September 9, 2018

Sunday School 9/9/18

We had an interesting situation today: two key administration officials, vice-president Mike Pence and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway appeared in two classrooms, so those are the only sessions I'll be looking at today.

Pence appeared via pre-recorded interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday and with Margaret Brennan on CBS' Face the Nation. Conway visited with Jake Tapper on CNN's State of the Union, and with Chuck Todd on NBC's Meet the Press; let's start with highlights from her conversations.
  • On the credibility of the author of the NY Times op-ed, Conway's consistent message was that there was credibility granted automatically because the message was anti-Trump. Tapper noted that he gave the op-ed more credibility once members of the administration tripped all over themselves to let everyone know they were not the author.
  • On what would happen if the author's identify was known: all of the news shows would clear their slates, clear their tables, and put the person on the air immediately
  • On the possibility of the DOJ investigating to identify the author for 'national security', as Trump suggested, that all stems from not knowing who the person is or what information they have access to, so it could be national security but we don't know. Tapper suggested investigating someone who did nothing wrong by penning an op-ed to see if they did something wrong separately was wrong, but Conway didn't seem to care. 
  • On whether she stalled/stopped Bob Woodward from talking to Trump, she denied that was the case. On both shows, she said she 'brought the request back' but not directly to the president, and the request was denied. She could have taken it to Trump, but doesn't say who she did take it to.
  • A few of her notable quotables (because she always leaves a few pearls on the floor whenever she goes on the shows: "the line between arrogance and ignorance' and 'motivated by conceit and deceit' and 'the four corners of an op-ed or the four corners of a book.' 
Pence was his usual self - stern, presidential (oops --sorry, vice presidential) when talking to Chris Wallace. For example, on President Obama coming front and center on the campaign trail:
Well, it was very disappointing to see President Obama break with the tradition of former Presidents and become so political and roll out the same tired arguments that he and liberals have made over the last 8 years. The truth is the American people in 2016 rejected the policy and direction of Barack Obama when they elected president Donald Trump...
He suggested to Brennan that Trump is the cat's meow of presidents. Seriously:
I mean the truth is I think president Donald Trump is the most accomplished president of my lifetime and I think already one of the most successful presidents in American history - in our first two years. 
With both Wallace and Brennan, he defended the president chastising AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III for the Justice Department's investigations into two apparent crooks in the House.  First, the exchange with Wallace.
CW: The president tweeted, "Two very popular Republican congressmen were brought to a well-publicized charge just ahead of the midterms by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job, Jeff." The president is saying, play politics. Protect members of Congress even if they have committed acts of corruption before the election.
MP: No, I don't think that's what the president was saying at all. Look, the DOJ, as you know, has long-standing guidelines...that say whenever possible the Justice Department should avoid taking any actions that may impact an election. Now the president was referring to that and the difficulty - 
CW: These are two people, one supposedly committing insider trading and the other one who was living high off campaign funds. Are you saying they should be protected because we are close to the midterms?
MP:  They are all very serious allegations and they ought to be pursued but I think the president was referring to the long-standing tradition in the Justice Department to avoid unnecessarily impacting election outcomes and perhaps preventing other men and women from stepping forward and filling those slots in the future.
Which, of course, men and women can do when it's time to fill the seats of these two crooks, but I digress.  Brennan, getting a similar response on the DOJ not 'unnecessarily' impacting elections, took a slightly different tack:
MB: So Jeff Sessions, you agree, was correct in his actions?
MP: What I want to say, Margaret, is what the American people appreciate is this president says what he thinks. He lets people know what he feels about things, but and - and - and really in a very real sense, what you see is what you get with president Donald Trump. And I think that's the reason why he's made the connection that he's made with people all across this country because -
MB:  But - but with something like that --
MP: Washington DC - while Washington DC focuses on -
MB: - when it has to do with a legal matter 0
MP:  - these various controversies - 
MB:  - people argue that that's dangerous - 
MP:  - he's focused on their interests.
MB: That may be  - that may be what he thinks, but there's a danger to saying things like that because it suggests that the rule of law should be subjugated to politics.
MP: No -  this is a president who has strongly affirmed our commitment to the rule of law and to the, to our justice system.
Um, sure. We strongly believe in justice and the rule of law except when it messes with out ability to hold a majority in Congress -- got it.

With Wallace, he talked about Syria, and mentioned chemical weapons several times, even as Wallace tried to steer him away from that very specific act of war. 
CW: Let's say it's not chemical weapons, let's say it's barrel bombs, let's say it's conventional weapons, are we going to let hundreds of thousands of people die there, sir?
And then
CW:  But, sir, dead is dead. I understand - I take your point about the chemical weapons.
Pence, for his part, talked about chemical weapons - twice - when he finally answered the question that was specifically asking about not chemical weapons.
MP: I want to make it very, very clear. There's a wider world watching, is that the United States of America and our allies will take swift and decisive action against any use of chemical weapons in Idlib province. Beyond that I will tell you that we are watching very carefully as resources are being marshaled along the border of the Idlib province. 
And I'm confident there will be a decision by the president of the United States, but I'm confident that we will be monitoring that very, very carefully to ensure that we don't see another humanitarian catastrophe like we did before.
Like I said, Pence was doing his darnedest to sound presidential, just in case there's anything to that book and that op-ed...

See you around campus.