What a summer. The weather wasn’t too shabby. The Game of Thrones finale had more viewers than the population of Greece and Ireland combined. Hints of trigonometry were discovered in a 3,700-year-old Babylonian tablet. And, nothing much happened in Washington. That is, if you don’t count the failure of the Obamacare repeal, the uncertain transgender military ban, North Korea threatening nuclear war (again), the pardoning of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and President Donald Trump whining about the media.
Without a doubt, Trump’s attacks on the press are the best political “strategy” he’s employed since taking office. This isn’t a joke, this isn’t sarcasm. Trump attacks the press because he needs to. Only when Trump attacks his “enemies,” does he seem like the strong, alpha-male who can get stuff done, and what greater enemy does Trump have than the complex institution that is hell bent on telling the truth? The truth — yes — Trump’s greatest enemy.
If you haven’t learned by now that Trump lies the way a fish swims, then I have no idea where you have been for the past two years. Under a rock? In a coma? Blissfully unaware of the quasi-psychotic man in the Oval Office? My bet is all of the above. During the first 40 days of his presidency, Trump publicly told a lie or falsehood every day. What happened on that blissfully truthful March 1, 2017? I’d guess Trump was either at on a golf course at Mar-a-Lago, or forgot his Twitter password. The New York Times dedicated an entire article to marking every Trumpian lie since his inauguration. Trump’s PolitiFact scorecard resembles that of Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, not of the President of the United States of America.
So how does Trump politically survive, given his disregard for the truth? During the campaign, it was to point out (unfairly) the lies of his opponents. “Lyin’ Ted Cruz” and “Crooked Hillary” have that catchy ring akin to that of a sixth grade bully. Since the public was always skeptical of Hillary Clinton given her family’s pit of scandals (and that no one really likes Ted Cruz) the attacks worked well. Disagree? Look at the person sitting in the Oval Office (not including the times he is on a golf course — playing golf at Mar-a-Lago, at the New Jersey golfing place, at another golfing place or at Camp David).
Trump now can only survive by directing most of his attacks at the media. Or as Trump said, “the enemy of the people.” Yes, Chuck Todd is apparently trying to destroy America. Trump suffers from gingerphobia I suppose. But seriously, the rally Trump held in Phoenix truly exposed how great a threat he believes the press is:
“The truly dishonest people in the media and the fake media, they make up stories,” Trump said. “They don’t report the facts. Just like they don’t want to report that I spoke out forcefully against hatred, bigotry and violence and strongly condemned the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists, and the KKK.”
The irony is that the fake media do exaggerate stories, they can be dishonest, and they sometimes don’t report the facts. But the fake media — Breitbart and the crazy Sandy Hook skeptic — are generally supportive of Trump. The “real” media — The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, ABC, Drudge Report (just kidding) — aren’t intentionally anti-Trump. Rather, they are pro-truth. Thus, they make an easy target for Trump as his enemy as well as his supporters’ enemy.
Trump is essentially saying, “Don’t blame me, I’ve done everything perfectly. It’s the press that is constructing this alternative reality where I am not bigly awesome.”
The press responds with, “Trump is defying all norms and procedures. The blame for healthcare’s failure falls on both him and the GOP. It makes no sense why he would randomly ban transgender people from the military without going through the proper channels. The pardoning of Sheriff Arpaio was completely unethical, snuck in during the middle of a national disaster.” And the list continues.
All Trump has to do is point out that he couldn’t possibly be screwing up this poorly, so the media must be out to get him. This locks in the 30-35 percent of Americans who will support Trump even if he does shoot a guy on Saks Fifth Avenue.