If you read much of U.S. media these days, President Donald Trump is clearly an unbalanced man, a faux chief executive with no right to govern and ambitions to become a dictator just six weeks into the 208 of his first term. Even the craziest unsourced rumor requires immediate sharing and counteraction.
If you’re a Trump supporter, the man is telling truth to power and already proceeding methodically through implementation of a long list of campaign promises, including nominating a solid Supreme Court justice and a Cabinet of experienced pros to demolish the corrupt, bipartisan gridlock of Washington.
A Twitter friend recently said that if she were the mom of this squabbling America, the entire country would be sent to their room. As crazy as it seems in this fetid national climate of unthinking anger, both sides could be right. At least partly.
Like him or not, Trump won the presidency fair and square. His upset of historic proportions was magnified even further by the overconfidence and noblesse oblige of Democrats. By any reasonable standards, Hillary Clinton was an awful candidate who ran a terrible campaign, not in favor of herself but against Trump.
Even now, no one can say why she should be president, other than Barack Obama approved of it and 2016 was her turn, again. Her loss is obviously someone else’s fault.
As uncouth and distasteful as he can be, the political genius of Donald J. Trump is that he makes everything about him.
As uncouth and distasteful as he can be, the political genius of Donald J. Trump is that he makes everything about him. Yes, that’s narcissistic. But after Obama, we’re kinda used to it as a nation of news consumers.
Trump suffocated his 16 GOP primary competitors by consuming the political oxygen, outrageously mocking them with nicknames, voicing a widespread anger and the tried-and-tested political lie. They were responding to the billionaire night and day, like reluctant satellites sucked into his orbit and ultimately falling to ground in flames.
The mainstream media can’t believe it and are figuratively frothing at the mouth over what Trump gets away with. Fact is, they’ve fallen into the same Trump Trap as all the Clinton Clingons.
In some ways Trump invited such abuse. There are few things this self-absorbed media establishment likes more than to write and talk about themselves. When someone attacks, instinctively they retreat into high dudgeon, relying on blind support for their First Amendment protections but less on their obligations and mistakes.
But where was all this media fear and outrage when Obama’s team falsely swore to a federal judge that a Fox News reporter was a criminal co-conspirator so Obama could wiretap the reporter and family in its silly hunt for — wait for it — news leakers?
Trump’s media tirades are often juvenile and ridiculous; they’re not enemies, just opponents. But the president’s attacks are the farthest things from constitutional threats.
First of all, Trump needs media. If their big names were somehow largely cowed into obedience, who’s he going to assault and blame? The Omaha World-Herald? The Casper Star-Tribune?
Enough Americans have witnessed or perceived media misinterpretations and bias to enjoy seeing its elite members handed back some guff, even crudely.
President Trump let slip the secret during his first news conference. Here’s what he told shouting reporters trying to trip him:
“I’ll tell you something. I’ll be honest — because I sort of enjoy this back-and-forth. And I guess I have all my life.”
As do his supporters and a good number of detractors, who’ve turned Trump appearances and his press secretary’s news briefings into TV ratings hits on cspan.org and cable.
Enough Americans have witnessed or perceived media misinterpretations and bias to enjoy seeing its elite members handed back some guff, even crudely. And there’s now a vibrant, imperfect social media on 24-hour online patrol.
Meanwhile, media members who blithely passed along Obama’s serial lies about, among many things, keeping your doctor and health plan under Obamacare, are now on Alpha Alert for Trump untruths, visibly relishing each one.
The Washington media need to stop whining, get off their high horse and do the jobs they chose, reporting accurately what a president says now and putting it in true context with what he said last year or last night.
Americans are not dumb, even if you disagree with their presidential choice. In the years B.T. (Before Trump), millions decided the Fourth Estate had become more of a fifth column to combat traditional values and fairness.
That’s dangerous, because our democracy needs a healthy, honest press, now also financially troubled. The best way to restore both trust and business health is to reboot and become real journalists again, this time with a professional conscience. Because it takes two sides to keep a war going.
Malcolm is an author and veteran national and foreign correspondent covering politics since the 1960s. Follow him @AHMalcolm.