It’s Tuesday, so it must be time for another look at the News, Fake News, and Very Fake News. As I had occasion to note in March, the “motor of fake news is not inaccuracy. It’s malice.” Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, writes a memo for President Trump outlining the case against former FBI director James Comey. And what a case it was, as Andrew McCarthy noted with his usual clarity.
All that was news: the memo, Trump’s summary sacking of James “No-Reasonable-Prosecutor” Comey.
Like Spring in Shelley’s windy poem, the fake news was not far behind. I was at a conference in Chicago last week when a friend mentioned that it had just been reported that Rosenstein was furious that Trump deployed his memo as the reason to fire Comey and that he was threatening to quit. Yikes!
Except that Rosenstein did not threaten to quit.
So why did The Washington Post report that he did?
The fact that Nixon was forced to resign established a precedent that the media hopes to repeat. “It worked with Nixon,” they say to themselves. “Let’s try it again.”
They just made it up. And they did so out of malice, in an effort to delegitimize Trump.
It’s the same thing we see unfolding with WaPo’s hysterical story yesterday that “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador.” Oh no! “Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State,” the story reported.
Except that it didn’t.
The authors of that mendacious piece of feculent verbiage cite “current and former U.S. officials” (oh, them!) while both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster denied the story. “I was in the room,” said McMaster tartly, “it didn’t happen.” In case that was not sufficiently clear, he followed up with this: “At no time, at no time, were intelligence sources or methods discussed, and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.”
Tucker Carlson is correct: the media is “stumbling around in a sightless rage” in their coverage of Trump.
I do not remember the coverage of Richard Nixon well enough to say with certainty whether the coverage of Trump is more extreme. I think it may be, if for no other reason than that Nixon was finally forced from office, partly by the unremitting hostility of the media, but also because the Supreme Court forced him to turn over the secret tapes he had made of his Oval Office conversations. The fact that Nixon was forced to resign established a precedent that the media hopes to repeat. “It worked with Nixon,” they say to themselves. “Let’s try it again.”
But there are many differences between the two cases. Nixon, we know, really did engage in a cover up. About Trump we know . . . nothing. If wishes were horses, these pathetic media beggars would ride into town with the revelation that Trump had plotted with Vladimir Putin to deny Hillary Clinton the presidency.
But a suite of intelligence investigations that have been underway for months has revealed . . . yep, nothing again.
The mournful assumption among many of Trump’s supporters is that the frenzy of media hysteria, though almost comically baseless, is nonetheless dangerous because, on the throw-enough-mud-and-some-will-stick principle, it has an abrading, delegitimizing effect, a drip-drip-drip apodosis that is corrosive of trust.
That may very well be the case. But I suspect nonetheless that the primary victim of the malicious static will not be Trump but the media, which has passed from carping hostility to surreal fantasy.
Two things are happening. On the one hand, the media’s credibility has entered a death spiral. On the other hand, Trump keeps chugging along, toting up victories and setbacks, just like every other successful politician known to man.
It is clear to most observers now that the media’s “bombshells” fail to detonate because they are total fabrications. They just make stuff up.
It is clear to most observers now that the media’s “bombshells” fail to detonate because they are total fabrications. They just make stuff up. Does anyone believe Mika Brzezinski when she says that Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway secretly hates Trump? “This is a woman . . . who came on our show during the campaign and would shill for Trump in extensive fashion. And then she would get off the air, the camera would be turned off, the microphone would be taken off and she would say, ‘Blech, I need to take a shower,’ because she disliked her candidate so much.” I guess this is the next step in the “sources say” wheeze. Invite a candidate’s spokesman onto your TV show and then claim she said all sorts of untoward things when the cameras were off. What are the ethics of that? And what will the fallout be? Would you agree to be interviewed by someone who violated basic journalistic etiquette so brazenly?
But as the media continue their Mexican-jumping-bean hysteria, Donald Trump is nominating justices and federal judges, rolling back business-blighting regulation, outlining an ambitious tax cut, working to unmake Obamacare, bringing the fight to ISIS, enforcing the country’s immigration laws, etc., etc.
We haven’t got everything we want, but when has that ever happened in this sublunary world? Before the election, plenty of conservatives I know said “If Trump wins, his administration will ipso facto be a success because Hillary Clinton, the most corrupt candidate in history, will not be president.” There’s a lot to that, I think.
But then came Neil Gorsuch. “The main reason to hope Donald Trump wins is to the save the Supreme Court from the Left.” Well, that happened, too.
Then there are the scores of federal judges. “The reason to hope that Hillary does not become president is to save the country from a further corruption of the judiciary.” Check.
Donald Trump has already delivered on many of his campaign promises. There will be more to come. There will also be disappointments. Ronald Reagan came to town promising to shrink the size of government, cut taxes, and battle the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union. He managed numbers two and three, but had to take a pass on number one. Most observers, even many Democrats, now judge the Reagan presidency a conspicuous success. That’s what the beneficent wisdom of hindsight can accomplish.
Will we look back with similar feelings about the Trump era? It will all turn, I think, on the issue of economic growth. As I’ve had occasion to observe in this space before, if he manages the magic number of three percent growth, it will be sunlit uplands as far as the eye can see, especially if that rising tide lifts the dinghies of the blue-collar class.
“If” is one of those treacherous words, I know, but I think that there are plenty of reasons for confidence. And at that point the great media hysteria of 2017 will seem not only hysterical, not only sad, but also disfiguringly repellent.