Trump’s recent tweet to the contrary, journalists as a class are not “disgusting and corrupt.” Press coverage of his campaign is not the reason Hillary Clinton is beating Trump in most of the polls. Voters who oppose Trump appear to think he’s a crude narcissist who has no credible policies but does have a frightening contempt for facts, truth and evidence.
It’s not the media’s fault Trump claimed to be against the Iraq War from the beginning when there’s audio of him telling Howard Stern six months before the invasion that he supported going to war. It’s not our fault he attributed a female reporter’s tough questioning to her menstrual cycle. It’s not our fault he denigrated John McCain’s time in the Hanoi Hilton.
The press didn’t badger dozens of Republican defense and security experts into saying Trump is unfit to be president. Republican Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Susan Collins of Maine are refusing to back Trump for president for their own reasons, not because we told them to.
On those rare occasions when Trump offers actual policy details, we cover them, but he seems to think the press is not supposed to ask how he can balance the budget when independent analysts say his tax plan will create trillion-dollar deficits.
Trump has no track record in public office, so the only record the voters have by which to judge him is that of his business and charitable activities. Is the press supposed to bury the news that a host of small-business people say Trump stiffed them, that he got millions of dollars in New Jersey tax forgiveness from his pal Chris Christie or that we can’t find any evidence that he actually donated the millions of dollars that he claims to have donated?
It’s hard to know what exactly Trump meant when he tweeted that message about disgusting reporters. Best guess, given the timing of the tweet: He thinks somehow it’s the news media’s job to figure out when he’s joking, when he’s sarcastic and when he’s serious. The tweet came not long after he said that Barack Obama was the founder of the Islamic State terrorist group. Over the course of the next few days, Trump said both that he was serious and that he was being sarcastic.
Maybe Trump could come up with a tell for reporters. Maybe he could pull his right earlobe or something when we’re supposed to know he’s being sarcastic.
But what’s really galling is that I have to agree with the substance of Trump’s stupid tweet – that the media are betraying a bias, perhaps in Hillary Clinton’s favor, but definitely against Trump. I agree with T.A. Frank, who wrote in Vanity Fair, “Currently, many journalists appear to view themselves as duty-bound to ensure the defeat of Trump, with any resulting hits to credibility left for future repair.”
Some of this is Trump’s own fault. He is constantly demanding the media’s attention, so he gets it, which means there is less time for us to take a hard look at Hillary.
He always manages to trip on his own tongue. When the media should be looking at Clinton’s emails, we end up covering the way Trump insulted the grieving parents of an American soldier killed in action. Instead of a scrupulous look at her tax returns, at least part of the story is that Trump won’t release his.
The narrative I glean from the national press is that Trump’s campaign is in disarray, that Republican regulars are in despair, that no one wants to donate to him, that the Koch brothers and George Will have abandoned him. From the Clinton beat, I hear next to nothing. Rarely is it mentioned that it is approaching 300 days since Clinton subjected herself to questioning at a press conference. Her campaign events are tightly controlled and completely scripted, according to the reporters covering her. There is no opportunity to challenge the candidate.
Significant and completely justifiable attention has been paid to Trump’s suspect charitable activities. Clinton’s tax returns show nearly all of her donations went to her family’s foundation. The press has spent very little time during this election asking if the Clinton Foundation actually does any good and even less following the foundation money to see if anything interesting pops out.
A day does not pass without The Washington Post or The New York Times publishing a couple of opinion pieces explaining that no one likes Trump and that he is dangerous. Clinton has produced detailed policy proposals, some of them interesting and some of them crazy, that only occasionally get a glance on those op-ed pages. Her recent conversion to the cause of restricting trade barely merits a raised eyebrow, even though it’s not only a significant flip-flop; it is truly bad public policy.
I hate to agree with Trump about the media, but since I am neither disgusting nor corrupt, I must go where the facts take me.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Winthrop Quigley at 823-3896 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to www.ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.