With a Dull Pencil and a Blue Pen

Nate Silver responds to this tweet:

Silver chastises Ms. Schulze: Blaming the media is what got Democrats into this mess.

I’m sorry, but if you can’t see why this is a huge story, I have to question what we in the business call your “news judgment”.

Commercial news outlets like the New York Times face conflicting pressures on which stories they pursue — because although they might claim to cover “all the news that’s fit to print”, there are limitations on time and space. On the one hand, news organizations want to cover stories they deem to be objectively important: those that affect a large number of people or which could shape the future course of world events. They see these as important to their mission and good for their brands — and less cynically, journalism tends to attract smart, idealistic people who endure perpetually chaotic career prospects because they think they’re doing something socially redeeming.

On the other hand, these outlets want to run stories that are compelling: that will bring them clicks, subscriptions and advertising revenues. So in places like the Times, there’s typically a mix of “eat your spinach” stories that are important but not compelling to a wider audience (say, reports of a war or famine in a far-flung country that most readers have never heard of) — as well as stories that are compelling but not important (say, the Taylor Swift beat or how best to grill a hot dog1).

The Biden story is a rarity: it’s a walkoff grand slam in both departments.

Silver goes on to provide six reasons the story is important, followed by six reasons why it's compelling.

By the way, Jennifer Schulze wrote last month about a news story she didn't like: OPINION: The WSJ attack piece is a reminder to beware of political attacks masquerading as journalism. Her first paragraph:

The Wall Street Journal this week featured a news story about President Joe Biden that reads like a Republican attack ad. This article appears to be about the president’s declining mental acuity, but it’s really Trump campaign propaganda.

Needless to say, this take did not age well.

Also of note:

  • It's difficult to "fact check" incoherent babble. But Jim Geraghty dug and dug into the Stephanopoulous interview, and he's Fact-Checking Some of Biden’s Interview Answers. In the Disconnected From Reality Department:

    Mind bogglingly, Biden could not clearly answer whether he watched the debate afterwards.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And– did you ever watch the debate afterwards?

    PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I don’t think I did, no.

    Either the president did, or he didn’t, or he watched excerpts. This is not testing the president’s memory from months or years ago. This is asking a basic question about the past two weeks, and Biden cannot say for certain that he watched the debate.

    Biden then claimed, “After that debate, I did ten major events in a row, including until 2:00 in the morning after the debate.”

    No, Biden did not. Biden did an event at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta at 11:10 p.m. Eastern Thursday night, and then just after midnight, the president made his appearance at the Waffle House, where, despite suffering what he now calls “a really bad cold,” he shook everyone’s hands.

    The president’s next event was at 12:30 p.m. Friday, the rally in Raleigh, N.C. At 4:30 p.m., the Bidens flew to New York City, where they delivered remarks at the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center opening ceremony. At 8:30 p.m. Eastern, Biden attended a campaign reception in New York City.

    So, if you want to count the Waffle House stop, Biden had four events in the following 24 hours. On Saturday, at 1:20 in the afternoon, Biden attended a campaign reception in East Hampton, N.Y.  At 6:20 p.m., the Bidens attended a campaign reception at the residence of New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, in Red Bank. They arrived at Camp David about four hours later.

    In other words, Biden had six events over the next two days, mostly closed-door campaign receptions where the president made brief remarks to the friendliest crowd imaginable. As the Washington Post summarized on Wednesday, July 3, “Biden, 81, has appeared in public four times since a rally Friday in North Carolina — for remarks on a Supreme Court decision, on extreme weather, at Stonewall National Monument in New York and at a Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House on Wednesday — to speak for a total of 32 minutes, exclusively while using teleprompters.”

    In his own mind, a "major event" may include bodily functions. And perhaps also malfunctions.

  • Idiocracy, too, of course. Kat Rosenfield remembers it well: ‘Dave’ Predicted the Biden Debacle.

    Ever since the Great Debate Debacle—and its successor event, the Stephanopoulos Sit-Down That Could Have Gone Better—Joe Biden’s most fervent supporters have chosen one of two tacks. The first is full-on denial: the president is doing fine, they say! Amazing, even! Any blips in his performance were merely the result of poor preparation, or a cold, or some secret saboteur inside CNN who installed a “ghastly pallor and verbal incoherence” filter on the camera in front of him.

    But in the second camp, the one not completely disconnected from reality, an arguably more disturbing idea has emerged: that Biden's fitness for office actually doesn’t matter and never has, because he has good people around him.

    Is the president sane? Competent? Entirely alive? You need not ask yourself these questions, because the president is not the president; he’s just a figurehead, more of a mascot, really—like the Geico Gecko of the executive branch. The actual presidency consists of somewhere between five and 50 people, whose identities may or may not be public knowledge, who stand behind or around or sometimes on top of the president and execute the duties of the office according to their collective wisdom. Did you think, when you pulled the lever for Joe Biden in 2020, that you were actually voting for Joe Biden the singular human being? You fool. You absolute imbecile.

    Dave posited a stroke-impaired president whose chief of staff hires Dave (Kevin Kline) to pose as the head of state; the chief of staff deviously pulls strings from behind the curtain. I remember that it was very earnest in its moderate leftism; Ms Rosenfield reminds us that it was probably also prescient.

  • You probably had already daubed this on your Biden impeachment bingo card. It's a pretty broad category: "Breaking the Law". Jerry Coyne, hardly a right-winger, looks at ht latest WSJ report: the National Institutes of Health, in complicity with universities, appears to be breaking the law by using ethnicity as a criterion for hiring.

    I guess I have to give the usual disclaimers here: yes, John Sailer is a conservative, and yes, it’s an op-ed from the Wall Street Journal, whose op-eds are reliably on the Right. But of course where else will you learn things that the MSM won’t tell you? In this case, we learn that the National Institutes of Health, the largest government dispenser of research funds in America, is apparently funding hiring initiatives involving racial preferences. But how can they do that given that such hiring is illegal under Title VII? (And accepting students on the basis of race was recently deep-sixed by the Supreme Court.)

    The way around this, according to Sailer’s article, is simply to fund “cluster hires,” which gives an institution a pot of money to hire several faculty at once, in hopes that doing so will bring in underrepresented minorities. Well, that’s fine (it casts a wider net), so long as people aren’t hired on the basis of their ethnicity itself.  But in the case of the National Institutes of Health, cluster-hire funding also requires that candidates proffer diversity statements, which of course allow universities to pick and choose using race, which is easily determined from diversity statements. (The University of Chicago prohibits this explicitly based on the Shils Report: our hires and promotions are to be based solely on research, teaching, contribution to the intellectual community, and university or department service).

    Further, beyond the NIH’s end-run around race-based hiring, universities are making their own goals much more explicit, as Sailer found out by using the Freedom of Information Act to see what universities are doing vis-à-vis hiring.

    Professor Coyne provides extensive quotes from the article, but if you would like to RTWT, here's what the WSJ claims is an unlocked link. If you are deeply cynical about Your Federal Government and academia, you may be disturbed, but you won't be surprised.

  • The latest scare tactic. John Hinderaker writes about the Democrat pretend-freakout about "Project 2025": Demonizing Heritage.

    In an odd tactical decision, the Biden-Harris campaign has chosen to demonize the Heritage Foundation and tie that organization to Donald Trump. Heritage has published the 2025 Presidential Transition Project. It is a compendium of recommended conservative policies, intended to be “the conservative movement’s unified effort to be ready for the next conservative Administration to govern at 12:00 noon, January 20, 2025.”

    Donald Trump has nothing to do with the Heritage Foundation, and had nothing to do with Project 2025’s Mandate for Leadership. Some of the policies recommended by Heritage, such as free trade, reduced tariffs, and nationwide limitations on abortion, are at odds with Trump’s policies. Nevertheless, the Biden campaign finds it worthwhile to demonize Heritage:

    I thought Heritage had gone full-MAGA, but as Hinderaker notes, they seem to be unafraid of (for example) free trade.

    The Project 2025 PDF book runs to 922 pages. The "Contributors" section runs to 7 single-spaced pages on its own. I haven't read it; I doubt any of the freaked-out critics have either.

Recently on the book blog: