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There were a couple headlines yesterday that sent the "shoot first, ask questions never" segment of social media into non-gendered hysterics. The first was about Dianne Feinstein. According to the LA Times, the California senator had caved on Donald Trump's impeachment like a common Susan Collins. The quid pro quo didn't fit so she must acquit.

Twitter

But even as McConnell struggled to corral Republicans, Sen. Dianne Feinstein seemed to signal fissures in the unity of Senate Democrats. Feinstein suggested that while she had serious concerns about Trump's character, she is still weighing her ultimate vote on whether to acquit him.

Oh no, Feinstein is signaling fissures all over the place! We're doomed. Progressive purists pounced on her: Feinstein is elderly and hates kids. She should've been replaced "several terms" ago. She let us down with Brett Kavanaugh. And on and on. But headlines are often clickbait. What were her actual words?


"Nine months left to go [before the election], the people should judge. We are a republic, we are based on the will of the people — the people should judge," she said.

She then added: "That was my view and it still is my view."

That concerned folks because it seemed like Feinstein was suggesting that the voters should decide Trump's fate at the upcoming election he's accused of trying to fix. Christine Pelosi even warned that Feinstein dislikes impeachments and recalls due to personal experience: When she was mayor of San Francisco in 1982, she survived an attempted recall. Pelosi implied that the recall was also because she signed a domestic partnership bill, but she actually vetoed the partnership law, which the San Francisco Roman Catholic Archdiocese called a "courageous act."

Reporter Alayna Treene quickly disputed the LA Times story. She tweeted a transcript of her interview with the senator, and although it was as clear as Feinstein's unique brand of mud, the five-alarm headline was not a reasonable interpretation of her comments.

When Feinstein is asked if she'll vote for the president's removal, she replied, "You'll see when we vote," which is not the same as saying Alan Dershowitz convinced her there was no insulin in the Ukraine needle. She didn't want to just say "throw the bum out," as that would (rightly) seem hypocritical because Democrats have denounced Republicans for having an entrenched position, unswayed by the actual facts. Feinstein later set the record straight herself.

Twitter also exploded over this shocking headline from the Chicago Tribune:

Twitter

Wow, that is disturbing. I know Biden isn't a big fan of Medicare for All, but I assumed he'd support any random socialist over the asshole who asked a foreign government to smear him and his son. The clickbait from the headline also bled into the article itself.

Former Vice President Joe Biden stopped short Tuesday of saying he'd support Bernie Sanders if the progressive Vermont senator wins the Democratic presidential nomination.

"I'm not going to make judgments now," Biden told reporters in Muscatine, six days before the Iowa caucuses. "I just think that it depends upon how we treat one another between now and the time we have a nominee."

This mangles the actual context of the question, which was whether the entire Democratic party could unite behind Bernie Sanders if he were the nominee. Biden explicitly said, "We have to," because he's aware Trump is currently president. However, he cautioned that unity during the general election depends on how "we treat each other" during the primary. That wasn't a threat, but a sensible observation based on the smoking crater of 2016. It's not reasonable to assume you can have total war for a year and a half, but everyone's going to make nice in half that time. The work to unite the party arguably starts now by agreeing that we don't all hate each other, even if we might have clear differences of opinion on policy and our approach to governance.

These are truly embarrassing media fails. We could lecture everyone again about not reflexively retweeting stories and helping spread misinformation, but if we reach a point where we don't trust the news unless it shows us two forms of ID, that promotes the narrative that it's all "fake." That's good news for Donald Trump. It's not good for America.

[LA Times / Chicago Tribune ]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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