Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Most Cloying and Dishonest Bipartisan Beltway Piece Yet

This Politico piece is so cloying it makes me want to puke. I'm just saying. If the media wants to understand what caused the rise of Trump part of it is is their own dishonesty.

"How Donald Trump United America."

"The most vulgar, embarrassing campaign of the century is teaching us that underneath it all, we’re actually a decent people."

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"Even though Thanksgiving Day is two weeks past, I hope it's not too late to express my gratitude for Donald Trump's campaign for president. His new jibber-jabber about banning Muslims from entering the United States has awakened the animal spirits harbored by some of our nativist brothers and sisters. Yes, that’s a bad thing. But the good thing is his proposal is reviving the American consensus view about the value of religious tolerance and free speech. It’s uniting voices across the political spectrum. Donald Trump, amazingly, is inspiring America to sing “Kumbaya.”

"Rebuking Trump for his comment were conservatives Sen. John McCain, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush, who tweeted that Trump is “unhinged.” Joining hands at least metaphorically with the conservatives was liberal Hillary Clinton, who called Trump's proposal “reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive.” The equally liberalMartin O'Malley spent his campaign's entire rhetorical budget to tag Trump a “fascist demagogue.” And a White House spokesman declared that Trump's speech “disqualifies” him from serving as president. Meanwhile, pundits Bill Kristol and Dana Milbank have attacked Trump from the right and left, likening him to a John Bircher and Mussolini, respectively. Even Tom Brokaw dusted off his teleprompter yesterday to editorialize against Trump on NBC Nightly News."

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Wow. This piece tells you a lot about not the reaction to Trump but the media's illusions of our politics. We are far from Kumbaya. However, the definition of Beltway seriousness is to hold on to this illusion at all costs. No matter how much reality differs from Kumbaya the media will insist that this is what it is below the surface.

Krugman, with a greatly titled piece 'The Banality of Trumpism nails it perfectly:

"But surely the people most taken by surprise, least able to handle the phenomenon, are the self-proclaimed centrists, the both-sides-do-it crowd, who denounced the plutocrats-and-racists diagnosis as “shrill,” insisting that we are having a real debate with just a few fringe characters on either side. Some of those people are still trying to portray the parties as symmetric: Bernie Sanders calling for single-payer health insurance is just like Trump calling for mass deportations and a ban on Muslims."

What's interesting about Politico's Republican Trump bashers is

1. They stopped short of saying that they won't vote for him or that he's illegitimate. So they 'disagree' about banning Muslims but don't think this is such a serious disagreement that it de-legitimizes his entire candidacy.

Not that you would really expect them to. After all, you push him too hard then he can plausibly say you've treated him unfairly and almost 70% of his supporters say they'd leave the GOP and support him as an independent in that case.

2. Politico wisely doesn't list any of the actual GOP candidates in its Kumbaya Republicans. For good reason. After all, they all have come up with their own Islamophobic ideas. Jeb wants a religious test for refugees, Rubio compares Muslims to Nazis, Chris Christie wants to crackdown on 3 year old orphan refugees-he's one tough guy-and Rand Paul is actually arguing that he got there before Trump did.

He doesn't frame it quite like The Donald-stopping all Muslim immigration-but he does say that his restrictions would stop Muslim immigration from about 47 Muslim countries. It's the difference between saying no Muslims and saying no immigration from any countries that have Muslims. The second formulation is enough to pass the media's very weak smell test.

Then we have the Right wing talk show hosts who say two things:

1. Trump's proposal is very reasonable as Jimmy Carter stopped immigration from Iran during the Hostage Crisis in 1980.

2. Some like Laura Ingraham and Howie Carr seem like they're a bit critical but then when you look at it, they say why stop with Muslims? Howie wants immigration stopped period not just over terrorism but to stop all these folks from coming here just to join the Democratic party and get their welfare benefits.

The media should stop patting itself on the back like Jim Newell does here, who says the media didn't make Trump and should keep reporting on everything he says.

"A bizarre piece of meta-commentary that trickles in whenever Donald Trump says some insane thing, and journalists flood the zone over it, is as follows: The media should be ignoring him. He is clearly just saying something for attention, and so the appropriate adult way to respond is to deny him the attention he seeks. In feeding the beast, the media is complicit in a vicious cycle, in which Trump says something nuts to get attention, the media gives him that attention, that attention is responsible for his high numbers, and then he does it again."

Now I do agree with Newell, that this narrative is silly. The media has a job to do. It can't just pick and choose what to report. This idea reminds you of some of the young women on college campuses today who feel that they shouldn't have to take a class on 'rape theory''-after all, if we simply retire the word rape, we can stop the act of rape the world over.

Simply avoiding 'unpleasant thoughts' doesn't make the things go away. Still, I would argue that the media has had a large hand in Trump's rise. For years, they've let GOPers lie about all kinds of things. Some of the lies have been as crazy as cheering Muslims or crazier.

During the 90s they took stuff like Vince Foster, Whitewater etc. totally seriously. There was no hand-wringing over politicians who lie. The media facilitated these stories and amplified them.

In 2000 they were much more concerned about whether or not Al Gore invented the Internet or went to a Buddhist temple than the fact that W's tax and budget plans didn't add up.

As I argued in this piece, the media is not so much concerned about the truth or the rise of bigotry but simply that Trump has broken their rules. They believe they can make or break any candidate they choose. Trump shows they are just gawking bystanders.

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