Friday, August 04, 2017


Politico reports that White House chief of staff John Kelly is trying to control President Trump's news diet:
... several people who have spoken with him say Kelly believes that making sure Trump is getting good information is among the biggest challenges he faces....

Since starting this week, Kelly has told aides that anyone briefing the president needs to show him the information first. The Trump West Wing tradition of aides dropping off articles on the president’s desk — then waiting for him to react, with a screaming phone call or a hastily scheduled staff meeting, must stop. He will not accept aides walking into the Oval Office and telling the president information without permission — or without the information being vetted.

... [Trump] accused President Barack Obama of tapping his phone line in Trump Tower after seeing comments from a conservative talk show host and a Breitbart News article. He has often posted some of his most controversial tweets while watching Fox News and stewing....

He has been given information of dubious quality, from stories by, a blog written by a right-wing provocateur named Chuck Johnson, to segments of debunked documentaries.
This is a noble undertaking on Kelly's part, and maybe it will even succeed -- to a limited extent.

It can't fully succeed, for a couple of reasons. First, as The New York Times notes, Kelly has said he "will not try to change Mr. Trump’s Twitter or TV-watching habits." Tinfoil-hatted staffers might no longer be able to hand Trump clips from Breitbart or GotNews, but Trump still has his TV and TiVo -- and TV is the medium from which Trump is most likely to absorb right-wing narratives in any case. We know he's not much of a reader. And we know that while Fox isn't quite as bad as GotNews, it's as crackpot-y as Breitbart.

Besides, Trump already has fully formed right-wing narratives in his head. They're not going away. Here was Trump last night at his pseudo-campaign rally in West Virginia:
“The Russia story is a total fabrication,” the president [said]. “It’s just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics, that’s all it is.” ...

“It just makes them feel better when they have nothing else to talk about,” Trump said. “What the prosecutors should be looking at are Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails.”

The line brought some of the the loudest applause of the night.

“And they should be looking at the paid Russian speeches,” he continued, offering no proof of his assertions. “And the owned Russian companies. Or let them look at the uranium she sold that is now in the hands of very angry Russians. Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign, there never were.”
See? One right-wing meme after another. By now he has them memorized.

And look at the January conversation Trump had with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, in which they argued over a group of economic refugees President Obama had agreed to take off Australia's hands. Turnbull assured Trump that the refugees aren't dangerous, but Trump wasn't having it:
TRUMP: ... the United States has become like a dumping ground. You know Malcom, anybody that has a problem – you remember the Mariel boat lift, where Castro let everyone out of prison and Jimmy Carter accepted them with open arms. These were brutal people. Nobody said Castro was stupid, but now what are we talking about is 2,000 people that are actually imprisoned and that would actually come into the United States.... We have allowed so many people into our country that should not be here. We have our San Bernardino’s, we have had the World Trade Center come down because of people that should not have been in our country, and now we are supposed to take 2,000....

Does anybody know who these people are? Who are they? Where do they come from? Are they going to become the Boston bomber in five years? Or two years? Who are these people?
It didn't matter that Turnbull said to Trump, "We know exactly who they are." This is a narrative that's pounded into Fox viewers' brains: that every wave of refugees includes unknowable zealots and psychopaths hell-bent on doing harm to the country where they seek refuge.

Limiting Trump's right-wing media diet might make minor changes in Trump's outlook. But it's not a cure. The disease is too far advanced.

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