Above the fold is the upper half of the front page of a newspaper or tabloid where an important news story or photograph is often located. Papers are often displayed to customers folded so that only the top half of the front page is visible. Thus, an item that is “above the fold” may be one that the editors feel will entice people to buy the paper.
Yesterday, and the day before, all the news that anybody saw was about the U.S. airstrike on Shayrat air base in Syria. Until some questions are answered, until additional facts are forthcoming, I have said all I can say on that topic and have frankly tired of the speculation. However, behind the smokescreen that news provided, there was other news that I would like to take a further look at, as it was largely (completely?) overlooked for the past two days.
The House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into whether Russia interfered in last year’s presidential election and to what extent the Trump campaign colluded in that effort derailed at the end of March, after Representative Devin Nunes’ credibility was called into question by his exchange of classified information with the White House. On Thursday, Nunes announced that he is stepping down from the investigation. This is still not a guarantee that the committee will be able to do its job and hold an impartial, unbiased, bi-partisan investigation, but it is a step in the right direction.
In other related news, the New York Times reported on Thursday that as early as August of 2016, CIA director John Brennan had information indicating that Russia was working to help elect Donald Trump. The article is lengthy, but well worth the read. According to the report, Brennan was so concerned about increasing evidence of Russia’s election meddling that he began a series of urgent, individual briefings for eight top members of Congress. Brennan indicated that Russia’s hackings appeared aimed at helping Mr. Trump win the November election, and also that unnamed advisers to Mr. Trump might be working with the Russians to interfere in the election. The FBI, conducting its own investigation at the time, was convinced Russia’s cyberattacks were aimed primarily at disrupting America’s political system, and not at getting Mr. Trump elected. In and of itself, the suspicions posed here are nothing new, but what is new … and disturbing … is that this information was known by the CIA, the FBI, and at least eight members of Congress some three months before the election!
No surprise, but Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court on Friday. There was really never any doubt that this confirmation would take place, despite the efforts on the part of Democrats in the Senate to filibuster that, had it been successful, would have forced a 60-vote majority rather than a simple 51%. Senator Mitch McConnell made sure to change the rules, thus effectively blocking the filibuster and ensuring Gorsuch’s confirmation. It reminds me of my sister-in-law trying to teach me a card game, while she changed the rules to her advantage nearly every hand. Sigh. McConnell has outlived his usefulness in the Senate and is no longer a representative of the people of his state (Kentucky), but rather represents only the Republican Party and his own interests.
As early as next week, the court will be deciding whether to consider expanding the breadth of the Second Amendment. Other cases on the docket include a case about whether business owners may refuse to offer their wedding services to same-sex couples, voting rights issues, and a case involving the concept of separation of church and state. Gorsuch is a strong conservative, but has been noted as being fair, so we can only hope that he is driven by his conscience rather than political motives, especially once Trump’s travel ban comes before the Supreme Court, as it is almost certain to eventually do.
And finally, what would otherwise have been the day’s big news, was barely a blip on the radar: the meeting between Trump and China President Xi Jinping. According to foreign policy expert Richard Bush, writing for Brookings Institute, the talks covered four major areas:
- Trump’s commitment to visit China this year
- The restructuring of the senior-level dialogues
- The declaration of a 100-day process for addressing economic frictions
- Agreement to coordinate actions on North Korea
On North Korea, Trump repeated his warning that if China did not do more, the United States would act on its own to constrain the belligerent actions of North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un. According to Bloomberg, the biggest accomplishment to come out of the meeting was the two leaders sizing each other up, ‘getting to know’ each other. There were “no trade or investment deals announced, no agreement to contain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, no plan stitched together to reduce tensions in the South China Sea.”
While Trump tweeted that the meetings had created “tremendous goodwill and friendship”, the Chinese state-run media wasted no time in denouncing the U.S. airstrike on Syrian air base Shayrat, calling the move an act of a weakened politician who needed to flex his muscles. Some Chinese political analysts posed the same thought that I had, considering the timing to be no coincidence, but rather a well-timed message to Xi Jinping that the U.S. could attack North Korea, if they saw fit.
One problem I see with the media, but also with the news-consuming public, is that one story can, and often does, dominate the headlines to the exclusion of most other news. We gobble up any tidbit, even if it is only a repetition of what we read two hours before, and in the chaos created by something as big as the Syrian air strikes, all else becomes insignificant. While I am not suggesting the major stories are not important, they should not blind us to what else is going on in the nation, the world. This is the intent of the administration with their smokescreen policy to detract as much attention as possible from their own foibles and antics. We need to follow the big stories, but we also need to read “below the fold”, for often that is where the real news is.