The press. Government employees. Non-partisan government agencies helmed by Republicans. All of them are now being portrayed by the administration as unworthy of the public trust, because they put out information damaging to the president.
Perhaps nowhere outside the West Wing is that retreat more apparent than at the State Department, which for the first six weeks of the Trump administration essentially shut off all communication with the public and the press.
Now the collective outrage about President Trump’s many attempts to bully journalists needs to be institutionalized. It needs to be backed up by the power and prestige of the country’s largest news organizations. In other words, it’s time for institutions to take collective action and fight back.
Do Trump and his associates have something to hide — something even bigger and uglier than Watergate? The ferocity of their reactions certainly arouses suspicion, and so did their peculiar effort to conceal the misconduct of fired national security adviser Michael Flynn, which they attempted to hide even from the hapless vice president.
Presidents from both parties have always enjoyed partisan cheerleaders in the press who will defend an administration from attacks and enthusiastically support its agenda. But what the Trump team is trying to assemble is something else entirely. It’s trying to build its own self-sustaining, hermetically sealed information bubble so that Trump, his aides, and his supporters don’t have to acknowledge everyday facts.
The ethics office has little enforcement power, but it can formally recommend disciplinary action if the White House does not act. That recommendation would not be binding, and the process would take until late April or early May. If the ethics office does formally recommend discipline, it would be up to the White House to decide any steps against Conway.
If the late, great Donald Westlake had written spy thrillers instead of crime capers, they’d read a lot like the opening weeks of the Trump administration. Flynn’s not the first, and he’ll surely be far from the last, to learn that Trump’s insistence upon personal loyalty is a one-way street.
Imagine if Sean Spicer wrote a memoir about his time as press secretary? Oh, the tales he could tell from inside the White House. In only three weeks, he has certainly compiled enough shocking “insider” material for a surefire bestseller.
This current crisis of confidence is about an entire White House philosophy of dishonesty driven by Trump himself. And that certainly includes Trump TV surrogates such as Spicer and Miller, who are quickly amassing resumes built around pushing daily falsehoods. If news producers are avoiding Conway, they should also be pondering the worth of hosting Spicer and Miller.
President Trump, who spent 2016 chronically boasting about his ability to spike TV news ratings, clearly falls short of the ratings successes Obama posted early in his presidency. As the least popular new president in modern American history, Trump seems to having trouble connecting with the masses.
The February 12 edition marked Alec Baldwin’s record-breaking 17th appearance as SNL guest host. The actor showed up for the monologue as himself, although his Emmy-worthy portrayal of Trump does grace a later sketch, as the president attempts to defend his travel ban on The People’s Court (with a cameo by Beck Bennett as his “character witness” Putin).
It is frankly hard to get enough of Melissa McCarthy’s “Spicy,” the press secretary who performs a manic review of week three’s unfolding troubles, from the travel ban imposed on seven Muslim majority countries to Nordstrom’s rejection of the Ivanka fashion line.
Trevor Noah suspects the Ivanka blowup may hint at deeper political problems. “For someone who would have won the popular vote, Trump seems pretty unpopular! IIt must be those millions of dead illegal immigrants who aren’t buying Ivanka Trump shoes.”
In response to the Twitter comment Trump posted criticizing Nordstrom, White House spokesman Sean Spicer characterized the company’s action as a “direct attack” on the president’s policies. Nordstrom said it routinely cuts brands each year and that the decision to pass on the Ivanka Trump brand had been based on its performance.
Take the bogus Bowling Green massacre story, with the underlying wailing about how the evil, evil press didn’t report that Obama banned Muslims from Iraq afterward. The horrifying question: Is Conway just a liar, or is she so uninformed that she doesn’t know everything she said was untrue?
Melissa McCarthy’s dim, pugnacious, emotionally unstable screen persona engages the Spicer mode perfectly from the moment “he” steps to the podium to inform the stunned White House press corps that the briefing would begin with “an apology — from you to me” — which of course he doesn’t accept.
Among Trump’s imbecile moments was his remark at a Black History Month event, praising the abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass as if he were a living civil rights leader. “He didn’t know Douglass was dead!” exclaimed Seth Meyers, noting that the great author, editor, and diplomat passed away back in 1895. “Yeah, keep your eye on that Fred Douglass kid!”
If newsrooms understand that falsehoods are the currency that Trump and his White House aides trade in each day, then reporters should stop treating unconfirmed claims from the White House as fact. Even when the supposed facts revolve around everyday matters like diplomatic phone calls.
Sally Yates said late on Monday that the Justice Department would not defend the order against court challenges because she did not believe it would be “consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.” Hours later she was fired.
Sean Spicer, the new presidential press secretary, is one tough weenie — so Danziger pictures him in a bar somewhere south of the border, muttering nonsense about making Mexico pay for Trump’s wall.
Take two truths, then add what Kellyanne Conway calls an “alternative fact” — and you’ve got a new fun pastime for the era of Trump.
The decision effectively amounts to a pause in future refugee admissions, given that the interviews are a crucial step in an often years-long process. It means that though Trump has not yet ordered a temporary halt to the refugee program, future admissions are likely to be delayed.
Every time I hear another lie come out of Trump’s mouth — about his inauguration crowd (smaller than Barack Obama’s and the Women’s March), voter fraud (it didn’t exist), the media’s accusing him of attacking the intelligence community (he compared them to the Nazis) — I feel as if I’m back in junior high school trying to break up with the boy my mother warned me wasn’t stable.
Yes, Trump’s a dishonest conspiracy theorist. But he’s also much more than that. He’s a remorseless liar and a grievously insecure man who seems to feed off spite and revenge. It’s not a political strategy, it’s a character defect. Especially for someone like Trump who appears to have no deep ideological moorings.
If we cannot trust these people to tell us the truth on minor matters that can be easily checked, what confidence can we have that they will be square with us on substantive matters where the truth is not a Google search away? What confidence can our allies and adversaries have? The answer is, none. That should scare you.
Unless you’ve followed Republican politics in the capital quite closely, Sean Spicer may be an unfamiliar name. So The Daily Show offers a stinging “Profile in Tremendousness” dedicated to the GOP flack, which traces back to college days when he was mocked as “Sean Sphincter.”