Is Trump His Own Worst Enemy When It Comes To Journalistic Coverage?
President-elect Trump’s victory sent ripples through political establishments in both the United States and abroad – and for a multitude of reasons. Trump’s late night Twitter ramblings and rants weren’t new when he announced his candidacy, but their shaping of world politics remains very new. His experience in the business world provided him with a grounded claim of business acumen, but the readily apparent counterpoint to that would be the recurrent lawsuits he faced and the multiple bankruptcies he declared. His knowledge of how to manipulate politicians and collect favors for his business interests provided him a form of insider knowledge that he happily admitted to as well, but even then the objective truth remains that Trump’s knowledge of politics and government remained that of an observer – not a participant. Now, this was something Trump tried to spin: that his outsider status made him an ideal candidate to ‘drain the swamp,’ as it were. However – with more and more of Trump’s appointments being the very same insiders he swore to cast aside? It’s looking as though Trump was simply waxing eloquent as opposed to articulating actual campaign promises.
The oddity of this is that Trump’s campaign (and Trump himself) have tried to articulate these individual points as credits to Trump’s authority and experience in the new political/government arena he has found himself entering. Except, as I’ve already outlined, each of these points falls apart on cogent analysis. In a single summation: Trump has business experience (countered by lawsuits and filings for bankruptcy), Trump previously manipulated politicians for favors (but is still woefully uninformed of government practices and international relations norms), and Trump is a political outsider who will change the Washington landscape (by, apparently, surrounding himself with several insiders).
The surreal moment of this is that it doesn’t take more than a handful of minutes on Youtube to hear quotes from Trump (and his staff) that directly conflict on these points. Trump has attempted to blame the media for poor, slanted coverage – but the reality is that when you can play back to back quotes of someone disagreeing with themselves they fairly well guarantee that type of coverage. The truth is that it is endlessly difficult to present rampant hypocrisy in a favorable light. Trump, surprisingly, seems unaware of this – perhaps because that same hypocrisy sells so well on reality TV but not the nightly news. Perhaps this could best be credited to Trump’s experience in reality TV where such hypocrisy would serve to fuel ratings. His experience with professional, serious news outlets is far less extensive, and something he continues to struggle with. If only he’d realize the issue isn’t the journalists covering him, but the quotes/comments he provides, the policy decisions he champions, and the administrative appointments he is now making. It’s a matter of hypocritical, inflammatory remarks and decisions that originate with him – and as long as he’s blaming others for the content he generates, no improvement can rationally be expected.
And, for anyone doubting the extent of Trump’s hypocrisy – let’s look at Trump’s progress on his own claims. Trump insisted that he would be appointing a special prosecutor to look into Hillary Clinton, but after securing the win in November he quickly backed off that claim.1 Trump claimed the swamp would be drained once he built his administration, but he’s including the likes of a former Goldman Sachs executive as the Treasury Secretary.2 Really, it’s difficult to read this as anything but adding murky water to the already flooded swamp. And, of course, Trump has admitted that Obamacare, which he oft decried as a complete failure, has portions worth maintaining.3 And then we come to Trump’s notorious, infamous wall. Trump insisted he would be building a wall along the entire US-Mexico border. Now? He’s admitted that portions of the wall will be fence, contradicting previous assertions.4
The real issue I’m trying to raise here isn’t that Trump is bad, but that his own administration and decisions are to blame for many of the challenges he is presently facing. He committed to a course of action that was divisive and embraced rhetoric of xenophobia, fear, and hatred – and now? Now he appears uncertain as to how to proceed. He’s rejecting many of the staples of his campaign and decrying a media that is simply reacting to his own decisions. He’s finding support from many who are still certain that he will change the political gridlock and gamesmanship in Washington, but in the end he’s showing how uninformed and ill-prepared he is at every step. True – some of the picks for his administration are less baffling than others (Mattis versus Carson, for example), but ultimately we have a candidate who’s broken many of his foremost campaign promises before even assuming office. The question needs to increasingly be asked why Trump fears accurate journalistic coverage of his questionable claims (like millions of illegal/fraudulent votes5). And, the next dire question must be what happens to the Freedom of Speech under a leader who decries those who use it in ways he disapproves of.