We gave up on Newsweek a long time ago. Its decline is now a spectator sport.
Though the once prominent and well-respected news journal stopped being serious well before the election of Donald Trump, it seems like the elevation of America’s 45th president has hastened the magazine’s overall implosion.
To wit, Newsweek published a sad bit of wish-casting this week titled, “Hillary Clinton could still become president if Russia probe finds conspiracy evidence.”
Oh, honey. No.
The main point of the article, which is based entirely on an essay published last year by Lawrence Lessig, the Roy L. Furman professor of law and leadership at Harvard Law School, is to explain the theory that Hillary Clinton could take office if everyone else is impeached or arrested following the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. election.
It’s the Mousetrap of political fan-fiction.
Here’s how Newsweek explains Lessig's theory:
If Trump did conspire with Russia, the president “should resign, or, if he doesn’t, he should be impeached,” Lessig wrote in his essay. Vice President Mike Pence would also have to either resign or get impeached, which would make House Speaker Paul Ryan the president of the United States, Lessig wrote at the time.
Given that there is “no mechanism in American law for a new election,” nor “a mechanism for correcting the criminal results of the previous election,” Ryan ought to nominate “the person defeated by the treason of his own party, and then step aside, and let her become President,” Lessig went on to say.
It is now January 2018, and we’re no closer to seeing Trump arrested or impeached over the Russia investigation. Naturally, Lessig seems a little eager to explain that his President Hillary theory was just an idea he was kicking around.
“This is one way it could happen,” he told Newsweek this week. “But that’s very different from saying I think it will happen, or should happen, or [that] the evidence is there for it to happen.”
Indeed, there hasn’t been “any evidence that’s come out that’s resolved the question, whether there was some conspiracy to steal the election” in the time that has elapsed between now and the publication of his essay.
“I don’t feel that we’ve seen anything that increases that probability,” he said.
“The remedy that I … outline[d] only makes sense if you believe the election was stolen," Lessig added. "If you don’t believe the election was stolen, there might have been a hundred other things [Trump] did that would lead you to believe he ought to be removed, but none of those justify the remedy I described."
Why in the world would Newsweek publish any of this silliness?
This is worse than the time Newsweek wrongly accused Ivanka Trump of plagiarizing a speech she delivered last year in India. This is also worse than when Newsweek tried to fact-check President Trump by claiming incorrectly that the Clintons “were not paid millions by Russia.”
This is worse even than when Newsweek joined the monumentally stupid dogpile that claimed incorrectly that House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was imposing a puritanical dress code on female congressional reporters.
This "Hillary could still be president stuff" is worse because it’s just so — sad? The other missteps can be explained away as pure partisan hackery and laziness. But carrying the torch for a possible third Clinton presidency? That's just delusional.