Harsh Your Mellow Monday: Answer the Question Edition
[HM1] Charlamagne tha Great Meets A Guy Named Joe
Back on Friday presumptive Democratic Nominee for president Joe Biden did a long remote interview with The Breakfast Club’s Charlamagne tha God. It goes for 18 minutes but it’s this moment that got all the attentions:
“I’m not acknowledging anybody who is being considered, but I guarantee you: There are multiple black women being considered. Multiple,” Biden said of his search process for a vice presidential nominee.
It was then that an aide to the Biden campaign could be heard interjecting into the conversation, attempting to cut short the interview. “Thank you so much. That’s really our time. I apologize,” the aide said.
“You can’t do that to black media!” Charlamagne retored.
“I do that to white media and black media because my wife has to go on at 6 o’clock,” Biden shot back, apparently referring to a subsequent media appearance by Dr. Jill Biden, before adding: “Uh oh. I’m in trouble.”
“Listen, you’ve got to come see us when you come to New York, VP Biden,” Charlamagne said. “It’s a long way until November. We’ve got more questions.”
“You’ve got more questions?” Biden replied. “Well I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
It took about 5 minutes for that soundbite to go viral, another 15 minutes for MAGAland to get it out on the distrolists, and by early afternoon Team Trump was selling “#youain’tblack – Joe Biden” t-shirts for the low, low price of $30 plus shipping and handling. No one can ever accuse Trump 2020 of not hustling. By the time the merch was hitting the Donald Trump website, Biden was calling in to a national conference call of African Americans businesses and apologizing:
Joe Biden has apologised for saying that if African Americans “have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black”, a remark which prompted a storm of controversy and fierce attacks from supporters of the president.
“I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” Biden said on a call with the US Black Chambers, an African-American business group, which was added to his public schedule. “I shouldn’t have been so cavalier.”
Biden also said he would never “take the African American community for granted”.
Thing is, uber-entitled lifetime rich white guy “put y’all back in chains“, “(Barack Obama)the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking“, “political lynching” Joe Biden saying highly problematic racial gaffes is not news. Note all those links go to stories headlined “Joe Biden Apologizes…” Seriously, if everything Biden hasn’t done up to this point didn’t bother you, this isn’t going to either. Either your mind is made up to vote for him for whatever reason, or you just refuse to Google things. Joe Biden has 40+ years of book on who and what he is, there are no new surprises. It’s viral, but it isn’t news. It’s loud, and will be repeated, but it isn’t news. Few votes are going to change over this, and it will have about as much impact as President Trump’s terrible “bloodlines” remark the day before that wasn’t exactly a bright shining moment in tolerant rhetoric, and the race will resume its default position till the next outrage du jour of “Anybody but Trump” vs “It’s Trump or the left”.
4.4 million 2012 Obama voters didn’t vote for HRC. Something like a third of those were black voters. Biden has to get some of them back if he wants to avoid HRCs fate. Is this a big deal in grand scheme of things? Probably not, but it sure doesn’t help cut into that 4.4M he needs to excite. It definitely looks bad to the number of black voters in that subset, which is why the Trump campaign is going at this so hard. The president doesn’t need to flip any of those voters, just needs them to be ticked off or indifferent enough to sit home.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about something important that this episode does show.
How is it Charlamagne tha God has pulled out of three different presidential candidates this cycle more interesting soundbites and insight into how the candidates think than a year plus of concentrated media scrutiny.
Senator Kamala Harris got headlines from her in-studio visit to the Breakfast Club. Pressed on criticisms, frankly unfair ones, over her “blackness” and having a white husband, the Breakfast Club interview got the viral treatment for Harris’ comments about what music she listened to while smoking a joint in college. The Twitterati was quick to point out her stated choices hadn’t put out music when she was in college, but the Breakfast Club defended Harris, blaming the clip as cross-talk between two different hosts. To be noted here, the accusation was of being insensitive to folks who had been arrested and jailed for doing the same thing Kamala Harris was joking about. Fair enough, but Charlamagne defended it, despite his own history having done jail time for possession of marijuana among other drug-related charges before turning his life around. If that was the offended demographic, someone who had skin in that game was sitting right there, and let it pass.
Senator Elizabeth Warren received even more attention for her trip to The Breakfast Club. Again, it was Charlamagne tha God that was doing the questioning, and wasn’t satisfied with the Senator from Massachusetts’ rout soundbite.
— Rebecca Buck (@RebeccaBuck) May 31, 2019
Why Do Democrats Keep Embarrassing Themselves on ‘The Breakfast Club’? Adam K. Raymond’s headline asks in New York Magazine.
Here’s the short answer: It’s one of the few places they run into anyone who actually asks them uncomfortable things.
The Breakfast Club, and Charlamagne tha God in particular, has a long history of viral moments with their guest because, in his own words, C “doesn’t hold his tongue for nobody.” In the business of promoting artists — which is why most of them are on the radio show, they are there to promote something — access journalism and being made to look good as part of showing up is the currency of the entertainment realm. Those viral moments come from stars that aren’t used to getting push back.
What Charlamagne exposes here isn’t just his own talent at interviewing, but how utterly worthless most news media and political reporting is. Much like entertainment, political reporting has become heavily dependent on access journalism. Who you know to feed you information is the key to getting certain stories, and staying connected to that pipeline means certain things just aren’t going to get reported. A good example of this right now is the VP silly seasons stories. Far more valuable than the “X candidate is interviewed, sources confirm” story is the way you can tell which outlets are plugged into which faction of the Democratic party by who they are giving what kind of treatment to.
Charlamagne knows this, having made a name for himself as the guy who will ask any one any question at any time regardless of who they or their representation are. The Breakfast Club and it’s nearly 100 syndicated stations are must-stops for Democratic candidates looking to reach the vital demographic of African American base of the party. They need him and The Breakfast Club more than Charlamagne needs them, and he brings a whole lot of give-a-damn to the issues he cares about. Professional journalists can wave the bloody shirt of “bias” all they want but no one seriously listens to that anymore. All humans have bias. Spare us the above-it-all nonsense. Charlamagne tha God has a bias, and uses it to great effect to interview people seeking power while still keeping it between the lines of being a great interviewer and a professional. More journalists, talking heads, and pundits should take note. The country — and political press in particular — would be the better for it.
I respect the heck out of Charlamagne tha God for saying what he thinks. There are a lot worse ways of doing things. Frankly, I’d take him as a debate moderator over a lot of the folks that will get that chair. At least with Charlamagne, I know what I’m getting: someone who wants answers to his questions, and isn’t afraid to insist on it.
[HM2] By Popular Demand, Let’s Talk About Kayleigh McEnany, Jonah Goldberg, and the Brady Briefing Room
Because Harsh Your Mellow Monday is nothing if not for the people, by request from the Twitter comes the question of this particular clip:
.@JonahDispatch says @PressSec Kayleigh McEnany’s behavior is “indefensible and grotesque” and that Trump wants a “Twitter troll who goes on [the] attack, doesn’t actually care about doing the job they have…” in a press secretary. pic.twitter.com/2cPZgVe0c5
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) May 24, 2020
What set off this particular tempest in the press teacup was The White House Press briefing on Friday:
McEnany had a short but contentious briefing with reporters after Trump announced that he was declaring houses of worship “essential” and urging governors to allow them to reopen.
She clashed with reporters on the lack of specifics regarding Trump’s announcement on houses of worship, and she later scolded them for not asking about allegations involving former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s case.
Reporters pressed McEnany repeatedly on what power Trump had to compel churches to reopen, which she dismissed as a “hypothetical.”
“The president will strongly encourage every governor to allow their churches to reopen, and boy it’s interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worship stay closed,” she said.
Jeff Mason, a longtime White House reporter for Reuters, objected to her characterization, telling McEnany he’s “dying to go back to church.” He noted journalists were inquiring about whether Trump was encouraging churches to reopen even if it was not safe to do so in certain areas.
“Jeff, it is safe to reopen your churches if you do so in accordance with the guidelines,” McEnany said, referencing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on the matter that had not been publicized prior to the briefing.
Which brings us back to the clip and Wallace’s displeasure and Jonah Goldberg saying “I think her (McEnany’s) behavior is indefensible and grotesque,” before continuing “What Donald Trump wants in a press secretary is a Twitter troll who goes on attack…Doesn’t actually care about doing the job they have, and instead wants to impress really an audience of one and make another part of official Washington another one of these essentially cable news and Twitter gladiatorial arenas.”OK, let’s go through this mess slowly, and we will use small words for the folks in the back from Webster Springs: Setting aside the church debate because a) it’s a purposeful flashpoint and b) the rest of the following points will hold true about whatever tomorrows Brady Briefing Room Bonanza of Rhetoric topic is.
Jonah Goldberg’s “indefensible and grotesque” is coming at it pretty hard and fast and lands in a crashed pile of ridiculous. Chris Wallace’s pining for the old days is just nostalgia. But Jonah is right about one thing: The president does want a “Twitter troll” at the podium. He is just wrong about that being a bad thing for Trump, who gets the medium and the moment better than this particular panel and a bunch of other folks.
Donald Trump might very well be the greatest Twitter troll in the history of the medium, certainly the most successful in making what he tweets manifest in real world reaction. He is president right now in no small part to his ability to bend the media narrative around whatever he mashes “send” on. The news media covering politics doesn’t have to do anything most mornings except wait for the president to spew something on Twitter, then react to it. Watch a network news show tomorrow morning, it’s the same thing every day. Lead story, probably coronavirus related, then throw to a story tying that back to something Trump did/said/tweeted. Next comes a video package of whatever Trump did/said/tweeted about. Follow that up back in the studio for a panel discussion on whatever Trump did/said/tweeted. That’s a half hour of air time done. Writers on their game can have their takes on the president’s tweets up by noon for the lunchtime social media spike.
And round and round it goes.
A huge chunk of American political media centers on Donald J. Trump tweeting. Because it makes life easy on everyone involved. That isn’t changing. Add in Trump’s true secret to media success — his constant feuding with the news media — which works because the thing the news media most likes to spend time covering is themselves. And whether instinctually or as part of a plan, President Trump just keeps feeding their need for more self-reporting cowbell tweet after tweet.
The truth is the traditional press briefing is as archaic as the phone booths ripped out during the renovations to the press center. No actual news happens or is broken, just viral moments that flash through a news cycle of something said. The White House Press Corps rarely if ever “breaks” a story. More often they are relying information given to them by whichever contacts they have developed best. Which is fine, but that’s access journalism, and we don’t need the dog and pony show press briefings for that. Besides, by the time the press secretary takes the podium everyone already knows what the president thinks in real time due to his Twitter account.
So, yes, the press secretary for the president who has mastered the medium of Twitter to control the press and gain power with his followers wants a “Twitter troll” at the podium because THAT’S WHAT HAS WORKED SO FAR. Wallace, Goldberg, and the rest have perfectly valid points about decorum, but the hyperbole about how disgusting and different from the past they find it all just plays right back into the president’s plan: they keep talking about him, 24/7, nonstop, in mediaspeak that most of the country just automatically tunes out.
Kayleigh McEnany is extremely smart. She knows exactly what her role at that podium is, and it is to keep the press mostly preoccupied with covering themselves. Which is why she shows up now to press briefings armed with the reporters’ own previous comments for when they come at her.
Decry it. Bemoan it. Condemn it. Wish for times that once was. But as long as Donald Trump is president, these are the new rules and you might as well get used to them.
Maybe the next president will change everything back to the way it was. But I severely doubt it. Because secretly, all that political news media and the public that watches it, likes it this way a whole lot better.
They just won’t admit that for the media and the consumer this is easier, and more entertaining. Which makes the press secretary not the only professional liar in the Brady Briefing Room.
[HM3] Intramurals, Rightside Bracket
President Trump not only has endorsed Tommy Tuberville for US Senate in Alabama to try and reclaim Jeff Sessions old seat from Sen. Doug Jones, but has spent the weekend Twittersaulting his former AG to make sure not-so Jazzy Jeff doesn’t make up ground against the former Auburn coach in the looming Republican run-off.
And the grift queen author of “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!” turned disillusioned Trump critic is not happy:
Trump didn’t build the wall and never had any intention of doing so. The ONE PERSON in the Trump administration who did anything about immigration was Jeff Session. And this lout attacks him. https://t.co/fIzHtmbOfR
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) May 24, 2020
Poor Ann. Having found herself on the outs with her erstwhile champion means no more Hannity, Rush, Fox News, or any other MAGA friendly media hits. She is too much of a wackjob for regular media, and the remaining options just aren’t as high profile as the halcyon days when her law degree and blonde privilege would open doors for the studio shows and rain down the appearance fees, book deals, and the love and adoration of the wider rightwing media-industrial complex.
Too bad selling everything to ride the Trump wave doesn’t come with receipts.
Single tear for ‘Ol Ann, if you can even manage that much for such a shameless grifter of hateful hysterics.
[HM4] Intramurals, Leftside Bracket
It’s almost like 2016 didn’t happen, or at least too few people bothered to learn any kind of lesson from it regarding the most die hard of Bernie Sanders’ supporters:
The Vermont senator who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race earlier this year is asking his campaign delegates to sign a social media agreement restricting them from attacking other candidates, getting into heated online confrontations and talking to the media without approval, among other things.
Seriously, how many times do y’all need to see this movie before it sinks in how this works out? The core group that drives Sanders is never going to be a reliable voting block for the Democratic Primary. The feeling is mutual, as the Democratic party took “anybody but Trump” to its logical conclusion and turned out in record numbers to nominate generic-Democrat incarnate Joe Biden, in no small part just to prevent Bernie from getting the nod.
After getting nearly carte blanche to rewrite the primary rules for this cycle, Bernie did even worse. The progressive wing that likes Sanders’ unabashed democratic socialism has had just enough of a taste of mattering that they are not going to toe the line just because the party says so. With social media and impressive fundraising, they are only going to get louder. The question of this cycle was would all that noise translate into a surge of new voters? That answer was resoundingly no. Will that change in the next few years? Maybe. But with Bernie surely passing from the presidential race scene, it remains for whoever the next champion of democratic socialism is going to be, and if they can make more inroads. Or to be blunt about it, at least regain what Bernie lost between 2106 and 2020.
They should be warned, though. Their wing isn’t the only one that is going to be getting younger. Just by attrition the slew of over 70 candidates in this year’s primary will probably not get another go-round, either in 4 and certainly not in 8 years from now. All the arguments for the party rallying to a charismatic democratic socialist also can apply to a more traditional progressive that might be able to pull the party together without radically altering it.
But before that process happens, we still have a few more months of wailing and gnashing of teeth from those still feeling the Bern, and wondering what, in their minds, should have been with every Joe Biden gaffe. And if Joe loses, then it will be Katy bar the door for quite a while over on Team Blue.
Grab the popcorn.