“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
“Trump Plays The Man’s Card”: It’s Like A Credit Card That Isn’t Accepted Anywhere But Carries A $3,000 Annual Fee
Republicans have often been indignant at being portrayed as waging a “war on women,” and the rhetoric sometimes was, indeed, a bit over the top. Until Donald Trump showed up.
Trump seems to be trying a strategy of what Ted Cruz would call “carpet bombing,” insulting Carly Fiorina’s face, Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle, Heidi Cruz’s looks and now Hillary Clinton’s “woman’s card.”
This is the card that in the United States earns women just 92 cents to a male worker’s dollar, less than one-fifth of the seats in Congress, a bare 19 percent of corporate board seats, an assault every nine seconds — and free catcalls and condescension! Frankly, I’ll stick with my MasterCard.
Yet many on the right passionately believe that Clinton and other women get a pass because of this woman’s card (Rush Limbaugh, even more blunt, calls it playing the vagina card). Really? A twice-elected senator and former secretary of state is benefiting from a gender shortcut, even as her male opponent would be the first president in history never to have held elective, military or cabinet office?
To me, it looks as if Trump is playing the man’s card!
The evidence is that the woman’s card is less than worthless: There’s abundant research showing that men and women alike tend to judge women more harshly than men. One of the best-known experiments is called the Goldberg paradigm, and it asks research subjects to evaluate an essay or speech. In countries all over the world, both men and women judge the same piece more negatively when they are told it is by a woman, more positively when they believe it is by a man.
In a more recent experiment, more than 120 scientists around the United States were asked to evaluate an application for a job as laboratory manager. In half the cases, the name on the application was Jennifer, in the other half it was John, but everything else was identical.
The scientists recommended John more highly than Jennifer, were more willing to mentor John than Jennifer, and on average suggested a salary for John that was 14 percent higher than the one they suggested for Jennifer. It didn’t seem to matter whether the scientists were male or female.
Likewise, female musicians are rated more highly when they perform in gender-blind auditions from behind a screen. One study found that conducting auditions from behind a screen increases by 50 percent the chance that a woman will advance out of preliminary audition rounds.
The problem isn’t exactly misogyny. We’ve come a long way since President Richard Nixon told an aide why he wouldn’t appoint a woman to the Supreme Court: “I’m not for women, frankly, in any job. I don’t want any of them around. Thank God we don’t have any in the cabinet.”
Today it’s not a clear-cut case of men oppressing women. It seems to be more about unconscious bias, a patriarchal attitude that is absorbed and transmitted by men and women alike — which is one reason women often aren’t much help to other women.
“Women aren’t particularly nice to women,” notes Esther Duflo, an economist at M.I.T. who has studied gender issues. She observes that in Spain, researchers found that having more women randomly assigned to a committee evaluating judiciary candidates actually hurts the prospects of female candidates. A similar study found that on Italian academic evaluation committees, women evaluate female candidates more harshly than men do.
A central challenge is that it’s difficult for women to be perceived as both competent and likable: If they’re seen as competent, they’re grating nags, while if they’re perceived as nice, they’re airheads. There’s no such trade-off for men.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard Business School professor, has conducted pioneering studies of women in the business world and says that the first women at their level tended to be stereotyped in one of four ways: as a mother figure, as a sex object, as a cheerleader or as a tough-as-nails “iron maiden.” “If you have to be stereotyped, that’s the best one, the iron maiden,” she adds.
Indeed, the first women as leaders in democratic systems — people like Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel — have often been tough, hawkish figures, and Kanter says it may be easier for voters to support this kind of woman rather than one who is more traditionally feminine. Hillary Clinton also fits into that hard-bitten, hawkish archetype.
So what do we make of this research? I’d say that if Clinton leads Trump in the head-to-head polls, maybe it’s because of gaps in experience, policies, temperament and judgment. It’s certainly not about the “woman’s card,” which is like a credit card that isn’t accepted anywhere but carries a $3,000 annual fee.
It has been said that Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did — just backward and in high heels. Now that’s the woman’s card.
By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 30, 2016
“Scalia’s Boring Legacy”: He Simply Became A Reliable Tool Of Retrograde Social Conservative Orthodoxy And Corporate Power
I was determined yesterday not to comment on Justice Antonin Scalia’s legacy on the Supreme Court, choosing to focus instead on the political implications of the vacancy. I remain committed to that, in large part because the man only barely passed away and I feel that anything I might say about his impact on law, culture and jurisprudence would be tinged with inappropriate (?) negative passion I might later regret.
Fortunately, I don’t have to. Back in 2014 here at Washington Monthly, Michael O’Donnell wrote a fantastic book review of Bruce Allen Murphy’s “Scalia: A Court of One,” that says most of it for me:
Somewhere in the mid-2000s, Scalia ceased to be a powerhouse jurist and became a crank. He began thumbing his nose at the ethical conventions that guide justices, giving provocative speeches about matters likely to come before the Court. He declined to recuse himself from cases where he had consorted with one of the parties—including, famously, Vice President Dick Cheney. He turned up the invective in his decisions. His colleagues’ reasoning ceased to be merely unpersuasive; it was “preposterous,” “at war with reason,” “not merely naive, but absurd,” “patently incorrect,” and “transparently false.” More and more, he seemed willing to bend his own rules to achieve conservative results in areas of concern to social conservatives, like affirmative action, gay rights, abortion, gun ownership, and the death penalty. Above all, Scalia stopped trying to persuade others. He became the judicial equivalent of Rush Limbaugh, who has made a career of preaching to the choir. But Limbaugh is not merely a shock jock; he is also a kingmaker. Scalia’s position on the bench precludes any such influence. As a result, he has more fans than power.
The conservative movement is trying to treat Scalia as a giant of law and one of America’s greatest and most influential jurists. I’m not so sure about that. His position on the court and his votes in some crucial 5-4 decisions have obviously made a gigantic impact, but it’s not at all clear that his arguments will have had generations-long precedent-carrying weight. Particularly toward the end of his career he simply became a reliable tool of retrograde social conservative orthodoxy and corporate power. Scalia ceased to be interesting because you always knew exactly where he would stand, and that every year he would say something eyebrow-raisingly nasty and clueless about evolution, the sexual revolution or some similar topic. In that sense, I would argue that John Roberts has actually been more interesting and influential recently because one can at least speculate on potentially unconventional arguments and stances he might take.
In the end, what many characterized as Scalia’s incisive wit and questioning simply became boring, because it was always in the service of the same agenda, rendering it devoid of truly honest insight. Scalia simply became as boring as your conservative uncle at Thanksgiving. As O’Donnell says:
Scalia’s fall has been loud and it has been public. He is the Court’s most outspoken and quotable justice, and whether he is flicking his chin at reporters or standing at the lectern attacking secular values, he makes headlines. So when he was passed over for the position of chief justice in 2005, the legal world noticed. President George W. Bush had cited Scalia as well as Clarence Thomas when asked as a candidate to name justices he admired. Yet when Rehnquist suddenly died, Bush did not seriously consider elevating Scalia. “Nino” had rarely demonstrated leadership in assembling or holding together majorities; he had alienated every one of his colleagues at one point or other. His flamboyant antics off the bench might compromise the dignity of the office of chief justice. He would be the devil to confirm. Bush nominated instead John Roberts, an equally brilliant but far more disciplined judge, and one who was better suited to the responsibilities of leadership. After that, Scalia stopped playing nice and started using real buckshot.
I understand and can sympathize with how upset conservatives are about their loss and about the potential for the shifting of the ideology of the court. But let’s not pretend that the court lost a legal giant on the level of Brandeis, Holmes or Marshall. It didn’t.
By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 14, 2016
“Graham Snubs Rubio Over Immigration ‘Cut and Run’”: His Snub Was Personal. Rubio Hung Him Out To Dry
Just a few weeks after ditching the presidential race, Lindsey Graham tried to shake it up Friday by snubbing a close Senate colleague.
The South Carolina senator and Sunday show perma-guest endorsed Jeb Bush this Friday morning, popping into a meeting room in a North Charleston DoubleTree hotel to praise the former Florida governor. And, since no Bush event would be complete without a discussion of Marco Rubio, the governor’s rival came up throughout.
Bush has done little to hide his disapproval of Rubio’s presidential politicking but Graham’s decision to get on board with the Marco-bashing surprised some. After all, Rubio and Graham are cut from identical ideological cloth when it comes to foreign policy, and Graham joined with Rubio in 2013 to push for comprehensive immigration reform.
So why did Graham opt for a low-polling former governor saddled with a problematic last name instead of teaming up again with his Senate ally? There are a host of interesting theories, but immigration was the most prominent issue at the press event where Graham announced the endorsement.
Flanked by other supporters and addressing national media, Bush charged that Rubio’s abandonment of his immigration reform efforts—the Florida senator decided to oppose his own bill a few months after it passed—reflected poorly on his character.
“Marco cut and run, plain and simple, for whatever reason,” the former governor said. “There may be legitimate reasons, but he cut and run. He asked for my support on a bill and he cut and run. He cut and run on his colleagues as well.”
Graham, of course, was one of those colleagues. And when reporters pressed him on the issue, he didn’t have kind words for his erstwhile ally.
“I’m not here to talk about Marco Rubio’s commitment to immigration reform,” he said. “I’ve seen Jeb has been consistent. All I can say is that I worked hard to pass a bill. You can always make the bill better. I never cut and run.”
Graham allies, speaking anonymously because Graham didn’t authorize them to talk, argued that the South Carolinian sustained more political injury because of his consistent immigration stance and Rubio hung him out to dry. They say Florida’s growing Hispanic population means Rubio could have stayed the immigration-reform course without seriously jeopardizing his political future. Graham, meanwhile, won the “Lindsey Grahamnesty” nickname from Rush Limbaugh because of his work on the issue, and faced two tricky primary elections because of his pro-reform stance.
In their view, Rubio’s repudiation of his own bill—four months after he voted for it—didn’t exactly make him a profile in courage.
And it seems to have made Graham’s decision to join Team Bush just a tad easier.
By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, January 15, 2016
A couple of months ago, Rush Limbaugh reflected on the series of school shootings in the United States, and the Republican host drew a partisan conclusion: “The people that are shooting up schools more than likely vote Democrat.”
There’s no evidence to suggest this is true, but accuracy obviously isn’t a priority. The goal with rhetoric like this is to distract from potential policy solutions while exploiting violence for partisan gain.
And in an unexpected twist, a Republican presidential hopeful yesterday made the implicit case that Limbaugh wasn’t ambitious enough. For Ted Cruz, it’s not just school shooters who are Democrats, but violent criminals in general who are members of the party he holds in contempt. Politico reported yesterday:
Ted Cruz on Monday equated Democrats with violent crime.
In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday, the Texas senator said that “the simple and undeniable fact is the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats.”
In the same interview, the Texas Republican added, “There’s a reason why the Democrats for years have been viewed as soft on crime. The Democrats know convicted felons tend to vote Democrat.”
Media Matters posted the audio clip and transcript of the exchange.
The Cruz campaign hasn’t substantiated the claim, but again, the point of partisan vitriol isn’t to make substantive policy arguments. The presidential hopeful is being provocative for the sake of being provocative.
If that sounds like a certain New York developer leading in the Republican polls, it’s hard not to wonder if Cruz is deliberately trying to pull a page from the Donald Trump playbook. Note, for example, that this latest rhetoric came just a day after his bizarre claims about the Colorado Springs mass shooting.
As for whether felons actually vote Democratic, Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum had a good piece noting that most felons aren’t even registered, though the argument itself serves no real purpose.
[A]nyone can play this game. Just find some demographic group that tends to vote for Party X, and then find some bad thing also associated with that group. In this case, poor people tend to vote for Democrats, and felons tend to be poor. Bingo. Most felons are Democrats.
Or this: rich people tend to vote for Republicans, and income-tax cheats tend to be rich. So most income-tax cheats are Republicans.
Or this: Middle-aged men tend to vote for Republicans, and embezzlers tend to be middle-aged men. So most embezzlers are Republicans.
We could do this all day long, but what’s the point?
Dear Cruz campaign,that need not be a rhetorical question.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 1, 2015