A couple of days ago I read about Trump taking on some reporters in an event where he was confronting the press over whether he had raised a bunch of money for veterans.
Now there was a big dispute over whether he had waited until the reporters had dug into the facts before donating the money that he said he’d raised several months ago. The reporters were breathlessly announcing their gotcha moment and preparing for the trillionth time to bring down Trump with the scandal to end all scandals. And apparently for the trillionth time Trump performed the verbal jujitsu that ends with him looking smart and them looking dumb. Or actually not dumb but dishonest.
So I’ve heard about these confrontations before but until recently I never bothered to go to the video tape, as it were, to get the full effect. But I’d heard several commentators (including Rush Limbaugh) extolling Trump’s performance. So I decided to give it a listen. And that was no small investment. The full event was over forty minutes long. And listening to Trump go over a relatively simple sequence of events and list the facts of his donations should have taken about four minutes. So his rhetorical style is far from laconic. And in fact I found it quite annoying. He dangled the facts of the case and the list of donations as if it were catnip on a string and we were the desperate felines being tantalized as the bait kept being bounced out of reach at the last second. I felt like grabbing him by the shoulders and shaking him until he relented. So you can tell that I’m not bewitched by the siren song of The Donald’s shtick.
But it is undeniable that every time he rounded on the assembled media and called them sleazy and dishonest and “not-good” I inwardly cheered. His ability to call them out and take them to task for their biased treatment of republican candidates and the complete pass they give to the democrats is like a breath of fresh air. By the time the event was over I was almost giddy. I felt like I had watched a rousing western where in the last reel our hero wins the girl and the gold and the villain is led off to jail or worse.
So why do I find this interesting? Definitely not because I think it such a victory for Trump. In fact it wasn’t completely clear that he hadn’t neglected to expedite the disbursal to the veterans groups of the funds he had raised.
What I think makes it so exciting is that Trump fully understands how to counteract the various media strategies. This particular attack is part of the “death by a thousand paper cuts” method. Each attack is relatively minor but by means of a steady drumbeat of bad news they drag down the victim and surround him in a cloud of negative energy. The best example of this was the Iraq
war reporting where every single day featured several pieces of bad news that inevitably went unanswered by the president and his administration. A less intense example was the skewering of Mitt Romney. An attack was put together that for the most part consisted of trivial items or out of context statements that added together was meant to portray him as uncaring and out of touch with average people.
And it worked.
Trump doesn’t let this happen. He recognizes when he needs to answer criticism and then he answers it in a devastating direct manner that doesn’t so much present a defense of his own actions but rather attacks the methods and motives of the press.
And it works!
Trump has recognized that before you can storm the castle where the democrats hide you first have to kill the Loch Ness Monster they have defending the moat. And whenever he attacks the press he not only helps his own case but he gives hope to all the conservative voters who have watched for twenty five years as the hapless Bushes and Doles and McCains and Romneys have cowered in front of the press and slipped on the endless banana peels that the press tosses in front of them. Instead of being stuck with a candidate who is like Charlie Brown being hung out to dry by Lucy and her football, we get Popeye Doyle from the French Connection, kicking in doors and punching out lights. Or to make a simpler entertainment metaphor we finally get to win with the Roadrunner instead of lose with Wile E. Coyote.
Finally someone who can fight fire with fire.