In the disruptive era known as the Trump administration, a war has been launched. It cannot be considered anything less than this. Part of this is the fault of the previous administration. Part of it is the will of the masses who overwhelmingly elected the president. And a major part of it is finally having a president who punches back.
Critics look at the president and insist that he change his tactics, his strategy, and his methods. Supporters are so shocked by his ability to stand his ground, they grow breathless watching each day go by.
In only his first month in office it has become a literal blood sport. And I for one couldn’t be more pleased.
It is the president vs. the established media.
It is a battle as intense and as unrelenting as any president has ever faced in office. And perhaps for the first time in my life it is one where the media is both befuddled as well as seething with outrage at the resistance they face.
It is also one the media might very well be winning.
On Thursday of this past week I had occasion to be part of two dinners that evening. The first stop was a gathering of only six people. They ranged in age, socio-economic mobility, and all were well educated and highly skilled at what they do. A series of questions was put to everyone at the table. And to a person the answers given by nearly all except me were generalized summaries of what I have seen “reported” on some of the hot button issues of the day. Topic after topic, the answers were closely aligned to what one might read on the opinion page of the New York Times or Washington Post. As the conversation delved from the surface of several of the issues to the deeper facts to establish why their answers took the positions they did it became readily apparent that they in fact lacked a series of facts significant in scope to the matters.
My point is not to nit-pick my dinner companions that night but to rather point out, that to the degree that CNN, MSNBC, the broadcast networks, and several of the mainstream papers were able to project Trump, his policies, decisions, and actions in a certain light. Average news consumers that do not look much deeper than that reflected those positions.
Earlier that day I had been asked by Fox News to explain or defend Mr. Trump’s rationale in only selecting the Christian Broadcasting Network, and Townhall.com at his joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The broad stroke slant on the narrative of that matter by CNN’s Jim Acosta specifically was that the President was avoiding CNN and MSNBC out of “fear” in having to answer “real” journalists asking “tough” questions. Never mind the fact that Katie Pavlich of Townhall was the person who got the first question and leveled two fairly direct issues at both the President and the Prime Minister. And while CNN’s Acosta, and later Jake Tapper went into seeming editorial meltdown over Trump’s refusal to “play ball” no one seems to have noticed the previous eight years when a legitimate news operation like Townhall.com was disallowed a single question from the Obama White House. That same operation would regularly also freeze Fox News out of events, and on many occasions the President would attempt to isolate and marginalize Fox News in specific and repeated comments from the President himself. Yet for the totality of his time in office, Fox News never lost the top spot of the most watched, most accessed 24 hour news source in America.
Much of the smug elitism of the political left resides in established media. And why wouldn’t it? When 90-plus percent of members of the majority media class votes uniformly for one set of ideals and the party of those ideals are in power, there will be a comfort level with both the administration and with those who cover it that will often times look the other way on stories that should be investigated more deeply.
The press in America should be hostile to every administration, but in America they are only hostile to those they disagree with philosophically.
Mr. Trump is not only not of their mindset in this regard, but he thoroughly has open contempt for the cozy nature the press has conducted itself with in recent past.
And they have no idea what to do to counter him.
They plan to sabotage him in open press conferences, but he has demonstrated—as he did this week—that he is ready to combat them. If one only watched the network coverage of his pressers this week you might come away thinking he was flailing at every turn. But if you watched them unfiltered, you saw his readiness to command the stage, the issue, and the debate. Additionally the “established” media have also been relegated to an even smaller role in the day to day press operations. The administration has masterfully allowed entry and engagement into the press office by making six “Skype” seats available at many White House briefings now. This allows a reporter from New Hampshire to San Diego to now get a question before them, and that further dilutes the influence of the “bigs."
The president is also leveraging different tools in this war. He has some 46 million followers on social media. And he uses it. No one in the press has anywhere near that reach all on their own, so when or if they decide to print something he finds disagreeable—he responds. And they are not accustom to being disputed.
Lastly much like President Reagan, President Trump has a propensity to prefer talking to the American people. In the last several days he has hosted events at Boeing in South Carolina, and another in Melbourne, Florida that are not "official state business" events. Past presidents have held such events, but the tax-payers have always paid the price. So long as the speech given addressed some sort of public issue the White House at the time felt justified in the cost. President Trump is having his campaign operation pay for these events. Leaving the tax-payer free from the cost. And he is using such occasions to have a personal chat with American voters to keep all who are watching on track with what’s on his agenda.
The press despises the fact that in such transparency, (media not considered “establishment," social media reach beyond recognition, and willingness to go directly to the people) they are being rendered useless, and their editorial is beginning to reflect the acrimony of a jilted lover, instead of someone doing their actual job.
Make no mistake, if my dinner party in lower Manhattan was any measure, they are still wielding tremendous influence.
Yet it will be interesting to see how this plays out, because the one thing they never counted on is a White House that would punch back!