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Today in Conservative Media: Sure, Oprah’s Great and Famous, but … Maybe That’s Enough Now?

Oprah Winfrey accepts the 2018 Cecil B. DeMille Award speaks onstage during the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California.
Wait. What’s Oprah doing in 2020?
Handout/Getty Images

Today in Conservative Media is a daily roundup of the biggest stories in the right-wing press.

Oprah ruled the roost Sunday evening with her rousing Golden Globes speech that led many to wonder: Wait, is Oprah Winfrey running for president in 2020? To figure out what an Oprah for America platform might look like, Amber Randall parsed the media giant’s public political positions for the Daily Caller, noting there’s not much to parse—so far. Randall found Oprah to be in favor of gay marriage, stricter gun control, and a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. John Nolte at Breitbart, however, writes the billionaire media mogul’s speech didn’t just inspire talk of a presidential run, it also revived “questions about Winfrey accusing a Swiss sales clerk of racism and her relationship with Harvey Weinstein.”

Kevin Williamson at National Review took aim at the impact of celebrity in the Trump era, finding some similarities between the current president and his potential (fellow) former-TV-star challenger. “As a cultural force, authentic celebrity of the kind enjoyed by Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey is orders of magnitude more powerful than the ersatz celebrity of politics, journalism, and cable news,” Williamson writes.

Of course she is categorically unqualified for the office. But have fun imagining Republicans making that case in the shadow of Donald J. Trump, Very Stable Genius™. Oprah’s formal educational attainments are modest, whatever political ideas she has seem to be largely undeveloped, and she has an obvious and regrettable weakness for quacks and cranks of sundry sorts: anti-vaccine nuts, Dr. Oz, doctors who use Tarot cards to diagnose thyroid problems, etc. She is a one-woman public-health menace. At the same time, she more than embodies the virtues attributed to President Trump: She’s a real billionaire, a self-made one at that, a woman who started with nothing and became wildly successful with bupkis to go on but her own grit and shrewdness. President Trump loves to talk about ratings. You want ratings? Oprah has ratings.

In other news

Journalists from all sides continue to debate what to do about, and how to interpret, the truthy bombshell Michael Wolff dropped on the Trump White House in book form. The Daily Caller’s White House correspondent Saagar Enjeti rounds up Wolff’s factual errors. The Weekly Standard’s Michael Warren grapples with those factual errors and what they mean for the book’s credibility. Warren finds that the underlying themes of the book cannot simply be dismissed and suggests an approach of taking Wolff’s work “seriously but not literally.” “In so many ways, Wolff’s book is like its subject himself: fact-challenged, confusing, sensational—and hard to look away from,” he writes. “But there’s the rub: the general thrust of the book—that the Trump White House in its first year was beset by infighting at the highest levels, a lack of useful political experience or acumen, and an inattentive and mercurial president—is self-evident to anyone who reports on it regularly.”

The Washington Examiner’s Byron York and National Review’s Andrew McCarthy, meanwhile, offer some explanations—beyond fears of undermining the Russia inquiry—for why Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Sen. Lindsay Graham referred Steele dossier author Christopher Steele to the Justice Department last week for possible criminal investigation. York postulates that the underlying motive behind the Grassley/Graham move was to answer this: “When Steele was discussing working for the FBI, did he fully inform the FBI of what his work for the Clinton campaign involved, in particular his briefing the press on the findings he would be reporting to the FBI?” If he didn’t, that opens up the possibility that Steele may have lied to the FBI, which would be a crime. For McCarthy, the more important issue is not whether Steele lied to the FBI, but whether the FBI lied to everyone else: “The question of how Steele may have described his dealings with journalists to American intelligence officials is considerably less important than that of how American intelligence officials described their dealings with Steele to Congress and the courts.”

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