Trump's Media War Gets Him (and Us) Nothing
Tuesday night, President Trump delivered a spirited, televised speech to an energetic crowd of supporters in Arizona. It came with the type of rhetoric we've grown accustomed to: lashing out at political opponents (on both sides of the aisle), doubling-down on past statements, bragging of an unprecedented number of presidential accomplishments, and throwing out slogans about the border wall, making America great again, and draining the swamp.
Perhaps most notably, he engaged in a nearly half-hour-long rant against the news media — at times singling out his favorite target, CNN .
The crowd, of course, loved it...just as Trump supporters watching at home assuredly did. After all, slamming the media will always earn cheers from the Right, and for good reason. Years of liberal bias have established the mainstream press as an unwavering, ideological foe of Republicans and conservatives.
Unsurprisingly, commentators over at CNN (and other networks) weren't amused by the vitriol. Don Lemon said that Trump was "clearly trying to ignite a civil war in this country," and lent credence to colleague Ana Navarro's suggestion that the president might be suffering from early-on-set dementia. Other members of the post-speech CNN panel questioned Trump's mental state as well.
This prompted Fox News's Greg Gutfeld to tweet, "the CNN panel: every one is in disbelief. upset. angry. Translation: mission accomplished."
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro seemed to share Gutfeld's sentiment, tweeting, "Media still don't understand Trump's game: by responding emotionally to Trump's rip, they grant credibility to his case."
I'm sure many on the Right agreed with them.
But while there's truth to the argument that Trump's regular filleting of the news media has incensed some journalists to the point where they've dropped their guise of objectivity (see Jim Acosta if you need an example), it is still unclear as to how this "mission" or "game" helps the country, or even Donald Trump's presidency.
Yes, exposing media bias is a good, important thing for democracy. Writers have been doing it here on this website for years. In fact, this site's owner has been one of the movement's leading voices for the better part of two decades.
But Donald Trump is the president of the United States. His job isn't to fixate or wage war on the press. His job is to lead, and achieve things for the country and the American people. And it's not the media that is preventing him from doing that.
Just prior to the November election, then Candidate Trump outlined a "100 Day Plan" for his presidency, referring to it as a "contract with the American voter" to "restore honesty, accountability and change to Washington."
Here's that plan (detailed here):
Middle Class Tax Relief And Simplification Act
End The Offshoring Act
American Energy & Infrastructure Act
School Choice And Education Opportunity Act
Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act
Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act
End Illegal Immigration Act
Restoring Community Safety Act
Restoring National Security Act
Clean up Corruption in Washington Act
It's been over 200 days since Trump was sworn into office. Thus far, not one of these promises has been delivered upon. Not one. Heck, when's the last time you've even heard the president talk about half of these? How many were mentioned in the Arizona speech, for example?
Sure, it's not entirely Trump's fault. Congress is a mess. No one could have possibly expected all ten of these vows to have been fulfilled. But Trump ran on his "tremendous" deal-making abilities. Yet, he hasn't been able to work deals to deliver one or two?
And how is the "fake news" media to blame for this? If they're not the problem, why does Trump invest so much of his personal energy in going after these people? If it's to build public support or faith in his presidency, I'd say it's not working. You can check out his approval ratings if you don't believe me.
Here's a broader question: What defines a successful Trump presidency?
If "not being Hillary" is the answer (which many Trump supporters would proudly tell you), he's already succeeded. If it's "nominating a conservative Supreme Court justice," he has succeeded there too. Bravo, Mr. President.
But Trump has at least another 3 1/2 years left in office. Clearly the bar must be raised. If the principal focus of the Oval Office is on slamming the president's detractors, and reacting to whatever domestic and international events arise, it's going to be a hell of a waste of a presidency and historic Republican majorities.
When anti-Trump bias is on display in the media, it's fair game to call it out. But let's not pretend that the president's media fixation, and continual combativeness with news organizations, in any way serves the country. It doesn't. All it serves is his ego.