We are now ten months into this presidency and I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern in the chaotic 24-hour news cycle:
- President Trump says something controversial.
- It sparks an uproar with his political adversaries.
- People somehow involved in the controversy vocally rebuke Trump.
- Trump escalates the feud.
- Said people become the media’s darling.
- They and the media get carried away with their argument so much so that Trump looks favorable, even when he was wrong to begin with.
It’s honestly the worst remake of Groundhog Day ever.
Let’s recap Trump’s latest controversy. He was called out for not responding sooner to the four soldiers that died in Niger. He deflected by falsely claiming President Obama and other predecessors “didn’t make calls” to grieving families. Trump made matters worse when he dragged his chief of staff Gen. John Kelly into this when he said that Obama never called him after his son died in combat. Then when making a condolence call to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), a family friend who was listening in on the conversation, alleged that Trump “cold-heartedly” said about the deceased soldier, “he knew what he signed up for.” Trump fought back insisting she was wrong. Kelly then held a presser defending his boss and went after the congresswoman for politicizing the condolence call, calling her an “empty barrel,” and mischaracterized the remarks she said back in 2015 at a dedication of an FBI building in Miami. And now Kelly is taking heat from both her and the media, being accused of lying, smearing, and even racism.
You with me?
So now let’s analyze how all of this fits in with the news cycle pattern to which I earlier referred.
Right at the top, Trump was wrong on multiple fronts. First, he and/or the White House should have had a quicker response to the deadly ambush that took place in Niger. They waited almost two weeks before acknowledging it (and to be fair, the media mostly avoided it too). Secondly, instead of owning up to the mistake of not addressing the attack for so long, Trump shamelessly politicized it by throwing Obama under the bus and without good reason.
At this point, Trump is losing the narrative, especially since he was condemned by both sides. But it’s always in the fallout of the controversy where his political adversaries fumble.
Let’s get to the part where Wilson comes into play.
She tells the press what he allegedly said and the media eats it up without really acknowledging her well-documented animosity towards the president (she boycotted his inauguration and boarded the impeachment train early on). Even if the quote she said was true, it’s reasonable to show some skepticism of what she said.
But just like every anti-Trump warrior, she overplayed her hand. Wilson referred to herself as a “rock star” for all the media attention she was getting and not only called Kelly’s “empty barrel” remark racist (it wasn’t), she goes out and says the White House is “full of white supremacists.” Any sort of credibility she had on this issue (if you thought she had any to begin with) is now gone because she got carried away with this over-the-top rhetoric.
We’ve seen this time and time again. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz appeared to have ground to stand on at the beginning for Trump’s seemingly poor response to Puerto Rico, but she undercut her seriousness with her goofy custom anti-Trump t-shirts she kept wearing in the middle of a disaster zone. Trump was wrong when he called the NFL players who kneeled during the national anthem as “sons of b*tches,” but when hundreds of more players began kneeling simply to protest Trump instead of police brutality, that backfired big time and handed Trump a culture war victory since the vast majority of the American people side with the president on the issue. This happened during the election too. From Khizr Khan to Alicia Machado, they all start off as sympathetic individuals but quickly fall into the trap of being political operatives, which often make them look bad and oppositely makes Trump look sympathetic.
While these people often cause their own defeats, the media accelerates them with their non-stop coverage of these ridiculous episodes.
Just look at how they’ve been covering this condolence call episode. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough claimed that Trump has “no shred of humanity.” Rachel Maddow called him a “moral disgrace.” Nicole Wallace melodramatically “apologized” on behalf of Trump’s behavior. CNN’s counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd said Trump has the “empathy of a cockroach.” Richard Painter said he has “no understanding of human emotion.”
And if you think that’s bad, you should hear their response to Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders when she defended Kelly by saying it’s “highly inappropriate” to debate a four-star general.
CNN’s Jake Tapper called it “the most shocking thing” he has ever heard from that podium. Nia-Malika Henderson called it “dangerous.” Wolf Blitzer demanded her to apologize for her remarks. Erin Burnett accused the White House of thinking that America was a “military dictatorship.” And MSNBC host Ari Melber passionately told Kelly that he “will be debated and questioned” as if those days were actually over. Yes, Sanders’ remarks were incredibly stupid and she later walked them back, but you’d have to be incredibly stupid to sincerely believe it was an actual sign of fascism in America.
Arguably the most shameful response from the media this week goes to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell and Joy Reid, who both pursued the preposterous narrative that Kelly is racist, with O’Donnell insisting that the term “empty barrel” is a racial slur (again, it isn’t) and Reid implying his childhood in the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Boston not only makes him anti-black but also anti-woman.
Over and over and over again, the media acts like a street-corner junkie who’s in need of a fix in the form of these petty and often inconsequential news stories. To them, the sky is falling constantly and the apocalypse is here. God forbid they take a deep breath and realize most Americans don’t obsess over Trump’s latest feuds like they do. What’s so funny is that the way they’re acting now is the exact way they acted during the election, which is partly why we have Trump in the Oval Office today. And if they keep it up, they’ll be stuck with him through 2024.
I expressed earlier this week how shameful this news story was and still is and virtually no one involved has clean hands. Wilson doesn’t for clearly being an opportunist. Kelly doesn’t for at best misspeaking about Wilson or at worst deceiving the country about her. The media doesn’t because its objectivity was buried six feet under years ago. And certainly Trump doesn’t for waiting so long to address the Niger attack and for needlessly throwing a political hand grenade on a week that could’ve been focused on things like tax reform.
But despite all of that, Trump consistently prevails because as foolish or wrong as he often is, those who believe they have the moral high ground manage to stoop to his level. And until they can refrain from doing that, we’ll have to get used to this Groundhog Day.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.