Archive

February 21st, 2017

Trump's pre-emptive strike at the press

    Donald Trump's first solo White House news conference as president Thursday, launched with little advance notice, was a bold and aggressive strategy to co-opt one of the news media's prime information vehicles.

    He filibustered for more than an hour of the traditional meeting of president and the Washington press corps, reiterating his charge that they deliberately distort and misrepresent what he does and says, dismissing much of their output as "fake news."

    With his young administration already in turmoil after a major clash with the judicial branch over immigration and the firing of his fledgling national security adviser, he had the effrontery to boast that it was "running like a fine-turned machine."

    He railed that he had "inherited a mess" from his predecessor despite the facts that he was handed an economy salvaged from the Great Recession with an unemployment rate cut in half. He even had the gall to say, "I don't think there's ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we've done." Many critics might agree, but not in the sense he claimed.

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Trump's reality TV presidency needs to get real

    Why is President Donald Trump still trying to turn the media into the bad guys of his reality TV show, er, I mean presidency?

    If media bashing is the last refuge of scoundrels, as I often say, Trump had better save some for a rainy day. He's having plenty of those already.

    Sure, media bashing is easy. At his Thursday news conference marking the end of his first four weeks in office, Trump reminded the reporters that media approval ratings are lower than those of Congress. That's cruel.

    But we're used to it. Just about everybody hates the media, according to polls, but everybody has at least one favorite medium, whether it's in print, online or over the air. That's how we stay in business.

    Politicians, by contrast, can beat bad press as long as they have the voters with them. For Trump that's still debatable, and he can't seem to forget it.

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Leaks: As American as apple pie and presidents

    Last week, when confronted with media revelations about his staff's contacts with the Russian government, President Donald Trump blamed the messenger. He denounced "low-life leakers," directed the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation and vowed revenge: "They will be caught!"

    The leaks, he declared, were "Very un- American!"

    Actually, leaking is as American as Fourth of July fireworks. And just as old and venerable.

    America's grand tradition of revealing secret information about national security matters began in the winter of 1777, when the country's first whistleblowers exposed a U.S. Navy commander for torturing British prisoners of war. The sailors who disclosed these human rights violations weren't vilified by their commander in chief. Instead, they received the full support of Congress.

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Could reporters be hunted down if Trump goes after leakers?

    For those who care about press rights in America, President Donald Trump's words last week were stunning and disturbing.

    The news media is not merely "scum," as he has said many times before, but now "the enemy of the American People."

    This tweeted pronouncement, with its authoritarian echoes, came soon after Trump's vow to stamp out the unauthorized flow of intelligence-community information to journalists. "I've actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks," he said. "Those are criminal leaks."

    Add up these two elements and you get a troubling question: Will the Trump administration's crackdown on leaks include journalists as well as their sources?

    Some knowledgeable lawyers and academics say it's unlikely.

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Would Trump pass a security clearance?

    If Donald Trump were an off-the-street federal job applicant, he most likely would not be granted a security clearance. Measured against the standards applied to thousands of Americans involved with our national security, knowledge essential to granting Trump access to classified information simply isn't there.

    Security clearances are granted after determining that an individual's personal and professional histories make it safe to do so. The criteria for such a judgment include, quoting State Department policy, the person's "loyalty to the United States, strength of character, trustworthiness, honesty, reliability, discretion, and sound judgment, as well as freedom from conflicting allegiances and potential for coercion, and a willingness and ability to abide by regulations governing the use, handling, and protection of classified information."

    Eligibility for access to classified information is not based on a person's wealth, business acumen or ability to persuade large crowds. Great attributes, maybe. But they are no basis upon which to decide whether an individual ought to have access to the nation's secrets.

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Trump Will Numb You

    Almost any five minutes of Donald Trump’s mesmerizing, terrifying news conference on Thursday would have been enough to do another politician in.

    Almost every day of his administration so far contains sufficient grandiosity and delusion to be the end of a normal president’s productive relationship with Congress and support from all but the most stubbornly blind voters.

    And if you rewind to his campaign, you see the same pattern, with each rally, interview and debate packing in more petulance and vulgarity than an adult in a civilized society is supposed to get away with.

    But that’s actually his secret. That’s his means of survival: the warp speed and whirl of it all. He forces you to process and react to so many different outrages at such a dizzying velocity that no one of them has the staying power that it ought to nor gets the scrutiny it deserves.

    They blend together under the numbing banner of what a freak show he can be, of Trump being Trump. And so the show screams on.

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February 20th

Trump called the media an 'enemy of the American People.' Here's a history of the term.

    President Donald Trump is not known for his subtlety. But even by this standard, his tweet Friday night was extreme. Trump called the news media "the enemy of the American People."

    The New York Times, which among others was called out specifically, labeled it "a striking escalation" from a leader who "routinely castigates journalists."

    Gabriel Sherman, national affairs editor at New York magazine, described it as "full-on dictator speak."

    They're not being pedantic.

    Enemy of the people is a phrase "typically used by leaders to refer to hostile foreign governments or subversive organizations," the New York Times wrote. "It also echoed the language of autocrats who seek to minimize dissent."

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Trapped in Trump’s Brain

    Donald Trump is stuck in his own skull.

    He’s unreachable.

    “He lives inside his head, where he runs the same continuous loop of conflict with people he turns into enemies for the purposes of his psychodrama,” says Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio.

    Because Trump holds Thor’s hammer, with its notably short handle, we must keep trying to figure out his strange, perverse, aggrieved style of reasoning. So we’re stuck in Trump’s head with him.

    It’s a very cluttered place to be, a fine-tuned machine spewing a torrent of chaos, cruelty, confusion, farce and transfixing craziness. Of course, this is merely the observation of someone who is “the enemy of the American people,” according to our president.

    President Trump likes maps. Once it was John King’s analysis of the CNN electoral map that Trump obsessed over. Now he wants policy papers heavy on maps and graphics and not dense with boring words.

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How Can We Get Rid of Trump?

    We’re just a month into the Trump presidency, and already so many are wondering: How can we end it?

    One poll from Public Policy Polling found that as many Americans — 46 percent — favor impeachment of President Donald Trump as oppose it. Ladbrokes, the betting website, offers even odds that Trump will resign or leave office through impeachment before his term ends.

    Sky Bet, another site, is taking wagers on whether Trump will be out of office by July.

    There have been more than 1,000 references to “Watergate” in the news media in the last week, according to the Nexis archival site, with even some conservatives calling for Trump’s resignation or warning that he could be pushed out. Dan Rather, the former CBS News anchor who covered Watergate, says that Trump’s Russia scandal isn’t at the level of Watergate but could become at least as big.

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Can this White House cancer be managed?

    On March 21, 1973, White House counsel John Dean confronted President Richard Nixon about the growing Watergate scandal. "We have a cancer -- within, close to the presidency, that's growing," Dean warned. "It's growing daily."

     Dean's famous metaphor is relevant to the Trump administration -- not because the risk is precisely analogous but because it isn't. In Nixon's time, cancer was apt to be a death sentence. The tools to combat it were crude and brutal. Today, even as cancer remains a leading cause of death, for many people it can be managed as a chronic illness, capable of being kept under control with an arsenal of treatments.

    That view of cancer -- not as a metastatic killer but as a dangerous problem requiring vigilant control -- may be the best way of understanding, and dealing with, the Trump administration. In the alarming month since he took office, it has become clear, if it were not already, that President Trump is dishonest, unprepared and undisciplined. His presidency poses an enormous risk to the country -- to its safety, standing in the world, and relations with allies, just for a start.

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