China’s bid to influence the 1996 election for Bill Clinton stands as one of the most damning examples of foreign interference in the U.S. political process.

Unfortunately, the Chinese connection has largely been forgotten, including its continuation in Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.

Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign received millions of dollars in illegal contributions from Chinese donor that were channeled through the Democratic National Committee, according to a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Reform.

Johnny Chung, a businessman born in Taiwan, had a partner, Liu Chaoying, a high-ranking military leader and intelligence officer in China. Liu wired hundreds of thousands of dollars, which illegally went to the DNC. The duo also sent campaign funds to U.S. Sen. John Kerry for his reelection bid to the Senate. Liu’s father was one of Mao’s fellow travelers.

Chung visited the White House nearly 50 times—most of them authorized by Hillary Clinton. In one visit, Hillary met with Chung and his visiting delegation of Chinese businessmen from state-run companies. After another visit, Chung paid the DNC $50,000. In exchange, Chung was allowed to bring some of his investors to see the president deliver one of his radio addresses.

Another operative for the Clintons was John Huang, who raised millions of dollars for Dollar Bill in the Asian-American community. In 1996, Huang bundled $3.4 million for the DNC—much of which was returned after a Senate investigation found that the contributions were illegal.

Charlie Trie owned a restaurant in Little Rock that was frequented by his friend then-Governor Clinton. After Clinton won the presidency, Trie went to Washington to cash in on their friendship. He thought his association could help him develop more business contacts in Asia. One of them was Hong Kong businessman Ng Lap Seng. Seng would wire a million dollars to Trie. From 1994 to 1996, Trie directly sent $200,000 to the DNC. Trie provided the rest of the money to other people who later sent that money to the DNC. Trie also helped raised another $640,000 for Bill Clinton’s Legal Defense Fund.

According to the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 94 people were called to testify about the illegal campaign contributions to the 1996 Clinton campaign and the DNC. Of nearly 100 people called before the committee, 57 invoked the Fifth Amendment, 18 fled the country and 19 foreign witnesses refused to testify.

But the China connection to the Clintons didn’t end there. A Chinese billionaire gave the Clinton Foundation $2 million in 2013. The Justice Department investigated the payment from Wang Wenliang, a former delegate to the Chinese parliament. No charges were filed.

Fast forward to Hillary’s 2016 campaign and the Wikileaks emails from the DNC.

The Chinese ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, requested a meeting with Hillary Clinton’s top aides in January 2016, according to an internal email circulated among the former Secretary of State’s senior presidential campaign officials.

“Chinese Ambassador Cui invited me over to the residence Tuesday for a coffee and to make a request. He wants to have an informal, private, off the record get together with a few of us to discuss the next year and the current state of US-China affairs,” wrote Clinton campaign aide Kurt Campbell in the Jan. 7, 2016, email to campaign head John Podesta.

“He asked me to host a social meal at my house in the next month. He was fairly insistent and indicated that he wanted to pass along some perspectives. I told him I’d reach out to you all to see about your judgement [sic] on this and possible availability. I’m happy to make some chili and cornbread by the fire but let’s first decide whether this makes sense. Please let me know your thinking,” Campbell wrote.

Somehow these deep connections between the Clintons and the Chinese have gone mostly unnoticed in the current kerfuffle about foreign involvement in presidential elections.

Christopher Harper is a visiting Scholar in China

President Obama’s dreadful policies toward Russia allowed Vladimir Putin to regard the United States as an impotent power.

The misguided approach started at the beginning of Obama’s regime. For example, he surreptitiously sent a letter to the Russians just after taking office, offering to cancel plans to install a missile defense site in Poland and corresponding radar in the Czech Republic.

According to The National Review, these systems would have provided a layer of protection for the United States and its allies from Iranian long-range missiles. All Russia had to do for Obama to cancel the plans was to agree to help pressure Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program.

This exchange started the road down the ill-advised treaty with Iran and showed Russia the weakness of Obama because he couldn’t force the Islamic Republic to do his will.

The Obama administration ended up canceling the missile-defense system, and the United States to this day remains ill-equipped to combat Iranian ballistic missiles.

Obama also negotiated a new arms control treaty with the Russians even though Putin and the gang were violating the previous one. It took constant congressional pressure to get Obama to admit that Russia had been disregarding the previous agreement since he took office.

Fast forward to Obama’s statement on an open microphone telling then–Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to pass along a message to then–Prime Minister Putin. “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space…. This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility,” Obama said.

In other words, Obama promised to do a lot more than anyone in the current administration has.

Obama’s response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea in March 2014 and Moscow’s subsequent support of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine was economic sanctions. Although the measures had an impact on the Russian economy, they were seen as woefully inadequate.

Finally, the United States has become so irrelevant in Syria and Russia so important that the Obama administration didn’t even get an invitation to the last conference to discuss the civil war.

Only after all these signs of weakness did Russian hacking occur. But it wasn’t just the DNC. Russian entities hacked private companies, Nasdaq and banks, as well as government agencies, including the State Department, the White House and the Pentagon. The Obama administration apparently was incapable of mounting any significant defense against the hacking.

An investigation into Obama’s dreadful record of dealing with Russia might be useful before looking at anything else.

 

Christopher Harper teaches media law.
Donald Trump listened to an attack on him at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is one of the most immoral events in journalism.

Every spring, celebrities, journalists and politicians have engaged in a romance that undermines a pivotal reason for the press: to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Although President Trump may have his own reasons for not attending the dinner in April, I applaud anyone who avoids this breach of journalistic ethics.

The event, which is meant to raise money for scholarships and to recognize journalistic accomplishments, has drifted from its original mission when the association was founded in 1914. According to the association’s website, the organization held its first dinner in 1920. Calvin Coolidge became the first of 14 presidents to attend the affair.

As I wrote four years ago in The Washington Times, if the event were a government program, most Washington reporters would have been howling to shut it down. Here is the rest of that column:
http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/apr/24/harper-correspondents-dinner-comforts-the-comforta/

Two years ago, the dinner occurred in during the Baltimore riots. Here’s what I wrote for The Washington Times then: The juxtaposition of the riots in Baltimore this weekend as “all-news” television networks delivered extensive coverage of the White House Correspondents’ Association’s soiree underlined the disconnect between the press and the rest of the country. For the rest of the rant, it’s here:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/apr/29/christopher-harper-baltimore-riots-forgotten-as-ne/

Somehow the dinner has achieved the “moral high ground” as some news organizations have pulled out in an apparent protest of Trump’s presidency, while an actor is giving an “alt” dinner.

The dinner will never have any moral basis.

It’s thought that the attacks at the 2011 dinner on Trump, who looked on stoically,  may have played a role in his decision to run for the presidency.

Here is a report on that dinner:

“Donald Trump is here tonight!” President Obama began amiably. “I know that he’s taken some flak lately. But no one is happier, no one is prouder, to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald.” Trump could be seen smiling. “And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter—like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”

Trump’s smile was beginning to stiffen.

“All kidding aside,” Obama went on in a sober deadpan, “obviously we know about your credentials and breadth of experience.” At this, ripples of laughter coursed through the crowd of 3,000. The ripples built into waves, lapping at Trump’s table. “For example—seriously—in an episode of Celebrity Apprentice, at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks,” the president continued. “And there was a lot of blame to go around. But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately you didn’t blame Little John or Meatloaf. You fired Gary Busey. And these are the kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night.”

The waves of laughter built into a tsunami. And then into a deafening roar. And then cheers! There was a sickly grin plastered on Trump’s face, as it dawned on even him that the president of the United States had made a fool of him, and the whole world was laughing.

“Well-handled, sir! Well-handled!” Obama added, driving in the blade.

“Say what you will about Mr. Trump, he certainly would bring some change to the White House,” Obama noted. On the four jumbotrons hanging from the ceiling, there flashed a cartoon depicting the executive mansion and its grounds transformed into a hotel/casino/golf course complex with bikinied babes hoisting cocktails on the lawn and a huge garish neon sign advertising “Trump. The White House. Presidential Suite.”

Well, President Trump got the last laugh. And, his decision not to attend this year’s event may finally bring about the end of this abhorrent media event.


Jeffrey Medford, a small-business owner in South Carolina, voted reluctantly for Donald Trump.

Medford should be a natural ally for liberals trying to convince the country that Trump was a bad choice. But it is not working out that way. Every time Medford dips into the political debate — either with strangers on Facebook or friends in New York and Los Angeles — he comes away feeling battered by contempt and an attitude of moral superiority.

“We’re backed into a corner,” said Medford, 46, whose business teaches people to be filmmakers. “You’re an idiot if you support any part of Trump.’”

The story above appeared in The New York Times. Like a broken clock, the “newspaper of record” can be right twice a day. Well, twice a day may be a bit over the top.

But here is some more of the article:

Liberals may feel energized by a surge in political activism, and a unified stance against a president they see as irresponsible and even dangerous. But that momentum is provoking an equal and opposite reaction on the right.

“The name calling from the left is crazy,” said Bryce Youngquist, 34, who works in sales for a tech start-up in Mountain View, Calif., a liberal enclave where admitting you voted for Trump. “They are complaining that Trump calls people names, but they turned into some mean people.”

Youngquist did not put a bumper sticker on his car, for fear it would be keyed. The only place he felt comfortable wearing his Make America Great Again hat was on vacation in China.

He came out a few days before the election. On election night, a friend posted on Facebook, “You are a disgusting human being.”

“They were making me want to support him more with how irrational they were being,” Youngquist said.

Like many Trump supporters, I have been shamed by some of the same people who display yard signs that say: “Hate Has No Home Here.”

In academia, I have to sit through meetings, which have nothing to do with politics, that include numerous jabs at Trump supporters. I have come up with a few responses to Trump bashers:

–Statement: Hillary won the popular vote!
–My response: Then start a movement to amend the U.S. Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College.
–Statement: The right wing is taking over!
–My response: It’s not about right or left; it’s about failed policies.
–Statement: It’s Bush’s fault!
–My response: He left office almost a decade ago. Move on!
–Statement: Trump supporters are stupid racists!
–My response: Trump beat Clinton in these demographics: white, college-educated and 65 and over. That’s me! Do you really think I’m a stupid racist?

Nevertheless, I would like to thank liberals and leftists for pushing people firmly into the Trump camp!

Here is the complete story in The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/18/opinion/sunday/are-liberals-helping-trump.html


Christopher Harper teaches media law.

The New York Times asked me for my opinion about their news coverage, so I gave it to them with both barrels.

As a subscriber to the digital edition of The Times, I became one of the “lucky” candidates to spend more than an hour answering dozens of questions about the newspaper and myriad other issues.

Although the survey is not intended to serve as a scientifically based poll, the bias oozed from the questions.

For example, here’s one question: What three words best describe your initial reaction to Donald Trump winning the election? I doubt that elated sprung to others’ minds like it did for me!

Another one: Which of the following best describes Donald Trump when it comes to “sticking to the facts?”

–Sticks to the facts better than most politicians
–Sticks to the facts about as well as any politician
–Plays it more “fast and loose” when it comes to facts
–There has never been a major politician as devoid (or empty) of facts as him

When the survey asked for my opinion about The New York Times, I was asked to compare it with Fox News, the Drudge Report and Bloomberg News. That seemed like an extremely odd combination. I understand that the news organization thinks it competes with the world, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post seem like better comparable news organizations.

But then I got some red meat!

Question: How often do you come across news stories about politics and government online that you think are not fully accurate?

–Never
–Hardly ever
–Sometimes
–Often [My obvious choice].

Question: And how often do you come across news stories about politics and government online that you think are almost completely made up? Check. Often.

Question: What three words best describes your feelings about the news media and news organizations right now?

My answer: unreliable, biased, partisan

Question: In general, what is your overall impression of the news media and news organizations?

Very unfavorable [check].
–Somewhat unfavorable
–Neither unfavorable nor favorable
–Somewhat favorable
–Very favorable impression of the news media and news organizations

In general, how satisfied are you with the news coverage you are currently getting about President-Elect Donald Trump?

Not at all satisfied
–Not very satisfied
–Somewhat satisfied
–Very satisfied
–Extremely satisfied

Um, not at all satisfied seemed appropriate.

Here are some weird choices—many of which lean toward a favorable review of the media. I was supposed to pick the ones I agreed with.

–There are not enough positive/uplifting stories in the news
–Most news stories are generally accurate
— Most news stories get the facts straight
— In presenting news about social issues, most news deals fairly with all sides
— I’m taking a break from news for awhile
— It is easy for me to tell the difference between hard news and opinion
— I’m seeking more “soft news” these days
— I find sensational news headlines irresistible
— In presenting news about political issues, most news deals fairly with all sides
— News is no longer relevant to me
— I think the freedom of the press is part of a healthy democracy
–Most news is generally trustworthy
— These days it seems like news cannot be objectively reported
–All news is pretty much the same regardless of where you get it
–Most news is reported without bias

I really needed a selection here for “other.”

Here is an example of confirmation bias: Now thinking about news organizations in general, which of the following applies?

–Practice high journalistic standards [Seriously?].
–Objectively report the news [You betcha].
–Provide a service to the public [C’mon!]
–Has reporters with strong expertise in the topics they cover [Paul Krugman and Charles Blow?]
–Are trustworthy [About the same as car salesmen, with no offense meant to auto dealerships].
–Lie or mislead [Finally, I can agree with something!]

Here was one in my wheelhouse: Now, thinking about The New York Times, which of the following applies?

Practice high journalistic standards [Nope].
–Objectively report the news [Nope]
–Provide a service to the public [Ditto]
–Has reporters with strong expertise in the topics they cover [Are you kidding?]
–Are trustworthy [Sorry, car salesmen].
–Lie or mislead [YES, YES and YES!]

Which, if any, of the following applies to The New York Times? I dispatched the complimentary ones and chose the following:

–Does not deal fairly with all sides on political issues
–Arrogant
–Too focused on New York
–Makes it difficult for me to tell the difference between hard news and opinion
–It’s politically biased
–Does not get the facts straight
–Unreliable; I don’t trust their reporting
–Too liberal
–Does not deal fairly with all sides on social issues

I will allow that I was a bit disingenuous on some questions. I said I voted for Hillary Clinton. I wanted to see what happened. Later, I was asked again if I really voted for her.

I said I was a moderate who supported equal rights for everyone. I was tempted to choose one of the many religious options, including Shinto, Muslim, Taoist, Hindu or Buddhist. I settled for Christian since Catholic was not an option.

I accurately described myself as an educator who lived in a large metropolitan area and had a good income. Alas, deplorable was not an option here.

I doubt that my answers will affect the way The Times operates, but it sure was fun to take the survey. In fact, it’s the most fun I’ve had since the day after the election!

Here is a podcast about this column:

http://datechguyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/harperdatechguypodcast.mp3


Christopher Harper teaches media law.

British Prime Minister May and President Trump stand with the bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval Office.

President Trump has been compared to two of the world’s most vicious murderers and villains: Hitler and Stalin.

Let me try another comparison, one with the man whose bust has recently been placed back in the Oval Office: Winston Churchill.

Leftists will scoff at the comparison, but most of Winston’s supporters came from the right. The Huffington Puffington Post lambasted the comparison, which was made during the presidential campaign by Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr., calling it one of the “growing list of Hail Mary passes by the campaign and its allies.” I guess those Hail Marys worked out pretty well for Trump.

But let’s look at a comparison of the two men.

Both Trump and Churchill came from wealthy families. As young men, neither was a particularly good student.

The British leader changed parties several times during his political career–much like Trump–and ended up as a conservative.

Many leaders and historians consider Churchill a racist for his views toward Gandhi and the insistence that India remain part of the British Empire. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly been characterized as racists.

Churchill always put Britain first in war and peace. Both Trump and Churchill tried to warn about the greatly weakened military of each country—a weakness both sought to correct. Churchill fought the Nazis; Trump plans to defeat Muslim extremists.

The two leaders clearly share a similar temperament—one that does not suffer fools gladly.

Here are some of Churchill’s more famous quotes—most of which have fewer than 140 characters. Some of them sound a lot like Trump’s stump speech and tweets.

–Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

–If you’re going through hell, keep going.

–You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.

–A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

–Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty.

Clearly, there are subjects on which Churchill and Trump disagree, particularly trade. Churchill opposed tariffs on trading partners and extended government-subsidized social programs.

Trump is no Churchill yet. That remains to be seen. But the comparison with Churchill rings far more accurately than the other names Trump’s detractors use.


Christopher Harper, a longtime journalist, teaches media law.

As a longtime reporter and journalism educator, I am ashamed of my profession as a result of the bias of the media toward the new immigration policies.

From the coverage, you couldn’t believe that 57 percent of those polled agree with the temporary ban on immigrants from seven countries, according to Rasmussen Reports. Only 33 percent oppose Trump’s executive order, while 10 percent are undecided.

The news media are in a full-tilt smackdown of Trump’s policies, underlining the administration’s notion that journalists are indeed the opposition.

For example, a CNN “news” report compares the executive order to the Alien and Seditions Acts, the Japanese internment camps and McCarthyism.

I address the following to the senior correspondent, Stephen Collinson, who apparently knows little about history, and others who have picked up the meme:

–Only a handful of people were not allowed into the United States.
–Green card holders are not affected.
–The ban is temporary for between 90 and 120 days.

The Alien and Sedition Acts existed during the presidency of John Adams. They allowed the government to toss people out of the country. More important, the main complaint about the acts was the ability to close down newspapers run by Adams’ opponents.

More than 100,000 Japanese and other aliens were interned during World War II by that champion of the Democrats: FDR.

While I do not condone Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s tactics, Soviet records confirmed that massive incidents of espionage occurred in the United States, including the placement of Russian spies into U.S. government positions.

An ABC journalist posted his personal views on Facebook about the terrible stuff that was happening while he was covering the immigration story at JFK. He did not respond to my question about whether he was a reporter or an advocate.

But there’s more. Philly.com, the host for the newspapers in Philadelphia, described the protestors at the local airport as a huge crowd. There were 200 people!

CNN’s sob stories start with a woman whose friend can’t make it to a wedding and goes downhill from there.

The Huffington Post had a column calling for the president’s impeachment. Seriously?

Hundreds of lawyers reportedly descended on airports to “help” people who were stuck in immigration, according to The Washington Post. The number of lawyers would greatly outnumber those who had temporary problems. As of this writing, no one was being held in immigration in the United States.

And, if you missed it, people were protesting against Uber for taking advantage of the immigration changes. That’s right, boys and girls, all of those immigrants who drive for Uber were not properly showing their solidarity with their comrades. That one is really hard to get my head around.

Having had the opportunity to travel to more than 60 countries during my lifetime, I have experienced the trials and tribulations of immigration laws throughout the world.

Egypt and Iraq expelled me for my reporting in those countries. Iran officials detained me during the hostage crisis because I was an American. My team faced expulsion in Ethiopia for leaving our hotel without a government guide. I was interrogated in France because immigration officials thought I was carrying explosive material in my luggage.

When I taught in Russia and Poland, I had to go through an elaborate visa process. I violated the immigration policies of Italy and the United Kingdom when I taught there because I stayed on a tourist visa.

For the past three years, I have taught in China. I needed to have an official letter from the university in order to obtain a visa.

I don’t begrudge any of these countries for the actions they took, although the Egyptians and Iraqis may have been a bit extreme. A nation has an obligation to protect its citizens from economic and political threats.

Having worked in the Arab world for nearly a decade, I think it would be difficult for anyone to call me an Islamophobe. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is there a right for foreigners to come to the United States as anything other than guests.

Despite the kerfuffle by hand-wringing demonstrators, few people were actually affected by the temporary–yes, that’s temporary–immigration policies. Homeland Security officials said that about 100 people who were already in transit to the United States when the order was signed were denied access; less than 200 were stopped before boarding planes heading to America.

If I heard a country had changed its policies, I don’t think I would get on a plane until I consulted with the embassy. Moreover, I probably would have used my visa on or about Jan. 19.

Finally, I recall when Jimmy Carter banned Iranians from traveling to the United States in 1979. Few people demonstrated against him or called him a racist. But he was a Democrat. That apparently makes all the difference.

The hysteria and the hyperbole really have to stop. But that’s probably not going to happen in a media world run amok.


Christopher Harper worked for The Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and The Washington Times. He teaches journalism.

As a young journalist, I had one goal. That was to become a reporter in Washington, D.C.

I got that opportunity in 1978 for Newsweek. I arrived in the nation’s capital on a snowy day in January as Jimmy Carter was starting his second year in office.

As a general assignment reporter, I covered labor and a piece of the economic beat. After a few months, I hated what I was doing.

Why? Being a journalist in Washington often doesn’t involve much reporting. Since Newsweek was an important magazine back then, I had access to almost anyone I wanted to talk to. Everyone sent you documents, press releases and statements by messenger service, so you didn’t have to do much except an occasional telephone call. It made today’s reporting, where most journalists never venture outside of the office, seem difficult.

I worked on the second- and third-string stories about how the Carter Administration didn’t know what it was doing. It was pretty easy because all of the Washington hands didn’t like an outsider like Carter and his Georgia boys. Moreover, the Carter team didn’t really know how to get things right.

I got into some serious trouble when I called the State Department to reach the head of the Afghanistan desk after the ambassador in Kabul was killed. The guy told me everything I wanted to know. I was unaware–until my boss yelled at me–that I was supposed to get everything from the press office.

At social occasions, here’s how a conversation in Washington went:

What do you do?

Who do you work for?

Where do you live?

Where did you go to school?

If you passed these tests, then you might give someone your name or get someone’s name.

I spent a lot of time at The Class Reunion, which was a Republican bar. Someone told me it was a good place to get dirt about how the Carter Administration was messed up. It was.

In my time in Washington, I attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner once—an experience that underlined my belief that reporters and politicians spent too much time cozying up to one another.

The best part of the job was getting sent out of town. I spent time in the hollers of West Virginia during a coal strike and was sent to cover the mass deaths at Jonestown, Guyana.

After about, a year in Washington, my soon-to-be wife suggested we find another place to live. I agreed, so I spoke with the chief of correspondents at Newsweek.

I thought maybe we could move back to Chicago. Maybe Boston or Atlanta.

Instead, he said that Beirut was open. I laughed because Lebanon was in the middle of a civil war. My wife and I decided, however, that Beirut had to better than Washington. It was.

During my time as a reporter, I met some of the leading lights in today’s Washington milieu. Tommy Friedman never showed me much in Beirut. In fact, he almost got fired from United Press International, which was just across the corridor from the Newsweek office.

E.J. Dionne, then of The New York Times, threw conniption fits about American television coverage in Rome, where I served as bureau chief for ABC News. In both the cases of Friedman and Dionne, Loren Jenkins of The Washington Post, cleaned their clocks on a regular basis.

I met David Ignatius of The Washington Post when we both covered the steel industry. Then I saw him again in the Middle East. I used to think he was a good reporter; I don’t think much of him as a columnist.

Gloria Borger seemed all right at the time but not so much now.

George Will used to call you up if you had the lead story in Newsweek to pick your brain for his column there. He stole your lines and never gave you credit. I didn’t call him back after the second time he contacted me.

Carl Bernstein may have gotten Watergate right, but he was an awful bureau chief for ABC News in Washington.

I still enjoy P.J. O’Rourke, but it’s hard to forgive him for telling people to vote for Hillary.

I did meet some good reporters in Washington, but they didn’t hit the big time. Maybe they didn’t go to the right school or lived in the wrong neighborhood.

Nevertheless, I’m happy I had the opportunity to experience my Washington dream early on. I’m also glad I realized how empty that dream was. Unfortunately, not much has changed about the inanity of Washington journalism since I left nearly 40 years ago.


Christopher Harper teaches media law.


As I prepare to teach the history of journalism this semester, I’ve been thinking about whether reporters used to do a better job.

The notions of objectivity, fairness and balance are standards that occurred in the 1950s when leaders of the media sought a more favorable impression of journalists as professionals. The standards also aimed at a better business model by getting all sides to read a story. Many European journalists eschew such an approach, providing a set of facts and then arguing from a distinctly partisan point of view.

I like the European approach much better. That way I don’t have to parse the political leanings of a journalist who’s hiding behind the alleged standards of objectivity. I think journalists should admit their biases and their partisan beliefs. I like accuracy and transparency as better standards for good journalism.

For example, John Hersey’s “Hiroshima,” which chronicles the stories of six survivors of the atomic bomb, is generally considered the finest work in journalism during the 2oth century. The article and book are not balanced. The story describes the horror of what happened and how people lived and died in horrific conditions.

Paul Fussell, the late academic who might have been one of the estimated one million Allied casualties had the bomb not been used, offered a useful and not-so-objective look at the alternative in his 1981 essay in the New Republic, “Thank God for the Atom Bomb!”

In his excellent book, “Getting It Wrong: Debunking the Greatest Myths in American Journalism,” American University professor W. Joseph Campbell dispels a number of myths held strongly by reporters. For example, the evidence that Richard Nixon won the 1960 first debate with John Kennedy on radio and lost among television viewers has little basis in fact. The evidence simply does not exist.

Campbell argues successfully that Woodward and Bernstein did not bring down Nixon as a result of their Watergate reporting. The Washington Post’s efforts dovetailed with the work of Congress, the judicial system and other perhaps more important actors in the scandal.

I would add some other examples of getting it wrong. The Tet Offensive got widespread attention as an example of how the United States was losing the war in Vietnam. In fact, the Viet Cong suffered huge losses—a fact that did not get much play in the media.

Joe McCarthy may have used extreme tactics in his attack on Communism. But his underlying belief that Communists had infiltrated the U.S. government after World War II proved to be accurate once Soviet archives became available. Based on documents made available after the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. Library of Congress historian John Earl Haynes concluded that of the 159 people identified as subversives on lists cited by McCarthy, nine had almost definitely aided in Soviet espionage (and many others could be considered security risks for various reasons).

Nevertheless, I found some of the writing of leftists of bygone eras much more palatable than today’s screeds. For example, Martha Gellhorn’s account of the bombing of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War provides a great deal of insight into the “collateral damage” of that war.

Gellhorn, an avowed leftist, got it right in my view when she declared that objectivity was nonsense, particularly when she was reporting about the Nazi death camps.

Jimmy Breslin, another lefty writer, was able to talk with ordinary people—an ability lost by the current generation of reporters. “It’s An Honor” is Breslin’s account of the death and burial of Kennedy in which one of the key characters is the guy who dug the grave for the assassinated president. Here is the column: http://www.newsday.com/opinion/digging-jfk-grave-was-his-honor-jimmy-breslin-1.6481560

Richard Ben Cramer’s account of the 1988 election campaign, “What It Takes,” is a far more insightful analysis that anything we have seen since then, particularly his evisceration of Joe Biden, the plagiarist who became vice president. Cramer’s book is also far better than the acclaimed “Making of a President, 1960” by Theodore White about JFK’s campaign, which we now know had widow Jacqueline as the chief architect of the book’s meme.

You have to respect someone like the recently deceased Nat Hentoff, a lefty who also opposed abortion despite losing many friends and some writing gigs because of his pro-life stance.

All told, journalists did seem to be better once upon a time. At least my students and I will be able to delve into what once was to determine if we can use the lessons of the oldies but goodies to adapt to today’s environment.

Note for transparency purposes: W. Joseph Campbell is a friend. I knew Richard Ben Cramer.


Christopher Harper is a longtime journalist who teaches media law and history of journalism.

Why is it so difficult to talk with liberals?

Liberals tend to feel more than think. They feel others’ pain. But they don’t feel conservatives’ pain.

A college classmate recently posted a photo of a Nazi flag next to an American one as an example of her growing concern about hate in the United States as a result of the election. I asked her where the photo was taken? She didn’t know. Who put up the Nazi flag? Did he or she vote for Trump? How many similar examples existed in the United States? Did she know that such a display—although reprehensible—was protected under the First Amendment?

She told me she felt the pain of those facing hate. I replied that it is difficult to determine whether hate crimes are increasing significantly and whether they are tied to Trump’s election. Initial indications show that hate crimes are tied to terrorist attacks at home and abroad more than any other factor.

Liberals change the issue when confronted with facts. A former student who is a college professor said that Donald Trump should not receive any credit for getting the Congress to back down from its decision about changes in the ethics office. I noted his tweets that suggested Congress should address more pressing issues. Therefore, I said, Trump should get some credit.

My former student linked to a post from thinkprogress.org, an unreliable leftist website, that argued that voters turned the tide by contacting their Congressional representatives. You might know that Think Progress has a senior editor who was worried his plumber might have voted for Trump and could physically attack him during a visit. See http://freebeacon.com/politics/thinkprogress-senior-editor-is-scared-of-his-plumber/

I pointed to an article from The Associated Press and a column from The Washington Post that credited Trump with causing the onslaught of the voters’ calls.

My former student then argued that Trump should not get credit for saving 700 jobs at Ford because it was President Obama who saved the auto industry through a bailout. I missed the logical line from ethics to jobs, but that’s what liberals do: change the argument.

Liberals usually think they are the smartest people in the room. When faced with a counter argument, liberals either raise their voices or show disdain rather than entering into a serious discussion about an issue. Liberals HATE discussions, using a variety of logical fallacies. Here is a useful site about logical fallacies—one I give to my students: https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/

I confess that I was guilty of all of the above when I was a liberal. Many people would argue that I am still guilty of them as a conservative. Maybe so, but I think I am a whole lot better off than I used to be.


Christopher Harper is a longtime journalist who teaches media law.