The Donald Trump show took on new highs, or lows, last month and I resisted commenting. At its height I was on vacation in the US, which gave a different perspective on the circus than I usually get at home.
Now though I feel I have to weigh in, but probably not the way you were expecting. I am not going to comment on the incidents in Charlotteseville VA and the President’s response. Nor am I going to analyse the firing of strategist Steve Bannon. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion on both things, but that something struck me more.
For two weeks my primary source of American news was CNN, the Cable News Network. There were other options of course. I could have purchased a daily newspaper, or watched a different network. (I did try watching Fox TV a couple of years ago. As a journalist I was repulsed.) I could have continued with my usual Canadian and international news sources, but I stuck with CNN. After all, they told me they were “the most trusted name in news.” I guess they have never heard of the BBC.
I know America is obsessed with the Trump presidency. And I know that CNN is considered by conservatives to be liberal in its coverage and slant of the news. What surprised me is that it seemed that in the USA nothing ever happens that isn’t related to Donald Trump. The only news I heard, whenever I turned the television on, was about the latest Trump statement, tweet, gaffe and miscue. There seemed to be little straight reporting and way too much analysis, most of which struck me as weak and ill-informed. Many of those involved, newscasters and analysts both, seemed to display a fair amount of contempt for the President.
To me that weakened their case. Instead of commenting on the President’s actions (or inactions) in a reasoned fashion, they allowed their emotions to be on display and made no effort to conceal their distaste for the current occupant of the Oval Office.
As an outsider, an informed but still relatively neutral observer, I couldn’t help but feel some sympathy for Donald Trump. So many of the criticisms being leveled against him seemed somewhat irrational to me. Assumptions were made, norms were agreed upon, and the President was despicable because he didn’t fit into their norms.
It was a magnificent media achievement. They managed to take someone in a position of power, wealthier than most of the rich, someone who appears to be an ignorant racist misogynist, and make him pitiable. What’s more, it seems to me that they are making him politically stronger, despite wat the polls show. After all, those are the same pollsters who maintained Trump wouldn’t win last November.
Donald Trump rose to the presidency by tapping an unmined vein of American angst. He managed to portray himself as the outsider, the underdog, the defender of the common man, despite being perhaps the most elitist candidate for office in American history. The blind fury and scorn he receives from the media is amplifying that message. They didn’t like Candidate Trump, they don’t like President Trump.
If this attitude continues, he is going to be able to convince the voters it isn’t about his failed policies or his (lack of) personal integrity. That may not make sense to you, or to me, but I can see it happening.
I am sure there must have been something newsworthy happening in Detroit, New York City Houston or San Francisco while I was vacationing in Maine. But CNN didn’t tell me. They were all Trump, all the time. The President was probably pleased at the free publicity.