Welcome to the Imperial Presidency. Those who can’t golf need not apply.
President Donald Trump, in his first year in office, has set many records—none of which he claims and many of which he disputes. But the one thing he claims that isn’t disputed anywhere is his disdain, distaste and dissatisfaction with the press. He has declared a war on the media and has ramped up efforts to undermine the Fourth Estate and the First Amendment as he fights back against any news he doesn’t like.
The president is right in one regard: there is a lot of fake news out there. He is responsible for most of it, however. He routinely makes up facts, lies and distorts reality. He does this so often that many news organizations have kept track of his daily brain droppings and made them available to the public so you can keep score. (As of November 14, 2017, he’s lied 1,628 times.) College students and serious drinkers play “Trump Bingo” with the verve and energy usually reserved for beer pong.
Still, Trump is correct in saying some members of the press have been inaccurate in their presentation of the news. He gloats when we make retractions and uses our mistakes to justify his own rants against us. He has convinced a great number of people he is correct in his efforts—and watching friends of mine knowingly descend into hypocrisy is not a matter I enjoy discussing. The very same people who got upset with Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Barack Obama when those men took a vacation have no problem defending Trump’s extended forays into golf. If this pace continues, the president will have spent more than a year playing golf by the end of his first term—quite a cost to taxpayers ($42 million and counting) and quite a loss for us all.
The best of us screw up from time to time. That is actually the strength of our free press.
As we face 2018, it is apparent the president intends to ramp up his war against the press even more, largely because he still is under scrutiny from the Mueller investigation but also because he doesn’t like us very much.
We’re human. We make mistakes and we’ll continue to make mistakes. No one on earth plays error-free baseball. The best of us screw up from time to time. That is one of the strengths of our free press. You know we’re on the right side of history because we strive to correct our mistakes.
Remember this: in the first year of the Trump administration, he has yet to admit one mistake. Of course, he has also only had one solo news conference in a year, has met the press fewer times than any other president in modern history and continues to tell us he is more accessible to the public because he can bypass the media with his continuing Twitter litter, which he spreads like a farmer spreading manure in a field.
A byproduct of the president’s war against the press is the perception by those who support the president that we are the enemy, including third-world nations that use similar “fake news” rants against legitimate media efforts and the escalating violence against reporters—verbally and physically—as we try to do our job.
The Thursday after Christmas, as Trump celebrated his third day golfing in Florida and as a variety of news organizations noted his inaccessibility to those he represents, I was on the receiving end of a Trump supporter’s attempt at humor.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his erstwhile press secretary, posted a picture of her firing what appears to be a rifle on her Twitter account. A fan manipulated the picture with Photoshop and had Sanders standing in the press room with the gun. It had been carefully manipulated to have the business end of the gun pointed squarely at me, in my usual position in the White House briefing room.
Those who vote with their wallet and fail to see the noose around their neck will still surely hang.
The effort was accompanied by a statement from the guy who posted it that it was meant as an act of humor and that I shouldn’t, nor should anyone else, take offense.
Not many people would find having a gun pointed at them to be funny. If the intent, as I suspect, was not humor but to intimidate me or anyone else in the press, I believe the person who posted the photo failed a second time. It must be horrible to be both unfunny and unintimidating, but such is the case.
And that’s a problem as we move into the new year. The Trump administration isn’t funny and isn’t intimidating, either. It is one giant hot mess as the president spends the better part of the week on the back nine at his favorite country club in Florida and ignores any attempt at transparency.
Donald Trump’s presidency can be summed up with the Photoshopped picture on Twitter: faked, frighteningly boorish, unfunny and unproductive. His supporters see something else and while the numbers of his hardcore supporters continue to dwindle, the ardor of those who remain has not waned. They have only become more resilient, and that is a problem we are all facing.
How do you confront those who refuse to see reality? I heard from one White House staffer who told me, “We dwell in different realities.” I wholeheartedly disagree. We all dwell in the same reality, but we all do not make use of every fact at our disposal to understand the reality in which we all live.
Another friend of mine who looks favorably upon the president is a man who believes the president is above reproach and beyond criticism because the stock market is doing well and his 401k is plump. To that I say, those who vote with their wallet and fail to see the noose around their neck will still surely hang.
The idea that we would accept as our president a man who has bilked the government to pad his own pocket, ignores real and substantial criticism, divides rather than unites, mocks the very foundations of our government and has diminished the United States stature on the world stage is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.
The facts show the president has been effective in getting a Supreme Court nominee seated, who Senator Mitch McConnell cheers as a central figure in keeping the court swaying to the right for the next 20 years. Never mind the court is supposed to be above politics.
The facts show the president has been effective in seating dozens of questionable people in judicial roles at the federal level and has pushed through a tax plan that effectively eliminates tax burdens from the very wealthy.
Some of these companies have given $1,000 bonuses to employees at the end of the year to prove how beneficial the new plan is but in reality, it only shows how flush with cash these corporations already are and how little they need tax breaks.
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The two programs of which make the most sense as proposed by Trump are renewed space exploration and a three-point plan to end the opioid crisis. Neither of those programs are funded.
The emperor prefers to walk around naked, shutting down critical thinking and entering a new year as he entered this one: ignorant, arrogant and self-absorbed.
Meanwhile, the Mueller investigation continues…