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The next time a right-winger tells you the world's best newspaper is out to get Donald Trump, mention the podcast.

Ask him if a right-wing publication would extend the same consideration to a liberal.

Or don't. The world's best newspaper and a right-wing publication are different species entirely. There is no basis to compare.

I refer to the podcast that the New York Times changed Tuesday per the White House's request.

This is all about Stephen Miller, a young right-wing zealot who is the main reason Donald Trump embraced for too long the anti-American cruelty of separating asylum-seeking parents from their young children.

A kind of Tom Cotton without as much effervescence, Miller railed against amnesty for illegal immigrants as an aide to Jeff Sessions when Sessions was a U.S. senator from Alabama who railed even about legal immigration.

Now Sessions is the attorney general who ordered the "zero-tolerance" atrocity on the border. Miller is the top policy adviser to Trump who staunchly advocated and defended Sessions' policy, filling the ear and the vacant space in the roomy brain of the pliable president.

Because it's the New York Times, the paper of record was granted a tape-recorded interview with Miller. It published an article over the weekend based on that interview.

Then, on Tuesday, the Times brought in one of the reporters who conducted the interview for a chat on its popular news-review podcast, The Daily, which is heard by about a million people five days a week.

The plan was to have the podcast presenter ask questions of the reporter and for portions of the recording of Miller's actual voice during the interview to be aired.

Hearing of that, the White House cried foul, saying no one in the Trump administration had been advised when the recorded interview with Miller was negotiated that the recording would be used in a podcast.

The Times pondered that objection, and, after a short time, announced that portions of Miller's recorded words would be read by a narrator in the podcast, much as they'd been published within quotation marks in the weekend article, but not played via recording.

As silly as the White House objections might have sounded, the Times acknowledged that a podcast use of the recorded words had not been part of the initial discussion about the purpose and use of the interview.

It was never made clear what worried the White House so.

It could have been that Miller's voice is unpleasant, as is he generally. It could have been that the White House feared the use of his actual recorded words in the podcast would risk fair context.

Or it could have been--and I would bet on this one--that the White House knew its policy was a public-opinion loser and that having a White House aide revealing his zeal by his own voice for a million listeners would complicate an already dire political predicament.

That would be especially true if the podcast aired audio of crying children wanting their moms.

Indeed, the White House finally relented on the utterly inhumane policy and practice on Wednesday.

One takeaway of this episode is that critics on the left and in the press are overreactive and overwrought in accusing the Times of giving in to official state censorship.

The byplay between a press juggernaut like the Times and the president it covers like no one else will always be delicate, mostly for the paper as it endeavors to tell the oft-dirty truth while clinging to the means by which to tell more of the oft-dirty truth in the future.

Right-wing media attacks from safe distances. Access would only get in the way of partisan convenience. A real newspaper reports from up close. Access is vital.

Sometimes you don't care. The Pentagon Papers, for example. A podcast with Miller's voice isn't the Pentagon Papers. Battles are to be picked.

Being fair or bending over to try to be fair--that's a big part of the day-to-day dance, if not the entire dance.

So, the Times did a little dance. It obliged a very hostile White House and gave up what might have been a powerful presentation of Miller's actual voice.

But it censored nary a word or thought. It quoted Miller as it chose in print and quoted him as it chose--if not how it chose--in the podcast.

It lost something stylistically, yes.

But, on this issue, there never was much chance for the White House to look any way other than the way it deserved to look, which was horrible.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 06/21/2018

Print Headline: A delicate dance

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  • JakeTidmore
    June 21, 2018 at 5:26 a.m.

    It didn't help that Trump and his admin contradicted each other or themselves, changed the story from day to day, lied repeatedly, etc. And to think Trump hasn't been in a hurry to get a new Communications director (as if he'd listen to them anyway).
    Coordinating lies in the Trump administration is a full time job nowadays.

    htt ps://ww m/en-us/news/politics/the-trump-administration-changed-its-story-on-family-separation-no-fewer-than-14-times-before-ending-the-policy/ar-AAyVIiY?ocid=spartandhp

  • JakeTidmore
    June 21, 2018 at 6:09 a.m.

    Grow up Davy. We don't need your juvenile rants.
    Now, back to what the adults were talking about. The fallout from the WH lying epidemic that went into overdrive recently:
    ht tp://w wno.o rg/post/when-white-house-cant-be-believed

  • TimberTopper
    June 21, 2018 at 6:17 a.m.

    John, it appears there's already a hater in the comments section, with more I feel sure to follow. One of the main things that Trump and his support group cannot stand is the truth. I have not decided on which reason there is that could cause such a situation, however I am sure there are several that could be the causes for their beliefs and actions. Another enjoyable read!

  • RBear
    June 21, 2018 at 6:33 a.m.

    Hmmm TT, I guess either the comment was deleted or I have a filter on the objectionable comment.
    That being said, great column John. I have always valued the balance the NY Times deals with daily when reporting the news around the world. Their sources are incredible, even if there are occasional flaws. But when called out, they police themselves and right the wrong, something we often don't see in other publications or organizations.
    Miller is definitely becoming one of the worst advisers to Trump on immigration policy. His history of racism and bigotry going as far back as high school is well known and documented. He wears that history as a badge of honor among the hard right. But it has not served the president well on three occasions now and will continue to be a boat anchor for this president if he so chooses to continue to heed young Miller's bad advice.
    Of course, our own alt right chorus will blast this column as they usually do, driving up the click rate for the D-G. I don't mind that a bit as it keeps revenue flowing for the publication.

  • 3WorldState1
    June 21, 2018 at 9:23 a.m.

    I know this is tough to say, with a lot of repercussions, but Fox news should really be shut down. Or have some kind of guidelines they have to meet in order to air. A Democracy can't have a State Run Tv channel brain washing the old and uneducated. It is bad for our country. Or they should have a Disclaimer before each show airs. Like "The following program includes falsehoods, make believe and strong opinion that may or may not be based on any facts or reality". Just off the top of my head. But something like that. At least that way the brainwashed could at least have a chance to break away. Like a cigarette disclaimer.
    This is why the "right" doesn't seem to understand any issue, or believe the President is lying (every single day!). They never see it or hear it. It's like they are the NK people or the Russians that think Putin is doing a great job. They are simply brainwashed. You can still be conservative and not be brainwashed.
    Lou Dobbs called Trey Gowdy the Deep State the other day. Yeah. Trey Gowdy. I rest my case.

  • GeneralMac
    June 21, 2018 at 9:41 a.m.

    Here I was expecting John Brummett to comment on how shocked he was that Donald Trump bravely entered enemy territory yesterday by going to Duluth Minnesota.
    Minnesota hasn't voted Republican since 1972 and Duluth went for Hillary by a 2-1 margin over Trump.

    Yet, our brave president entered " hostile territory", drew a large crowd, and drew loud applause when he explained his positions.

    On second thought, I am not surprised John Brummett never commented on it.
    At least John Brummett is cutting back on that term " second place president ".

  • Rightside
    June 21, 2018 at 9:44 a.m.

    Brummett says "you hold the parents and kids for civil processing" but 90 percent of them don’t show up for their immigration hearings. If you want open borders just say it, why engaged in enforcement theater. Asylum-seeking parents who go through ports of entry were not separated from children. If you come to a bridge, entry point your not going to be prosecuted, but if you come over the river and then find immigration or are caught by immigration, you will be prosecuted.
    So what does the democrats and their partners in the media want?
    Is it just talking points till after the election.

  • DoubleBlind
    June 21, 2018 at 10:14 a.m.

    Everyone at the Duluth rally was a paid actor. It’s true.

  • Packman
    June 21, 2018 at 10:28 a.m.

    The New York Times is the world's best newspaper......BWHAAAAHAAAHAAAHAAAAAAAA... BWHAAAAHHAAAAABAAAAAAAAAAAA!
    Hey Lib Bedwetters - In case you missed it, President Trump just ended the Obama era policy of "catch and release" of illegal aliens. Winning NEVER grows old.
    And 3rdWorld advocates for Nazi style censorship. The mask is falling and falling fast.
    Hey DoubleBlind - Did they receive the SAG minimum? I heard they received bonus pay for wearing a MAGA hat, overalls, and were barefoot. I also heard the 2,000 or so that couldn't get inside the venue received half wages and a moon pie and RC cola. Can you verify if this is true?

  • DoubleBlind
    June 21, 2018 at 10:32 a.m.

    They agreed to do it in exchange for free dental care, except they’re all toothless. I think they were scammed.