The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Angry Trump and Angry Protesters Meet in Arizona

Today making the click-through worthwhile: President Trump vents his anger in a late-night rally in Phoenix while protesters outside throw canisters at cops, ESPN makes perhaps its wildest and dumbest capitulation to political correctness yet, and the embarrassing public spat between Hollywood director Joss Whedon and his ex-wife raises some good questions about how we measure a good person.

Trump, the News Networks, and the Protesters All Deserve Each Other

Trump’s speech, in a nutshell: “Look back there: the live red lights, they’re turning those suckers off fast,” Trump said. “They’re turning those lights off fast. Like CNN. CNN does not want its falling viewership to watch what I’m saying tonight.”

Of course, CNN and all of the other networks broadcasted Trump’s speech live and in its entirety.

There are a lot of really valid criticisms to be made of the press and its coverage of the Trump administration. CNN retracted a story that a Russian bank linked to a close ally of Trump was under Senate investigation. Back in early June, FBI Director James Comey said many stories about the Russia investigation were “dead wrong.” The New York Times turned over op-ed space to Louise Mensch, who is an increasingly incoherent conspiracy theorist. No objection to the president is too small, silly, or petty to ignore; the Washington Post ran an op-ed claiming Trump’s use of the term “Paddy Wagon” was an insult to Irish-Americans.

But with all of these options, Trump has to pick an example that is not only false, it is glaringly false to anyone watching the speech on television at the time!

How CNN can squander the moral high ground: Afterward Don Lemon declared, “He is clearly trying to ignite a civil war in this country. He has not tamped down race, and I’m just going to say — I mean, if he was on my team in this newsroom and said those things, he would be escorted out of the building by security.”

Got that? “Clearly”! It’s not a frustrated man venting and ranting about how unfair all the media coverage of him is — as if he’s the first president to ever encounter a hostile press; he really should ask one of the Bushes how nice the media was to them — he’s “clearly trying to ignite a civil war.”

Yes, last night’s speech in Arizona was Trump at his worst: angry, blame-shifting, rewriting history, rambling, vague . . . 

Then we look at the opposition outside:

Video recorded on a downtown Phoenix street Tuesday night shows a lit object that begins smoking after striking a police officer as the scene outside President Donald Trump’s rally descended into chaos.

The video was recorded by a reporter for The Arizona Republic at 8:36 p.m. from an area near the intersection of Second and Monroe streets in downtown Phoenix. That’s the spot where thousands gathered to protest the president and his supporters.

Seconds prior to the object hitting the officer, yellow smoke rises from something on the side of the street where the protesters are standing. While the scene already is tense, it escalates seconds after the projectile hits the officer, who is standing in line with other law-enforcement members.

So these are our options. A blustering, buffoonish, blame-shifting president or anarchists who try to hurt cops.

ESPN: Endlessly Stupid Progressive Nitpickers

Where is someone within corporate America who is willing to say “enough” when the most asinine forms of political correctness attempt to enforce their will?

In the wake of the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., ESPN has pulled announcer Robert Lee from broadcasting University of Virginia football games because he shares a name with the famous Confederate general Robert E. Lee, according to Outkick the Coverage’s Clay Travis.

ESPN reportedly provided Outkick the Coverage with the following statement: “We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name. In that moment it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play by play for a football game has become an issue.”

I don’t care if it “felt right” to all parties. Robert Lee the sportscaster has nothing to do with Robert E. Lee the Confederate general. What, did they think viewers at home would see an Asian man saying, “Hi, I’m Robert Lee, and welcome to ESPN’s coverage of University of Virginia Cavalier football!” and somehow interpret that as an endorsement of the Confederacy or slavery?

You cannot insulate yourself from someone else’s stupidity.

We can only imagine what’s going through the mind of sportscaster Robert Lee; a corporate statement that it “felt right to all parties” and that he didn’t object doesn’t mean much. ESPN just went through a brutal round of layoffs. How much does any given employee at the network want to make a stink about any decision from above?

David French: “Parents, if your last names are Grant, Meade, or Sherman, might I suggest Ulysses, George, or Bill as boy’s names? They’ll have an inside track at ESPN.”

Speaking of ESPN, today on NRO, I look at recent financial troubles at the sports network, as well as the University of Missouri and Marvel Comics. In each case, it’s overstating it to say that a turn to the Left has single-handedly brought those institutions to dire straits. But the perception of overt politicization seriously exacerbated the normal challenges faced by those long-standing, once-widely-respected establishments.

In each case, the institution sought to placate or win over a non-traditional audience or customer base consisting of the social justice warrior crowd. The problem is that there’s limited evidence that the social justice warrior crowd wants to enroll and pay full tuition, watch televised sports or sports chat shows, or collect comic books — at least in the numbers necessary to support those institutions. And in making that political shift, those institutions alienated their existing base of support, whether it was alumni and prospective students, sports fans, or comic book readers.

ESPN, the University of Missouri, and Marvel were all founded and thrived with missions that were quite different than “promote the progressive agenda.” Progressives took the wheel and decided to substitute their political mission for the institutions’ previous missions of sports coverage, education, and workforce preparation, and telling fun superhero stories. And with the Left at the steering wheel, they drove right off the road into a ditch.

How Do We Measure a Good Person?

Insert all the appropriate caveats. Messy divorces can bring out the worst in people, and angry accusations and counter-accusations are sadly par for the course. We never really know what someone else’s marriage is like behind closed doors.

Kai Cole, the ex-wife of Hollywood director Joss Whedon, offered a blistering portrait of her ex in an essay contending he publicly proclaimed high-minded feminist ideals while having multiple secret affairs with (unspecified) actresses in his productions.

“I want the people who worship him to know he is human, and the organizations giving him awards for his feminist work, to think twice in the future about honoring a man who does not practice what he preaches,” she wrote.

Whedon’s representatives said the “account includes inaccuracies and misrepresentations which can be harmful to their family, Joss is not commenting, out of concern for his children and out of respect for his ex-wife.”

I was reminded of Eleanor Clift’s assessment after Senator Edward Kennedy died:

Feminists who proclaimed “The personal is the political” made an exception for Kennedy. They argued that the political outweighs the personal: if a politician’s private life doesn’t interfere with his public life, why should it be a problem? You have to search hard to find an example where Kennedy’s personal behavior affected his public life.

Is a voting record in line with feminists’ preferences a get-out-of-consequences free card for womanizing and making “waitress sandwiches” with Chris Dodd? The subsequent experience of Bill Clinton would suggest so, which makes the whole enterprise look as cynical and corrupt as buying indulgences. “I’m a good person by doing X, so I don’t have to even try to stop doing bad behavior Y.”

How do we measure a good person? I’m not so sure your publicly-professed beliefs are supposed to provide moral cover for how you actually treat other human beings you encounter. If Cole’s description is accurate, it suggests that Whedon felt like writing strong female protagonists, endorsing Democrats and public professions of progressivism in general justified seeing portions of his casts over the years as a personal harem. Some folks wondered if the concept of Whedon’s short-lived television series Dollhouse – imagining a world where attractive young people were brainwashed into being the full-service playthings of the wealthy and powerful — was Whedon’s cynical perspective of Hollywood. Perhaps he wasn’t just depicting the exploitative nature of the entertainment industry in the abstract.

Maybe the ugly portrait of Whedon offered by Cole is accurate, and maybe it isn’t. What is worth noting is that Hollywood and the performing arts community in general, which loves to celebrate its own progressivism, feminism, and overall shining virtue, is still notorious for its “casting couch.” Last month, Equity, the United Kingdom trade union for actors, issued a manifesto declaring, “No sex act should be requested at any audition.” The need to state that rule is rather revealing.

Every year during awards season, actors, directors, and screenwriters come together and use their acceptance speeches to tell America that they should try to be more like the noble paragons of virtue in Hollywood. It is somehow less than surprising that many Americans ignore them.

ADDENDA: In case you missed it because of the delayed posting: an edition of the pop culture podcast discussing how every big media company seems to want its own streaming service, Amazon’s Communist-mocking Comrade Detective, upcoming fall television shows from the inspired to the idiotic, and our listeners’ picks for the best commercials of all time.

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