Seriously, did you realize, before the other day, that Donald Trump was not on record as believing Barrack Obama was born in the United States? I didn’t. I guess I haven’t been keeping up with politics as much as I thought I was.
I thought, once Obama’s long-form birth certificate became public, that Trump accepted it as legit, and even — rather presumptuously, I should say! — tried to claim credit for doing the country a favor by forcing Obama to release it, although that was something only he and his fellow whackadoodles would care about anyway. I guess I was wrong in thinking it was no longer an issue, since, this last week, it resurfaced and was tossed, not-very-elegantly, into that toy box known as Trump Campaign Strategy, a box that is continuously threatening to run short of fresh doodads to play with.
It’s like Roseanne Rosannadanna used to say:
"Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it's always something — if it ain't one thing, it's another."
Have I used this Roseanne Roseannadanna analogy here before? I may have. It’s been a longstanding explanation of mine of how the penny-wise Trump campaign keeps itself in the news:
(1) Trump says something stupid on Wednesday, and won’t retract it;
(2) The news shows debate it all day Thursday,
(3) And on Friday, Trump announces that he takes it back.
(4) That sets up the weekend talking-head show panels of pundits to gum all about it, from every angle, and then we have a new week to start the nonsense over again.
And for all those out there who blame the media for Republican successes, look closely at this whole birther affair as an example of how easy it is for just about anybody to manipulate the media, and ask yourself, how would you handle this? People of all political stripes want to know about Trump’s latest scams, and Trump knows people do, and Trump knows the press has to drop everything else to report it. After all, when you have strict journalistic principles you follow, you’re just predictable enough to allow some evil actor to take over the controls. It was bound to happen; it was only a matter of time.
So Trump promotes a news conference he's having on Friday morning in which he will be making a "major statement", hinting it will be about the birther issue, and at the very end of using all these decorated veterans as human shields for a half-an-hour, he drops in a thirty-second statement that only raises other questions, and then, pretending he’s ending the press's unhealthy preoccupation with his birtherism once and for all, so now we can get back to “Making America Great Again”, he ends his performance by dramatically walking away to lead a tour of his stupid new hotel, while strong-arming the network TV pool producer off the tour, while letting the camera crew on through.
But why would the national TV networks want to use their precious time covering some local hotel grand opening? So the DC bureau chiefs, who manage the pool, then voted to pull the pool crew out and to not release whatever useless video it shot.
It’s also worth noting that, the night before, after Trump’s campaign staff screwed up the flight arrangements for the traveling press, he left them stranded in New Jersey while he went ahead to his rally in New Hampshire, then mocked them at the event for their absence:
Trump publicly mocked his own traveling press corps for showing up late, a turn of events that his own campaign staff caused.
"I have really good news for you," Trump told about 1,000 people in a New Hampshire middle school gymnasium. "I just heard that the press is stuck on their airplane.”
"They can't get here. I love it! So they're trying to get here now. They're gonna be about 30 minutes late.”
"They called us and said, 'Could you wait?’”, he claimed. "I said, 'absolutely not.'"
Each reporter apparently pays about $15,000 per week to the campaign for travel arrangements. Can they sue the campaign? Maybe, but it’s probably not worth the trouble. This is not likely to happen on Hillary’s events, since in her campaign, the press flies with her on the same plane.
Trump treats the media like just another toy in his toy box, which might or might not someday backfire on him. While his treatment of the press will immediately disqualify him with some voters, others, who don’t understand the role of journalists as standing in for the public, and don’t see a slight of the press as a slight on themselves, will think it’s a hoot.
I need to repeat this:
Those people who remember learning in school that a free press is a necessary fixture in good countries, understand that when a politician fucks over the press, he’s fucking over those that the press ultimately serve, which is the public. And those who don’t remember that sort of thing from school will probably be voting for Donald Trump anyway.
But is it just me, or has Donald Trump single-handedly changed the way the press covers politics in this country, maybe forever?
There was a time, back when the differences between the parties were not so great, the national news media took an objective approach to each side, not wanting to question the veracity of anyone's stance for fear of being accused of partisan bias.
But times have changed. Trump has so completely flooded the public square with outrageous lies and sleazy innuendo, reporters and anchors have had no choice but to make it their job to call him out on every one of them. For example, this morning, every reporter I heard reporting this story made sure to insert words to the effect, “and he has wrongly claimed that Hillary Clinton was the first to question where president Obama was born.”
So is this the end of objective journalism? From now on, will there not be a dime’s worth of difference between “objective reporters” and “liberal reporters”? Time will tell. Maybe when this election is behind them, journalists will find a way to write new rules of political coverage.
Meanwhile, what’s your decision: Do you stop covering his campaign, just to spite the sonofabitch? That certainly would be fun!
But no, you keep on going. After all, just because the candidate keeps acting like an asshole doesn’t mean you can stop doing your job.
And maybe the worst thing is, as stupid as he is — and make no mistake, just because he knows how to play the press doesn’t mean he’s not stupid — but as stupid as he is, the asshole knows you’re in a bind.