Monday, June 6, 2016

Has Media Finally Figured Out How to Cover Trump?

Trump is getting actual scrutiny now and doesn't know what to do.

Paul Waldman argues that the media has finally figured out how to cover Trump: by doing their jobs. As he says Trump may not be able to survive this.

"The news media have come in for a lot of criticism in the way they’ve reported this election, which makes it exactly like every other election. But something may have changed just in the last few days. I have no idea how meaningful it will turn out to be or how long it will last."

"But it’s possible that when we look back over the sweep of this most unusual campaign, we’ll mark this week as a significant turning point: the time when journalists finally figured out how to cover Donald Trump."

"They didn’t do it by coming up with some new model of coverage, or putting aside what they were taught in journalism school. They’re doing it by rediscovering the fundamental values and norms that are supposed to guide their profession. (And for the record, even though I’m part of “the media” I’m speaking in the third person here because I’m an opinion writer, and this is about the reporters whose job it is to objectively relay the events of the day)."

"If this evolution in coverage takes hold, we can trace it to the combined effect of a few events and developments happening in a short amount of time. The first was Trump’s press conference on Tuesday, the ostensible purpose of which was to answer questions about a fundraiser he held in January to raise money for veterans’ groups. In the course of the press conference, Trump was at his petulant, abusive worst, attacking reporters in general and those in the room. “The political press is among the most dishonest people that I’ve ever met,” he said, saying to one journalist who had asked a perfectly reasonable question, “You’re a sleaze.” These kinds of criticisms are not new — anyone who has reported a Trump rally can tell you how Trump always tosses some insults at the press, at which point his supporters turn around and hurl their own abuse at those covering the event — but Trump seemed particularly angry and unsettled."

"To see how the press looked at that revealing event, it’s critical to understand what led to it. It happened because the Post’s David Fahrenthold and some other reporters did what journalists are supposed to do. They raised questions about Trump’s fundraiser, and when they didn’t get adequate answers, they investigated, gathered facts, and asked more questions."

"It was excellent work — time-consuming, difficult, and ultimately paying dividends in public understanding. And Trump’s attack on them for doing their jobs the way those jobs are supposed to be done couldn’t have been better designed to get every other journalist to want to do the same. They’re no different than anyone else: When you make a direct attack on their professionalism, they’re likely to react by reaching back to their profession’s core values to demonstrate that they can live up to them. Trump may have wanted to intimidate them, but it’s likely to have the opposite effect."

"The same day as the press conference, a trove of documents from Trump University was released as part of a class-action lawsuit accusing Trump of fraud. The documents revealed allegations as to just what a scam that enterprise was: high-pressure sales tactics, nothing resembling knowledge being imparted to the “students,” people in financial trouble preyed upon and told to max out their credit cards to pay for more seminars and courses. Some of Trump’s other schemes may have been comical, but as far as we know nobody was victimized too terribly by buying a Trump Steak or a bottle of Trump Vodka. Trump University is something entirely different, and it’s not over yet; questions are now being raised about an investigation the Texas Attorney General’s office undertook of Trump University, which concluded that it was cheating Texans out of large sums of money; the investigation was dropped by then-AG Greg Abbott, who later got $35,000 in contributions from Trump and is now the state’s governor. "

Then there was Trump's response to Hillary's tough speech last Thursday. Heather Digby:

"If one had to guess it’s that he thought that he’d already gotten the hardest hits he was going to have to take. It seems he believed that because he faced a large group of GOP heavyweights and had the rapt attention of the press for six months that he’d passed the crucible and he’d get unquestioning adoration from here on in. Unfortunately, this is where political inexperience and an unwillingness to listen to anyone but sycophants and the voices in your head creates a problem. The primary was a cakewalk compared to the general election for a number of reasons, the most important being that his rivals were all walking on eggshells trying not to offend his voters. Most of them were also Republican office holders and professional politicians who have a responsibility to their party and they generally try not to destroy their own members just in case they become the nominee. By the time they realized that it might actually be Donald Trump it was too late."

"The press meanwhile was stuck in a different kind of spin cycle. They mostly just gawked at the spectacle like they were reporting on a 200 car pile-up on the interstate. They didn’t dig very deeply because, like the Republicans, they simply could not fathom that he would actually become the nominee. And frankly, they never really devote a ton of resources to each primary candidate. They do some perfunctory digging and check out oppo from the various rivals but they never go very deeply into the candidates until they get the nomination. But once the nomination is in hand, it’s no hold barred and he press is going to delve into the nominee’s business, personal life and history in every way. Apparently, Trump didn’t know this."

"And he’s not handling it well. There are ominous signs that his campaign is imploding, mostly due to his micromanaging and inability to cut loose his fawning primary operatives in favor of serious professionals who know how to wage a general election campaign. He is more undisciplined than ever from his embarrassing tweets to obtuse comments on the stump like “look at my African-American! Look at him!” (It turns out the man wasn’t actually a supporter.) He has dodged and prevaricated about why he won’t release his tax returns, using excuses that only a child could believe, raising questions about whether he’s actually as rich as he says he is."

"When the Washington Post published an expose on the Veterans fundraiser he held last winter and revealed that he had not written his own pledged million dollar check, he went ballistic on the media at a wild press conference, even calling a reporter a “sleaze” to his face. It was angry enough for reporters to be taken aback despite the fact that he commonly calls them disgusting, despicable liars at his rallies."

"And when Hillary Clinton hit him very hard with a tough speech last week in which she used his own words against him to make the case that he’s dangerously unfit for the job, his response was first unusually tepid — he complained in a tweet that she wasn’t “presidential” — and then recklessly authoritarian. At a rally in San Jose, he let fly (at the 13:55 mark) with a long tirade about how she is President Obama’s lapdog who is doing his bidding so he won’t throw her in jail (“it’s “yessir, Mr President Sir! Yessir! What would you like?! What would you like me to say here sir?!”)Then he said this:

"I used to say, leave it up to the lawyers. I have watched so many lawyers on so many different networks. I have read so much about the emails. Folks, honestly, she’s guilty as hell. She’s guilty as hell. And the fact that they even allow her to participate in this race is a disgrace to the United States, it’s a disgrace to our nation. It’s a disgrace."

"So we’ll see what happens, I don’t know. I’ve always had great confidence in the FBI, I have great respect, I know some FBI folks, I’ve always had great confidence in them. I can’t believe that they would let this go… I’m telling you, it’s a great system we have, we have a great country, we’re going to make it a lot greater by the war, we love our country, but look, we love our country and I don’t believe our country can let her get away with this crime, I don’t believe it. So we’ll see. And you know what? If they do let her get away with it, it will be a big topic of conversation on the campaign trail, I can tell you that."

"And then if I win? (pauses, shrugs dramatically, shakes his head) It’s called a five year statue of limitations. If I win … everything’s going to be fair but I’m sure the Attorney General will take a very good look at it from a fair standpoint, ok? I’m sure. I think it’s disgraceful."

How do you feel confident Trump won't abuse the awesome power of the POTUS when he's already talking about abusing it as a candidate?

As Waldman says, Trump will have a hard time surviving this if the Beltway simply just keeps actually doing its job.

Waldman says it's about covering Trump the way candidates should normally be covered, I'd argue they should cover him they way the cover Hillary Clinton. 


  1. Mike, this combination:

    Trump + Curiel + Trump's surrogates = Dem city of gold

    The headline here is hilarious:

    "Trump Surrogate: Trump Isn’t a Racist, He Just Lives in the Real World Where Mexicans Can’t be Fair to White People" (what Trump's surrogate said translated to headline)

    And how did they get him to cough up that gem? By reading from Erick Erickson's post on this today to him.

    I think *I* could be Hillary's campaign manager at this point. Shoot, she might as well go on vacation and let the Trump-splosion happen of its own accord.

    Actually, here's my fantasy scenario: Trump's slow motion train wreck continues day after day, causing his supporters to run from microphones and cameras and generally have nervous breakdowns, sleep loss, binge drinking sessions, and other delicious ailments... except for his "surrogates" and campaign staff who continue to be-clown themselves whenever Trump himself isn't available for the job.

    I'd like this to slowly build to a crescendo until about 3 days before the election, when Trump says/does/reveals something so egregious, even his VP pick drops out of the race... Trump, desperate to find a running mate prior to election day goes for the last man willing and able: David Duke. Then all hell breaks loose. Republicans are fighting and scratching and clawing their way to TV cameras, microphones, journalists and youtube, Twitter, facebook, whatever to condemn and disavow Mr. Trump before the polls close. Trump keeps his core alt-right supporters of course, who are seething with the white hot rage of a 1000 suns, and ALL OF IT directed at their backstabbing turn-coat "cuckservative" RINO fellow party members who abandoned Mr. Trump (and them, and white America) to the racially impure hoards on (what they imagined) was the eve of their victory!

    And thus concludes the GOP as a national party. =)

    1. I'd like it to be so bad that even Ann Coulter (her face bright red with humiliation... and fury at reality) is compelled to condemn Trump on election day itself.

      Hannity stick's by Trump's side of course, and starts regularly inviting Duke on his show.

  2. Yep. Trump is truly the gift that keeps on giving. I watched him yesterday on Face the Nation and just shook my head.

    Really he is doing all the work.

    He feeds us Dems the ball. We just take the layup

  3. Leon Wolf says the media is still letting Trump get away with a lot of BS on Trump U:

  4. Mike, Sumner gives you an H/T in a new post today:

    He basically uses that comment you left for him yesterday to make his point.

  5. Rubin again makes a statement which supports Clinton over Trump:

    Ryan insisted that his support for Trump is rooted in his agenda project, arguing that there is a better chance that the business mogul would sign these policies into law than Clinton would if she were to become president.

    “I do absolutely disavow those comments. I think they’re wrong. I don’t think they’re right-headed. And the thinking behind it is something that I don’t personally relate to,” Ryan said. “But at the end of the day, this is about ideas, this is about moving our agenda forward, and that’s why we’re moving the way we’re moving.”

    Ryan acknowledged that Trump’s comments have undercut his quest to put forth his policy agenda. “I’m not even going to pretend to defend them,” he said. “I’m going to defend our ideas.”

    That, excuse me, is hogwash. Trump’s not interested in any of Ryan’s programs, and his visceral racism tells voters that the GOP really cares about building a wall and throwing out illegal immigrants, not helping the poor climb out of poverty. Neither the media nor the public is going to buy that the GOP is devoted to helping those mired in poverty when its presumptive nominee says, “You have to be wealthy in order to be great.” That is what voters hear, not Ryan’s message that “the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life.” (Honestly, he’d probably get more attention from a Clinton administration and more accomplished than with Trump, who will never have credibility on the issue.)