Last night, the Manhattan district attorney’s office announced the first indictments against former President Donald Trump. Since we don’t know the charges yet — and likely won’t until his arraignment, expected next week — the coverage has consisted almost entirely of speculation.
On the right, that speculation has been, in a word, apocalyptic. Their theory seems to be that having a Republican president face any amount of accountability for crimes will spell the end of the republic, if not the world. On Tucker Carlson last night, right-wing operative Ned Ryun warned that, with the first criminal indictment of a former president, America is headed for a “one-party state and authoritarian government,” accused Democrats of “launching nukes at us,” and said the GOP should adopt a policy of “mutually assured destruction” in response. Carlson responded: “Probably not the best time to give up your AR-15, and I think most people know that.”
The centrist analysis has been more, well, centrist. For the most part, it takes right-wing panic as its starting point, re-focuses it on possible threats to the political elite in general, then tones it down and academicizes it a bit. The best example of this is the current lead story in the New York Times, a “news analysis” by Peter Baker, titled “A President Faces Prosecution, and a Democracy Is Tested.” (The less SEO-friently print headline is “A Nation Finds Itself on a Path Never Traveled.”)
The piece is, in its current form, not good. But though I’m just a precariously employed Substacker (subscribe for just $6/month or $60/year!), I do have both general editing experience and a fair amount of experience writing for the Times. So I thought I would provide, as a service to both my and the Times’ readers, an edit (or “playback” in Timesspeak). My edits are in bold.
Digital headline: A President Faces Prosecution, and a Democracy Is Tested
Digital summary: For more than two centuries, American presidents were effectively shielded from indictment. But the case against former President Donald J. Trump breaks that taboo and sets a new precedent.
By Peter Baker
For the first time in American history, a former president of the United States has been indicted on criminal charges. It is worth pausing to repeat that: An American president has been indicted for a crime for the first time in history.
[JMK: Hey Peter, I see what you’re going for here, but let’s rework this a bit. First of all, you say you’re
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