John Ratcliffe Demonstrates How He’ll Politicize Intelligence by Claiming Trump Has Been Honest about COVID-19

John Ratcliffe just had his confirmation hearing to be Director of National Intelligence.

I’ll have more to say about what we learned about the Intelligence Committee after I walk June Bug the Terrorist FosteX Dog. But the main takeaway from the hearing is entirely encapsulated in this exchange (my transcription):

Kamala Harris: Do you believe President Trump has accurately conveyed the threat of COVID-19 to the American people?

Ratcliffe: Are you saying, presently?

Harris: We are in the midst of the pandemic, presently correct.

Ratcliffe: Can you repeat the question? I guess I’m misunderstanding the question. I’m sorry. Has he accurately represented the status of the pandemic?

Harris: Conveyed the severity of the pandemic, yes, Has he accurately conveyed the severity of COVID-19 to the American people.

Ratcliffe: I believe so.

Harris asked a question which has just one true answer. The only objective answer to this question is that no, Trump has not accurately conveyed the seriousness of COVID-19.

Ratcliffe answered yes.

Ratcliffe was asked over and over again whether he’ll politicize intelligence and each time he dutifully delivered his rehearsed answer, no, he won’t. Both Politico and NBC reported those rehearsed answers as the “news” of the hearing. Neither mentioned the Harris exchange, where Ratcliffe answered far more clearly than in any yes or no questions that he will, in fact, lie to the American people to serve Trump (and there were other instances where he made it clear he will politicize intelligence, just not so clear cut).

It is a matter of life or death during a pandemic to separate false information from truth. Everyone should be doing that, and such truthful reporting is supposed to be the job of journalists. For political accountability on the pandemic to happen, it must be clear that Trump appointed a sycophant as Director of National Intelligence, someone who is unwilling to tell the truth about it. It must be clearly reported that Ratcliffe lied in this hearing about a clear factual issue. Hiding that fact by treating Ratcliffe’s false assurances as truthful contributes to the danger of the pandemic.

Ratcliffe will be confirmed DNI. He might even get some Democratic votes, from people who view him as a less awful alternative than the Twitter troll turned German Ambassador turned part time DNI he would replace. But it matters that it be accurately reported that it was clear going into it that Ratcliffe would lie to and for Trump.

35 replies
  1. DrHack says:

    Of course he answered yes. If there was a chance he would have answered “no,” he never would have been nominated for the post in the first place.

    • e.a.f. says:

      it was clever of her to ask the question. it clearly demonstrates to me and perhaps others he’s a liar and unfit for the job.

  2. BobCon says:

    “Both Politico and NBC reported those rehearsed answers as the “news” of the hearing”

    Andrew Lack, the head of NBC’s overall news division (which includes the nightly broadcast, Meet the Press and MSNBC) has been forced to leave by the end of the month, which is something, maybe.

    Lack hired Megyn Kelly, helped axe Ronan Farrow’s report on Harvey Weinstein, and helped oversee NBC’s damage control efforts regarding Matt Lauer.

    Still in place for now, though, is Noah Oppenheim, who is pretty awful. He co-created Jim Cramer’s show and was a producer for Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews — he is a guy deeply embedded in the culture of awful, shouty, propagandistic cable news. Oppenheim also collaborated with Lack on the Weinstein and Lauer fiascos.

    There is no news yet if Oppenheim will stay. He was passed over as the replacement for Lack in favor of Cesar Conde, head of Telemundo.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Big test for NBC. It can replicate the awful talent they are replacing, in which case, the replacement process is theater. Or it can hire more honest, less bent talent. With layoffs and firings in media across the country, plus new talent rising, that should be easy to do. The latter would mark a new direction, one that we and the press desperately need.

  3. RMD says:

    times like these, I am reminded of Chomsky’s observations:

    “If you quietly accept and go along no matter what your feelings are, ultimately you internalize what you’re saying, because it’s too hard to believe one thing and say another. I can see it very strikingly in my own background. Go to any elite university and you are usually speaking to very disciplined people, people who have been selected for obedience. And that makes sense. If you’ve resisted the temptation to tell the teacher, “You’re an asshole,” which maybe he or she is, and if you don’t say, “That’s idiotic,” when you get a stupid assignment, you will gradually pass through the required filters. You will end up at a good college and eventually with a good job.”

    “Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.”

    “International affairs [the Trump administration, my edit] is very much run like the mafia. The godfather does not accept disobedience, even from a small storekeeper who doesn’t pay his protection money. You have to have obedience; otherwise, the idea can spread that you don’t have to listen to the orders, and it can spread to important places.”

    • e.a.f. says:

      Yes, that is why some bookies used to shoot in public some guy who owned them a lot of money. they didn’t get the money from the dead guy, but every one else paid up; same theory.

  4. RMD says:

    a few more….

    “The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.”

    “Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.”

    “Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.”

    “Everyone knows that when you look at a television ad, you do not expect to get information. You expect to see delusion and imagery.”

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Good quotes; I’m always happy to read Chomsky’s take on events. You might want to cite a source so that people can read more of them. Thanks

        • BobCon says:

          For what it’s worth, Chomsky also says vote Biden.

          “Chomsky went on to make an unambiguous case for voting for Biden in November.”

          “‘What does it mean to say you can’t vote for the lesser of two evils, that means: I’m going to vote for the greater of two evils,’ Chomsky said.”

          “He warned people considering voting for a third-party candidate that they should think about the consequences of the election on the human race even if it means ‘holding your nose’ and voting for Biden.'”

          “Chomsky said that in a two-horse race, every vote that does not go to the former vice president will benefit the current occupant of the White House. ‘If you abstain or vote for someone else, you’re essentially voting for Trump. Is that what your conscience tells you to do?'”

            • bmaz says:

              There are literally tons of them. But Norm is a senior one, and is quite right here.

                  • RMD says:

                    for more….
                    and Biographical Entries:

                    Considered the founder of modern linguistics, Noam Chomsky is one of the most cited scholars in modern history. Among his groundbreaking books are “Syntactic Structures”, “Language and Mind,” “Aspects of the Theory of Syntax,” and “The Minimalist Program,” each of which has made distinct contributions to the development of the field. He has received numerous awards, including the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences, the Helmholtz Medal and the Ben Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science.

                    Chomsky introduced the Chomsky hierarchy, generative grammar and the concept of a universal grammar, which underlies all human speech and is based in the innate structure of the mind/brain. Chomsky has not only transformed the field of linguistics, his work has influenced fields such as cognitive science, philosophy, psychology, computer science, mathematics, childhood education, and anthropology.

                    Chomsky is also one of the most influential public intellectuals in the world. He has written more than 100 books, his most recent being “Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.”

                    Chomsky joined the UA in fall 2017, coming from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked since 1955 as professor of linguistics, then professor of linguistics, emeritus.

                    Noam Chomsky. University of Arizona.

                    Noam Chomsky. International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest: 1500 to the present.
                    Noam Chomsky. The Columbia Encyclopedia.
                    Noam Chomsky. Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology.
                    Noam Chomsky. MIT Linguistics Program.
                    Noam Chomsky. The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
                    Noam Chomsky. Wikipedia.

                  • paulpfixion says:

                    Not being snarky here–but sincerely curious which other living intellectuals might be in Chomsky’s league? If he isn’t the “father of modern linguistics,” he provided the hottest debate in linguistics in the last half century (it has been a while since I studied linguistic anthro, but I would still love to argue against a universal meta-grammar). Plus, he is also a public intellectual who is a living prophet for the left. Manufacturing Consent is as useful and arguably as or more influential than Marcuse. What would a shortlist of greatest living intellectuals look like? cause I’d like to learn more about them.

  5. MB says:

    It wasn’t that long ago that even some Republicans were expressing skepticism about Ratcliffe’s suitability for the DNI position. Has something changed? He’s “less bad” than Grenell? I remember Ratcliffe’s “performance” at the House Intelligence committee hearings last December – that was only 5 months ago! Trump’s relentless campaign to dumb down governance to match speed with his own lack of abilities and make sure incompetence has an open doorway to the highest positions has been unbelievably successful. And that sucks.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Every Senator knows John Ratcliffe was lying. That he said the only thing that would keep Trump from withdrawing his nomination is proof, as if it were needed. Every Senator knows the Senate had good reason not to approve his earlier nomination. The argument that he’s better than the millionaire shitbag moonlighting as DNI now is unpersuasive. If you keep hiring ship drivers who steer for the rocks rather than away from them, then you’re the one sending the ship onto the rocks; you have no one else to blame for the resulting disaster. No Democrat should vote for John Ratcliffe.

  7. Jenny says:

    “Let me be very clear. Regardless of what anyone wants our intelligence to reflect, the intelligence I will provide, if confirmed, will not be impacted or altered as a result of outside influence. Above all, my fidelity and loyalty will always be with the Constitution and the rule of law, and my actions as DNI will reflect that commitment.”
    – John Ratcliffe at confirmation hearing today, 5/5/2020

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The first lie that Kayleigh McEnany told at her first press conference was that she would not lie to the press. The second was that the media had her word on that. Doubling down is a standard rhetorical device, intended to make the lie bigger, but somehow less obvious and less of a lie. It’s also called gaslighting.

      Cold War Russia and China watchers described the phenomenon slightly differently, using language Ratcliffe should find familiar: You never knew whether something was true until it was officially denied. Ratcliffe is playing follow the leader; if he weren’t good at that, he would never have been nominated – twice.

    • vvv says:

      I suspect at some point he will assert that “outside influence” does not refer to boss trump.

  8. Thelonius M says:

    What exactly drives an individual to hitch his or her wagon to this funeral cortege of an administration? It is plain to see that your integrity will be compromised, your reputation will be shredded, the respect of many friends and family will fall away. In what universe does an individual think aligning oneself with this hateful con-man will be a good career move? Do they not see beyond the next Tweet? It’s not like others have not passed this way before and suffered a public and humiliating fall as a result. I just don’t get it, my rational brain can’t cope with it, and it goes on and on. The only answer I can come up with is that they see evidence of some way in which they will escape unscathed, as in they see 4 more years of impunity and if worse comes to worse, a presidential pardon, as they parachute into a cushy K Street office.

    • rip says:

      I’ve long wondered that also, as most of us probably have. Thanks for voicing those questions.

      The only answer that seems to come up repeatedly is “money” and “power”. All the disgraced players in the Reagan, Nixon, Bush+ administrations probably ended up with enough wealth to make it worthwhile. Even a few months/years in prison with a pluto-funded pension might be OK.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I think the bigger draw is becoming one of the in-group, the elect. If you abide by its rule no. 1 – never tell outsiders the truth about insiders – it can have lifetime and even generational benefits.

    • e.a.f. says:

      It is what they believe will be their power, to occupy that position, to have “achieved” their career goal. now given the current administration is just shit, but the person wanting the job is thinking of it as the position once was, not what it is today in the trump administration.

      In life its usually about the money or the power., oh, and sometimes its about the sex. at least that is my conclusion having watch politics in my own province since I was 9 years old. Same applies to the gangsters in their world and the bureaucracy. Sometimes there isn’t much difference.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The White House is apparently disbanding its Coronavirus Task Force. Would that be Jared’s or the real one? It was only listening to Jared’s crony-capitalist one, so I can see why it wouldn’t want the other one around. Kayleigh McEnany will say that the god-emperor has licked Covid-19 and the CTF is no longer necessary. I guess that’s her version of declaring defeat a victory and quitting the field – before the bodies pile up higher than you can climb.

    In related Trumpian news, an unhinged Michigan man wiped his nose on a store employee’s shirt when told state rules require that he wear a mask in the store. In the midst of Covid-19, I would call that criminal assault.

    The conservative Republican chief judge of the WI state supreme court might not agree. She just said that her state’s Democratic governor’s public health restrictions are the “very definition of tyranny.” She compared them to being thrown in an internment camp for Japanese Americans. Chief Justice Rebecca Bradley is a devout member of the Federalist Society, the layman’s Opus Dei. (Bill Barr belongs to both.) I can’t wait until George Takei instructs Ms. Bradley about her flagrant abuse of history for partisan political gain.

    • P J Evans says:

      How the F did these people get law degrees – or degrees in history or political science – without having a clue about (a) what slavery actually was and (b) what those camps were about? (and I’d also add (c) the Trail of Tears in its various incarnations.)

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This should not need to be said, but we’re living in the age of Trump. Washington, DC’s, famed lobbyists’ corridor – K Street – is the last industry the government should be bailing on the taxpayers’ dime. An unprecedented number of highly-paid lobbyists – many of whom are former congresscritters, converting their Rolodex into cash – spend much of its time ripping taxpayers off by helping to legislate massive tax subsidies and legal immunities for their corporate clients. In exchange, lobbyists do two very convenient things: write the legislation and rules once written by congresscritters and their staffs, and fundraising, through which they cement the relationships between congresscritters and their network of corporate clients.

    Subsidizing the lobbying industry outright would be a massive own goal and a kick in the groin for democratic government. As practiced in America, K Street lobbying is a form of legalized bribery of public officials. A helluva lot of them expect, however, to soon be former GOP congresscritters. They will rely on K Street to provide them lucrative post-public employment jobs. So, I don’t imagine they will hesitate to slush a little money K Street’s way. Et tu, Democrats?

  11. skua says:

    Scary seeing the clockwise swastika (the same direction as that used by the Nazis) at the heart of the wall design in the header photo for this article.

    This being the internet: No I am not seeing Trump as Hitler and the American right as the Nazis. I am seeing banality and greed sweeping aside ethical considerations and plundering by a plutocracy.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      I meander, so let me venture a guess…Are you referring to the Greek key pattern in the design you mentioned:

      Meander (art) – Wikipedia

      What really struck me in that photo of Ratcliffe was much more Covidiot. There he is in public making a display of “digitally manipulating” his face, so to speak. Hmm, I’m wondering if we should call this the new face plant. Probably not.

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