A couple of disparate topics this week, and believe me, I'm really trying to avoid talking about the Florida guy but a couple of things need to be said. Firstly, while campaigning in South Carolina, he had an interesting comment at a rally, no doubt borne of his mindless riffing about whatever random thought lands on his brain pan.
This time it was about Nikki Haley, you know, the Speaker of the House on January 6th. He wondered aloud where her husband was. Why isn't he on the campaign trail with her? Ignoring the obvious problem with that question being a Slovenian model holed up in Mar A Lago. Now, they say a really good lawyer doesn't ask a question in court he doesn't already know the answer to. But here he went...
“What happened to her husband? Where is he?” Mr. Trump said to a crowd in Conway, S.C. “He’s gone.”
Well, the answer is, Major Michael Haley is deployed with the South Carolina National Guard in Africa, where Melania probably wishes she could be at cringy moments like this.
Now, Cadet Bonespurs should have known the answer and, given his often-expressed attitude toward the military, simply shut his pie hole. But as many have observed firsthand, including all of the country, that is a physical impossibility.
But the comment that is even more disturbing, and isn't there always one? Trump went full Putin at this same rally...
Trump recounted a story he has told before about an unidentified NATO member who confronted him over his threat not to defend members who fail to meet the trans-Atlantic alliance’s defense spending targets.
But this time, Trump went further, saying had told the member that he would, in fact, “encourage” Russia to do as it wishes in that case.
“‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’” Trump recounted saying. “‘No I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.’”
I'll ignore the irony of TFG talking about deadbeat debtors to make a more important point. I was watching SKY News this morning, ideally to get away from Trump 24/7 on American news, and it turns out NATO is pretty alarmed at this nonsense.
Firstly it ignores the treaty itself that commits all members to come to the aid of each other in the event of attack. Here's what I wrote a couple of years ago when this came up before after Russia invaded Ukraine...
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization began with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, the other major event that year being me. The goal wasn't just a defense against the Soviets, but also preventing another conflict within Europe. Two in one century were quite enough. With the Korean War, and the Russkies getting the bomb in 1949, NATO got serious and set up a formal command structure in Europe, with none other than Dwight Eisenhower as the first Supreme Commander.
A unified structure for military operations was established, right down to settling on a common caliber for ammunition. And Article 5 of the charter is the one that has the world on edge right now. An attack on one member is an attack on all. Think the Three Musketeers with B-52's.
And because he never thinks any further than that guy in the MAGA trucker hat in the front row, he probably simply figured it was a great line about what a tough guy he is.
But, NATO’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said in a statement Sunday that “any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the U.S., and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk.” The defense minister in Poland, which has been under Russian control more often than not since the end of the 18th century, “no election campaign is an excuse for playing with the security of the alliance.”
And, by the way, there are no "dues" in NATO. The countries simply promise to maintain defense spending at levels sufficient to contribute to the alliance's defense. The promise to increase that spending was made to President (checking notes, here) oh, yes, Obama. It had been increasing yearly by the time Trump claimed his tough-guy stance cowed our allies.
But, his cavalier dismissal of aid for Ukraine, along with a big chunk of his party's fellow travelers in Congress, ignores another treaty, the Budapest Memorandum, signed back in the mid-90's. In return for giving up their nuclear weapons, dating from the time they were part of the USSR, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan were guaranteed protection by the US, UK and yes, Russia.
Add Putin's poodle Tucker Carlson's toadying interview this week, and we are in full, Putin goober-smooching mode again on the right. That sound you hear is Barry Goldwater spinning in his grave like a human dreidel at this latter-day Eddie Haskell and his bootlicking excuse for an interview.
Apropos of nothing, in looking up some of this stuff, I ran across a photo that begged a question for me. It was taken when members of the trucking industry came to the white House to talk about health care and they brought a couple of big rigs to park on the driveway. And that unleashed the former President's inner 8-year-old, which to be honest, is identical to his outer 8-year-old.
As you look, imagine vroom-vroom sounds being made. It made me wonder if he actually has ever driven a car? That search led me to a short, anecdotal story by a woman named Lucy Klebanow who went on a date with him in the early 70's. It proves he had a car at one time, but was still a deadbeat.
"So, my big shot, Cadillac, phone-in-convertible boring date couldn’t pay for dinner. He was stunned and embarrassed. I said, "Let’s get aprons and do the dishes. It would be fun." His face was horror-stricken. He was flustered. Relax, I said, I have the money. Oh, thank God. He swore he’d pay me back tomorrow so many times that I thought it not likely.
He never did. That may tell you something about my date with Donald Trump."
So, yes, I did it again. I set out to write about something else, and TFG got me sidetracked with more of his dimwitted codswallop. So let me make amends.
This campaign will almost certainly feature some of what we saw in New Hampshire. Fake, AI-generated propaganda. That was in the form of robo-calls with an AI generated Joe Biden's voice telling voters not to vote in the Democratic Primary. And, wouldn't you know, when authorities up there tracked it down, the calls came from Texas.
But artificial Intelligence is here and doing a couple of things I find alarming. Firstly, is this. You can now make campaign ads that imply a candidate said something outrageous. It was demonstrated by actor and director Jordan Peele...
And Peele doesn't even do the best Obama impersonation. But then again, he doesn't have to. The former President's voice can be generated artificially and you'll never know it isn't him.
And who will use this technology? I think it has no party label. In this case, there will be bipartisan trickery, and it will be even harder for voters to detect the jiggery-pokery once it's spread on the internet. And if it isn't the parties, oh, who else might be interested? This from Wired Magazine...
A RUSSIAN DISINFORMATION campaign is deploying everything from high-ranking lawmakers and government officials to lifestyle influencers, bloggers, and powerful state-run media outlets to stoke divisions in the United States around the Texas border crisis.
WIRED has also obtained exclusive access to data from two separate disinformation research groups that demonstrate a coordinated Russian effort on Telegram and X (formerly Twitter) to sow discord by pushing the narrative that the US is heading for civil war.
So, who will be there to sound the alarm when these wacky pranksters try to convince you that Joe Biden was in Alaska clobbering baby seals, Marjorie Taylor Greene is some sort of corn-pone Margaret Thatcher or simply that Trump is smart? Why my colleagues in the press, of course, manning the walls of truth to do battle with this sort of hanky-panky with fact-checks galore (a minor Bond character, by the way).
Except they won't be there and you don't read them anyway. The media landscape is on the verge of what the New Yorker called an extinction-level, event. The New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post and papers all over the country are shedding reporters like cicadas shed skins. Local television is a shadow of its former self. Pick up a Newsweek Magazine at the airport, probably the only place you might, and it feels like a pamphlet.
Now, you might say, well, OK, it's all gone online. And that's true, but you still need reporters and editors, so how do you explain the thinning of the herd? Money. People, you know the real kind, who do the digging, fact-finding, and then write cogently, are expensive. They need salaries, health insurance, and in the old days, pensions. Now, Sports Illustrated is weathering a scandal after it was discovered to be using artificial intelligence to actually write articles. I say scandal in the present tense because it will be the norm before long. This is how the New Yorker explained it...
“Publishers, brace yourselves—it’s going to be a wild ride,” Matthew Goldstein, a media consultant, wrote in a January newsletter. “I see a potential extinction-level event in the future.” Some of the forces cited by Goldstein were already well known: consumers are burned out by the news, and social-media sites have moved away from promoting news articles. But Goldstein also pointed to Google’s rollout of A.I.-integrated search, which answers user queries within the Google interface, rather than referring them to outside Web sites, as a major factor in this coming extinction.
I have spent the last 54 years in broadcast and print news, as have my Outlaw Writer colleagues. And we all have seen the business change, grow leaner and more shallow. In my last job as a News Director, I hired some pretty damned good young reporters right out of college. I can only think of two who are still in the business. Many moved on to public relations or some other field.
One old friend just retired as an anchor, and I texted him about how he was doing. He allowed as how the grind finally proved to be too much and it was time to hang it up. When I talked about some of the reporters we knew years ago and the business today, he replied, "It has changed. It's crazy."
So, who will help you sift through this? Tik-Tok? Facebook? X? Politicians have done such a good job of disparaging legitimate reporting that you may not trust anyone but Peter Doocy. I prefer the advice of a different politician, that Jefferson guy:
"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. "
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.