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Jason Linkins   |   July 22, 2016   12:16 PM ET

The Republican National Convention is over, and 2016’s movable feast of nonsense and worry now shifts to Philadelphia for the Democratic event. There are many revelations to come, such as the size of GOP nominee Donald Trump’s “convention bounce” in the polls, and the precise metric volume of Democratic Party bed-wetting between the moment this bounce is revealed and the moment when Hillary Clinton gets the chance to earn a bounce of her own.

But if you’re looking to pass the time between then and now, might I suggest we play an anxiety-inducing game together?

The last time the good folks at The Upshot ― the dedicated team of number crunchers at The New York Times ― ran a model of the general election, it was before the GOP convention in Cleveland. And they had a very concise and illustrative way of placing their projection in real-world terms: 

For now, at least, Hillary Clinton has a 76 percent chance of defeating Donald Trump to become president of the United States.

A victory by Mr. Trump remains quite possible: Mrs. Clinton’s chance of losing is about the same probability that an N.B.A. player will miss a free throw.

Everyone can picture an NBA free throw in their mind. Do it now. What do you see? The tickling of twine? The laying of brick? These are both very plausible outcomes. So let’s play.

Pick one word from this paragraph and click on it. You only get one choice! And there are no backsies. This will simulate the election.

So how did you do? Did you extinguish the flame of centuries of Enlightenment thought or nah?


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   |   July 22, 2016    1:09 AM ET

Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday elicited a range of reaction ― with convention delegates in attendance feeling largely thrilled by the oration, even as some Republicans viewed the moment as the death of their party. But one important review, naturally, came from a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, one of Trump’s most ardent fans.

Duke has long presented himself as a huge admirer of Trump. Trump has, in return, shown a reluctance to publicly abjure Duke’s devotions and continues to successfully offer dog whistles to the white supremacist community.

Earlier this month, the Daily Beast’s Gideon Resnick reported that Duke was planning to run against Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) in Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District, in what would no doubt be the truest test of Trump’s presidential coattails.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist 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   |   July 20, 2016    6:30 PM ET

Wednesday night, late into prime time, the Texas senator and former presidential aspirant Ted Cruz will take the stage at the Republican National Convention. He’ll give a speech right before a scheduled video package from the Trump family titled, “My Father,” that seeks to define the character of GOP nominee Donald Trump. But lots of people are wondering whether Cruz might get there first.

It’s not for nothing. While Cruz spent the early part of the primary season attempting to restrain his criticism of Trump in the hopes that he might draft behind his celebrity and pick up Trump’s supporters on the cheap after he flamed out. But the flame-out never happened. And so, in his most desperate hour, at a May press conference in Evansville, Indiana, Cruz finally went in on Trump, promising “to do something I haven’t done for the entire campaign.” That something? “I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump.” 

A lot of what Cruz had to say falls into the category of “really, really hard to take back, man, good luck.” Let’s review.

Trump is a liar: “This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.”

Also, a narcissist: “The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist ― a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen.”

How amoral is Donald Trump? “The man is utterly amoral. Morality does not exist for him.”

Trump is also very insecure: “Bullies come from a deep yawning cavern of insecurity. There is a reason Donald builds giant buildings and puts his name on them wherever he goes.”

Something for the ladies: “Donald has a real problem with women. People who are insecure, people who are insecure about who they are, Donald is terrified of strong women. He lashes out at them.”

But will he betray his supporters? “Donald will betray his supporters on every issue. ... He will betray you on every issue across the board.”

Are we staring at the abyss, by any chance? “We are staring at the abyss.”

Combine all of that with the fact that Donald Trump very specifically sought to dishonor both Cruz’s father and his wife, and it’s no wonder that political wags are looking to Wednesday night’s speech and wondering: “Will Ted Cruz refrain from criticizing the nominee tonight, let alone endorse him?”

Of course, there’s no better example of how cynical and divorced from basic humanity our politics has become that this remains an open question.


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   |   July 20, 2016   12:10 PM ET

Anyone looking to tune in to the Republican National Convention this week to hear from the man the GOP is seeking to send to Washington to run the country needs to adjust their DVRs, because that speech won’t be given by Republican presidential nominee and apocalyptic circus peanut Donald Trump on Thursday. Rather, it will be given by the party’s vice-presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, on Wednesday night.

So what gives? Well, it’s not entirely surprising. See, Trump has, throughout his campaign, made it clear that he believes that being president is a really easy job ― no sweat for him! But if you want to get a sense of just how easy Trump imagines the office to be, you should check out the Robert Draper’s account of how Trump came to select Pence as his running mate in The New York Times Magazine. It begins with Trump’s eldest son making a back-channel overture to Ohio governor John Kasich, offering him the chance to be Trump’s running mate:

One day this past May, Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a senior adviser to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who left the presidential race just a few weeks before. As a candidate, Kasich declared in March that Trump was “really not prepared to be president of the United States,” and the following month he took the highly unusual step of coordinating with his rival Senator Ted Cruz in an effort to deny Trump the nomination. But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?

When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

All Dick Cheney jokes aside, let’s remember that the real job of the vice president is actually something like, “being alive on the off-chance the president is not,” not “assuming the duties of the presidency in toto for the duration of the president’s term.” It sort of makes you wonder how Trump envisions the actual role of the country’s chief executive. It certainly made this senior adviser to John Kasich wonder, so he asked Trump’s son what Trump would be doing, if not managing foreign and domestic policy. The response, according to Draper, was: “Making America great again.”

And one wonders why Kasich refuses to endorse Donald Trump. Put yourself in Kasich’s shoes: As he did with the entire GOP field during the primary, Donald Trump never missed the opportunity to mercilessly mock the Ohio governor, referring to him as a loser, and then he turns around and asks him to, essentially, run the country on his behalf. Really, who would have guessed that Donald Trump, in seeking the presidency, wants to claim all of the trappings of the office and none of the responsibility?

At any rate, someone should maybe ask the Indiana governor what he thinks about all of this, given that if America fails to be “great again” after four years of a Trump presidency, it’ll be Pence who’s on the hook for that.


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   |   July 15, 2016    1:29 PM ET

GOP presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump has chosen Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) as his vice presidential running mate, just as everyone assumed earlier this week when the news initially leaked. But what nobody knew ― and what no one was seemingly prepared for ― was what the new campaign logo would look like. Well, it’s out now, and, predictably, everyone on the internet is now a graphic designer.

As you can see, they’re choosing to emphasize the ticket’s “T-P-ness,” which will remind many people of “toilet paper,” and fewer, wonkier people of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement ― or TPP, as it’s more popularly known ― which Trump furiously opposes but which Pence ardently supports

But mostly, everyone on Twitter wants to know one thing:  

It’s a little discomfiting!

Ahh, well, I can’t unsee that. This next one, either.

Back when Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton released her campaign logo, it very quickly drew out the amateur design critics ― as well as some professional ones, who were happy to give Politico their withering commentary. You can be assured that the new Trump/Pence design will give everyone a second bite of this particular apple.

It’s fair to note that this recent trend in campaign logos has been oddly phallocentric.

In the end, I think it’s important to focus on the fact that graphic design is a really difficult field, and within that field, the worst logo is still tronc’s.

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.


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   |   July 14, 2016    4:26 PM ET

So, that happened. A night about Benghazi, a speech from at least one cast member from “The Apprentice,” plus a special guest appearance from former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow ― these are among the highlights of a leaked draft schedule for the upcoming Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s about as Trump as it gets. With tensions within the Republican Party still boiling, and GOP elites finding ways to stay away from the confab in droves, it’s not the sort of convention that most Republican nominees would want for themselves.

But let’s face it, presumptive Republican nominee and aspiring Flash Gordon villain Donald Trump is anything but conventional. And he’s probably perfectly content to see establishment Republicans keeping themselves at arm’s length from his coronation. What Trump has promised from the beginning was exactly this ― the remaking of the Republican Party in his own reality-show funhouse-mirror image. On this week’s edition of “So, That Happened,” we’ll raise the curtain on both conventions, discussing what Trump has in store for us and what is still missing from Hillary Clinton’s own convention in Philadelphia.

Also on this week’s edition, it was just over a year ago that a Texas woman named Sandra Bland died under mysterious circumstances while being held in jail, after being arrested at a routine traffic stop. Among the many unanswered questions was this: How often does this sort of thing happen? Well, in one of the most exhaustive investigations The Huffington Post has ever undertaken, we scoured the public records to find out how many people have died in jail in the year since Sandra Bland’s death. And what we discovered was staggering. 

Meanwhile, this week, Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders bestowed his endorsement upon Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But while there’s now a larger unity among the broader Democratic base, it was a bitter moment for Sanders’ diehard supporters. We’re joined by one such diehard, Tim Black, the host of the “Tim Black Show,” who’ll give us an idea about the future of Sanders’ movement and what, if anything, Clinton can do to win him over.

Finally, we are taking our talents to Capitol Hill this week, to visit friend of the podcast and Wisconsin Rep. Reid Ribble at his office. The retiring congressman talks about the one last piece of bipartisan business he hopes to get done before he heads home. We also ask him if a little bit of legislator quid-pro-quo might actually help Congress function again.

“So, That Happened” is hosted by Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney. Joining them this week: Wisconsin Representative Reid Ribble, host of the Tim Black show Tim Black, as well as Huffington Post reporters Dana Liebelson, Ryan Reilly, and Lauren Weber

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   |   July 12, 2016   11:35 AM ET

Sometime very soon, we’re going to find out if Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin was correct when he predicted that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would name “a prominent Republican” to be her vice president. This would be a staggeringly strange thing for Clinton to do, given a couple simple facts: First of all, the role of the vice president is to serve as the chief executive in the event of the president’s death or incapacitation, and secondly, the Democratic Party establishment will probably prefer this running mate be a Democrat, the better to keep doing Democratic party stuff should something terrible occur.

So Halperin’s prediction ― which he’s famously based on “instinct and a little bit of reporting” ― is likely to come to naught, just like his 2012 hunch that Mitt Romney would choose Ohio Sen. Rob Portman as his running mate, and his 2008 conjecture that Barack Obama would name Indiana Republican Sen. Dick Lugar as his.

But I’m not here to bury Mark Halperin, because let’s face it, he is hardly alone in the world of outlandish vice presidential augury. Throughout the run-up to the 2012 election, supposedly serious people traded in speculation that Obama would kick Joe Biden off the ticket in favor of Hillary Clinton, because people at Beltway cocktail parties were talking about it. In 2004, the New York Post ― billing it as an “exclusive” ― announced on the cover of its tabloid that Democratic nominee John Kerry had definitely picked Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt as his running mate, when he’d actually picked North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. ("We unreservedly apologize for our mistake,” said Post editor Col Allan, no doubt ruing the missed opportunity to just run something racist in the front of his broadsheet.)

Heck, I will confess to you that I once said Mitt Romney was going to choose New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte as his vice president. I went on to provide a list of reasons why, speaking out loud and with real intensity. I don’t know what possessed me to assemble an argument for Ayotte’s candidacy. It was like an odd dream I’d had ― a dream that ended when I came to find out that the Romney campaign’s internal nickname for Ayotte was “the energy vampire.”

Why do we bother making ornate vice presidential prognostications? What would have been lost if the New York Post had just waited a few more hours to run its story? What benefit is there to being right in making a projection about such a low-stakes matter? Is it all about that little burst of brain-chemical cocktail that races into our veins when we perceive ourselves to be on the razor’s edge of political prognostication? Because it can feel really good in the moment, when we are cogitating on the matter. Later, however, it becomes one of those things we in which we regret having indulged.

The reason I’m wondering about this is because right now, the media is fixated on who presumptive GOP nominee and detached Kuato Donald Trump might choose as his vice president. Over the past few weeks, the presumed apple of Trump’s eye has shifted to one person or another. At one point last week, Newt Gingrich was the presumed favorite. For a brief, mad moment, some guy named Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn was said to be in, like his last name. And while Trump is bad at most aspects of campaigning, he is really, really good at playing a media that’s seething to know who he’ll pick as his partner in (probably actual) crime:

You’ll likely encounter headlines like this in the wild: “Report: ‘95 percent probability’ of Pence as Trump VP.” Where does that come from? Well, this story exists because the Washington Times got a convention delegate named James Bopp on the record, and he assigned that probability to Trump picking Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate based on an abrupt change in Trump’s schedule and the fact that Indiana’s House Speaker, Brian Bosma, hit him up for advice on running for governor. In essence, this is based on multiple layers of some random person’s presumptions.

Really, this “95 percent probability” number is just one man’s 50-50 crapshoot combined with a healthy dash of bravado. It could be correct, or not, and there are plenty of opinions one way or the other. Which is probably the whole point: All that we in the media ask of the world is to be given a bright, shiny ball with which to play, to be replaced with a brighter, shinier ball the minute it seems we might get bored.

Let’s face it, vice presidential speculation wouldn’t exist if those of us in the political media weren’t in a mad dash to put on the best display of performative savviness ― and the veepstakes squarely hit the sweet spot where pseudo-intellectual posturing and impossibly low stakes squarely intersect. We know that being correct will earn us a tiny gold star, while our harmless cock-ups will be quickly forgotten.

Typically, when we begin the veepstakes season, we like to form lists of potential candidates that are designed to demonstrate that we’re fully in tune with polite unanimity, but also stylishly daring. This allows us to have polite panel discussions where we all basically agree while also having a moment to bask in the depth of our super-substantial thoughts.

Basically, we talk about potential V.P. candidates the way armchair movie critics talk about the Coen Brothers’ filmography: 

See, we all agree with each other on the consensus picks ― those sturdy elders and zazzy up-and-comers that Beltway wags fixate on as potential ticket-fillers at the nascent stage of the presidential primary, as well as the occasional primary loser who nevertheless showed a little vice presidential potential. But we also have a vested interest in showing off just how knowledgable we are about arcana, and how we have great command of the obscure. 

Along the way, we trade in folk wisdom about vice presidents. Maybe some governor could help the candidate pick up a swing state’s electoral votes! Maybe a general, or a businessman, could fill in the nominee’s knowledge gap. Perhaps what the candidate needs is a vibrant dash of racial or gender diversity! We stroke our chins over these and other magic criteria, bound in the belief that somewhere out there exists a rug that will bring the whole room together. We cling to these beliefs against the urgings of political scientists reminding us that they are mostly bullshit. And these beliefs persist in spite of the fact that over and over again, they don’t bear fruit.

And that is, perhaps, the most ironic thing about our obsession with vice presidential contenders. Once the candidate is named and they’re out hustling, we discover they are only really intriguing when they fail. We notice when they don’t deliver their home state’s votes, when their super-specific cache of knowledge pales in comparison to their overall lack of depth, and ― yes ― when they single-handedly decimate the last hopes of Sen. John McCain. That’s when they are interesting.

What’s more, for all of our talk, we would never in a million years credit the vice presidential candidate for the success of his or her ticket. It just doesn’t happen. We’re all too drunk on Great Man Theory, the broad sweep of capital-H History, and all those enduring myths about Great Communicators and Fireside Chatters to ever rob a victorious presidential candidate of the credit. No one in their right mind would contend that Barack Obama won two elections because of something Joe Biden did. 

And yet, here’s the thing about all this time we spend picking through bird entrails in an attempt to divine a candidates’ help-mates: It might be one of the least cynical activities in which the people who cover politics engage. It’s definitely one of the only times we aren’t wholly fiending on failure and inadequacy like hopped-up schadenfreude junkies. At the root of our obsession lies a naive belief that there’s someone out there who can fill in all the gaps, square all the circles, and knit up the ragged hem of the weird egomaniacs who believe they deserve to run the free world.

So dream those dizzy dreams, Mark Halperin. And keep a little hope alive that there might be some player-to-be-named who can arrive on the scene to lend coherence to the election season spectacle. Here in 2016’s presidential cycle, which often feels like the final season of a television series that’s gone way off the rails, we need to cling to these beliefs as long as we can, especially now that we’ve got a funny feeling about what’s to come.

Sorry, Mike Pence! (Maybe?)


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   |   July 11, 2016    3:09 PM ET

This week, Republican delegates are meeting in committee to lay out the 2016 version of their party’s platform document ― a non-binding declaration of #squadgoals that will generate a few days of stories like this one before being largely forgotten. This year’s platform committee has taken dead aim at one of the few successful industries left in America, besides drone warfare and hot takes about Kevin Durant’s free agency decisions. I refer, of course, to pornography.

Yahoo News’ Liz Goodwin reports:

Republican delegates unanimously adopted an amendment to their draft platform Monday morning that called pornography “a public health crisis” and a “public menace” that is destroying lives.


“Pornography, with his harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life of millions. We encourage states to continue to fight this public menace and pledge our commitment to children’s safety and well being,” the amendment stated.

According to Goodwin, the stronger language, identifying porn as a “public health crisis,” was pushed by a North Carolina delegate named Mary Forrester at the behest of the conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America. This quite a step beyond what the 2012 GOP platform document had to say about pornography, which I can quote in its entirety:

We urge active prosecution against child pornography, which is closely linked to the horrors of human trafficking. Current laws on all forms of pornography and obscenity need to be vigorously enforced.

Whether or not pornography can be considered an “insidious epidemic,” as Forrester argues, I’d wager that it hasn’t really been the most pressing concern for most Americans lately ― nor has it made many headlines. Of course, one public health crisis that has made headlines, and that does have a lot of Americans feeling sick and scared and helpless, is gun violence ― especially in the form of mass shootings, which have surged even as overall gun violence has declined.

How do we reconcile the rise in mass shootings with the larger, more encouraging downturn in gun violence? And would it be possible, perhaps, to address mass shootings from a health policy perspective? Might that possibly be an avenue worth exploring if it means we could prevent even one more life from being brutally abbreviated?

That would seem like an area ripe for public health research. Unfortunately, government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are legally barred from doing it, thanks to this thing called the Dickey Amendment. 

Back in 1993, research funded by the CDC found its way into the public consciousness in the form of a New England Journal of Medicine article titled “Gun ownership as a risk factor for homicide in the home.” As the American Psychological Association’s Christine Jamieson notes, “The study found that keeping a gun in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide.” It also “concluded that rather than confer protection, guns kept in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.”

You’ll never guess what happened next! Unless you’ve already guessed that the National Rifle Association aggressively lobbied to shut down this kind of research, in which case, congratulations.

Emphasis ours:

The 1993 NEJM article received considerable media attention, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) responded by campaigning for the elimination of the center that had funded the study, the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention. The center itself survived, but Congress included language in the 1996 Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Bill (PDF, 2.4MB) for Fiscal Year 1997 that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”  Referred to as the Dickey amendment after its author, former U.S. House Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR), this language did not explicitly ban research on gun violence. However, Congress also took $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget ― the amount the CDC had invested in firearm injury research the previous year ― and earmarked the funds for prevention of traumatic brain injury. Dr. Kellerman stated in a December 2012 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Precisely what was or was not permitted under the clause was unclear. But no federal employee was willing to risk his or her career or the agency’s funding to find out. Extramural support for firearm injury prevention research quickly dried up.”

Flash forward to today, and the former Arkansas representative has, as our own Sam Stein reported, some “regrets”:

Dickey proclaimed victory ― an end, he said at the time, to the CDC’s attempts “to raise emotional sympathy” around gun violence. But the agency spent the subsequent years petrified of doing any research on gun violence, making the costs of the amendment clear even to Dickey himself.

He said the law was over-interpreted. Now, he looks at simple advances in highway safety ― safety barriers, for example ― and wonders what could have been done for guns.

“If we had somehow gotten the research going, we could have somehow found a solution to the gun violence without there being any restrictions on the Second Amendment,” Dickey said. “We could have used that all these years to develop the equivalent of that little small fence.”

In 2013, President Barack Obama attempted to get the CDC back to researching gun violence by executive order. However, the chilling effect of the Dickey Amendment, combined with Congress’ unwillingness to provide dedicated funding, has kept the CDC on the sidelines. Reopening the CDC’s ability to lead research efforts remains a dead letter in the current legislative climate.

And if you thought that maybe the GOP platform committee is just starting with pornography and plans to work its way up to mass shootings ― well, it sure doesn’t seem to be trending in that direction:

Elsewhere in the GOP’s platform document, the committee has approved language in support of “gay conversion therapy,” a quasi-religious bit of pseudo-science premised on the idea that homosexuality can be “cured” by “praying away the gay.” Given that prayer is the same means by which many Republicans typically try to solve the problem of mass slaughter, we can at least give them points for consistency.


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   |   July 7, 2016    5:24 PM ET

So, that happened. This week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s lengthy investigation into the private email practices of former Secretary of State and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton concluded with the Bureau’s head, James Comey, recommending against criminal charges. Which is not to say he gave Clinton a rosy review ― in fact, Comey’s characterization of Clinton and her colleagues’ decisions in the matter were quite scathing ― “extremely careless,” to use his phrase.

While the matter might be closer to resolution in the political sense ― Comey’s findings would be a potent weapon in the hands of a competent GOP competitor; alas, the GOP has none ― it’s by no means concluded in a larger sense. It’s difficult to see how a sitting secretary of state would continue his or her tenure in the wake of the FBI’s findings. It’s harder still to imagine Democrats being so quick to move on from the matter if it were a Republican official in similar straits. But if consistency is what you’re after, never fear, it exists ― chiefly in the form of a reminder that under the law, those with wealth and political clout always skate by much more freely than the rest of us. On this week’s podcast, we discuss the way carelessness is no crime, as long as you’re an elite.

Also on this week’s edition of “So That Happened,” we discuss the findings of the lengthy inquest into the United Kingdom’s involvement in the Iraq War known as the Chilcot Report, as well as this week’s police killings of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

“So, That Happened” is hosted by Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney. Joining them this week: Huffington Post reporters Akbar Ahmed and Julia Craven.

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   |   July 6, 2016    4:18 PM ET

After Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship knowingly conspired to violate the safety standards at his Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia, a jury of his peers said, “Yeah, you are totally guilty of conspiring to violate the safety standards at your mine.”

In the wake of his malfeasance, the coal industry is taking a hard look at how it might redouble its efforts to comply with the laws designed to keep its miners safe.

Ha, just kidding!

The coal industry is actually suddenly concerned about this weird thing where a wealthy coal executive was deemed to be responsible for the things that happened on his watch. As the Associated Press’ Jonathan Mattise reports, “Coal industry groups from three states are arguing that the conviction of former coal executive Don Blankenship could unfairly expose other industry leaders to criminal conspiracy charges.”

It’s probably worth remembering, of course, that Blankenship’s ongoing practice of getting repeatedly cited for safety violations by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA, and then instructing his fellow executives “to postpone safety improvements” eventually led to the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch facility that claimed the lives of 29 miners. The obvious teachable moment, to the industry, would be “don’t do that” ― but apparently a number of coal industry groups have learned another lesson entirely.

Per Mattise:

The Illinois, Ohio and West Virginia Coal Associations shared their concerns in a brief Tuesday with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considering Blankenship’s appeal.

We “cannot sit idly by and allow the expansion of criminal law to the point that mere involvement of company management in certain affairs can serve as a basis, in whole or in part, for criminal prosecution,” they wrote.

According to the report, these groups “aren’t taking sides” and “don’t support overturning” Blankenship’s conviction. They’re just really worried about this argument in which executive decisions come with all this “accountability” stuff.

Essentially, these industry groups are arguing that the ongoing practice of neglecting the safety of miners and their workplaces should not be considered a “willful” conspiracy unless prosecutors can demonstrate this practice was undertaken both “for a ‘bad purpose’” and with the “knowledge aforethought that the action was illegal.” They object to the standard applied by the judge in Blankenship’s case, in which there was no “bad purpose” standard and jurors were merely instructed to consider the conspiracy charge to be proven if “a defendant enters into a conspiracy knowingly and willfully ... and participates in the conspiracy with knowledge of and the intent to further its unlawful object.”

Presumably, this means it would remain illegal if executives got together and hatched a plan to murder their employees ― but not if these same executives got together to make a string of management decisions that led to predictable consequences, like a bunch of miners dying on the job. You know, like how the need to maximize profits might lead to not spending money on getting into compliance with MSHA safety regulations.

As Mattise reports, “Coal executives worry [Blankenship’s case] sets a precedent that could leave more coal operators at risk because safety citations occur frequently in coal mining and their operators are required to respond to them.” 

That seems to be a really stunning thing to admit publicly, and perhaps might have come as a surprise to coal miners ― who might otherwise have assumed they’ve been working in an environment in which safety concerns are, in fact, being responded to.

Of course, the concerns of these coal industry groups may be a bit mislaid. After all, Blankenship’s guilty verdict in this case only earned him a single year in jail and forced him to pay a $250,000 fine. (If you’re keeping score, Blankenship was paid $18 million in 2009.) So, relatively speaking, this isn’t even much of a punishment; the wealthy and politically connected Blankenship will emerge from prison just as rich and influential as ever and live a life free from worry.

Blankenship began serving his sentence in May, but not before he showed up to protest at a Williamson, West Virginia, campaign event for former secretary of state and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (who now, ironically, has this whole “getting off pretty easy” thing in common with the former Massey Energy head). Blankenship came out to jeer Clinton based on an out-of-context quote she’d made about how her administration would “put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business.” 

Clinton has since apologized for the remark, but we’ll remind you that when you glance at the “coal miners eliminated” scoreboard, Blankenship still has a comfortable 29-0 lead.


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   |   July 6, 2016    3:06 PM ET

It has happened again. The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold ― plugging away at the “what actually happened to that money presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump promised to give to charity?” beat ― has, through his dogged reporting, forced a response from the Trump camp.

Previously, Fahrenthold’s work tracking the some $6 million Trump promised to veterans charities led to Trump finally writing a $1 million check. This time, the paper has earned an angry phone call from Trump’s son, Eric, who complained, “I’m just saying, Jesus Christ, why is this guy trying to f**king kill us?” 

Is David A. Fahrenthold trying to f**king kill them? Perhaps we should shut down The Washington Post until we figure out what’s going on. Or, we can solve a riddle that may settle an important part of this matter once and for all: The Mystery Of The Disappearing Tim Tebow Helmet.

Here’s the backstory on that: In 2012, Trump attended a fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen organization in Palm Beach, Florida. There, he bid $12,000 on ― and won! ― a Denver Broncos jersey and helmet signed by Tebow. The rub here is that when the breast-cancer awareness-raisers got the money from Trump, it came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation. This is an issue involving various tax laws.

As Fahrenthold previously reported:

Those rules ban the “furnishing of goods” by private foundations — like Trump’s — to their own officers. If the rule is broken, the person who breaks it must notify the IRS and may have to pay a tax penalty. There could also be penalties for signing a tax return that failed to mention the violation. In 2012, the tax return for Trump’s foundation checked the boxes for “no,” it did not break the self-dealing rule.

But did it?

The answer may depend on what became of the helmet and jersey.

If they are still in Trump’s possession — perhaps on display at one of his homes or properties — that might be deemed improper, if the IRS ever looks.

Well, did these goods remain in Trump’s possession? During his recent call to the Post, Eric Trump suggested that the helmet, at least, might have been given away. As Fahrenthold reported Wednesday:

Eric Trump said he wasn’t sure what had become of the helmet, but he doubted his father kept it.

“Knowing him, he probably gave that helmet to a child,” Eric Trump said. “Sometimes the only way to support [a cause] is by buying an item at this event. You don’t want that item! … I wouldn’t even be surprised if he never collected the helmet. It’s not about the helmet.”

Of course! Somewhere out there, there might be a child ― a woebegone towheaded lad, no doubt ― who had his dreams realized when kindly old man Donald Trump gave him a Denver Broncos helmet signed by Tim Tebow as a reminder to keep reaching for the stars (but not so hard that it could muck up his passing mechanics). If that child is out there, he or she could come forward and bring closure to this matter, thereby restoring some of the credibility that was so cruelly ripped from Trump by dint of the fact that he hates having to provide proof for his claims but reporters keep asking for it anyway.

Or maybe Trump never collected the helmet (although, curiously, he was photographed with it) ― in which case, the Susan G. Komen folks could check their curio cabinets to see if it’s still hanging around and try to auction it off again. (For less than $12,000 probably, but hey, second bite of the apple.)

So if you did receive this helmet, just come forward and let everyone know, because it would be a big help. If you do, however, you should know that you might be disappointing the generous Donald Trump. After all, Eric says his dad “likes to keep some anonymity,” a fact that bears itself out whenever you look at the man’s many properties, like the “Anonymous SoHo New York” or the “???? International Hotel and Tower Chicago” or the “Can’t Say I Recall Exactly Who Owns This Building at 40 Wall Street, Probably Some Really Charitable Guy Though.”

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.


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.

What We Learned From Trump's Star Of David Tweet

DC Vito   |   July 5, 2016    9:32 PM ET

Much has been made of Donald Trump's tweets sent over the weekend calling Hillary Clinton the "most corrupt candidate ever." (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's an excellent rundown on the debacle by Anthony Smith at In the days since then, Trump has defended his tweet by saying the image was meant to convey a sheriff's badge:


Up to this point, of all the things people have said about Trump, the only one I disagree with is when I hear people call him an idiot. Sure, he says highly unintelligent things much of the time, but I believe he says those things because he is a) ignorant, or b) a master manipulator bent on saying whatever he feels will win media attention. Even now, I'm not ready to call him an idiot.

But he is media illiterate. Media literacy - the ability to read, write, access and analyze digital media - is sometimes referred to as one of the "new literacies," but don't let that fool you into thinking media literacy is any less essential than knowing your alphabet. And we need a president with media literacy skills that are at least as basic as those we teach young people in our programs at The LAMP.

For starters, we would never teach our students that it's ok to share something without first considering its source. Whether we're talking about an image, a video or a link to something else online, retweets are often seen as endorsements, even if you explicitly say otherwise in your profile (most people won't check that before passing judgment if you share something terrible). Trump shared an image that we know originated from a white supremacist account. Whether or not the star read 'Star of David' or 'sheriff's badge' to him personally, the fact is that the person or people who created the image intended it to be a Jewish symbol. If he knew this and shared it anyway, he's illiterate. If he didn't bother to look into where the image came from, he's still illiterate. Feigning astonishment that anyone would interpret the image as a Star of David, even after bothering to delete the offensive tweet, is - at minimum - more illiteracy.

Of course the star tweet is far from the first time Trump has showed off his illiteracy. He's demonstrated this on numerous occasions both large and small, from his history as a "birther" to his failure to understand the meaning of libel, to a more recent tweet failing to cite the source for a quote that Clinton is "guilty as hell" and owes information on missing emails:


We may disagree on whether the president should be someone you want to have a beer with, and we may disagree on policy and ideology about the direction our country is headed. But I think we can all agree that a president should know the ABCs - both the old and the new.

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   |   July 5, 2016   10:34 AM ET

Rarely in the history of reviewing presidential biographies for major American newspapers has the nation been so well-served as it has been by The New York Times' Peter Baker in his review of Bush -- Jean Edward Smith's newly published account of George W. Bush's presidency.

The highly regarded Smith is best known for penning similar accounts of the presidencies of Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight Eisenhower, in which he cut across history's grain to force a fresh-eyed evaluation.

But if Bush was hoping that Smith might stand athwart history, shouting "Please clap!" on his behalf ... well, I'm afraid there's bad news. As Baker notes in one of those perfect if-you've-not-got-the-time-to-read-this-book-don't-worry-I-got-you summations:

Mr. Smith leaves no mystery where he stands on Mr. Bush’s place in history. The first sentence of his book: “Rarely in the history of the United States has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of George W. Bush.”

The last: “Whether George W. Bush was the worst president in American history will be long debated, but his decision to invade Iraq is easily the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president.”

So, not exactly the Joseph Campbell hero monomyth.

But there's lots of book review to read, as well as lots of book, so go do both. Maybe Bush will feel better after Smith writes the memoir of Hillary Clinton's private email server.


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.

3 Ways to Teach Empathy With Media Literacy

Emily Long   |   June 29, 2016    5:56 PM ET

Empathy may be one of the most important social skills we learn as humans. Without it, not only do we fail to understand how our actions affect others, but we also lack the imagination and creativity needed to design tools and communicate our ideas beyond our own communities of like-minded people. Indeed, without some degree of empathy, we may not be able to communicate at all.

And yet, empathy also happens to be one of the most difficult skills to teach, rife as it is with complexity and emotion. The importance and challenges of teaching empathy have come into renewed focus, thanks in part to bestselling author Dr. Michele Borba's latest book, "UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World." Other recent events - ranging from the mass shooting in Orlando, to the firestorm caused by a letter from a rape victim read out loud to her attacker, to the growing global refugee crisis - all test our ability to imagine what it must be like to live in another person's shoes for a day.

In her book, Dr. Borba talks about the concept of "emotional literacy" as she takes readers through a 9-step process for engendering empathy in a world where what she calls the Selfie Syndrome is a growing epidemic among our youth. It so happens that this process aligns with many of the media literacy skills taught by organizations like The LAMP, which teaches youth to comprehend, create and challenge media messages through in-school and after-school programs. Here are 3 ways that teaching media literacy can also help teach empathy.

1. Perspective Taking: Decoding a media message often begins with the person or people who created the message to begin with. Why did they create the message, and what do they want you to do or feel as a result? The answer may seem straightforward to adults: The commercial was created by people who manufacture a product, and they want you to go out and buy the product. In teaching this concept to children, you are teaching that media are a construction, created by a specific author or authors for a specific purpose. At the same time, children are challenged to learn that different people have different desires and needs which may be very different from their own. The complexity of this lesson in empathy can shift according to the complexity of the message being decoded, but the fundamentals are the same whether the students in question are six or sixteen. In both cases, they have to consider what motivates another person.

2. Moral Identity
: Processing a media message forces you to consider your ethical values and, by extension, your unique identity. In our programs we frequently experience this when we screen a news story or video clip that some students find offensive, while others struggle to see a problem. Take, for example, this Volkswagen commercial created for the 2013 Super Bowl.

When we showed this in a New York City high school class, just about half of the students laughed but the rest were incredulous, wondering how this ad stereotyping Jamaicans could have gotten made in the first place. One student said that if she had been in the room at Volkswagen, she never would have let something like this continue. Another student said he didn't see the issue; the ad was saying Jamaicans are happy, and isn't that a good thing? Our point as media literacy educators was not that one student was wrong or another was right; rather, our point was that different audiences interpret messages in different ways. The students didn't need to agree on the meaning, but we asked them to respect differing opinions and try to understand alternate perspectives.

3. Teamwork and Collaboration: Teaching media literacy is impossible - and also rather dull - without some kind of hands-on work. That's why making media is a huge part of what we do at The LAMP, and why so many forward-thinking educators are actively integrating media and technology production as part of their everyday teaching. But when students work together to remix a commercial or produce their own Public Service Announcement, they're doing more than clicking buttons. They're also negotiating ideas to create a team project, which means empathizing with other perspectives and making compromises for the good of the group and the task at hand, a practice Dr. Borba extols in chapter seven of her book. In order to be members of a functional group, young people have to think about other perspectives as well as how their own ideas are being received by other members of the group. Learning how to work with others is a vital part of any hands-on media literacy education.

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