There was a night in the presidency of Richard Nixon when he quietly left the Oval Office and made that long trek to the Lincoln Memorial. He had yet to face the darkest days of his political career, as Watergate was still just a hotel and not a scandal, a mere phantom that waited for him the future.
But he was in the midst of the Vietnam War — and it was no longer Johnson’s war. Lyndon was gone, back to ranch. No more kids chanting “Hey, hey LBJ; how many kids did you kill today?”
Now they were after him; it was Nixon’s war. So to get away from the crisis, from just being alone in that office, Nixon sought some inspiration from another American president who had presided over a war that had torn the country apart in a fashion that Vietnam never had.
While he was contemplating the statue of Abe, a war protester noticed Nixon just standing there and just sort of nodded at him, perhaps having enough comprehension of basic decency to know when to shut up.
The “Nixon Imprisonment.” The Nixon presidency was characterized by a bunker mentality and an enemies list. He was never comfortable with the media and always afraid of them. Only once did he drop the pretense, the veil of civility and the strained attempt at accommodation. As he ended a news conference following a failed campaign to become governor of California, he said to the smug reporters in the room, “You won’t have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore.”
That’s probably what separates President Donald Trump from every other American chief executive of the modern era. He despises the “failing New York Times,” he abhors the “fake media,” he has little time for tendentious reporters. But he won’t pander, he won’t apologize and he won’t avoid a confrontation. He doesn’t fear he media.
There’s no bunker mentality at the White House either. Trump isn’t hiding from bad press or trying to avoid his detractors. Trump had protesters long before he even recited the inauguration oath and he’s used to it, welcomes it, almost embraces it.
No, it’s the media that have occupied the bunker. The mainstream media are reporting Trump like there was a war going on or as if we were in the midst of some prolonged constitutional crisis.
More precisely, the media are reporting Trump the way they they imagine Trump should be responding. I can’t quite match the increasing hysteria being shared by the anchors at CNN, CBS and MSNBC with the relatively sedate atmosphere of the Trump administration.
Is this all a desperate attempt to be noticed? Does the media feel that Trump has stripped away its empowerment and is sort enacting a corporate tirade to demonstrate its anger?
You’d think it was Trump who had been accused of wiretapping Obama instead of the other way around. Yet the media continues to treat Trump’s allegations as if these words suggested some darker motives.
And they will not let go of Russia despite the utter dearth of evidence that anything inappropriate occurred between Trump and Putin. And that is the real riddle here: just what do they think did occur. The liberal media is not only at a loss to locate the smoking gun, they cannot find the body.
Nor do they like to be reminded about how Hillary Clinton had Russian machinations all over her hands. Just what happened to all that American uranium anyway?
There may be a vital psychological lesson to be learned from this behavior but it might just be distilled to raw denial. The media remain in deep denial that Trump won the election and have compounded that denial with their insistence that the administration is struggling to articulate its objectives and nuance its messaging.
Trump continues to refuse to the play the game of politics by the rules the mainstream media has written and enforced for decades. They are used to subservience from and control over presidents they don’t like while they enable, enforce and empower those presidents they do like.
Sometimes reality is hard to take.
And they aren’t taking it well.
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