Early Returns

Good Information Is Out There If You Want It

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

Far from the only game in town.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Washington Post's Margaret Sullivan, a former New York Times public editor, has a nice piece out about criticizing the Times. She's absolutely right: So many of us are vigilant in checking up on the Times because of what it is and its place in the flow of information, particularly when it comes to politics. It is simply central to everyone, either directly or indirectly. And, yes, conservatives, that includes those who bash the "liberal media" in public but get their information from it in private. 

But it's hardly the only game in town. One of the important developments over time has been just how much good national journalism and analysis is available these days to citizens who care to seek it out. Thirty years ago, news coverage of Congress, for example, was extremely limited even for those in Washington and almost impossible to obtain for those in the rest of the nation. Now? The Washington Post and New York Times are quite a bit better on Congress than they were then -- but there's also excellent news and analysis in all sorts of new outlets. Some are, like the news pages of the Post and the Times, "neutral" in the sense that they aspire to neutrality, although that itself is of course a form of bias. Some are written explicitly from partisan points of view, whether it's the liberal Huffington Post or the conservative Washington Examiner.

It's also now possible to read analysis written for non-specialists from historians, economists, political scientists, academic lawyers and other experts in major outlets and personal blogs. There was nothing like that 30 years ago; now there's more excellent stuff than anyone could possibly read (as the dozens and dozens of open, still-unread tabs on my browser can attest to).  

Unfortunately, there's plenty of bad with the good. State and local news coverage has atrophied badly, and no one seems to have any solution to the problem. It's terrible for democracy at those levels, and democracy at those levels matters a lot.

And then there's television. As Matt Yglesias says about cable news networks, "Even at its very best, cable news is not an ideal source of information about the world, and the Fox News shows that Trump prefers are not cable news at their very best." I think that's much too kind. It's the system, not the people; there are smart analysts and excellent reporters at all the cable news networks, but it's just hard to be smart on most of these shows. The extent that President Donald Trump really does seem to get his information from such sources is more than a little frightening. The impulse to go beyond internal briefings from within the administration isn't a bad one for a president; it's a good guard against groupthink, and it's also a way for presidents to resist being overly influenced by one side of an argument. I just wish there was more evidence that Trump paid attention to those internal briefings and that he had a better and more varied diet of outside information. 

But at least for national politics, there's a wonderful array of information available, far more than once was the case.

1. Sarah Binder at the Monkey Cage explains the effects of Orrin Hatch's retirement within the Senate. 

2. Also at the Monkey Cage: some optimism about North Korea from Michael C. Horowitz and Elizabeth N. Saunders.

3. Dan Drezner on Trump and North Korea

4. Paul Musgrave on the folly of finding more to Trump than we see. Exactly. I call this the #CleverFallacy -- the tendency of pundits, most of whom are quite clever themselves and who value cleverness in others, to invent clever explanations for whatever Trump does and attribute that cleverness to him. Of course, Trump's antics can have effects, even if they are not intended. But I agree that the evidence points to the surface Trump being the real Trump. 

5. Matt Glassman with a great history lesson about the congressional calendar

6. "Kim Jong-un has just made it look easy to make our president look ridiculous": Heather Hurlburt on the tweeter in chief

7. Good Greg Sargent item on Mitt Romney's role in the party if he does become a senator. Important to look beyond voting records to judge whether members of Congress are, or are not, constraining the president. 

8. Jamelle Bouie on Trump's unpopularity.

9. And my Bloomberg View colleague Conor Sen on the future of Las Vegas.

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    Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

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