Friday, October 20, 2017

When Will They Ever Learn

The New York Times continues to perpetuate the myth that the search for truth requires a balancing of a so-called right, a so-called left, and a center that is somehow between those two poles. No wonder we are so "polarized".

The NYT, always above the fray that envelops the rest of us poor folks, has a recent installment of their We report on Right, Left, Center - You Decide (my words, not theirs) on the Right and Left React to Trump's Condolence Call Controversy. 

But the question from the press in the Rose Garden a few days ago was not - "Why haven't you called the families?". The question was "Why haven't we heard anything from you so far about the Soldiers that were killed in Niger? And what do you have to say about that?" It was the president who chose to place this in a context of condolences, invoking Obama,  that presses the hot buttons of the military families, which conveniently diverted away from sensitive issues of his policies and military tactics to execute those policies.

For example, most people had no idea we have ongoing military operations in that part of the world. As we learn about this special forces operation, the soldiers were leaving a meeting and the ambush seems to have been a trap, so they may have been betrayed.

What does that say about intelligence in that part of the world? 

We know that Chad announced an end to cooperation with the U.S. military in the fight against Boko Haram immediately following Chad being placed on the list of countries subject to the Trump administration travel ban. And that move against Chad seems to have been based on Chad missing the deadline for submission of passport documents to the U.S. for a security review.

How does that make us feel about the use of military contractors?

How does that make us feel about an arbitrary travel ban and other arbitrary decisions?

Many valid questions remain about the circumstances of the final hours and death of Sgt. La David Johnson,  the role played by government contractors and French forces. All of these factors call for serious discussion of policy. Instead, we find ourselves drawn to the basically irrelevant hot button issue of appropriateness of condolences and appropriateness of discussion of appropriateness of condolences. On that terrain, serious debate about policy can not survive. It can not even exist. And that's the goal of  DJT. Trump's instinct to sidetrack serious debate about policy wins the day yet again.

Had this been the Democrats, we know what would have happened because it did happen.

Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi.

The New York Times editors with their right/left/center balance are still clueless about context. Just like during the campaign of 2016 and just as he has done all this year, Trump defines the subject to be debated. The story becomes what he says when the story should be about what he is doing. Trump instinctively kicks the story to campaign mode, but he is the president and the press needs to cover the actions and inactions of his campaign, not the daily bob and weave of tweets and invocation of Obama and Clinton, neither of whom is in government.

Trump controls the news cycle, moving it from the NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to the condolences for fallen soldiers. Once again, Trump wins by diverting attention.

When will the New York Times ever learn?

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