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Congress Runs Away From Obama's War On Terror Twofer

Jason Linkins   |   September 27, 2014    8:00 AM ET

So, that happened: The long-promised airstrikes on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria began this week as uninterested members of Congress crossed their fingers and left town. But not before they held hearings on whether the Secret Service could have done a better job protecting the White House from a guy with a pocketknife. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama's attempt to crack down on tax dodgers was challenged by the conservative canard-waving ... Bill Clinton?

Listen to this week's "So That Happened" below:

An index of key moments in the discussion:

00:51 - ISIS: "War Were Declared"

obama

10:37 - Clinton vs. Obama On Tax Inversion

bill clinton obama

19:30 - The White House Jumper

white house

This podcast was edited by Ibrahim Balkhy and sound engineered by Brad Shannon, with assistance from Christine Conetta, Chris Gentilviso and Adriana Usero.

Have a story you'd like to hear discussed on the "So That Happened" podcast? Email us at your convenience!

President Obama Is At The Vanguard Of A Major Cultural Shift In America

Jason Linkins   |   September 25, 2014    3:10 PM ET

Former White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer was the guest this morning at Buzzfeed HQ, for a "Buzzfeed Breakfast" round of Q&A. Among the topics discussed, according to Capital New York's Jeremy Barr, were the media consumption habits of President Barack Obama.

As Barr reports, Pfeiffer told those assembled that Obama "reads the daily news ... both print and online," and also indulges in a healthy amount of long-form journalism. One source of news, however, is not on the menu:

However, Pfeiffer said: "Where he does not consume a lot of media is on television."

The president does not watch cable news, with its horse-race political coverage, or the morning news shows.

Frankly, I think that this is where the rest of the country is heading, slowly and inevitably. I'd wager that within a generation, most of America will be tuning out today's version of cable news and the Sunday morning shows, as the aging viewers of such media surrender to the grip of mortality and younger generations settle into the 21st-century news environment.

I've said this before, but I feel confident in these predictions. What we know as "cable news" will, of course, adapt, and even be superb. The future for that platform will most likely be a home to programming like high-impact documentary news features (like the acclaimed "Blackfish") and longer reported features focused on public affairs (like HBO's "Last Week Tonight"). The faces you see on cable news -- which currently, and too often, are just a cruddy mélange of interchangeable pundits, "thought leaders" and "insiders" -- will give way to journalists of an altogether different ethos.

You'll think I'm crazy to say this (unless you're fortunate enough to have read this), but the guy who really embodies that ethos right now is Anthony Bourdain, who recently told Fast Company, "I'm not a Middle East expert. I'm not an Africa expert. I'm not a foreign-policy wonk. But I see aspects of these countries that regular journalists don't. If we have a role, it's to put a face on people who you might not otherwise have seen or cared about" (emphasis mine).

Once cable news completes this necessary evolution, viewers will flock to watch televised news that really focuses on and impacts the lives of normal human Americans.

In this regard, Obama is an early adopter, whether he knows it or not. I'm an even earlier adopter of this manner of news consumption and, I can tell you, life has never been better. I recommend it!

You can read Capital New York's report here. For additional coverage of Pfeiffer's Q&A at Buzzfeed, check out these stories.

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Time For Some Corrections And Retractions: Anti-ISIS Coalition Membership Edition

Jason Linkins   |   September 23, 2014    5:45 PM ET

Airstrikes against ISIS: They are a go. And, as it turns out, they are a-going with coalition partner-nations in the Arab world, according to the news. Here's CNN:

American jets began bombing ISIS targets in Syria early Tuesday, raising U.S. involvement in the war-torn country and sending a forceful message to the terror group.

[...]

All foreign partners participating in the strikes with the United States are Arab countries, a senior U.S. military official told CNN. Those nations are Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

Diplomatic sources told CNN that Qatar was also involved, though it was not clear whether Qatar actually conducted airstrikes itself.

The U.S. and "partner nation forces" began striking ISIS targets using fighters, bombers and Tomahawk missiles, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said, though he didn't specify a geographic location.

And we have statements from some of these partner nations, confirming their involvement:

Bahrain: "A group of fighter jets from the Royal Bahrain Air Force (RBAF) carried out earlier this morning, along with the air forces of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and those of allied and friendly countries, air strikes against a number of selected targets of terrorist groups and organisations, and destroyed them, an authorised source at the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF)'s General Headquarters said."

Jordan: "An official source at the General Command of the Armed Forces of Jordan, including the following:
Despite repeated warnings and decisive actions taken by the armed forces on the northern and eastern borders against infiltration and shoot toward military sites and the commitment of the armed forces to the principle of the protection of the border in the hope that the other party adjusts its borders and control them, but he unfortunately has increased attempts to breach the border and dramatically during the past two months, forcing the armed forces to an air strike against a number of sites taken by some terrorist groups as a springboard for operations against the Jordanian territories. The source added that in the early hours of dawn today formations of aircraft Royal Jordanian Air Force to destroy the number of targets elected, which date back to some of the terrorist groups and which has been sending some elements of the terrorist to carry out acts of sabotage inside the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has returned all the aircraft safely to base."

The United Arab Emirates: "The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abu Dhabi released the following statement: ‘The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms that the UAE Air Force launched its first strikes against ISIL targets last evening. The operation was conducted in coordination with other forces participating in the international effort against the ISIL.’ For additional information on the UAE’s commitment to combating Islamic extremists: UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal; UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s recent comments to the UN Security Council.”

So if you were wondering whether nations in the region were going to forsake this ongoing operation against ISIS, wonder no more! (You can go on wondering if it's going to be successful, of course.)

The next order of business, however, is dealing with all the people who, for whatever reason, thought this coalition was not going to come to pass, a popular topic of conversation among pundits and lawmakers who take the ol' warm spittle-and-loose guesswork approach to war theorizin'. Corrections, retractions, and apologies are due. Let's round 'em up!

Mark Thiessen, The Washington Post: “… [Secretary] Kerry is meeting resistance from nations small and large as he seeks allies to join the fight against the Islamic State. Turkey has forbidden the United States from using Incirlik air base for military strikes on Islamic State targets. Egypt’s foreign minister told Kerry that Egypt’s ‘hands were full’ with its own fight against terrorism. In Jordan, the New York Times reports, King Abdullah II ‘told Secretary of State John Kerry . . . that Jordan was focusing on the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.’ Looking at Kerry’s efforts, CNN reports that ‘it looks like a coalition of the not-so-willing.’”

Looks fine as far as Turkey and Egypt goes, but the rest is wrong.

The Wall Street Journal: "... a day after the U.S. said Arab states were willing to participate in airstrikes, Arab countries attending the Paris meeting gave no sign they were ready to join the military campaign. … The hesitancy of many of the Middle East's major Sunni leaders, including in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, to back military operations is driven, in part, by a belief American airstrikes against the Islamic State will benefit the region's three main Shiite-dominated governments in Iran, Iraq and Syria, according to U.S. and Arab officials involved in the deliberations. That debate highlighted how the Obama administration's plans to lead the international coalition against Islamic State have plunged it more deeply into a regional feud between Sunni and Shiite states.”

It's fair to say that these nations may fret over the anti-ISIS effort benefiting Iran and Syria -- it's obviously intended for the benefit of Iraq (I didn't realize this was even in doubt). The rest is wrong. Looks like someone talked to the wrong "officials involved in the deliberations"!

Chris Matthews: "The Arab countries -- which Jordanian soldier is going to put his foot into Iraq or Syria? None. Which Saudi Arabian fighter pilot's going to go in there and fight ISIS from the air, or bomber? None. Who from the Arab Emirates is going to go in there? None.”

Matthews is probably right that we won't see Jordanian ground troops. Beyond that, this is a big whiff.

Washington Post editors: "By those standards, the results thus far of the Obama administration’s efforts to marshal an alliance to fight the self-described Islamic State look meager. In Paris on Monday, two dozen governments pledged to help fight the extremists ‘by any means necessary, including military assistance.’ But only a handful -- not yet including Britain -- have so far agreed to participate in air combat missions in Iraq, and none has yet signed on to support prospective U.S. air strikes in Syria. Nor is any sending combat troops."

Airstrikes in Syria are now officially supported. (The no one is "sending combat troops" line is pretty hilarious because theoretically, the United States is not going to be sending any either. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)

Ed Henry: "They know it's going to be a long haul, and that's why you see Secretary of State John Kerry in the Mideast right now trying to pull together a coalition and struggling somewhat to get allies. You've got David Cameron, for example, a key ally -- he has put up surveillance planes to help with intelligence, which is important, as the U.S. plans air strikes in Syria. … But then look at the Arab allies. They have not come forward and publicly said they're going to help with air strikes, as well."

Biffed!

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to Secretary of State John Kerry: "What Arab Sunni country is gonna be flying in and bombing and doing missile raids with a Arab insignia on the side of the plane? Tell me that."

Answer: United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Saudi Arabia.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to Secretary of State John Kerry: "Let me ask you, in your discussions with, for example, Saudi Arabia -- do the potential Arab states, do they understand how fragile American public opinion will be toward this effort, toward this destruction, if they don't fully commit?"

Evidently, they do.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to Sean Hannity: "But let me say I have just heard, and it may be wrong, that no Arab country has agreed, Middle Eastern country has agreed to engage in air or ground support against ISIS. This is a direct result of American indecision and lack of credibility."

LOL, is it now? (Sound of sad trombone.)

There you have it! Please hand in your corrections, retractions, and apologies by close of business today, boys.

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Turd Polish Futures Up 300 Percent On News That 2014 Midterm Election Is Happening

Jason Linkins   |   September 23, 2014    3:21 PM ET

Spend any time reading the people whose job it is to assign heady unified field theorems to election years, and you will hear sad variations on a dull theme. The 2014 midterm election is a hard-to-pin-down mystery. No one can figure out what it's supposed to be about. Or maybe the election is about nothing. You know, the null set of things? Or maybe the election is secretly about everything, which is really just a more philosophical way of saying it's about nothing. Which means it's time to break out the "Seinfeld" references, as columnist Bennet Kelley once did for an earlier election cycle:

The 2010 election will be remembered as the Seinfeld of American politics. With one exception, the election results are a lot like the sitcom which was famous for being about nothing. The one exception is the economy where voter discontent is "real and spectacular" but there was no mandate as to how to remedy the problem.

Clever, clever. We could expand on this by saying that the 2014 midterms will be the election where "nobody learns and nobody hugs," and add that probably everyone involved should go to jail for gross dereliction of acting in the interest of public decency.

Still, if this is truly an election about nothing, there's one cohort that didn't get the memo -- namely, the people who fund the expenditures of "outside groups." Here's a Monday blog post from "PBS NewsHour":

Back in April, we wrote that outside spending was on a record-breaking pace. Well, on this first day of fall -- and with 43 days still to go until Election Day -- outside spending has now surpassed the mark for most money ever spent in a midterm election. In fact, the $228 million (and climbing) spent by outside interest groups is not only the most ever spent in a midterm, but it's also more spent in any election except the 2012 presidential election, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

That's what the 2014 midterms are about, then. They say that good ideas sell themselves, so it makes sense that this election is requiring a record amount of money to be spent on its behalf.

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not?]

NYT's Alessandra Stanley Explains Her Terrible Writing Technique

Jason Linkins   |   September 23, 2014    1:29 PM ET

If you happened to be hanging out on the internet last Friday, somewhere near the intersection of Pop-Cultural-Criticism and Oh-No-How-Did-This-Get-Written-What-A-Dumpster-Fire, you might have heard about New York Times television critic Alessandra Stanley's latest foray into failure, "Wrought In Their Creator's Image" -- her attempt at reviewing the upcoming Viola Davis vehicle "How To Get Away With Murder."

Stanley wrongfoots her way onto multiple rakes before the reader's gaze drops below the second paragraph. For starters, she is somehow of the belief that Shonda Rhimes is the creator of "How To Get Away With Murder." Alas, no: that honorific belongs to Peter Nowalk. Oh, and then there's Stanley's lede: "When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called 'How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.'”

Oof. It didn't take long for those familiar with Rhimes' work -- and for Rhimes herself -- to object to this weird statement. The blowback was justified. If there's one impression of Rhimes that forms when you sample her work, read interviews with her or listen to her most ardent fans discuss the joys of watching her shows with one another, it's that Rhimes -- far from angry -- is fun. A boatload of fun. Time magazine's television critic James Poniewozik offers a much more accurate distillation of Rhimes' essence in a piece Time just pulled out from behind its paywall, no doubt to show Stanley how this work is done:

It’s no coincidence that the logo of Shonda Rhimes’ production company, ShondaLand, is a roller coaster built around a heart. Fast, sexy and entertaining, her prime-time sagas are twisty, funky constructions built of licorice whips and cotton candy. And like an amusement-park attraction, they could well come with a list of warnings: May cause narrative whiplash. Beware of injury from jaw hitting the floor. Management not responsible if you wear out the O, M and G keys on your mobile device.

In short, anyone hoping that Rhimes' shows are going to consistently deliver the television equivalent of a Sister Souljah album is bound to be disappointed. It's almost as if the dividing line between a critic like Poniewozik and a flounderer like Stanley is that Poniewozik actually watches the shows he's assigned to review.

This is hardly the first time Stanley's work ethic has been questioned. Her litany of errors, most of them unforced, has been well-documented. And most if not all of those errors would never have happened had Stanley simply bothered to look things up and make sure she got them right. (For example: she could have correctly identified the creator of "How To Get Away With Murder" as Peter Nowalk.)

The good news, I guess, is that New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan has sided with those aggrieved by this Shonda shonde and concluded: "The readers and commentators are correct to protest this story. Intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way that was – at best – astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch."

Stanley's response to Sullivan's dispatch very helpfully identified a part of her subpar writerly process: "I didn’t think Times readers would take the opening sentence literally," writes Stanley, "because I so often write arch, provocative ledes that are then undercut or mitigated by the paragraphs that follow."

Oh? Well, here is where I can maybe be of some use. Stop doing that, Alessandra Stanley! That is a really stupid way to write.

You see, most English-language readers have come to expect that a piece of criticism will begin with some sort of thesis -- some indication that there is a point being made and a trajectory that heads, inexorably, to that point. By writing "arch, provocative ledes" that you then "undercut" in the ensuing paragraphs, you are doing some sort of weird, anti-writing nonsense. What you should be doing is writing "arch, provocative ledes" that you then go on to justify having written by backing them up with insight and evidence. If you went into this piece thinking, "I'm going to start off by saying Shonda Rhimes is an angry black woman and then skillfully undermine myself as I go along," you need to understand that this was a stupid strategy, almost the Platonic ideal of pointlessness.

Stanley provides Sullivan with other examples of times she used this "start with a provocative idea and then slowly destroy it" technique. For which nobody asked.

How did she come up with this concept, by the way? Perhaps she was trying to join other hacks who have attempted something counterintuitive, like Slate's Jonah Weiner did when he wrote "Creed Is Good," about Creed, a bad band that is definitely not good. But Weiner didn't go on to "undercut or mitigate" his original thought. By God, he was going to stick up for Creed right through to the bitter end. Weiner's piece was also anchored in some shared understanding of the subject -- in his case, the rock cognoscenti's wide dismissal of Creed. Saying that Shonda Rhimes is an "angry black woman" doesn't work in the counter-intuition game, because there's no intuitive constant to brush back against.

Perhaps Stanley's intention is to invent some new style of criticism? Rules are meant to be broken, after all. The problem, though, is that the best rule-breakers earn it by mastering the rules in the first place, and Stanley is a television critic who thinks Ray Romano's career-making vehicle was a show called "All About Raymond." (And one who doesn't understand that Peter Nowalk created this "How To Get Away With Murder" show -- I can't stress enough how easy that fact is to obtain!)

Maybe the whole point here was to do a sort of bit of trickery where you write that Rhimes is an angry black woman, and then wait for her to respond to your nonsense, and then when she does, you wink and say, "U MAD SHONDA?" That would be clever -- to confirm your thesis after the fact by provoking Rhimes into seeming angry. But Stanley doesn't seem clever. She seems lazy. Or rather, she is.

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not?]

Politico Magazine Extends Raised Middle Finger To Its Readers

Jason Linkins   |   September 22, 2014   10:19 PM ET

Susan Glasser once wrote the following in an "Editors' Note," introducing people to Politico Magazine:

We all know we live at a moment of information overload, when there is arguably more and better news coverage than ever before but when something essential risks being lost: The time and ambition to break out of the news cycle, to pull back from the flood to understand what it’s all about. To look for context, insight and plain-old amazing stories. Enter this magazine.

Today, this entered Politico Magazine: "What Should Chelsea Clinton Name Her Baby? Hot tips from Iowa and New Hampshire."

Longtime HuffPost readers know that my favorite part of any Politico story is where the author negates the premise of the piece or otherwise comes out and admits, "I should not have written this. This was a waste of everyone's time. I hate myself, and you should hate me too." Here's this article's author, Adam B. Lerner, doing this schtick:

We admit it -- much of the speculation about Chelsea Clinton’s newborn child is a bit premature and, frankly, more than a little ridiculous. It’s crazy to think that the 2016 presidential election could hinge on whether Hillary can take advantage of her new grandmotherly image, rather than, say, the state of the economy or the candidates’ positioning on other key issues.

Let me summarize the remainder of this hot garbage: There is a list of the most popular baby names in Iowa and New Hampshire, and a name-check of the book, Freakonomics, which was a thing that bloggers name-checked back in 2006.

By far the most bizarre thing going on in this article is this strange presumption that the grandparents of Chelsea Clinton's baby will be naming it, and not the child's parents. The entire piece is predicated on this idea. It's not every day that you come across a "researcher" for a "magazine" that demonstrates selective understanding of how babies get named, but for me, today is that day.

I feel a tremendous amount of pity for everyone involved in the publication of this weird story about Chelsea Clinton's baby.

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not?]

In The New York Times, Evidence Of A Slow Election Year

Jason Linkins   |   September 22, 2014    1:12 PM ET

A 26-year-old man walks into a strip club with his boss. He gets up to some strip club shenanigans. While he is there, the police raid the strip club, searching for methamphetamine. The raid has nothing whatsoever to do with the man mentioned in the first sentence. Sixteen years later, the man -- after serving in the Kansas State House of Representatives for 11 years -- runs for Kansas governor against incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback (R).

And the New York Times, belatedly, is on it:

The candidate, Paul Davis, said he was not arrested or charged in the incident and accused Republicans of “a desperate smear campaign.”

“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Mr. Davis said Saturday during a meeting with campaign workers. “Nobody has ever accused me of any wrongdoing.”

So what happened?

“When I was 26 years old, I was taken to a club by my boss — the club owner was one of our legal clients,” Mr. Davis said in the statement. “While we were in the building the police showed up. I was never accused of having done anything wrong, but rather I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

And this matters why?

But word that Mr. Davis patronized a strip club in 1998, which was first reported Saturday in a small Kansas newspaper, could prove damning in a socially conservative state where there have been recent efforts to restrict or outlaw those businesses.

So the sort of Kansas voter that wasn't ever going to vote for Davis anyway will continue to be a sunk cost to his electoral hopes. Why did you guys run this story again?

Politico drew national attention to the report, which was published in The Coffeyville Journal, a small newspaper in southeast Kansas that publishes twice weekly.

Anything else?

“Now the question becomes, as an individual, is [Davis] fit to govern?” said [Kansas Republican Party Executive Director Clayton L. Barker], who added that the Democrat had revealed little about himself during the campaign and instead focused on Mr. Brownback’s policies.

The dynamics of the Kansas gubernatorial race are pretty interesting, especially in light of the "fit to govern" question. See, throughout his term, Brownback has essentially had the leeway to do whatever he's wanted to do in terms of policy, and the end result has been that Brownback has made Suck Stew out of the economy. You can read more about it here and here. It's an interesting story. Sorry you didn't get it yourselves, New York Times.

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not?]

How The NFL Sacked Itself Into A Decrepit Scandal Factory

Jason Linkins   |   September 20, 2014    7:30 AM ET

So, that happened: The NFL's scandals reminded lawmakers how much they love showering benefits on rich people who don't need help. Newt Gingrich took a break from paying down all his campaign debt. And U.S. poverty declined by 0.5 percent, prompting policymakers to break out the champagne.

Listen to this week's "So That Happened" below:


adrian peterson


Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson competes during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals, December 22, 2013. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Here's an index of key moments in the discussion:

00:45 - No one is talking about games in the NFL

13:04 - Newt Gingrich: a paragon of bipartisanship

21:14 - "Mission accomplished" on poverty

This podcast was edited by Ibrahim Balkhy and sound engineered by Brad Shannon, with assistance from Christine Conetta, Chris Gentilviso and Adriana Usero.

Have a story you'd like to hear discussed on the "So That Happened" podcast? Email us at your convenience!

The Harkin Steak Fry: A Meta-Critical Media Pseudo-Adventure!

Jason Linkins   |   September 18, 2014    3:45 PM ET

A man stands in a field in Iowa. His name is Peter. Peter is standing in a field because there are "200 other reporters" standing in that field. Those "200 other reporters" are observing an event. The event is called the "Harkin Steak Fry." Peter is observing those "200 other reporters" observing the "Harkin Steak Fry." For Peter, these meta-observations are the event.

The intrinsic nature of the Harkin steak fry changes because it is being observed by 200 other reporters. Otherwise, it would just be a bunch of people, cooking steaks in a field. By dint of the fact that 200 other reporters are witnessing the steak fry, the value of the steak fry increases. It becomes the Harkin Steak Fry, with capital letters and such.

The people staging the Steak Fry and the reporters observing the Steak Fry have entered into a tacit agreement, in which their presence turns the act of cooking steaks in a field into a significant, politically charged event. The steaks being fried are, therefore, not steaks in the conventional sense. Rather, the steaks are a distribution mechanism for political content. The reporters observing the event will ingest this content. They will not, however, ingest any steaks. This is one of the many central ironies of this event.

Another irony: the steaks are not being fried, they are being grilled. But everyone has agreed to the fiction that this steak fry, which is not a steak fry, is a Steak Fry.

Peter observes the reporters observing the Steak Fry. By observing the reporters, he changes the nature of the reporters. The reporters become a "madcap media mob." They might not have become a "madcap media mob" had Peter not been on hand to observe them and assign this value to them.

To wit: Peter observes one reporter getting "whacked in the head with the butt of a big television camera." He sees that a "photographer dramatically toppled off his ladder while straining to get a shot." Peter deems this to be "a little absurd." This is, in a Platonic sense, absurd, because neither of these accidents would have happened had the 200 reporters assembled in the field not been there, assembled, in that field. However, the nature of these accidents might never have been deemed absurd, despite their intrinsic absurdity, had Peter not been there to observe them, and deem them as such.

The reporters, however, are assembled in that field because there is a candidate, also in that field, participating in the Steak Fry. Her name is Hillary. Hillary is running for president. Hillary is also not yet running for president. Hillary currently exists in a constant state of simultaneously running, and not running, for president.

Hillary is observed cooking a steak at the Steak Fry. However, according to those observing the event, the steak that Hillary is observed cooking is actually already cooked. That steak lives forever, in a constant state of being cooked, and simultaneously not being cooked, by Hillary. The person who actually cooked the steak, having not been observed cooking the steak, is erased in favor of a person who did not cook the steak.

Peter ponders whether or not the event he is observing 200 reporters observe is being observed by other people. In so doing, Peter questions whether or not the event he is observing 200 reporters observe has the intrinsic value he'd previous assigned to it by participating in the observation of the observers. Peter says, "I joined more than 200 other reporters who swarmed the scene and tweeted away, even though most Americans on social media that day probably cared more about Robert Griffin's ankle."

Robert Griffin, also known as "RG3," is a football player in the National Football League. While Peter is observing the people observing the Steak Fry, other people are observing Robert Griffin's body slowly breaking down. The slow dissolution of Robert Griffin's body is in most ways not distinct from the slow dissolution of anyone's body. However, as thousands of people are observing Robert Griffin's frail flesh give way to the depredations of time, wear and mortality, the nature of Robert Griffin's slow disintegration is changed. Indeed, the destruction of Robert Griffin's body will prove to be far more lucrative for Robert Griffin than will the destruction of many other people's bodies.

Peter becomes aware that other people are observing the reporters observing the Steak Fry, from an even further vantage point than Peter. Peter describes these other people as "politicos and press critics," who "[point] to the event as another example of lazy 'pack journalism' with little journalistic upside." These observers have changed the value of the event being observed once again, by diminishing it. Peter describes these observations like so:

The sniping had some credibility. What was the competitive advantage of being there, just one more reporter among the herd, all of us racing around to get the same quotes and the same pictures?

This was especially true for the many journalists in attendance who rarely travel outside of Washington or New York to cover politics but decided to open up their travel budget for this one trip.

Couldn't their time have been better spent reporting on an undercovered Senate or governor's race in some other part of the country, far away from the rest of the media scrum? Of course, the academics would say. But the incentive structure of today's click-driven news economy begs to differ. Hillary gets eyeballs. Arkansas' Tom Cotton does not. This is the world we live in.

Peter now finds himself in an existential crisis. Previously, his observations of the people observing the Steak Fry had value, because his observations were unique. However, Peter now understands that his observations, having been simultaneously made by many other people, are actually rather quotidian. As the presumed sui generis nature of his observations were the precipitating event in recording them in the first place, he now finds himself in a quandary of his own design, having allowed himself to acknowledge and observe the similar observations of other observers.

He begins to question whether his previous observations, which aligned themselves with these "politicos and press critics," are as valid as he once thought they were. He concludes that they are not, and switches his alignment to the "200 other reporters," previously deemed to be "a little absurd":

As much as I believe in straying far, far away from the rest of the media pack -- this was a lynchpin argument in "Did Twitter Kill The Boys on the Bus?," the Harvard Kennedy School study I wrote last year about the hyperactive political news media -- I did find value in covering the Steak Fry.

The central irony is that Peter had previously found value in covering the Steak Fry by observing that there was no value in covering the Steak Fry. Of course, that's an inescapable contradiction. The logic cannot hold. Thus, Peter erases himself.

I observe all of this and present all of these ideas using a coy parody of post-structuralist literary meta-fiction. By using this cheap device, I present the contradictory nature of this exercise -- in which I mock something for lacking value while assigning it value by spending all of this time writing about it -- while simultaneously dodging responsibility for it. I then disclose the nature of this trick to the people reading it. I erase myself.

You probably feel that none of this has been worth your time. You probably feel cheated.

Here is a story about a woman named Jen. Like many women, she has a butt. Unlike many women, her butt is observed by thousands of people. Their observations change the nature and value of her butt. Perhaps you'll like this story more. There is a butt in it, after all.

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not?]

Lanny Davis Seems To Believe That Roger Goodell Has Been A Really Good Crisis Manager

Jason Linkins   |   September 17, 2014    7:45 PM ET

So there is someone willing to defend beleaguered NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and it turns out it's the guy who's willing to defend almost anyone -- Lanny Davis, crisis manager and author with a book to sell you, about crisis management. His defense of Goodell has been duly recorded and published at CNN, which is willing to publish anything.

At issue here is that whole Ray Rice business, wherein the National Football League, being aware that the Baltimore Ravens running back had clocked his then-fiancee Janay Palmer into a deep unconsciousness in a hotel elevator, punished Rice with a more lenient punishment than it metes out if you smoke a little weed now and again. To Davis' mind, the people who have really behaved irresponsibly are those demanding accountability.

"When everyone is piling on," says Davis, "it's time to take a breath and say: We need more facts, less reliance on media reports based on anonymous sources and over-heated pundits who are too ready to rush to judgment."

Left unsaid here is that the main reason we've been largely kept in the dark as to the facts, up until TMZ released the full video of Rice's violent interaction with his fiancee, is that Goodell and his organization have endeavored mightily to keep those facts from coming to light. When the public was armed merely with the evidence that Rice had dragged his fiancee from the elevator, the NFL defended its decision to suspend him for a mere two games by sheltering in what had been unknown, essentially suggesting that Palmer had acted in such a way that mitigated the circumstances.

The Baltimore Ravens organization cheerfully sheltered in the same existential void, sending a May 23 tweet that read, "Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident." The implication being that she had done something to bring Rice's fist upon herself.

As craven as that now looks, given the fact that we all know now that the "role she played" was nothing more than being the punching bag of a violent abuser, that's only the start of Goodell's merry litany of falsehoods. As Deadspin's Tom Ley has reported, these are legion.

And that's probably why Davis' "defense" of Goodell doesn't really go on to ... you know ... defend him. What Davis wants you to know is that Goodell, for all his many faults, should be lauded for doing really good crisis management. But as you'll see, Davis is also wrong about that.

Here's Davis:

But then [Goodell] turned in the right direction, following the three basic rules of crisis management, whether in business, politics, or life.

First, he acknowledged that he made a mistake and took personal responsibility. He showed that he understood, albeit belatedly, how serious male violence against women is. In his August 28 letter to all NFL owners, Goodell wrote: "I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better."

In an accompanying memorandum that would be distributed to all personnel in the NFL, he wrote, in bold-faced dark letters, the following:

"Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances."

Suffice it to say, the process of "taking responsibility" is actually more complicated than simply saying, "My bad," and then putting a bunch of universally true things in super-serious boldfaced type. An organization that needs its leader to remind it that domestic violence and sexual assault are "wrong," and by the way "illegal," is an organization that needs a remedial level of accountability imposed upon it. Goodell shows no real sign of wanting to do this -- I'll point you again to Ley's list of deceits that have come straight from Goodell.

What's next?

Second, he laid out a detailed forward-looking mandatory education and training program to implement this policy. Most important, he announced far more severe penalties than before, effective immediately for violations of this bold-faced policy: 1) at least six game suspensions for the first violation, with heavier penalties if facts show more serious offenses, such as violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child; and 2) a second offense will result in "banishment" from the NFL. That's right, banishment -- with no assumption that a petition for reinstatement will ever be accepted.

Davis maybe doesn't realize this (or perhaps it's a feature in the "crisis management" biz), but the first two sentences contradict one another. You can't have a "forward-looking" domestic violence program if the program you're implementing is only being implemented because you got caught out by TMZ's release of the full video of Rice's abuse. Goodell's "forward-looking" policy was the two-game suspension standard, forged during what amounted to a cover-up of the facts. You don't get to say, "Now that we've been pantsed by TMZ, we have a domestic violence punishment program that really lowers the boom," and call that "forward-looking."

Finally, we have this:

The third rule is to authorize an independent investigation to answer all the questions and verify the facts. And that is exactly what happened. Of course the emphasis is on the word "independent."

Yes, this "independent investigation" was set up by New York Giants owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II, and it involves parachuting former FBI Director Robert Mueller III into NFL HQ to give the league the full True Detective treatment.

Now, perhaps at this point you're wondering how "independent" this investigation can be, given the fact that it's all been put in place by a pair of owner-stakeholders. Lanny Davis wants you to shut your ignorant mouth:

I have read about doubts about Mueller's objectivity because he comes from a large law firm that has ties to the NFL. My response: Nonsense. Robert Mueller is a former United States attorney, senior U.S. Justice Department official, and one of the most respected FBI directors in history.

Nonsense! By gum, Robert Mueller did some stuff, and you will respect that. Well, here's some of the stuff that Davis is very quickly glossing over:

ESPN: "Mueller, based in Washington, D.C., is a partner in the law firm of WilmerHale, which helped negotiate the NFL's Sunday Ticket package with DirecTV. The firm also has represented Washington R*****ns owner Dan Snyder, and several former members of the firm have taken positions with NFL teams."

Mike Florio, NBC Sports: "One such former WilmerHale employee is, coincidentally, Ravens president Dick Cass, who joined the club after thirty-plus years at the firm."

So the "doubts" that Davis has "read about" are actually the accurately reported accounts that document the obvious conflicts of interest with this "independent" investigation.

This is not good crisis management, when your BFF in the crisis management business puts easily penetrated obfuscations on CNN's website in order to paper over all of the previous obfuscations reported everywhere else.

If you want to assess the potential that the NFL is prepared to be accountable for all of this, here are some things you should remember. Goodell made accountability your responsibility. He declined to take on the task himself. When the public was outraged about Rice's meager suspension, Goodell told the public to trust him -- because if you knew what was on the tape of the incident, you'd see it his way. When the public was outraged at the fact that the content of said tape put paid to those notions, Goodell adjusted the suspension policy but insisted that he hadn't seen the full video.

It was only after the Associated Press had the NFL caught in that lie that Goodell did a modicum of facing the music. And now Lanny Davis is here to tell you that you don't actually possess any facts -- that everything you think you know about this incident actually has emerged from a wilderness of "innuendo and anonymous sources" and that you should wait for a conflict-laden investigator to spin you a tale of the real facts.

There's a reason you don't trust these guys. You should go with that instinct.

(By the way, here's what good crisis management looks like, from Kristine Belisle, former adviser to federal inspectors general: "We might be embarrassed at times and disclose things that we could -- and others would -- easily hide, but we'll shock the press with our honesty. No one else does this, and before long, we'll have a built-in defense when we're attacked. No matter what they hear, the press will come to us first and believe us, because we'll prove to them that we tell the truth.")

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Here's A Close Look At John McCain's Long-Running War Powers Act

Jason Linkins   |   September 15, 2014   12:45 PM ET

As you may have noticed if you've been unfortunate enough to have tuned in to any TV coverage of American politics in the past decade, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is always there. So much McCain being there! He is constant, like death and taxes and gravity.

Why is that, exactly? Well, if you're CNN's Washington bureau chief Sam Feist, you insist that he is always there because he's "articulate, he knows what he’s talking about and he has strong positions." That's an argument that can be -- and has been -- thoughtfully rebutted at length.

But by applying thought to this question, you lose the point. McCain is always there because he knows which camera to speak into and is well-prepared for television-ready, bite-sized maxims for easy digestion. Our own Ben Craw has distilled the McCain worldview down to its essence in the video mashup above, and it reveals a schtick that is almost vaudevillian. In performances staged on many an evening -- with plenty of Sunday matinees for the bluehairs and the Beltway high-society types -- John McCain hits his mark, finds his light and calls for war.

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Obama Finds An ISIS Strategy While Congress... Privatizes Asteroids? Really?

Jason Linkins   |   September 12, 2014    2:15 PM ET

So, that happened: Fresh off polls indicating that a majority of Americans now believe that the Islamic State (or, if you prefer, ISIS or ISIL) poses a threat to the United States, the Obama administration has embarked on the third chapter of the Iraq War trilogy -- with the president himself delivering a prime-time address to the nation, laying out his strategy to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the militant group in Iraq and Syria.

Obama's brief address left a lot of things unclear, not the least of which are questions such as: "Hey, does he have the actual legal authority to do all of this?" and "Doesn't Congress have to provide the authority to begin this latest round semi-permanent war?" As the Monkey Cage's Andrew Rudalevige explains at length, there are a number of important constitutional points that need to be resolved. But the same Congress that's dramatically opposed the Obama administration's feints of autonomy on numerous domestic policy matters is taking a hands-off approach this time.

But while members of Congress doesn't seem to want to get too involved in this fun new war they're about to start, they have been busy. The Huffington Post's own Zach Carter, Arthur Delaney and Jason Linkins discuss the thorny nature of our pending Islamic State engagement and what Congress has been up to in the meantime in this week's podcast, which you can enjoy by clicking the player above. In addition to the recent developments in Iraq and Syria, they discuss how it came to pass that Congress took up the matter of asteroid ownership, as well as a radical suggestion that may affect one of America's largest hedge funds, named "Harvard University."

(This podcast was produced and edited by Ibrahim Balkhy, with assistance from Christine Conetta, Chris Gentilviso, and Brad Shannon.)

Have a story you'd like to hear discussed on the weekend podcast? Email us at your convenience!

Coming Soon: Panic-Induced Election Year War With ISIS!

Jason Linkins   |   September 10, 2014    5:35 PM ET

Seemingly before the question, "Do I, as an American, have any reason to panic over the emergence of this group, ISIS?" has even been asked, it's been answered: "YES, YES, YES, EVERYONE HEAD TOWARD YOUR ANXIETY STATIONS!" And so on Wednesday night, President Barack Obama will lay out some sort of strategy for dealing with ISIS -- a strategy that may boil down to, "Hey, let's have another open-ended, crazy war!" But maybe that will make you feel better. You are, after all, panicking, right?

Whence came all of this panic? Just for funsies, how about we all take a deep breath and try to figure that out. At the risk of spoiling the ending, I'll tell you right upfront: The call is coming from inside the country.

Let's start with the understatement of the year: To know ISIS is to loathe ISIS. It's a vicious, completely unrestrained death cult that has sunk to depths of depravity and cruelty so profound that it has even turned the stomachs of other death cults. The Islamist militants who make up ISIS (or ISIL or the Islamic State -- take your pick!) operate in the hopes of achieving utterly hallucinatory ambitions, which they seek free from the hindrances of what normal people might call a "moral compass." They seem to be playing a game of cruelty one-upsmanship with themselves. They terrorize and they rape. They behead journalists on YouTube. They have scary black flags and guns and, perhaps worst of all, social media consultants. And, no, they cannot be left alone; they must be confronted.

Here is a thing that ISIS is not, however: an existential threat to the "homeland" of the United States. Or even a credible threat. But don't take my word for it. Per the Associated Press:

The FBI and Homeland Security Department say there are no specific or credible terror threats to the U.S. homeland from the Islamic State militant group.

An intelligence bulletin, issued to state and local law enforcement, says while there's no credible threat to the U.S. as a result of recent American airstrikes in Iraq, officials remain concerned that Islamic State supporters could attack overseas targets with little warning.

Leaving aside the uncertain fortunes of lone wolves and dumb luck, that seems about right to me. Remember the Ebola Panic Flow Chart we shared on these pages a few weeks ago? It can easily be modified to suit the needs of everyone worrying about ISIS. Are you currently located at an "overseas target," adjacent to ISIS' base of operations in Syria and Iraq? Do you have any plans to visit one? If the answers are no, then there's no reason for your concern about ISIS to blossom into panic about ISIS.

Sadly, this helpful advice arrives too late for many of you, judging from some of the polling numbers rolling around in the news transom:

cnn isis poll

What happened to make 90 percent of any poll's respondents come to believe that ISIS poses a threat to the United States? ISIS had some help from American politicians who want to win and retain seats in Congress and the fearmongering thought-leaders who want to aid and abet those ambitions. Speaking of, here's former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, in the Sept. 8 Wall Street Journal, encouraging you to be terrified:

A name can say a great deal about the intentions of our enemy today. The group on the march in the Middle East began calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Then it chose the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the latter term including Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as Syria. Now it's simply the Islamic State, geography unspecified. They already are a state, in that they carry out government functions in occupied territory. You can bet that their aspirations include Saudi Arabia and its holy cities of Mecca and Medina. With their gains in Iraq, nothing but sand separates them from the Saudi border.

It is hard to overstate the threat that this organization poses. I call it al Qaeda Version 6.0. The Islamic State is far better organized, equipped and funded than the original. They are more experienced and more numerous. Several thousand carry Western passports, including American ones. All the terrorists have to do is get on a plane and head west. But perhaps the most important asset they possess is territory. For the first time since 9/11, a determined and capable enemy has the space and security to plan complex, longer-range operations. If we don't think we are on that list, we are deluding ourselves.

ISIS keeps changing its name! It's on the march to Mecca and Medina! From there, the world, including these shores! Given the fact that there's never been a terrorist organization that's come within an ocean of pulling off this feat, I'm really skeptical.

If we take a realistic look at ISIS, here's what its fighters have accomplished. First, they've managed to find shelter in Syria -- arguably the most cracked-up and chaotic nation in the world right now -- where they benefit from the fact that there is an ongoing civil conflict between the Bashar Assad regime and multiple rebel groups (of which ISIS is one). Additionally, they've also exploited the disordered Iraqi government, which up until recently was run by Nouri al-Maliki and his patented ability to sow sectarian conflict and distrust among his own constituents.

ISIS has not claimed any sort of enviable territory in this world, and it's not poised to do so anytime soon. It thrives only within states that are overrun with dysfunction. Within this limited sphere of influence, ISIS has declared that it has established a caliphate. But with the exception of those who currently have ISIS' guns pointed at their heads, this is not a declaration that anyone has any obligation to go along with. In fact, as Human Rights First's Michael Quigley points out in The Hill, the fact that ISIS has obligated itself to maintain its pretend caliphate actually limits its ability to threaten much of anyone:

ISIS is a regionally focused insurgent group that is committed to establishing an Islamic State. While ISIS is a very sophisticated and highly disciplined group that has gained control of considerable resources, this doesn’t change their strategic objective -- to secure the fragile caliphate they proclaimed on June 29th. Despite having nearly 100 Americans and even more European fighters with Western passports, ISIS's recruitment efforts suggest that it cannot yet afford to have these fighters depart the battlefields in Iraq and Syria, for to do so jeopardizes their most important objective -- their raison d'être -- the Islamic State itself. ISIS is a very capable and extremely dangerous group, but their strategy is less like al-Qaeda's and perhaps more akin to the Taliban when they sought to gain control of Afghanistan.

And ISIS doesn't even demonstrate that it has the capabilities of the Taliban. ISIS' chief military victories in Iraq have come against forces that met ISIS' advances by turning tail and running away. As we saw in August, when ISIS was run off from the Mosul Dam, it would seem that any time ISIS fighters face a military force with a modicum of competence, they become quite ordinary. It was in response to this strategic defeat at the Mosul Dam that ISIS elected to release the video of journalist James Foley's execution. And that's the one thing that ISIS actually has demonstrated that it can do well, even in defeat -- theatrics.

Unfortunately, our elected officials, in turn, have amplified ISIS' message with theatrics of their own, transforming the normal emotions you should feel at the sight of an innocent man's execution -- anger and disgust and calm resolve -- into panic. Here's Wednesday's Politico:

In campaigns across the country, Republicans are seizing on what they call the Obama administration's feckless response to Islamic State militants as part of a broader case to voters to turn against Democrats in November. Their argument: Barack Obama is a disengaged figure whose power needs to be checked.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has a new TV commercial that opens with a brief clip of an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militant firing a weapon, with the narrator intoning that "these are serious times." In New Hampshire, Senate candidate Scott Brown is out with a Web ad that plays President Barack Obama's ill-spoken "We don't have a strategy yet" line and brands the president a foreign policy "failure." And last weekend, Iowa Senate hopeful Joni Ernst, in a speech to fellow veterans, bemoaned "the president’s inability or unwillingness to present a strategy aimed at eradicating the growing threat" of ISIL.

Ironically, it's not the Obama administration's disengagement that's fueled the rise of this latest round of hysteria. Rather, it's been their fumbling willingness to join in and countenance the idea that ISIS truly is a dire threat to the homeland.

That's Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey telling reporters that they agree with the notion that ISIS is a "9/11-level threat" and more -- literally "beyond anything we have seen," a group that could, if it achieves its ambitions, "fundamentally alter the Middle East and create a security environment that could threaten us." Hagel and Dempsey, in so direly warning, close the door on the Obama administration's ability to do anything other than proceed with frenzy and alarm. There's no opportunity now to be realistic about ISIS. Any response that falls short of whatever is deemed popular and appropriate for an imminent sequel to the Sept. 11 attacks will now be greeted with a line that begins, "But even your own secretary of defense believes that ISIS is 'beyond anything we have seen.'"

Nice work, guys.

That our two warring political factions have turned ISIS into an unending fountain of dread and anxiety is bad enough, but it's further exacerbated by the fact that we are not actually having a legitimate strategic debate about what should be done about ISIS. As The Huffington Post's Sam Stein reported, just about everyone from Dick Cheney to your Aunt Lorraine agrees on the same strategy:

Though it's hard to notice under the barrage of back-and-forth sniping, politicians have rallied around the same basic set of prescriptions. Under the formula, the United States would:

1. Seek to put together a coalition of like-minded nations willing to confront the Islamic State

2. Encourage political reconciliation in Iraq and government restructuring in Syria

3. Ramp up military involvement in both those regions

4. Bolster Sunni moderates in the Middle East

5. Resist sending American troops into combat while still bolstering U.S. personnel in the region

Legitimate disagreements remain over how to achieve these broadly shared objectives, and there are obvious disputes over how to define specific missions. (What is "troops on the ground"?) But the general schisms tend to be more about tone and timing than substance.

When it comes to explicating the substantive differences between each side's prescriptives, there is no there there. The only distinguishing characteristic in the inter-party "debate" is the level of histrionics. It's a battle of who wants it more -- who can do the thing everyone agrees should be done the hardest and loudest. It's a battle where being "strong and wrong" and embarking on a potentially idiotic path is incentivized. And these histrionics are entirely driven by the cold, amoral calculations of election-year politics.

Again, don't take my word for it. Here's Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who apparently became briefly bound by Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth whilst standing in front of reporters:

It's an election year. A lot of Democrats don't know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don't want to change anything. We like the path we're on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.

So that's the midterm election in a nutshell at this moment: One party might be lured into doing something potentially stupid to defeat ISIS, in response to the frenzied rhetoric of another party whose members will openly admit they aren't even sincere in their desire to see the Obama administration bring about this defeat.

This is very unfortunate for anyone who wants Wednesday night's ISIS strategy explainer from President Obama to be coming from a place of calm common sense, steered by the guide star of "Don't Do Stupid Stuff." I'm looking to hear about how the United States is going to erode ISIS' support, how we'll use international law enforcement and diplomacy to combat their network, and how we'll disrupt their ability to gain recruits. I'd prefer that Obama described, at length, his plan to re-engage with the Iraqi government and reinvigorate that institution's ability to govern its multi-sectarian citizenry justly and equitably, because it's the atrophy of this engagement -- not the troop withdrawal -- that has been this administration's larger post-Iraq War failure and greatest contribution to ISIS' rise.

In contrast to another declaration of an open-ended, mission-creepy, exit strategy-bereft, constitutionally suspect war, these are the ingredients of a sensible response to the threat posed by ISIS. Sadly for all of us, while a strategy of calm resolve may help defeat ISIS, it's not going to help affluent politicos achieve their personal electoral ambitions. So panic on.

PREVIOUSLY, on THE HUFFINGTON POST:
Americans Panicked Over ISIS Threat That Experts Say Isn't Imminent
The Debate Over What To Do About ISIS Isn't Much Of A Debate

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Canadian Homophobe Joins The Train Wreck Interview Hall Of Fame

Jason Linkins   |   September 9, 2014    5:23 PM ET

What if you took one part Labour Party leader and hapless talking point repeater Edward Miliband ...

... and added one part Australia Prime Minister and angry dimwit Tony Abbott?

Well, then you'd get Toronto School Board member and smug homophobe Sam Sotiropoulos, who during an interview with the Global News to discuss some of his disturbing tweets about the Toronto LGBT community, suffered a multi-car derailment of his cognitive choo-choo. ThinkProgress' Zack Ford sets the scene:

Since 2012, Toronto schools have followed a policy of inclusion for transgender students, recognizing their gender identities without requiring them to somehow prove or justify them. Two weeks ago, Sotiropoulos tweeted, “Until I see scientific proof that transgenderism exists and is not simply a mental illness, I reserve the right not to believe in it. #TDSB” TDSB stands for Toronto District School Board and Sotiropoulos identifies himself on Twitter as @TrusteeSam, referring to his title with the district.

[...]

Sotiropoulos agreed to discuss his tweet with Global News, but then refused to actually provide his own views on transgender people. Indeed, as he similarly attempted to explain in a separate radio interview, what he meant is that he simply “reserved the right” to make a decision about whether being transgender is a mental illness, but that he hadn’t yet made such a decision. He seemed to deny the implication that in the mean time, he does believe that it is a mental illness. But when the reporter then brought up other anti-LGBT tweets he has posted in the past, he became truly flummoxed.

Here's Sotiropoulos, in all his smarmy glory:

Oh, Canada.

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