The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Corker’s Criticism of Trump Isn’t Completely Correct

Making the click-through worthwhile: one aspect of Senator Bob Corker’s criticism of President Trump that doesn’t ring true, ESPN suspends anchor Jamele Hill for being Jamele Hill, and why Hillary Clinton’s silence about Harvey Weinstein is not the least bit shocking.

The Flaw in Corker’s Critique

President Trump’s war of words with Senate foreign relations chairman Bob Corker is a giant pile of preventable, self-destructive folly, but there’s one part of Corker’s indictment that doesn’t quite ring true.

Corker says Trump’s “reckless threats toward other countries” could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

Look, if the United States is one hyperbolic presidential Tweet away from all-out war, we’re already doomed. If the world really is just 140 characters away from Armageddon, that’s a stinging indictment of several preceding administrations as well as Trump’s.

What’s more, if all it took to get Kim Jong Un to attempt to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile carrying a nuclear weapon was an insult from the president, then we would have seen the missiles flying already.  I refer you to the most recent public words from the Central Intelligence Agency on this:

“There’s a clarity of purpose in what Kim Jong Un has done,” according to Yong Suk Lee, deputy assistant director of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, who discussed the escalating tensions between North Korea and the US during a conference organized by the agency at George Washington University.

“Waking up one morning and deciding he wants to nuke” Los Angeles is not something Kim Jong Un is likely to do, Lee said. “He wants to rule for a long time and die peacefully in his own bed.”

“Kim’s long-term goal is to come to some sort of big power agreement with the US and to remove US presence from the peninsula,” Lee said, adding he wants to make North Korea relevant on the global stage again.

(In a great irony, Kim’s long-term goal sounds like the sort of thing that Trump favored as a presidential candidate. Back in January 2016, Trump said, “We have 28,000 soldiers on the line in South Korea between the madman and them. We get practically nothing compared to the cost of this.”)

It’s also worth noting that the Korean peninsula has a lot of potential triggers for conflict beyond what the president says or tweets.

“The South Korean and North Korean Navy’s are going toe-to-toe every day . . .  there is potential for conflict at anytime,” Lee said.

That circumstance existed before the Trump presidency and is likely to exist after the Trump presidency. What do you think is most likely to spur military conflict on the Korean peninsula: North Korean hackers, Pyongyang firing artillery at South Korean islands again, North Korea firing at a South Korean naval vessel again, or a Trump tweet?

Corker suggested that Trump’s comments about North Korea had somehow undermined an ongoing effort at diplomatic outreach:

“A lot of people think that there is some kind of ‘good cop, bad cop’ act underway, but that’s just not true,” Mr. Corker said.

Without offering specifics, he said Mr. Trump had repeatedly undermined diplomacy with his Twitter fingers. “I know he has hurt, in several instances, he’s hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out,” Mr. Corker said.

Corker’s got a higher security clearance than you and I do (then again, I don’t know what yours is) but without any specifics, it is difficult to evaluate the validity of this accusation. What is clear is that for all of his inflammatory language, the broad contours of Trump’s view on North Korea is correct: the Clinton administration provided $5 billion in aid in exchange for broken promises. The North Korean regime needs to know that the United States is no longer willing to be suckered into a phony deal, just to enjoy a false sense of security.

The Second Battle of Jamele Hill

The President of the United States, 6:42 a.m.: “With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have “tanked,” in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!”

In case you’ve lost track . . . 

ESPN suspended anchor Jamele Hill after she wrote on Twitter, “Change happens when advertisers are impacted. If you feel strongly about JJ’s statement, boycott his advertisers.”

Hill appeared to encourage fans to boycott the sponsors of the Dallas Cowboys, after a report that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones would bench any player who refused to stand for the national anthem. Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross has also instructed his players to stand, declaring that the president “changed that whole paradigm of what protest is . . .  And I think it’s incumbent upon the players today, because of how the public is looking at it, to really stand and really salute the flag.”

Hill also tweeted, “Cowboys have a huge national following. Lot of black & brown folks are Cowboys fans. What if they turned their backs on them?”

ESPN broadcasts Monday Night Football; the Cowboys do not appear for the remainder of the season but the Dolphins are scheduled to appear twice.

As with the last controversy surrounding Hill about a month ago, I find myself strangely sympathetic that she’s suddenly found herself in hot water for doing what she’s done her entire career. What exactly did ESPN expect when they gave her and co-host Michael Smith the 6 p.m. SportsCenter slot? The network apparently wants her to be controversial but not too controversial, provocative but not too provocative, and to somehow address racial issues, but not offend anyone in the process. They want her to speak her mind, but not speak too critically of a league for whose television rights her employer paid $15 billion.

Our David French emphasizes the painful lesson for ESPN: large profitable corporations can try to co-opt the voracious progressive movement, but it will never be satisfied.

 . . . It’s pretty clear that ESPN is pursuing irreconcilable goals. It obviously wants to be progressive, and it obviously needs to protect its multi-billion dollar investment in the NFL. Yet every day that the sport gets more politicized, there is greater pressure on politicized hosts and athletes to up the stakes. After all, lots of folks are actually hoping to achieve Real Change, not just indulge in a dash of virtue signaling before returning to the discussing the decline and fall of the Patriots’ defense.

ESPN, by contrast, seems to have been hoping a little bit of light politics — with political perspective sprinkled into the coverage like croutons on a salad. You know, polite progressivism for the chattering classes. But you can’t control the Wokening, and if we’ve learned anything from our out-of-control campuses, activists don’t like guardrails, even if the corporate (or academic) bosses are broadly sympathetic.

Progressive sports fans insist that in an era where Vice President Pence walks out of an NFL game to protest the players’ kneeling protest, it’s impossible for a sports media to “stick to sports.” But when a network “sticks to sports,” fans across the spectrum are willing to tune in for . . .  you know, sports, particularly on a network that touts itself “the worldwide leader in sports.”

Do People Really Care About Gross Sexual Misconduct? Consistently?

Hillary Clinton’s silence about Harvey Weinstein is so unsurprising, it’s barely even disappointing.

It’s been five days since the New York Times exposed a long and sordid history of sexual harassment and abuse on the part of the super-connected Hollywood producer and mogul. Hillary Clinton hasn’t even issued a written statement; she was on a book tour, but the interviews suddenly stopped. Some left-of-center voices are now wondering just what their favorite leaders stand for:

Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show: I feel like it happens a lot with women’s issues. I feel really disappointed in both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. If you took money from this person because this person had really good progressive goals that were in line with the politics, great. When you find out that this person is a monster, especially a monster towards women, why wouldn’t you denounce it? Why would you have shame? Come out and denounce it.

But you know, otherwise you will never have credibility when trying to denounce oh, I don’t know, a president who talks about the freedom to sexual assault a woman in a tape we hear on Access Hollywood? You know, you got to wonder, did that incident that just weirdly happened practically to the anniversary of the date we found out about this, go past America and America gave Trump a pass because we didn’t call out this kind of behavior from Democrats?

I suspect that is the case. Diehard partisans appear only truly motivated to denounce piggish and sleazy behavior when reinforces their argument that the other side is full of creeps and enablers. Progressives denounce Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Congressman Tim Murphy, and Trump’s infamous boast of his entitlement to grab; conservatives gleefully denounce Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner, Bob Filner, etc. We can find many examples of this hypocrisy, but perhaps the gold standard remains Gloria Steinem’s defense of Bill Clinton’s behavior with Kathleen Willey: “Mr. Clinton seems to have made a clumsy sexual pass, then accepted rejection.” (That is not, in fact, what Willey described at all.) Steinem’s standard became nicknamed the “one free grope” rule. Similarly, it’s hard to imagine many conservative Christian leaders shrugging off the “grab them by the you-know-what” comment as mere “locker room talk” if it had come from a prominent liberal Democrat.

How much can we blame voters for concluding that if so many people in politics are willing to give the leaders on their own side a pass, the behavior can’t really be that objectionable?

ADDENDA: If the day runs smoothly, I’ll appear on HLN in the 11 a.m. hour, CNN International at 2:30, and CNN sometime in the 3 p.m. hour. However, experience has taught me that in the world of television news and breaking news events, the day rarely runs smoothly.


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