The Worst Excuse for BuzzFeed: ‘Eh, Trump Had It Coming to Him’
By the way, a quick Google search can confirm a few of the pieces of that implausible dossier on Donald Trump. For example, on page 23, the document states:
Senior Russian MFA official reported that as a prophylactic measure, a leading Russian diplomat, Mikhail KULAGIN, had been withdrawn from Washington at short notice because Moscow feared his heavy involvement-in the US presidential election operation, including the so-called veterans’ pensions ruse (reported previously), would be exposed in the media there. His replacement, Andrei BONDAREV however was clean in this regard.
Mikhail Kugalin is referred to as a press attaché in the Russian embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania in publicly-available reports in October 2005. Over on the publicly-available staff list of the Russian embassy in Washington, we can find Kugalin is not listed, and Bondarev is:
ANDREY BORISOVICH BONDAREV; MRS. DARIA VLADIMIROVNA BONDAREVA COUNSELOR (HEAD OF ECONOMIC SECTION)
This is basic stuff, found after a couple minutes of Googling. So if BuzzFeed wanted to, they could have at least told readers which details they could verify and which ones they couldn’t. Kugalin indeed left his posting at the Russian embassy this year, but for what it’s worth, the Russian foreign ministry says it was part of a planned rotation. (Not like they would admit, “yes, he was a spy involved in meddling the Russian elections,” but it always good to make the call and get the official denial in what you publish.)
Instead, the web publication just told us, “BuzzFeed News reporters in the U.S. and Europe have been investigating various alleged facts in the dossier but have not verified or falsified them.” Thanks, guys, that’s a huge help.
In yesterday’s Jolt, we mentioned the allegation that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen met with Russian officials in Prague. We don’t know if Buzzfeed asked Cohen for a comment or to confirm or deny the trip before publishing the dossier. We now know the dossier had been floating around for months. What was the rush?
Jack Shafer offers some implausible defenses for BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the implausible dossier on Donald Trump:
So far, the U.S. government appears to have been overly prudent about leaking or sharing the sensitive Trump information it holds. Like BuzzFeed’s Smith, I believe the public has an interest in knowing what the much-disparaged elites have been gossiping about for months now. Information like this can’t be bottled up forever, especially in the Web era. You can say it’s “wrong” to publish raw scuttlebutt like this, and I can agree with you. You can see hypocrisy in liberals whinging about the rise of fake news, only to embrace Goldengate, and I can agree with you. But to reprise an earlier point, conventional journalists no longer have the capacity to gate-keep in a perfect way. Complaining about it is pointless.
No, it’s not. Complaining about it is how we demonstrate our expectations of the field of journalism. If publishing unverified information is widely criticized and mocked, publications will do it less frequently. You can find a lot of shocking but never-quite-verified reports from Alex Jones, Debka, Dan Rather, various bloggers with shaky history, etcetera. Most journalists don’t want to be one of those.
And even if the dossier turns out to be pure bunk, there is a good bit of karma blasting back at Trump for inciting the Russians to hack and leak on Hillary, not to mention all the birther stuff. How does it feel to be the aggrieved party, Donald?
Is this what the role of the news media is going to become now? Trump makes unfounded accusations, so we’re free to make unfounded accusations now, too? The decisions you make don’t tell the world about the standards of other people; the decisions you make tell the world about your standards. The gleeful tone of Shafer’s paragraph suggests that publishing false reports is okay if the public figure “has it coming.”
At first I thought the latest journalism scandals like this and Rolling Stone reflected a young, improperly-trained reporters, like the infamous Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair. Then I checked on the ages of some of the more infamous perpetrators of our age. Nope, they’re in their forties.
When I decided I wanted to go into journalism, it was the era where the major news institutions were under fire for going tabloid and doing a bad job: the O.J. Simpson trial, the “Long Island Lolita” Amy Fisher, the obsessive Olympics coverage of Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, the sordid, bloody tale of Lorena Bobbitt and John Wayne Bobbitt. Weird Al Yankovic wrote a song about two the four, to the Crash Test Dummies’s 1993 hit “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”, and called it “Headline News.” It’s among the few times Weird Al slips a little social critique in his usual silliness: (“They got paid for their sound-bites… and sold their TV-movie rights.”) It wasn’t that long after a guest hit Geraldo Rivera in the nose with a chair, and the world cheered.
When people would recoil when I mentioned my career plans, I said, “That’s why I want to go into it – to make it better than this.”
I’m not sure today’s journalism is much better. It’s way more diversified, thanks to the Internet, but it’s not necessarily better.
Meet Your New VA Secretary Nominee, David Shulkin
Out of all of Trump’s campaign promises, fixing the VA and getting our veterans excellent care has to rank among the top two or three in terms of importance. Perhaps no other Obama administration scandal was so egregious or unforgivable.
A lot of people thought fixing the Veterans Administration was going to require an outsider. Donald Trump apparently thinks differently.
President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday announced his choice of David Shulkin to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Shulkin is the current undersecretary for health at the VA and has been in that post since July 2015.
“I’ll tell you about David: He’s fantastic, he’s fantastic,” Trump said. “He will do a truly great job. One of the commitments I made is that we’re going to straighten out the whole situation for our veterans.
“Our veterans have been treated horribly, they’re waiting in line for 15, 16, 17 days, cases where they go in and they have a minor early stage form of cancer, they can’t see a doctor. By the time they get to a doctor, they’re terminal,” Trump said. ”It’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen.”
During his tenure, Shulkin told USA TODAY recently that he had cut the number of veterans waiting for urgent care from 57,000 to 600. At the same time, he spearheaded an effort to provide same-day care at all 167 VA medical centers across the country by the end of last year. It’s unclear whether he reached that goal.
Will we see more privatization of veterans care? Eh, kind-of, sort-of:
Shulkin has said in interviews that he favors a hybrid model, where the VA provides care that it specializes in, such as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and loss of limbs, for example. And he said the VA should consider discontinuing other services that the private sector may better provide, such as obstetrics and gynecology.
At first glance, that makes sense, but the evaluation that counts will come from the veterans.
Cory Booker: He Is Who We Thought He Was
Allahpundit confirms Cory Booker’s testimony against Jeff Sessions was every bit as bad as we expected:
If you thought Cory Booker’s testimony against Jeff Sessions would be all about grandstanding for 2020, collect your prize. That was Ed’s suspicion yesterday as well as the suspicions of, oh, everyone to the right of Bernie Sanders. Booker was going to break with Senate precedent and testify against Sessions, we thought, not because had evidence to submit about Sessions’s views on the law and its enforcement but because he wanted footage for his first campaign commercial in Iowa in 2020 or 2024. Annnnnd that’s exactly what happened. There’s nothing new in the clip below.
Booker wanted camera time so that he could emote, badly, about Selma and the arc of moral universe, and to make an impression on the left that his objections to Sessions were so extra woke that he’d go so far as to take unprecedented action — testifying against a Senate colleague — to register them. Watch this poor bastard try and pitifully fail to feign genuine emotion between 6:10 and 6:25, closing his eyes because he’s that much in the moment. I have a high tolerance for Senate grandstanding (I voted for Ted Cruz in the primaries, remember) but even I have my limits. As the saying goes, it would take a heart of stone not to laugh at a performance this shameless.
Cory Booker 2020: Why just stand when you can grandstand?
ADDENDA: The extra-special 100th episode of the pop culture podcast may be delayed, as the local Authenticity Woods school district is dealing with a winter-cold season out of a Richard Preston novel.