DONAL TRUMP as he announces his run for a second term: CREDIT: Screenshot from C-Span
SO, YOU WANT TO KNOW how the Trump announcement went on Tuesday? Good luck. None of the old fashioned TV networks carried the event live. The cable “news” outlets didn’t do much: Fox carried a lot of the speech, but not all of it; CNN some of it; and MSNBC none of it. When I looked at the New York Times website the day after, I couldn’t find a straight away account. And the Washington Post seemed to spend more space on background and context than on what happened at Florida’s most famous crime scene, Mar-a-Lago. Actually, the fact-checkers seemed to publish more of the speech's content than did their hard-news counterparts; if you're going to document a lie, you need first to say what it is.
GOOD, YOU ARE SAYING. The media finally has learned its lesson, correcting its hang-on-Trump’s-every-word debacle approach in 2016, when the Donald first emerged as one of history’s rudest, outrageous, surely, blasphemous, watch-the-train-wreck political monsters, to say nothing his role as the media’s Good Fairy guarantor of big ratings and improved circulation. This time, the media would not be be blamed for sending Trump into the White House, because of excessive, cost-free coverage. Besides, in 2022, what surprises could the twice-impeached, relentlessly investigated, election loser possibly bring? Most experts expected him to run for president in 2024; so, if he did so on Nov. 15, 2022, or Jan. 6, 2023, so what? What’s more, if you did give it big play on Page One or carry the speech live, you’d be laughed right out of the old timey tavern, the sleaze bar or the snooty country club, wherever it is that the Media Hive-Brain gathers to decide what story line its news clones should follow.
BUT HOW ABOUT YOU AND ME? You’re kidding, of course. The consumers of news, the readers, listeners, viewers, Twitter followers and the subscribers are but a parenthetical afterthought in the algorithm that determines what the champions of the First Amendment decide to cover, or not. I, as one customer, had questions I wanted answered from accounts of the Mar-a-Lago event. Would Trump actually run for a second try at a second term? I’m nearly always wrong when I make predictions, and I was certain that Trump would NOT seek a second term. So, I was curious to see just how far off the mark I was. Moreover, for those of us who don’t follow the day-to-day antics of Trump’s presidential afterlife, the announcement would be a good time to catch up:
What is the guy like these days?
Is he physically fit?
Mentally in the game?
Does he still need both hands to hold a water bottle?
Has he put on weight?
Is the comb-over still an engineering masterpiece?
Is he still liquid-tan orange? If so, how bright the hue?
Can Trump still wow a crowd? Stand still at a podium? Does he need help on the stairs? Does he still have the “it,” that mysterious ability that allowed him to turn primary opponents into lapdogs, and crush Hillary Clinton (I know, she won the popular vote), and could he still give Sleepy Joe a run for the dark money? Would he say anything about the shellacking the Republicans received in the midterms? And whose fault would it be? Certainly not his. Would he have new insulting names for Florida Gov. Ron De-Sanctimonious, plus more ominous hints about Ron’s supposed unsavory background? Granted, I could have missed them, but I wasn’t able to find a satisfactory next-day newspaper account, one of those traditional comprehensive first drafts of history stories crammed with lavish quotes, expert paraphrases, full transcript on Page 8, top-to-bottom description of what he was wearing, the kind of wardrobe review that even accused serial killers get on the first day of their trials. I did find a recording on C-Span, which you’re welcome to watch, if you have 1 hour, 17 minutes and 47 seconds of your life that you don’t care about. CLICK HERE for the link. Or you can settle for my half-baked, partisan and incomplete “report.”
THE SUMMARY: He’s the same old Donald, just not as much. THE LONG VERSION: What I saw was a low-volume version of Trump. He seemed weary and drawn, and he spoke calmly, almost dispiritedly, reminding me of an over-the-hill college professor delivering, with the help of his yellowed notes, the same worn out lecture that’s been putting freshmen to sleep for generations. He seemed wistful at having to explain the basics of Trump World, sort of like having to review World War II with the freshmen - who were the combatants, and who won. First, outlined The Glory: When I left office, the United States stood ready for its Golden Age, our nation was at the pinnacle of power, prosperity and towering above all rivals, vanquishing all enemies and striving into the future, confident and so strong. Then the Betrayal: The blood-soaked streets of our cities are cesspools of violent crime… Our southern boarder has been erased and our country is being invaded by millions and millions of unknown people, many of whom are entering for very bad and sinister reasons. He glowed a mild shade of orange. The comb-over was expertly executed. His suit looked expensively tailored, ensuring that its wearer would appear unfat to the unforgiving eye of a high-def TV camera. His tie was red. Every once in a while, he’d increase his volume, as if a hidden prompter gave him the loud whisper to Raise Your Voice. As to substance, there were some surprises: Unless I missed it, he did not mention, at least directly, the Big Lie: his claim that he actually won the 2020 election. He did say that going forward, elections surely need reforming – he was in favor of voter ID, same-day voting, counting all votes on election day. And make no mistake, elections are a mess: It’s horrible what is happening with our election process. I will get that job done It’s a personal job for me. I take that personally. Subdued as he seemed to me, Professor Trump was still cruel and mean. Here's an example, his plan for "justice" reform, which I don't know if it was new, or just that I hadn't heard it before, how Trump would to ask Congress for legislation to deal firmly with drug dealers: We’re going to be asking everyone who sells drugs, gets caught, to receive the death penalty for their heinous acts. (I found it interesting that Trump still figured he had to work with another branch of government). And, while not explicitly adopting it, he spoke admiringly of an approach to controlling drug selling to one that he claimed China’s President Xi Jinping had personally shared with him: You have an immediate and quick trial. By the end of the day, you’re executed. Not that Trump was recommending such a “terrible thing” in the U.S. But on the other hand, “they have no drug problem.” As for the midterm elections, Trump chose to look on the sunny side: he bragged that lots of his endorsed candidates had fared well in primaries and later, and that most of all, Republicans should rejoice in taking back the House from the Democrats, instead of grousing about its slim margin. Nancy Pelosi has been fired. They (Republicans) said: "Let’s win by 40 seats." I said: “If you win by two seats, be happy.” Trump emerged as a generous and considerate host to his Mar-a-Lago guests: Sit down. I feel guilty having you stand. You have been standing for this whole event. I feel very guilty. I don’t want that to happen. There were familiar contradictions: One one hand, It is not enough to complain or oppose… I never wanted to be a critic. On the other, I am a victim. I am a victim. And he promised that in The Restoration, Job One would be to get rid of his tormentors at the FBI and the Department of Justice, to root out “the festering rot and corruption of Washington D.C.” The actual declaration of his candidacy, about 18 minutes into the speech, was a classic mashup of bombast and modesty, plus another of his remembered conversations that never took place: In order to make America great and glorious again, I am announcing my candidacy for president of the United States. Thank you, all of you. So many incredible friends and family here tonight. It’s a beautiful thing. People say: "How do you speak before so many people?" When there is love in the room, it is really easy. You ought to try it sometime.
IT HURTS WHEN THE MEDIA screws up, because so much of the time, it does terrific work and democracy fails without it. And I acknowledge that the Hive's under-coverage was not without its humorous moments. Both the Times and the Post practically hid their minimal stories on Page One, and I can’t help but think that the editors understood Trump’s rage the next morning when seeing that he wasn't the day's most important story. The tabloid New York Post carried off that job off best, not mentioning Trump by name on its front page, but running this headline: FLORIDA MAN MAKES ANNOUNCEMENT. Page 26 Still, it’s sad that the Hive has not learned its lesson: never underestimate (downplay) Donald Trump. He wins primaries; he wins general elections (well, one, at least); he corrupts everything and everyone that gets near him. He led an insurrection and so far is getting away with it, just like he always gets away with whatever it is. He wrecked our foreign policy. Murdered thousands of Americans by his bungled approach to Covid. He gave permission for racial bias and hatred to spread viciously and casually throughout the land. He is too dangerous, too awful, too sinister, too destructive to be ignored or downplayed America deserves better. Not just a better president. But a better, more humble, more independent, less lockstep, less arrogant media.
I'VE BEEN a reporter and writer for 58 years, long enough to have learned that journalists don't know very much, although I've met some smart ones. Mainly, what reporters know comes from asking other people questions and fretting about the answers. This blog is a successor to one inspired by our dog, Phoebe, who was smart, sweet and the antithesis of Donald Trump. She died Feb. 3, and I don't see getting over that very soon. Occasionally, I may try to reach her via cell phone.