Believe it or not, we did get a "Crossroads" podcast recorded late this week, even as I keep fighting a sick-unto-death virus that I obtained on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. at midweek. I've been sleeping, oh, about 16 hours a day.
Yes, I can follow Twitter some while laying on my back with my glasses perched on my nose. What I have been reading has only made me more and more furious.
Right, back to the podcast. Please click here to tune that in. You will probably be able to hear that I am under the weather in the recording. You will also hear that, for some strange reason (I blame fury and delirium), that I kept putting an "i" sound in the last name of Donald Trump's media-bating pro Stephen K. Bannon -- as in "Bannion." Mea culpa.
The podcast focuses on the question of whether many elite journalists have reached the point that they simply not willing to listen to what Trump is saying (yes, it's often incoherent) or even to the factual details in the documents spelling out some of this actions. At the same time, we recorded as the annual March For Life was unfolding and it was clear that some media outlets had poured on the coverage (think The Washington Post), while others had done next to nothing with live work.
So, is the media listening? Do some elite journalists want to listen? Or, to use the Bannon phrase adopted (see video up top) by Trump, are The New York Times and other powerhouse news organizations now functioning as the clearly non-loyal opposition (after eight years of near worship for the previous president)?
Let's back up and look at two things one more time. First, what did Bannon tell the Times, once again?
“I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
I do wonder what the word "here" means in that quote, as in "the media here is the opposition party." Is that D.C.? The Acela zone?
But where did Bannon get this idea that the Times, in particular, would fill that oppositional role so openly?
Part of the missing DNA in this argument is almost certainly found in the highly unusual A1 -- yes, front page -- editorial that the Times ran on August 7 with this headline: "Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism." In this emotional plea to the public, author Jim Rutenberg opens with this:
If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?
Because if you believe all of those things, you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career. If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional.
Interesting word choice there -- "oppositional." Sounds familiar.
But there was more:
... Let’s face it: Balance has been on vacation since Mr. Trump stepped onto his golden Trump Tower escalator last year to announce his candidacy. For the primaries and caucuses, the imbalance played to his advantage, captured by the killer statistic of the season: His nearly $2 billion in free media was more than six times as much as that of his closest Republican rival.
Now that he is the Republican nominee for president, the imbalance is cutting against him. Journalists and commentators are analyzing his policy pronouncements and temperament with an eye toward what it would all look like in the Oval Office -- something so many of them viewed as an impossibility for so long.
Read that whole article, please. It's a historical moment in American journalism, yet another funeral dirge for the American model of the press.
Now, I understand that Trump is clearly a target-rich environment, an egotist who keeps making promises and writing political checks that only a superman could keep. At the same time (think meeting with union leaders and several other actions) there are signs that Twitter Trump and Team Trump may be different things, from time to time. Who is in charge of pouring water on this man every now and then?
From my perspective, the question is whether it helps the situation for journalists to mangle quotes and ignore the variety of voices who are critical of Trump, but are also trying to understand the ways in which he is upsetting the GOP and Democrat apple carts and why it is working for so many Americans. They are trying to understand why Trump is president.
The bottom line: Dear journalists, please do not prove Bannon right. It will not help America for you to do so. Find some smart Trump critics on the right and the left and do the hard work of listening and thinking.
Now, back to bed. My head is spinning.