The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Explosion in New York City and CNN’s Botched WikiLeaks Report

Greetings from the Acela, where I’m headed up to New York City for an afternoon appearance on CNN International, but that may be canceled in light of the breaking news about an explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal near Times Square. At this time the initial reports are contradictory — some saying a pipe bomb, some saying an explosive vest. The bomb detonated and at least on person is injured. Keep in mind, the initial reports about dramatic breaking news events like this tend to be wrong.

Why Not Name Sources That Burn You?

Just how did two of CNN’s Manu Raju’s sources separately make the exact same mistake when describing a September 2016 e-mail from WikiLeaks to the Trump campaign?

CNN Public Relations says “the network does not believe that the sources intended to deceive the reporters.” Have they checked? How certain are they? How upset are all of the reporters and editors who worked on this story?

Despite the network’s assertion, it’s easier to believe that this wasn’t a pair of enormously coincidental innocent mistakes, but a deliberate effort on the part of two coordinating sources to get CNN to report erroneous information that will appear extremely damaging to the Trump administration. How likely is it that two Democratic congressional staffers decided to get together and use CNN as the vehicle for their preferred narrative, that is, WikiLeaks coordinated the release of confidential materials with the Trump campaign?

Recall that ABC News called its drastic change to a story about Trump instructing Michael Flynn to reach out to Russia as a “clarification” instead of a “correction,” a too-cute evasion that affirms people’s worst suspicions about the news media.

At the very least, can CNN acknowledge whether the two sources were on the Democratic side of the aisle?

We Shouldn’t Take Any Moore

Watch the video for yourself. First, a candidate like Roy Moore should know who the Guardian newspaper is, and that he won’t be getting softball questions.

Interviewer: [Reagan] said that Russia was the focus of evil in the modern world.

Roy Moore: You could say very well that about America, couldn’t you?

Interviewer: You think?

Moore: We promote a lot of bad things.

Interviewer: Such as?

Moore:  Gay marriage.

Interviewer: That’s the very argument Vladimir Putin makes.

Moore: Maybe Putin is right. Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know.

Maybe you strongly oppose gay marriage, maybe you support it. But I’d like to see Roy Moore elaborate on how America’s alleged “promotion” of gay marriage makes it “the focus of evil in the modern world,” in a way that outpaces, say, North Korea and Pakistan’s proliferation of nuclear weapons technology, or Iran’s support of terrorism, or China’s strong-arm tactics and resource exploitation, or the various powerful figures and institutions promoting slavery in the Middle East and North Africa. Really, in the category of “focus of evil in the modern world,” the United States of America out-ranks ISIS?

Is it too much to ask that any Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate actually like the United States of America?

Does Roy Moore know gay marriage wasn’t invented in America? The Netherlands recognized “unregistered cohabitation” in rent law in 1979, Denmark recognized gay marriages in 1989, Norway recognized civil unions in 1993, Sweden did the following year and the first gay marriage in Cambodia occurred in 1995. The concept of gay marriage around the world is not primarily driven by American policies; it is driven by people who are gay or lesbian who want in on the institution that has bound heterosexual couples together since more or less the dawn of human civilization.

“We’re the focus of evil in the modern world” not only is not a conservative sentiment or a Republican sentiment, I think it’s self-evidently an anti-American sentiment.

Wait, it gets worse:

In response to a question from one of the only African Americans in the audience — who asked when Moore thought America was last “great” — Moore acknowledged the nation’s history of racial divisions, but said: “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another. . . . Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

This is historically illiterate; slavery tore apart families.

This is who Alabama voters are on the verge of sending to the Senate.

A whole lot of nonsense arguments are getting deployed in Moore’s defense, starting with the notion that those who find Moore unacceptable are insufficiently conservative, insufficiently pro-life, or somehow biased or hateful against Alabamans. Do you think any of those labels apply to Richard Shelby, Alabama’s other Republican senator?

“I’d rather see the Republican win, but I’d rather see a Republican write-in. I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I didn’t vote for Roy Moore,” Shelby told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

The Alabama senator said he has no reason not to believe the women who have come forward, adding that where there’s “a lot of smoke, there’s got to be some fire somewhere.”

“(W)e call it a tipping point,” Shelby said. “I think, so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip — when it got to the 14-year-old’s story, that was enough for me. I said I can’t vote for Roy Moore.”

Or how about South Carolina senator Tim Scott?

Well, the Constitution requires us to A) if he wins, and still an if, if he wins, if he wins we have to seat him. Then there will immediately be an ethics investigation. We’ll have a greater opportunity for us to look into all the issues, the allegations, and perhaps even talk with some of the folks who are witnesses. That will give us a clear picture. I’ve always said that so far, as far as I can tell, the allegations are significantly stronger than the denial. And I’m going to let my decision be made by the breadth of information and evidence that I’m able to review during that process.

 . . . listen, I wasn’t supporting Roy Moore before the allegations. The allegations reinforced why I wasn’t there. The good news is, thank god for leaders like John Ratcliffe, Trey Gowdy, Mia Love, a diverse group of young thinkers who will take our country and our party in a better direction.

Or consider the perspective of Cory Gardner, the Colorado Republican Senator who’s heading up the National Republican Senatorial Committee and who presumably would want to elect as many Republicans to the chamber as possible: “Roy Moore will never have the support of the senatorial committee. We will never endorse him. We won’t support him.”

These Republican senators would seem to have as much motivation to get that fifty-second GOP vote as anyone. And yet, they don’t see Roy Moore as worth it to get that fifty-second vote. If they see him as a long-term, bigger-picture liability for the party . . . why should anyone else on the right argue otherwise?

Lead Us Not Into Mistranslated Divine Instructions

If you say the Our Father prayer, or, the Lord’s prayer, there’s a line that may have always sounded a little odd to your ears: “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” No doubt you’ve heard the joke, “lead us not into temptation; I can find it myself.”

This morning brings the news that the line doesn’t sound quite right to Pope Francis, either, and he’s contending it’s mistranslated:

It has been a question of theological debate and liturgical interpretation for years, and now Pope Francis has joined the discussion: Does the Lord’s Prayer, Christendom’s resonant petition to the Almighty, need an update?

In a new television interview, Pope Francis said the common rendering of one line in the prayer — “lead us not into temptation” — was “not a good translation” from ancient texts. “Do not let us fall into temptation,” he suggested, might be better because God does not lead people into temptation; Satan does.

“A father doesn’t do that,” the pope said. “He helps you get up right away. What induces into temptation is Satan.”

Before I go any further, I should point out that I don’t really aim to be a religious writer, and your theological mileage may vary.

If you subscribe to a general philosophy of individual responsibility, the notion that someone or something out there is leading you to a decision to do the morally wrong thing can get . . . a little frustrating, or an easy route to a moral dodge. If the Devil is out there tempting you to do the wrong thing, well, it’s not entirely your fault. It’s not a particularly fair fight; he’s a fallen angel who’s the Prince of Lies, armed with a litany of illusions and powers, who’s managed to fool many of the great heroes of literature and myth; you’re just you.

If there’s something human beings are really good at, it’s finding other people to blame. Everyone wants a scapegoat, and the world offers no shortage of potential choices: the booze made me do it, my psychological conditions/anxiety/stress made me do it, it’s my parents’ fault, it’s my teachers’ fault, it’s my bosses’ fault . . . it’s society’s fault, it’s the media’s fault, she made me do it, he made me do it, my controllable compulsion made me do it, the Devil made me do it.

But in the end, whether you see temptation as generated by an entity like the Devil, or that it’s merely a natural part of human existence, you end up with the same conclusion: doing the right thing is a conscious choice, and it is often not an easy one.

Then again, perhaps “lead us not into temptation” is an acknowledgement of human frailty and weakness. Don’t lead us even into the neighborhood of temptation, because we’re likely to end up knocking on its door if we get too close.

ADDENDA: If all goes well, I should appear on CNN International’s “State of America” today at 2:30, but that presumes I can figure out a way to get from Penn Station to the CNN building at Columbus Circle in a timely manner with everything altered because of the explosion. Stay safe, everybody.

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