Picking a Fight He’s Not Going to Win

Creative Commons photo by Jay Tamboli

No one would question the fact President Donald Trump has had a bad week.

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign. Trump was receiving unsolicited advice about who to pick in his place and the one guy he wanted for the job said no. Finding the right replacement was no easy task. On top of that, Andrew Puzder pulled his name from consideration as Secretary of Labor.

With all the tension swirling about Washington, it’s probably not surprising that Trump was mad at the media for its critical coverage of his decision-making abilities this past week. What is surprising is that he aired these criticisms quite publicly at a press conference that began with him naming Pudzer’s replacement. While he didn’t raise his volume, the President’s diatribe created an awkwardness in the room that felt like you had walked in on someone who was being berated and you couldn’t leave.

To be fair, one could argue there is a legitimacy to the claim that some major media outlets tend to focus their coverage from a progressive point of view. Take the issue of undocumented immigration, for example. In recent days, CNN has focused on the Day Without Immigrants protest, a museum that removed immigrant-created art to protest Trump’s controversial executive order, a prominent “DREAMer” who was arrested and whether churches can serve as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants.

If CNN were advocating for the rights of all such people in the United States with proper documentation, you think they would be aghast at the change in America’s stance of “wet foot, dry foot” asylum requests from immigrants from Cuba.

That’s not quite the case.

The approach CNN took was that the new policy simply put Cuban immigrants on the same footing as other immigrants, while highlighting the concerns some Cubans have about Trump’s rhetoric.

As CNN has focused on individual cases of deportation of other Latin American immigrants, FOX News has highlighted the large-scale deportation of Cubans under the new policy.

Such coverage lends credibility to the claim made by conservatives that some outlets favored widening relations with Cuba and the former policy highlighted the mistreatment of Cuban citizens that have taken place under the Castro regime. Of course, one must also agree that coverage from conservative outlets like FOX News gas focused more on the criminality of undocumented immigrants from other nations, not their shared desire for freedom and opportunity.

But taking all of that into account, it still was monumentally foolish to lash out at the press as the President did. Ardent supporter and commentator Sean Hannity backed Trump, but not a lot of others at the normally friendly FOX News have. Howard Kurtz said Trump went too far and Shephard Smith and Chris Wallace strongly criticized the president for his condescension of the press and its role of holding leaders accountable.

Even Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) is calling Trump out for his seemingly autocratic rule.

And if you think the comments from his friends are bad, you should see what everyone else is saying. Some even suggest his anti-media efforts are a distraction technique, an argument that does hold some water.

Trump may claim he wants to create jobs in America, but the workers he seems to be helping the most are comedians John Oliver, Alec Baldwin and Melissa McCarthy.

Regardless of whether much of the media is fair or not, publicly saying so is only going to solidify its indignation toward you.

Even when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were caught criticizing New York Times reporter Adam Clymer, they were smart enough to move past the story and not let it engulf the presidency. Then again, I can’t imagine what social media would have done with the “Major League” and “Big Time” sports jerseys they showed off shortly after the hot-mic incident.

Vice President Mike Pence might do well to remind Trump of the wisdom of a fellow Hoosier, former Republican Congressman Charles Brownson, when he spoke of how politicians should handle criticism from the media:

“I never quarrel with a man who buys ink by the barrel.”

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