My Side of the Fence

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

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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.


What about the GOP?

The GOP is, without doubt, the party in power.  They control just about everything.  Both houses of Congress, President and shortly the Supreme Court.  They're in control of some amazing percentage of state houses.  It really is almost without precedent.  

However, all of that kind of belies the fact that there are really no fewer than 3 republican parties.  There remains the old, social conservative republican party – but mainly at the state level.  You can see that on full display in Richmond with bathroom bills, pornography proclamations, abortion, gay marriage and other legislation crucial to controlling our private lives.  Actual governance kind of happens by accident and it's normally driven by the budget.  The stuff that gets considered in Richmond is just as crazy as anything you'd see further south.  That's the social conservative wing. 

Next you have the fiscal conservatives.  They are sometimes wrapped up with the social conservatives but not always.  The TEA party is pretty representative of this wing of the party.  These guys really do not care about anything but the bottom line.  I got no fight with that but this world view makes the allergic to planning because that commits them to spending money at some point in the future….even if they agree with those expenditures.  

Then you have the Trumpers.  They believe in Trump and his ability to singularly influence the outcomes on no fewer than a dozen policy fronts.  The Trump phenomenon is a populist one: he and he alone can deliver what everyone else needs.  Need a job? not a problem.  Fixing health care?  pish.  Rebuilding infrastructure?  easy.  Foreign relations and treaty issues?  We just need better deals.  The Trumper wing of the party is interesting because it contains a core of true believers for whom anything but good news is fake news.  However, the increment that put Trump over the top in the general election are folks from the middle and social conservatives who cautiously invested in the Trump phenomenon.

Interestingly, those three wings don't include guys like me.  Center-Right "Businessman Conservatives".  You know, the guys who have historically been responsible for cautious spending with a willingness to invest.  Think about guys from both sides of the aisle that everyone holds near and dear: Harry Parrish and Chuck Colgan come to mind.  We will occasionally invest in the fiscal conservative movement but they tend to extremism and we don't like that.  We aren't, after all, politicians really.  And don't start in with "RINO" and all that BS.  Those same businessmen conservatives balance the books in every municipality every year and the current brand of "republicanism" we see doesn't make much sense although I'm open to the argument that this is mainly due to the current messenger.

I don't know what the future holds for the GOP.  Along party membership lines, I think the group of people who identify themselves as "Independents" continues to grow as the parties become more extreme.  From a here and now perspective, my guess is that Trump continues to bumble.  At some point, it will occur to the GOP in Congress that they are going to have to run for office again so they'll crank up their legislative processes and start putting legislation on the Presidents desk whether he wants it or not.  Hopefully healthcare gets fixed in a useful way and we'll do some tax reform.

I don't remember much from the Nixon administration so the "Saturday night massacre" is really history to me.  I cannot imagine, mainly due to the massive changes in media, that interest in politics could be any higher than it is right now.  As I write this, we're about a month into a new administration, the national security advisor has already resigned and it's clear the Trump administration is headed towards some sort of reboot.  I welcome that.  Many of the centrists cautiously invested in the Trump administration and I, along with them, do hope that the President gets his act together.  I do think the President, along with a GOP majority in Congress, has a historic opportunity to get some big things done but the self-inflicted wounds are piling up.

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