You would think that a newly elected U.S. president who needs all the help he can get to achieve his objectives would think deeply about what he was going to say before he actually said it. Most incoming presidents would do just that; except this president, Donald J. Trump.
Trump engaged in a running feud with this country’s national media throughout his campaign for the presidency and he continues to do so after being elected. The U.S. press has given him thousands of hours of media time at no cost which most certainly helped him to get elected.
You would think that he would be at least somewhat grateful for what all these TV, radio and newspaper organizations did for him and that he would try to maintain a cordial relationship with them. But not so with Mr. Trump who is, instead, “biting the hand that fed him.” Failing to think about the consequences that might follow, he decided to lash out and attack the members of the media by referring to them as “the “most dishonest human beings on earth.”
He could have called certain of its members dishonest journalists but, to lump them together as being the “most dishonest human beings”, is really going over the top. Then again, we have to remember that this is the Donald Trump who plays by his own rules, a man that, quite apparently, is incapable of controlling his emotions. And by the way, who gave him the right to judge the character and ethics of others?
He not only said that they were the most dishonest human beings but he also added that they “would pay a price” for their actions and behavior. Well, we will see who pays the highest price; I wonder if Trump knows the meaning of the word payback because that is what he is going to receive from this ultra-powerful media.
Shortly after Trump made that demeaning statement Douglas Brinkley, the noted historian, in a CNN interview, referred to Trump as “unhinged.”
Does the new president really want to go to war against CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, the NY Times, the Washington Post and news organizations across this country, all of whom can call on their cadre of intelligence experts to dig into his past? Is he so arrogant and clueless that he doesn’t fathom the tremendous power that the media possesses and the massive damage that it can inflict on his presidency?
A rational-minded, newly-elected president would know that he needs to have the media on his side as he implements his agenda. When on his side they will try to be objective in their views of what he intends to do and give him a lot of leeway. Why in the world go after them to such a degree? With that kind of antagonistic attitude, Trump is going to find out that there won’t be the usual honeymoon with the Washington press.
Whether we like the media or not it is the journalistic community that informs the American people of what is going on in this country and this government. Trump can use his twitter account all he wants but how many Americans are going to tune into his daily diatribes? There’s an old saying that fits this scenario, “they’ can “make you or break you.”
Down through this country’s history, there have been relationships between the media which have been, for the most part, cordial and constructive; and there have been those that were antagonistic and confrontational. In the case of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, during the very trying times of World War II, he needed the media’s strong support to take his message to the people so that they would support him in the actions he intended to take.
Because Roosevelt showed respect for the media and established a good working relationship with it, the media responded positively and did a great deal to promote his agenda and rally the American people to support him. Throughout his long political career, Roosevelt was portrayed to the public in a mostly positive light,
Another such positive relationship existed between the media and President John F. Kennedy, the very charismatic president who knew how to use the press to advance his governmental initiatives. The media at that time knew about some of Kennedy’s extramarital affairs and his alleged connections to Sam Giancana, head of the Chicago crime syndicate. However, because of the good relationship that they had with him, they reported little to nothing about his private life.
That was not the case with the media and President Nixon, a relationship which was more than a bit tenuous after the press became aware of what he was all about; that’s why he earned the nickname of “Tricky Dick.” That very testy relationship came to an abrupt end when ace reporters Woodward and Bernstein of the Washington Post, together with some of their journalistic colleagues, took President Nixon down for the count as a result of the Watergate scandal.
The American media has its faults, that’s for sure. There are some news organizations that are second-rate, with reporters and hosts that all too often engage in less than objective and factual reporting, and some that are sleazy; but the majority of them act in an ethical manner. When we think about who bends the truth to a greater extent, Trump or the press, reaching a conclusion is easy.
The various elements of the American media strongly compete against each other to capture the top ratings so they are not one big happy family. But when they are subjected to Trump’s open hostility and the venom he spews against them as a group, they will not hesitate to band together to go after him hammer and tong. And when they do he might just wish that he had remained as the head of his real estate empire.
Sure we should give Trump a chance as he implements his policies but he needs to understand that he must do it in a way that is respectful of others around him. He needs to realize that he must act more presidential, stop the insults and name calling, and the attacks on anyone who dares to question him in any way.
If he does wake up and realizes that he can’t be effective and get things down by bullying and intimidating others, and he learns to be much more diplomatic, there’s a good chance that the media will get behind him, at least to a reasonable extent, and help him in various ways to make his presidency successful. If he doesn’t and continues to act like some kind of intimidator then he will be in for 4 years of political hell.
The more Trump engages in this war against the media the deeper its members are going to dig into his past and try to find the skeletons that are buried in his closet. Sooner or later some reporter or news organization is going to find a way to get their hands on his tax returns and then, depending on what they find, it could cripple his presidency.
Is Trump going to continue to pursue this war on the national media; might he even escalate it? What should he do? Well, all he needs to do is to think about the past and how the press aided Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy to effectively connect with the American people. And then also remember how this media used its massive power to destroy the presidency of Richard Nixon.