Friday, September 9, 2016

Grokking Trump

Ryan Cooper explains how Hillary Clinton is a "cynical machine politician" while Donald Trump is a "grave threat to America" in The Week.
Clinton has done many things worthy of close investigation and criticism. But by any metric you care to choose, Trump is worse by far, something the traditional political press is utterly failing to demonstrate.

Now, as Glenn Greenwald notes, it is false to say that Trump has gotten deferential treatment from the press as a whole. Investigative reporters have delivered many absolutely brutal articles on his failed business ventures, hispathological lying, his abuse of Miss Universe contestants, what looks very much like a bribe to halt an investigation into Trump University, and on and on. Turn over any rock related to Trump, and chances are good you'll find something horrible.

But the political press — the people in prominent outlets doing daily reporting on politics — is just completely incapable of grokking the whole of the Trump phenomenon. All the mores ofSerious Political Journalism — the performative insider savviness, the self-seriousness, the belief that each party deserve approximately equal criticism, the reluctance to make controversial claims for fear of bias accusations, and so on — lend Trump a dignity he does not possess.

The only time the real Trump shines through is when some basic question makes it clear he's just catastrophicallyignorant and reckless, and is obviously BSing his way through every question. Even Lauer's fairly mild questioningbrought out that Trump expects male soldiers to rape their female colleagues, his belief that he can just purge the top military brass, and that he thinks it is somehow possible to just steal trillions of gallons of fluid buried deep underground. Most alarming was his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he said "has strong control over his country." (For once a true statement at least, as Putin's trail of assassinated political enemies can attest.)

But The New York Times' initial writeup of the Lauer event did not even mention the Putin part of the interview. After enduring a firestorm of criticism on social media, they added some in, without noting the change — but even then, the article did not remotely convey the reality of how bizarre Trump actually sounded.

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