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“Wallowing In Self-Pity”: Can Trump Whine His Way To The White House With Complaints About “Biased” Media Coverage?

That was quite a temper tantrum Donald Trump threw at his press conference this week.

Irked that news reports raised questions about his promised donations to American veterans and their charities, Trump responded by denouncing the political press as “disgusting” and “among the most dishonest people that I’ve ever met.” Trump even dismissed one ABC News reporter as “a sleaze,” and mocked another from CNN as “a real beauty.”

Trash talking the press is hardly new for Trump. During the primary season, he routinely set aside time at rallies to denigrate journalists as “scum” and “disgusting”; attacks his supporters often amplified in person and online.

What made Trump’s meltdown this week so noteworthy, and probably what shocked the Beltway media, was that it came during the general election campaign season, where these kinds of vicious, personal attacks coming directly from the presumptive nominee are unheard of.

“Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, assailed those reporting on his candidacy with a level of venom rarely seen at all, let alone in public, from the standard-bearer of a major political party,” The New York Times reported. (GOP media bashing is most often handled by surrogates and by Republican allies in the press.)

Yes, some previous Republican nominees have chastised the press, sometimes with glee and sometimes with genuine disdain. “Annoy the Media: Re-elect Bush” bumper stickers were a favorite among Republicans during George H.W. Bush’s 1992 re-election run. Sen. John McCain’s campaign denounced The New York Times for an article it published in 2008 detailing McCain’s closeness to a lobbyist. (Many people read the article as an implication of an affair between McCain and the lobbyist, but the paper eventually updated it with a “Note to Readers” saying it “did not intend to conclude” that the lobbyist had “engaged in a romantic affair” with McCain.)

But overall, McCain enjoyed warm relations with reporters during his 2008 run, and those previous press attacks weren’t nearly as ferocious and personal as Trump’s are today. (Can you imagine Bush Sr. calling an ABC reporter a “sleaze” during a 1992 press conference?) Those attacks were never seen as being a pillar of a November campaign, the way Trump is promising his media insults will continue in coming months.

What Trump’s doing is employing a right-wing talk radio dream strategy, where whining about the so-called liberal media is elevated and presented as a pressing issue facing America.

And that’s why Rush Limbaugh was so ecstatic in the wake of Trump’s public tantrum. “That was the kind of press conference Republicans voters have been dying to see for who knows how many years,” the talker gushed. “Trump felt the need to correct the record today and did so in his own inimitable way, which basically attacked the media for dishonesty and corruption.”

Fox News’ Peter Johnson Jr. was equally animated. He cheered Trump for “saying, ‘I have a message, you may not like it, but you’re not going to take me down. I will be heard fair and square. I will either win or lose. But I will not lose because of an unfair media.’”

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with questioning the press and holding journalists accountable. But that’s not what Trump’s doing. He’s wallowing in self-pity without producing any proof of media malfeasance. Trump can’t point to any factual errors in the reporting on his charitable giving; the story that set off his most recent anti-media screed.

Complaining about so-called liberal media bias has been a hallmark of the conservative movement for decades, and has sometimes been featured as a sidebar during presidential campaigns. Trump now wants to move it to the main stage. But hurdles appear on the horizon.

First, he’s already won the Republican primary, which is more likely the season to energize hardcore supporters with allegations of media manipulation. That’s why this same anti-press crusade worked so well last November in the aftermath of the contentious Republican Party primary debate hosted by CNBC. Virtually all the candidates and most of the conservative media joined forces and issued indignant denunciations of CNBC’s allegedly dishonest debate moderators. The swarm served as a unifying ritual of outrage for the conservative movement.

Trump’s now in the general election and needs to expand his base beyond the true believers. To be successful in November, he’s trying to lure voters who have likely voted Democratic in the past and who don’t identify as Fox News fanatics. It’s less likely those types of crossover voters will be motivated by allegations that the press is out get Trump.

Secondly, a sizeable portion of the conservative media infrastructure isn’t supporting Trump. In fact, in a bizarre flip of the script previously documented by Media Matters, during the primary season some key conservative media voices have actually criticized the Beltway press for being too soft on the Republican nominee. So if there are Republican-friendly pundits on the record saying the press needs to be tougher on Trump, that obviously blunts the candidate’s claim that the “biased” media’s being too tough on him.

There’s also the issue of temperament and the fact that most voters think Trump is severely lacking in that area. A Fox News poll last month indicated 65 percent of voters don’t think Trump has the “temperament” to serve as president, and a CNN poll in May found the number was even higher: 70 percent.

Regularly staging campaign press conferences in coming months to pick fights with reporters is unlikely to improve Trump’s standing there.

Already committed to running a completely unorthodox campaign, Trump’s now gambling that press attacks can produce votes in November.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, June 3, 3016

June 4, 2016 Posted by | 1st Amendment, Donald Trump, Liberal Media | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Confessions Of A Former Dead-Ender”: Boy, Were We Wrong About Obama

Bernie Sanders is clearly winding down his campaign for the Democratic nomination. In speeches and interviews over the weekend, he started turning his lance away from Hillary Clinton and toward Donald Trump.

Though most of his supporters say they will make the transition to Clinton, a sizable minority — 28 percent, according to a recent poll — insist they will not. Some vow to cast ballots for Trump. The dedicated liberals among them (as opposed to those just along for a populist ride) are being called “dead-enders.”

I feel some of their pain, for I was once considered a dead-ender. The year was 2008. Barack Obama had clinched the Democratic nomination after a grueling contest.

Some Obama bros had subjected Clinton and her female supporters to vile sexist attacks. And it wasn’t just the knuckle draggers. The late Christopher Hitchens called her an “aging and resentful female.”

The caucus and primary results, meanwhile, were a lot closer then than those between Clinton and Sanders.

It all seemed so unfair. Hillary the workhorse had labored at putting together a coherent health reform plan. The glamorous Obama floated by. Political expedience prompted him to oppose an individual mandate — unpopular because it forced everyone to obtain coverage but absolutely essential for universal health care.

I was sore. At the Democratic National Convention in Denver, I spent much time interviewing women still fuming over Clinton’s treatment and unable to support Obama. “Dead-enders,” these Clinton die-hards were called.

A poll in April 2008 had 35 percent of Clinton voters saying they would vote for Republican John McCain if Obama were to be the Democratic nominee. I, too, briefly toyed with the idea. After all, McCain at that time had retained a reputation for moderation. (He would have made a more plausible president than Trump ever will.)

McCain’s choice of the abominable Sarah Palin as his running mate quickly cured the so-called dead-enders of that notion.

And boy, were we wrong about Obama. Obama pulled America from the brink of another Great Depression. He championed the Dodd-Frank finance reforms and oversaw the passage of the Affordable Care Act (individual mandate included). He did it with virtually no Republican support and not a whiff of personal scandal. Obama will go down as one of the greatest presidents of our lifetime.

Has Sanders been treated unfairly as the Bernie camp asserts? There may be a valid grievance here and there, such as the scheduling of the debates in a way that benefited Clinton.

But no, the system wasn’t rigged against Sanders. It was in place before his candidacy. And Sanders gained extraordinary access to the infrastructure of a party he never joined.

As the apparent (if unannounced) truce between Clinton and Sanders sinks in, some of his dead-enders will cool down. Sanders surely knows that his movement will have far more influence docked in the Democratic Party than sailing off into third-party oblivion.

One last but important point: Participating in a party primary or caucus in no way obligates one to vote for that party’s eventual nominee. Anyone who genuinely wants a vulgar and unstable authoritarian to lead the nation has every right to vote for Trump.

But those who don’t want Trump — but rather wish to punish Clinton for prevailing over their hero — have things to think about. The country, for starters.

In politics, there’s no building your ideal car. We end up choosing the preferable of two models. Doing something else with one’s vote also affects the outcome.

Frustration can hurt, but it helps to not over-identify with a candidate. To the dead-enders of 2016, peace.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Fear And Racism Taking The Place Of Policy”: Donald Trump; The Epitome Of Post-Policy Nihilism

Fair warning: over the next six months you’re not likely to find me writing much about Donald Trump’s proposed “policies.” Over the last few days there has been a lot of talk about whether or not the presumptive Republican nominee does/doesn’t support raising the minimum wage and lower taxes on the uber-wealthy. Remember that time when he said that women who get abortions should be punished? In less than 24 hours he had reversed course. Now he’s saying that his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States was just a “suggestion.” And one of his advisors said that he will consider changes to Medicare and Social Security. Next thing you know, that whole border wall that Mexico is going to pay for will be nothing more than a distant memory.

All of this was pretty well explained by something an anonymous source told Politico.

“He doesn’t want to waste time on policy and thinks it would make him less effective on the stump,” the Trump source said. “It won’t be until after he is elected but before he’s inaugurated that he will figure out exactly what he is going to do and who he is going to try to hire.”

None of this has anything to do with Trump pivoting towards the center for the general election. Way back in January he told Bill O’Reilly, “The voters want unpredictability.”

There are two things that Donald Trump knows really well: (1) how to play the media in order to get maximum exposure (these flip-flops generate tons of coverage), and (2) what his base of supporters want to hear. I’ll give you a clue…it’s not about policies.

Back in 2013, Steve Benen came up with the perfect way to describe the current iteration of Republicanism: post-policy nihilism. After the disastrous Bush administration, it was demonstrated that Republican policies – both foreign and domestic – were complete and utter failures. In response, rather than re-think those policies, conservative leaders drafted a plan of total obstruction to anything President Obama and the Democrats attempted to do. In order to get their base on board with that plan, they fanned the flames of fear and racism…that is what took the place of actual policies.

It should therefore come as no surprise to anyone that the current presumptive Republican presidential nominee is running a post-policy campaign based on fear and racism. It is why none of the other contenders for the Republican nomination could ever lay a hand on him. Their choice was to either defend the failed policies of the Bush administration or challenge the fear and racism that animated his supporters – either option was doomed to fail.

What we’ll be witnessing in this election is someone running to be the leader of the free world who is the epitome of post-policy nihilism. That’s why I wrote yesterday that his response to a question about whether or not he regretted saying that John McCain wasn’t a war hero was so revealing. At first he flip-flopped on what he’d said previously. Then came this:

You do things and you say things. And what I said, frankly, is what I said. And some people like what I said, if you want to know the truth. There are many people that like what I said. You know after I said that, my poll numbers went up seven points.

Over the next six months Donald Trump will ensure that journalists who attempt to take what he says about policy seriously are sent running around in circles. Proposing actual policies is not the game he is playing – and neither are his supporters.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 12, 2016

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fearmongering, GOP, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Farewell, Grand Old Party”: GOP Dug Its Own Grave And Dropped One Foot In When McCain Selected Sarah Palin

It wasn’t precisely an act of moral courage, but House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s (Wis.) comment that he’s not ready to support presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump was at least . . . something.

Whether it’s a start or a finish remains to be revealed, but it would seem that we’re witnessing the beginning of the end. To wit: A Republican friend, who has abandoned her behind-the-scenes work of getting conservatives elected, called me recently to express her condolences. “I feel sorry for you,” she said, “because you (given your job) can’t ignore the collapse of Western civilization.”

Now a renegade from the nominating process, she is like so many others disillusioned by the Trump movement who’ve slipped the noose of politics in search of meaning beyond the Beltway. But Trump’s triumph, though most insiders thought it impossible, should have surprised no one. He was inevitable not because he was The One but because he’s a shrewd dealmaker with deep pockets and unencumbered by a moral compass. Both his platform and style were crafted to fit the findings of extensive polling he commissioned before announcing his run.

In other words, Trump didn’t write a book you loved; he wrote the book you said you’d love. If people were outraged about immigration, why then he’d build a wall. If they were upset about manufacturing jobs lost overseas, well fine, he’d kill the trade agreements.

Trump was never about principle but about winning, the latter of which he kept no secret. What this means, of course, is that his supporters have no idea whom they nominated. He simply paid to read their minds and then invented a drug that would light up the circuit boards corresponding to pleasure and reward.

“Believe me,” he crooned to the roaring crowed.

I’m not there right now,” said the speaker, blessing himself in the sign of the cross.

Poor Ryan — a man of conscience in an unconscionable time. He wants to support the Republican nominee, but, at the end of the day, he has to answer to a higher authority. Trump, the party’s standard bearer, isn’t bearing the standard, Ryan said.

But what Ryan expressed as the basis for a desired meeting of the minds isn’t about those standards, except the hope that Trump will behave better in the future. You know, act presidential and all that. Otherwise, Ryan is standing by the phone to hear that Trump will unify the party. How, pray tell? What would satisfy the Ryans of the party? For Trump to say, Hey, I was just kidding?

The problem, as with all relationships, is that certain words, once expressed, can’t be taken back. No amount of backtracking can erase memories of what Trump really thought and said in a particular moment. It isn’t only that his wildly conceived and frequently revised positions are at odds with those of leveler heads, but also Trump has embarrassed those who can still be embarrassed.

Among those with either the gumption or nothing to lose by expressing no-support for Trump are both George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. Neither will endorse the Republican nominee. Laura Bush, a consistent voice of sanity, recently hinted at a “Women in the World” conference that she’d rather see Hillary Clinton as president than Trump.

This is utterly treasonous to most Republicans. Not only is Clinton a Clinton, notwithstanding her Rodham-ness, but also the next president likely will select up to four Supreme Court justices. Republicans magically think that at least Trump would pick good justices.

But upon what shred of fact or fiction do they base this assumption?

Still other Republicans are expressing disapproval by vowing not to attend the party convention in July. These include the last two GOP presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain, though McCain is on record saying he’ll support Trump, which can be viewed as loyal or merely sad.

The “sads” have it.

McCain seemingly has forgiven Trump’s remark that he was a war hero only because he was captured. “I like people that weren’t captured,” said the anti-hero who managed to avoid service and once compared his navigation of the sexually risky 1960s to “sort of like the Vietnam era.”

This is the man who would become commander in chief.

Meanwhile, we’re told, the party that adopted Trump without really knowing him is suffering an identity crisis and facing a moment of truth.

Phooey. The GOP began digging its own grave years ago and dropped one foot in when McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. With Trump’s almost-certain nomination, the other foot has followed.

 

By: Kathleen Parker, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 6, 2016

May 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Trump Supporters | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“The Irony Of Celebrity Populism”: The Demolition Of The Line Between Celebrity And Political Achievement

“When you become famous,” the famous political consultant James Carville once said, “being famous becomes your profession.”

It’s a sign of the stunning success of Donald Trump’s crossover act that we no longer even think about this campaign’s most revolutionary effect on our politics: the demolition of the line between celebrity and political achievement.

Of course, success in politics can itself breed celebrity. Carville earned his by combining his eccentric sense of humor with actual skill in helping Bill Clinton become president in 1992. The weird interaction between glitz and government reflected at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner suggests how much the borderland between the two has shrunk.

But celebrity has never before been a sufficient qualification for the nation’s highest office. Consider John McCain’s signature attack on Barack Obama in 2008 in a commercial that began with the words: “He’s the biggest celebrity in the world.” The ad’s next line captured the old war hero’s disdain for his opponent and his fame: “But is he ready to lead?”

In light of this year’s campaign, there is something touching about McCain’s protest. He reasoned that sober voters would reject the idea of electing someone merely because of his celebrity.

If the ad misunderstood the sources of Obama’s political strength, it did speak to a nation that still respected experience in government. Trump has now far surpassed Obama in converting fame directly into electoral currency, moving from celebrity to front-runner status without going through the messy, time-consuming work of being a state legislator and U.S. senator. Ronald Reagan, given his Hollywood standing, may be the closest historical analogue to Trump. But Trump did not spend eight years as governor of a large state. There is a perverse purity to Trump’s great leap.

Trump also uses celebrity allies he accumulated in the course of his career as a fame-monger to validate his quest. Facing a decisive challenge in Tuesday’s Indiana primary, Trump hauled out an endorsement from Bobby Knight, a state icon from his successful if controversial run as Indiana University’s basketball coach. Trump may dominate CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, but Knight has ESPN, generally a much bigger draw — except, of course, when Trump has been on a debate stage.

Trump represents the triumph in politics of what the scholars of postmodernism call “transgressive” art, which violates boundaries, including moral strictures, and commands attention through its shock value. Trump is now the transgressor in chief.

We need to think hard about the multiple weaknesses Trump is exposing in our politics. How has he been able to convert fame and outrage into votes without even a moment of apprenticeship in public service?

One reason is the anger in a large segment of the Republican Party that has been stoked by its leaders. You might say they have now lost control of the beast they were feeding. There is also the utter contempt toward government that their ideology encouraged. Trump has played on the fragility of our media system, which, in its search for ratings, can’t get enough of him, and on a pervasive pain among the many who have been cast aside by our economy. They had been ignored by elites of all kinds.

Trump is what passes for “populism” now, but celebrity populism is a strange creature. Consider the case of Tom Brady, the masterly quarterback of my beloved New England Patriots and another sports celebrity who has spoken kindly of Trump.

In a court ruling against him in the “Deflategate” case, Brady learned that neither wealth nor celebrity nor talent protects him in a National Football League system that, in the view of two of three Court of Appeals judges, confers almost unlimited power to management over labor.

Yes, at that moment, Brady learned he was labor. “Welcome to the working class, Tom,” wrote Boston Herald sports columnist Ron Borges.

I don’t know if this controversy will alter Brady’s politics. But it was a reminder of how structural realities that rarely get much television time — collective bargaining agreements, judicial decisions, ownership rights and the raw distribution of power — will not be swept away simply because a man who has mastered old and new media alike has succeeded so brilliantly in casting himself as the avenger for the dispossessed.

Still, a phony celebrity populism plays well on television at a time when politics and governing are regularly trashed by those who claim both as their calling. Politicians who don’t want to play their assigned roles make it easy for a role-player to look like the real thing and for a billionaire who flies around on his own plane to look like a populist.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 1, 2016

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Celebrity, Donald Trump, Politics, Populism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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