Donald Trump's criticism of the media has reached Nixonian levels -- only Trump isn't doing the name-calling in private. He's doing it right to reporters' faces.Hillary Clinton and her surrogates have come close to doing this, but I think sooner or later they should make an ad that intercuts outbursts like this with clips of the world on fire -- war, terrorism, riots -- to make the point that Trump's temperament creates the very real possibility that he'd blow up the planet in a fit of pique. It's not exactly what LBJ's campaign did with the famous "daisy" ad, but it fits the current circumstances.
On Tuesday, Trump pointed out ABC News reporter Tom Llamas and called him "a sleaze." Llamas' crime? Asking the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to explain why he had misled people about how much money he'd raised for veterans.
During his tirade about the press, he interrupted CNN's Jim Acosta who was asking Trump about his ability to deal with scrutiny, to say sarcastically, "Excuse me, excuse me. I've watched you on TV. You're a real beauty."
Of course, Trump attacks the press because the press sits at his feet inviting attack. I know it's unimaginable, but in a better world, reporters would have just walked out when Trump started attacking the integrity of their colleagues. Trump's press conferences reveal his character, but we don't garner information from them. We watch the alpha male thrust and parry; it's good television, and that means it pays the bills, but it doesn't turn us into informed citizens. Nobody apart from the ratings-hungry media needs another Trump press conference; he'll never tell us the truth in any of them, and we see his personality elsewhere. So screw him -- reports, if he insults your integrity, tell him where he can stick his insults. Show some backbone.
That'll never happen, of course. New York Times media critic James Poniewozik reveals (unwittingly?) the real nature of the Trump-media relationship in this piece of commentary about the press conference:
And then there came the question about Harambe, because it is 2016, and this is what we do now: We ask the reality TV star who may become the leader of the free world how tough he would be on large zoo animals.Um, Poniewozik realizes what the press is in this metaphor, right? A helpless three-year-old boy separated from his mommy and at the mercy of
It was poetically fitting. For almost a year, Mr. Trump has been the 800-pound gorilla whose unpredictable rampages have obsessed the news media. Now he was completing the circle by commenting on the 400-pound gorilla who briefly stole the spotlight from him for one holiday weekend.
For the record, Mr. Trump said that he thought zoo officials had little choice but to shoot Harambe. But, he added: “There were moments with the gorilla, the way he held that child, it was almost like a mother with a baby. It looked so beautiful and calm. And then there were moments when it looked pretty dangerous.”
So it is with Mr. Trump and the news media, and their volatile symbiosis. Tuesday morning, he was in raging silverback mode, glowering, posturing and verbally dragging the press around his gilded Manhattan lair.
But viewed from another vantage point, it can look as if he were holding them very close.