BROOKE GLADSTONE: From WNYC in New York, this is On the Media. Bob Garfield is away this week. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
[SHEPHARD TONE/UP & UNDER]
And behold the Shephard tone, a sound illusion, always sliding upward or downward, yet never quite disappearing, like the red and blue stripes on a barber’s poll. As this sonic mass moves up and up and up, the tension rises also until -- nothing, no resolution, no catharsis. Here comes another rising line and another after that. Around the office here, we’ve come to see this up and up and up of the Trump era, especially when it comes to Russia and the Mueller investigation, as its own Shephard tone. Some slip of the tongue or unsealed indictment seems to herald a resolution that never arrives, as Saturday Night Live memorably spoofed, after Trump casually confessed to obstruction of justice on network TV.
[“WEEKEND UPDATE” CLIP]:
MICHAEL CHE AS NBC’S LESTER HOLT: Wait, so, did I get him? Is this all over?
Oh -- no, I didn’t? Nothing matters? Absolutely nothing matters anymore?
[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER][END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: A hundred years ago, by which I mean Monday, the soundtrack of the American media was the Shephard tone, the sound of resolution, and possibly deliverance, on an infinitely receding horizon.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader certainly that I've ever seen.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, MSNBC: We are living in a national emergency. We may not have known it 24 hours ago. We do now.
CROWD: You’re the puppet. You’re the puppet.
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: You’re hearing those, “You’re the puppet.”
FEMALE CORRESPONDENT: The UK’s Guardian quotes critics calling the meeting, quote, “nothing short of treasonous” and France’s Le Monde writes, “France is Putin’s Best Ally.”
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Strong and powerful. That, of course, appears to be what the president admires the most.
ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL TOM DUPREE: This was the time and the place for the president to look Putin squarely in the eye and said, you will be punished for what you did in 2016 and don't ever think about doing that again.
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX BUSINESS NEWS ANCHOR: But he didn't.
TOM DUPREE: He didn't.
NEIL CAVUTO: And that's what made it disgusting. That's what made his performance disgusting. I’m sorry, it’s just the only way I feel.
MAN: He is guilty of violating his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution.
FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR JILL WINE-BANKS: I would say that his performance today will live in infamy as much as the Pearl Harbor attack or Kristallnacht.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: But as they lifted their eyes to the mountain seeking help, the old war raged unabated, unchanged.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: You have just witnessed the single-worst 24 hours in the history of your mainstream media. And, according to the abusively-biased press, well, the sky is literally falling.
MAN: Now it’s a major -- public relations coup for Vladimir Putin, we can’t, when the president sold out this country. It’s unbelievable -- oh-h. That was basically the primetime lineup and the daytime lineups of CNN and MSNBC.
GREG GUTFELD, CO-HOST, FOX NEWS: So Donald lost the crazy pants vote, so what? The world is Donkey Kong and we're always stuck at the same level, especially with Russia.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Cue the 8-bit Shephard tone --
-- as the barber pole of dread revolves, each stripe a lash, seeming to vanish but always seamlessly renewed. He withdraws a word, thus rendering everything else he uttered out of context or nonsensical. And those who can truly check him choose to -- check out. They have reasons.
This week, House Republicans voted down a Democratic effort to increase election security spending. It passed a resolution denouncing the idea of carbon taxes and voted to tighten work requirements for food stamps. We may have missed that newsreel because the Executive Branch IMAX screened some amazing coming attractions. Here’s Andrea Mitchell with the current Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, in Aspen on Thursday.
ANDREA MITCHELL: We have some breaking news. The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.
U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DANIEL COATS: [LAUGHS]
Say that again?
ANDREA MITCHELL: Vladimir Putin, coming to the --
DANIEL COATS: Did I hear you, did I hear you?”
ANDREA MITCHELL: Yeah, Yeah.
DANIEL COATS: Okay!
ANDREA MITCHELL: Yeah. [LAUGHS]
DANIEL COATS: That’s going to be special.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Ultimately, if you want to change the president's behavior or that of this Congress, you can't. The truth is you can only marshal your own resources and change your own behavior. We saw just a smidge of that this week in the press corps. Even if this week's coverage left us with nothing new about the administration, in the White House press room close observers, accustomed to seeing the assembled step on and over each other, saw this.
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SEC. SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: So when he sees that he’s misspoken, he comes out and he says that. Jordan.
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: A follow-up on my second question, just to follow up on my second question, Sarah. SARAH SANDERS: Sorry, I’m going to — you’ve asked two. I’m going to move on to Jordan.
HALLIE JACKSON: I did have, I have two. You told Josh the President has been publicly critical of Vladimir —
SARAH SANDERS: Once again, Hallie, I’m moving on to Jordan. Jordan, go ahead.
JORDAN FABIAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sorry, Hallie, go ahead, if you want to.
HALLIE JACKSON: Thanks, Jordan. You said to Josh —
SANDERS: Actually, I’m going to take a question from Jordan.
[SHEPHARD TONE UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It was just a second or two out of a week that lasted -- centuries, just one blip in the spiraling trap of the Shephard tone. But there is a way to break out, to change the nation's perceptions and your own.
JOSEPH LEHMAN: There have to be ways to debate ideas, to make unacceptable things become acceptable or we’ll be stuck.