Monday, January 21, 2019
Nancy Pelosi, CQ-Roll Call,Inc.
The border wall is now a MacGuffin, and that’s the problem.
A MacGuffin is a term of art in screenwriting. It’s the thing the hero wants but the bad guys are trying to get, and therefore it drives the action of the story. In John Huston’s “The Maltese Falcon,” the Maltese Falcon is the MacGuffin. In “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” it’s the ark. In “Dude, Where’s My Car?” it’s the car.
The term — though not the idea — was reportedly coined by Angus McPhail, a screenwriter who worked with Alfred Hitchcock. But it was Hitchcock who popularized the term more than anyone else, even though his definition differed slightly from the conventional one.
“The main thing I’ve learned over the years is that the MacGuffin is nothing,” Hitchcock explained in a 1962 interview with French director Francois Truffault. “I’m convinced of this, but I find it very difficult to prove it to others.”
What Hitchcock meant is that the audience doesn’t need to care about the MacGuffin. All the MacGuffin needs to do is justify the effort of the hero, and all the audience needs to do is care about the hero.
Hitchcock cited his 1959 masterpiece “North by Northwest” as proof of his point. In the film, Cary Grant isn’t trying to get a Maltese Falcon; he is trying to find out what the spies want. “Here, you see, the MacGuffin has been boiled down to its purest expression: nothing at all!”
The MacGuffin has applications beyond the cinema — including in our politics.
The border wall isn’t nothing, but in the context of the partisan fight over the shutdown, it might as well be. For those who see President Trump as the hero of the story, what really matters is that he triumphs. For those who see him as the villain, what really matters is that he be defeated.
Trump has been relentlessly upping the rhetorical stakes for the wall, making it sound as if America cannot long survive without one. That’s nonsense.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says a wall at the border would be an immorality. Logically, this is nonsense, too. There are walls there now. Does she want them torn down?
Walls are inanimate objects, and whatever morality we ascribe to them is in accordance with their purpose. A scalpel is good when it is used to save a life; it is evil when it is used to take one.
To compare — as many have done — a border wall designed to keep people out of the US to the Berlin Wall, which was designed to keep people imprisoned in Communist East Germany, is an exercise in asininity.
I’m reminded of my old boss William F. Buckley’s demolition of such moral equivalence: “To say that the CIA and the KGB engage in similar practices is the equivalent of saying that the man who pushes an old lady into the path of a hurtling bus is not to be distinguished from the man who pushes an old lady out of the path of a hurtling bus: on the grounds that, after all, in both cases someone is pushing old ladies around.”
But this is what happens when you follow politics like it’s a form of entertainment.
If the rules of normal politics applied, there would be countless compromises available. And, if one is going to be objective, Trump has offered quite a few. He isn’t asking for the full price tag. He has said he is willing to make it more of a super-fence than the Mexico-paid-for concrete behemoth he promised on the campaign trail.
There are other compromises most Republicans and Democrats could accept. Legalization for the Dreamers — people brought to the US when they were children — in exchange for a couple billion dollars in fencing would have been considered a huge win by liberals even a year ago. If Trump were willing to forgo the wall in exchange for enhanced E-verify and reforms to the legal-immigration system, conservative immigration experts would cheer, at least in private.
But if you follow these things like it’s a movie, none of that works. If Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre agreed to split ownership of the Maltese Falcon at the end of the movie, no one would leave the theaters happy.
Sunday, January 20, 2019
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), left, and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) join their fellow House Democratic women for a portrait in front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 4 in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, Robert Mueller and William Barr Getty Images (3)
Imagine that a scientist wanted to conduct an experiment to see if it’s true that blind hatred of President Trump has led Democrats and their media handmaidens to go ’round the bend and off the cliff.
Such a scientist would inject a damning — and false — media report about Trump into the political bloodstream, then observe the reactions. It wouldn’t take long.
The Gotcha! glee, the declarations of Trump’s certain impeachment for suborning perjury, reckless references to Richard Nixon, the breathless anticipation of resignation and disgrace, perhaps prison — these and other overheated reactions quickly clogged the airwaves and Internet, growing ever more bold as the day wore on and no compelling rebuttal appeared.
Then, suddenly, the scientist pulled the plug on the experiment. He had seen enough to prove the thesis: Much of America, many of its leaders and some of its most prominent institutions are indeed gripped with madness.
Hatred for the president has corrupted their judgments and blinded them to duty and decency. Having succumbed to prejudice and rage, they have proven themselves unworthy of public trust.
Sometimes, life is stranger than fiction. Friday was such a day in America. It was a shameful spectacle.
The BuzzFeed News report that special counsel Robert Mueller had corroborating evidence that Trump had instructed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a Moscow commercial project set the anti-Trump mob on fire. It was the bombshell development Dems and 90 percent of the media have dreamed of — and finally it was here. Oh, Happy Days!
Except it wasn’t true. Mueller said so in an unprecedented debunking that slammed the brakes on the celebration.
Mueller’s statement, though brief, was specific and thorough enough to rip out the guts of the report. It said: “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”
The site’s editor and others called the statement inadequate, but that was wishful thinking. The party was over because prosecutors denied the sensational central claim of the story, that they had gathered evidence beyond doubt that Trump had committed a crime.
While BuzzFeed alone created the false report, which was based, naturally, on anonymous sources, it was not alone in revealing its desire to be rid of Trump. Much of the political class embraced the story without doubts because they wanted it to be true. Dems in Congress instantly pledged investigations.
Then there are the so-called journalists who swallowed the report without trying to confirm it themselves. Many touted it as the Holy Grail while inserting the ridiculous phrase, “if it’s true.”
Not so long ago, no respected journalist or news organization would go public with something unless they had enough evidence to reach the conclusion it was true. The bigger the story, the higher the threshold of necessary evidence.
Not Friday. Then the biggest possible story was presented with the least possible evidence. “If it’s true” is an admission of malpractice.
To use it as a shield while reporting an accusation of massive significance violates every conceivable standard. Real journalists do not report something, then caution that it may not be true.
You certainly don’t accuse the president, or anyone else, of a crime unless you are persuaded by evidence it is true.
I have my doubts the media will do the necessary soul searching. As I have argued repeatedly since 2016, too many outlets are too invested in getting the scoop that brings down the president they love to hate. They have trashed their standards, and Friday was the inevitable result.
But there is another possible silver lining emerging from the dark day, and I have more hope this one will make a difference. It is it a recognition that the endless Mueller probe has become a problem of its own making.
It is not healthy that a prosecutor has become like a divine oracle, with the nation’s mood hanging on first his silence, then his statement. The Wizard of Mueller has no place in our democracy.
Such power is too easily abused, and Mueller, whatever his personal and professional virtues, has gotten too big for America’s good.
Fortunately, he will soon have a real and worthy boss. William Barr is almost certain to be the new attorney general, ending a reign of error that began with the hapless Jeff Sessions and continued with his deputy, Rod Rosenstein.
Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe because he was a prominent Trump campaign supporter is the bane of the Trump presidency. Rosenstein, for reasons known only to himself and perhaps Mueller, panicked when Trump fired James Comey, the corrupt FBI boss, and decided to appoint a special counsel.
Yet Rosenstein wrote a memo justifying the Comey firing and participated in conversations about it, facts that gave him more conflicts than Sessions ever had. Equally troubling, Rosenstein, a career mid-level prosecutor, proved incapable of properly supervising Mueller, whose reputation and gravitas far exceeded that of his putative boss.
As a result, Mueller has operated without restraint or guidance, with abuses and conflicts of interest on his team swept aside in what too often looks like a determination to knock off a duly elected president.
Barr, I believe, will be the antidote to this destructive situation. He is, as I wrote last week, “a respected adult” who can tame the waters in the Justice Department and get to the bottom of the anti-Trump cabal that has robbed the FBI of its reputation for fair play.
And he will not be a pushover for anyone. Barr, who was AG under the first President Bush, has a first-rate legal mind and a mature self-confidence born of experience, both of which he demonstrated at his confirmation hearings.
“I have a very good life, I love it,” he said in response to a question about his independence, “but I also want to help in this circumstance. I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong by anybody, whether it be editorial boards, the Congress or the president. I’m going to do what I think is right.”
The comments were widely interpreted as a warning to the president, and they were in some sense. But they were also a warning to anyone in Washington who would abuse power and corrupt key institutions for political purposes, whether in the media, Congress or the FBI.
That includes the special counsel. Mueller is not exempt from the laws of common sense and fairness. When it comes to Trump, he must fish or cut bait.
After nearly two years of investigating, on top of a 10-month FBI probe he inherited, Mueller needs to show his cards. The country cannot continue to thrash about with uncertainty over events that took place three years ago. The void is being filled with partisan trash and dangerous discord.
As Friday proved, America needs clarity and finality, and it needs them now.
Illustrations by Christina Animashaun
theodore M I R A L D I.
We now have a full array of Negative Actors directing American Policy. For some years now, the general public has grown more suspicious of elected officials, Institutions and what constitutes our nations' mission. It's reminiscent of how things are in failing nations and static populations.
No Mobility, No Hope...
We are living in a nation, and world that looks the other way when bad actors disrupt the lives of everyday citizens. Obstructing the normal operation of government for issues NOT related to the Direct Welfare of its Citizens.
We have witnessed it in Europe, and Great Britain. Where the Minority of the population demands the Majority, dismiss norms they don't agree with. Europe in under attack as is Great Britain, and NOW the U.S. The influx of populations that do not have shared Beliefs and Norms destroys National Unity and Security.
It has become painfully evident why, and where these antagonists plant their seeds of discontent. Urban Areas with the very populations that will not assimilate.
Uneducated and Unskilled populations from Under-Socialized nations will make this nation Uncivilized once more.
Automation will replace the masses. Who needs them?
The Threat of Violence often turns into Vicious Murders of innocent people. These populations have sometimes lived like this for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. The lack of social integration usually is based on Broken Government Systems and Uncompromising Narratives.
Imagine this...an army of Invaders mounting an attack on a Nations' Sovereignty armed only with Rocks and Rhetoric.
We are now in the 21st Century ,and our neighbors mount an attack on this nation with rocks.
One would think, no-one would fear those armed with rocks alone, but here's the rub. The Rampart necessary to defend ourselves does not exist. Literally free to cross the divide into another nation seems to be the fad of the decade. It's happening around the world, thousands amassing to invade armed with not only rocks. but Liberal Socialists looking to take control of First World Nation Wealth.
Why would any Nation want violent people in their populations. They normally wouldn't. The Left talks about changing the world, as if you can turn a shark into a sheep. Fair minded people throughout history know these are pipe-dreams and unrealistic expectations in exchange for Chaos, usually the result of these social experiments.
This paradigm has now become a business for all of the bad actors who may have nothing else to offer society.
The Antagonists will find when the Chaos Ends, so will their Desire to Disrupt.