Real news gets new anchor Kayleigh McEnany

I consider myself a strong speller, but my brain refuses to absorb the name “Kayleigh McEnany.” I blame the victim. “Kayleigh” is needlessly adorned—this is my son William, whom we call Billeigh—and “McEnany” is just a bunch of sounds, the Scots-Irish equivalent of “banana.” Maybe that’s the point. McEnany herself is a cipher, a pretty blonde template after the fashion of Fox News. She looks like the anchorwoman in a Paul Verhoeven movie. In this regard, she contrasts sharply with the previous anchor of the real news, Lara Trump, who looks like the realtor who tried to fuck your dad.

Thus we enter week two of the real news, “brought to you from Trump tower here in New York.” Like most Americans, I am sick of fake news such as the New York Times and long for news I can trust, ideally broadcast from a black tower owned by the person the news is about. Once again, the real news reports that Donald Trump is great. But it’s got a new, more professional face in McEnany, and it also seems to have better production values. There are wipes between cuts instead of momentum-killing fades to black, and there are inserts. Granted, the inserts play sound at low volume while McEnany talks, but we’re still looking at a leap forward in production values. Check it out:

McEnany’s appearance on the real news coincides with her appointment as spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. Previously, she was a contributor to CNN and a producer for Mike Huckabee’s show on Fox News. Between the personnel change and the more professional look, it’s tempting to conclude that the RNC is producing the real news now, but it remains unclear who makes this show. It runs on Trump’s Facebook page, and it claims to shoot in Trump tower, so it makes sense that it would be a product of the Trump PR team. But this installment bears the RNC’s fingerprints, not just in staffing and production but in message.

“More great economic news on Friday,” McEnany says, following Walter Cronkite’s practice of telling viewers how wonderful world events have been. “Overall, since the president took office, President Trump has created more than one million jobs.” That sounds impressive, but we should not that there hasn’t been a six-month period since mid-2013 that didn’t see the creation of more than a million jobs. That factoid comes from this Washington Post analysis of recent messaging from the RNC, which described the million-jobs statistic as “unprecedented economic growth” in a tweet Sunday night. Two pro-Trump organizations could easily talk about the same recent economic data at the same time without working together. But McEnany’s new positions as RNC spokeswoman and real news anchor make it seem like more than coincidence.

If the RNC is involved in the production of these videos, it represents a pernicious shift in the party’s attitude. It was one thing to watch legions of Republicans change their tune on Trump after he won. It’s another to watch the GOP tacitly endorse the idea that actual news broadcasts are fake, and only propaganda is real. Say what you will about the disintegration of longstanding norms in American politics. Up until last week, both parties at least gave lip service to the distinction between journalism and politics. That’s over now for the GOP.

One presumes the Democrats will respond by producing their own, slightly less audacious “real news” program hosted by Mark Zuckerberg. I guess I should be numb by now, but it’s still unsettling to see naked propaganda from the president and his party billing itself as news. I feel as though we have violated some longstanding condition in the social contract, whereby we agreed to distinguish between fact and opinion. Probably we crossed that line long ago and have just gotten around to making videos about it. But this real news feels surreal, like a scene in a science fiction movie or some viral video from North Korean state television. It’s weird that making America great again involves making it awful in ways it never was before.

Zinke stands on principal before RNC, rolls over during

Commander Zinke addresses the RNC in front of an OS X Lion desktop.

Commander Zinke addresses the Republican convention before an OS X Lion desktop.

On Saturday, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R–MT) took the bravest stand of his political career. He resigned his position as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, citing his objection to a plank in the party platform that called for federal lands to be returned to the states. Commander Zinke feels strongly about federal land management, as befits an admirer of Teddy Roosevelt. It’s understandable that he kept his commitment to address the convention on Monday night, because pulling out 48 hours beforehand would be a dick move. Too bad the evening’s program turned out to be a parade of dicks, rubbing against each other until everyone was too sore and sticky to stand up any more, with Zinke coming in to mop up.

That’s an unpleasant metaphor, but it was a lot nicer than Monday night’s prime-time show. Zinke was scheduled to speak at 8:45pm EDT but didn’t take the stage until after 11:30. His openers included Rudolph Giuliani and the sheriff of Milwaukee County arguing that Black Lives Matter is racist, plus five different people whose relatives had been killed by illegal immigrants. The theme of the evening was “Make America safe again,” but the message was “black and brown people make America dangerous.” After his openers emptied the hall with hours of what Charles Pierce called weaponized grief, Zinke got up and did his SEAL schtick for six minutes, tacitly endorsing the craziness that came before.

It was disappointing to watch him do that after his courageous gesture last weekend. Why did Zinke stand on principle re: land management but not re: xenophobia, police brutality, or torture? That’s the question under inquiry in this week’s column in the Missoula Independent, which is a real criticism sandwich. I praise Zinke for taking a stand on our national parks. I praise him for being one of the few new Republicans with the biography to stand up to terror paranoia. But I criticize him for buying in, however passively. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.

2016 is the year conservatives rejected institutions

Ben Carson poses with his policy platform.

Ben Carson poses with his policy platform.

The most striking feature of the Republican debate last week was the candidates’ hostility to CNBC. In the course of not answering a question about the debt ceiling, Ted Cruz won cheers by saying no one trusted the media. The same audience booed Carl Quintanilla when he followed up on a question about Ben Carson’s involvement with the sketchy supplement company Mannatech, causing Carson to remark smugly, “they know.” The candidates were so upset about CNBC’s perceived hostility that they met Sunday to demand more control over future debates. Nearly all of them were mad at cosmic imp and Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus. The RNC had organized the debates so far, but according to one anonymous campaign manager, “Major question is if the RNC should be involved at all.” It would appear that the conservative Republican candidates of 2016 have lost faith in an institution.

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Reince Priebus manifests, presents CNN/NBC with diabolic choice

RNC chairman Reince Priebus in his Cave of Insanity

RNC chairman Reince Priebus in his Cave of Insanity

Making a popping sound as he displaces the air, RNC chairman and extradimensional potentate Reince Priebus had demanded that CNN and NBC Entertainment halt production on planned features about Hillary Clinton. And if they do not? One week from today, Priebus will “seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor.” In other words, CNN and NBC drop their respective Hillary projects or they don’t get to carry the Republican debates. And like that, before you could say Subeirp Ecnier, he disappeared.

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Friday links! Second best team in Tampa edition

The Republican National Convention has blown out of Tampa with a whoosh of salt air, leaving behind it only litter and fact checkers. By all accounts, it was a fine affair that Combat! blog covered not at all. I don’t go in for political kabuki. I only like political Noh, on which the RNC verged several times. A bunch of crazy stuff happened in Florida this week, and none of it was true. Super PAC and campaign operatives stayed in the same hotel, not coordinating at all. Paul Ryan blamed Obama for a bunch of stuff that happened before he was president, and Clint Eastwood did a ventriloquist act with no dummy. Also, a Montana man was killed while impersonating Bigfoot, in what for now seems to be an unrelated story. At this point, though, I woud believe anything.

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