The Morning Jolt


Why Did CNN Bring Back Jeffrey Toobin?

Jeffrey Toobin, staff writer at The New Yorker, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 26, 2019. (Al Drago/Reuters)

On the menu today: contemplating the madness of CNN bringing back Jeffrey Toobin; wondering whether Europe is destined to drift toward China; and the shutdown of a massive port in southern China offers more evidence that the country’s COVID-infection statistics are distant cousins to reality at most.

What Is CNN Thinking?

Bringing back and re-featuring Jeffrey Toobin is the worst thing that CNN has done since . . . I would say Chris Cuomo helping his brother Andrew with the spin response to his sexual harassment accusations, but that was just late last month.

Why? We’re in this giant national argument, often furious and vicious, about what kind of behavior gets you “canceled” and in many cases fired from your job, expelled from your college or university, and dismissed from polite society. The standards seem more nebulous than ever. Idiots are demanding authors change what they wrote in past books, because they deem the passages offensive — oftentimes dialogue from characters that is meant to demonstrate those characters say offensive things. White novelists are being told they can’t write minority protagonists, because that amounts to cultural appropriation. Gina Carano can’t be in Star Wars anymore because she made a ham-fisted Holocaust comparison. J. K. Rowling is allegedly a menace because she insists women and those who are born men and choose to identify as women are not the same thing. Don McNeil Jr.’s award-winning career at the New York Times came to a crashing end because he had used the N-word while referring to someone else saying it.

The woke social-justice warriors permit no room for error, no room for dissent, no room for disagreement or pushback. There’s no nuance, no extenuating circumstances, no empathy or understanding, and certainly no mercy or sympathy. One strike, and you’re out. One deviation from their ideology, and you’re publicly branded an untouchable. Forgiveness is seen as morally equivalent to approval.

And yet Jeffrey Toobin gets a second chance? After doing that? And then, in his first interview back, Toobin has the nerve to complain that he thinks The New Yorker magazine’s decision to fire him was “an excessive punishment”?

Note: CNN never fired Toobin; he was merely “on leave.”

Who wanted Toobin back on air? No one was clamoring for it, calling for it, protesting his departure, or demanding his return. Toobin’s been with CNN since 2002, and his departure should have opened up opportunities for some other lawyer who can explain legal concepts in layman’s terms live on television. If anyone in the media world argued that Toobin had gotten a raw deal, they did so exceptionally quietly.

(I’d also note that Toobin is 61 and has enjoyed a long and successful career. It’s hard to believe he desperately needs the money.)

Jeffrey Toobin is back for one reason and one reason only: Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN, wants him back. Although we should note that CNN’s Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy wrote, “Some anchors and hosts at CNN also expressed a desire to have Toobin back on their shows, since he has been a leading legal voice on television for decades.” Please name those hosts, host of Reliable Sources. I really want to know which CNN program hosts deemed Jeffrey Toobin so sterling a legal analyst that his actions should be forgiven and quickly forgotten. Which CNN hosts felt Toobin could talk for a few minutes about law cases better than anyone else out there, including all of the women and minority options?

To paraphrase a Vice editor, “Jeffrey Toobin is sorry . . . and in related news my unemployed friends in journalism (who have never once done anything like that!) are still unemployed.”

Let me take you way back to the late 2000s, when then-CNN president Jonathan Klein hired the disgraced former New York governor Eliot Spitzer to anchor the network’s 8 p.m. hour:

Few things are quite as depressing as this little nugget in that New York magazine piece about the state of the television-news industry: “In June, he announced that he would hire the famously black-socked and disgraced former governor Eliot Spitzer. [CNN head Jonathan] Klein faced stiff internal resistance to hiring Spitzer. When one CNN executive expressed to Klein the concern that viewers risked being turned off by Spitzer’s hooker scandal, Klein had snapped, ‘I don’t give a [f-word].’”

They were warned. They were warned that it wasn’t merely diehard Republicans whose skin crawled at the thought of Spitzer; this is the guy whose fall from grace was so epic and so laced with Shakespearean comeuppance that it inspired Juliana Margulies’s new program. They were warned, and they didn’t care. Their job is to attract viewers; they’re told, directly, that their prospective new host is the most hated man this side of the guy who cheated on Sandra Bullock, and they didn’t care. What, the Salahis were booked?

I’m never going to understand the world of cable news, or perhaps television in general. But anecdotes such as that one, and stories of the notorious behavior of Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, suggest it’s somehow even worse than an “Old Boys’ Network” or standard-issue cronyism. This is an almost gleeful celebration of unaccountability, an in-your-face, spiking-the-football mentality that once you’ve reached a certain level of success in the world of television news, you’re untouchable in the other way — no one can ever get rid of you, no matter what you do.

One other observation reinforcing the suspicion that some people are rich, powerful, or well-connected enough to exempt themselves from the harsh scrutiny of the woke social-justice-warrior crowd: I don’t know if Hunter Biden genuinely used the N-word frequently. I do know that if he were almost any other public figure on American life, there would be enormous attention paid to whether he used the word as frequently and casually as has been alleged.

Trying to Overcome the Fundamental Nature of a European Diplomat

Yesterday in the Corner, I noted that the European Union’s calling for an independent and transparent investigation into the origins of COVID-19 was nice, but not all that meaningful without action to back it up. Over in Politico’s Playbook newsletter, there’s an interview with the former U.S. ambassador to the EU, Anthony Gardner, and his comments illuminate the same phenomenon on a different topic:

Gardner had some tough advice for Europe if they really want to avoid a Trump comeback: Give Biden a win on China. Not mushy assurances of cooperation or niceties about the change in tone from America — a tangible victory that he can use to neutralize Trump’s message.

“There’s always that risk, that’s what democracies are about,” Gardner told Playbook, referring to a Biden loss in 2024. “That’s exactly why you in Europe should think about how you can contribute to the success of the administration.”

. . .“We cannot afford to go through the motions,” Gardner said. “We need to make clear to our electorate and our voters that working multilaterally, with rules and institutions, yields better results, and that communiques are no substitute for results.”

I’d love to see some genuine U.S.–European cooperation against China, but I won’t be holding my breath. The core philosophy of European political and diplomatic leaders is that international conflict must be avoided at all costs — driven by memories of World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. Thus, a trend such as the rise of an aggressive China is something for Europe to accept and adapt to, not resist. There’s always another concession that can be made, always another summit, another strongly worded communiqué of disapproval that can be watered down.

Really? A Few Positive Tests Shut Down One of China’s Biggest Ports?

The Wall Street Journal, today: “At Yantian, a container port in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, an outbreak among dockworkers has brought traffic to a virtual standstill, putting more strain on an international shipping industry that has struggled with a persistent shortage of empty containers and a weeklong blockage in the Suez Canal earlier this year.”

And yet, China’s national health commission would have you believe that there are just a handful of cases strewn across the country of a billion people. Yesterday’s report: “31 provinces (autonomous regions, municipalities) and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps reported 22 new confirmed cases, including 13 imported cases (3 in Fujian, 2 in Shanghai, 2 in Guangdong, Sichuan 2 cases, 1 case in Beijing, 1 case in Jiangsu, 1 case in Zhejiang, 1 case in Yunnan), 9 local cases (all in Guangdong); no new deaths; 9 new suspected cases, all imported cases (both in Shanghai).”

A port bigger than Los Angeles is working at 30 percent capacity . . . because of a handful of COVID-19 cases?

ADDENDUM: An important warning from Kevin Williamson that will likely not be heeded:

Inflation is destructive in and of itself — but it also is a trigger that brings into play other economic forces that can bring with them unpredictable and at times destructive outcomes. The 2001 recession was an unintended consequence of policies meant to stabilize the economy. The financial crisis and the Great Recession were, at least in part, the unintended consequences of policies meant to make it easier to buy a house and to make mortgage-lending less risky for financial institutions.


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