Bernie’s Q&A: Bolton, Durkin, My Favorite Interviews, and more! (6/19) — Premium Interactive ($4 members)

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As a Trump supporter I am concerned about some of his tweets. I hope he stays out of the Seattle protests. I think he should let Governor Inslee and Mayor Durkin stew in their own leftist juices. What I fear is that if he sends in the military, the protesters will provoke a shooting and we could have another Kent State situation. What do you think? — Vic P.

I don’t believe he’ll send in the military. He talks about it … he’d like to do it … but he won’t. As much as sensible Americans hate what they’re seeing in Seattle, it would be a bad political move for the president.

CNN held a “Town Hall” Sunday evening with the four black female mayors of Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago & D.C.. conducted by a black female moderator. I tuned in to try and gain some better understanding of the issues and their responses to current events. Honestly, it turned into a one-hour pat-each-other-on-the back session, void of tough questions on why these mayors have made the decisions they have. No question on why they initially allowed violent protesting and looting. No questions on what they are doing about true black male crime statistics especially to the Chicago Mayor… No hard questions on the hypocrisy of allowing mass gatherings during their own Covid restrictions. I tried, but I was let down again trying to get a fair perspective. So what’s a caring citizen to do, and where do they go to maintain a balanced perspective? — ScottyG

It was on CNN, right? And you’re surprised that it was a love fest? CNN lost its way a long time ago. As to where to go to maintain a balanced perspective: Not cable TV in prime time. I’m anxiously waiting to see if Fox let’s John Bolton on to talk about his book. I bring that up because CNN doesn’t have a monopoly on agenda driven news coverage. I used to write about media bias. It’s gone way beyond that. To not ask the questions of those mayors that you posed, Scotty, is an absolute disgrace, which has become par for the course at CNN.

I’ve been reading up on “White Privilege”, which I guess has been preached as dogma on college campuses for quite awhile. “Critical race theory” has me pegged as racist because of my original sin of being born with my dermatologic affliction of skin color consistent with my Caucasian ethnicity. It doesn’t matter, it seems, what I’ve done or said or thought about anybody in my life. And if I should protest that I have never uttered the N word my entire life, loath those that do, do not socialize with or work with those that do, have worked and socialized with black americans my entire life, and am NOT a racist, that apparently just proves that I’m a racist.

It reminds me of the old test for being a witch……recant being a witch and confess or we will dunk you until you drown, in which case that proves you were a witch. BRAVE NEW WORLD, indeed, where the woke masters have no tolerance for counter-revolutionaries or those who aren’t sufficiently educated as to their abject immorality and depravity of thought; they must shut up or recast their thought patterns in the new language of truth. I am angry and sick at heart for what I fear my grandson, who is 3, faces when he enters the education propaganda mill in another few years. Does he come home and tell me that he feels sad because his skin is white and he was born a racist? Not to mention all the other thought-crimes that he can be guilty of?  — John F.

George Orwell wrote about this kind of double-speak nonsense. We’re living it. I’ve often wondered how the son or daughter of a white anglo-saxon coal miner in West Virginia has white privilege. The progressives are taking over the culture. And name-calling is just the beginning.

Bernie, I am assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that in various parts of America people on the street are being approached and asked/told that they need to take a knee to show/prove that they are on board with Black Lives Matter. Do you have any advice as to how someone who does not support the defunding of police or does not view America as systemically racist should respond? On a related note, can you imagine NYC ever getting back to “normal” in terms of one’s ability to walk in Times Square or elsewhere without the risk of being “confronted?” Obviously the point re NYC can be equally applied to many other large cities across the country begging the question how all of this will impact tourism by those who do not support some or all of the leftist platform? — Michael F.

How to respond? Don’t get into a discussion with the mob because it’s a losing proposition. But even more important, don’t give in to the mob. Don’t say things you don’t believe just to make some kind of peace. As for New York: Things can change if New Yorkers elect someone like the city’s former mayor Rudy Giuliani. He cleaned things up — and it can happen again. But not with a progressive mayor. New Yorkers elected Bill de Blasio. Let them figure out their next move.

I’m fearful of losing my country to the violent anarchists, not because they are brilliant, but because those in corporate America, academia, and politics are actually caving in to the demands of the woke cry bullies! Since they’re tearing down statues and demanding buildings be renamed, I suggest that the Dems dismantle anything connected to FDR since he forced Japanese Americans into internment camps. Next let’s tear down statues of MLK Jr. and Malcolm X since both of them belonged to religions that condemned homosexuality as sinful and immoral. While we’re at it, let’s condemn Barack Obama because his wife Michelle is friends with that war criminal George W. Bush. What do you think would happen if someone echoed my suggestions to the anarchists? I’m being snarky, but I’m sure you get my point.

One more question: if someone as simple as me can easily see what submission to the anarchists will lead to, then why can’t the enablers like the liberal Democrats & professors & corporate heads see that their own heads are on the chopping block? — “Tear down the Sacco & Vanzetti Statue!” Regards, from the Emperor

Actually, Emp, your suggestion to tear down statues that honor liberals and progressives, may be snarky but it’s really a good one. To be clear, I don’t want to see those statues torn down but I do want to see someone make the case that you just made. If I’m the one who does that you’ll know where I got the idea. Good writers borrow. Great writers steal.

The liberals enablers of the authoritarian left go along with the anti free speech movement because they don’t believe that submission to the mob will ever affect them. More proof that they may have high IQs but are both pathetically delusional and at times, not too smart.

Dear Bernie, Recently many workplaces have had moments of silence, interfaith services and kneel-ins to recognize the murder of George Floyd and others by police. Is this appropriate for the workplace or is this something that is best left to off-work hours? — Peter

If management at a private company wants to give employees the opportunity to take part in the kind of demonstrations you outline they have the right to do it. As for your question about its appropriateness: I’m okay with it Peter as long as attendance is not mandatory. Reasonable people may disagree on whether such demonstrations are best left to off-hours work. But my concern is that those who don’t want to take part may incur some form of punishment — even if it’s not immediately obvious. They may also be ostracized by fellow employees. As long as there are no repercussions meted out to those who refrain from kneeling, etc … it’s something I could put up with, even if I’m not wholeheartedly for it.

If someone believes that America was conceived in sin, has been rotten to the core from its inception, is unwilling to support free speech for those who civilly and honestly disagree with their viewpoints, and is willing to excuse or justify rioting and violence, can they simultaneously claim to be a proud American who loves their country? I believes this goes to the core of the issue for those who beat the “systemic” racism drum. — Michael

I don’t think they’d say they love this country. They might love an America where there is absolutely no racism, no pollution, to poverty, no income inequality, etc … but they don’t love the America we live in today. And as I say, Michael, I don’t think they’d be ashamed to admit that.

There’s lots of irony/hypocrisy in watching liberals swoon over John Bolton, after vilifying him for years, because he’s now dishing on Trump. At the same time, Politico’s Tim Alberta (who’s no liberal) made this valid point on Twitter: “[Bolton] headlined every right-wing gathering; appeared on every Fox News show; wrote op-eds in conservative publications; raised millions for GOP candidates; was exalted as a voice of integrity, authority, honesty. And now he is the enemy—because he spoke ill of the dear leader.”

Regarding what Bolton wrote: while his accounts of Trump are damning, they’re unfortunately not surprising nor uncharacteristic of what know of Trump, or what we’ve heard him say with our own ears. Even giving Xi Jinping a verbal blessing to build concentration camps (which is truly sick) is consistent with other instances of him condoning the horrific behavior of authoritarian regimes.

Some on the left are criticizing Bolton for not speaking up during Trump’s impeachment, but do you think Bolton’s testimony would have compelled even one other GOP Senator to vote to convict? I don’t. I’m not sure anything would have. — Jen R.

I’m with you, Jen, 100 percent. Expect no consistency on political matters from either side. They throw their so-called values over the side to either excuse anything and everything Donald Trump does — or to condemn him no matter what. I find both sides lacking in anything resembling integrity. In the case of Bolton on Trump: You’re right. Nothing that’s come out so far is surprising. If he had written that Donald Trump offered to pay some dictator to endorse him, I wouldn’t be surprised. And if Bolton had spoken up earlier, nothing would have changed. Nothing. We’re on the same wave length Jen.

Which person was your most favorite interview (I know that’s probably a tough question)? — Ben G.

I know you asked for one favorite, but like potato chips, I can’t have just one. So here it goes, Ben:

I like Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal a lot. Both are honest and don’t beat around the bush. You ask them a question, you get a straight answer. That’s not always the case.

I liked my college classmate Jim Valvano, who I interviewed when he was coaching basketball at North Carolina State. Off camera I told him about the time I hit the rim with my knuckle while grabbing a rebound during a pickup basketball game at Rutgers — a game he was watching from a few feet away. Let’s just say his recollection was different from mine. More precisely, he had absolutely no recollection of my jumping ability. And after I finished telling him the story, he told me I was full of you know what.

I also interviewed several people with serious physical disabilities. They didn’t see themselves as victims.  Both went on to achieve great things. They were Kyle Maynard and Jen Brinker. You can look them up.

And one more: Ansar Burney, a human rights activist who helped free thousands of young boys from slavery in the United Arab Emirates. They had been brought in from very poor countries and forced to become camel jockeys, a very dangerous business. If a boy died because he fell off the camel and was crushed under its hooves, he was shipped home in a box. If you have HBO, you might want to go to On Demand and find the story.

I’m sure I’m leaving a few more out. Apologies.

So, an ANTIFA like group [maybe all ANTIFA] has taken over six city block’s in downtown Seattle, and roused the cops out of the precinct that was situated within that six block area. What I find really ironic is that they have set up borders and have armed guards patrolling them. Anyone wanting to enter must be approved before they are allowed to do so. Gee, where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, at our southern border which the Left has been fighting against for years. They have a large list of demands too numerous to list here, one involves abolishing the police department. Continuing, the Governor was asked what he thought of a group taking control of part of the city and he acted like he had never heard about it. The Mayor on the other hand, when asked by Chris Cuomo at CNN what she thought about it and how long she thought it might last, replied “Maybe it will be a summer of love.” Even Cuomo had to look at her like “Have you got all your marbles, lady?” Initially, I was feeling badly for the citizens of Seattle but hey, you do reap what you sow. They put these uber liberal clowns in place. BTW, this stopped being about George Floyd a week ago, this is the anarchy many have predicted would come sooner or later from the uber radicals in this country that do want to make it over in their likeness. So how do we fight it when the local leaders are OK with it? — John M.

First, John, your analysis is spot on. If the mayor won’t fight it and the governor won’t fight it … let’s see how far the anarchists go before the liberals who pay taxes in that liberal city and state demand an end to it. What if six blocks is just the beginning? At some point, the political cowards will either show backbone and send in the cops, or the anarchists will be in charge. It can go either way, John. Really!  Check out my Off the Cuff this week on this subject.

 


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Bernie’s Q&A: Trump vs. Scarborough & Twitter, Fauci, Imus, and more! (5/29) — Premium Interactive ($4 members)

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Now, let’s get to your questions (and my answers):


A few Memorial Day thoughts: I read that less than half of Americans even know that Memorial Day is a day to honor and remember those who gave their lives for America. The NYT chose that day this year to focus on white supremacy with respect to the military. Around the same time, China was taking steps to put a choke-hold on Hong Kong by criminalizing disrespect for the Chinese National Anthem (in contrast to the US where flag burning is constitutionally protected), and the media was pretty much silent while it continued to carry China’s water on various issues. I started to think about just how far we as a country have fallen in terms of patriotism, love of country and respect for our armed forces and the brave men and women who serve and have served (not all of us but a substantial number who would like to see our military spending sliced). And I started to wonder what all this portends as many of our leaders (together with academia, the entertainment industry and of course the MSM) denigrate on an ongoing basis America, the Constitution, our history and our values. — Michael F.

As the country (continues) to move leftward, we’ll see more of what you’re describing, Michael. I’m not saying liberals hate America. But I don’t think they are as traditional in these matters as conservatives. There may be a swing back to the way things used to be regarding old-fashioned patriotism. But I don’t see it coming anytime soon.

Bernie, how would you grade Dr. Fauci’s response to COVID-19? Some of the pundits have faulted him for changing his position too often or not clearly communicating his position when asked. I want to know your no nonsense assessment. — Joe M.

I’m not troubled, Joe, when Dr. Fauci (or anybody else) changes his position. Facts change. Opinions change. Anything said at the outset of the virus, means little — because we knew little. That said, I trust Fauci. If I had to pick someone who’s advice I would take, he’d be high on my list. Guess who would be at the bottom of that list. Initials: DJT.

Watching the Golf Match Today, I was thinking about your interview with John Urschel. The football interview where “A Math Seminar Broke Out”. And I was also thinking about Colin Kaepernick. Certainly there are issues in sports worthy of press such as the treatment of the horses in horse racing and camel Jockeys. But overall I believe that American Professional Sports do a pretty good job of standards as do the athletes themselves. Maybe I’m wrong but even with Kaepernick I hear he’s a good guy. The Match raised millions and I know through out the country many athletes raise money and donate as well. And personally, I hear little negative. Just looking to get your opinion overall of professional sport standards. — Tim H.

Like life outside the world of sports, there are good people and not-so-good people. Good deeds and bad deeds. We in the press are drawn to bad events — like a football player whose gun accidentally goes off at a nightclub. Or athletes involved in domestic abuse cases. For good or bad, that’s the nature of news. But there’s a lot of good deeds in the world of sports. A lot of charity and the like. But just as we don’t cover the bank that did NOT get robbed or the plane that landed safely, we tend to cover the dark side. But, as I say, Tim … there’s plenty that’s good.

Mr. G, Are we at the time in place now where presidents’ words don’t matter? Clinton wagged his finger at us and lied, and tried to change what “is” means; Bush claimed WMD’s and we still have troops getting killed for who knows what; Obama said “keep your doctor and enjoy lower healthcare costs’. Now Trump goes off the Pinocchio rails almost daily. They ALL lie and keep their jobs, so what’s the use in crying? Do we just continue to live with it? Might you have a solution? I hope so… — ScottyG

First, a quick correction: Bush got it wrong, but he didn’t lie. He based his decision on faulty intel. Obama may not have lied either. He may have been incompetent and didn’t know what was in his signature piece of legislation. Or, as you say Scotty, he may have lied.

With that out of the way, what’s my solution: Try to go about your business so that the president, whoever he or she is, doesn’t play too big a role in your life. And lower your expectations. There aren’t a lot of Washingtons or Lincolns. And finally: If we chose better presidents you wouldn’t need to ask your question.

Bernie, as of the time I’m writing this (to get my question in before your deadline), Trump has yet to announce the details of his “executive order” to, in some fashion, “strongly regulate” Twitter. He of course got mad after Twitter flagged one of his tweets as factually incorrect (a new feature). Regardless of Trump’s intent, and whether or not this new fact-check feature is a good idea, Twitter is a private company and has a constitutional right to make its own rules of use. Trump has no authority over how they manage their content and users (whether it be deleting certain posts, banning members, or adding “fact checks” to some tweets). What are your thoughts on what looks like a government power-grab, and are you surprised that the GOP (the party that’s traditionally stood for less intrusion in businesses by the government) seems to be going along with it? — Ben G.

I’m pretty much with you but let’s remember that social media sites have been granted — by the U.S. government — certain privileges. The site isn’t responsible, for instance, for anything said on the site. You can sue someone who posts libelous material about you — but you can’t successfully sue the site (because the site owner can’t know everything posted, especially when the site has millions or billions of participants like Twitter and Facebook).

So, are the people who run Facebook and Twitter and Google publishers who can edit comments and posts and say what’s true and what isn’t — or are they merely facilitators who open their sites to a free and open discussion without interference?

If Twitter chooses to call out the president’s tweets for dishonesty, then Twitter appears to be a publisher. And as such, they can be sued.

So it’s complicated. But do we really think Twitter would flag President Obama’s false statement about keeping your doctor? The big sites are heavily influenced by liberal thinking so conservatives have a right to be annoyed. Still, you raise a strong point, Ben. And there’s a good chance the matter will end up in the courts.

Even after Lori Klausutis’s widower wrote a letter describing the pain Trump is causing his family by continuing to push the baseless conspiracy theory that his wife was having an affair with, and was murdered by, Joe Scarborough, Trump (who says he read the letter) hasn’t relented. He continues to call for an investigation into Scarborough, and he even claimed that the Klausutis family wants to “get to the bottom” of what happened (exactly the opposite of what the widower — who has known what happened since 2001 — wrote). From what I’ve seen, no prominent Christian leader has condemned Trump for what he’s doing. If they can’t speak up on presidential behavior as over-the-top immoral as this, shouldn’t they just shut up on all political matters from here on out? — Bailey T.

An emphatic YES, Bailey, on whether Christian leaders should shut up on all political matters. I’ll go further. I don’t want to hear them lecture us on moral matters when they go deaf, dumb and blind regarding the president’s despicable tweets about Scarborough. Please see the column that will go up on my website Monday morning.

Have you seen the old video of Joe Scarborough on Don Imus’s show, where Imus — in the last few seconds of the segment — made some joke about Scarborough sleeping with and killing an “intern” (which I guess was a reference to Lori Klausutis, though she wasn’t an intern). Scarborough kind of went along with the joke (which was in poor taste). Some of those defending our president’s conspiracy theory are claiming this to be some kind of “ah ha” moment that implicates Scarborough. But as someone who was on his show often, Bernie, didn’t Imus do this kind of thing a lot? He was kind of a shock jock, like Howard Stern, right? I’m not sure how Scarborough should have reacted with only a few seconds remaining in such an interview. Your thoughts? — Samuel M.

Yes, Imus would do something like that … and when you’re on live radio or TV sometimes you just go along. As for those Trump supporters using this to say the president is on to something … Bull Crap!

Read my column coming out on Monday. What Donald Trump has done to Scarborough (who, for what it’s worth, I do not like) was despicable. And those who find excuses to support the president would also support him if he really did shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue.

I agree that Pelosi and the Dems want to delay the recovery of the economy in order to win the election. I further agree that Trump sabotages himself regularly by making dumb ass comments on Twitter and getting into petty adolescent battles by attacking people like Jeff Sessions & even worse Joe Scarborough (really—-WTF!?). What I don’t get is why Trump can’t figure out that he plays right into his enemies’ plans by engaging in these petty quarrels since it’s easy to see that this can come back and kick him in the rear! Same goes for Pelosi and the Dems—how can THEY not see that anyone with a reasonable disposition can easily see that they want the American economy to crash and burn for their own selfish purposes and that buying into “I can make more money sitting at home doing nothing than I can by actually working” is ultimately a deal with the devil that will cause more problems in the end than it will actually cure? We’ve both seen any number of movies about how it appears that mobsters are going to help you out but in the end all they really want is to own you. It’s obvious to you and me; why do you think it’s not obvious to them? — Petty & Nefarious Regards From The Emperor

Emperor: Let’s start with the president. You ask why he can’t figure out that he’s playing into the hands of his enemies. That’s easy: He doesn’t THINK … he just impulsively acts.  As long as his most loyal supports applaud his every move, he’ll continue to hurt himself. Check out my column that will go up on Monday. And pay special attention to the last paragraph.

As for the Dems:  I’m not sure most Americans have concluded that they want to see the economy crash and burn. Some will see it that way. But others I think will say the Dems are helping us by giving us “free” money.

Most people, Your Royalty, aren’t news junkies. If they’re getting a government check, they’re happier than if they’re not. They don’t follow the details the way you or I do. (Sometimes I think they’re better off not paying attention. Paying attention gives me a headache.)

Polling has typically been characterized by percentages based upon political party allegiance with a minority sampling of theoretical independent voters. In this new age of covid-19 virus, do you think that sampling based on the economic impact of the virus might provide more insightful data? Poll responders that have not had their income effected can afford to support political ideologies while those that have been severely impacted economically by the virus, especially those that are either small business owners or those employed by small business owners (a very significant portion of our population and economy), may be far less loyal to a party and more attuned to economic messaging. Your analysis of this observation would be thoroughly appreciated. Thank you. — Douglas C.

You raise an interesting point, but I think it would take someone named Gallup to give you an answer. That said, I’m going to give it a shot, Douglas.

Your premise, as I understand it, is a reasonable one:  People vote their pocketbooks, their financial well being. So how the virus affected them would be a better gauge than simply their party affiliation. Okay. But let’s remember that the economy was strong when Clinton left office yet voters chose W (barely) in the next election. And the economy was weak in 2012 yet Obama beat a successful businessman, Mitt Romney.

My point is that many things come into play when voters decide who they want to be president. And so I’m not sure if the polling results would be any different if they did it your way instead of the traditional way.

But I want to emphasize this question is way too complicated for someone like me to answer with any confidence.

 


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Bernie’s Q&A: Jordan, Pelosi, Krauthammer, Cuomo, and more! (5/22) — Premium Interactive ($4 members)

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Now, let’s get to your questions (and my answers):


Like you, I aim to be both conservative and objective. I’ve tried to make sense of this nonsensical political divide during a pandemic that doesn’t discriminate by party affiliation. I’m trying to understand the situation from each side’s worldview, so here’s my take: Conservatives believe in the rights and efficacy of individuals and local officials to assess their own risks, govern their own behaviors, and make their own health decisions. They are distrustful of elitists in government and media who have their own agendas in harshly dictating the public and private actions of a free citizenry. Liberals, on the other hand, believe that experts in science and public policy are best able to coordinate a nationwide effort to control a deadly pandemic. They are distrustful of individuals making their own decisions that can have deadly effects on the public at large, as they are equally appalled at the thought of taking direction from an incompetent, corrupt President who ignores science and common sense at his whim. Fair assessment? — Steve R.

Totally and completely fair, Steve. I think you nailed it. And you might want to listen (again) to my Off the Cuff this week which deals with this subject. Apparently great minds really do think alike.

I noticed that the new Pelosi $3T sweepstakes would extend the unemployment insurance bonanza through the end of the year. I also read some comments in WSJ from a fellow in Va that when he and others went to get a haircut the barbers were staying home since they made more via unemployment than working. Query when Granny Nancy and AOC wake up and figure out there are consequences to giving people incentives not to work and if we will see the worm turn with the Democrats ( if in power) then forcing people to work ( doing whatever our overlords deem most “essential.”). As the expression goes in Texas, we may be “fixin” to find out if George Orwell is THE prophet of our era. — Michael F.

Nancy Pelosi doesn’t care if people make more by NOT working. She’s hoping they’ll thank her and her party in November for the extra pay. As for how all this will play out on November 3 … too early to tell. Orwell chronicled absurdity as well as anyone.  He’d have plenty to write about today.

Bernie, did you have a chance to watch any of the Michael Jordan “Last Dance” documentary on ESPN? If you have, I was wondering what your thoughts were on Obama’s interview during the show. The former President seemed to be upset that Michael Jordan was not (and still is not) more of an activist that took up some of the liberal causes Leftist promote. I think Obama’s position is short sighted and sad because it overlooks the fact that Michael Jordan was one of the great uniting forces in history. Jordan was so talented in his craft that everyone, of every race, and every nation, who stepped on to the court wanted, “to be like Mike.” Jordan’s greatness transcended race and it is disappointing to see Obama claim that Jordan could have done more when in reality, Jordan’s greatness was something we all marveled and rallied around (except maybe Pistons fans). — Joe M.

Let’s say that reasonable people may disagree. Sometimes athletes, because of their high profile and influence, need to take up important causes. Here’s a behind the scenes story: A friend of mine was making a movie based on a book about inner city kids and what basketball meant to them. It was about a culture of poverty and violence in the inner city and how basketball was a way out. It was a serious book and would be a serious movie. Michael Jordan was supposed to star in it. But he backed out and wound up making a cartoon movie. Your points are well taken but Ali stepped up, Billie Jean King stepped up, Arthur Ashe stepped up — they all spoke out about important American causes. Not Mike. That’s his choice, of course. And that’s why I say that reasonable people may disagree.

Brit Hume has been saying on Twitter today that it is an “unproven hypothesis” that kids can spread COVID-19 to adults, and that we shouldn’t have closed schools over these past few weeks for COVID-19, because we didn’t close them for chickenpox and rubella outbreaks in the past.

In reality, kids can absolutely spread COVID-19 to adults (any human can), and chickenpox and rubella mostly result in skin infections. Hundreds of thousands of Americans were never in danger of dying from these chickenpox and rubella, or even requiring hospitalization. Are you surprised by how many national news-media figures on both sides of the aisle seem to have completely lost their sense of perspective on serious issues? — Ben G.

I’m not surprised, Ben, because all sorts of “pundits” think they know more than they actually know. Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of Brit Hume. But here’s the dirty little secret about the very nature of journalism: People who report in print, on TV, and online aren’t Renaissance men and women. Are we supposed to really believe that they’re experts on matters of the the economy, religion, the military, farming — and a virus that nobody ever heard of just a few months ago? Journalists are supposed to talk to people who know what’s going on and then report what they’ve learned. But given today’s media landscape where opinion is far more provocative than mere facts, we’re going to get all sorts of journalistic opinion masquerading as expertise.

Mr. G, Let’s talk about our hometown. When will the New York press start turning on Cuomo and Deblasio over the horrific job they’ve done handling the virus? They were both late in the game, they both panicked and whined, they both miss managed and made deadly decisions, they both grossly under utilized federal assistance that they begged for. Now they both want non-New York taxpayers to pay for their misgivings and miss management of New York city and state. The New York press of the the 60’s & 70’s would have skewered both of these guys straight out of office. So what gives? — ScottyG from Queens

You just asked an excellent question, Scotty — one that’s also been bothering me. Let’s keep this discussion to the virus. Andrew Cuomo is being portrayed by much of the (liberal) media as a hero. But as you correctly point out, he and the mayor of New York were late to the game and many people died because of the decisions they made. If Donald Trump were governor of New York they’d be calling for his head. Here’s what I think: Because he’s a liberal Democrat — and Donald Trump isn’t — they’ve chosen sides: Attack the president for his bad calls — and ignore Cuomo’s. One more reason the media have lost so much credibility.

You recently wrote about how much journalism has changed since you wrote “Bias.” Your previous position was that Dan Rather and the New York Times staff and their ilk were simply living in a liberal bubble & so as far as they were concerned, THEIR opinions were reasonable, informed & central thinking (unlike those conservative rubes). You point out now that The current climate among journalists & news editors is that Now they don’t even make the slightest effort to hide their biases and agenda. So…what do you think caused them all to blatantly start admitting to it? What changed in the past two decades that gave them the gall to actively and shamelessly push their agenda openly. For that matter, why do they continue to do it despite constantly having egg on their faces after they are shown to have pushed false narratives in debunked stories like the Jussie Smollett hoax, the Covington Catholic School debacle, and of course Russiagate? These aren’t stupid people; don’t they feel any shame or humiliation or even the slightest bit of embarrassment after being shown up by those “evil conservatives” and their leaders? And If not then why do you think they don’t, even after being debunked more than once? — “Curses! Foiled Again!” Regards from The Emperor

Good one, Your Highness. I don’t think I said they admit their biases — just that they don’t try to hide them anymore. It’s a complicated question but here’s something to chew on: They hated W because they thought he was an idiot. They loved Obama because he was a lefty just like them and a person of color to boot. And now they detest Trump. So for the last three presidents they either hated or loved each of them which greased the skids for their move to the left. Also, cable — as I’ve said before — wasn’t about journalism, it was about business. So we got more blatant opinion than in pre-cable days. One more thing: As newsrooms became more diverse, they also became more liberal. Hiring more minorities and women was a good thing. But those groups, by and large, weren’t composed of conservatives. If I go on any further, I’d be writing Chapter 1 in a book — Bias 20 years later — and I’m not doing that, Sir Emperor.

Bernie, Do you think we’ll ever see another Charles Krauthammer as a regular fixture on cable news? By that I mean someone who has a passion for (and is incredibly well informed on) complex issues, calls out the nonsense on both sides, and puts forth thoughtful and serious commentary instead of just adding fuel to the partisan culture war? Or do you think we’ll just see more people in the mold of Brian Stelter and Jesse Watters, who just turn every story into an attack on the other side? — Arthur C.

No on another Krauthammer … yes on more jerks like Stelters and Watters.

I hope I’m wrong, Arthur, but cable thrives on conflict. It needs contributors to pour gasoline on the fire. CNN and MSNBC won’t tolerate a liberal who every now and then embraces a conservative position. And Fox is just as bad. It doesn’t want conservatives around who see the other guy’s point of view. Why? It’s bad for business. And they don’t call it the news business for nothing.

(Editor’s note: the below question was quite long, so it has been shortened):

The CDC tracks the total number of weekly deaths from all causes in this country (COVID-19, heart attacks, suicides, auto accidents, etc.). Here’s what they’ve reported from February 1st through May 9th. The cumulative reported deaths are 101% of what the CDC considers to be ‘normal’ (based on 2017-2019 data). In other words, COVID-19 has increased the overall mortality rate in the country by 1%.

A 1% change seems statistically insignificant to me. So despite 60,000+ COVID-19 deaths in their data (7% of all deaths), the overall death rate is ‘normal’. Also, deaths from auto accidents and suicides are actually up (fewer people are on the road, but more people are driving like maniacs). Suicides are up presumably up too.

So what gives? Deaths from other causes like heart attacks, cancer, etc. are apparently down and deaths attributed to COVID-19 don’t represent incrementally + deaths as is suggested by all of the media hype and the politicians. Does that mean COVID-19 has been a ‘cure’ for other ailments? And for a statistically insignificant 1% increase in overall deaths, we’ve put the economy into the biggest contraction on record?

I’m not saying that COVID-19 isn’t serious, but we’ve gone through other more serious pandemics (1918, 1957, and 1968) that, adjusted for population growth, were far more deadly than COVID-19 but we didn’t shut the country down. Thanks and best regards! — David B.

First, I understand why you think 1% is “statistically insignificant” but I think we can agree that it’s not insignificant to the people who make up that 1% and their loved ones.

That said, here’s a piece from National Review on this subject (with some important perspective) that you might find interesting. It includes the stat that COVID-19 killed more Americans in one month than the flu does in a year.

And because I can’t do your question justice — it’s just not something I know a lot about — I’m turning the rest of the answer over to the brilliant Mr. John Daly, who follows this stuff more closely:

Hi David. I see where you’re coming from, but here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) Our country saw less than 100 total deaths from COVID-19 in the first 7 weeks of that 14 week date range you’re referring to, thus that cumulative 101% figure is a bit skewed in regard to the true impact of the coronavirus. It wasn’t until the third week of March that the death numbers began skyrocketing. That’s when we went from 51 deaths in one week, to over 500 new deaths the following week. The week after that, it was nearly 3,000 new deaths, then 9,000, then over 14,000. In mid April, we were up over 130% of expected deaths for that week.

2) A very large percentage of these deaths (the CDC page stated 60k, but we’re close to 100k now) came after we had begun shutting things down and practicing extreme social distancing. In other words, if we hadn’t done those things, our death numbers would assuredly be much higher than they are now.

3) Lastly, the CDC does revise its reported numbers as more data comes in from medical facilities across the country. So the most recently reported figures (roughly two weeks worth) do go up. And if you check back on that same date range now, you’ll see they indeed did.

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t now be (cautiously) re-opening the economy. I personally think we should (my state — Colorado — started it a couple weeks ago). As you stated, the economic impact is devastating. The spread of the coronavirus isn’t growing exponentially like it was a few weeks ago, and that’s a result of a lot of distancing. With serious (but pragmatic) guidelines, I think this can be done relatively safely. And if some areas start seeing spikes again, as a result, they’ll probably have to reconsider some things.

 


Thanks, everyone! You can send me questions for next week using the form below! You can also read previous Q&A sessions by clicking here.




Off the Cuff: Even Maureen Dowd Has to Be Fair

Even opinion journalists have to be fair. They can’t simply make things up. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times recently crossed the line.

That’s the topic of my new “Off the Cuff” audio commentary.

You can listen to it by clicking on the play (arrow) button below.

 

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No, Masks Aren’t Part of an Anti-Trump Conspiracy

Those who follow me on Twitter know that one of my irritations with the government response to the COVID-19 crisis was the early insistence from the Surgeon General and CDC that wearing masks (that cover the nose and mouth) was completely ineffective at protecting people from the coronavirus. At times, there was even the suggestion that doing so was counterproductive.

The narrative didn’t make a whole lot of sense at the time. After all, we were talking about a respiratory disease. And it’s not as if wearing a mask around infected people to block the spread of germs was a new or uncommon practice. It’s been done all over the world since before any of us were born.

As it turned out, the government was indeed being disingenuous. Dishonest is the better word.

At the time, federal agencies were concerned with a national shortage of medical-style masks for our country’s health care workers (who would be treating an increasing number of coronavirus patients). If regular folks had gobbled them all up, the problem would have gotten much worse. Thus, the answer was a disinformation campaign designed to discourage consumers from buying them.

It apparently worked. And in late March, as infection rates skyrocketed and our national strategy switched from containment to mitigation, the CDC reversed itself. The agency began recommending that everyone cover their face when out among others.

While I’m sympathetic to the situation the government was in, outright lying to Americans was a bad move. It assuredly kept people who already had masks from wearing them, as well as removed any incentive for people to make their own masks, or even wear something as simple as a bandana when they left their home.

Masks aren’t as effective as social distancing, but they do put up a barrier between the droplets that fly out of people’s mouths (when they talk, cough, or sneeze) and individuals within close proximity, which is a common transmission route of COVID-19.

In other words, masks do provide some protection for people. One can only wonder how much slower the virus’s spread could have been, had Americans understood weeks earlier the benefits of wearing them.

Anyway, that fiasco is behind us. Most Americans now get that masks are helpful. Unfortunately, some popular right-wing political commentators seem to want to take us backwards on the issue.

Earlier this week, Vice President Mike Pence took a good amount of criticism over a trip he made to the Mayo Clinic. News footage of a meeting with medical workers and patients revealed that Pence, unlike everyone else on camera, wasn’t wearing a mask. This amounted to a violation of Mayo’s health policies.

Unsurprisingly, Trump defenders in the media felt inclined to defend Pence. And the only way to defend a guy not wearing a mask, in a medical facility that requires masks, is to discount the notion that masks are even important in the first place.

Fox News’s Laura Ingraham was up for the task.

On her show Wednesday night, Ingraham explained that “social control over large populations is achieved through fear and intimidation and suppression of free thought. Conditioning the public through propaganda is also key, new dogmas replace good old common sense.”

Ironically, Ingraham wasn’t referring to the dishonesty campaign I described above, where federal officials under the Trump administration fooled Americans into believing masks were of no benefit in our battle against the coronavirus. No, she was instead taking aim at members of the mainstream media who criticized Pence for his negligence.

“They’ll say this whole mask thing is settled science, just like they do with climate change,” Ingraham said. “Of course, it’s not and they know it. Our own experts have gone from ‘masks aren’t necessary’ to ‘masks are essential, you have to wear them when you go jogging’ in just a few weeks’ time.”

Of course, Ingraham had it somewhat backwards. It wasn’t “settled science” that compelled federal officials to tell us that “masks aren’t necessary.” It was supply and demand concerns. Medical science didn’t factor into it at all. And that’s unfortunate, because if these people had presented the settled science to the public, I think Americans would have been better prepared for the crisis, and our country would be in a better position right now.

As for telling people that masks are “essential,” and that they must be worn while jogging, I’m not sure which “experts” Ingraham is referring to. I’ve certainly heard recommendations, from officials like President Trump himself, that Americans should wear masks when they’re out in public (as in close to other people). And that guidance, as I described above, makes perfect sense. But I haven’t heard any dire warnings about a need for joggers to wear masks — not if they’re maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others. It sounds to me like Ingraham was just tossing out a straw man there.

Regardless, Ingraham thinks she knows the real reason for why masks are now being widely promoted, and to explain it she quoted (or perhaps summarized) something Rush Limbaugh recently said on his radio show:

“The virus itself, as it weakens and states start reopening… The media that has been selling this panic, panic, panic for weeks and weeks and weeks — they have fewer images to sell their hysteria to justify continued lockdowns. But the masks, they’re kind of a constant reminder… You see the masks, and you think you’re not safe. You are not back to normal, not even close.”

Well there you have it, I guess. Masks aren’t being hyped because they block contagious droplets from noses and mouths. It’s because of some U.S. media conspiracy to end capitalism, or to end Trump’s presidency, or maybe both! And the conspiracy is so far-reaching that the rest of the world is doing it too!

I’m sorry, but this is just plain stupid. Worse than that, it’s dangerous. Millions of people watch Ingraham’s show every weeknight (along with the rest of Fox News’s prime-time lineup), and they buy into a lot of such nonsense.

Most of these viewers are rather old, and therefore are at a particularly high risk of serious health complications (and even death) if they get the virus. Why on earth would anyone who values the human condition be suggesting to them that they (or those around them) are contributing to our country’s economic ruin, and the unseating of a president they like, just by taking the simple preventative measure of wearing a mask?

Is defending a gaffe by Mike Pence really worth convincing our most vulnerable citizens to take unnecessary chances with their health and the health of others? Are the ratings spawned by tribal politics and our grievance culture really that important?

Unfortunately, I think I know the answer to both questions.