Trump Wins and Loses Media War

Wolf and Donald

Wolf Blitzer looks pretty siting in his anchor chair with his rich baritone voice flowing out of his fashionably unshaven 70-year-old muzzle.

He strikes an avuncular pose surrounded by his younger colleagues. The professor and his loyal crew of cable media darlings  dole out the daily news goodies, each and every report considered “Breaking News. And why, you may wonder, is every story considered breaking news ? Well, probably because Fox has been drubbing them in the ratings and Fox breaks everything, traditions, rules, standards and yes, sometimes even news.

Now Mr. Trump is in Washington. He’s been here for about four days and he’s already making Wolf look like same gullible chair warmer he was during the entire presidential campaign. Or maybe it’s not Blitzer. It could be the entire editorial leadership at CNN. Once in a while Jake Trapper gets the sense that all of the news is not breaking and someone may have an agenda lurking in the diatribes unleashed by Kellyanne Conway or Sean Spicer. But Trapper seems inclined to posit the notion and then dive right back into the shallow end of Mr. Trump’s press pool.

This was on full display this weekend. An apparently angry Trump didn’t want the media focusing too much attention, or any at all, on the million or more people who snaked through the same streets he had the day before during his inaugural parade. The problem for Mr. Trump is that any beat cop in DC could tell you he was out-marched by nearly two to one when comparing his turn-out to The Women’s Marchers that painted the town pink and made him see red. 

That means twice as many people were telling him where to shove it than how happy they were to see him. It was a huge, global “take that Mr. Bigley” moment as he came to Washington with a woeful 40% approval rating. Live TV, back to back spectacles, move and countermove, thrust and parry. A massive grass roots movement across the globe in wild weekend of world peace and political poker, a huge game of Texas hold-em. By sunset, the Women’s pile of chips looked a lot bigger than Mr. Bigley’s.  

Well, Mr. Bigley was not about to throw in his hand. When everyone else was about to call it a day, he was upping the ante. He was mad as hell and he wasn’t going to take it anymore, to borrow a phrase, as he and the First Mrs. are want to do. Damnit, his crowds were huge, the biggest ever, in the history of all inaugurations. Any notion to the contrary was the media’s fault. The lying, dishonest media and the fake news he claims it gins up everyday just to slow him down. How dare they steal the biggest day of his life with something so lame as a pink parade of women and some facts. And with one hand fresh off of the Lincoln Bible and the other tied behind his back, he was going to swear in a few facts of his own and change the optics. To do that he got out a new deck like some slick outside a bus station in New York City.  In less time than it takes to say three card monte,  he was moving the cards so fast it would be days, or years, before Mr. Blitzer and his crew could or would catch up.

Mr. Trump had a strategy to get the media’s focus off  of the biggest global protest since days of Martin Luther King and and Mahatma Gandhi.  He was already scheduled for an appearance at CIA headquarters, right in mouth of the lion’s den where he knew 400 folks were coming in on their day off to see their new boss of bosses. So there he was., all orange hair and double thumbs up, Mr. Bigley in person.  He’d come to tell them nobody loves the CIA more than he does and he’s “a thousand percent behind them.” But he’s not just telling them he’s telling everyone on camera. Indirectly, he was telling the CIA to forget about those reckless and nasty things he’d been saying  earlier when he compared  the intel community to the nasty boys from the Third Reich. Plus he was on  TV, at the CIA. 

Without actually saying, “I’m sorry,” he was taking it all back for everyone to see before he got around to why he really came – to fire both barrels at the media. It’s all their fault. The media had the audacity to imply that his crowds were as small as his hands (without exactly saying that because that really gets Mr. Bigley all riled up). And with that, he wasn’t done, not by a long shot.

Since he tells us how smart he is all the time, he had to know he was standing in front of the CIA’s most hallowed ground, the wall of stars that forever commemorates the agents who gave their lives protecting our nation. His staff could have told him to be respectful and skip the political hype and be as solemn as one would be at Arlington Cemetery. But he wasn’t there to be respectful or make nice. He wanted to take their minds off of fighting terrorism and rip the despicable media a new one by letting them know the media is a lying pack of wolves wearing press credentials.

CNN went crazy. This was an apostasy. This was heresy. How dare the leader of the free world make a mockery of the CIA’s great tomb. A correspondent quoted outgoing CIA Director John Brennan who described Mr. Trump’s conduct as despicable. Boy, this sure sounded like breaking news and Mr. Bigley and his team weren’t done yet.

Next, he sent Sean Spicer, his brand new White House spokesman, out to the microphone with a very unhappy face for first press conference, but not exactly. It was less a press conference than a tirade, a blistering rant against the press and it’s endless rude and wrong stories of crowd sizes backed up with a lot of new data on subway ridership, magnetometers, fences and stuff that made Mr. Bigley look bad when, in fact, everything was wonderful and his parade was the biggest by far. The whole time he’s looking like a spoiled, seething brat full of bluster and blarney. Clearly Spicer was very angry, or his boss told him to look very angry – and by the way there will be no questions.

This was hot stuff. The CNN anchors and guests called Spicer out for being a big jerk who clearly doesn’t know where the campaign trail ends and the pubic’s business begins.

Wow, This was breaking news on top of breaking news. CNN was certain it had the high ground, but in the background you could almost hear Mr. Bigley snickering. Nobody was talking about what hours earlier had been the biggest story in the world, The Women’s March.

This farce went on for two day. It was a  torrent of a media frenzies. Trump’s acolytes and managers were on the airwaves all day Sunday and throughout Monday doing and undoing the damage as fast as they could. Kellyanne Conway was on Meet The Press. She smiled and preened and got sweetly huffy with Chuck Todd and sparred with him about everything but the definition of is.  She launched into one of her here is how long I can talk without taking a breath arguments and summed it all up by telling Todd that he and the rest of the lying, dishonest media were wrong because, because, wait for it, she had “alternate facts.” Whoo boy, Todd does not like alternate facts and he told her so, so she told him she might have to “rethink our relationship.”

Are you starting to get it ?

There is a media war already being run inside the White House. And it wouldn’t be surprising to discover that it’s being written and produced by another guy with a grey beard who is a little younger than Wolf Bliter. His whiskers and his message are more than a tad darker. Could it be that Mr. Steve Bannon, the White House Chief Strategist, previously the king of alternative everything, especially facts, was orchestrating this political carnival.  Is somebody in the White House counting on Mr. Blitzer to break his neck breaking a batch of seemingly orchestrated news stories ? Oh sure, Bannon is here to serve the public and create jobs in the Midwest. Uh huh. But don’t be surprised if he’s  breaking the network’s knee caps and every rule in the post Nixon rule book about how The White House staff is supposed to turn into a truth squad immediately after two years of disinformation and distortion on the campaign trail.

Mr. Bigley, Ms. Kellyanne, Mr. Bannon and Mr. Spicer just took Blitzer and the earnest boys and girls at CNN to school this weekend and gave them a media spanking the likes of which they won’t soon forget, if they finally figure it out.  Nobody was talking about the marchers and damn few were discussing Trump’s veiled threat at the CIA to break a handful of federal and intentional laws by stealing Iraq’s oil, a major story they nearly overlooked in their coverage until a former CIA agent tossed it our there as a guest commentator as the segment was about to close.

Trump and his people did what they’ve done for nearly two years. Punch you in the face, listen to you scream, then they make nice.  They and their little tirades and stole the day. They played to the base and sang to their choir and let the world know that there is new sheriff in town who then had a nice party with cocktails and cameras present so he could be seen making nice to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Steny Hoyer along with the GOP’s congressional big shots before pronouncing that “We have a beautiful relationship.” The President then got out a new box of pens and signed some of those terrible executive orders he deemed unconstitutional when Mr. Obama held the pen in his hands.

Finally, Sean Spicer had his second, first press conference. This time he wore his symbolic boy scout uniform and promised never, never, never to tell a lie. He smiled and flirted and acted like the genuine article until it was time to whine for 10 minutes about how rough the media has been on poor Mr. Bigley. Don’t you now how frustrating it is to listen to the media saying nothing but “No” for two years and telling their team what it can and can’t accomplish ? Gee whiz, it gets frustrating, he said, and shucks maybe we got some stuff wrong. But he promised they’d do better and they’d always tell the truth. And that of course was breaking news for Mr. Blitzer, where “THIS IS CNN”

Somewhere off in California you could almost here the suddenly retired 44th President shaking his head and saying to his wife, Michelle. “Honey, are you watching this. Mitch McConnell tells me no for eight years and these guys are fed up in two days You can’t make this stuff up !”

Oh dear. Alas, President Obama, they can. And when they do it’s “Breaking News on CNN.”

By Bradford Brown