Saturday, November 10, 2018

Submit To What?

Politico's Rebecca Morin writes

 During a rant on Friday about CNN reporter Jim Acosta, President Donald Trump turned to another reporter, April Ryan.

"You talk about somebody that's a loser," Trump said of Ryan, a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks who is African American. "She doesn't know what the hell she's doing."

During the gaggle in front of the White House, Trump continued to criticize reporters and went after another reporter of color.

“What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question," he told CNN reporter Abby Phillip after she asked if Trump wants Whitaker to "rein in Mueller."

"But I watch you a lot, you ask a lot of stupid questions," the president continued to Phillip before turning away and refusing to answer the question.

Journalists, media groups and academics immediately started speaking up, saying the remarks revealed a bifurcated approach between how the president treats white reporters and those who are women or people of color, including PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, with whom he also quarrelled this week. While the president insults many journalists, these critics say his barbs targeting women and people of color feel especially sharp, and hit at the reporter's basic intelligence and competence as a person. It's a tone that black reporters and scholars of African-American history say particularly stings, given that African-Americans journalists were not allowed into the White House until 1947 — and that the White House press corps remains overwhelmingly white to this day.

Morin adds "Press advocates worried, though, that Trump might bar these reporters from the White House if they continued to hit him with tough questions."

Nonetheless, they must persist. On Friday we were reminded by a New York Times columnist

Another NYT columnist, Bret Stephens. made a couple of insightful remarks on Friday evening's "RealTime with Bill Maher" but unwisely commented

Also, it's so important not to be baited by every tweet because Trump is playing the press and that is his skill. You talked about- Sarah talked about him as the ideal 8-year-old. I see him as the cunning 12-year-old- and maybe that's the subject for debate- but he's the classic 8th grade bully. He knows exactly where to poke someone one where it hurts.

McCain said something so smart before he died. You can't be the car alarm that's constantly going off Pick your battles. Pick them wisely.

(It would have been even more impressive if McCain said something so smart after he died. Anyway, notwithstanding the late Senator's integrity, taking advice on strategy from someone who selected Sarah Palin as his running-mate may not be wise.)

And Bob Woodward, before making an excellent recommendation about one news organization building on the report of another, contended

But I think that we're taking the bail in the press and Trump is just throwing it out on that table and saying, you know, "you're the enemy of the people" and then we get all steamy and emotionally unhinged about it.

Trump probably is playing the press in some manner. However, unless the media is willing to ignore all of the President's tweets, rallies, and news conferences- which won't happen- it would have to make some uncomfortable choices.

Stephen's remark came at the close of a week in which the President singled out with criticism or ridicule three black female reporters.  Unlike other groups- including veterans and Christian believers- whom Donald Trump has belittled, black women are not going to roll over and ask for some more.

This past week has seen the Democratic Party's triumph in statehouses, state legislatures, and the U.S. House, the GOP's post-election voter suppression, and the attacks on the three black women. Meanwhile, there has been relatively little outrage over an incident in which: the President denounced a White House correspondent; an intern physically snatched a microphone from the correspondent; White House credentials of the reporter were revoked; and the President's press secretary circulated a doctored video purporting to show that the reporter assaulted the intern.

Of course, President Trump will continue to retaliate against reporters who ask him tough questions.  "For a coup to work," Maher stated Friday, "it is first necessary for truth itself to be destroyed, as well as the people who try to report it so the dictator is free to say anything and his followers believe it."

So those who believe the press generally, or White House correspondents specifically, should hesitate before responding aggressively to Donald Trump's antics need to come clean. Patting themselves on the back for recognizing Trump's strategic manipulation, press and pundits who believe White House correspondents (or the press generally) should not reflexively fire back at the President need to specify the circumstances they believe should be ignored.

This past week, it was provoking confrontation with a major network's White House correspondent, and it was targeting Alcindor, Ryan, and Phillips.   But as Maher recognizes, there will be further attacks upon the media and others.  Resisting a slow-moving coup requires sound strategy, beginning with clear language from the media's heaviest hitters.

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