July 4th, 2017

Victor Davis Hanson on Trump’s Twitter war with the media and the media’s war with Trump

This piece by Victor Davis Hanson is well worth reading. Here are a few excerpts, and a bit of commentary of my own:

Trump’s occasional uncouthness is a symptom, not a catalyst, of the times.

It is absolutely true that Trump’s election was a response to trends that were already happening, and that he reflects them. But (and this is a mild quibble) he’s also a progression of those trends. He takes them one step further, in part because he’s more open and obvious about them.

Hanson points out that Obama did much the same thing in terms of the press:

It was Obama, not Trump, who established the practice of going after journalists by name, both materially and rhetorically, from surveilling Fox’s James Rosen to using puerile hype to attack Sean Hannity (“You know, I’ll put—I’ll put Mr. Burgess up against Sean Hannity. He’ll tear him up.” [emphasis added]). Obama was angry that a few reporters did not join the cult of Obama worship; Trump is peeved almost no one in the press is disinterested. Trump saw Obama’s precedent, and proverbially trumped it…

Hanson is correct that Trump is fighting the many who excoriate him in the press whereas Obama was fighting the few who didn’t toe the Obama line. But there was a difference not just in quantity but in quality: Obama was and is a smoother character with a more sophisticated style, at least on the surface (although I believe that underneath, Trump is not so unsophisticated as he may seem).

Hanson writes:

Sputtering journalists (Jim Rutenberg, Carl Bernstein, Jorge Ramos, Christiane Amanpour.) are exasperated to the point of openly confessing that their craft should give up empirical reporting to deal with Trump, without shame any longer over the partisan propaganda their organizations and colleagues peddle. Those declarations are not a change of course, but a confession of what the media have been doing from the election of Barack Obama. The logical media progression from eerie Obama worship was to creepy Trump hatred.

All too true.

However, it’s also true that both presidents had and have very special characteristics that helped to accentuate that progression. Obama was the first black presidential nominee of a major party and became the first black president, and as such he was a milestone representing something that felt very important and that transcended any personal characteristics he may have had. Had he been the same person presenting with the very same qualities, but a white man instead of a black or mixed-race one, I can’t imagine that the “eerie Obama worship” would have approached the level it actually did, although of course the MSM still would have loved him because he was a liberal. But I don’t think there was anything truly “eerie” about the MSM’s love for Obama; it was actually overdetermined rather than inexplicable.

And Trump represents a phenomenon that is also unique (so far, anyway) in the annals of American history: a reality TV star turned politician and elected to the highest office of the land with absolutely no political experience whatsoever, and with a personal style more reminiscent of WWE wrestling than anything else. You either like it or you hate it, but let’s not pretend it’s business as usual.

The main topic of Hanson’s essay is Trump’s tweeting. He concludes this way:

There is a limit to Trump’s crude personal tweets, but apparently no observer has yet calibrated where it is—given the country’s disdain for the media, the progressive hypocritical agenda, and the scatological and obscene rhetoric of Trump’s opposition.

I would urge the president to stop tweeting about nothings and to keep his powder dry for bigger game to come than Joe and Mika. But considering that I have been urging just such pruning of tweets as a matter of strategy for Trump for a long time and that I have been mostly wrong about the downsides of his twitter invective for just as long, perhaps the president knows something I don’t.

Likewise, I can’t stand Trump’s “crude personal tweets…about nothings.” But is there a downside in the political sense? I’ve mulled that question over for some time, and I don’t have an answer. I suspect that some small number of people would give Trump more grudging approval than they do now if he only could desist from picking the seemingly stupid and petty fights he sometimes does, or responding to the more trivial of insults. Then again, I suspect that he has adopted a policy of zero tolerance—of always striking back when insulted publicly, even if the insult seems relatively unimportant.

It’s sort of like a “broken-windows” policy for insults. After all, this is the man who said way back in April of 2016, long before his election:

Van Susteren asked him to expound on being “presidential.”

Trump responded, “It means maybe not be so aggressive, maybe not get so personal. But when people get personal with me, they say, oh, they don’t like my hair, okay? If I ever said I don’t like their hair it would be a headline. They’re allowed to say whatever they want to about me. My hair is not that bad is it? And it is my hair. But you know what happens? What happens is they hit me and I hit them back harder and, usually in all cases, they do it first. But they hit me and I hit them back harder and they disappear. That’s what we want to lead the country.”

It’s a maxim he’s lived by his entire life, and it’s not going to change. He has no fear of ruining his reputation by this behavior, because he has no reputation to ruin—except for being a low down and dirty fighter, and it’s certainly not going to damage that. But I think that, if he really thought they would “disappear” as a result of his fighting back (and I have my doubts as to whether he actually thought that), he’s wrong. I don’t think they will ever give up.

33 Responses to “Victor Davis Hanson on Trump’s Twitter war with the media and the media’s war with Trump”

  1. J.J. Says:

    As with Obama, we are fascinated by Trump and seem to be constantly asking, “What makes him tick?”

    He is not a polished politician who measures his every word. He is not widely read in the classics nor a master of foreign policy knowledge. He is hyper-competitive and admits to hate losing. He is energetic and works long hours. He is besieged by the MSM, the progressives, academia, and Hollywood. Yet he is unbowed and unafraid. (A fact that cannot be said about most pols in the GOP.)

    Many might disagree with my assessment, but he brings to mind Teddy Roosevelt’s saying about the man in the arena.
    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    Of one thing I am convinced -Trump loves this country and is trying his best to make it great again. Tweets and all.

  2. huxley Says:

    Likewise, I can’t stand Trump’s “crude personal tweets…about nothings.” But is there a downside in the political sense? I’ve mulled that question over for some time, and I don’t have an answer.

    neo: Me neither. That’s why I’m observing more than judging.

    It would be interesting to see what would happen if Trump stopped the hit-back tweets, but Trump is a streetfighter not a scientist.

    However, IMO Trump’s levitation above the usual political norms only works because a substantial number of Americans are so angry about the decline of the US and their own fortunes plus the way the Tea Party was treated, they don’t care about his schoolyard taunts.

    For many his tweets are a feature not a bug, as we say in the software biz.

  3. Frog Says:

    Trump: “What happens is they hit me and I hit them back harder and, usually in all cases, they do it first. But they hit me and I hit them back harder and they disappear. That’s what we want to lead the country.”

    I could not agree more.

    I’ve been telling my fellow right-wing rednecks for years that we have to lower ourselves to the enemy’s level, to fight as dirty and Alinsky-like as they do and have done. Like TR said in JJ’s comment.

    We must win. An armistice, as ended hostilities in WWI, is not good enough, and just made WWII inevitable. We must prevail and prevail mightily.

    Trump is the fighter to begin that campaign.

  4. huxley Says:

    Frog: Could be.

    But I still wonder are there any limits to Trump’s fighting back?

    The Trump line you quote reminds me of this one from “Goodfellas”:

    If anyone complained twice they got hit so bad, believe me, they never complained again.

    That’s gangster talk. It works until enough people get upset enough to whack the gangster or put him in prison.

    Do you really think the right can prevail so “mightily” the left will be broken? Without a hot civil war?

  5. T Says:

    “. . . I can’t stand Trump’s “crude personal tweets…about nothings.” [Neo]

    . . . when “respectable” people won’t talk about things that a lot of voters care about, the less-respectable will eventually rise to meet the need. That’s what Trump’s doing. And a lot of people are cheering him on not so much because they’re fans of Trump personally as because they’re happy to see someone finally stand up to the PC bullies. [Glenn Harlan Reynolds]

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/05/31/donald-trump-politically-correct-speech-codes-column/85163810/

    “Do you really think the right can prevail so “mightily” the left will be broken? Without a hot civil war?” [Huxley @ 7:37]

    Actually I do believe that it is possible, but not necessarily in Trump’s (or my) lifetime. Remember we are finally confronting well over a century of the Gramscian march through our institution. The effects of that march will not disappear overnight without a hot civil war, but I believe they can eventually disappear without one. We are in for one turbulent ride, though.

  6. vanderleun Says:

    KABOOM: Just when you think he can’t possibly tweet something beyond Wrestlemania to make even more liberal heads explode into shimmering gobbets of raw brain matter on the walls…..

    http://americandigest.org/wp/just-think-cant-possibly-tweet-something-make-liberal-heads-explode-shimmering-gobbets-raw-brain-matter-walls/

  7. vanderleun Says:

    HEY, this man works hard and plays hard and how he wants to occupy his thumbs during his coffee breaks is just fine.

    Enough of this tweetTwitchery.

    At the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union, somebody — Orson Welles? — said “Let Poland be Poland.”

    Let Trump be Trump.

    This whining about tweeting is already old at what 12 months. It’s going to be done to death in four plus years.

  8. Sean Says:

    Neo,

    Then again, I suspect that he has adopted a policy of zero tolerance—of always striking back when insulted publicly, even if the insult seems relatively unimportant.

    If you insult Trump, he’ll return the insult twice as hard. If you compliment Trump, he’ll return the compliment twice as hard. That’s how he works. It’s a middle school playground mentality but it seems to work for him as much as it works against him. He’s as predictable as the sunrise.

    The media seems to know he’s like that, and they bait him all day every dayaccordingly. He’s King Kong on top of the Empire State Building and they’re the bi-planes. There’s a personal animosity in their attacks on him but there’s also a strategic political element to it, i.e. the DNC-MSM know it’s a great way to keep him distracted. It’s his big weakness and why he really needs to stop doing it. No doubt the Mikas of the world are amazed and delighted that they’re able to take his focus off legislating like they have.

  9. carl in atlanta Says:

    Vanderleun: Thanks for that link to the “MAGA” hymn. I just sent it on to those in my family and among my friends who’ll appreciate it as the perfect way to end this great holiday!

    Surely this performance will make the MSM news?

  10. T Says:

    “the DNC-MSM know it’s a great way to keep him distracted. It’s his big weakness and why he really needs to stop doing it. No doubt the Mikas of the world are amazed and delighted that they’re able to take his focus off legislating like they have.” [Sean @ 9:06]

    Really? Trump is distracted? It takes about 20 seconds to type a tweet; it takes months, sometimes years, to get legislation passed (and it’s congress that legislates, not POTUS). Actually, its a great way to keep the media distracted.

    Scott Taylor (R – VA) to Alisyn Camerota

    “Every time he does this, you guys overreact — and when I say you guys, I mean the media in general — you overreact and you play right into his hands,” he started.

    [snip]

    “I thought we were gonna come on here and talk about the South China Sea, about voter fraud, but here we are, talking about the tweets, the whole segment,” he said. “You’re playing right into the political hands.”

    Right! It’s Trump who’s distracted.

    Link:

    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/cover-the-real-news-cnns-alisyn-camerota-spars-with-gop-rep-over-trump-tweets/

  11. Frog Says:

    Sean is wrong. How to put it? Legislators legislate. Executives execute. The legislative problem is with the woofs in the GOP, the Ryans and McConnells. Trump tried to appease McConnell and win his allegiance by appointing wife Chao to his Cabinet, to no avail. (haven’t seen or heard from her since her confirmation, have we?)

  12. AesopFan Says:

    A speech I have never read before which contains some thoughts appropriate to the present day (and some other proof that Coolidge was one of our better presidents).

    https://amgreatness.com/2017/07/04/coolidge-declaration-men-created-equal-final/

    “It was in the contemplation of these truths that the fathers made their declaration and adopted their Constitution. It was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. They undertook the balance these interests against each other and provide the three separate independent branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments of the Government, with checks against each other in order that neither one might encroach upon the other. These are our guaranties of liberty. As a result of these methods enterprise has been duly protected from confiscation, the people have been free from oppression, and there has been an ever-broadening and deepening of the humanities of life.

    Under a system of popular government there will always be those who will seek for political preferment by clamoring for reform. While there is very little of this which is not sincere, there is a large portion that is not well informed. In my opinion very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes. We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general. Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world.”

  13. JK Brown Says:

    “I don’t think they will ever give up.”

    All the more reason Trump should never let anything slide. They should only wonder when, not if, Trump is going to smack them back.

    It is interesting how everyone is trying to feminize Trump. To make him the accommodating woman who is always swallowing her emotions to keep peace. Girl wars in school would be a lot shorter if those targeted gave back better than they got, but instead they are pushed to “get along”.

    This works for media bullies, post-modernists, SJWs, etc. Never apologize it’s a sign of weakness and they’ll never relent if they see you as weak.

  14. Sean Says:

    Really? Trump is distracted?

    He’s obviously distracted, they say he spends five hours a day watching tv. Granted, he only sleeps four hours a night, so he has the time, but he’s clearly more distracted by the media than any other president we’ve had. The fact that our media is more obsessed with him than any other president we’ve ever had doesn’t change that.

  15. Sean Says:

    Sean is wrong. How to put it? Legislators legislate. Executives execute.

    Is there a lot of legislative accomplishment going on here? Has he accomplished as much as his predecessor in his first six months, or Bush Jr. in his first six months?

  16. Tesh Says:

    Trump is what I think of as quintessentially American. Smart, tough, somewhat prone to fighting back against bullies. He’s a bit more boorish than I think is wise, but so are most Americans. I accept this as a natural result of the freedoms I hold most precious that this country was built on.

    …and if he’s the most media-obsessed President, I’d say that it’s about time, since the media is clearly a domestic enemy to the foundation of the country. One must understand the enemy before they can be defeated.

  17. T Says:

    Sean,

    The depth of your analysis @ 9:06, 12:57 and 12:59 can only be measured in Planck lengths.

  18. huxley Says:

    Trump is what I think of as quintessentially American. Smart, tough, somewhat prone to fighting back against bullies.

    Tesh: YMMV. Trump is also a quintessential bully, liar and fraudster with a near-pathological narcissism, none of which I consider part of the American character.

    That’s why I didn’t vote for him.

    However, he is doing better than I expected, suggesting he is more complicated than I thought.

    I am curious how he is managing. Perhaps we should be grateful for his tweets as relatively harmless venting of his dark side.

  19. Sean Says:

    T,

    That may be the most hurtful thing anyone has ever said to me. Planck lengths? Really?!

  20. T Says:

    Sean,

    The attempt at analysis you posited on this thread is phenomenally superficial and incorrect (POTUS does not legislate).

    I call ’em as I see ’em. Most of the commentors on this site do and the commentary oftentimes gets dynamic and aggressive.

    You are entitled to your opinion, wrong or not.
    If, however, you want to play the victim as a response to criticism, then perhaps political op-ed commentary is not what you should be doing.

  21. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Ctrl Left vs Alt Right

    Meanwhile Lucifer is pushing Ctrl Alt Del, and laughing all the way to the bank.

  22. Ymar Sakar Says:

    If you insult Trump, he’ll return the insult twice as hard. If you compliment Trump, he’ll return the compliment twice as hard. That’s how he works. It’s a middle school playground mentality but it seems to work for him as much as it works against him.

    He’s not the only one with that strategic mentality here.

    A lot of people adopt that trick because of Game Theory, and it works. It is also low maintenance. Instead of becoming predictable and falling into a trap, it is easier to intentionally become predictable, and then change your routine up when you feel like it.

    Trum’s issues are not flesh and blood politics, nor is the US’s problems due to flesh and blood politics, but the Heavenly gods and spirits that actually rule the territories/nations of the planet.

  23. Tatterdemalian Says:

    And now CNN forced the maker of the offensive animation to apologize, and promise to never do anything like that again, or else his personal info might have an unfortunate leakage to all the Antifa goons howling for his blood.

    CNN wanted to be the Thought Police. Under Hillary “I Promise I Will Jail The YouTube Video Producer That Caused Benghazi” Clinton, they would have been. Now they’ve gone all or nothing to promote themselves to that role, as Trump closes their window of opportunity.

  24. neo-neocon Says:

    Tatterdemalian:

    I just published a post on that.

  25. Sam L. Says:

    Trump’s tweets are like flash-bang grenades–they get your attention RIGHT NOW–while he does something else.

  26. Tom G Says:

    Sean, I think there is a LOT less legislation than there could be, and should be — but it is 100% the fault of Reps in Congress.
    President Trump has not vetoed nor even threatened to on any piece of legislation the Reps want.

    The real problem, as the Tea Party pointed out, is that too many GOPe Reps seem to prefer being in the powerless to do anything opposition — so they spout cliches and complaints about the Dems, but don’t really have alternatives.

    Where is the GOP alternative to Obamacare? Well, maybe Trump has said he won’t accept full, complete, and simple repeal; tho maybe he would accept that, but won’t accept other alternatives that have downsides.

    The media is too distracted by Tweets to report on what is really happening on healthcare, but it’s clear the Reps didn’t and don’t have an agreed to plan they are willing to legislate.

    Trump has kept his promises far more than most Reps in Congress, including (or especially?) McCain (2008, I voted for him, too). But anti-Tweeters don’t even measure that.

    I like Trump’s tweets, crude (tho now seldom really lewd) because I think they do distract the media.
    I like Trump’s genius at the personal insult; there are so many Dem targets he won’t run out of targets for 4, nor 8, years.

    Notice how the Trump is Hitler meme has pretty much disappeared? Trump worked with Russia is about to disappear, too.

    Scott Adams, “Trump is a Master Persuader” seems the best pundit on Trump, not VDH who is so much better a philosopher. I now think VDH, like myself earlier, is wrong to oppose Trump’s “authentic” tweets.

    Trump is the most authentic President since Truman; and almost opposite.

  27. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Trum gets zero of my attention, same with Hussein. My info comes from other sources.

  28. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Tatterdemalian Says:
    July 5th, 2017 at 1:40 pm
    And now CNN forced the maker of the offensive animation to apologize, and promise to never do anything like that again, or else his personal info might have an unfortunate leakage to all the Antifa goons howling for his blood.

    What happened to the promise that big trum man in the white house would protect you all from the ctrl left?

  29. Sean Says:

    Tom,

    Sean, I think there is a LOT less legislation than there could be, and should be — but it is 100% the fault of Reps in Congress.
    President Trump has not vetoed nor even threatened to on any piece of legislation the Reps want.

    Yes, I know, the legislative legislates and the executive executes, I get it (thanks everyone, I already knew that). But the Dems are doing yeoman’s work with their Russia-Collusion b.s. of distracting the Pubs, and Trump is giving them all kinds of material to work with. He loves the fight, and that’s great, but there’s more to it than the fight.

  30. Ymar Sakar Says:

    I see many Alt Right boyos like HanSolo accusing me of being a cuck or SJW supporter. Obviously they don’t know me. But they do so with their cursing and bullsh antics, because they are anonymous.

    The moment when the physical ratchet gets to a point where they can die or feel the PAIN OF BURNING, then they back off and kneel down like the omega weaklings that they are.

  31. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Burn in the hell you have created on life and hope for Trum to save your sorry bullsh er omega arse. Not going to get help from me either way.

  32. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Just like Andrew Jackson, the white boys and slave traders that voted him in, shared all of Jackson’s vices: none of his virtues.

    They needed Jackson to fight for him because Jackson was the only with the guts and wisdom to do so. Ironically, Trum is the same figure of authority to the Alt Right.

  33. CBI Says:

    I always benefit from your analyses, Ms. Neo. Thank you.

    While Trump may be the first reality TV turned politician and elected to office without “political” experience, he is not the first celebrity elected to the presidency with no “political” experience. Off the top of my head,I can think of two Republicans who meet those criteria: Grant and Eisenhower.

    But both, like Trump, were more than celebrities. All three had successfully managed large organizations, which I think is a benefit for someone being elected to the office of Chief Executive.

    I also put “political” in quotes, since the management of large organizations and the negotiations among different stakeholders and interests is inherently political, i.e., dealing with people in organizations. The politics of government is only a subset. To what extent experience in government politics is beneficial or detrimental depends more on how that experience is used and how it influences a person’s actions.

About Me

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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