My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

Just a little commentary….

The world is losing its mind.  It's irritating as hell.  First we had this free-for-all in Charlottesville followed by the President abdicating any moral leadership he ever had and now we're very busy tearing down statues.  It's madness.

As for the Trump thing, it matters that he equivocated.  There are no "very fine people" in a neo-nazi rally.  They don't exist.  Hold, on, I can hear you now "well what about Antifa?"  Antifa used violence as well.  That's bad too but we cannot tolerate nazi-ism or White Supremacists in our country for we know where that leads.  The President needed to say that nazis are bad.  That doesn't seem complicated or difficult to me.  Honestly, a politician in 2017 doesn't get points for being able to articulate such a position.  However, that second statement where he finally indicated that this was all bad didn't contain what Trump has in his heart.  We saw that at that free for all press conference.  I'm disappointed in him.

The wreckage that followed has been substantial.  His two big business councils have evaporated – that really shocked me.  Big time CEO's don't walk away from a power center like that easily.  Bannon is gone and the President's inner circle is as constricted as ever.  His Presidency is in serious jeopardy of just not mattering anymore.  Honestly, he needs to man up, forget about Twitter and do what the people elected him to do.  He's behaving like a 5 year old and whether you like the guy or not having a failed presidency isn't helpful.

What's followed is a rush to pull down statues, etc. celebrating / recognizing civil war era Confederate generals.  In my view, there's way more heat than light around this issue.  The Federal government doesn't need to be passing laws or any sort of judgment as to the appropriateness of these actions.  Frankly, neither do the states but states, and southern states in particular, despite their "freedom loving" majorities tend to be overwhelmingly paternalistic.  Virginia is no different so the state is involved in the debate.  Honestly, this is a question for the localities to answer.  I'd like to see a more public process than what happened in Baltimore but at the end of the day if the folks in Baltimore or Manassas or Richmond don't want those statues, it isn't anyone else's business.  Ideally there would be public hearings or maybe even a body to study the issue but any methodology that involves the public before the Council / Board of Supervisors makes a decision would be good.  If the folks in those towns don't like the decision they should find new representatives.  This is the way that most big decisions need to be made and when they aren't (like the police station project here in Manassas – zero input) then the citizens don't respond well.  It's an intensely local issue and it should stay that way.

What's going to happen next?  Well, the republicans have a hellish September in front of them.  They have to pass a deficit cap increase and a budget.  The leadership keeps talking about tax reform but I'm pretty skeptical.  If they get with the Democrats and figure out something that can pass with support from both parties then maybe.  Otherwise, we'll have more of the same….nothingburger drama from our leadership.

Trump and the media

There really are two kinds of media – print media (to include some websites) and "live" media.  I've never held live media (tv, radio) to a particularly high standard.  Live media has always been better at covering "live news" items – natural disasters and the OJ bronco chase for instance.  For politics and things that require some analysis or introspection, it's horrible.  Live media is that hot, immediate reaction while print has the advantage of measured response.  Live media is substantially personality-driven where print is not.  Does Hannity really support Trump?  Probably.  However, Hannity does know his bleating on about Trump draws viewers and that means money.  Same with AM Joy or any of the lefties on MSNBC.  Print media, with a few exceptions – and those exceptions are generally found on the opinion page – lacks that cult of personality: as it should.

Print media has normally been the "media of record".  That ability to wait 12 hours before the next paper was printed helped dull the edge and provide room for introspection.  Nowadays print media finds itself fighting for its life so it has naturally ventured onto the web – where publication schedules mean nothing.  Live media has their video up on the internet nearly as it happens and people like video.  Print media has to follow suit in some fashion.

And so it is that we've ended up with the traditional print media slugging it out with our President.  I like the writing in the Times but it does lean left and, I'll be honest: watching them print stories of late has been cringe-worthy.  They have been just as guilty as Trump of getting way out there.  Having the President of the United States blather on about "fake news" isn't useful but the Times and the WaPo have been conducting themselves like supermarket rags.  Wouldn't be surprised to see some Kardashian news on the front page.  

Now, the cult of personality in live media isn't going to change – that's how they sell ads.  You're going to see thin, attractive blonde women on Fox acting as foils to older guys blasting away at the "lamestream media" (of which Fox is a part) and you're going to see Smerconovich or some other lefty doing the same on MSNBC or CNN.  That part of the live media is almost entirely useless.  It's media but it ain't "News".

However, on the print media front I do see some signs of "reset" setting in.  It is tenuous but it's there.  The response from the big papers was relatively measured when Spicer didn't allow some of them admission to a press briefing.  The Times and the WaPo ran an article on their web pages but it was measured and not all that different from what the Journal provided.  Like I said, it's tenuous but present.  

At the end of the day, the news media are a crucial counterweight to any power center and they need to stick with the facts.  Yes, some editorial analysis  and maybe even outrage is important but that's confined to the editorial page.  Does Trump deserve some of the poor coverage?  Damn right.  The first month of his presidency has been a predictable, self-inflicted disaster.  He got some stuff done but it almost didn't matter.  Trump is his own worst enemy and the media were correct in pointing out all of the poor decisions and loose talk but then went too far.  It's a fine line but that's what experienced Editors are for.  The media should never relent – but nether should they go over the line.

I do believe the print media will come back to some sort of normalcy – not everyone will like that but don't confuse the job of the print media with that baloney you see on teeeveee.  I might be too optimistic but this could be the moment in which the print media rediscovers their dedication to this crucial concept: Hard-nosed reporting keeps our democracy working and it is their responsibility to make it happen.  Sensationalist headlines might sell papers – but only for awhile and only until those in power can paint them as simple "anti".  The papers need to report the Presidents actions and / or promises and then hold him accountable – regardless of his or her party affilliation.

My Daddy was never a billionaire hobnobbing with the rich and famous but the President would do well to remember the only piece of political advice he ever gave me: "never pick a political fight with someone who has nothing but time."  Trump needs to use the institutions to affect his reforms because if they aren't engaged, they have nothing but time.  Trump has the opportunity to be a transformational president but he needs to get about it and forget about someone calling him a bad name.  Fighting with media of whatever sort only creates drag.

 

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