When Partisanship Warps Our Very Souls
From Forbes, by John Zogby
I will admit that I never dreamed I would see anything like this. The 2016 Trump campaign surprised me, not only for its ultimate success but for having broken all the rules of politics and civility. From the beginning however, there was one constant. No matter how low he would go with his offensive remarks and ridicule of other candidates, his opponents could not make gains by staying silent. That was tantamount to ceding the stage and all of the next several days’ media coverage to the loudest, crudest persona. Nor could they fire back in any way because Mr. Trump has shown that he is willing to take out a jack hammer to plunge even lower with his insults and crudity. Anyone who tried to take him on directly was soon hurt even more – remember Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, along with former Governor Jeb Bush. There was no way to win as the frontrunner just sucked up most of the media coverage.
But what is truly shameful is that prominent reporters fell into the same trap. It is one thing to ask hard questions and get either ignorant or whiny answers from the candidate/President. But it is another thing to jump into the raw sewage with him and swim in it, become a participant in his manipulative game, then complain about him constantly. It is also extremely disconcerting to see major media representatives become obsessed with him and their plight. They are fellow combatants and see him only in a negative light – hence they have lost their ability to see anything good come from him. There may not be much (or, to some, any) good coming from Mr. Trump, but the press has taken on a supercilious tone where their premise is “Look what he has done or said today…”
What is even worse is to see the constant tweets from prominent journalists from the television networks and newspapers getting so personal (negative) about the President all day and every day or, to show they are really human people, sharing silly stories about wearing the same dress or playing soccer. I don’t care if they have a fun side. I care even less if fewer people are watching them. There are plenty of reasons for that and those tweets only make those reasons even more clear.
It is not that we don’t need tough questions or a media acting as watchdogs for our interests. Rather it is that many reporters have lost their capacity to dissect, to equivocate, to weigh, to be fair. I have said this before: the media pundits blew the election of 2016, not the pollsters. We pollsters mainly caught the directional movement of voters in battleground states but it was political reporters and commentators – who, face it, spend most of their time talking to each other – who just could not fathom that their enemy could possibly win. Now they cannot imagine how nearly 40% of the public can support him.
Despite headlines touting the rise or decline of this or that show on cable news, the truth is that fewer are even watching them or reading newspapers. It is a fight for life for media companies nationwide. Reporters will blame Mr. Trump and his supporters for their criticism and stated efforts to impinge on press freedoms. They will say that our democracy needs a free and independent press to protect our other rights. And they are correct. But the media have a responsibility to play that role, fair and down the middle. They have not been adversarial; they have become enemies with an axe to grind. Time to grow up. All sides.
Coming Soon: Who’s Your Tribe? The only app you’ll need to discover your Neo-Tribe.
Weekly White House Report Card
From The Washington Examiner, by John Zogby
For the president there has been some possible movement on his agenda, but confusion and distraction reign supreme. On the positive side for him, the Senate has passed a budget bill, as has the House. So now some difficult reconciliation has to take place. Should this happen, this could be a prelude to Mr. Trump’s promised tax cut.
At the same time, ISIS has been defeated in its stronghold and perhaps is finished as a military and political factor.
On the other hand, the media was distracted — due no small measure to the president’s statement about his predecessors not calling all Gold Star parents in the midst of their grief. But in steps Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida with a statement that breaks all rules, all conventions, and is so egregious and offensive in every way that I am going to bump the president up one whole letter grade. Where were her Democratic colleagues? Where were members of the press in calling her out by revealing a private moment? Sadly, it took a grieving Gold Star father, retired Gen. John Kelly, the president’s Chief of Staff, to remind us all about sacrifice and courage.