The sorest winner

Another day, another circus act from the ringmaster who will soon be the leader of the free world.

The latest mystifying feat under the big top? A Donald Trump tweet charging that he would have won the popular vote but for a few million illegally cast ballots.

There was no elaboration offered by Trump or his minions. And how could there be when there is nothing credible to support a charge he seems to have cooked up while picking through holiday leftovers at Mar-a-Lago.

The latest outburst started with Trump blasting Hillary Clinton’s decision to send campaign observers to watch the vote recount now slated to take place in Wisconsin. What really seems to have Trump in a tizzy, though, is the continued updating of and reporting on the popular vote total, which now shows that 2 million more voters wanted Clinton to be president than him.

The popular vote total, of course, is not what determines the election winner. But for a man whose campaign was fueled almost entirely by high-octane vanity, it is a gut punch that can only be answered by punching back.

Over the weekend, New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen posted a Storify account of his exchange with a USA Today editor over a story the paper ran on charges that liberal philanthropist George Soros had secretly helped plot and fund the post-election protests that sprang up across the country.

In the exchange, the editor said the paper followed the charges, the response from Soros’s Open Society Foundations denying such involvement, and reported on what was found.

Rosen says the problem was the paper was pursuing “accusation-driven reporting,” rather than “evidence-based” reporting. For that reason, he says, the lack of basis for the charges should be the news story, not the “he said, she said” back and forth that characterizes many political disputes or debates.

“This is just one exchange with one editor, so I don’t want to make too much of it,” wrote Rosen. “But I don’t want to underplay it either. The takeaway is that some journalists may be completely unprepared for what’s coming, even after Donald Trump used ‘people are saying’ to such insidious effect” throughout the campaign.

Trump’s made-up charges of massive voter fraud — which also conveniently revive his nativist campaign against immigrants — provide exactly the sort of challenge to the media that Rosen writes about.

Leading media outlets, seem to be getting on the same page with Rosen. “Trump Claims Millions Voted ‘Illegally,’ Citing No Evidence,”  is the current headline on the New York Times home page. “Trump makes baseless claim that millions voted illegally for Clinton,” is how the Washington Post home page presents the story. “Trump claims, with no evidence, that ‘millions of people’ voted illegally,” is the Globe web headline on the Times story that it’s running.

If you’re searching for logic in Trump’s missiles, you’re missing the point. His charge of widespread voter fraud not only is a poor way to dismiss calls for recounts, it seems like an implicit call for an even broader, national recount.

Along with being driven by an insatiable need for public affirmation, Trump’s rants about a rigged popular vote total just help to plant more confusion and doubt about the reliability of media reporting, a tool of distraction and obfuscation that he is likely to rely on a lot in the coming years.

There are those saying Trump’s antics are best ignored, that they detract from attention to things like the gaping policy voids of his campaign and soon-to-be administration. But as any parent who’s read all the how-to books on child-rearing can tell you, even though you know better, it’s very hard not to pay attention when a toddler throws a noisy tantrum.

–MICHAEL JONAS

BEACON HILL

In a wide-ranging interview, Gov. Charlie Baker deferred on making any definitive plans to run for reelection in 2018. (Keller@Large)

Home rule petitions to increase the number of local liquor licenses almost never fail but can take a year or more to win legislative approval, prompting state Sen. James Eldridge to once again pledge to file a bill to lift the cap and return control of licenses to cities and towns. (The Enterprise)

ICYMI: House staffers get a 6 percent pay hike, their first pay increase in two years. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Worcester property values are up more than $1 billion, the largest single-year increase in more than a decade. (Telegram & Gazette)

Lawrence pulls off what many thought was impossible — rebuilding the Veteran’s Stadium field in time for Thanksgiving after it was trashed during a concert. (Eagle-Tribune)

Brockton’s chief financial officer said Mayor Bill Carpenter should cease using city funds to send sympathy flowers to funerals. (The Enterprise)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

As the world reckons with the death of Cuba’s Fidel Castro after nearly 60 years in power, a Globe editorial says it’s time to end the US embargo against the Caribbean nation.

Former congressman Barney Frank says repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law he coauthored, which president-elect Donald Trump has vowed to pursue, would bring a repeat of the Great Recession the law was passed in response to. (Boston Globe)

The US Justice Department is suing Bernards Township, New Jersey, for allegedly blocking efforts by local Muslims to build a mosque. (Governing)

Border-town cops in New Hampshire are worried about the impact of the Bay State’s decision to legalize marijuana. (Eagle-Tribune)

A look at the deadly weapons beyond nuclear missiles at the disposal of the incoming president and the lack of controls over how and when to use them. (U.S. News & World Report)

Security around Trump Tower in the heart of Manhattan is posing unprecedented challenges for Secret Service and local law enforcement. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Herald columnist Kimberly Atkins calls the recount effort in Wisconsin a waste of time.

The surest sign of Newton mayor Setti Warren’s potential run for governor? A fake Twitter account set up in his name by a Warren antagonist to begin needling him. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Westport selectmen, citing an ongoing civil suit by the Attorney General’s office, are holding off renewing the license for a used auto sales business which gained national notoriety last year when a Youtube video went viral showing employees mistreating a pizza delivery man. (Herald News)

EDUCATION

Barbara Madeloni, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, fresh off a big win defeating the charter-school ballot question, has now set her sights on rolling back standardized testing. (CommonWealth)

Hundreds gather at Hampshire College in Amherst to protest the school’s decision not to fly the US flag. (Masslive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Donald Trump’s meeting today with Dr. Seema Verna may provide some clues as to what the president-elect intends to do with Obamacare. (Governing)

A federal report is faulting three Massachusetts hospitals, including the two flagship facilities of Partners HealthCare, for not properly reporting patient injuries and deaths that may have been caused by medical devices. (Boston Globe)

General Electric and Boston Children’s Hospital are forming a joint venture to provide software to hospitals that will aid in the reading of brain scans of younger patients. (Boston Globe)

With the cost of health insurance for Haverhill employees rising 18 percent, which translates into a $3 million increase, the city is joining the state’s Group Insurance Commission. (Eagle-Tribune)

The surprising passage of ballot questions taxing sugary soft drinks around the country could open the door for widespread enactment of those taxes in other states. (New York Times)

TRANSPORTATION

Zipcar founder Robin Chase says government at all levels shouldn’t be protecting the status quo in transportation. (CommonWealth)

CASINOS

The no-frills game of Keno is booming in Massachusetts as the state prepares for the bells and whistles of full-blown casinos. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The state Supreme Judicial Court denied an appeal by a man arrested on drug charges in Quincy to have his court fees returned after his conviction was thrown out in the wake of the Annie Dookhan evidence-tampering scandal. (Patriot Ledger)

A case of mortgage fraud against Cambodian residents in Lowell widens as victims claim in civil suits that the alleged perpetrator, Kevin Taing, had accomplices. (Lowell Sun)

Massachusetts will get a new US attorney with the change of administrations in Washington, the first time in eight years that a Republican president will be choosing someone for the job. (Boston Globe)

Civil rights groups reacted warily to news that the Boston Police Department will devote $1.4 million to a new social-media tracking operation. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

Print advertising remains in free fall, reports Ken Doctor. (Politico)