The Front Runner

The birth of the modern political scandal is recounted in this stylistic and overlong drama.

Written by Matt Bai and Jay Carson, and directed by Jason Reitman, The Front Runner (2018) dramatizes the news media’s role in U.S. Senator Gary Hart’s 1988 Democratic presidential primary campaign implosion. Filmed like a docudrama, the 113 minute period piece alternates between Hart’s campaign and the journalists covering it, to the detriment of both perspectives.

As the film opens, Senator Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) is riding high off an energetic but ultimately unsuccessful primary campaign for president. Flash forward four years, Hart prepares to make another run for it with his veteran campaign manager, Bill Dixon (J.K. Simmons), and a cornucopia of campaign staff, including body man Billy Shore (Mark O’Brien) and a fictional scheduler named Irene Kelly (Molly Ephraim). Hart tries to maintain a cozy relationship with the press, including with inexperienced Washington Post reporter AJ Parker (Mamoudou Athie).

Things get complicated when Hart attends a party on a yacht called the Monkey Business and reporters at the Miami Herald begin receiving strange phone calls about Hart cheating on his longtime wife, Lee (Vera Farmiga). Frustrated, Hart challenges AJ to “follow him around.” Miami Herald reporters Tom Fiedler (Steve Zissis) and Pete Murphy (Bill Burr) take this as an invitation and begin surveilling Hart’s apartment, where they see Donna Rice (Sara Paxton) leaving at night. Can Hart extinguish this media firestorm before it’s too late?

With a cast of literally dozens of minor characters competing for screen time, your effort to keep track of them all will be as ambitious as the filmmakers’ efforts to tell this story from every imaginable angle.

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CNN Reporter Pushes Feverish Delusions as “News Analysis”

“Is American democracy on the brink?” asks White House Reporter Stephen Collinson

Just when I thought I politics couldn’t get any weirder, I read this piece of “news analysis” by CNN White House Reporter Stephen Collinson published earlier today. Filled with dramatic hyperbole and wild assertions, this “journalist” has apparently shed all pretense of objectivity and flown from propaganda artist straight into raving lunacy.

What does it mean to call something “insane”? If you saw a person on the street corner raving about pink elephants lumbering down the street, you would probably say that person is insane. There is no substantive difference between what Stephen Collinson is writing on CNN and that person raving about pink elephants.

What new threat menaces our republic? A battle over a report that was, until recently, available to the public to read, aside from some redactions that would be illegal to make public.

Attorney General William Barr has released everything he’s legally allowed to publicly release when it comes to the Mueller Report. He’s even provided a special room to twelve privileged members of Congress, six Republicans and six Democrats, to view a nearly complete version of the report (zero Democrats have bothered reading it). And yet, in an act of political theater, Congressional Democrats intend to hold Barr in contempt anyway.

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Collusion Delusion

Piers Morgan savages news outlets for “an obsessively unrelenting campaign to bring [Trump] down as President”

Whether the mainstream news media has any shred of credibility left after the dust settles from the Mueller Report remains to be seen, but right now, it looks bad for the hundreds of journalists and pundits who staked their careers on the Russia collusion conspiracy.

To be completely fair, a negative result of an investigation doesn’t necessarily repudiate the investigation itself. If prosecutors bring evidence to a grand jury, but the jurors aren’t convinced a crime was committed and the case is dropped, we don’t attack the prosecutors for simply doing their job.

There was a legitimate case to be made that the Russian government, or at least elements or agents of it, tried to disrupt and influence the 2016 presidential election. Mueller’s investigation uncovered mountains of evidence to support that and appropriate indictments were handed down.

But actual Russian interference in the election was a secondary concern to many journalists and political pundits, who seemed to have an unusually personal stake in proving President Trump committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.” They were all-too-eager to report speculation, rumor, and innuendo as fact, with none of the usual qualifiers.

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After 22 Months: Robert Mueller Finds No Collusion!

Why every American should celebrate.

The Mueller Report finally dropped, and the most shocking revelation is how little it actually changes what we already knew about the 2016 presidential election. What it does do, however, is finally put to bed an insidious accusation that led millions of people to question the integrity of our democratic institutions.

Nearly every day for over two years, news outlets like CNN, Washington Post, New York Times, MSNBC, Huffington Post, Vox, Daily Beast, BuzzFeed News, and more have been insinuating and sometimes outright accusing President Trump of “colluding” with the Russian government to win the 2016 election.

I said it two years ago and I’ll say it again: the collusion conspiracy has always been about undermining the election results, casting Trump as illegitimate, and yes, getting revenge for Trump’s embrace of the Obama “birther” conspiracy.

Hillary Clinton supporters were so certain she would defeat Trump in a landslide, they literally couldn’t believe Trump actually won by legitimate means. There had to be another explanation besides Hillary was a lousy candidate whose scorched earth campaign against Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary cost her crucial votes in the Midwest.

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Desperate News Outlets Turn “Street” to Attract Younger Viewers

Members of the mainstream news media embrace celebrity tabloid culture in their race to the bottom.

A few days ago, I spotted two articles about U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi “throwing shade” (or “serious shade” in once instance) at New York Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal proposal. I guessed this meant Pelosi was dismissive of the proposal, but because I’m too lame and too white, I had to look it up.

According to UrbanDictionary, to “throw shade” means “to talk trash about a friend or aquaintance [sic], to publicly denounce or disrespect. When throwing shade it’s immediately obvious to on-lookers that the thrower, and not the throwee, is the bitcy [sic], uncool one.”

Both CNN’s Chris Cillizza and Fox News’ Adam Shaw used the slang expression, in an effort to identify with younger audiences and appear “hip”, I guess? Because, yes, I’m sure the 78-year-old Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was “throwing shade.” It would only be more perfect if she came out wearing dark sunglasses at the press conference.

Are these two articles supposed to be actual news and analysis? Or are they just click-bait designed to appeal to the celebrity gossip crowd? As if Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are involved in some kind of celebrity rivalry. At one point, Chris Cillizza even refers to Ocasio-Cortez as “one of the biggest stars in her party”. What?

That she’s only been in Congress for a month is besides the point. Referring to someone as a “star” suggests they are an entertainer with legions of adoring fans, a wealthy celebrity, or the object of a cult of personality. Is that really how we want to think of our politicians and public servants?

How are we supposed to take these news outlets seriously when they report on national politicians like they’re Taylor Swift and Katy Perry?

Media Bias on Full Display in Buzzfeed Debacle

Mainstream news outlets rush to promote an unverified tabloid story, seriously undermining their credibility at a time when a majority of Americans are skeptical about news.

One of the most incredible displays of foot-in-mouth I’ve ever seen unfolded yesterday as jubilant media figures pounced on a BuzzFeed story purporting to reveal that President Donald Trump ordered his former lawyer to lie to Congress. If true, this would constitute the grounds for impeachment, and possible prosecution, Trump’s opponents have been looking for since the day he entered office.

There was only one problem: it wasn’t true. Special Council Robert Mueller’s office took the extraordinary step of issuing a statement denying the report.

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office

Taking a break from publishing lists of “cringeworthy moments” and celebrity gossip, BuzzFeed based the bombshell off anonymous sources. The usual suspects in the mainstream news media gleefully and uncritically spread the story as if it were fact. You could almost hear the collective cry: “We’ve finally got him!”

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US Joins Ranks of World’s Most Dangerous Places for Journalists After Falling Tree Kills Two

No, this isn’t an Onion headline. That’s the conclusion of Reporters Without Borders, who added the United States to its list of deadliest countries for reporters after six journalists died here in 2018. News outlets across the country seized on this data to malign the United States alongside Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico, Yemen, and India as a dangerous place for journalists.

But the facts behind these deaths call into question the rational behind the ranking. The worst incident was, of course, the murder of four journalists and a sales assistant at the Capitol Gazette in June. The shooting was not politically motivated: the gunman had a personal grievance with the newspaper. While horrific, the Committee to Protect Journalists concluded this was one of only two deadly attacks on journalists in the United States since 1992.

So what deadly incident put the United States into the top ranking for most dangerous countries for journalists in 2018? I’m not kidding you, it was the death of a reporter and his cameraman who were killed when a tree fell on them in a storm. How in the world does this random tragedy put the US in the same league as countries like Syria and Afghanistan when it comes to being a dangerous environment for journalists?

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