All he needs is the roar of his crowds
Apparently not too happy (OK, “seething”) about the news coverage that James Mattis’s resignation letter received, Trump forces Mattis out two months early, names Shanahan acting defense secretary, report Philip Rucker, Dan Lamothe and Josh Dawsey at The Washington Post. Patrick Shanahan, Mattis’s deputy and a former Boeing executive, will take over as acting secretary on January 1.
Greg Sargent explains it very simply: “Trump was enraged by media coverage depicting him as impulsive and erratic ... ... so he responded by impulsively and erratically pushing out Mattis two months earlier, bringing ‘fresh instability’ and basically confirming that very depiction of him.” Ron Charles also gives us this insight: “‘He will be great!’ (To understand Trump's manic boosterism, you really have to understand the positive-thinking movement in which he was created. Denials of reality aren't considered lies; they're a way to reconfigure reality to match your aspirations.)”
Helene Cooper has been following the story at The New York Times, noting in her piece (179,000+ shares), “Mr. Trump had not read the letter. As became apparent to the president only after days of news coverage, a senior administration official said, Mr. Mattis had issued a stinging rebuke of Mr. Trump over his neglect of allies and tolerance of authoritarians.” Tweets Christopher Dickey, “A man who built his political base around pro wrestling and reality TV fans, who never ran a public company and who bankrupted many he started, now thinks he can run the US and the world alone. All he needs is the roar of his crowds.”
The Sunday cover story at The New York Times by Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman reveals, For Trump, ‘a War Every Day,’ Waged Increasingly Alone. On Twitter, Haberman adds, “Not in our piece, but several people we spoke with said Trump’s tone has gotten ‘meaner’ - their word - since Hope Hicks left.”
There’s something else that isn’t in their piece either. As Michael Luo tweets, “Probably vigorous internal debate over whether to go with euphemism.” He’s talking about the part where Baker and Haberman write that Trump calls his aides freaking idiots — ”Except he uses a more pungent word than ‘freaking.’” “Just. Print. The. Words. People. Use,” tweets Mark Berman, before summing up the whole thing for us: “Anyway, so it seems like the president is historically unpopular, besieged by investigations, angry by limits on his power, increasingly isolated, blames others for his problems and consumes a truly dizzying amount of cable news.”
Meanwhile, some scoop over the weekend from CNN’s Donna Borak, Mnuchin speaks with US bank executives to reassure investors after Wall Street whiplash. She tweets, “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spending the day in Cabo on the phone with bank executives in a bid to reassure investors before markets open on Monday.”
Basically, the message is, whatever you do...don’t panic. Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey cover the story at The Washington Post in their report, Treasury secretary makes unusual pre-Christmas call to top bank CEOs amid market mayhem, and Paletta tweets, “Mnuchin spooks Wall Street by calling bank CEOs from Mexico, asking about credit markets, which hadn't been a concern before. ‘Panic feeds panic and this looks like panic in the administration,’ said @dianeswonk.” Or as Gregg Carlstrom says, “Amazing. No one was worried about liquidity in the banking sector—until Mnuchin made this bizarre statement. Like the defense secretary saying, ‘don't panic! We haven't lost any nuclear warheads.’”
Some light holiday reading
Moving on to a new investigation by Andrew Ross Sorkin at The New York Times that reveals How Credit Cards Are Used to Finance Mass Shootings. On Twitter, he explains, “I've been working on this NYT project for months: Many of the deadliest mass shootings in the US were carried out by killers who used credit cards to buy high-powered weapons+ammunition that they couldn’t otherwise afford. No one was watching.” “Banks and credit card companies unwittingly financed mass shootings in Orlando, Las Vegas, and Parkland, @andrewrsorkin shows in a special investigation. They also have the ability to flag mass shooters before they kill—if they use it,” tweets Nick Confessore.
Jason Wilson calls Shane Dixon Kavanaugh’s new piece for The Oregonian, He was accused of killing a Portland teen. Feds believe the Saudis helped him escape, a “Bizarre and gripping tale from @shanedkavanaugh about an accused hit and run driver who appears to have fled Portland and the USA with the help of the Saudi government.”
“NEW from me: some light holiday reading about Joel Kaplan, one of the most controversial & influential executives at Facebook, & his growing ability to kill, postpone & shape $fb products that risk making conservatives angry.” Deepa Seetharaman links to his new Wall Street Journal piece, Facebook’s Lonely Conservative Takes on a Power Position. Mike Isaac thinks “it is breathtaking that kaplan’s decision making process — and influence — has not wavered even slightly since 2015’s trending topics disaster.”
“Amazon owns IMBDb, GoodReads, Twitch, Audible, a 10,000 Year Clock made of a mountain, a truck that dispenses raw steak alongside tech stuff, & so SO more no one has ever cataloged the 180+ parts of Amazon’s empire before, so @lmatsakis and i did it.” Paris Martineau links to her new story with Louise Matsakis at WIRED, which shows Why It’s Hard to Escape Amazon’s Long Reach. Read that one to discover all the things Amazon owns that you had no idea Amazon owns.
Can we please stop pretending
A couple of weeks ago, we shared the Tablet magazine story by Leah McSweeney and Jacob Siegel, Is the Women's March Melting Down? “So @TamikaDMallory’s story on anti-Semitism and @womensmarch keeps shifting. Compare what she told @tabletmag two weeks ago to what she tells @nytimes now,” tweets Harry Siegel. He links to Women’s March Roiled by Accusations of Anti-Semitism, the new piece by Farah Stockman of The New York Times. “Sadly, why am I not surprised. And disgusted,” tweets Andrew Ross. “God this piece just makes me really sad,” adds Allison Benedikt. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Goldberg offers “Credit to @Yair_Rosenberg for early reporting on what has become a big story,” and Yair Rosenberg himself says, “Can we please stop pretending the Women's March co-chairs are not who they obviously are? Thanks.”
At NBC News, Alex Seitz-Wald and Jonathan Allen go Inside Bernie-world’s war on Beto O’Rourke (40,000+ shares), and Heidi Moore says, “I am amazed at anyone who does NOT consider two years of this to be untenably exhausting.” Here’s David Sirota’s take: “This is a story that exemplifies how too many political reporters are too lazy to do the hard work of reporting on campaign finance data & congressional votes, and instead fabricate fake horserace storylines that take no work to manufacture out of thin air.” But at least there’s some comic relief? Because Ben Dreyfuss says, “I cannot stop laughing at the quote in the kicker of this story.” There’s also a quote about the relative coolness of reading Karl Marx vs. live-streaming doing your laundry. Seriously.
Forget Santa — the big question today is, do the drones exist? BBC News reports that the Gatwick drones pair are ‘no longer suspects.’ But while Sussex Police were doubting whether there was any “genuine drone activity” at all, as Jim Waterson tweets, “The government is briefing that the Mysterious Gatwick Drone definitely did exist! It lives!” He links to the latest report from The Guardian, Suggestion that drone did not exist down to ‘poor communications.’
All I Want For Christmas
As Rich Juzwiak explains it, “I couldn't get Mariah Carey to talk to me, but that's never stopped me before, so I did this,” which is his New York Times piece on The Defiance of Mariah’s Lambs and how Mariah “epitomizes what it is to be one’s own greatest competition.” “This Christmas (and every day LOL) @RichJuz gives @MariahCarey the respect she deserves,” tweets Caity Weaver. A gift that keeps on giving.
In her latest column for The Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan lays it out for us: Here are the best and worst things that happened to journalism in 2018. Meanwhile, Christopher Schuetze of The New York Times reports that Der Spiegel Will Press Charges Against Reporter Who Made Up Articles. In potentially more hopeful journalism news, Myanmar court due to hear appeal in case of jailed Reuters reporters, report Shoon Naing and Simon Lewis of Reuters.
In an interview with David Ignatius of The Washington Post, Syrian Kurdish commander Gen. Mazloum explains What Trump’s Syria decision means on the front lines of the fight against the Islamic State.
From Ben Kesling of The Wall Street Journal, Marines Deployed Abroad Seek Answers Amid Washington’s Turmoil. Asked by a Marine what Trump’s orders mean for their deployment, a commandant said, “That’s a really good question. And the honest answer is I have no idea.”
Reading this one, Andrew Nelson says, “The evil in the world is sometimes difficult to fathom.” At The Washington Post, Louisa Loveluck and Jason Bernert write from Syria, where Assad’s government is doubling down on executions of political prisoners, and Syria’s once-teeming prison cells are being emptied by mass murder.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Bruce Blair and Jon Wolfsthal explain why Trump can launch nuclear weapons whenever he wants, with or without Mattis.
Colin Moynihan and Ali Winston of The New York Times have obtained previously unreleased video from the Oct. 12 violence in Manhattan involving the Proud Boys and antifa protesters. Turns out, the Proud Boys initiated the attack, not the other way around, as Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes had initially said. Moynihan and Winston’s latest finds the Far-Right Proud Boys Reeling After Arrests and Scrutiny.
Here’s a “Good business of books story,” tweets Ashley Milne-Tyte, who links to Alexandra Alter’s piece at The New York Times, Bottleneck at Printers Has Derailed Some Holiday Book Sales. Crawford Kilian defines it as a “Catastrophic success: success for a few titles, catastrophe for all the others.”
And finally today, rest assured, the Santa tracker will still run despite government shutdown, AP’s Dan Elliott reports.