The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Morning Joe Addresses the Mark Halperin Scandal . . . Delicately

Anyone else find this stance . . . a little dissatisfying?

Mika Brzezinski stated, “Over the past 24 hours, there have been more disturbing reports regarding Mark Halperin’s treatment of younger, female coworkers. Behavior in these reports allegedly occurred one to two decades ago, and now, we’re looking at it, we’re talking about it. Mark and Karen [Avrich, Halperin’s wife] have been a part of Morning Joe’s extended family for years; they’re our friends. And we believe it’s important to stand with our friends, through even the most difficult of times.”

But it’s even more important to demand the truth,” Brzezinski continued. “Even when the facts appear to be extremely painful. Yesterday morning we woke up to reports of unnamed sources telling CNN that Mark made unwanted sexual advances and overtures towards them. A day later, more revelations, pointing to a possible pattern of unacceptable conduct. I’ve spoken to, and heard from some of these women. I feel their pain, and I understand the difficult position they were in, because I’ve been through enough in this business to know what I hear.”

“We are at a pivotal moment in history where unacceptable harassing behavior towards women will no longer be swept under the rug and yes, we do remain a nation of laws where everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty, and nothing has been proven or adjudicated here, but, we’re also witnessing a larger movement of women speaking up about sexual harassment because the fear of being dismissed is melting away.”

“I’ll speak for both Joe and myself here, our hearts break for Mark and his family because he is our friend, but we fully support NBC’s decision here,” she said, of NBC’s decision to fire Halperin.

I suppose we should credit Brzezinski for honesty; they’re essentially admitting that because Halperin is a friend, they’re looking at the accusations dramatically differently than they would for another media or political figure. And yes, we’re now in a media environment where there is no presumption of innocence; once an accusation is written about, it will likely stick to the accused, without any trial or opportunity to cross-examine a witness.

But when there are multiple accusers, all describing similar behavior, physical, not verbal . . . that benefit of the doubt evaporates fast.

Steve Deace is getting irritated with the term “open secret,” contending it is code for, “We know this person is a terrible, but disclosing/confronting it disrupts our profit margin and/or political agenda.” But I think Lachlan Markay has a more accurate definition: “long rumored, but [the] allegations were so serious and defamatory that it couldn’t be reported without extensive fact-finding.”

How many things do we know or believe that we’re not willing to fight a long and expensive slander or libel lawsuit over?

A Cuban Revolution We Could Do Without

Maureen Dowd spends time with billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and host of the reality show Shark Tank, and finds there’s a “10 percent” chance he’ll run for president in 2020 as either a Republican or an independent.

“Look, there are people who are saying we don’t need another business person,” he says, sipping iced tea. “But it’s about what you do with it, what you learn, what you can contribute and what value you can add. I’d want to come in with proof of an agenda, ‘Here’s a health care solution and I’ve already paid my own money to have it scored.’”

I have great news to share: The United States has 50 little mini-presidencies where someone can try out their executive leadership skills in government, that come with their own slightly smaller mansions, motorcades, and security details. These jobs operate essentially the same way the presidency does: trying to build legislative coalitions to pass laws, issue executive orders, and nominate judges. They’re called governorships, and for a long time, Americans saw those positions as the best way to demonstrate that a person had potential to be a good president. But apparently paying attention to places such as Baton Rouge, Austin, and Madison is just too much to ask, and the country has decided to select its presidents from the major networks’ prime-time lineup.

Maybe Mark Cuban would make a great president; maybe he would make a terrible one. Yes, he’s outspoken and flamboyant and the bane of NBA referees, and yes, he’s made a lot of money. But at heart he’s making the same “I’m the master dealmaker” pitch that Trump did.

“They always say that people vote against what they didn’t like about the previous president, right? And I think he’s so ineffective, people will look for somebody who can get something done who’s not a politician. If that’s a celebrity, that’s just an easier platform to work from. The best example is tax reform, right?”

He says he would call the top 5,000 profitable companies and say: If I’m going to give you a 20 percent corporate tax rate, I’m going to need a commitment from you that you’re going to increase the wages of your lowest-paid workers.

“If you did that,” he says, “you’d be a hero.”

Okay . . . what if only half the companies are willing make that commitment? Or only 1,000? Do you not reduce the corporate tax rate? How big a wage increase counts as keeping their word? What if they make the promise and then break it? Is this some sort of binding legal contract? Would President Cuban send his Department of Justice after the companies if they didn’t keep their promise? What if there’s a recession? What if their industry makes a great breakthrough in automation in the interim? What if there’s new foreign competition? Can they lay off workers, but raise the wages of the remaining ones?

Grand bargains and fixing government always sound easy when they’re just conversation over ice teas with Maureen Dowd.

Why are so many people who are convinced they know how to fix the government so allergic to the idea of working anywhere in government except the very top? We need smart, reform-minded problem-solvers at every level from town council and board of education to the Oval Office.

I don’t want to hear anyone touting Cuban as “a more serious Trump.”

Asked if he would send the Mavericks’ former player Dennis Rodman to negotiate with Little Rocket Man, he replies, “Why not?”

(Notice how Dowd refers to Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man” and everyone, from the Times editors to the readership, understands. For all his flaws, Trump knows how to put a nickname on someone and make it stick.)

As I mentioned earlier this week, if the election of Trump distresses you, your problem is not merely with Trump, but with the electorates that put him there — in both the GOP primary and the country as a whole. No matter how Trump’s presidency finishes, that electorate is still going to be there, unless there is a significant change in the way Americans see the responsibility of voting. (It’s not just Trump voters. Large chunks of the electorate also embraced a Socialist septuagenarian who promised free health care, free college education, free child care, and cradle-to-grave government care, all financed by taxing the rich, and of course, Hillary Clinton, a walking embodiment of secrecy, lies, arrogance, and victimhood.) We need to recognize that our leaders are not there to entertain us. It’s entirely possible that the most successful and popular governors are the ones that are the most boring.

A Mark Cuban presidential campaign would effectively insist that America needs a president who has never worked in government before, but not the current president who has never worked in government before. Let me throw out a crazy idea: What if governing is a skill that requires practice, and that one gets better at it with experience? What if a president is more successful if he knows and understands the complicated apparatus of the federal government, and doesn’t have to rely on staff for the little details like, “No new gas pipeline plans can be approved anywhere in the country if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has less than three members”?

The Dallas Mavericks don’t let you take the court if you’ve never played the sport before. Why should Americans give untested rookies the keys to the Oval Office?

‘We’re Going to Become Significant Contributors, but We Want Access.’

Hey, New York City voters, are you paying attention?

A Mayor de Blasio donor-turned-felon testified in extraordinary detail Thursday that he and his businessman pals wrote the book on city corruption — buying off the Mayor’s Office and the Police Department using brazen pay-to-play tactics.

“We’re going to become significant contributors, but we want access,” Jona Rechnitz, 34, testified telling de Blasio fund-raiser Ross Offinger after Hizzoner clinched the Democratic nod for mayor in 2013.

De Blasio soon paid Rechnitz a visit to his office, the disgraced businessman told jurors in Manhattan federal court.

De Blasio — who last year called his relationship with Rechnitz “not a particularly close’’ one — handed the wheeler-dealer his private cell-phone number and e-mail address, the witness said.

The pair then began chatting “at least” once a week about “different issues in the city” — as Rechnitz funneled about $160,000 to de Blasio’s campaign and pet political projects, said the government witness.

ADDENDA: America . . . getting great again? “The U.S. economy unexpectedly maintained a brisk pace of growth in the third quarter as an increase in inventory investment and a smaller trade deficit offset a hurricane-related slowdown in consumer spending and a decline in construction. Gross domestic product increased at a 3.0 percent annual rate in the July-September period after expanding at a 3.1 percent pace in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said on Friday.”

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