With sadness I must report that The Stream has gone over the cliff. I had hoped that the outlet might come out of the Trump years (during which it went from Orange-skeptical to Orange-embracing) and turn in a good direction (a bit like National Review has done of late). Alas, they have embraced the Kraken.
Even as we diverged more and more on Trump, the editors were always polite, punctual, and without exception willing to take the pieces I pitched them. Admittedly, the pitches were more selective, but, to their credit, they published some pieces that looked for common ground and even pushed back against conspiracy theories that their audience may have wanted to embrace. Yet, pushing back on the idea that the election was stolen was apparently a bridge too far given an editorial direction that has gone “all in” on Trump’s theory of the day.
My sincere hope is that the site turns back towards reality, but for now it is time to say farewell. Below, for the record, is what went too far. It was a good piece, but apparently beyond the current bounds of The Stream.
Rudy’s Zebra Hunt
“When you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras.” That saying is most common in medical circles, but it can apply to law and politics too. It warns us all to avoid jumping to an unlikely diagnosis when a more common explanation is available. On Thursday, Rudy Giuliani led America on an hour and a half long zebra hunt. No hides were actually presented, but we were told that just a little more beating of the bushes and that elusive black-and-white pony was sure to emerge.
It is beginning to feel a bit like George W. Bush’s quest to find the weapons of mass destruction that were used to justify the invasion of Iraq. To be sure, some bad things were found—a bit of old sarin nerve agent here, a little musty mustard gas there. And Saddam Hussein was undoubtedly an evil man who thwarted international norms and sanctions. But we were sold a preemptive war based on the imminent threat of a mushroom cloud. The scale of the actual danger never matched the hype.
It may not have been a deliberate deception, but in the end it simply wasn’t true. Too many people assumed the hoofbeats simply must be zebras, but they weren’t. Thousands of lives were ended or forever scarred as a result. Additionally, the GOP suffered a lasting black-eye for having fallen in line behind its leader rather than asking the hard but obvious questions. The Bush presidency limped to an end, and then eight years of President Obama began.
Like Bush, Mayor Giuliani is an imperfect man but one whose legacy includes many deeds worthy of praise. We should not let our general affection blind our judgment, though. Nor should we let a few kernels of truth sell us on a bushel of falsehoods.
Giuliani spent much of the Thursday press conference berating the press. (So much for “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”) Of course, the press has done (or not done) much that deserves berating.
For many years I have stood with tens of thousands at the March for Life only to see the event ignored or downplayed by the mainstream press. A few hundred gathered for the favored liberal cause-of-the-month, however, will draw almost as many cameras.
Regarding the election, most of the press set the “me too” movement aside and buried Tara Reade’s allegations against Joe Biden. Similarly, down the stretch, the active avoidance of a legitimate story surrounding Hunter Biden’s efforts to make money off the family name was palpable. Of course, Trump has his own troubles in these areas, but the point is the disparate treatment.
So, I can understand Giuliani emphasizing that an affidavit is indeed “evidence” to counter the many stories featuring the words “baseless” or “no evidence.” There are certainly some hoofbeats, even if the media is plugging its ears. Yet, jumping from scattered shenanigans to the zebra of a vast national (make that international) conspiracy is a mighty leap. If Rudy wants us hop along, he should have provided more proof of stripes and an actual path to victory for Trump.
Instead, the press conference seemed to provide a hodge-podge of conflicting conspiracy theories. Broadly, there was the theory of illegal early morning ballots for Biden and a grander theory presented by lawyer Sidney Powell. She spoke breathlessly of Venezuelan voting machines that would slyly miscount ballots deep within its software.
The second theory was directly put to the test by the hand-count audit of the paper ballots in Georgia. It failed miserably. In the end, the marginal but insufficient move for Trump was due to several rural red counties, not the big city blues, failing to originally upload a few thousand votes. (Bet on incompetence over a conspiracy anyday.) Otherwise, the paper count closely matched the earlier machine count. Nothing was consistent with the sinister voting machine angle.
That should put to rest the Dominion machine theory, but it probably won’t. A conspiracy theory can always grow in complexity. (Maybe dastardly Democrats snuck in extra paper ballots for Biden during the audit. Then, maybe they evaded campaign observers and secretly destroyed votes for Trump. And, maybe they did this all over the state in exactly the proportions needed to cover their prior electronic vote-flipping tracks.) One has to wonder why a cabal so sophisticated and exacting would use the power of its genius to elect Joe Biden. (Oh, and skip the Senate and the state legislatures in a redistricting year.)
Regarding the not-so-sophisticated conspiracy theory of old fashioned ballot stuffing, the evidence has yet to match the grand conclusions. When asked about even the most easily verifiable aspects of their claims, Giuliani and Powell responded with deflections rather than data. They claimed multiple counties had “overvotes” of up to 350%. That would mean that the number of votes cast were more than three times the tally of registered voters. “You can do it yourself,” responded Rudy to a questioner without ever noting a single county by name.
Instead, Giuliani and company tossed out scary names like “George Soros” and “Hugo Chavez” and “Antifa.” “Everybody’s against us,” said Powell. She compared the moment to 1775, but at least then colonists could actually see the tea tax. To my ears, it was all bluster and no beef. Rudy said he could “prove it to you 18 different ways.” Well, just one would have done.
We all need to pick a point to bet on horses rather than always invisible striped ponies. Tucker Carlson is among those who are tired of waiting on evidence that never comes. If an actual zebra is flushed out, I’ll be the first to tip my hat to the intrepid stalkers. Right now, though, this looks more like a snipe hunt. But prematurely calling an election “stolen” and then providing scant evidence is no joke. This farce is hurting the country and marring the conservative brand like those WMDs that remained forever MIA.