Keep Up the Blanket Coverage of DJT: It hurts him


August 10, 2018

by Tom Friedman

Some healthy soul searching is taking place in newsrooms across the country these days over whether the mainstream media should be covering President Trump’s every tweet and rally. My answer: Absolutely! It’s the right thing for us to do professionally, and, as last night’s election results indicated, it’s the right thing to do politically if you want to see a check on Donald Trump’s power.

Image result for Trump makes America sick again

It appears that it’s the toxic lying, bullying and unpresidential behaviors that Trump exhibits most in his rallies and tweets — which we in the media so incessantly cover — that is turning off the very moderate, best-educated Republicans and suburban women that Trump will need to hold the G.O.P. majority in the House, let alone get re-elected.

So bring on the coverage.

America’s unemployment rate is 3.9 percent, inflation for the moment is moderate, the stock market keeps setting records, and the president is coming off a crisis-defusing summit with North Korea. And yet, the latest RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Trump having a personal approval rating of only 43 percent, with 53 percent disapproving of his performance. And in a special election in Ohio held on Tuesday, the G.O.P. House candidate — whom Trump and the entire Republican establishment went to bat for — is barely ahead of his Democratic rival in a district that has not sent a Democrat to Congress in more than three decades.

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That does not speak well for Trump or his midterm prospects, but it does for the American people and for thinking Republicans. It turns out there is still a cohort of Republicans who have not sold their souls to Trump the way virtually every one of their elected representatives in Washington has done.

 

It turns out that there are thinking Republicans for whom character, decency and truth-telling still matter in a president. It turns out that there are thinking Republicans who have watched Trump’s twitter rants, his disturbed performance at Helsinki and the unrestrained bile that he emits at his rallies — and the blind, ecstatic response of his core base — and found them unnerving and unworthy of their support. That is what the polls and polling stations last night are telling us.

Imagine how well President Trump would be doing if he weren’t Donald Trump — if he weren’t such a lying jerk.But that is exactly what he is. So bring on the coverage.

The dominant political fact of Trump’s first 18 months in office is that despite some good economic trends in the country (and yes, his precise role in engineering them remains debatable), the president has not been able to widen his coalition beyond his core 40 percent to 45 percent. It is partly because he has not even remotely tried. But it is also because the very applause lines and abusive and divisive behaviors that appeal to his base turn off more-moderate and more-educated suburban Republicans, and do nothing to attract independents or conservative Democrats.

That does not predict a cakewalk for Democrats in 2018 or 2020. They still need appealing candidates. But it does say to me that I want wall-to-wall coverage of Trump’s every speech, rally, tweet and utterance, because they most reveal his character, and Trump’s character is the ceiling on Trump’s presidency — and he seems uninterested, and more likely unable, to change that.

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The Much Admired Republican Senator John McCain (Arizona) with his son Jack McCain

Yes, I want every American to know that two Trump supporters were spotted at the president’s last rally, in Ohio, wearing T-shirts that read, “I’d rather be Russian than a Democrat.” That’s an interesting data point. That’s whom you’re voting with when you vote for Trump.

I want every American to hear of Trump’s tweet that CNN’s anchor Don Lemon, who is African-American, was “the dumbest man on television” and that Lemon made LeBron James “look smart, which isn’t easy to do.” Lemon was interviewing James about a school he had just opened in Ohio for underprivileged children.

I want every Republican running for office to hear every syllable of Trump’s bullying arrogance, when he warned at his Ohio rally that he destroys any G.O.P. politician who dares to defy him, saying, “I only destroy their career because they said bad things about me and you fight back and they go down the tubes — and that’s O.K.”

I want all of this heard and spread from sea to shining sea. Because though these words do rally Trump’s base, they also rally Democrats and evidently embarrass Republican moderates and alienate independents.

The veteran pollster Stanley Greenberg told me that he’s seeing signs of this is in his recent focus groups: One was with moderate Republicans, all of whom “were put off’’ by Trump’s behavior, and another was with “secular conservative Republicans,’’ half of whom were put off.

In addition, Greenberg said, the full Trump — insulting black sports heroes, threatening conservatives who dare cross him, praising Vladimir Putin and attacking the F.B.I. — “reminds evangelical conservatives of the devil’s bargain they made in supporting him. Seeing him in all of his overreach and mania and self-absorption doesn’t make them second-guess their choice, but it makes them uncomfortable about it.’’

In a close election it doesn’t take many uncomfortable moderate Republicans to just stay home to make a big difference. That’s all I am looking for, not a tsunami — that’s not in the cards. Just a little wave of disgust among G.O.P. moderates is all that is needed to turn several key districts from red to blue.

No question that the press should not allow itself to be props at Trump’s rallies, and that can be dealt with by using a single pool camera that feeds all the networks, or reporters just sitting among the rally attendees, not in a special pen.

 

But the whole country needs to see every tweet, every rally, every word and every reaction so that they can ask themselves: “Is this who I want my kids to see as our president? Are these the people with whom I want to be aligned?” It’s too late to move Trump’s core base on these questions, but I would not give up on his passive supporters. The latest polls and special elections tell us we shouldn’t.

I still believe that plenty of Americans of all political stripes are better than this President and that when given their next chance to say so, they will. Will there be enough? I don’t know.

I just know that the G.O.P. Congress and Fox News are too compromised to ever tell Trump, “Enough.’’ But there are decent Republican moderates who, while they may never pull the lever for a Democrat, just might get too disgusted to vote. It’s the best hope. So let’s keep them fully informed about our president.

 

Thomas L. Friedman is the foreign affairs Op-Ed columnist. He joined the paper in 1981, and has won three Pulitzer Prizes. He is the author of seven books, including “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” which won the National Book Award.

 

5 thoughts on “Keep Up the Blanket Coverage of DJT: It hurts him

  1. Pingback: Panglima Perang Cyber / Cyber Warlords: How Money Is Made | Malaysia Updates News Portal

  2. Friedman mentioned the special election in the heavily-Republican 12th Congressional District of Ohio held last Tuesday. It’s getting very interesting, as election officials found late Wednesday 588 previously uncounted votes, netting Democratic candidate Danny O’Connor 190 more votes and narrowing his race against Republican Troy Balderson to 1,564 votes.

    O’Connor has said he will not concede the contest until all votes have been counted. He believes that it is too close to call one way or another. And, according to news report, 8,483 ballots (3,435 provisional ballots and 5,048 absentee ballots) still have to be counted. It’s not clear when these ballots will be counted but there is an Ohio legal deadline of August 24th. And State election officials will issue an automatic recount if the race’s final results show a margin of 0.5 percent or less.

    The close race is not supposed to happen. OH-12 has been held by a Republican 90 out of the past 100 years. Donald Trump and Mike Pence went to the district to campaign for Balderson, and spent nearly $5 million of national money to keep this seat in GOP hands.

    GOP Ohio Governor John Kasich told CBS News on Wednesday that he views the election as a referendum on Trump — one which he believes Trump lost. “Well look, first of all, the seat is overwhelmingly Republican,” Kasich told CBS. “It shouldn’t have been this close and if this, this really, I don’t think, wasn’t a vote on Balderson or a vote on the Democrat, I think it was a vote on the President. And I think the message was you gotta stop doing what you’re doing. All these tweets, all this disruption, all this chaos, all this division, all the negativity. It has to stop. That’s what I think they were saying.”

    I believe Danny’s victory is still a long shot even with the extra votes, but his supporters have not given up hope, since there are so many uncounted ballots and since a swing in his favor could trigger a recount of the entire election. And if that happens, it is possible — though not likely — that O’Connor may still ultimately be found the winner of this tight race that could determine control of the US House of Representatives.

  3. Trump lying behaviour and disruptive rhetoric policies have caused so much chaos felt by in his party and the people of the country.

    This is nothing compared to how would have the Americans felt for the voilent chaos they( the Potus and his policies) had forced and created in those Middle Eastern countries of Libya, Iraq , Yemen,Syria… where tens of millions of lives were lost and displaced, and where those surviving are suffering in despair.

    People in other countries are hurting.

  4. …….and the world media coverage, especially those in Western and American, are compromised to tell their lying leaders, not only to their own people, but how indecent their misconduct and violent interventions in foriegn countries with their policies that are always justified in the name of democracy and human rights.

    The political leaders ultimate goals are to get elected. The media should play their impartial role strictly, in giving blanket coverage that are justifiable.

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