If the NY Times hints at something but won't say it outright, what does it mean? For some, it means an opportunity for self-generated 'fake news'.
Mr. Priebus bristles at the perception that he occupies a diminished perch in the West Wing pecking order compared with previous chiefs. But for the moment, Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.
Now, let's take a moment. Is the Times telling us that Trump is upset because he did not realize Bannon would end up on the principals committee of the NSC? Or is he upset about some other details of a memo which is widely remembered and easily described as the one that put Bannon on the principals committee?
Let's start with this - these Times writers have written before and clarity is normally within their reach. If we aren't sure what they are saying it is because they aren't sure they want to say it. And does anyone think that if they had a solid story that Trump was mad at Bannon for his self-promotion they would have failed to pound the table with that? "Trump Angry At Bannon's Self-Promotion" would have been a headline, not a hint.
As to what the Times is saying, here are Doctors Marshall and Drezner on Twitter:
"Supposed to infer"? Why would the Times not say it outright unless they hoped their readers would make a leap the Times was not comfortable reporting explicitly?
Flashing back a week, here are Landler and Sanger of the NY Times reporting on the order in question and noting several controversies:
What Trump’s Changes Mean for the National Security Council
WASHINGTON — President Trump announced on Monday that he would add the director of the Central Intelligence Agency to the National Security Council after critics questioned a memorandum released last weekend that also gave a seat to his chief political strategist.
Mr. Trump’s decision to include the strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, on the council’s “principals committee” — where he will sit alongside the secretaries of state, Treasury, defense and energy, and other policy makers — has set off an eruption among the Washington national security establishment. The memo did not stipulate that the director of national intelligence or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would automatically attend those meetings, and raised concerns about the influence Mr. Bannon would exert over national security.
The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, insisted on Monday that the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, were welcome to attend any meetings of the committee on subjects relevant to their portfolios. And he noted that Mr. Trump was adding the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, to the list.
Is it inconceivable that Trump is irked because the failure to include the CIA head, as well as the short-shrifting of the DNI and the JCS Chair, made him look slack on national security? Is it possible that Trump has been fielding WTF phone calls from those guys worried about their own status, not Bannon's?
Maybe! Maybe the Times has solid reporting that Trump is angry about the re-organization order but can't pin down the 'why'.
But I'll say this - the idea that Trump has adopted more conventional (dare I say "earth-bound") logic and is worried about this NSC re-organization for the same reason Dan Drezner is worried about it strikes me as an unwarranted burst of optimism from the good Doctor.
For my money, Trump's anger might be due to the public reaction to Bannon, it might be the absence of the national security heavyweights, it might be the color of the paper the order was printed on, or it might be the font. But I decline to "infer" a conclusion that suits the CW when the Times is pointing in that direction but won't actually go there.
This post-truth era calls for critical thinking, not wishful thinking. Assuming that Trump is upset for the same reasons a normal person would be is a path lacking a firm evidentiary foundation.
BY WAY OF COUNTEREXAMPLE: Kevin Drum will yield to no one in his disdain for Trump but he does not leap to (or at least, emphasize) the possibility that Trump is annoyed with Bannon's self-promotion.