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Jason Linkins   |   May 31, 2016    1:02 PM ET

Here's a quaint memory from a bygone period in American politics: Back in November 2012, after President Barack Obama secured his re-election, The New York Times' Scott Shane reported that with "the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term," his administration had "accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures."

It was, as Shane noted, the latest attempt to formalize these policies and protocols since reports that previous summer had revealed the "shifting procedures for compiling 'kill lists'" and the like. But -- but! -- it had, apparently, become "particularly urgent" to nail this stuff down once "it appeared that Mitt Romney might win the presidency."

Mitt Romney, folks! Who, for all his faults, seemed to be one of the least power-mad people ever to seek the Oval Office. We're talking about a guy whose chocolate milk intake is probably governed by a spreadsheet -- whose history of high-risk, impulsive behavior seems restricted to that one time he ironed a shirt that he was still wearing. This was enough to get the Obama administration thinking, "Hey, maybe we better batten down the hatches on this loosey-goosey little assassination program we got going on."

You know where I'm going with this. But here's the thing: we've known all along where we were going with this. It's just that not enough people cared. Liberals more or less trusted that their guy would do the right thing with all his power, and conservatives were torn between hating Obama and really, really loving the idea of drones killing people from the sky.

So the drones pounded on, and now the GOP nominee for president is a guy who respects the rule of law about as much as did Heath Ledger's Joker. I refer, of course, to game-show luminary and rogue talking ball of snot from the Mucinex commercials Donald Trump.

Trump's rise through the ranks has, in many quarters, touched off concerns about the ersatz mogul potentially finding himself in close proximity to the nuclear codes. Believe it or not, there might actually be worse things to worry about. America's drone program -- particularly its under-publicized whoopsie-daisy tendency to kill civilians and drive previously non-radicalized people toward apocalyptic death cults -- seems to be precisely the sort of thing you wouldn't want Trump messing with. Especially if the idea of Mitt Romney running the program makes your blood run cold.

Trump is, after all, the presidential candidate who vowed on national television that a cornerstone of his anti-terror policy would be to "take out" the families of known terrorists. Trump left people feeling a little agog and aghast when he said it, but here's a fun fact: This is a thing that President Barack Obama has actually done, intentionally, with drones.

Heck, right at the beginning of his memoir Worthy Fights, Obama-era CIA Director Leon Panetta describes a situation where the U.S. has located a targeted combatant, but unfortunately he's in close proximity to his family. What to do, what to do? Kill him, that’s what, along with his wife -- a woman “with whom this country had no quarrel,” Panetta writes. The CIA chief goes on to assure us that these decisions “are never easy,” and that they often require “the fingering of a rosary, the whispered Hail Mary.” Which actually sounds pretty easy, if I’m being honest.

In fact, there's not a lot of room for Trump to do something truly unique with the drone program, besides his vow to wage a less "politically correct" war with it. Presumably this means that Trump will be more ostentatious in the way he celebrates killing civilians, the same way he seems to get sprung whenever protesters emerge at his rallies. Maybe he’ll skip the whole rosary part, and grant himself his own market-rate indulgence.

At this juncture, let's pause and consider the high school civics student -- if those are still a thing -- who has to answer the question "Who has the power to declare war?" In a more conventional era, the answer would simply be "Congress." Nowadays, it might be more appropriate to give this imaginary student a little more leeway to properly define Congress' role in warmaking, which might best be summarized as "¯\_(ツ)_/¯."

Over at The Week, Michael Brendan Dougherty rightly assails the simpering passivity that has allowed executive power to drift so far from its constitutional bounds during the past two presidencies:

In their lack of jealousy for their constitutional powers, in their opportunistic indifference when the president inserts American troops into a handful of civil wars in the Middle East without congressional approval, in their utter passivity and cravenness before the Executive branch, our ruling class has been implicitly crying out for the rule of a tyrant. Donald Trump is just answering the call.

That's a pretty fair assessment. Congress has reduced its own role in all of this according to its preference for political expedience. Its preferred means of oversight has come in the form of blanket Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, which positions lawmakers as essentially the Statler and Waldorf of U.S. military doings. From that perch, they can take credit when things are going well and offer fervent criticism when they are not, all the while absolving themselves from responsibility. (Unless, of course, the president finds it convenient to put them on the spot for a military action he doesn't want to undertake, as Obama did in Syria.)

It's true that back in 2008, Obama ran for office as someone who'd undo the Bush-era executive-power abuses. But the fact is, Obama took to said abuses with aplomb, overseeing their expansion while Congress just kinda sat around and whistled. Now we have this tidy little "kill chain" process to deliver fully automated death from above, a process that's only occasionally complicated by the fact that, for example, you can't get clear permission to strike from a government that's been taken over by rebels, like in Yemen. Details, details. Just another "politically correct" hiccup that Trump can cut through with his storied autocratic efficiency.

Liberals who abandoned their own criticisms of the Bush era to support Obama -- who definitely wears the white hat, don't worry -- might start returning to their previous point of view on the matter as Trump edges closer to attaining power. How will Congress adapt to these changing times? At a recent briefing with reporters, The Huffington Post asked a Trump-supporting GOP senator whether he was worried about giving The Donald the drone joystick, the chance to waterboard detainees or something even worse. The senator, who requested anonymity, replied as follows:

It's not gonna be Donald Trump singularly, in a room by himself, making decisions. So let me give you one other area where I think the Obama administration has done a good job, that actually impacts all of these questions that you're asking about Trump and national security and foreign policy. If you look at the generals that have been nominated and confirmed... there's a really, really outstanding group of admirals and generals that are running the U.S. military right now... They're gonna have an impact on these kinds of issues and these kinds of questions. With regard to torture, the law is out there right now. It's the Army Field Manual. Right now. That's the law. You know, those guys aren't going away. Chairmans and a lot of the chiefs -- they're coming in and they're going to be here for four-year terms. We have an institutional structure on foreign and national security policy that doesn't necessarily give one person the remote. And the guys around, the guys and women who are already part of that structure, are some of the best members of the military we have.

Leaving aside the fact that the answer wasn't simply "Don't worry, we trust Donald Trump to make good decisions," it's interesting that this senator's response basically boils down to "Don't worry, there are so many smart and responsible people sitting around who will stop bad things from happening."

So... where have those guys been this whole time?

Ryan Grim contributed reporting.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   May 26, 2016    4:18 PM ET

So, that happened. After months of cautiously straddling the line between the Democratic presidential candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has suddenly injected herself into the 2016 race in a big way, emerging as an antagonist to presumptive Republican nominee and white-supremacist land-lamprey Donald Trump. Trump, in turn, has become obsessed with Warren. Might she have struck a nerve? If so, the Clinton campaign, which has mostly recycled old Trump attacks from the ranks of the GOP's fallen, could use more of Warren's unflappable zinging. On this week's podcast, we discuss a good way of obtaining that: naming Warren as Clinton's running mate.  

As Clinton contemplates the near future in which she becomes the official Democratic nominee and sets herself to the task of preparing for what promises to be an ugly general election campaign, she has some clear needs that she'll have to address in timely fashion. As it happens, Warren may be capable of filling all of them.

Clinton's first major task will be uniting the Democratic Party base behind her candidacy. To do so, she'll have to undertake the brokering of a peace accord with Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, with a pact that knits up everything that has come to be raveled during the primary. By naming Warren as her running mate, she'll cover a lot of ground with this cohort, by permanently enshrining Sanders' main briefs about income inequality and corporate corruption as a part of her campaign's identity. And she'll gain, in Warren, someone who is legitimately better at relating complex issues of economic inequality to ordinary people than Sanders is. 

As the past week has demonstrated, Clinton will be getting a fairly reliable attack dog as well. Warren seems to understand innately that what rattles Trump the most is anything that points out what a ridiculous, mean-minded fraud he is. In turn, she is also -- apparently -- rather impervious to his retorts. She seems to enjoy the fact that he hits back, and is eager to escalate. 

There is also the fact that to Democrats, the Massachusetts senator is Eliza-bae. She's a genuine superstar with the party's liberal base in ways that other presumed short-listers, like Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, are not. The fandom that has come to surround Warren has become its own social media perpetual-motion machine, ensuring that her utterances obtain a cross-platform virality.

Obviously, we're not suggesting that Warren wouldn't face challenges as Clinton's running mate. She would, for example, have to greatly expand her knowledge base to cover the multitude of issues for which a presidential administration would have to account. She'd also be leaving a Massachusetts Senate seat behind, eventually forcing Democrats into a special election matchup that's not currently in the offing.

But this could work. Right now, in many ways, Clinton stands in Warren's shadow. She's the representative from a bygone era of politics, while Warren is at the nexus of all the ways the Democratic Party is shifting. A partnership would allow Clinton to borrow some of that shine. It would bring a hopeful energy to an election that seems likely to be grueling and gutteral. More than anything else, Warren's involvement on the ticket might actually get people thinking about Hillary Clinton in a new way.

Really, the only question is, "Does Hillary Clinton want to win this thing, or not?"

Elsewhere on this week’s podcast: In the commonwealth of Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has given hundreds of thousands of ex-felons who have paid their debts to society the opportunity to vote. But Republicans in Virginia are suing to reverse McAuliffe's executive order. It's all touched off a mad dash to get people registered. We'll take a look at that effort and the partisan lines that have been drawn.

In addition, every year, scores of people come to the United States from abroad, seeking asylum, in the hopes that they can live a life free of danger. But in Atlanta, these people face courts that deny asylum at a staggeringly disproportionate rate, compared with other parts of the country. Our own Elise Foley traveled to Atlanta to find out why. She joins us to share what she discovered.

Finally, are you prepared to live in a world where billionaires use their deep pockets to litigate the journalists they don't like out of existence? That's a trick question, actually, because this future is now, thanks to Silicon Valley plutocrat Peter Thiel, who admitted this week to funding litigation against Gawker Media as a part of a personal vendetta. It raises the question of whether he's provided a blueprint for other aggrieved billionaires to follow.

“So, That Happened” is hosted by Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney. Joining them this week: Huffington Post reporters Nick Baumann, Elise Foley, and Samantha Lachman..

This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Christine Conetta.

To listen to this podcast later, download our show on iTunes. While you’re there, please subscribe to, rate and review our show. You can check out other HuffPost podcasts here.

Jason Linkins   |   May 26, 2016   12:29 PM ET

Let us begin with a stipulation: Documentaries, no matter how artful their sheen of objectivity is, are by their very nature biased. And that's okay. We accept that documentary features obtain their relevance because of a singular editorial focus: an argument that must be heard by someone who feels powerfully obliged to make that argument.

We can live with this because documentary artists promise us something in return: toughness. As a viewer, we want to be assured that the people behind the documentary have undertaken an intellectually rigorous effort to assure that their end product isn't weak and naive. We need to be able to accept as a given that the documentary's creators are forthrightly doing battle in the marketplace of ideas, that they understand the necessity of posing a compelling argument, and that they accept the fact that someone could come along the next week and out-argue them. 

It's pretty clear that "Under The Gun" -- the Katie Couric executive-produced film that seeks to "[examine] the events and people who have kept the gun debate fierce and the progress slow" -- has failed the test of toughness. This is pretty bad news for people who feel that the gun debate has been fierce and the progress slow!

As you may have heard by now, "Under The Gun" features a scene that's altogether startling in its intellectual dishonesty. About 22 minutes into the movie, in an interview session with members of a gun rights group called the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Couric poses this question: “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”

There is nothing untoward, of course, about asking tough questions in interviews -- even ones that are colored by the tinge of "gotcha." Anyone who's watched a Sunday Morning politics show knows that this is basically their stock-in-trade. But when Chuck Todd poses this sort of question on "Meet The Press," the cameras keep rolling, and we watch his interviewee contend with the inquiry.

At this moment in "Under The Gun," it appears as if the documentarians' cameras do the same -- capturing the members of this group silent, perplexed, and unable to respond to the inquiry. 

But here's an exciting twist: It turns out that this is all bullshit!

Raw audio, provided by the Virginia Citizens Defense League to the Washington Free Beacon's Stephen Gutowski, reveals that what happened in that moment is not the damning, embarrassing silence that the documentary depicts. Rather, it reveals that the group immediately attempted to grapple with the question.  

As The Washington Post's Erik Wemple chronicles, the filmmakers -- essentially caught red-handed -- have offered up a range of half-hearted apologies and not-to-be believed excuses. Here's "Under The Gun" co-producer and director Stephanie Soechtig:

There are a wide range of views expressed in the film. My intention was to provide a pause for the viewer to have a moment to consider this important question before presenting the facts on Americans’ opinions on background checks. I never intended to make anyone look bad and I apologize if anyone felt that way.

So, let me get this straight. The filmmakers actively sought out a "range of views." Then they actively decided, for whatever reason, that it might be nice for viewers "to have a moment to consider this important question." And then, I guess the documentarians' cameras and editing bay became self-aware somehow, seizing control of the production and fashioning a false moment from this exchange. Soechtig, suddenly and strangely suggesting that she has only intermittent agency over her own creation, says that she "never intended to make anyone look bad." Sure hope she's able to finger the real culprit, then! 

This shift, between active and passive, is proof enough that the documentarians failed to meet the toughness standard. But here is where I'm puzzled: Why did the filmmakers seek out these people's opinions if they never intended to include them? There are a multitude of ways to present the idea that the "gun debate" has been "fierce and the progress slow." These filmmakers chose to take their argument to the Virginia Citizens Defense League. It was their decision to get into the arena. And then it was their decision to erase the competition that they had enjoined.

I can't speak to the filmmakers' mindset. You can listen to the interview for yourself, and be just as perplexed as me about why this exchange was deemed to be not fit for inclusion, or why it shook the foundations of their premise so badly. Understanding that you are going to be confronted with an argument that might not support your thesis -- and with which you may have to grapple with to continue -- is the sort of thing you're supposed to steel yourself for before you make a documentary. You don't reveal truths or win debates by erasing other ideas from memory.

The end result here is a documentary that does a great disservice to its audience, arming viewers with the false assurance that a tough question didn't receive an answer, when in fact it did. This film's audience has been denied the opportunity to wrestle with those answers -- a promise the film explicitly makes when it shows Couric engaging with the members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League in the first place. The filmmakers' weaknesses have been thus passed along to their viewers. 

If you invite an argument, contend with the argument. The end.


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   May 24, 2016    3:02 PM ET

Every four years, as Democrats and Republicans plan for their national conventions, party leaders come together to decide on how to best dust off and shine up their respective parties' platform -- that catch-all proclamation that signals their political priorities and policy goals. Typically, the publication of these platforms results in a couple days of news stories, in which noteworthy alterations are documented and the other side levies partisan objections.

But this year, there's an interesting twist: Bernie Sanders -- the presumptive second-place finisher in the Democratic primary -- has been granted the opportunity to play a role on the platform committee. Which means that the Democratic Party's platform document may receive up to four days of coverage. Perhaps even five.

If this seems like a cynical way of viewing what is ostensibly an important party document, I invite you to muddle through the last Democratic party platform, authored in President Barack Obama’s re-election year. A red-hot manifesto it is not. Over the course of some 25,000-or-so words, the party outlines, in the safest possible terms, what it stands for. Everything is poll-tested to within an inch of its literary life.

Along the way, the platform is salted with marketing bromides and vague political platitudes. Credit is given to Obama for many accomplishments which need to, in the eyes of the party, continue being accomplished. And, in keeping with recent Democratic Party election-year strategies, much effort is undertaken to cast the GOP in a bad light ("The other guys are crazy!"). It's a tradition that will no doubt continue now that the presumptive Republican Party nominee is reality TV personality and North Pacific Subtropical Gyre garbage patch Donald Trump.

The objectionable nature of Trump's candidacy may be one thing on which this year's platform committee might be able to quickly agree. In an unusual move, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is allowing Sanders to name five appointees to the 15-member committee, instead of reserving the right to name the entire committee for herself. Under this arrangement, presidential rival Hillary Clinton's campaign will get to pick six members and Wasserman-Schultz will name four, including the committee chair, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

As Mother Jones' Kevin Drum points out, the buried news may be that Sanders is signaling that he understands he won't win this nomination. Whether or not this is true, the independent Vermont senator is hailing this as a major, substantive concession. And he's named a quintet of unconventional-by-party-insider standards as his emissaries: Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), environmental campaigner Bill McKibben, Native American activist Deborah Parker, racial justice advocate (and Obama critic) Cornel West and DNC member James Zogby.

Clinton's picks are decidedly more in keeping with her "barrier-breakers" theme: American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union leader Paul Booth, former EPA head Carol Browner, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), Ohio state Rep. Alicia Reece, former State Department official Wendy Sherman and Center for American Progress head Neera Tanden.

So, one way in which this arrangement will generate more news than is typically created by the platform committee will be watching West and Tanden co-author a document. But beyond the soap opera aspect of this collaboration, there are several areas in which Sanders' representatives could alter what's traditionally a very staid and cautious party declaration in significant ways.

1. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict 

Since it was announced that Sanders was going to have representation on the platform committee, the bulk of the attention has gone to his appointment of Zogby, whose pro-Palestinian leanings have made headlines. The Democrats' traditional platform calls for a two-state solution and an engaged peace process, but it's fairly clear which negotiating partner earns the party's favor. In the 2012 platform document, Israel is mentioned 16 times, as compared to three mentions of Palestinians. It touts how it's worked to maintain "Israel's qualitative military edge" -- highlighting the U.S.-funded Iron Dome system by which rockets from Hamas are thwarted -- while primarily focusing the demand-side of the platform on the Palestinians.

Sanders has called for a more "even-handed" approach to reaching a peace in recent weeks -- drawing a contrast with the more notably hawkish Clinton. Whether Zogby might be influential in this direction remains to be seen -- though he could draw attention to the ever-thorny issue of Israeli settlements, which was not mentioned at all in the 2012 platform document.

It is possible to overstate Zogby's influence in this regard: Clinton appointees Tanden and Sherman are both well-liked by progressive Israel policy shop J Street. And the Democratic Party is no stranger to conflict on this issue -- or surviving that conflict -- as 2012's row over the words "God" and "Jerusalem" demonstrated.

2. The Working Class

In the 2012 Democratic Party platform document, the middle class and the revival of their economic fortunes gets top billing. And it's presented as the overarching goal of the party itself. But while the middle class has had a stumbling renewal since the crash years, it's the working class that has truly taken it on the chin. You have to dig really far down into the document before you come to the place where the lives of those who face "poverty" and "food insecurity" are finally addressed.

Sanders' appointees could drive more attention to the unmet needs of these underserved citizens. This could be a place where some of the issues that have divided Clinton and Sanders on the debate stage -- such as the minimum wage -- are finally resolved. This should be of particular interest to Democrats, if only because of the efforts that have been undertaken by their Republican opponents to maintain and enhance barriers to voting. As the Brennan Center for Justice pointed out around the same time the Democrats redrafted their platform in 2012, "More than 1 million eligible voters in these states fall below the federal poverty line and live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office open more than two days a week."

In addition, while Democrats have, over the past four years, warmed to Silicon Valley innovators and the fruits of their labors (to say nothing of seamlessly swinging through the revolving door of political influence and Valley firms), in recent weeks, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D. Mass.) -- who's been straddling the line between the Sanders and Clinton campaigns -- has heaped a hefty helping of skepticism on the "gig economy," pointing out that some very basic labor standards are being eroded by all the zazzy disruption. This could be another interesting aspect of the party platform to watch.

3. Fracking Skepticism

 In the previous party platform, Democrats celebrated their support for an "all-of-the-above energy policy." But support for "clean coal" (which is not a thing) and "cheap, abundant natural gas," probably represented some red flags to environmental activists. Here is another ripe area for conflict between the Sanders and Clinton camps.

As ABC News' Maryalice Parks reported in April, Sanders has lately been adding some anti-fracking riffs to his standard stump speech, going so far as to propose a nation-wide ban on the practice: "If we are serious about combating climate change, we need to put an end to fracking not only in New York and Vermont, but all over this country.” This is in contrast to Clinton, who promised to put limits on this method of natural gas extraction during the campaign season, but nevertheless has a history of "support[ing] the technology as a potential method for reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil." It's a safe bet that McKibben will be aligned with Sanders on this.

Another important reason why this issue is close to Sanders' heart is that fracking has a disproportionate impact on the poor as well. As Abre' Conner, an attorney with the Kern County Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment told In These Times' Hannah Guzik, “When we look at where the fracking wells are being located,when we look at the health impacts across the state of California and really across the country, we see the same types of issues and the same types of disparities that we’ve seen with education and voting rights.”

4. Black Lives Matter

As has been repeatedly noted during the primary season, support for Clinton in the black community has a sharp generational break, with older African-Americans backing the former Secretary of State while younger members of that cohort more readily aligning with Sanders. This is understandable, considering the major economic themes that each candidate has advanced.

Clinton's approach to mitigating the underlying income inequality of the African-American community would be to "break barriers" -- that is to say, diversify the elite class of professionals and allow more entrance points to people who have been traditionally excluded. Sanders, by contrast, would seek to level the income playing field by providing free college tuition and expanding access to affordable health care. Additionally, the two candidates have fallen out repeatedly over matters that weigh heavily in the minds of younger African-Americans, such as mass incarceration and police brutality. 

As Vox's Dara Lind notes, the appointment of West to the platform committee could disrupt the Democratic Party's traditional approach to African-American voters. West has been a critic of the way that Democrats keep the African-American voter bloc in what he sees as a perpetual state of "electoral capture," wherein these voters are caught between the GOP, which strenuously alienates them, and the Democratic Party, which doesn't need to do much to remain the more attractive option. To Lind's reckoning, West would likely push for concrete promises, focused on the youth and the economy they're set to inherit.

5. The Citizens United/ Wall Street Connection

This is, of course, the issue that animated Sanders' involvement in the race from the beginning -- the corrupt nexus between loose and anti-democratic campaign finance laws and the massive amount of influence that big Wall Street banks and private corporations are able to bulk-buy on Capitol Hill. 

The 2012 Democratic Party platform is, in general, critical of much of this as well. But it hasn't matched the zeal of Sanders. "Our opponents have applauded the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United and welcomed the new flow of special interest money with open arms," say the authors of the 2012 platform document, in the only instance in which "Citizens United" is mentioned by name. "In stark contrast," they continue, "we believe we must take immediate action to curb the influence of lobbyists and special interests on our political institutions." One might note that you can hardly describe the effort to curb this corruption that followed as "immediate action."

Sanders' committee appointees will inevitably ask for some more muscular language in the platform document. Heck, they'll most likely seek to make the platform document as hotly condemnatory as Sanders has been on the stump.

"We believe that we will have the representation on the platform drafting committee to create a Democratic platform that reflects the views of millions of our supporters who want the party to address the needs of working families in this country and not just Wall Street, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industry and other powerful special interests,” Sanders said when he greeted the news of the DNC's concession to him. You can expect this to be the lodestar of his appointee's overall efforts.

Whether or not the platform document will be a watershed moment in the Democratic Party's election year, or fade from memory soon after the convention ends, is an open question. In general, it's not a binding document. It doesn't force Clinton, or any Democrat, really, to radically alter their positions, their campaign strategy, or their policy goals.

But Slate's Jim Newell, who predicted that this concession would come, says that this arrangement will be of great importance because it will be the venue where "Hillary and Bernie will make peace." Newell reckons that Clinton might very readily give in to carving the $15 minimum wage into the platform's planks, as well as a promise to undo Citizens United specifically and to reduce the influence of corporate money more broadly. He also notes that the positions of Sanders and Clinton on expanding Medicare are close enough to reasonably forge a compromise.

But it won't always be that easy. Per Newell:

On other issues it’s difficult to see how they’d reconcile their differences. One expects that Sanders would push hard for a plank to break up the big banks. That’s just a policy with which Clinton disagrees. Clinton technically does not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but no one actually believes her on that, and she—and other Democratic leaders—would flinch at any platform plank explicitly opposing all trade agreements negotiated by President Obama. Clinton does not support a blanket ban on fracking; Sanders does. How does that get written up? And how willing is Clinton to change language on something as tense as the Israeli–Palestinian conflict?

In short, granting Sanders the right to put surrogates on the platform committee may be a concession that knits the two candidates together in common cause or the invitation to a deeper crisis of disunity. Ironically, it will probably only make news if the result of this attempt at peacemaking is a complete failure. 


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   May 24, 2016    1:02 PM ET

As you may recall, back in January, presumptive GOP nominee and smirking meat gargoyle Donald Trump, distressed at Fox News' plans to continue employing anchor Megyn Kelly, bailed from the Fox debate in Des Moines, Iowa. To get a full measure of vindication, he staged a bit of cable television counter-programming, hosting a rally of his own, at which he claimed to have raised several million dollars for veterans

In the months that followed, campaign reporters have been captivated by an enduring mystery: To whom did that money go? How much money was raised in the first place? On April 22, prompted by a CNN report that raised questions about these contributions, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks "shared a list" with CNN, "showing 27 veterans organizations that have received a total of $2.9 million to date" from the rally. That still leaves some $3 million in the wind.

Since then, the Trump campaign has walked back the original claim that $6 million had been raised for veterans. As the Washington Post reported, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski admitted the event had only raised $4.5 million, blaming donors who allegedly reneged on their promises to kick in some booty. (For whatever reason, Lewandowski would not name these donors, perhaps because they are figments of the imagination.) 

This week, veterans protested outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, demanding accountability from the mogul and accusing him of dishonestly hyping his charitable gesture.

Tuesday morning, on his Instagram account, Trump deflected the criticism (onto the Clinton Foundation) and called the media "dishonest" for pursuing the story. He then restated his claim that he'd raised $6 million for vets, despite the efforts of his own campaign manager to walk that back.

In response, Washington Post campaign reporter David Fahrenthold took to Twitter and shared an excerpt from the transcript of an interview that Post reporters conducted with Trump "earlier this month," in which the paper's national business reporter, Drew Harwell, repeatedly questions Trump on the veracity of his claims pertaining to these donations.

In response, Trump basically lies himself silly.

[Click here to enlarge the transcript.]

Perhaps the best part of this interview is when Trump says he is "honored by" the fact that he allegedly gave away money to veterans. Pro-tip: When you donate money, you are "honoring" the recipients. You are supposed to be humbled at the opportunity to donate.

But for all of Trump's protestations about how the Post will inevitably cover this story with "negative spin," this is a case in which the actual facts -- should they match Trump's own claims -- would be a slam-dunk defense. But Trump refuses repeated entreaties to reveal who ended up with this charity money, insisting that he's not obligated to furnish that information. Which is perhaps true! But it's pretty unnecessary to refuse when he could finally put to bed the contention that this rally was just another Trump-authored scam.

Based upon this interview, it looks like this wasn't even a particularly well-thought-out scam. Speaking of, here's the exciting twist ending, courtesy of Fahrenthold and his Post colleague, national reporter Mark Berman:

That's too bad, as Trump's pretend spokesman may know the truth about this.

Fahrenthold has a piece up today accounting for all the knowns and unknowns with regard to Trump's donations to veterans, so please read the whole thing.


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Promoting Female Employees Does Not Let Trump Off the Hook for Sexism

Emily Long   |   May 20, 2016    3:52 PM ET

Believe everything and nothing when it comes to Donald Trump. That's the message for American news consumers following Saturday's New York Times piece by Michael Barbaro and Megan Twohey about the Republican presidential candidate's personal and professional interactions with women. He'll call a woman he just met a "stunning Trump girl" as though she were his property, then defy his father by appointing a woman to a powerful position in constructing one of his actual properties. (It all got more complicated when Rowanne Brewer Lane, the "stunning Trump girl," went on Fox & Friends to say the Times misrepresented her.)

So how do we make sense of Trump's actions towards women? It matters when we're talking about a person who could one day meet and negotiate with world leaders like Angela Merckel and Christine Lagarde on behalf of the American people. What we do know is that the Times wrote a piece about the type of man we've probably all met before, who loves both his mother and the women in the pages of a Victoria's Secret catalogue. He believes beautiful women are an asset to a carefully-cultivated image, but also knows they can achieve great things. There are men in my family who think this way, and I love them dearly. I don't know personally the husband of Donald Trump's main political opponent, but history suggests he shares a few of these traits, along with more than a few other elected male politicians currently roaming the marble halls of Washington, D.C.

However: Also true is that promoting a woman does not mean Mr. Trump would be a good president for women, any more than saying, "I have friends who are Jewish" would mean Mel Gibson is not an anti-Semite. Mr. Trump is not off the hook for being a sexist just for giving a handful of women professional opportunities that they might not otherwise have had under other chauvinist tycoons; indeed, he takes advantage of them by acknowledging, according to former employee Barbara A. Res, that women have to work harder than men.

For many people, whether they're youth or adults, reconciling Trump the sexist with Trump the promoter can be tricky business. Working at The LAMP, an organization that teaches young people to be more critical of the media they engage with on a daily basis, I see how difficult it is to unravel these messages. I'm not surprised Brewer Lane told Fox & Friends she wasn't offended by Mr. Trump; when you're in an industry like modeling that traditionally values only your outward appearance, a statement like that from a man like him is a career endorsement. Whether Fox & Friends viewers took that context into consideration when they considered her role in the Times piece is another question; in my interpretation, the Times reporters did not. They assumed Brewer Lane was being insulted, whether she knew it or not at the time.

The Times, Mr. Barbaro and Ms. Twohey would have their work cut out for them if they took on a larger-scope, follow-up piece about unraveling these contradictory messages. How do we hold men responsible accountable for saying, and even doing, vile things that they might not know are wrong? (For the record, I think Trump knows fully what he says and does. I can't say the same for some of the men in my family.) I believe it's important for women and girls to call out misogynistic behavior at home, but this isn't always easily done. The LAMP encourages this in its programs and tools, in which young people talk back to even subtle stereotypes not just around women, but also around men, age and race. Still, much more needs to be done in this area, and more allies are needed.

Mentioned in the Times piece is an incident from the 1970s where Ivana Trump, then Ivana Zelnickova, attempted to order fish at a restaurant. Donald Trump's father Fred made a scene, insisting that she would have the steak, and Ivana pushed back. Later, Donald Trump stood by his father's behavior. Fred Trump may have been set in his ways, but imagine if Ivana had the language at hand to show her future husband how condescending and insulting it can be for a man to impose his will on what a grown woman eats. Today's menu of media might look very different.

Stay tuned for more news, and get plenty of resources for decoding media, by following us on Twitter at @thelampnyc or visiting us online at

Jason Linkins   |   May 19, 2016    4:50 PM ET

So, that happened. As you may have heard, for the first time in the storied history of Las Vegas, plans went awry. Last weekend, the Nevada Democratic convention turned into a raucous fracas as Democrats met to finalize the process of selecting delegates. During the proceedings, supporters of Bernie Sanders formed the opinion that those in charge were manipulating the rules in a way that benefited Hillary Clinton. There was an eruption of displeasure, the exact details of which have been litigated several times over, with several more litigations no doubt to come.

Now, in the aftermath, a two-pronged media narrative has crystallized. Has the Democratic Party's primary become historically acrimonious? Can Sanders prevent the party from fracturing fatally? On this week's podcast, we discuss how this narrative is not only overhyped, but gets the issue of who is responsible for future reconciliations backward. 

If you view this Democratic primary from a certain perspective, it's easy to come away with the impression that it has been one of unprecedented nastiness. On Twitter -- a social media platform designed to provide users with up-to-the-minute information about how they are the worst persons ever and why their deeply held beliefs belong in the garbage -- the fan bases of Clinton and Sanders routinely piddle into the streams, performing daily acts of spirited debasement. If your only entry into this world is through the lens of those who either have, or imagine themselves to have, a life-or-death stake in the contest, you might miss the fact that most Democrats are happy to support either candidate in the general election. 

And if you've gotten so drunk on this primary's rancor that you believe something unprecedented is unfurling, Vox's Matt Yglesias will sober you up very quickly. As he points out at length, this Democratic primary has been tame, when compared with others -- and really, the 2008 primary between Clinton and Barack Obama really was a full-on pit of snakes with flamethrower-hot WTFery coming from all directions when held up against the current one.

But the secondary issue is this: Ever since the fooferaw in Nevada, the media's focus seems to have fixated on whether Sanders will do enough to heal whatever rifts have been opened, whether he'll summon up the grace to join Clinton in unity at the party convention, and the extent to which he'll have to endeavor to talk his supporters down from the tree. The assumption that underlies all of this chatter is that Sanders is going to lose the primary. That's a well-founded assumption: He is going to lose the primary.

But this overlooks the fact that the responsibility of unifying the party falls to the winner of the primary, not the loser. To anyone who thinks otherwise: Come on, now. This is literally the job of the person who becomes the presidential candidate, not the person who is going to be pursuing politics in some other office. An election is not a contest between warring factions, where the winner gets to spend the next four years stunting on the losers. The electoral process will decide which candidate will serve all Americans. And all Americans are owed something, no matter how the votes were cast.

This is how magnanimity works. I literally had to go to Australia to find someone who has gotten this right. Congratulations to Nicole Hemmer, columnist with The Age, for writing it this way

But Sanders' success points to a significant insurgency among Democrats: Clinton faces a far more daunting task than simply nabbing the nomination or winning the election -- she must secure the future of the Democratic Party.

Over the next six months, the choices Clinton makes will help determine whether the Democrats will be the new majority party or be consigned to the wilderness for a generation. Can she bring Sanders supporters into an enduring majority, or will she alienate them and leave a fractious, fractured party in her wake?

The challenge -- and opportunity -- for Clinton comes from the unusual political conditions in the U.S. The two major parties are shuddering through a period of realignment. As the coalitions built in the 1980s and `90s break apart, a throng of interest groups are scrambling to shape new partnerships that will take their place.

This is correct. Sanders' campaign has successfully revealed what had been some previously muted truths about the way many Americans live, and the way they perceive how successful or inept the institutions that are supposed to serve their interests are doing their jobs. Those people are owed something and everybody knows it. Since Clinton is the likely nominee, this is her responsibility. It's not Sanders' job to deliver up his followers, as if they were a vanquished army -- it's Clinton's job to induce their continued participation. And she won't succeed if she treats their concerns as a dead letter simply because she won more delegates.

Similarly, this act should not be seen as Clinton caving to demands. This should be seen as a vital part of her political education. She should be eager to step up, find a way to reckon with the concerns of Sanders' supporters, and offer them a view of a future in which they can participate. This isn't done out of niceness. This is the secondary purpose of a primary election -- exposing truths that would go missed if the candidates were simply left to view America through their own blinkered perspective.

There's plenty worth litigating about Sanders, his campaign, and some of the more infamous grotesqueries for which he and his supporters are responsible. For instance, in a perfect world, there should be consequences for the wretched nimrods who threatened Nevada Democratic Chairwoman Roberta Lange with bodily harm. These people need some time away from politics, to become as fair-minded as the "system" they'd like to see govern our lives.

More broadly, the Sanders family view of the primary process as something that was uniquely rigged against it in particular deserves some re-examination. Yes, the process is byzantine and nonsensical. It has been that way for decades. Yes, the process tends to favor the candidates preferred by party elites. That should have been planned for in advance. I'd argue that 2012's Ron Paul supporters -- who, compared with Team Sanders, learned more about their primary process, and more skillfully manipulated it in their favor -- got screwed over much worse. And brazenly so, right on the stage of the Republican convention.

But none of these matters should be litigated by Clinton. That's not her job. Her job is to view this primary as an opportunity to see where some of the real fault lines in America are running right now. Sanders and his supporters have played a vital role in this, and when she secures this nomination, it will be her job to repay their generosity.

And it's going to be good practice for her, because her next step will be attempting to contend with the real concerns of Donald Trump's supporters as well, because ultimately, they -- like everyone else served by the person we like to call "the leader of the free world" -- are owed some consideration as well. And if there truly is something dark in our country that's animating them -- as many believe -- that's something no president can avoid addressing. 

Elsewhere on this week’s podcast: The 2008 financial collapse spurred a terrifying foreclosure crisis across America, forcing countless people from their homes. But what many homeowners discovered when they tried to save their homes is that the entire foreclosure industry was underpinned by rampant fraud and forged documents. Author David Dayen met many of the people who fought on the front lines of this battle, and wrote a book about it called, "Chain Of Title." He's here to talk about what many people missed about this aspect of the financial crisis.

In addition, Congress is taking its best shot at dealing with multiple crises at the moment. In Washington, legislators are proceeding in relatively swift and bipartisan fashion to address America's opiate addiction crisis, optimistic that they'll have a law signed soon. Joining us to talk about these goings-on is Wisconsin GOP Rep. Reid Ribble.

Shaping up more slowly is Congress' response to the Puerto Rico debt crisis. The island territory could miss a $2 billion payment in July, creating the dire need for a loan restructuring plan before the problem deepens. Our own Laura Barron-Lopez has been covering this story from San Juan to Capitol Hill. She'll join us to talk about whether Congress will miss its shot.

“So, That Happened” is hosted by Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney. Joining them this week: author David Dayen, Wisconsin Representative Reid Ribble, and Huffington Post reporter Laura Barron-Lopez.

This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Christine Conetta.

To listen to this podcast later, download our show on iTunes. While you’re there, please subscribe to, rate and review our show. You can check out other HuffPost podcasts here.

Jason Linkins   |   May 18, 2016    4:54 PM ET

In the 2012 election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney bested President Barack Obama in Arizona. The final outcome was 53.48 percent for Romney and 44.45 percent for Obama -- numbers that very nearly matched the election results from 2008, when Obama ran against Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Democrats haven't won in Arizona since 1996, when President Bill Clinton pipped Kansas Sen. Bob Dole by just over 2 percentage points, with the help of Ross Perot. Clinton was the first Democrat to win Arizona since Harry Truman. Democrats should really not be getting within a country mile of winning Arizona.

But according to Public Policy Polling's fresh survey of the state, "McCain In Deep Trouble in GOP Primary; Trump, Clinton Close in AZ." Interesting! How close, pray tell?

The Presidential election is pretty competitive in Arizona at this point. Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton just 40-38, with Gary Johnson at 6% and Jill Stein at 2%. There's a significant 'Never Trump' contingent among Arizona Republicans. While Clinton gets 80% of the Democratic vote, Trump is only getting 68% of the GOP vote at this stage. That number tracks with our finding that just 65% of Republicans say they're comfortable with Trump as their nominee to 22% who say they aren't. When you narrow the field to just Clinton and Trump though, Trump's lead goes up to 45/41 because his share of the GOP vote increases to 77%. 15% of Republicans are undecided compared to 8% of Democrats, so if the party really unites around Trump eventually he'll get close to being up by the kind of margins Republicans are accustomed to in the state but for now it's tight.

Donald Trump's take on the matter?

Give him credit! "Yaaaaaaas thanks for making ruby-red Arizona into a battleground state" is definitely not the sort of thing an establishment Republican says.

Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.



Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Asleep at the Presses: The Danger of Media Fatigue

DC Vito   |   May 18, 2016   10:35 AM ET

Back in October, Bernie Sanders spoke for many when he said that the American people are "sick and tired" of hearing about his opponent Hillary Clinton's "damn emails." Two months ago, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof apologized for his role in enabling the rise of Candidate Trump in an op-ed titled, "My Shared Shame: The Media Helped Make Trump." Today, it's barely possible to open Twitter without seeing someone weigh in (on someone else weighing in) on the "bathroom bans" in North Carolina. Two months from now, regardless of my attempts to better curate my news, I'll likely be hammered over the head with some other story, to the near-exclusion of practically anything else.

One of the big ideas around media literacy has to do with what's being left out of a media message. As the Executive Director of a New York City-based media literacy organization, The LAMP, I often view the world in these terms, and am hyper-aware of bias and choice in even the most innocuous-seeming messages. A decision to keep running stories about yet another performer cancelling shows in North Carolina is made at the expense of other stories that might also deserve to be told. As such, the danger of the media's echo chamber goes beyond its ability to exclude other narratives; it's also in the way it creates audience fatigue. I don't relish feeling exhausted by stories about civil rights for transgender people, but the current media firehose can't be sustained and it's training us to think "oh, THAT again" when the inevitable, important Supreme Court battle comes up in a year or so. This high stakes game for hot takes in mainstream media endows real issues with all the urgency we now feel about man having invented the wheel, and acknowledges no nuance or depth. Transgender rights will always matter to me, but thanks to the current media barrage about public restrooms, they're annoying me too.

I understand the temptation on the part of the media to give people what they want. The more clicks a celebrity breakup story gets, the more stories are spawned. Yet I can't help needing more from the fourth estate. The belief that news outlets just give us what we want belittles the power they have in shaping what we want. Did we really ask for constant updates on news items even if they have ceased to develop, or have we been trained to care about stories that require minimal time and thought to produce?

I never again want to see another story on Mr. Trump's fashion choices - this "reporting" serves the American people about as well as writing about Hillary Clinton's hair. I understand that stories about presidential style help create levity, and fashion is part of identity politics. But this election season has been unlike any other we've seen. The media have already spent too much time treating Mr. Trump and other Republican candidates like entertainment, and they have abused their privilege to do so. I am exhausted by Trump, but not because I've read so much substantial coverage on how he plans (or doesn't plan) to address climate change and education policy. It's because of the endless jokes about his hair and his hands.

I'd like for mainstream media to collectively agree that we have been sufficiently beaten with Trump one-liners and non-stories about whether or not a birth certificate should be needed to use a bathroom. I'd like to see education and climate change reporting go as viral as photos of any Jenner family member. Perhaps Nicholas Kristof feels better for having apologized and acknowledging bad behavior from the media, but given the lack of change I've seen, it's up to the American people to make it clear that we're not satisfied with a simple sorry. Media fatigue breeds cynicism, but I do still have hope that this change is possible, and believe there is time to follow a new course for Election 2016 reporting that values original, substantial news and civil dialogue.

Stay tuned for more news, and get plenty of resources for decoding media, by following The LAMP on Twitter at @thelampnyc or visiting online at

Jason Linkins   |   May 17, 2016   11:14 AM ET

Reports started bubbling up in the press this spring about how the corporations that provide millions of dollars to fund the Republican National Convention were suddenly skittish about participating in their traditional role of facilitating the GOP's quadrennial confab. The reason: Donald Trump.

As The New York Times' Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman reported at length, big corporate brands like Walmart, Coca-Cola, Apple and Google had become alarmed that Trump's "divisive candidacy [had] alienated many women, blacks, and Hispanics." In other words, being seen as too closely tied to the GOP front-runner might be bad for business.

A few weeks later, Politico's Anna Palmer and Brianna Gurciullo reported on the somewhat-predictable twist: Trump was similarly imperiling the Democratic convention and the corporate funds they use to subsidize their gathering:

None of the firms are publicly pointing to Trump as the reason they're staying away. But the GOP's more well-documented struggles appear to be taking a toll on Democrats, since many companies prefer to give to both conventions or neither in order to project an image of balance.

That the party conventions -- ostensibly a public good and a vital part of our democracy -- require corporate boodle to even happen is something we could spend several paragraphs discussing. But for now, let's leave that aside. Here we have major corporations blanching at ponying up for a Trump convention because they properly recognize that he is, on every level, toxic waste in human form.

But in their next move, this recognition is overridden by something these corporations favor even more: the need to be perceived as neutral. And so, everyone who isn't "Donald Trump, madman," has to similarly suffer.

It's something of a deranged arrangement. But our noble corporate underwriters of democracy needn't feel alone. This is a conundrum political journalists are also wrestling with: How can you provide "balanced" coverage of a race in which one candidate is entirely unconventional? In fact, let us note, one of the things we often do as this struggle ensues is use the weasel word "unconventional," when we mean to say "dangerously unhinged and narcissistic autocrat." (And we are perhaps using the weasel word "autocrat" to stand in for "fascist," at that.)

The alternative, of course, is that the media might accidentally normalize Trump, in a witless abandonment of all the evidence that should objectively lead away from this conclusion. 

On the May 13 edition of "On The Media," host Bob Garfield explicitly warned against this process of normalization.

Garfield was reacting to Trump's recent appearances on the Sunday morning political salons, during which the hosts genially asked Trump about his plans for trade, taxes and the like as if these policy positions were the matter of singular interest to journalists covering Trump. (Trump has indicated that he has no real interest in policy positions, characterizing them all as chimeric "suggestions" designed to provide no foothold for critique.)

Says Garfield:

The man is a menace of historic proportions, so who the Chuck Todd cares about his tax proposals? It’s like asking Charles Manson about his driving record. But here comes the political press, going into standard general election mode and treating a demagogue as a legitimate standard-bearer, as if the only thing he has to answer for is the latest blip in the news cycle.


With every oh-so-decorous question about tax policy or the national debt, the media are not simply abetting him but normalizing him. In effect, accepting his grotesque path to the nomination.

The necessary prescriptive, Garfield says, is for every Trump interview to "hold him accountable for bigotry, incitement, juvenile conduct and blithe contempt for the Constitution." 

At the bottom of this post, my editors (perhaps lacking confidence in my ability to affirm these things about Trump, but that's a conversation for another day) will have affixed an editor's note confirming that we agree with what Garfield prescribes. Other media outlets have stirred in a similar direction. At PressThink, New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen provides a lengthy discursion on the topic of neutrality in the age of a Trump candidacy, citing two prominent examples of media leaders who are opting for a different approach.

One is BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, who issued a Dec. 8, 2015, social media usage directive to his staff in which he clarifies that it is "entirely fair to call [Trump] a mendacious racist," because he is "out there saying things that are false, and running an overtly anti-Muslim campaign." This is, Smith underscores, a matter of fact, adding that "there is nothing partisan about accurately describing Donald Trump."

A second example was the nearly simultaneous broadcast of a Tom Brokaw editorial on NBC Nightly News, in which the venerable newsman described Trump's proposed blanket ban on Muslims as "a dangerous proposal that overrides history, the law and the foundation of America itself," reminiscent of other historical moments in which "the consequences of paranoia overriding reason" were laid bare.

Smith's and Brokaw's actions did not go unnoticed. CNN's Dylan Byers, in a Dec. 10 column, made note of this "backlash" against Trump, calling it a "watershed moment" in which "news organizations [abandoned] concerns about impartiality and evenhandedness and stating what they believe are objective truths" about Trump.

Rosen discusses how "impartiality and evenhandedness" became a sort of "ritual," semi-divorced from "objective truth" at length. It would be of benefit to read the whole thing, because Rosen's discussion would help reinforce what "picking a side" means in this context. It's not advocacy for some sort of journalistic skullduggery. Telling the truth is still the order of the day: to lie about Donald Trump is to undermine the overall cause of integrity. This is about couching reporting in equivocating terms, which -- as I'm sure Smith and Brokaw would contend -- robs the truth of its vitality.

But in summation, Rosen notes that while the "ritual" of neutrality would normally lead news organizations to adopt some point of view high above the fray, Smith and Brokaw made a different call, one in which they either decided that they were not "vulnerable to criticism" for doing so, or "didn't care" if they were.

That's really what the "neutral" feint is: an effort expended by news organizations to insulate themselves from these type of attacks. This, Rosen reckons, is an "understandable" pose to take, but didn't, in and of itself, make journalism "legitimate."

Per Rosen:

Protection will come from being specialists in verification who are allergic to any party line. Accountability journalism blows “balance” out of the water. Intellectual honesty is far more important than a ritualized objectivity. Recover your voice and people will have reason to listen.

Of course, it can be difficult for many news organizations to simply adopt a "bring it on" attitude about these things. Elections tend to be reported as events of warring, equally worthy ideas. Deference is offered to all comers out of both the desire to be polite arbiters, and to also maintain media access to the players. The political media tends to like their grand narrative of competition, with ups and downs, best weeks and worst weeks, stumbles and comebacks. So equivalences are drawn for the sake of staging.

In fairness to most other American presidential candidates, very few provide the media with a strong case for deviating from this approach. Trump is unique to this milieu in that he routinely, and intentionally, says highly disturbing and irresponsible things that can't not make one question whether he belongs within a country mile of the nuclear football. He's made it ripe to break with the ritual of even-handedness -- it should actually not be surprising at all to see people like Smith and Brokaw explicitly break from traditional paths.

But Trump is unique in another way that should make it easy for journalists to abandon this neutral pose. In another move unique among American political candidates, Trump has openly invited us to do so, by declaring himself, rather forthrightly, to be in open hostility to a free press. He's not merely complaining about coverage or carping about media bias, as Newt Gingrich famously did during the 2012 presidential primary debates. Trump explicitly talks about destroying the freedom of the press.

In other words, he's taken a side, which absolves the media of the consequences of doing the same.

Trump's promise to menace the media is something he has consistently voiced throughout this campaign season. For example, much attention has been paid to his threat to "open up" the libel laws, to enable him to take a measure of revenge against the media. As I've discussed before, I don't necessarily think of this as something that could be practically implemented. To change libel laws, Trump would have to convince Congress to take up his "protect me, specifically, from criticism" cause. It's unlikely the legislature would do so, unlikelier still that the courts would uphold this as constitutional. 

But even if he could convince legislative majorities and five Supreme Court justices to go along with a plan to change the libel laws, it's highly unlikely these bodies would arrive at the standard that Trump clearly prefers. Current law mandates that the standard for demonstrable libel is a higher hurdle for people like Trump to clear, than individuals who cannot be reasonably thought of as "public figures." But even if the public figure/private citizen standard could be made square, there is a longstanding tradition in libel cases that the truth is always the best defense, and it's hard to see even hardened Trump allies changing this standard -- if only because it would greatly benefit their own political opponents.

But this is why it's useful to reflect on Trump's stated desire to "open up" the libel laws -- Trump doesn't distinguish between negative commentary about him and objectively true facts that cast him in a bad light. To Trump, these are one and the same. Reporting that makes Trump look good is permissible, that which does not is, as far as he's concerned, libel and slander. And Trump has more potent ideas about how he'd tear down media organizations that do not conform to his desires than simply altering libel laws.

New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait, in explicating how Trump's brand of "authoritarianism would actually work," seizes on an example that involves the press.

As Chait reports, Trump, in a rambling monologue recently delivered to Fox News' Sean Hannity, took issue with the negative coverage he has received from The Washington Post, along with the Post's stated intent to just go right along reporting true things about him. Seizing on the fact that the paper is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Trump sends this basic message: It'd be a real shame if something happened to Amazon because of the Post's reporting.

TRUMP: It’s interesting that you say that, because every hour we’re getting calls from reporters from the Washington Post asking ridiculous questions. And I will tell you. This is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos, who controls Amazon. Amazon is getting away with murder, tax-wise. He’s using the Washington Post for power. So that the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed. He’s getting absolutely away — he’s worried about me, and I think he said that to somebody ... it was in some article, where he thinks I would go after him for antitrust. Because he’s got a huge antitrust problem because he’s controlling so much. Amazon is controlling so much of what they’re doing.

Unlike his plans for libel laws, this is something that Trump could potentially pull off as president, in conjunction with the legislature. Trump would also command a host of regulatory agencies to do his bidding. As Chait notes elsewhere, Trump ally Roger Stone has already spoken about Trump using the office to "turn off" CNN's "FCC license." 

Of course, every great con job begins with a kernel of truth, and as Chait notes, there is a decent argument that Amazon does have a "huge antitrust problem." But this isn't Trump advocating for fair business practices (that would sure be a first!). He's threatening to use anti-trust law exclusively against his perceived media enemies. By extension, it's clear that the reverse is true: Favorable coverage from The Washington Post would lead Trump to look the other way.

You see, Trump doesn't want the media to be neutral. He wants the media to shower him with favor, and he promises to reward those that do and punish those that don't. His hope is that by threatening to use his office to destroy the media, he will encourage fervent, hagiographic coverage of his candidacy, and limit its criticism.

Really, the best argument against attempting "neutral" coverage of Trump is that Trump has very plainly demanded that coverage of his campaign not be neutral. 

This is, as with all things Trump, a "deal" he wants to make, with very clear terms. One can choose to join a Trump brigade of latter-day Pétainist sycophants, flatter Trump as a savior and be rewarded in kind, or one can factually condemn him, using his own words and deeds, as a dangerous presidential nominee and risk his wrath. But as the reporting of "true things that Trump doesn't like" is enough to earn this enmity, performing the old ritual of even-handedness no longer offers anyone any protection. There is no "third side." You can't go "down the middle" anymore. 

This is, as they say, a time for choosing. However you decide, I suggest you go all in.


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

Igor Bobic   |   May 16, 2016    2:46 PM ET

Now that reality-television star and gilded yeti Donald Trump has pretty much secured the GOP nomination, attention has begun to shift to who might claim the honor of being Trump’s running mate. This should naturally be of great interest to everyone, if for no other reason than the person chosen may well be left holding the bag when Donald Trump finds out just how hard being president is. (He does not think it’s an even remotely difficult job.) There has already been a lot of talk of possible short lists, and an equal amount of talk about who doesn’t want the job under any circumstances (Marco Rubio).

But in case you haven't noticed, Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and failed presidential candidate really, really wants to be Donald Trump's vice president. Oh, man! He wants it so bad! He does not even try to hide it.

And that’s a bit of a break with tradition. Those with some interest in the position usually tend to dance gingerly around the subject whenever it is broached by reporters. And it is broached often. Right now, every prominent politician who appears on a Sunday morning political show is going to face seven different iterations of the, “Will you serve as vice president, if asked?” every time they appear. Generally speaking, such politicos sidestep the dogged journalism of the Chuck Todds of the world by dropping canned lines like, "I love my job" or, "I'm not thinking about another job."

Not so for Gingrich, who has dropped nearly all pretense about his ambition.

In many ways, Trump and Gingrich would seem to fit well together. Both men can boast of having their difficulties with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) -- the Ryan agenda, which Trump has famously said he doesn’t know if he’d support, was referred to by Gingrich as “right-wing social engineering.” Both Trump and Gingrich tilt toward grandiosity when discussing their ideas -- maybe they could get Mexico to fund Gingrich’s plan for moon colonization alongside the magic border wall our southern neighbor will be subsidizing. And, of course, both men are famous for being -- well -- let’s call it “maritally ambidextrous.”

Gingrich officially announced his endorsement of Trump last week, but he had been one of the earliest and fiercest defenders of Trump's candidacy, hinting all the way at how fruitful a partnership they might have together. And this booster role has apparently paid off -- as Bloomberg’s Kevin Cirilli and Jennifer Jacobs report, it’s already earned him a spot on Trump’s short list. (Well, one of them, anyway.)

There’s a difference between dropping hints and looking plain desperate, however. And Gingrich’s fanboy campaign has been anything if not obvious. Given his inability to stop talking about the job, it’s hard not to walk away with the impression that he's practically begging for it.

“I think we’d have to think through what does he think the job involves. If he could convince Callista and me that it’s doable and that it’s serious and that we would, in fact, contribute, I think we’d be very hard-pressed not to say `yes,’” Gingrich said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“I don't have any interest in the sense that I'm going to go out and try to become his vice president," Gingrich said last week. "I would obviously have to listen carefully if he called. He's an old friend and I think any time a potential president calls a citizen, a citizen owes them an obligation.”  

But Gingrich has been lately going out of his way to signal interest in the job and his overall ardor for The Donald. On Friday, Gingrich bragged about his access to the candidate, telling Fox News that he has “regularly talked with [Trump] for the last five or six years during the campaign occasionally.

“I do more of it by email than I do phone,” he said, making sure to get very specific about this. “We have communicated on a routine basis with the campaign and with Trump and his family.”

And Gingrich is definitely looking to get himself vertically integrated with the Trump brand. Last month, in an interview with Slate, Gingrich even hawked Trump’s books (Gingrich plugging books? What a surprise!):

So when Trump releases his list of foreign policy advisers and no one has ever heard of them, that doesn’t bother you?

Look, I would recommend, if you haven’t done it, that you read "The Art of the Deal." And you follow that up by reading, "The Art of the Comeback."

Sure, pore over those tomes while tucking into a Trump steak, and wash it all down with Trump vodka, whilst lounging in your Trump bathrobe. (Note: All products discontinued. Sad!)

Then there are Gingrich's volleys against Trump naysayers, the traditional role of a candidate’s running mate.

“Trump is the nominee, that’s why I disagreed with Paul Ryan. I thought that the moment to say, ‘OK, we have the leader of the team, let’s pull the team together, let’s go beat Hillary,’ has arrived,” Gingrich told radio host and cat-loving former New York mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis, breaking with the current House speaker. “You’re either for Hillary Clinton or you’re for Donald Trump. If you’re not for Donald Trump, you are functionally helping Hillary Clinton. I think it’s just that straightforward.”

See? Dude is straight-up thirsty.

After Mitt Romney, George W. Bush and his father George H.W. Bush announced they would not attend their party’s convention in July, Gingrich castigated them on Twitter. “Skip Cleveland, fine, but not acceptable for Bushes, Romney to desert the party which made them national figures,” he wrote. Last month, Gingrich defended a much-hyped and stilted address by Trump as a “serious foreign policy speech,” one “worth reading and thinking about.”

“It will be ridiculed by Washington elites,” Gingrich added, perhaps not realizing that he, himself, is the very model of a Washington elite.

Which is perhaps the most delicious irony of them all. The very thing that Trump needs most, according to his own guidelines for choosing a running mate, is a Beltway insider to help him navigate Washington and take some of the edge off of his outsider bid. It’s this quality that makes Gingrich one of the more attractive candidates. It’s also the identity that Gingrich has been attempting to distance himself from ever since he bounced out of Washington.

But that’s not the only quality that makes Gingrich a leading candidate in Trump’s veepstakes. As The Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi reported last week, Trump is planning on eschewing a traditional opposition research game against Clinton in favor of rehashing every bizarro Clinton conspiracy theory from the early-1990s political Phantom Zone. That’s a milieu with which Gingrich is intimately familiar. Hell, for all anyone knows, he may have been a “source” for much of what Nuzzi terms “Hillary fan fiction.”

If there’s one thing that Trump seems to want to do in this campaign, it’s to shatter -- in the most fantastically vulgar way possible -- the myth that there are no second acts in American life. In that effort, he’d find a real kindred spirit in Gingrich, who's been in a constant state of reinvention and religious conversion since he left politics. About the only thing that portends against a Trump-Gingrich pairing? The fact that Gingrich typically matches Trump, pound for pound, in any egomania derby. But if Chris Christie can become an obsequious little twit in Trump’s shadow, why not Newt?

At any rate, if Trump and Gingrich win the election, look for Newt to be sworn in as president by, like, May.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.


CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misattributed Gingrich's description of Ryan's agenda as "right-wing social engineering" to Trump.

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   May 13, 2016   12:42 PM ET

In previous dispatches about the billionaire donor class that now runs America, we've had cause to consider casino mogul and ersatz newspaperman Sheldon Adelson. The low-information donor is something of a political oddity. Despite publicly professing to support a number of nominally liberal policies -- he's pro-Dream Act, pro-socialized health care -- he apportions his considerable largesse to politicians who will never enact those policies.

Of course, there has always been a larger lodestar for Adelson's political dealings that has helped to reconcile these contradictions. He is a fervent supporter of the U.S.-Israel alliance, so much so that one could always feel safe in concluding that it was the one issue that trumped all the others. But now, it would seem that Donald Trump trumps even this, because Adelson has officially bestowed his endorsement upon the presumptive Republican nominee.

And this is quite a multi-layered puzzlement, considering that Trump had, during the primaries, rather flamboyantly abjured the support of big political donors, holding Florida Sen. Marco Rubio out for particular derision for the way he was perceived to be courting Adelson's favor.

Of course, Trump's calculus has changed now that he's reached the general election, a challenge he is (in all likelihood, anyway) much too cash-poor to fund himself, despite his braggadocio. But Adelson's calculus has apparently changed even more, because Trump is famously noncommittal on U.S.-Israel relations.

You may remember this during the primary campaign! As The Hill's Mark Hensch reported, during an MSNBC town hall hosted by Trump's buddies Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the reality television star pointedly "refused to pick sides in the conflict between Israel and Palestine." Per Hensch:

“If I win, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m saying to you [my choice] and the other side now says, ‘We don’t want Trump involved,'" the real estate mogul said of potentially winning the presidency and then brokering a lasting peace deal.

“Let me be sort of a neutral guy,” the billionaire added. "I have friends of mine that are tremendous businesspeople, that are really great negotiators, [and] they say it’s not doable.

As with any of Trump's stated stances, this position has changed, depending on whatever way the wind was blowing. By the time it became necessary to present his policy speech at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee's policy conference in mid-March, Trump had begun the work of blurring over his previous "neutral" position. (Nearly simultaneously, Trump was depicting himself as decidedly "non-interventionist" to The Washington Post's editorial board.) But on the eve of Adelson's endorsement, here's what that wind was doing, according to The Hill's Ben Kamisar:

Donald Trump met with former Secretary of State James Baker during his Thursday swing through Washington as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee seeks to unite the Republican Party behind him.

The pair met during Trump's visit to Jones Day, the Washington law firm where many members of his legal team practice, NBC News reported.

The meeting came hours after Baker criticized some of Trump's key foreign policy proposals during a Thursday Senate hearing, including his call to roll back American involvement in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

That's right, the little-heralded stop on Trump's Beltway-establishment rapprochement tour was to visit James Baker, and try to win him over. And while Baker is many things, "pro-Israel" is not one of them -- and he's lately not been on Adelson's side. As The Daily Beast's Lloyd Green reported in March of 2015:

Don’t expect James A. Baker ... to be tapped for another stint at Foggy Bottom. On Monday night, at J Street’s fifth annual conference, Baker lit into Benjamin Netanyahu and his newly elected, Likud-led government. Never one to mince words, Baker told the crowd, “Frankly, I have been disappointed with the lack of progress regarding a lasting peace -- and I have been for some time … in the aftermath of Netanyahu’s recent election victory, the chance of a two-state solution seems even slimmer, given his reversal on the issue.” 

Tart as that message might have been, the 84-year-old Baker had gone there before. Baker, who served as George H.W. Bush’s secretary of state, as Ronald Reagan’s treasury secretary, and as White House chief of staff to both Presidents, had laid down a similar line in May 1989 to an earlier Likud prime minister. In a speech to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Baker told the folks in the room and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir to “lay aside once and for all the unrealistic vision of a greater Israel … reach out to Palestinians as neighbors who deserve political rights.” 

Perhaps this all escaped Adelson's attention? He has, after all, been busy dismantling the Las Vegas Review-Journal's editorial independence. The thing is, these subtle, tribal distinctions among competing factions of the Israel-Palestine conflict used to matter a great deal to Adelson. Prior to Trump doing his Ramsey Snow-job on Chris Christie, the only time in recorded memory that the New Jersey governor had been made to grovel came in March 2010, when Christie was forced to apologize to Adelson for referring to Palestine as "occupied territories" -- a big ol' no-no to Adelson.

Christie might lament that Adelson is willing to cut the neutrality-promoting, James Baker-courting Trump considerably more slack -- especially after being forced to endure Trump's primary season-long grandstanding about how he couldn't be bought by megadonors, and that those who sought their favor, like Christie, we "perfect little puppets."

But the Adelson-Trump alliance is stranger still when you consider that there actually is one bona-fide Israel-hawk in the race, named "Hillary Clinton." Clinton, in a letter to her own megadonor pal Haim Saban (the Democrats' version of Adelson -- apparently the two men do not compare notes), vowed to counter the "Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction" movement that has aggressively attempted to counter Israel's policies in Palestinian territories. Per Politico's Annie Karni:

Hillary Clinton has penned a letter to mega-donor Haim Saban and Jewish organization leaders expressing her strong and unequivocal support for Israel in the face of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement, known as “BDS.”

“I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority,” she writes, asking for aid working “across party lines” to “fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.”

Clinton's own presentation to the AIPAC policy conference left little mystery about how she felt about "neutrality," and she wasn't shy about adopting a criticism of Trump that had previously been argued in the Republican debates by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Rubio:

Yes, we need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who knows what on Wednesday, because everything’s negotiable. Well, my friends, Israel’s security is non-negotiable.

I have sat in Israeli hospital rooms holding the hands of men and women whose bodies and lives were torn apart by terrorist bombs. I’ve listened to doctors describe the shrapnel left in a leg, an arm or even a head.

That’s why I feel so strongly that America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security or survival. We can’t be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighborhoods, when civilians are stabbed in the street, when suicide bombers target the innocent. Some things aren’t negotiable.

"And anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business being our president," said Clinton. Apparently, Adelson disagrees.

In Adelson's endorsement, glancing mention is made of the Iran nuclear deal. To be fair, this is something Clinton would probably seek to uphold. That might be reason enough to sway Adelson. Though, once again, Trump is the candidate on all sides of the issue, vowing to "strictly enforce" it one day, declaring he'd wholly "dismantle" it the next.

Outside of that, support for a more hawkish Israel policy is not specifically mentioned -- save for one moment in which Adelson makes it clear that he now privileges Trump's experiences as a businessman over all other considerations (which is in itself very strange).

Here, Adelson definitely seems to subordinate his passion for Israel to simply honor Trump's success at joining the elites:

Despite being the grandson of a Welsh coal miner and the son of a Boston cab driver, I’ve had the remarkable experience of being part of almost 50 different businesses in my more than 70-year business career. So, tell me I’m not a conservative enough Republican or I’m too hawkish on Israel or whatever else you may think, but I think I’ve earned the right to talk about success and leadership.

Well, one thing's for sure: Having endorsed Trump, I think it's fair to say it's considerably more difficult to paint Adelson as "too hawkish on Israel." If anything, one wonders what all of Adelson's prior carping on the matter meant.

Adelson's long been a study in self-contradictions -- a professed supporter of liberal causes who exclusively funds their opponents. Perhaps even his avowed support for Israel means just as little to him -- at least compared with the simple tribal bonds of the meritocracy. Maybe Adelson is just a bog-standard party hack who prefers power to policy.

Or maybe Trump simply promised to move the Oakland Raiders to Vegas! Who knows? The only thing that's certain is that these addled billionaire weirdos wield considerably more political power than you do. 


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   May 12, 2016    5:29 PM ET

So, that happened. With his primary opponents dispatched and establishment Republicans being wooed in earnest, Donald Trump believes himself to be on the glide path to unifying the Republican Party. But not so fast: the rebel movement of distressed and despairing Republicans who have emerged under the hashtag-cum-banner #NeverTrump has not given up the fight to keep the ranting rawhide chew from reaching the Oval Office. This week, Republican consultant Liz Mair, who's been an outspoken leader of the Never Trumpers, joins the podcast to tell us what they plan to do.

In a piece over at The Federalist, Mair outlines four possible avenues to keep Trump from winning the presidency. The simplest strategy, she tells us, is to help promote the candidacy of likely Libertarian Party candidate and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, as he provides a easy out for conservatives who would prefer to not vote for likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

From there, plans get dicier. The Never Trump movement could keep working on convincing convention delegates to blow up the rules. Or, it could convince well-known Republican candidates to run on the ballot in favorable states, in an effort to deny Trump the electoral votes.

Or, it can form a new political party entirely. Which is, well, not the lightest of lifts. Nevertheless, it's a testament to how much these people despise Trump that this is one of the ideas that remains up for consideration.

It's clear that #NeverTrump isn't ready to throw in the towel just yet. The question is, how far is this movement willing to go, and are they ready to pay the consequences that their attempts at upheaval are certain to bring?

Elsewhere on this week’s podcast: North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch are taking to the courts to litigate the bizarre bathroom bill that McCrory signed in the hopes of antagonizing trans residents of the Tar Heel state. In addition, we talk to Roger Lowenstein about his new book, America's Bank: The Epic Struggle To Create The Federal Reserve.

“So, That Happened” is hosted by Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney. Joining them this week: author Roger Lowenstein, Republican consultant and anti-Trump organizer Liz Mair, as well as Huffington Post reporters Laura Barron-Lopez and Dana Liebelson.

This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Christine Conetta.

To listen to this podcast later, download our show on iTunes. While you’re there, please subscribe to, rate and review our show. You can check out other HuffPost podcasts here.

Jason Linkins   |   May 10, 2016    3:43 PM ET

Now that it's looking like one party's nomination is in the bag, and the other party's nomination is all but decided, it's time for our quadrennial expression of dissatisfaction. You might be part of that. Perhaps you think the two-party system is flat-out busted. Or that it's crazy that elites still govern our choices. Maybe you think it's crazy that this is the best we can do as a nation. 

These feelings are natural. But hey, anyone know what Gary Johnson is up to? Is he maybe running for president? Let's ask Politico's Eliza Collins:

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has joined the crowded 2016 presidential race. But he's not making any promises about his ability to defeat the likes of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

“I am announcing my candidacy right now for the Libertarian nomination,” Johnson said on Fox Business’ “Coast to Coast” with Neil Cavuto on Wednesday. “I do believe that crony capitalism is alive and well. It’s Democrats and Republicans that contribute to that. I’d like to be that choice that is not going to succumb to that.”

Oh, look at that. Johnson is going to be running for president, making his second bid to represent the Libertarian Party on the ballot. With deep-fried tangelo Donald Trump alienating a goodly portion of the center-right, Johnson might have a "real opportunity" to attract disaffected voters. Maybe "this year [will] be different." Maybe the Libertarian Party will "blow their big chance."

Of course, maybe Libertarians aren't your bag. I understand that. But Johnson has a lot of unimpeachably good qualities. He's a really nice and decent guy. He's a triathlete and an avid outdoorsman who has actually climbed Mount Everest. He met his wife, Kate Prusack, on a bike ride, which is pretty romantic. He built his own home, likes legal weed, humane immigration policies, and ticks off that "fiscal conservative/social liberal" box many people say they like. I can't recall him ever going out of his way to make anyone feel bad.

He was also the governor of New Mexico, and if you haven't noticed, New Mexico still exists. He didn't destroy it. Read about it here, courtesy of the New Mexico Political Report.

So, you know, not too shabby! But is he really a choice for president? Like, a serious choice?

Look, choosing a president is a lot like going to a restaurant. You've got to order the prime rib or the fish, right? That's what you feel you're there for, to have the big meal, and hope that the consequences aren't dire afterward.

But here's the thing: You don't actually have to do that. You can experiment, you can sample, put off the big entree choice till later. You can pair a couple of appetizers and have that as your meal. Maybe get the chicken wings plate and the roasted brussels sprouts. Or a bowl of mussels and that chickpea thing. That's what Gary Johnson is: a couple of apps you try out once in a while. And if the portions are too big, you can just share them. "Hey, wanna try some of my Gary Johnson," you'll say to your dining companion. "This is really good," he'll say, "I'm definitely ordering this the next time."

In the end, maybe you come back around to picking the steak, or the fish, or maybe you're some sort of vegan and you've got to just get whatever dish has the highest concentration of quinoa. That's okay. Isn't it comforting, though, knowing that there's another choice out there, one that likes bicycles, isn't an asshole, and didn't burn New Mexico to the ground? That's got to make you feel a little bit better about our politics.

Here's a fun game you can play right now, through the start of the fall. Next time a pollster calls you, just tell them that you're way, way into Gary Johnson. This doesn't mean you have to pick him in the end -- telling a pollster something doesn't obligate you to do anything, other than question if you really need that landline, it's 2016 for Pete's sake. But if enough people tell pollsters that they're interested in Gary Johnson, then the people who decide who gets to be on the teevee and who gets to participate in the debates will be obligated to open up those venues to Gary Johnson. I don't think this is something that you'll regret.

Look, I'm not endorsing Gary Johnson for president here. I just noticed that lots of you are bummed and I'm endorsing the idea that you might take the opportunity that Gary Johnson's candidacy provides you to mess with the status quo a little bit. It's going to be a long summer. Got anything better to do?

Besides, if you don't shake things up, you know what's going to happen? That's right: Bill Kristol is going to do it instead.

Damn, ain't nobody got time for that.