A few years ago, Bill Kristol rocked the political world by speculating that Colin Powell would likely endorse then-Senator Barack Obama at the Democratic Convention. Powell didn't, of course — but Kristol still got the Drudge link and dominated the news cycle for a few days (in fairness, Powell did endorse Obama... months later.)
Everyone gets it wrong sometimes, and in this regard, Kristol is hardly alone. But there seems to be no disincentive for doing so. As James Surowiecki writes in the The New Yorker (regarding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370), "There are forecasting professions where this happens: stock analysts who err are more likely to get fired. But in the media mistaken conjectures tend to be quickly forgotten, so there's little downside to being bold and wrong." (Sometimes, of course, bad predictions do haunt the predictor. But that is rare — and essentially requires someone to almost intentionally tempt fate.)
For those hoping to solve this problem, groups like PunditFact have sprung up to fact-check pundits' claims. This sounds like a positive development, but the utopian notion that innovations will solve our problems usually ignores the fact that they also create them.
At the risk of injecting a horrible idea into the bloodstream, let me tell you where treating commentators like candidates likely leads. How long before outside groups start "scoring" conservative and liberal pundits? Here's what we can expect in to hear in the future: "Matt Lewis was invited on TV to debate a liberal? Did you know he only has a 76 percent rating from the Conservative Senate Action Fund Project?!?"
Welcome to the brave new world of punditry. Matt K. Lewis
Jimmy Kimmel dug up a clip of Full Frontal's Samantha Bee interviewing Kellyanne Conway on The Daily Show in about 2007, and according to Bee — his guest on Thursday's Kimmel Live — that was a surprisingly common occurrence. "Our interactions were quite pleasant and lovely," Bee said, and Conway "was on The Daily Show many, many times in the years that I was there. And it got to a point where ... the producers were, like, 'Uhhh, should we call Kellyanne? She'll say anything that we want her to.' And they were like, 'No, we kind of used her too much, let's not call Kellyanne this time.' Because, you know, even back then we had a sense that she was very thirsty."
"She's still saying anything somebody wants her to, too," Kimmel said. "She does seem to be the smartest member of that group, though." Bee agreed: "I would say so, very canny." Kimmel asked if "talking about Donald Trump all the time is a plus or a minus," and Bee said "an absolute minus, across the board. ... You know, we make sour lemonade out of those lemons, I guess?"
Bee also talked about how her native Canada views Trump's America — with concern, like the Desperate Housewives — and she and Kimmel discussed the travails of writing topical comedy shows in the news firehose of the Trump administration. "It's funny, because we're watching cable news, going 'No! No!' No!'" Kimmel said, laughing. "We're actually rooting against world peace so we don't have to rewrite our monologues." Watch below. Peter Weber
When President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner was finally given full Top Secret security clearance on May 1, so was his wife, Ivanka Trump, the president's eldest daughter, who also works in the White House, Axios reports, citing "a person briefed on the matter." In March, the FBI was reported to be scrutinizing a Trump hotel deal in Vancouver, Canada, that Ivanka had played a large role in setting up with a Malaysian developer; apparently the FBI has resolved those questions.
So now, Axios says, Kushner and Ivanka Trump will both "be able to sit in on high level White House meetings, and access information like foreign intelligence and the president's daily intelligence briefing." That makes sense for Kushner, who reportedly perused the daily intelligence briefing before his security clearance was downgraded in February. As for the first daughter, a lot of people — including White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, reportedly — wonder what exactly she does in the White House. Peter Weber
Last week, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Mark Inch, quietly resigned, and he was packing up his office last Friday as President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, unveiled his plan to reform America's federal prisons. Inch, a retired Army major general who had been appointed to oversee the more than 180,000 federal inmates just nine months ago, felt marginalized by Kushner in the prison reform plan, The New York Times reports, citing three people with knowledge of the situation. But mostly, Inch was frustrated with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose department includes the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Sessions had frozen Inch out of budget, staffing, and policy decisions, and had refused to approve his choice for deputy prisons director, the Times reports. But Inch also informed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein he was tired of the Trump administration flouting "departmental norms," and he was reportedly frustrated that Sessions was steadfastly working to thwart Kushner's reforms. The House passed Kushner's prison reform bill on Tuesday, but it faces an uphill battle in the Senate.
Kushner, with Trump's approval, has been advocating for legislation that offers certain inmates early release to halfway houses and job training to reduce recidivism. His main interest, sentencing reform, has bipartisan support, but Sessions and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are adamantly opposed, the Times says. A Justice Department official said Sessions was caught off guard by Inch's resignation. Former Bureau of Prisons assistant director Huge Hurwitz will helm the agency until a permanent replacement is found. Peter Weber
On Thursday's Late Show, Stephen Colbert walked through the steps leading up to the implosion of President Trump's June 12 summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un — a failure Trump seemed pretty chill about on Wednesday. "Did the president of the United States really just say 'Some day a date will happen?'" Colbert asked. "I would call to complain if that was written inside a fortune cookie." Still, Trump and Kim have no choice but to meet now, Colbert said. "They've already made the commemorative coin marking the occasion of the summit." And since that one was obviously such a prescient success, he added, "here at The Late Show we have received an exclusive first peek of the new coin celebrating Mideast peace. It's just a carton of eggs labeled 'Chickens!'"
If it seemed weird that Colbert didn't mention that Trump has, in fact, called off the summit, that's because the show was clearly recorded Wednesday, as The Late Show copped to in the cold open.
But the troubles of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen are timeless, and Colbert jumped into Cohen's new legal problem with business partner Evgeny "Taxi King" Freidman. Freidman faced up to 125 years in jail, but he cut "a pretty good deal," Colbert said. "You get to stay out of prison plus you don't have to be friends with Michael Cohen anymore."
Cohen is also in the news because he was reportedly paid $400,000 to set up a meeting between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Trump. "In this case, Cohen's not Trump's fixer, he's Trump's pimp," Colbert said. "But most disgusting of all is that this seems to have worked." Shortly after Trump hosted Poroshenko last June, "Ukraine's anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort," he said. "Now, to save Manafort, all Cohen has to do is arrange a meeting between the Ukrainian president and Robert Mueller." Watch below. Peter Weber
There was a lot of speculation as to why President Trump abruptly pulled out of a June 12 summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un that he had agreed to attend and was evidently excited about. Tony Schwartz, a Trump critic who shadowed the real estate developer for a year in the 1980s to ghostwrite Trump's bestseller The Art of the Deal, had a theory. "Trump has a morbid fear of being humiliated and shamed," Schwartz told The Washington Post on Thursday. The summit was all about "showing who’s the biggest and the strongest, so he is exquisitely sensitive to the possibility that he would end up looking weak and small. There is nothing more unacceptable to Trump than that." Schwartz elaborated on Twitter:
To be clear: Trump is a terrible negotiator. Whether it's North Korea, or China over trade, or Mexico over the wall, he's guided by impulse, does no preparation, is incapable of listening, and gives away the store in return for short-term ego gratification.
— Tony Schwartz (@tonyschwartz) May 25, 2018
Negotiating with Trump based on logic or rational argument is a dead end, Schwartz explained on MSNBC's The Beat with Ari Melber.
Trump's note to Kim Jong Un demonstrates how he "doesn't operate logically or rationally" and "when you capitulate to Trump... you're making his blood run think, he loves when you capitulate" - @tonyschwartz pic.twitter.com/izcu8aKSIb
— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) May 24, 2018
Still, there is an advantage of sorts to Trump's negotiating style, at least for Trump, he added. Watch below. Peter Weber
— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) May 24, 2018
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) has lost the support of the National Association of Realtors after he told a delegation last week that homeowners shouldn't have to sell their properties to people whose lifestyles they don't agree with.
Members of the Orange County Association of Realtors met with Rohrabacher while lobbying for H.R. 1447, which expands the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to include anti-discrimination protections based on a person's sexual orientation and gender identity. One attendee told The Orange County Register that Rohrabacher said to the group, "Every homeowner should be able to make a decision not to sell their home to someone [if] they don't agree with their lifestyle."
On Thursday, Rohrabacher confirmed to the Register that he said this, questioning why homeowners can't "choose who they do business with. We've drawn a line on racism, but I don't think we should extend that line. A homeowner should not be required to be in business with someone they think is doing something that is immoral." He said he's not "anti-gay" personally, but "there are some fundamental Christians who do not approve of their lifestyle. I support their rights."
The National Association of Realtors pulled its support of Rohrabacher after getting a letter from the founder of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. The NAR had recommended that members send Rohrabacher campaign donations. Rohrabacher, now in his 15th term and up for re-election, told the Register it was "sad to see" that the real estate group's priority is "standing in solidarity with making sure a stamp of approval is put on somebody's private lifestyle." Catherine Garcia
"Only Donald Trump could cancel a summit with Kim Jong Un in the morning and then have a meeting with Sylvester Stallone later in the day — soak it up, we'll probably never see anything like this again," Jimmy Kimmel said on Thursday's Kimmel Live. Trump broke off the summit with a "Dear John letter" that "was the nuclear nonproliferation equivalent of 'You break up with me? I break up with you!'" Kimmel said. The most interesting part of the letter, which was "not exactly what you would call Lincolnesque," was the juxtaposition of threats and outreach, he said. "See, that's Trump diplomacy in a nutshell: I look forward to our friendship, but if not, I will kill you."
Trump left the door ajar to future talks, Kimmel said, and if you want to be optimistic, this "feels kind of like we're at the part of the movie where the couple breaks up but then they realize they can't live without each other, and one of them has to run through the airport to stop the other one from getting on a flight."
As it turns out, The Late Show imagined such a "rom bomb" on Wednesday night.
Trump pulling out "shouldn't surprise anyone," Seth Meyers said on Late Night. "He earned backslaps from a media desperate to praise him for something, but he repeatedly made clear he had no idea what he was doing," like "a teenager who didn't prepare his oral report and is now stalling for the bell to ring." He went on to dig into the latest in the Trump-Russia investigation, focusing on Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Rudy Giluiani, and the role of the media, both mainstream and right-wing. Watch below. Peter Weber