Archive

January 25th, 2017

After Trump, the media must embrace a new mission

    It is no exaggeration to say that a bizarre new phase in human history begins on Jan. 20 as Donald J. Trump becomes the world's most powerful man. All bets, to put it mildly, are off.

    Those entrusted to report on and analyze the contemporary world are especially befuddled. One can condemn Trump's open loathing for the mainstream media. But there's no avoiding the fact that he and other impresarios of social media have managed to make their version of reality prevail precisely because public trust in news-gatherers and pundits is at an all-time low.

    Nor do the failures of the traditional media exist only on Trump's hyperactive Twitter feed. As far back as 2012, I wrote here that the contradictions between "democratic politics, which respect the opinions of the majority, and the imperatives of global capitalism, which is geared toward the creation of private wealth," were becoming intolerable. Yet I, too, was among the commentators who failed to gauge the depth and intensity of the anger that was building up over growing inequality of income and opportunity.

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January 24th

Why millions gathered to say 'no' to Trump

    Within 48 hours, we learned that Donald John Trump intends to govern as the same fiercely angry man who shook the country in 2016. He confirmed that his administration intends to show no regard for norms -- or facts.

    His opposition has drawn the obvious conclusion. Its only options are to contain the damage Trump can do, to restrain him in his use of power, and, eventually, to defeat him.

     In his inaugural address, Trump offered no outreach to his adversaries with a take-no-prisoners message. They heard it, and were ready to return the favor. Saturday's Women's March on Washington and its counterparts in cities and towns across the country drew millions who signaled plainly that they would not be cowed into silence or demobilized into a sullen indifference.

    There was a jubilance in the Washington gathering because so many were grateful to each other for showing up in such large numbers. Those who had spent January 20th in gloom spent January 21st experiencing a sense of relief: In the face of the political troubles to come, they would have allies and friends ready to act.

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We Are Dissidents; We Are Legion

    On Friday, Donald Trump, the embodiment, instrument and provocateur of American animus, was installed — and I use that word with purpose and displeasure — as America’s 45th president. He delivered a particularly inauspicious speech to a seemingly sparse crowd, presenting a vision for America that would best be described as aggressive atavism, a retrograde positioning of policy that threatens to drag the country back to a time of division and fear and hostility, when some stand in the light by casting others into darkness.

    The speech was replete with phrases never before uttered in an Inaugural Address. Bleed, carnage, depletion and disrepair. Ripped, rusted and stolen. Tombstones, trapped and windswept. Urban, sad and Islamic. It felt at times as though he were reading aloud from a post-apocalyptic movie script.

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Trump's inaugural: New tone, same goals

    New President Donald Trump adopted a generally more civil and conciliatory tone in his inaugural address while doubling down on his campaign allegation that Washington politicians were out for themselves, a situation he said was going the change fast.

    For too long, a small group in our nation's Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost," Trump said. "Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth."

    "Politicians prospered," he went on. "But the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. ... And while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land."

    He assured them: "The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now."

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Traditional way of reporting on a president is dead. And Trump's press secretary killed it.

    The presidency is not a reality show, but President Donald Trump on his first full day in office made clear that he's still obsessed with being what he once proudly called "a ratings machine."

    He cares enough about it to send his press secretary, Sean Spicer, out to brazenly lie to the media in his first official briefing.

    "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration - period - both in person and around the globe," Spicer said. And he added a scolding about widespread reports that differ from his evidence-free assessment: "These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong."

    Crowd size experts estimate Trump's audience at far fewer than the million or more that Trump is claiming, and at far less than the size of the following day's women's march, which the new president has said little about. And side-by-side photographs showed the contrast between the comparatively thin gathering for Trump's inauguration and the record-setting one in 2009 for former president Barack Obama's first.

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Things Can Only Get Worse

    If America had a parliamentary system, Donald Trump — who spent his first full day in office having a temper tantrum, railing against accurate reports of small crowds at his inauguration — would already be facing a vote of no confidence. But we don’t; somehow we’re going to have to survive four years of this.

    And how is he going to react to disappointing numbers about things that actually matter?

    In his lurid, ghastly Inaugural Address, Trump portrayed a nation in dire straits — “American carnage.” The real America looks nothing like that; it has plenty of problems, but things could be worse. In fact, it’s likely that they will indeed get worse. How will a man who evidently can’t handle even the smallest blow to his ego deal with it?

    Let’s talk about the predictable bad news.

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Sean Spicer's Worst Week in Washington

    On Saturday night, White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivered his first press conference in the James S. Brady press briefing room at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Except that he used the occasion to yell at the press and take no questions from them.

    It was the most inauspicious of beginnings to what was already a deeply fraught relationship between the administration of Donald Trump and the journalists assigned to cover him. And it was a telling sign of just how much Spicer -- and the rest of the White House staff -- will be required to publicly address perceived grudges and slights against the sitting president of the United States.

    "Some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting," Spicer insisted at the start of the briefing, citing a pool report that said a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the White House. (The pool report was corrected relatively quickly; the reporter in question -- Time's Zeke Miller -- explained that a Secret Service officer had obstructed his view of the bust in the Oval Office.)

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Kellyanne Conway says Donald Trump's team has 'alternative facts,' which pretty much says it all

    If there was one Sunday-morning talk show exchange that describes the new reality for the political media - and for the truth - during the President Donald Trump era, this was it.

    It was a discussion about White House press secretary Sean Spicer, on his first full day in that job, having taken to the podium and made easily disproved claims about the size of Trump's inauguration crowd.

    "Why put him out there for the very first time, in front of that podium, to utter a provable falsehood?" "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd asked Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president. "It's a small thing, but the first time he confronts the public, it's a falsehood?"

    After some tense back and forth, Conway offered this:

    "Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. You're saying it's a falsehood, and they're giving - our press secretary, Sean Spicer, gave alternative facts to that. But the point really is -"

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Don't expect the Oval Office to change Trump

    The hope of the many people who harbor reservations about Donald Trump is that the presidency will change him. That's also what his hard-core supporters fear.

    Trump's inaugural address showed why those hopes and fears won't materialize. It was harsh, nationalistic, lacking in civility or generosity, reflecting his dark view of politics. It had some of the same themes that Ronald Reagan offered 36 years earlier, but with none of the uplift that the 40th president radiated.

    Presidents don't grow to become new people. They can rise to occasions, alter perspectives, turn to different advisers for counsel. But the Oval Office hasn't changed the basic compass or persona of any modern president.

    "The character of the president remains the same as it was before he was president," said Shirley Anne Warshaw, a political science professor at Gettysburg College. "The values, personalities and character do not change. What changes is the awesome responsibilities they will face. And how they will handle that, we don't know."

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8 politicians who will make you feel good about politics

    The first 96 hours of President Donald Trump's tenure have been filled with claims, counter-claims, accusations of bias, outright falsehoods and lots of other things that make people hate politics, politicians and everything about Washington.

    It's enough even for me - a political junkie through and through - to wonder what we are even doing out here. It all feels terrible, unwatchable, nauseating.

    But not all of politics - or all politicians - operates like this. There are lots of politicians doing it - by and large - right, working to represent their constituents and views with a modicum of humility and humor, not to mention a commitment to finding solutions, not just calling out problems.

    It does the heart good to read about these folks. So here are a few politicians who should make you believe, again, in public service - even in these tempestuous times.

 

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