March 23, 2017

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Pickerhead spends a lot of time in Naples, FL. So it was interesting to read that Smithsonian Magazine says it is the happiest city in the country. Perhaps it is happy because it is the butt of many jokes. It is said that all the old people in Florida live in Sarasota - and their parents live in Naples. True enough. And when a car is heard starting while you are walking through a parking lot in Naples, it is wise to locate that vehicle before continuing because you never know when some seasoned citizen might attempt some hitherto unforeseeable driving or parking maneuver.


Even though many residents of Naples are quite old, they are keeping up with the youthful trend of tattoos. The most popular is to have their arms inked with their names and addresses. The same set has come up with a new line at the local saloons – “Hi there. Do I come here often?”


Switzerland may be the best country in the world (or so says U.S. News & World Report), but there is plenty of happiness to be found here in the USA—and particularly in Florida, according to the latest data from Gallup-Healthways.  For the second year in a row, Naples and the nearby communities of Immokalee and Marco Island have ranked first in their ”American well-being” Index, A. Pawlowski reports for Today. 

The 2016 Community Well-Being Index is based on Gallup interviews with more than 350,000 people. Researchers analyzed these conversations to measure how residents feel about their physical, emotional, financial, community and social health. 

Naples performed well in all categories. The city “had the country’s highest number of residents thriving in community well-being, highest rates of healthy eating, lowest rates of daily stress, and lowest lifetimes diagnoses of depression,” the authors of the report write. …

… And through it all, the people of Naples were persistently mellow. The city is home to the least-stressed residents of the country—and this despite the persistent antics of the Florida man.



Speaking of Florida Man, here’s the NY Times piece.

Dangling into the sea like America’s last-ditch lifeline, the state of Florida beckons. Hustlers and fugitives, million-dollar hucksters and harebrained thieves, Armani-wearing drug traffickers and hapless dope dealers all congregate, scheme and revel in the SunshineState. It’s easy to get in, get out or get lost.

For decades, this cast of characters provided a diffuse, luckless counternarrative to the salt-and-sun-kissed Florida that tourists spy from their beach towels. But recently there arrived a digital-era prototype, @_FloridaMan, a composite of Florida’s nuttiness unspooled, tweet by tweet, to the world at large. With pithy headlines and links to real news stories, @_FloridaMan offers up the “real-life stories of the world’s worst super hero,” as his Twitter bio proclaims.

Florida Man Tries to Convince Woman to Buy, Cook, Eat Iguanas Duct-Taped to His Bike

— Florida Man (@_FloridaMan) March 20, 2015  … 

… “There is always an extra twist of weirdness at the end of the Florida story,” Mr. Hiaasen said. “Weird stories happen everywhere, but they usually come to a logical conclusion. There is always one more shoe that drops in Florida.”

And there is so much more of it in Florida, he added. “It’s not just shooting fish in a barrel,” Mr. Hiaasen said, “but shooting mutated, deranged, slow-moving fish.” 

He cited the car thief who had been caught by the police in the parking lot of the Miccosukee Tribe’s casino on the edge of the Everglades. The thief had the bad sense to try to escape by plunging into a pond behind the casino. 

“As soon as he hits the water, he gets eaten by an alligator,” Mr. Hiaasen said. “This is the way things must be here.”

Mr. Hiaasen, chagrined at the authorities, added: “They kill the alligator. They should have given him a Crime Stoppers award. Does this happen in Arkansas? I don’t know.” …



Another sometime Naples resident, the Florida Panther, was featured in an article in The Atlantic. This piece was hard to format, so to read it all, please follow the hyperlink.

On a clear evening this past June, in rural Collier County, Florida, an endangered panther crossed a street and was hit by a man driving home. The driver, making out a tawny, crumpled form, called a hotline. The job of retrieving the animal fell to Mark Lotz, a panther biologist with the state Fish and Wildlife Commission. Lotz called me to see if I wanted to come.

I had flown into Fort Lauderdale at the beginning of the week, renting a car and heading west across the state through what remains of primordial wetlands. Tall metal fences flanked the road, like a dull, gray hermetic seal meant to keep human traffic in and wildlife out. The fences are just one of many measures to protect fewer than 180 Florida panthers alive today, all of them in the state’s southern tip. …


Fifteen miles Northeast of Naples is the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. A visitor filmed a panther there last year. Click on this link.



We do have something serious today because Wednesday a week ago marked the 100th anniversary of the abdication of Czar Nicholas. The Reds did not gain power immediately. First there was a fledgling democracy led by Alexander Kerensky, who died at his home in New York City in 1970. Before 1917 was over, Lenin overthrew the provisional government setting into motion the bloodiest century in history as perhaps hundreds of millions went to early graves. Max Boot writes in Commentary.

… Can you imagine what would have happened if Kerensky had been able to stay in power? The mind boggles to think how many tens of millions of people might have died in their beds rather than suffering a gruesome and premature end. There certainly would not have been any Stalinist terror or any mass famine in Ukraine. There may not have been any World War II, for a democratic Russia would not have connived in Hitler’s rise as the Soviet Union did. The Soviets not only helped Germany to rebuild its military in the 1920s but in 1939 Stalin agreed to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that set the stage for the invasion of Poland, with Soviet forces coming from the East as the Nazis invaded from the West. In a broader sense, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact made possible World War II, a conflict that inflicted unimaginable suffering on the Soviet Union, but ultimately left Moscow in command of Eastern Europe and eager to expand its domain even farther. Mao Zedong’s revolution in China probably would not have succeeded if not for Russian assistance, which was forthcoming from Stalin but would not have come from a democratic prime minister.

Simply to have avoided the rule of Stalin and Mao would have spared tens of millions from an early grave. From the American perspective, it would have avoided the costly and dispiriting wars in North Korea and Vietnam and the near-miss of a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Just think of how different the world would look today if Russia were a vibrant democracy. There is no inherent reason why Russia should be at odds with the West; indeed if Russia were democratic, it would be part of the West. Imagine the European Union extending from London to Moscow, and a Europe wholly free.

That, of course, is an impossible dream, and there is no guarantee that even a democratic Russia would have avoided all conflicts with its neighbors; other democracies, ours included, have certainly acted in a belligerent fashion. (Just ask the Mexicans!) But there is little doubt that the whole history of the last hundred years would have been changed immeasurably, and for the better, if Russia had had only one revolution, rather than two, in 1917.

March 8, 2017 – IRREPLACABLE

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Whatever you may think of President Trump, it is an unalloyed pleasure to have someone in the Oval Office who does not hide his thoughts. We can hope his tweets never get staff sanitized. Think back to his passive aggressive predecessor who tried to disguise his animus towards Israel until the very end of his term. And likewise his dislike of Great Britain, which while never spoken, was obvious if you were willing to look beyond the smiling face. The latter displayed his faculty lounge ignorance of the historic contributions of the British anti-slavery movement led by William Wilberforce at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. For thousands of years of human history slavery was ubiquitous worldwide. And yet in 40 years, history’s proverbial blink of an eye, it was halted in the large part of the world touched by British power.


Today’s post examines the unprecedented attacks on the country’s president; including calls for his assassination. Donald Trump looks like he has the courage and cojones to withstand this withering fire from the Left.  Since Pickings trashed Trump early on in the campaign it is startling to realize he has become the irreplaceable president because no other politician in recent memory could withstand this unrestrained, and at times, unhinged aggression. Victor Davis Hanson provides an overview of the assault on Trump.  

… Oddly, in early January, Senator Charles Schumer had essentially warned Trump that he would pay for his criticism of career intelligence officials. In an astounding shot across his bow, which was followed up by an onslaught in February, Schumer said: “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you. . . . So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

Schumer was evidently not disturbed about rogue intelligence agencies conspiring to destroy a shared political enemy — the president of the United States. What surprised him was how naïve Trump was in not assessing the anti-constitutional forces arrayed against him.

Trump-Removal Chic

The elite efforts to emasculate the president have sometimes taken on an eerie turn. The publisher-editor of the German weekly magazine Zeit raised the topic on German television of killing Trump to end the “Trump catastrophe.” So did British Sunday Times columnist India Knight, who tweeted, “The assassination is taking such a long time.” A former Obama Pentagon official, Rosa Brooks, recently mused about theoretical ways to remove Trump, including a military coup, should other avenues such as impeachment or medically forced removal fail: “The fourth possibility is one that until recently I would have said was unthinkable in the United States of America: a military coup, or at least a refusal by military leaders to obey certain orders.” …

… Nor is the Trump family immune from constant attack. Daughter Ivanka Trump was recently cornered on an airline flight, while traveling with her three young children three days before Christmas, and bullied by a screaming activist passenger. Her private fashion business is the target of a national progressive-orchestrated boycott. Celebrities and writers have attacked Trump’s eleven-year-old son Barron as a sociopath-to-be or as a boy trapped in an autistic bubble. First Lady Melania Trump sued the Daily Mail after it trafficked in reports that she had once been a paid escort — a lie that was recently recirculated by a New York Times reporter. 

Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka are routinely smeared as anti-Semites and fascists. One Trump critic berated Gorka as a Nazi sympathizer for wearing a commemorative medal once awarded his father for his role in the resistance to the Communist takeover of Hungary. …

… Compared with Obama in 2009, at the same point in his young administration, Trump has issued about the same number of executive orders. For all his war on the press, Trump has so far not ordered wiretaps on any reporter on the grounds that he is a “criminal co-conspirator,” nor has he gone after the phone records of the Associated Press — Barack Obama’s Justice Department did both, to little notice in the media.

Trump’s edicts are mostly common-sense and non-controversial: green-lighting the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, freezing federal hiring, resuming work on a previously approved wall along the Mexican border, prohibiting retiring federal officials from lobbying activity for five years, and pruning away regulations. …

… Trump has had fewer Cabinet appointees bow out than did Barack Obama. Most believe that the vast majority of his selections are inspired. The nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch was a widely praised move. The defense secretary, retired general James Mattis has echoed Trump’s earlier calls for European NATO members to step up and meet their contracted obligations to the alliance.

Clearly in empirical terms, nothing that Trump in his first month in office has done seems to have justified calls for violence against his person or his removal from office. What then accounts for the unprecedented venom? …



For a good example of media bias, Matthew Continetti writes on the coverage of the opposition to Betsy DeVos. The fact that politicians against DeVos were bought and paid for by teacher’s unions is barely mentioned.

… The atrocious coverage of DeVos troubled education blogger Alexander Russo, who wrote an item for the Phi Delta Kappan lamenting the fact that established publications “have cherry-picked storylines that put DeVos in a negative light and written about DeVos’s ideas and efforts using fraught, charged language.” This development surprised Russo, because “right after the presidential election, mainstream journalism went through an intense period of self-reflection and decided—among many things—that reporters and editors should try to check their liberal biases at the door and do a better job of covering people who weren’t like them.” Clearly Russo was hallucinating when he wrote those words, because the only period of intense self-reflection journalists went through after the election is when they decided to be even more antagonistic and hysterical in their treatment of Donald Trump.

Even I, your humble Mediacracy columnist, am occasionally surprised at the one-sidedness of media coverage. On the day DeVos was confirmed, I clicked on a story in the Washington Post with the headline, “The DeVos vote is a bad case study for the power of campaign contributions.” The headline struck me as completely backward—if anything, the vote is a classic case study of the power of campaign contributions, since all of the senators opposing DeVos, including the two Republicans, are on the take from the unions. But, incredibly, Philip Bump’s article did not contain a single mention of the word “union,” and instead focused solely on DeVos’s contributions to Republican senators. I thought the omission absurd, an example of horrible journalism, and said so on Twitter.

“Dude,” replied a colleague. “It’s the Post.”



Washington Examiner with another example of fake news.

Reporters have done it again.

The latest media misfire on the Trump administration involves Ibtihaj Muhammad, a New Jersey native who made headlines last year when she became the first female Muslim-American to win an Olympic medal for the United States.

Muhammad, a lifelong American citizen, claimed in an interview last week that she was detained “just a few weeks ago” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. She said she was held for two hours without explanation.

Her remarks on Feb. 7 earned her an entire news cycle, as several journalists ran with reports suggesting, and alleging outright, that the American Olympian had been ensnared in the president’s executive order temporarily barring immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries. 

But Muhammad has since clarified crucial parts of her story, including the date on which she was detained. A Customs official with direct knowledge of the incident has also disputed much of how she characterized what happened. …

… The problem with this particular news cycle is that Muhammad was detained in 2016, weeks before Trump had even been sworn in as America’s 45th president. …

… Before we go, a few points bear further discussion, and none of them reflect well on Muhammad or the press.

First, it’s mind-boggling that no one in that room on Feb. 7 thought to ask her for the exact date on which she was detained. It’s a basic duty of journalism to get the who, what, where, when, why and how to every story. That Muhammad’s interviewers didn’t think to pursue the “when” is astounding.

Secondly, Muhammad isn’t blameless in all of this. A less-than-charitable person would suspect her of being intentionally vague and imprecise. She was asked a simple “yes or no” question about the president’s immigration order. Instead of giving a simple answer, she provided an anecdote involving the very misleading use of “just a few weeks ago.” …



WSJ OpEd says Eric Hoffer saw Trump coming almost 50 years ago. 

“Scratch an intellectual, and you find a would-be aristocrat who loathes the sight, the sound and the smell of common folk.” Those words might have been written last year, as an explanation for Donald Trump’s rise or a rejoinder to Hillary Clinton’s denunciation of “deplorables.”

In fact they were published in November 1970 and written by Eric Hoffer, the “longshoreman philosopher,” who was best known for his slender 1951 classic, “The True Believer: Thoughts on the nature of Mass Movements.” The 1970 essay, under the headline “Whose Country Is America?,” eerily anticipated not only the political events of 2016 but the tone and language of last year’s campaign and the anti-Trump hysteria since Election Day.

Hoffer started his analysis with “the conspicuousness of the young”—that is, the baby boomers. “They have become more flamboyant, more demanding, more violent, more knowledgeable and more experienced,” he wrote. “The general impression is that nowadays the young act like the spoiled children of the rich.”

He attributed those developments to the “ordeal of affluence,” which threatened social stability. Wealth without work “creates a climate of disintegrating values with its fallout of anarchy.” Among the poor this takes the form of street crime; among the affluent, of “insolence on the campus”—both “sick forms of adolescent self-assertion.” …



We opened today with Victor Davis Hanson and he will be the close as he writes on the laws of unintended consequences.

The classical idea of a divine Nemesis (“reckoning” or “downfall”) that brings unforeseen retribution for hubris (insolence and arrogance) was a recognition that there are certain laws of the universe that operated independently of human concerns.

Call Nemesis a goddess. But it was also simply an empirical observation about collective and predictable human behavior: Excess invites unexpected correction. 

Something like hubris incurring Nemesis is now following the frenzied progressive effort to nullify the Trump presidency.

Fake News

“Fake news” was a term the Left invented to describe the ancient practice of propaganda (updated in the Internet age to drive Web traffic). They applied it to the supposed Russian habit of planting international news stories to affect Western elections, and in particular Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency and his tendencies to exaggerate and massage the truth. 

But once the term caught on in our faddish age, who were the more appropriate media fakers? Fake news now serves as a sort of linguistic canary to remind the public that it is customarily saturated with a lethal gas of media disinformation.

Thus “fake news” seemed a proper if belated summation and clarification of years of liberal bias in the media that were supposed to be our custodian of the truth.

Were NBC anchor Brian Williams’s fantasies fake news? Were Dan Rather’s “fake but accurate” Rathergate memos? How about the party line circulated in JournoList or the Washington and New York reporters who colluded to massage the news to favor the Clinton campaign, as revealed in the Podesta WikiLeaks trove? Was jailing a video maker part of an Obama-administration fake-news attempt to blame Benghazi deaths on a spontaneous riot? Was the Iran Deal’s “echo chamber,” about which Ben Rhodes later bragged, the epitome of fake news?

Thank the Left, because suddenly the term “fake news” is becoming a common description of the media’s effort to suggest that Trump once went to Moscow to frolic with prostitutes, that his lawyer met Russians in Prague, that he removed Martin Luther King’s bust from the Oval Office, that he was going to employ “100,000” guardsmen to enforce immigration law, or that he wished to invade Mexico.

The once liberal invention of the term “fake news” now mostly refers to media efforts by leftists to warp the Trump presidency; to progressive media celebrities who have been caught lying, colluding, or plagiarizing; and to the cohort of unapologetically left-wing journalists who, in the words of Obama White House operative Ben Rhodes, “know nothing” and thus are easily manipulated by their progressive political puppeteers. …


March 4, 2017 – GELERNTER

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For a weekend’s thought provoking post, we have Conor Friedersdorf’s Atlantic Monthly interview with David Gelernter. The interview breaks for five days while Gelernter provides 20 thoughts.

Last month, David Gelernter, the pioneering Yale University computer scientist, met with Donald Trump to discuss the possibility of joining the White House staff. An article about the meeting in The Washington Post was headlined, “David Gelernter, fiercely anti-intellectual computer scientist, is being eyed for Trump’s science adviser.”

It is hard to imagine a more misleading treatment. …

Friedersdorf: One of the few newspaper columns that has stuck with me for years is Charles Krauthammer’s meditation on Fermi’s Paradox and what he calls “the high probability that advanced civilizations destroy themselves.” This is a fear Baby Boomers associate with nuclear weapons. How do those products of  the World War II era compare to other advances in technology that stoke existential worries? …

Gelernter: Charles Krauthammer runs to pessimism, and I think he has this wrong—in fact backwards. The striking thing is that Stalin had the bomb and Mao had the bomb and neither ever used it. If both of those mass-murdering thug-tyrants were able to restrain themselves, it’s not too surprising that their successors did too. You worry that “advances in science and technology are always outpacing our ability or inclination to guard against them,” but it seems to me that this is exactly what hasn’t happened.

The U.S. and our allies have escaped nuclear, chemical, and bio attacks not because of the humane ideals of our enemies, but because we devote huge energy and effort to defense, and to our own mass-destruction weapons. Of course terrorists would love to murder huge numbers of westerners, and chemical weapons and perhaps some kinds of bio-weapons are easier to acquire and handle than nuclear weapons; and terrorists don’t have hostage states and populations like a Stalin or Mao. But we have to assume that the terrorists have been trying this sort of attack since at least October 2001.

What’s amazing isn’t that they nearly always fail but that occasionally, on a small but tragic scale, they succeed. If you think about it, they have men willing to die for the cause but so do we—every American infantryman, every front-line soldier of the U.S. and our allies has put his life on the line; and our police, FBI and their allies do it routinely, too.  We don’t call them suicide fighters, we call them brave, patriotic, big-hearted Americans—or British, French, Israelis—but that doesn’t change the facts.  

And our soldiers are about 1,000 years further along in technology, much better-trained and equipped, and fighting for their homes and families, and freedom, which are better causes than medieval tyranny, the annihilation of Jews and Christians, and the enslavement of women—not the most inspiring ideas to fight and die for. …


Here’s Gelernter’s 1st Thought;

Letting toxic partisanship heal.  Everyone knows that we live in politically superheated times; partisanship feels more bitter and more personal than it ever has in my lifetime.  

There are many reasons, but here is one: we all know that faith in the Judeo-Christian religions is dramatically weaker than it used to be. But human beings are religious animals, and most will find an alternative if the conventional choices are gone.  

The readiest replacement nowadays for lost traditional religion is political ideology. But a citizen with faith in a political position, instead of rational belief, is a potential disaster for democracy. A religious believer can rarely be argued out of his faith in any ordinary conversational give-and-take. His personality is more likely to be wrapped up with his religion than with any mere political program. When a person’s religion is attacked, he’s more likely to take it personally and dislike (or even hate) the attacker than he is in the case of mere political attacks or arguments. Thus, the collapse of traditional religion within important parts of the population is one cause of our increasingly poisoned politics. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way.

Turn back to the generation after the Second World War. The collapse of religion is well underway, but there is another alternate religion at hand: art. …


And the 4th;

It used to be that nearly all American children were reared as Christians or Jews. In the process they were given comprehensive ethical views, centering on the Ten Commandments and the “golden rule,” and God’s requirements as spelled out by the prophet Micah: “Only to do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

As a result American were not paragons; but they had a place to start.  Today many or most children in the intellectual or left-wing part of the nation are no longer reared as Christians or Jews. What ethical laws are they taught? Many on the left say “none, and it doesn’t matter”—a recipe for one of the riskiest experiments in history.  

The left, and my colleagues in the intelligentsia, need to come to terms with this issue. Rear your children to be atheists or agnostics—fine. But turning them loose on the world with no concept of right and wrong is unacceptable. …


They’ve nothing to do with today’s topic, but some of the ‘toons are laugh out loud funny.



March 3, 2017 – AG SESSIONS

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Not so long ago a US Senator colluded with the Soviets to try to prevent the success of the opposing party. Only it wasn’t a few months ago. It was in 1983. And it was senator Ted Kennedy who offered a trade to Yuri Andropov. And Kennedy suggested help for his effort to defeat Ronald Reagan would also come from the media.  This story supported by Soviet archives research by a reporter from the London Times, makes this session with Sessions very tiresome.


J. Christian Adams who worked at the Department of Justice, tells the story.

Yes, a United States senator really did collude with the Russians to influence the outcome of a presidential election.  His name was Ted Kennedy.

While Sen. Al Franken (D-Ringling Bros.) and other Democrats have the vapors over a truthful, complete, and correct answer Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave in his confirmation hearing, it’s worth remembering the reprehensible behavior of Senator Ted Kennedy in 1984.

This reprehensible behavior didn’t involve launching an Oldsmobile Delmont 88 into a tidal channel while drunk.  This reprehensible behavior was collusion with America’s most deadly enemy in an effort to defeat Ronald Reagan’s reelection.

You won’t hear much about that from CNN and the clown from Minnesota.

To recap, from Forbes:

“Picking his way through the Soviet archives that Boris Yeltsin had just thrown open, in 1991 Tim Sebastian, a reporter for the London Times, came across an arresting memorandum. Composed in 1983 by Victor Chebrikov, the top man at the KGB, the memorandum was addressed to Yuri Andropov, the top man in the entire USSR. The subject: Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Kennedy’s message was simple. He proposed an unabashed quid pro quo. Kennedy would lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet leader would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election.” …


John Hinderaker posts in Powerline about the Adams piece.

The Democrats’ allegations against Jeff Sessions, one of the most upright men in Washington, are ludicrous. I don’t understand how anyone can think they amount to anything. But if the Democrats want to talk about collusion with the Russians, by all means let’s have that conversation.

Chris Adams takes us on a walk down memory lane. In 1983, Ted Kennedy–the “liberal lion of the Senate”–tried to enlist the Soviet Union, our most bitter enemy, in the Democrats’ effort to defeat President Ronald Reagan’s re-election. …

… Selling out America to benefit the Democratic Party? It happens. Sometimes, Democrats sell out America just because they think it is the right thing to do. If someone is going to investigate the executive branch’s relationship with Russia, he should start with Barack Obama’s pledge to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that he would sell out the United States in his second term.

You think that is too strong? What do you think Obama meant when he said he would have more “flexibility” after the election? That he would have more latitude to advance American interests by opposing Russian actions in, say, Crimea and Ukraine? No, I don’t think that is what he meant, either.

I have thought for quite a while that the Democratic Party is shameless, but the Democrats have taken shamelessness to a whole new level.


More on the campaign to undermine the Trump administration comes from Noah Rothman.

For a president who has a uniquely hostile relationship with the press, positive news cycles are both rare and fleeting. The Trump team displayed remarkable discipline by refusing to step on the president’s well-received address to a joint session of Congress. A lot of good discipline did them. Just 24 hours after Trump’s address, a series of troubling reports involving links among those in Trump’s orbit to Russian officials reset the national discourse. Those stories make for a trend, though, that has little to do with Trump and a lot to do with his predecessor. The Obama administration’s foreign-policy team seems to be campaigning to rehabilitate itself one leak at a time, and the press is helping. …