As I already wrote, Trump got a big boost out of the Singapore Summit when people were told, in headlines and chryons, the next morning that North Korea had agreed to denuclearize, which was no where close to the truth. The details and caveats that trickled out later would only have been noticed by politics nerds paying close attention.
Fareed Zacharia writes that the real headline should have beenÂ â€œU.S. weakens its 70-year alliance with South Korea.â€
The most striking elements of Trumpâ€™s initiative were not simply that he lavished praise on North Koreaâ€™s dictator, Kim Jong Un, but also that he announced the cancellation of military exercises with South Korea, adopting North Koreaâ€™s own rhetoric by calling them â€œprovocative.â€
The president must have missed his briefing. In fact, it is North Korea that provokes and threatens South Korea, as it has done since it first invaded the South in 1950. North Korea is thought to have about 1 millionÂ active-duty troops, almost twice as many as the South, and it has constructed perhaps as many as 20Â tunnelsÂ to possibly mount aÂ surprise invasion. North Korea also has more than 6,000 pieces of artillery that can reach South Korea, including some whose range is so long that they endangerÂ 32.5 million people, more than half the countryâ€™s population, according to a study by the Rand Corp. The Defense Department estimated in 2006 that if North Korea opened artillery fire on the South,Â 250,000 peopleÂ would be killed in Seoul alone, the Rand study notes. Of course, about a decade later, North Korea now has up toÂ 60 nuclear bombs, complete with theÂ missilesÂ to deliver them. South Koreaâ€™s â€œwar gamesâ€ with the United States are necessary defensive exercises undertaken in the shadow of an aggressive adversary.
Even worse, Trump signaled that he would like toÂ end the U.S. troop presence in South Korea. He is wrong that this wouldÂ save money, unless he plans to demobilize the troops â€” which would mean cutting the United Statesâ€™ active-duty forces, the opposite of his policy. SinceÂ South Korea covers almost half the costsÂ of U.S. troops stationed there, moving them to, say, Georgia would not be cheaper. But thatâ€™s beside the point. Through bitter experience, the United States has found that it is much better to have troops ready, battle-trained and with knowledge of the local geography rather than keeping them all in the United States, only to be sent abroad when trouble breaks out.
But Fareed Zacharia can shout this from the rooftops all he likes; the American people were told that North Korea is doing to denuclearize, and that’s all most of them will ever hear.
Major media outlets: You still have people on your staffs with in depth knowledge of the news events you cover, or at least I assume you do. Why not let them write the headlines and chryons? Or at least have them review what the junior staffers are doing before it’s made public?
Update: Greg Sargent,Â How the conventions of political journalism help spread Trumpâ€™s lies
The reportâ€™s core finding is that the FBIâ€™s decision not to prosecute Clinton was untainted by bias or politics. This lays waste to one of the most important narratives pushed by President Trump and his allies in the quest to undermine special counsel Robert S. Mueller IIIâ€™s investigationÂ by claiming law enforcement is riddled with anti-Trump corruption.
But in many of this morningâ€™s accounts about the report, you find versions of this additional claim: The IG report nonethelessÂ provides fodder and ammunitionÂ to Trump and his allies to discredit Muellerâ€™s probe.
Trumpâ€™sÂ allies have widely citedÂ the inspector generalâ€™s findings about theÂ now-infamous texts between an FBI agent and lawyer â€” which do show animus towards Trumpâ€™s candidacy â€” as not just proof of anti-Trump bias at the FBI during the Clinton investigation, but alsoÂ to bolster Trumpâ€™s argument that the Mueller probe into Russia-Trump campaign collusion is suspect.
Many news accounts inadvertently grant these arguments credibility, not just by quoting them, but also by claiming as fact that the conduct in questionÂ actually doesÂ lend support to those arguments. Yes, they also convey that the inspector generalâ€™s overall conclusion undercuts the Trumpian narrative. But the straddle itself is the problem. It showcases a convention often relied upon in political journalism â€” the use of the â€œlends fodderâ€ formulation to float false claims alongside true ones â€” that has to go.
Do read the whole thing.