IS THE PRESS JUST TOTALLY DEAF, DUMB AND BLIND?
OR IS IT JUST ME?
Every once in a while, although rarely as it turns out, I get a sinking feeling that it’s me who’s paranoid and not all the gun-toting, KKK-loving, Rust Belt, Trump luvin’ Americans who thought that Obama was a commin’ around to seize their guns and ammo and, in a spare moment, maybe on a slow Sunday, enslave the country with Blue Helmeted United Nations troops shipped in from Canada. Or was it Texas? Never mind. Well, none of those dire Armageddon style, end of days predictions happened so in these cases it wasn’t me who was paranoid. It was them.
But now I’m beginning to think that maybe it is me. Or maybe I’m just losing my grip on reality, which, in case you hadn’t noticed, has gotten a hell of a lot more un-real and dicey since November 8th and is about to become even more sketchy and scary come January 20th. (On a more positive note: saw an article in the Washington Post this morning where 200 busses had applied for parking permits at abandoned RFK Stadium in D.C. for Inauguration Day. 1,200 busses had applied for same for the next day Women’s March.) I am referring to the latest “news” about our President Elect, one Donald J. Trump.
As soon as I saw the “unsubstantiated” memos that the ex-MI-6 British spy had written concerning Trump’s activities and relationships in Russia, I thought: “Aha! Finally it all makes sense!” I mean unsubstantiated or not, the 35 pages did put Trump’s love for Russia and Putin into a certain perspective and also hammered the last nail into the Russian hacking and meddling in our election coffin. Plus, if you consider the unsubstantiated reports that he got bailed out back in the late 90’s by a couple of Russian Mafioso’s and Paul Manafort’s sudden departure from the campaign (he is a key player in the MI-5 report) it all falls into place. On the other hand, all the Trumpettes and Kelleyanne Conways will be leaping up and down while pissing in their panties that it's all "UNSUBSTANTIATED." Which fact, of course, is something to consider since its true. Of course then you might want to consider the 4 year long Benghazi Congressional Investigation was also based on UNSUBSTANTIATED info (the stand down order, planes from Italy could have rescued the men, there were no attacks based on a video, Hillary Clinton slept through the attack, Hillary disapproved security upgrades for the consulate, etc.) and in fact not a single new piece of information was learned from four years and millions of dollars that was not included in the Accountability Review Board's report issued three months after the attack. So one can assume from recent evidence that official investigations are mounted based on unsubstantiated information.
Day before yesterday, Trump held his first press conference since July. (Remember all the Trump/Republican outrage over Hillary not having a press conference?) The press wasn’t pleased and he basically called Buzz Feed a lying garbage heap, called the reports fake news and dissed Jim Acosta of CNN since they had published the existence although not the substance of the reports before anyone else. There has been much gnashing of teeth, post-game quarterbacking and mea-culpas since then, none of which impresses me as anywhere near relevant to the Trump/Press situation.
The New York Times basically said that the press needed to come together and form a solid, impenetrable, united front against Trump’s bashing and antics and pondered how it was that the press was going to be able to hold President Trump to account since he tends not to play by any identifiable rules. Or at least any identifiable rules that civilized folks more or less follow in these situations. The Times did a whole lot of whining about how bad and evil Trump was to disrespect the press and a whole lot more handwringing over “how to approach” a Trump Presidency (as they put it) for the next four years. Here's the link to their piece. NYT
But I also found a piece by a Russian journalist, Alexey Kovalev, who has years of experience in press conferences featuring Russian President Vladimir Putin and what he had to say pretty much shot the Times out of the water. ALEXEY KOVALEV (BTW this is an excellent read!) Basically he said that there was no way to “win” against leaders like Trump and Putin because they are not bound by the normal boundaries of normal press conference give and take and even attempting to counter a Trump or Putin was self defeating since if you tried you would not get an answer to your question and eventually you would simply find yourself banned from the press room. In the case of Putin, you could also find yourself dead but that's unsubstantiated too.
While Kovalev offered no practical solution to this Press/Authoritarian President dilemma, it occurred to me that he was absolutely right. And Trump, like Putin, is going to go down the same rabbit hole of half-truths, propaganda, lies and non-answers that characterized Putin’s relationship with the Russian press and Trump's recent press conference. There is, I agree with him, nothing to be done about this situation.
So naïve me, what I’m thinking is that the press might want to think about dusting off their musty, dusty, much unused skillset called “investigative reporting,” provided, of course, that it can be resuscitated after so long in laying in cold storage. It seems to me that if facts aren’t going to get you anywhere, if pointing out discrepancies does nothing, if being nice, polite, accommodating, gracious and respectful only gets you tossed out of the press room then tougher measures are called for. Or is this crazy? (No, I think not.)
Most reporters instantly recognize the names Carl Bernstein and Bod Woodward the two Washington Post reporters who almost singlehandedly brought down President Richard M. Nixon. And that’s the kind of “reporting” we need right now. And there is a whole shitload of stuff hanging out there that was brought up during the year long presidential campaign that will serve as a start plus a treasure trove of new stuff (and I don't mean the Ritz Carlton "Golden Showers" incident) that's just waitin' to be explored. This latest Russian handbook of Trump’s activities brought to us by Buzz Feed? It’s a gift from heaven. In fact, some of the “allegations” – like the Paul Manafort one, for example - are almost self incriminating!
So go to it guys. Start now. And don’t worry if what you discover forces Trump out of the Presidency. It’s been done before and we survived. Of course that does mean that the Neanderthal fool from Iowa, Mike Pence, will be President. But, hopefully, only for a few months.
Apropos my post, here’s a post by Robert Reich (Bill Clinton’s Labor Secretary) who’s been highly critical of Trump that wound up on my Facebook page this morning:
This morning a friend told me he’s stopped reading or watching the news. I asked him why.
“Because it just gets me upset,” he says.
“So you don’t know what’s been happening with Trump?”
“No. I have enough on my hands.”
“You’re not interested in claims that Trump and his people might have colluded with Putin’s henchmen in trying to throw the election for Trump?”
“Why should I be interested? What’s anyone going to do about it? He’ll be president in a few days.”
“If it’s true, he won’t get away with it,” I say.
“Of course he will. He gets away with everything. He doesn’t disclose his taxes. He gets away with it. He doesn’t divest his financial interests. He gets away with it. He breaks the nepotism law by putting his son-in-law and business partner into the White House. He gets away with it. He gets away with nominating the CEO of ExonMobil for Secretary of State – a man who’s buddies with Putin, who came up through the ranks at Exxon by managing the company’s Russia account, who got the fu*king “Order of Friendship” from Putin. This morning Trump has the audacity to send out a tweet saying we’re Nazi Germany because the FBI is investigating his Russian connection.”
“So you have been keeping up with the news,” I say, smiling.
“And you remember Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort? He’s a key player here. He knows the Russian oligarchs around Putin, and made a bundle from them. He was a go-between. Also Michael Flynn, Trump’s foreign policy advisor, who’s been in cahoots with Russian propaganda. And Trump’s guy Michael Cohen, his lawyer from way back. Cohen was involved, too. Had a meeting in Prague with Russian operatives. Cohen …”
I break in. “Hold on. You know more than I do.”
“I guess I have been following it a bit,” he says, sheepishly.
“That’s good. All of us have to stay informed.”
“It just gets me upset. Nobody’s going to do anything about any of this. Trump will get away with it.”
“I disagree. This will bring Trump down.”
NOTE: So National Press Reporters, get your asses out there in the field investigating the orange haired orangutan and DO YOUR JOBS!