Last week the editors of the Arizona Republic engaged in a round-table discussion of the question, Is the media to blame for Trump? (“Donald Trump gets more press coverage than other candidates. Our editorial board debates whether that is a problem.” We report, you decide.)
Yada, yada, yada . . . Donald Trump answered that question in the affirmative last week. Trump is laughing in the face of the media, and mocking them for how easily he can manipulate them and their celebrity-based news coverage. Bloomberg Politics reported Trump Says ‘No Reason’ to Raise $1 Billion for Campaign:
Trump, who has held just two major fundraising events since agreeing three weeks ago to help the party raise cash, said he would rely instead more on his own star power as a former reality-TV personality to earn free media, and has no specific goals for how much money his campaign needs.
“There’s no reason to raise that,” Trump said about raising $1 billion. “I just don’t think I need nearly as much money as other people need because I get so much publicity. I get so many invitations to be on television. I get so many interviews, if I want them.”
Nowhere is Trump’s easy manipulation of the feckless news media more self-evident than on Twitter, where this Twitter troll lives. The lazy media reports his every tweet as if tweets are news, rather than do actual interviews and Q & A of the candidate. (I am convinced that Twitter is the death of political journalism).
On Sunday, following the worst mass shooting in US history: 50 slain at gay nightclub in Orlando, this Twitter troll went on the attack. Clinton, Trump adjust politicking following Florida shooting:
[Trump] spent the day congratulating himself apparently for predicting more attacks inside the U.S. On Twitter, he renewed talk of his plan to ban Muslims from the U.S. for an indeterminate time. And he went after President Barack Obama.
As Obama stepped to the podium in Washington to address the nation early Sunday afternoon, Trump tweeted:
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[Trump] noted that he “said this was going to happen” and repeated his call for Obama to resign for refusing to use the words “radical Islam.” Clinton, Trump added, should drop out of the presidential race for the same reason.
“Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”
Later in the day Trump tweeted:
“Horrific incident in FL. Praying for all the victims & their families. When will this stop? When will we get tough, smart & vigilant?”
An hour later, he followed up with some self-praise: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”
This morning Trump went to his old stomping grounds at FAUX News, where this poster boy of Obama “birtherism” got his political start, and once again insinuated that President Obama is a “secret Muslim” who identifies with the terrorists and does not want to keep America safe (this has been standard fare on FAUX News for years). Donald Trump suggests maybe President Obama doesn’t really *want* to stop terrorism (wink wink):
Donald Trump’s reaction to terrorist attacks has fallen into a predictable pattern: Blame President Obama’s policies and Obama personally, hint at bigger attacks to come and take credit for having predicted the inevitable.
Interviewed on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends,” Trump appeared to imply at two different points that Obama was failing to address the threat of terrorism because maybe he didn’t want to. Host Steve Doocy asked Trump why the presumptive Republican nominee had suggested on Twitter that Obama should resign. (Our emphasis added in bold.)
DOOCY: So, Mr. Trump, the president called for more gun controls. He also said it was terror and he said it was a hate crime — but he did not say that it was Islamic terrorism. And for that reason, you say he should quit.
TRUMP: He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands — it’s one or the other, and either one is unacceptable.
Later in the program, Trump went further.
TRUMP: I’ve been right about a lot of things. I don’t want congratulations. What I want them to do is be tough and vigilant, our government. Look guys, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart or has something else in mind. And the something else in mind — people can’t believe it. People cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words radical Islamic terrorism. There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.
Again, emphasis added. “There’s something going on.”
On the “Today” show, host Savannah Guthrie pressed Trump on those comments.
GUTHRIE: Just this morning on a different network you said about the president he doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands. What do you mean by that?
TRUMP: Well there are a lot of people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it. A lot of people think maybe he doesn’t want to know about it. I happen to think that he just doesn’t know what he’s doing. But there are many people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it. He doesn’t want to see what’s really happening.
GUTHRIE: Why would that be?
TRUMP: And that could be. Because Savannah, Savannah, why he isn’t addressing the issue? He’s not addressing the issue. He’s not calling it what it is. This is radical Islamic terrorism. This isn’t fighting Germany, this isn’t fighting Japan, where they wear uniforms.
An honest answer to Guthrie’s second question from Trump, of course, would be that perhaps maybe Obama is a Muslim.
Trump regularly implies that there’s an undercurrent of suspicion or conspiracy to decisions being made by his political opponents.
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[Trump’s] also regularly suggested that there’s more to Obama in particular than meets the eye. Trump’s aborted 2012 presidential campaign was centered on raising questions about Obama’s place of birth. In 2011, Trump made the link between Obama’s purported “foreignness” and his religious affiliations explicit. That year, he told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly that perhaps Obama “doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know.”
That suspicion — or the appearance of that suspicion — is part of Trump’s appeal to a lot of his supporters. A slew of polls have suggested that Trump supporters are more likely than other Americans to think that perhaps Obama is a Muslim. Two-thirds of people who held a favorable view of Trump in a May Public Policy Polling survey said they thought that Obama is a Muslim; 59 percent thought that Obama was born outside the United States. In a September 2015 CNN-ORC poll, 45 percent of conservatives said they thought Obama was Muslim — compared to 29 percent of Americans overall [i.e., FAUX Nation.]
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There are two particularly interesting things about Trump’s comments on Monday. The first is that they’re an unsubtle boost to the parts of his base, which many mainstream Republicans find disconcerting. That perceived foreignness overlaps with the racial discomfort that Trump has been able to leverage to his political benefit — but which runs contrary to the direction his party was hoping to go. The second is that this is not the sort of argument that is likely to help Trump expand that base of support in a general election. Trump’s winking comments are directed at people who largely already support him, and it’s not clear that others will react positively. A plurality of respondents in both the CNN and PPP polls said that Obama was a Christian; for many, these comments are likely to reinforce the belief that Trump is unserious, biased or both.
Greg Sargent of the Washington Post adds, Trump just faced his first big leadership test. He failed miserably.
[Trump’s] response to the Orlando shooting that claimed 50 lives — the deadliest mass shooting in American history, simultaneously an act of terror and a hate crime — was to unleash a blizzard of public statements congratulating himself for his own perspicacity in gauging the true nature of the terror threat.
“Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism,” Trump tweeted, though he modestly added that “I don’t want congrats.” Trump also tweeted, “I called it,” and reiterated his support for a ban on Muslims. And Trump called on Obama to “resign in disgrace” because he won’t use the words “radical Islamic terrorism.”
This morning on Fox News, Trump went even further, seeming to insinuate that President Obama is somehow tacitly rooting for terrorist attacks on Americans. He also seemed to try to incite hatred towards Muslims in America.
It’s true that talking about terrorism helped Trump among GOP primary voters. But he appears to be incapable of even contemplating the possibility that a general election audience might take a dimmer view of this sort of response.
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As it was, Trump’s self-congratulatory tweets yesterday had already attracted scalding criticism, even from Republicans. As NBC News reports, “party operatives had hoped Trump would remain silent on the attacks so as not to politicize the tragedy,” but they were “likely disappointed.” Meanwhile, some news reports were already taking note of the vast differences in the ways that Trump and Clinton responded to the event. As the Post overview reports, Trump responded with “bombast,” while Clinton expressed sympathy with the victims, directly addressed the issues raised by the event, and called for a redoubled focus on defeating terror threats.
Today this contrast only deepened. As Steve Benen notes, Trump’s latest insinuations about Obama’s intentions towards America may well put pressure on other Republicans to clarify whether they agree with their party’s standard bearer on this matter. Meanwhile, Clinton went on NBC’s Today Show and rejected Trump’s semantic games over whether we should use the phrase “radical Islam.” Instead, she blasted Trump’s “demagoguery,” reiterated that she will not “declare war on an entire religion,” and said Trump’s rhetoric “plays into ISIS’s hands.”
It is routinely suggested that the specter of terrorism helps Trump politically. But if anything, Trump’s response to this horrific event could end up raising further doubts about his temperamental fitness for the presidency. As it is, the polling is mixed on whether Trump holds the advantage on these issues: while some surveys show Trump favored on the narrow question of terrorism, others show Clinton favored on foreign policy and on who would be a better commander in chief. Meanwhile, a Pew poll in February found that by 50-40, Americans say the next president should take care not to implicate all of Islam when talking about terrorism. So there is no particular reason to assume at the outset that the general electorate will respond well to Trump’s efforts to whip up xenophobia about American Muslims.
Indeed, if anything, Trump’s response calls to mind Mitt Romney’s handling of the Benghazi attacks in 2012. As you may recall, barely hours after the attacks, Romney rushed to blame Obama for allegedly making an “apology for American values,” insinuating vaguely that the president sympathized with anti-American interests throughout the Muslim world. That unleashed a torrent of criticism of Romney’s temperament and leadership abilities amid a crisis.
General presidential elections are brutally difficult: Without warning, they serve up moments that pose severe tests to the character and temperament of those vying for the Oval Office, and split-second decisions about how to respond to them end up creating lasting impressions that can prove unshakable. In retrospect, we may look back at Trump’s response to the Orlando shooting as his very own Romney/Benghazi moment — only far worse.
That will be up to a feckless news media that is to blame for Trump being willing to take him down for being the dangerous demagogue that he is.
Someone asked me the other day when the media was going to have its “Edward R. Murrow Moment, ” referring to when the legendary newsman used his “See it Now” program to destroy red-baiter Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Edward R. Murrow: “A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. It marked the beginning of the end of McCarthyism.
I explained that there is literally no one in the news media today who has the influence, respect and trust of the public that Edward R. Murrow (and Walter Cronkite) enjoyed at that time. Today’s television broadcasters are all “infotainment stars” whose networks would never allow them to do what Edward R. Murrow did, because the networks are driven by viewer numbers, and covering reality TV show actors like Donald Trump as entertainment news is good for their bottom line.
The media long ago abandoned its role as the “watchdog of democracy,” and is purely driven by corporate profits.