Democrats and the Press vs. Collegiality

By | 2018-11-09T22:04:49+00:00 November 8th, 2018|
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The world is divided into two classes of people: those who think that CNN’s Jim Acosta is “rude” and a “terrible person” and Jim Acosta.

Supporting the former opinion are episodes like Wednesday’s press conference at the White House at which Acosta once again played his version of charades, acting out the word “obnoxious.” He does it well, even if the routine has become tiresome through ceaseless repetition. It wasn’t all tedium, however, since Acosta this time earned himself a suspension of his White House press credentials by pushing away a female staffer who endeavored to take the microphone away from him after the president attempted to move on to another reporter. Your time was up, Jim. You should have sat down and behaved yourself.

I should explain that in the latter group, small but vocal, I include not just the excitable Jim Acosta himself but also that moist band of preening scribes who believe that by being rude and editorializing at press conferences they are somehow reporting the news. Let’s call that whole group “Jim Acosta” in scare quotes.

To be frank, I would have preferred that the Republicans had held the House on Tuesday. But the president was right: Tuesday was a great victory, not for Republicans, exactly, but for Donald Trump and his robust vision of a vibrant, free, and prosperous America. This election was a referendum on the “principled realism” that the president has articulated as the pivot of his approach to both foreign and domestic policy.

As the president observed, Tuesday’s vote, with a net gain in the Senate of three or four seats (as I write, the good people of Arizona are still doing their sums) was the largest Senate gain in a first midterm election since 1962. The losses in the House—currently 28—were, by historical standards, very modest, giving the Democrats only a slim majority of five. This is what that unhappy professional NeverTrumper Gabe Schoenfeld described as a “drubbing.” I am thinking of getting Gabe an English dictionary for his birthday.

Donald Trump famously likes making “deals.” In the world of diplomacy, the word “negotiation” is preferred, not least because it has five syllables rather than just one.

What it boils down to is this: Donald Trump likes agreeing with all parties to an issue on arrangements that will benefit everyone. Hence his cheeriness about the fact that the Democrats narrowly took the House on Tuesday. (His pleasure depended on both elements, the victory and its narrowness.) There are a lot of issues that the country faces which require bipartisan participation to solve. Serious infrastructure problems, for example, as well as health care, immigration, and taxes.

But here’s the thing. A democratic republic works best when every legitimate interest has a place at the table. “Collegiality” should be the name of the game. The president offered a large olive branch at his press conference, slathering praise on Nancy Pelosi, for example (“hardworking,” “effective,” “loves our country”). The press reacted with reflexive hostility: “Do you regret some of the things you said during the campaign?” “Do you regret the ad that you did that was branded as racist ad and even Fox News wouldn’t air it?” Etc.

Meanwhile, incoming House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said that he was planning to go “all-in” on pushing the Russian collusion investigation (remember that?) and impeaching Brett Kavanaugh for perjury.

Good luck with all that, Jerry.

What’s just happened with the midterm elections is that the Democrats (and NeverTrump Republicans) have been pushed from the sodden, marshy ground over which they have been driven for the last couple of years onto a tiny spit of dry land. Donald Trump has offered them a bridge to sunlit, upland meadows. He is in a very strong position now. His first 21 months have been extraordinarily successful. The economy is on fire. Unemployment is at historic lows. Consumer confidence is high. The litany of success is long and impressive.

Meanwhile, with perhaps 53 or 54 seats in the Senate, the president is in a position to have his judicial and other nominations approved without unnecessary angst. With Jeff “I recuse myself” Sessions out as attorney general, more rational oversight of Robert Mueller’s seemingly interminable investigation is likely to materialize. It will be interesting to see whether people like John Brennan, the Guss-Hall-voting, Trump-hating former head of the CIA, and James Comey, the self-righteous, Trump-hating former head of the FBI, are called to account for their lies and leaking of classified information.

Here’s what I think will happen. There will continue to be some embarrassing media folks like Jim Acosta who mistake rudeness and incivility for the pursuit of truth, just as there will be a few politicians like Jerrold Nadler who want to upend the government. But if Nadler really tries to frame articles of impeachment against Justice Kavanaugh, you should listen to the cringe-making sounds of silence that greet the effort. The idea that Kavanaugh, the most monstrously abused Supreme Court nominee in history, committed perjury during his testimony is grotesque. And the idea that Nadler could get any meaningful support for the effort is absurd.

There is good reason to suspect that the hideous treatment of Kavanaugh, his family, and his friends during the show trial that was his confirmation hearing turned the public decisively against the Democrats. It’s a fun fact that every single Democrat Senator who voted against Kavanaugh and who was up for election lost. All of them. Joe Manchin, the sole Democrat who voted for Kavanaugh, won. There’s a moral there that Senators Spartacus Booker and Kamala Harris could profit from, though I hope they will not.

It is possible that the Democrats and their megaphones in the media will continue to be rude, minatory, and obstructionist. In that case, nothing much will get done in Congress and we will have a spectacle of snarling conflict ahead of us. The difference going forward is that Donald Trump is increasingly popular, has behind him a long list of accomplishments, and, more to the point, he has a generous margin of support in the Senate and an acting attorney general who is not mortally handicapped by his self-imposed rustication.

It is more likely, I think, that more sober heads will prevail. There is a lot that the Congress and the president can accomplish for the good of the country. It’s time to take our eyes off the distracting freak show on offer from people like Jim Acosta, Jerrold Nadler, and Maxine Waters and turn our attention to solving the nation’s problems. This is what Donald Trump has on offer. It’s what the vast majority of people in the country want, too. The returns from the midterms were barely tabulated before the histrionics from the Left seemed somehow more distant and less relevant to issues of the day. The president’s press conference Wednesday confirmed that reality. As that old Arab proverb put it, the dogs are barking but the caravan moves on.

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About the Author:

Roger Kimball
Roger Kimball is Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion and President and Publisher of Encounter Books. Mr. Kimball lectures widely and has appeared on national radio and television programs as well as the BBC. He is represented by Writers' Representatives, who can provide details about booking him. Mr. Kimball's latest book is The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press, 2012). He is also the author of The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee). Other titles by Mr. Kimball include The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America (Encounter) and Experiments Against Reality: The Fate of Culture in the Postmodern Age (Ivan R. Dee). Mr. Kimball is also the author ofTenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education (HarperCollins). A new edition of Tenured Radicals, revised and expanded, was published by Ivan R. Dee in 2008. Mr. Kimball is a frequent contributor to many publications here and in England, including The New Criterion, The Times Literary Supplement, Modern Painters, Literary Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Public Interest, Commentary, The Spectator, The New York Times Book Review, The Sunday Telegraph, The American Spectator, The Weekly Standard, National Review, and The National Interest.