January 16th, 2017

Trump and the press; Obama and the press

During Obama’s 2008 campaign and for the entire near-decade that’s passed since them, the press has almost-uniformly adored him and been his willing handmaiden and booster.

With Donald Trump, it’s a bit more complicated. And that’s putting it mildly.

At first the MSM found him to be a joke. Then, when they realized he was catching on despite their efforts, they boosted him because (a) he was good for business—their business; and (b) they thought he’d be by far the weakest opponent for Hillary Clinton, who they didn’t love as they had Obama but who they still wanted to win the presidency.

Then Trump won the GOP nomination. That made the press’s task more complicated. They still wanted to milk his outrageousness for the ratings boost it gave them, but they still very much wanted him to lose the election and they covered him in such a way that they thought their coverage would add to the near-certainty that he would lose.

Then Trump won the election. That was completely unacceptable.

So now it’s an all-out war. Every utterance of his—and he still makes some outrageous ones, although fewer than while campaigning—is twisted and turned by the MSM for maximum negative effect. Democratic politicians, spokespeople, pundits, Hollywood stars, and a host of others have joined in the chorus, and they didn’t even need much encouragement to do so.

The latest brouhaha is over reports that Trump is threatening to kick reporters out of the White House and leave them standing forlornly in the rain:

In the 1890s, journalists covering the president were forced to stand vigil outside the White House fence, querying visitors for scraps of information and appealing for audiences with presidential aides.

Today’s reporters are concerned that President-elect Donald J. Trump could send them back into the past.

The White House press corps was stunned on Sunday by reports of a proposal by the Trump administration to eject reporters from their home in the West Wing — a move that, if carried out, would uproot decades of established protocol whereby journalists are allowed to work in the White House close to senior officials.

The outcry has been tremendous, as though Trump is about to stifle freedom of the press. That’s how the report has filtered down to many people who have read the coverage, particularly the headlines and the first few paragraphs only. Easy, then, to miss or to discount the next paragraph:

Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s incoming chief of staff, appeared to backpedal on the idea after it was reported by Esquire magazine, saying that only the location of the press briefing room was being discussed and that the administration was merely considering a larger area to accommodate the hundreds of journalists seeking to cover Mr. Trump.

After that brief foray into stating what the Trump camp has actually said on the matter, we have this:

But for jittery Washington reporters, it was yet another salvo from an administration that has shown an unusual willingness to berate and belittle the news media, at the behest of a president-elect who has floated the idea of rolling back libel protections and, in a volcanic appearance last week, refused to take questions from CNN after it ran a story he did not like.

Forget about the press’s “unusual willingness to berate and belittle” Trump.

And—for anyone with a memory for events during the not-so-long-ago Obama administration—forget about Obama’s power plays on the press and in particular Fox News (see this), when Fox (practically alone among news outlets) ran stories he did not like. But his threats to the press began long before that, when during his 2008 Obama’s lawyer did this:

Straight out of the Democratic handbook Harry Reid used to threaten ABC’s broadcast license for showing the “Path to 9/11,” here’s Obama lawyer Robert Bauer warning station managers not to air the NRA’s new anti-Obama “Hunter” ad if they want to stay in the FCC’s good graces.

In the spring of 2010 I wrote an entire post on the subject of Obama’s power plays towards a press that still adored him. The title of the post was “Obama: the press’s abusive lover.” It’s a lengthy post with quite a few examples, and points out that “even the administration’s favorite reporters have been frozen out when they don’t toe the line.”

And remember, all of that was against a very friendly press.

[NOTE: Here’s a more fact-based report of what actually happened vis a vis this issue of where the Trump White House might put the press corps.]

11 Responses to “Trump and the press; Obama and the press”

  1. Oldflyer Says:

    Trump could be playing a dangerous game.

    On one hand, if the press continues to report his “outrages”, especially manufactured ones, he will be applauded by the great percentage of the population that has no respect for the press, or even loathes it. In this environment, the press would also, presumably, report on his policies and actions, even with a negative spin. Of course a broad swath of the public could also tire of his antics; and declare a pox on both sides.

    On the other hand, if the press were really smart they would simply ignore him–in ever respect. Then it would be very hard to get his message out to the broad public; social media notwithstanding. Admittedly, this is likely an impossible task for the press as they do have air time to fill, and ink to expend on a daily basis. It would require enormous discipline across a population that is not noted for that. I also assume that if a President, even Trump, requests air time to address the nation it will be granted.

    I hope that Trump is weighing his strategy post 1/20, and will discipline himself to follow it rather than simply reacting viscerally.

    This will certainly be an interesting dynamic.

  2. n.n Says:

    In order to seriously consider the prophecy of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming, let them telecommute. Think of Mother Gaia!

  3. carl in atlanta Says:

    He’s shattered paradigm under which the media gets to set the rules for what is (and isn’t) “allowed”. I find it most refreshing to watch them pulling out their hair and howling. They have long since squandered any right to be respected.

    And yet again, Arnold said it best, many many years ago…

  4. parker Says:

    The msm is not going to receive any sympathy from millions out in flyover country. Their consternation is well deserved.

  5. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    A “free press” that serves an agenda for which they are willing to continually obfuscate, oppress and even lie is a corrosive cancer in the body politic. If the patient is to survive, it must be eliminated root and branch. Go after the broadcasting licenses. Go after the corporate parents.

  6. Yancey Ward Says:

    A lot of this outrage about being kicked out of the White House is false outrage- the thing that really lit them up was suggestion that bloggers and other small new media writers get equal access to the press conferences. It goes hand in hand with Trump’s refusing to shut up on Twitter- the gatekeeper function that buttered the bread of the large television news organizations and the large national papers is being eroded- access to the press secretary and the president himself was the last bastion, and if Trump is smart, he will follow through on the threat of moving them all out of the White House to a center than can handle hundreds of people at a time.

  7. J.J. Says:

    To the WH press corps being in the West Wing gives them immediate access to the WH press secretary and his/her staff. They can just walkup the “ramp” (the term used by Mara Liasson on Fox this morning) and get instant access. My understanding is that the idea was to move the press briefing room to a larger venue (the present one only holds 49) so more reporters could be at the briefings. The press corps can still have offices in the West Wing, which still provides instant access. IMO, this is much ado about not much. But then isn’t most of the reportage about Trump pretty much the same. The main complaint seems to be that he doesn’t play by the rules that we (The WH press corps) have established.

  8. Frog Says:

    Get the press the H out of the People’s House altogether.
    Standing outside the WH fence with the hoi polloi should be good enough for vox populi.

  9. AesopFan Says:

    Frog Says:
    January 16th, 2017 at 8:58 pm
    Get the press the H out of the People’s House altogether.
    Standing outside the WH fence with the hoi polloi should be good enough for vox populi.
    * * *
    Our taxes pay the cost of the WH – including rooms used by the press.
    Why should my money be spent on people who insist on insulting my values, and lying to me?
    If religion should be taken out of government, so should the press.

  10. AesopFan Says:

    An interesting insight from Joel Pollak (he has a new book out on the campaign):

    “He did not ignore the media: on the contrary, he probably granted too many interviews for his own good, and carted journalists around on a dedicated press plane for months.

    On the contrary: they ignored him.

    When I joined the traveling press corps for the last few weeks of the campaign, I was surprised by how little interest there was among many of the journalists in covering what was actually going on at the rallies we were shlepping 20 hours per day to attend. Most were cordial, and professional; a few were exceptionally hard-working. But in general, the story of the 2016 election had long since ceased to be of any great interest to them….
    The rules of the traveling press corps, repeated every few days for the benefit of new arrivals, was that whatever was said or done within the group was strictly off the record. That allowed journalists to preserve a necessary privacy. But it also meant that if some journalists decided together to frame a Trump speech in a particular way — something, arguably, the public had a right to know that they were doing — there was no way to report that.

    Again — most of the journalists I met were professional, and friendly. But I was surprised at how few of them ventured beyond the “pen” and into the crowd, how much time was spent on Twitter at Trump rallies rather than listening to real, live, flesh-and-blood Trump supporters. …
    The night before the election, after a rally in New Hampshire, journalists both inside and outside the traveling press seemed less interested in the fact that Trump had made an explicit appeal to the “working class” than that he had presented a letter of support from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, which the media spent the rest of the night speculating was a fake.

    Many journalists apparently believed it was their civic duty to protect the public from Trump. Some worked for publications, like Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post, that had clear anti-Trump editorial policies or disclaimers. On occasion, mainstream media reports of events I attended bore no resemblance to what had actually happened — such as when NBC turned a happy speech in Las Vegas in Dec. 2015 into a kind of Nuremberg Nazi rally.

    But even that was less problematic than the general lack of curiosity about what Trump was saying to voters and whether he was reaching them. Journalists — and their editors — were so busy talking, they forgot to listen. …”

  11. Beverly Says:

    Moving the WH press cons to the Old EOB is a brilliant move — expanding the pool from the 49 seats in the WH press room simultaneously dilutes the power of the leftwing legacy media, and brings a lot of DIVERSE [worship word!] voices and outlets into the action. Including bloggers, Neo.

    It also is real hard to argue against if you actually talk about what DT has in mind: if you do, you look like you’re clinging to your Special Status and keeping all the other kids out of the room — hardly a noble goal.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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