A Scary Post-Trump Election Form of Reporting – Pathetic Make-Nice News

We should prepare ourselves for the emergence of a form of reporting that surely has existed but not on the scale we’re likely to soon experience. With Donald Trump attacking news outlets and individual reporters — denying them access when he doesn’t like what they report — intimidation of some journalists is to be expected.

The PEOTUS team has been planning new ways of treating the press at the White House that may well involve rewarding favorites.  It doesn’t take a prescient observer to predict that under such circumstances make-nice to the president news will be on the rise.

CNN Brian Stelter’s contentious interview with BuzzFeed’s editor Ben Smith, lecturing him on good journalism after Trump put both in the same basket of enemies, is an example.  Smith made an important point about this kind of your-dog-is-worse-than-my dog bickering between journalists:

I think — you know, there’s obviously an attempt to divide the press, to turn us on each other and to turn reasonable differences about editorial decisions into screaming matches between us on this show. I think that’s a trap that the media has obviously repeatedly fallen into over the last couple of years, but I think it’s better not to right now.

CNN’s recent New Day interview of Representative Jerry Nadler (Dem – N.Y.) by Alisyn Camerota also had some hallmarks of compensatory, make-nice to Donald Trump press. On the same day, CNN’s David Gregory was critical of John Lewis’ decision.  And while that is fair enough on its own, with some exceptions CNN’s televised coverage has taken a tilt toward kowtowing to Trump since he attacked their journalistic integrity.

My article on “Courage as a Skill” in The Harvard Business Review describes the steps required to make extremely difficult ethical decisions. Congressman John Lewis made a thoughtful, personal and courageous decision to not attend Donald Trump’s inauguration — especially given the PEOTUS’s tendency to retaliate for what he perceives as personal slights.  He didn’t demand that others join him or engage in incivility.

In Lewis’ estimation, given Donald Trump’s derogatory campaign comments about minorities, people with disabilities, and women conjoined with the intelligence report received by the public and by Congress behind closed doors, he could not in good conscience attend the inauguration.

Using Representatives John Lewis and Jerry Nadler, and others, to engage in make-nice news to appease Donald Trump, if that is indeed the case, is not only bad journalistic form, it’s an insult and threat to a free and responsible press.

 

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Will Trump Bring His Businesses Back to the U.S.A.?

While it’s impossible to know exactly what Trump owns and who he owes, we do know that he is likely doing business in 25 countries.  He is either involved in building edifices, hotels and golf courses or licensing his name for millions each year — along with manufacturing clothing  in other countries as well.

So, shouldn’t more journalists be repeatedly asking him when he will cease to do business anywhere other than in the United States?  When will he insist that all future projects be U.S. based?  Will his entire family do the same?

With great fanfare, he is pressuring businesses to keep their manufacturing in the U.S.  He’s blaming and shaming.  So, when is his turn?  Otherwise, isn’t it just more hypocrisy?

 

 

 

 

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Is the CIA “Politicized”? An Academic Addendum to Mike Pompeo’s Response

Even church choirs are political entities.  When human being come together to achieve a goal, political activity emerges.  Wherever there is competition of ideas and/or people, political behavior exists.

So it should be no surprise if intelligence agencies are to some extent politicized. That is what The Secret Handshake and It’s All Politics are about — how political behavior is manifested in organizations, what types are more conducive to effective work and what individuals and leaders can do to manage politics.

When Mike Pompeo, nominee for CIA Director, was asked in today’s hearing if the CIA is politicized, he likely interpreted that question in terms of political party influence and so replied that he hasn’t observed the problem.  But there is another often less obvious and more virulent form of politics in organizations.

The type of politics that every organization must watch has nothing to do with political parties.  It is about, in part, how things get done, whose ideas are heard, accepted and rejected, who is rewarded for what behaviors, and the nature of communication types and flow.

It’s imperative that the next director of any U.S. intelligence agency appreciate this type of politics and work to assure that the culture of the organization does not fall into, or anywhere near, political arenas described in The Secret Handshake as “pathological.”  When organizations are so infected, they are usually in the process of self-destruction in terms of their more positive goals and often take a lot of good people with them before that destruction is complete.

It’s up to leaders to know enough about organizational politics to assure that the levels are at the minimal or moderate end of the continuum and stay there.  This means how orgnaizational politics operate needs to be understood and managed.

I’ve worked with many organizations to achieve this goal.  When the work starts after an organization (in whole or part) is highly or pathologically political, ridding it of dysfunctional politics is much more difficult.  There is no reason to believe that government agencies are immune to dysfunctional politics.  The sooner people on the Hill begin to recognize this and take steps to manage politics, the better the American people will be served.

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What Part of “This Inauguration Can’t Go Forward” Do We Not Understand?

President Obama in his Farewell Address yesterday asked that anyone not pleased with the outcome of elections do something about it.  Take some responsibility.  Even run for office.  Don’t keep quiet.  Otherwise, he implied, you’re part of the problem.

On the same day that he spoke we learned the following:

Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump…

The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible.

Why were we fortunate to learn about this additional intelligence information even if so late?

One reason the nation’s intelligence chiefs took the extraordinary step of including the synopsis in the briefing documents was to make the President-elect aware that such allegations involving him are circulating among intelligence agencies, senior members of Congress and other government officials in Washington.

Then we’re told that Trump’s campaign surrogates were in touch with Russian government intermediaries during the election:

Now we’re supposed to sit back and accept that Trump must be inaugurated.  We’re supposed to clap and cheer, talk about which designers dressed Trump’s wife and daughters, and act as if we weren’t all duped.  Why?  Could it be so that Mike Pence, who didn’t run for president, can replace Trump rather than the woman who actually won 3 million more votes than Trump?

What part of this inauguration can’t go forward do we not understand?  Aren’t those insisting on a “smooth transition,” including Congress, complicit in potentially and perhaps irrevocably harming the U.S., democracy and the world order?  Of course they are.

This is not, by a long shot, what the American people expect of their leaders.  That is not what American patriots do.  That is not what a free press and the people should allow without a fight.

 

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Business Elites Get a Pass by the Press — While Meryl Streep is labeled a “Hollywood Elite”

Meryl Streep delivered an eloquent, brave, heartfelt speech at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony.  Here is an artist and businesswoman we can all admire.  Yet Donald Trump attempted to belittle her accomplishments by referring to her — of all people — as “overrated.”

As if that weren’t lowbrow enough for a man about to become U.S. president, many in the press have squeezed her into the easy category of “Hollywood elites.”  Yet Donald Trump is clearly a business elite —  not a man of the streets, born in dire circumstances, pulled up only by his own bootstraps, and a person of and for the people.

The international media celebration of senior business executives has, in many cases, enabled membership at the higher levels alone, rather than leadership acumen, to stand for  competence.  How often we’ve heard that Donald Trump is a businessman as if that endows him with what it takes to be a leader — to motivate people in ways that produce exceptional products within a culture characterized by moral principles rejecting of destructive insider politics.

How simplistic our thinking has become.  How facile the application of categories.  We have allowed ourselves to be duped by either-or boxes instead of examining categories and insisting that the press responsibly do so too.

Business is not a religion.  We need not kneel.  It is not superior to other forms of human activity.  We must start thinking — using our minds to reject simplistic categories that foster false dichotomies and demean so that the lesser among us might seem grand.

Kathleen has been a featured blogger at Huffington Post since 2005 and with Big Think.

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Kudos to Clapper, But a Tainted Election is a Tainted Election!

We listened today to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper say this about Donald Trump’s trashing of the U.S. intelligence community:

“I think there is an important distinction here between healthy skepticism, which policymakers … should always have for intelligence, but I think there’s a difference between skepticism and disparagement.”

He also said this:

“Our assessment now is even more resolute than it was” on Oct. 7 when the government first publicly accused Russia, Clapper told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He said he is apolitical, so he doesn’t want to speculate about whether Russian influence gave the election to Trump.

While a lot of us are still recovering from James Comey’s effort to finish off Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, I can appreciate Clapper’s position.  But I’m not him.  I don’t have his restraints.  And, frankly, when an election is hacked and damaged by another country determined to put its favorite candidate into the White House, it doesn’t matter whether the extent of influence is known.  The election was tainted — sufficiently so for 17 intelligence agencies to agree and for President Obama to impose significant sanctions on Russia.

So, why are we falling for the view that the election results are final?  Why are we stuck with this man who lies daily and offends anyone who isn’t getting something from him —  a man who prefers Putin’s views to those of his own country’s intelligence community?

This election is not over.  Call your senator and congressional representative.  We don’t have to suck it up or get over it.  If another country’s election had been tampered with in this way, the U.S. would be advising them to do it over. When a well is poisoned, it’s poisoned.  Putting Trump in office demeans democracy and American values.  The election needs to be challenged.   Otherwise, all this back-and-forth about Russian tampering with the election is posturing and noise — pure and simple.

 

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Dear FBI: Is Hillary Clinton Looking a Lot Better to You Now?

Seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies agree that the U.S. 2016 presidential election was hacked by Russia. Yet, the PEOTUS, Donald Trump, does not believe them. He belittles these agencies and instead praises Vladimir Putin and Julian Assange – a man he suggested in 2010 should face the death penalty.

We might well ask why the Democratic Party has not been insisting on a redo of the election.  Is that so bizarre under the circumstances?  Why haven’t journalists raised this as a possibility?  Why is the Democratic Party negotiating yet again from a position of weakness — starting their demands in the mushy middle?

Why, we might reasonably ask, do they insist that a smooth transition of power is more important than at least a delay of the inauguration? You can be sure if the roles were reversed and a Clinton win had been facilitated by foreign actors and the FBI, Donald Trump and the Republican Party would be insisting on a new election.

Having studied persuasion and negotiation throughout my career, I can say that when things seem most surreal it is usually because the rationale of the other side has not been fully grasped.

For those who supported Donald Trump, the ends appear to have justified the means. The most frightening thing is that we do not yet know what those ends will be.  We do know that time-honored U.S. values will be taking an extraordinary hit.  We know, too, that the concerns of Senators John McCain and Linsey Graham about Russian hacking are being quashed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell whose wife, Elaine Chao, is expected to join Trump’s Cabinet.

As if this weren’t bad enough, we are about to have a president who rejects input from U.S. intelligence agencies, insists on his own security force, and does not roll with the punches. He takes criticism personally and switches quickly from adulation of foreign leaders to disdain — a habit for which, God forbid, we could one day all pay dearly.

 

(A slightly revised and updated version (including Donald Trump’s blog of January 5, 2017) of this blog appears on Huffington Post).

 

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