problems. “I already miss the quiet calm of the Mueller investigation,” Andy sighs.

Look, one way or another, whether Trump talks to Robert Mueller or not, Mueller is going to offer a pretty comprehensive report to Congress. We have no idea when that report will arrive; everyone assumes that it will arrive before the midterm elections, but . . . how many “Mueller is in the final stages of his investigation” reports have we heard over the past few months?

That report is either going to list criminal acts by Trump that could qualify as high crimes and misdemeanors or not. There is a small but unlikely chance that Mueller will uncover something so indisputable and disqualifying for an American president that a significant number of Republican lawmakers support his impeachment. But again, that’s a pretty small chance.

More likely, Mueller comes back with something that most Democrats perceive as the greatest crime in American history and most Republicans perceive as no big deal, or insufficient to require the first successful impeachment of a president in U.S. history. And then, in a way, the decision is likely to be turned over to the American electorate. A Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is extremely likely to impeach the president; a Republican-controlled one is not.

Why Are Big Media Institutions Afraid to Mention the Friendly Neighborhood NRATV Host?

The Dallas Morning News did a profile of NRATV Thursday. The piece is headlined “Inside NRA TV, where the gun group spreads alarm and keeps lawmakers in line” and describes the channel as “high-pitched and hyper-partisan.”

The description of NRATV’s lineup may strike some viewers as curious.

The channel has three main anchors, all based in Dallas: [Grant] Stinchfield, 49, a former KXAS-TV (NBC5) reporter who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012; Collins Idehen, 34, a lawyer who amassed a YouTube following for his pro-gun videos under the moniker “Colion Noir”; and Dana Loesch, 39, a former tea party activist and Breitbart editor.

The claim that NRATV has only three main anchors will be surprising to anyone watching from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., or anyone who’s watched my friend Cam Edwards on the show named after him for the past 14 years on the network.

Now, most readers probably know by now that Cam is my best friend. He’s far too humble and gentlemanly to complain when he gets airbrushed out of the picture. He’s probably cringing right now reading me make a stink about it.

But I can’t help but get the feeling that his absence from any of the national media coverage of NRATV this year is not accidental. I don’t know Colion Noir or Stinchfield, and I’ve had pleasant limited interactions with the Loesches over the years. Maybe you love the table-pounding, television-smashing style or maybe you hate it; it isn’t my cup of tea, but whatever. The gist of all of the profiles of NRATV – in The New Yorker, on John Oliver’s TV show, and this one in the Morning News is the same – “wow, look at how incendiary and angry and frightening this channel is! America’s gun owners are terrifying!”

Except . . . Cam’s show is a different style and you really have to stretch to get him to fit the rootin’-tootin’ Yosemite Sam stereotype.

The one time a major media publication went out to profile Cam that I can recall, the Los Angeles Times came away calling him . . . a “calm, steady voice,” “methodical” and — I assume this is no pun intended  — “disarming.” The article quoted Cam addressing the stereotypes and expectations head on: “I sort of get the impression that when people tune in for the first time, if they’re not a gun owner in particular, they think they’re going to get some slack-jawed yokel, screaming about the ‘libtards’ who are coming to take their guns away,” he said. “And that’s not my show.”

Our discourse and definitions get set by who’s included and who’s excluded. Remember when Megyn Kelly called Alex Jones a “conservative radio host”? A considerable percentage of conservatives would argue that Alex “chemicals are turning the frogs gay” Jones does not represent us, does not speak for us, and cannot be accurately categorized as one of us. (We believe frogs should have the liberty to determine their own sexual preference.)

Major publications consistently cropping Cam out of the NRATV portrait feels intentional. The narrative of “America’s scary and menacing gun culture” is undermined by the example of an easygoing, joke-cracking host who knows the law, knows the facts, and is firm but courteous to guests, even when he disagrees.

Make no mistake, the argument about guns is not about which types of guns are allowed and not allowed; it is an explicitly cultural one. Notice how the Gun Safety Alliance describes itself: “an open source group of business leaders and concerned citizens from across every single industry — a ‘coalition of the willing’ — who are working together to propel cultural change and prevent unnecessary gun deaths in the United States.” They declare that gun owners “have every right if they follow the law, but we should all understand the risks and responsibilities with owning a firearm.” The not-so-subtle aim is to turn gun ownership into smoking — something still technically legal but widely seen as inherently irresponsible and dangerous, and so socially disapproved that no one would voluntarily choose that option.

ADDENDUM: Terry Teachout with a bluntly honest observation to Ross Douthat: “I’m touched, Ross, by your steadfast belief that you can persuade people who don’t care what you really think to follow your argument more closely.”


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