Wednesday, February 20, 2019


Yes, this happened, but why does it deserve its own new story?

President Trump revived the moniker of “Crazy Bernie” on Wednesday as he greeted the entry of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2020 presidential race.

“Crazy Bernie has just entered the race. I wish him well!” Trump said in a morning tweet, using the same nickname he used to deride Sanders when he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

The subtext is: Be afraid, haters! The Mighty Trump is nicknaming again! That's also the subtext -- or the text -- of a story published by The Hill yesterday:
Trump working on labels for 2020 Dems: report

President Trump is reportedly working on possible nicknames for his potential 2020 Democratic challengers as the field of nominees continues to grow.

The Associated Press reports that sources close to the president have been working with Trump on labels for specific 2020 candidates. Two sources with knowledge of Trump's 2020 plans told the AP that the president has begun testing nicknames on aides and advisers as he prepares to reveal them publicly.

The president also plans to use early campaign rallies, the sources told the AP, to test the waters for nicknames he may lob at his potential opponents in the months ahead.
Did anyone not expect this? How is it news that he's merely thinking about employing his usual brand of schoolyard insults against the 2020 Democratic field?

This comes from an AP story on Trump's reactions to the Democratic campaign. Democrats, the story suggests, should be very, very afraid of the president's aggression:
In tweets, public remarks and private conversations, Trump is making clear he is closely following the campaign to challenge him on the ballot. Facing no serious primary opponent of his own — at least so far — Trump is establishing himself as an in-their-face observer of the Democratic Party’s nominating process — and no one will be surprised to find that he’s not being coy about weighing in.

Presidents traditionally ignore their potential opponents as long as possible to maintain their status as an incumbent floating above the contenders who are auditioning for a job they already inhabit.

Not Trump. He’s eager to shape the debate, sow discord and help position himself for the general election.
The AP story does call this "a risky bet that his acerbic politics will work to his advantage once again," and does note that "often Trump’s commentary reflects a peculiar sense of disengagement from the events of the day, as though he were a panelist on the cable news shows he records and watches, rather than their prime subject of discussion." But he's still portrayed as the mighty candidate-slayer:
This is the president whose 140-character blasts and penchant for insults made mincemeat of his 2016 Republican rivals. And Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, said the president aims to use Twitter again this time to “define his potential opponent and impact the Democrat primary debate.”
He's also portrayed as a spectral, menacing nemesis for law enforcement in the layout of yesterday's big New York Times story:

In the war against his investigators, the story says, Trump might be winning:
The attacks on the Mueller investigation appeared to have an effect. Last summer, polling showed a 14-point uptick in the percentage of Americans polled who disapproved of how Mr. Mueller was handling the inquiry. “Mueller is now slightly more distrusted than trusted, and Trump is a little ahead of the game,” Mr. Giuliani said during an interview in August.

... [William] Barr is ... respected among the rank and file in the Justice Department. Many officials there hope he will try to change the Trump administration’s combative tone toward the department, as well as toward the F.B.I.

Whether it is too late is another question. Mr. Trump’s language, and allegations of “deep state” excesses, are now embedded in the political conversation, used as a cudgel by the president’s supporters.
We shouldn't underestime Trump's ability to fight back. But these are hints that the media's respect for Trump might morph into awe over the next year and a half. That shouldn't happen.

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