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The Need for Mockery and Context
Signs that some members of the media may finally have learned their lesson in dealing with Donald Trump
In case you missed it, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post—which spent some six years propping up the Malignant One who occupied our White House—appears to have genuinely turned a page. As I noted a week ago in “Reasons for Optimism,” there were already signs that they meant it when they marked him a loser for his role in blowing the midterms for the Republicans. But their five-paragraph, staff-bylined article on page 26—flagged on the cover with “Florida Man Makes Announcement”—provided a delicious update. I offer it here in full:
With just 720 days to go before the next election, a Florida retiree made the surprise announcement that he was running for president.
In a move no political pundit saw coming, avid golfer Donald J. Trump kicked things off at Mar-a-Lago, his resort and classified-documents library.
Trump, famous for gold-plated lobbies and for firing people on reality television, will be 78 in 2024. If elected, Trump would tie Joe Biden as the oldest president to take office. His cholesterol levels are unknown, but his favorite food is a charred steak with ketchup.
He has stated that his qualifications for office include being a “stable genius.”
Trump also served as the 45th president.
I’m not anywhere close to assuming redemption for Rupert Murdoch or his publication for their role in empowering the dangerous desecration of the last six years, particularly since Fox News showed reluctance in quitting the man by airing nearly all of his sour announcement. (For me, the announcement at Mar-a-Lago had more of the air of a man running from the law than running for the presidency.) But this was an encouraging second step (after its “Trumpty Dumpty…had a great fall” cover) that was echoed in a variety of ways by other media.
Consider a few signs that maybe, just maybe, some members of the media have learned their lesson. Take NPR’s lede:
Donald Trump, who tried to overthrow the 2020 presidential election results and inspired a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, announced Tuesday night that he has launched a 2024 presidential bid.
Donald Trump, the twice-impeached former president who refused to concede defeat and inspired a failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election culminating in a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, officially declared on Tuesday night that he is running to retake the White House in 2024.
NBC News—which headlined its piece “Trump, whose lies about the 2020 election inspired an insurrection, announces third White House bid”—opened like this:
Donald Trump, the only president impeached twice, launched a campaign to reclaim the Oval Office on Tuesday, two years after voters ousted him and a week after they rejected his hand-picked candidates in several pivotal Senate races.
The New York Post grasped that mockery is a powerful weapon to cut through to the truth of this man and let its readership know that they do not intend—at least for now—to take his so-called candidacy seriously. (I do wish they mentioned Mar-a-Lago’s omelet station or breakfast buffet where his sycophantic coterie may find him.) As we learned in 2015 when President Obama unleashed a series of jokes targeted to the thin-skinned narcissist, they slashed deep—and surely intensified his animosity toward America’s cool, Black, two-term president who never faced criminal investigations, scandals (besides that tan suit) or impeachment proceedings.
But after far too many years and far too many media outlets failed to grasp and share with their readers that the story of Trump is principally a crime story, the examples of NPR, The Washington Post and NBC News illustrate that Trump—who’s pursued a lifetime of criminality—is not going to get a free ride this time, cushioned by the timeworn practice of treating candidates with neutrality and courtesy. The Post’s qualified lede almost has the feeling of an obit summing up: “Trump, the twice-impeached former president who refused to concede defeat and inspired a failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election culminating in a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol [italics mine], officially declared…”
Then again, there came The New York Times which, in its careful, seemingly nuanced manner, failed to address the criminal matter directly:
Donald J. Trump, whose historically divisive presidency shook the pillars of the country’s democratic institutions, on Tuesday night declared his intention to seek the White House again in 2024, ignoring the appeals of Republicans who warn that his continued influence on the party is largely to blame for its weaker-than-expected showing in the midterm elections.
Historically divisive? Shook the pillars? I’ll leave it to you to be the judge as to whether the Times is simply seeking to maintain a high-browed reserve or worried about upsetting the malignant narcissist and losing its position with a high-profile source and leading role in access journalism.
Clearly, Buzzfeed News was not concerned about such matters. I leave you with this from their news feature-style opening that demonstrates no need to hold back from saying what happened and what’s at stake. Personally, I find this context more refreshing and necessary, because it gets far closer to the knowable truth.
He’s back (officially) — but did he ever truly go away? Donald Trump made it official on Tuesday night by announcing he would once again be seeking the Oval Office in 2024.
Yes, the former president who incited an attempted insurrection at the US Capitol with lies about his 2020 election loss — lies he continues to spread to this day, having escaped conviction in impeachment proceedings thanks to his Republican allies — and who has spent much of the last few years either vowing revenge against political enemies or battling a suite of criminal investigations now wants American voters to let him once again lead the democratic system of government he has worked so tirelessly to undermine.
In the coming months, I would urge you to keep your eyes out for how various media outlets choose to portray the twisted turns of a desperate man bent on regaining power—especially those that slip back into the mistaken practice of covering him as if he’s just a political candidate wanting to be president. I’m still deciding how much attention I’ll give all this; honestly, all I really want to follow is indictments and prosecutions by Merrick Garland, the Justice Department and the various other prosecutors after they finally decide to pull the trigger and hold Trump accountable for once in his life. May that be soon.
One other note about a story that I promise to return to: The historic service by Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House after her announcement yesterday that she’s stepping down—and my particular excitement about the rise of the talented New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries as the likely House minority leader.
“For me, the hour’s come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect,” Pelosi said on the House floor Thursday afternoon. Said President Biden in a written statement: “History will note she is the most consequential Speaker of the House of Representatives in our history.”
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