A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
What’s the proper way to describe what’s going on with the President of the United States? Are newsrooms fully conveying the gravity of the crisis that’s unfolding?
— He’s getting basic facts wrong about American forces that are in harm’s way.
— He is promoting debunked conspiracy theories, including the Crowdstrike server nonsense.
— The Ukraine scandal is deepening by the day.
— And the situation in Syria is deteriorating by the day.
— The US military is destroying equipment as it conducts a rapid pullout from northern Syria.
— RT and other Russian state-owned media outlets are celebrating the American withdrawal.
— Eyewitnesses tell CNN that they are seeing Russian flags in an area in Kobani in northern Syria where US troops had been.
— Trump is criticizing his former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, calling him “the world’s most overrated general.”
— Trump’s meeting with Democratic leaders was, in the words of Katie Rogers, so “off the rails” that “they can’t even agree on which insult was used.”
— Nancy Pelosi said he had a “meltdown,” so he said SHE had a meltdown.
— Earlier in the day, Trump made about 12 false claims in front of the Italian president.
— He said “Syria may have some help with Russia, and that’s fine. It’s a lot of sand. They’ve got a lot of sand over there. So there’s a lot of sand that they can play with.”
— His lawyer Rudy Giuliani is under a widening federal investigation.
— The NYT’s top headline on Thursday: “President digs in on Syria pullout as House revolts:”
— And above the fold of Thursday’s WaPo front page, there are three headlines: “Trump strikes back at criticism over Syria move,” “Hasty U.S. pullback a seismic shift for Mideast,” and “Prepare for impeachment, McConnell tells GOP.”
Trish Regan’s scoop
Did the White House really release Trump’s letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan because Trump or someone close to him thought it made him look good? Fox Business host Trish Regan was the first to obtain the letter… and reporters were gobsmacked by it. “I saw this letter and I thought it was a joke. I thought it was a hoax,” Jake Tapper said on CNN. “But then I sent it to Stephanie Grisham, and she said it was real.”
“Pray for his health”
“I pray for the president all the time and I tell him that. I pray for his safety and that of his family,” Pelosi told reporters. “Now we have to pray for his health because this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president.” This is noteworthy on Pelosi’s part — “pray for his health” — she is edging closer to a conversation about mental health.
CNN’s Manu Raju followed up and asked, “Are you suggesting he is mentally unwell in any way?” Pelosi responded: “I’m not talking about mentally, I’m just talking about handling — just handling the truth.”
→ Figures like George Conway have been urging this conversation for quite some time. Earlier in the day, before many of the most disturbing developments, Conway tweeted: “Someone on this runaway train needs to pull the emergency brake. Who’s it going to be?”
→ And after the letter to Erdogan came out, he asked, “Are we ready yet to have a full national conversation about the diseased mental state of the president of the United States?”
→ Agree or disagree with Conway, but I think Trump’s instability and incoherence continues to be the big story, the through-line that connects Ukraine and Syria and all the rest. It’s all visible… If people are willing to see it…
Trump’s “I know you are, but what am I?” tactic is getting tired
He tried it again on Wednesday night, tweeting, “Nancy Pelosi needs help fast! There is either something wrong with her ‘upstairs,’ or she just plain doesn’t like our great Country. She had a total meltdown in the White House today. It was very sad to watch. Pray for her, she is a very sick person!”
FOR THE RECORD
— The FT’s US national editor Edward Luce tweeted: “Trump’s writing is that of a ten year old; his grasp of how the world works closer to a five year-old: and his behaviour that of a mentally ill 73-year-old man. This is why America has a 25th amendment.” (Twitter)
— CNBC’s John Harwood: “None of this is funny. It’s not entertainment. It’s dangerous for the world. It’s harming our country. It’s life and death for allies.” (Twitter)
— Philip Bump with some perspective: “There has only been one poll in which Gallup has found more support for impeaching & removing a president than its new one about Trump. Four days after that other poll, Nixon resigned.” (WaPo)
— Something to keep an eye on: “U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan plans to retire in January, officials said Wednesday, following months of complaints from President Trump that the Postal Service was losing too much money and should be charging retail giant Amazon more for package delivery…” (WaPo)