Normalizing Trump: An incredibly brief explainer

A conflict in the journalist's code was created by a president wholly unfit for the job.

17 Sep 2017 1:12 am 107 Comments

Most every journalist who covers Trump knows of these things:

1. He isn’t good at anything a president has to do. From the simplest, like pretending to help out in flood relief, to the hardest: making the call when all alternatives are bad. (We’re told he can be charming one-on-one. So maybe that’s his one skill.)

2. He doesn’t know anything about the issues with which he must cope. Nor does this seem to bother him.

3. He doesn’t care to learn. It’s not like he’s getting better at the job, or scrambling to fill gaps in his knowledge.

4. He has no views about public policy. Just a few brute prejudices, like if Obama did it, it was dumb. I do not say he lacks beliefs — and white supremacy may be one — but he has no positions. His political sky is blank. No stars to steer by.

5. Nothing he says can be trusted.

6. His “model” of leadership is the humiliation of others— and threat of same. No analyst unfamiliar with narcissistic personality types can hope to make sense of his actions in office.

It’s not like items 1-6 have been kept secret. Journalists tell us about them all the time. Their code requires that. Simultaneously, however, they are called by their code to respect the voters’ choice, as well as the American presidency, of which they see themselves a vital part, as well as the beat, the job of White House reporting. The two parts of the code are in conflict.

If nothing the president says can be trusted, reporting what the president says becomes absurd. You can still do it, but it’s hard to respect what you are doing. If the president doesn’t know anything, the solemnity of the presidency becomes a joke. That’s painful. If they can, people flee that kind of pain. In political journalism there is enough room for interpretive maneuver to do just that.

This is “normalization.” This is what “tonight he became president” is about. This is why he’s called “transactional,” why a turn to bipartisanship is right now being test-marketed by headline writers. This is why “deal-making” is said to be afoot when there is barely any evidence of a deal.

What they have to report brings ruin to what they have to respect. So they occasionally revise it into something they can respect: at least a little.


Brilliant plainspoke truth. The light of it hurts my eyes.

Shared widely.

And thanks for all you do (esp for the little ppl like me, lost, in the dark).

Charlotte says:

Share my dream: 3:00 am, tactical squad in all black, circle the WH and one or two other locations, pound down the doors and whisk the fake president and his “advisors” away to a secret location, where Robert Mueller himself awaits for interviews. This is, after all, how the FBI deals with the worst of the worst of high level white collar criminals, why would it be any different for the most powerful criminal of them all?

Richard Kalish says:

Tweet today from David Fahrenthold: “It’s not just Mar-a-Lago. Across @realdonaldtrump’s biz, he is losing longtime event clients wary of his politics.”

Why does he use the neutral term “wary of his politics” to describe why Mar-a-Lago clients canceled their events. Many of the cancellations were accompanied by explanations which made clear that these people weren’t “wary” at all; they were disgusted and repulsed. So why did Fahrenthold use “wary”? Probably for the reasons in this article, including the habitual “respect” narrative journalists are trained to use when writingk about the presidency. Journalists have to learn quickly how to stop doing that and to reprogram themselves to stop normalizing this president.

J. Walesch says:

Well put!

Louise Anderson senior citizen says:

well and honestly written (maybe even ethical) but makes me want to cry.

Tom Perich says:

Hit the nail dead center on the head. Hard. OVERhard.

Francis mwamba says:

am concerned about the behaviour of reporters,this has gone much into dillution of said statements.reporting what is said is enough than taking an issue indeferent analytical understandings ultmately giving falsewoods to people.

James Burrus says:

I think the operative term here would be “gonzo.” Journalists need to practice “gonzo journalism.”

Bill Matthews says:

100% agree with your treatise! As a nation, I believe America has moved so far away from factual reporting (Accurate, but usually boring) to Pundit, Opinion based news (Sometimes accurate, (usually not) but then gets lost in the opinions! Case in point, I watched CNN’s reporting on the protests in St. Louis over the weekend and was so disappointed that they did not LOUDLY & VOCALLY call out the violence by the few idiots with masks and rocks. Especially in light of how vocal they were to point it out in the Charlottesville case!

I’d disagree on one major point that has been brought up before but bares repeating.

The voters did not choose Donald Trump. The voters chose Hillary. The electoral college chose Donald Trump.

I’d suggest that that should be a major caveat for the normal “respect” due to a President. Thus saying “the voters will” is cause to give him deference is wrong in this occasion.

Bill Michtom says:

In reality, the GOP chose Trump. They stole the election, just as they did in 2000:

Louise Anderson senior citizen says:


One could also say that the 70 million nonvoters decided the election. This is registered voters who didn’t bother to show up; 20 million more were eligible but didn’t even register. You have apathy as the biggest single bloc, followed by HRC voters and Trump voters. Sadly, the know-nothing narcissist clown “leading” the formerly great America is the leader most Americans deserve, and conscientious Americans must somehow survive.

Understand your point Laura – with a caveat. If you were to vote at all, not voting for Trump, whether voter or electoral college, would have meant voting for Clinton. Americans didn’t have a ‘logical’ choice to make in this election – and they never do. Any real hero being elected to president doesn’t stand a chance, because a hero would interfere with the profits of those who put people in power.

We aren’t going to get a hero, because they don’t exist in real life. A lot of people in Trump’s base think of him as a hero. Apathy, and the feeling that “neither of them is any damn good,” is a product of negative campaigning. Everyone has warts; when the campaign concentrates on the warts, it’s hard to be enthusiastic about any candidate.

…said the cynic who could vote but didn’t, so…Trump.

Laura Brown says:

True that the choice was an abysmal one…but HRC at least had experience and preparation for the job, basic political know-how, and decent manners. Also, people could and did vote for Stein and Johnson, and those votes in fact were more than the difference between Clinton and Trump.

You do know Clinton won only 487 counties out of 3,141? You do know that the only way Clinton won a majority was because of CA’s massive amount of voters pushed her tally over Trumps and if you take away CA’s votes she loses the majority in a landslide. You do know the Electoral College awards the presidency based on the Electoral College and not individual votes right? It helps to know the rules of the game before you play.

Clinton won the areas where people are concentrated. Many of those counties that Clinton didn’t win have fewer people than a large town, let alone a city.

That is true. And also the beautiful thing about the Electoral College as it forces a candidate to be popular nationally instead of in a few concentrated areas. The President of the United States of America is the ONLY government official elected by the entire country. He, or she, is truly the only person that represents the will of the people as a whole. If not for the Electoral College system you would have every future president handpicked by the states of CA, NY, TX, OH, and FL due to their large populations. Yes that may sit fine with you if you live in those 5 states, but I doubt the other 45 would be happy about it.

Part of living in a democracy mans you won’t always get your way. Sorry. get over it and do better next year. Also, and this can’t really be denied, Clinton was a terrible candidate to put up nationally and that’s on nobody but the DNC. 🙂

But you can’t take away CA. Their votes count. This argument is just as invalid as saying, “Well, if we take away the sparsely populated areas that voted for Trump, Hillary would have won!”

Likewise, your argument in a latter response in these comments, that the Electoral College somehow represents the “will of the people” because it allows fewer people spread out over a larger area to elect their preferred person, is invalid as well. In a democracy, people are supposed to vote, not land. Population density should have nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, it does have something to do with it, but only because of the EC, not because of some basic principle of democracy. Saying otherwise is like saying that it’s a good thing the EC elected Trump because the sky is blue. It’s a nonsequitor.

I see these two arguments all the time from conservatives. They’re completely cherry-picked, ad-hoc rationalizations to say that the popular vote shouldn’t matter (you’d be right if you said it doesn’t matter, but you’d be right only because of the EC: it SHOULD matter) or argue that the electoral college is a good thing despite the fact that it subverts the will of the people. You can bet if conservatives were concentrated in a single state, or if the EC elected Hillary, you’d be singing a different tune.

While I’d be much relieved if the EC had elected Hillary, I’d still consider it the abomination it is.

CA 100% counts. I just bring it up to show how it can lopside elections because of it’s huge size. The fact is, all the states in our nation aren’t created equal and finding a fair system to represent them has hounded our country from day one. If they were then there is no need for the EC, but because we are such a large nation with varied people and regional concerns we need a system designed to give everybody a voice without one group shouting the other out. Again, the EC forces a candidate to be just as popular with people in San Fran as they are in Knoxsville. it’s also not “land” that votes as you suggest but the people. You are wrong to think your average voter in KY has the same concerns as one living in CA and without the EC those differences won’t matter since we’d be effectively erasing all borders in this country. Like it or not, there are people who have different problems than you and think differently than you and they deserve to have a chance to express them through voting.

Erase the EC and you could actually legit end up with a form of real tyranny as the few living in the densely populated areas overwhelm the rest of the nation through their numbers. LA County alone has a population bigger than a majority of the states in the country. Again, I don’t know how the rest of your countrymen and women would appreciate living in a nation where presidents are handpicked by a minority group, those in CA.

As for my personal feelings, well the EC elected the candidate I voted against twice in the last 10 years and I’m ok with it. Elections aren’t about getting your way, it’s about sanctity of the rule of the people.

That said I personally would not mind a change to the system as is. I would like to see a system put in place where the election becomes a best of 3. To win the presidency you must win both the EC and the majority vote and in the event of a split we have a tie breaker, say feats of strength or a game of Jeopardy to determine the winner. Can the country not get behind that I ask?

Part of living in the ‘now’ is to not have an Electoral College based on the ‘slave state’ representation of two senators from each state being thumbs that weight the scale against the popular vote.
If we went only by the population distribution of the United States, which you think you’re promoting, which is the US Representatives who are handed out evenly by population (although even there, almost unpopulated states, like Alaska and Wyoming get one), then you could actually say ‘the population of the US elected’ whoever won.
But Wyoming’s 1/2 million people get three votes, for two Senators and one Rep, (3/500,000 = 1/166,000 people) while CA only gets 55 votes (53 House + 2 Senators) for a population of about 40 Million, or about 1/727,000. So Wyoming’s person is worth almost 4.5 more votes than a Californian.
So much for one person, one vote.
See, we ought to count humans. Your map is counting square miles.
And as soon as a square mile walks into a polling place and tries to cast a ballot, you might have something.
Until then, for the second Republican president in a row, the math that made slave states politically viable is how the Republican got elected,…
even after losing by 3 Million votes…..
to a girl.

Stellours says:

Thank you

You are totally right the EC gives more voting power to those states with small populations. By the numbers a voter in WY’s vote counts much more than a voter in CA. Is that fair? Probably not, but it is a quirk in the system that throws small states a bone. However at the end of the day, because the system does not count those votes and only Electoral College totals, it actually works out, as the big states are still prizes worth fighting for and winning, (Yes the winner take all system has destroyed any suspense of who will win places like CA or TX but that’s a another fight for another day, lol) yet the small states do add up and punch above their weight. Since you can’t win the presidency with CA’s 55 points you have to travel the nation and appeal to a broad base of voters which I said before is a strength of the system as it is opposed to regional candidates.

Now I’m not yet ready to throw the Senate statue out just because it has it’s foundations based on the 3/5ths compromise. In a sense, shouldn’t ALL states be considered equal under our government? Is one state really better than another and therefore should have more say on how we are governed? However there is no denying the states are not equal as each has different sizes, populations, wealth and resources that make enforcing true equality impossible when it comes to representation. As you can see it’s a difficult problem to solve. One which, surprise surprise, the Constitution and EC solve rather nicely through a series of compromises. A word I wish more in the nation today truly understood.

Sara Stitt says:

I agree with Cynthia.

Margaret Boyles says:

Ditto for me.

What a great line ” If the president doesn’t know anything, the solemnity of the presidency becomes a joke”

Gerald W Landrum says:

This piece is brilliantly on the mark, with several eye openers about the all important press: hope it becomes viral in the biggest way.

Gabrielle Shatan says:

I cringe every time the media talks about trump pivoting, being “presidential” etc. Nothing he says or does will change that he is completely unfit for office and a danger to all we cherish and hope to change in our country.

Gerald W Landrum says:

Nothing “normal” about this disturbed boy.

It’s like they’re waiting/looking for a construction/real estate guy to pivot into a heart surgeon. He can’t and won’t be who and what he is not. It’s delusional/fantasy thinking for anyone to believe or hope otherwise and all who do contribute to sinking the ship and giving away the farm.

Bonnie Tamres-Moore says:

Yeah, its kind of like waiting for a heart surgeon to transmogrify into an expert on Housing and Urban Development. No one in the Trump Administration is there for reasons of expertise unless it is their expertise in advancing phony narratives like Kris Kobach ( phony voter fraud ) or Scott Pruitt ( phony “climate science” ) .

If I may ask, how is he unfit? And yes I am asking for specifics.

Karen Leader says:

Spot on. Thank you.

He’s winging it daily. It depressing to think how low in world standing he has taken our already great country.

Even more sad is how many people we will lose before he exits.

Im sad to say after decades contributing to one of the arms of the US national academies system and thirty years visting silicon valley ict developments, that it simply seems too much of a risk to travel to or through the US from Australia until his presidency is over. I agree with the piece above, and would add the ever escalating surveillance and vilification of the’other'(be it immigrants or simply visitors) adds a sharp edge to the US that mr rosen missed in his summary

Delbert F Schafer lol says:

Right on the mark. Failure of MSM.

Neither a journalist or politician. Could his election (if not stolen) be viewed as the ultimate rebuke of US politics? I mean he did get nearly 63 million votes. SO, even if unfit, he may be just what we need to get back to talking to each other. Maybe this gives him too much credit….

Ted Raicer says:

All horrible leaders have followers-it means the followers are horrible too, not that the leader is less horrible.

Jake Jackson says:

Let’s see. In 2012, Romney called his opponent’s followers a pack of leeches. In 2016, Clinton called her opponent’s followers deplorable and irredeemable. So much for “we’re all in it together.” This is just two fighting clans. No wonder “independent” is the fastest growing “party.”

Normal Americans are disgusted with “your side” and “their side.”

Fred Fnord says:

“Both sides! Both sides! BOTH SIDES!”

But, see, it turns out that Romney was actually wrong (since basically all of Clinton’s supporters paid more of their income in taxes by percentage than the people he was talking to, due to elaborate tax shelters or just due to the fact that they make their money from capital gains), although I’m sure he was being sincere. And it turns out that a shockingly large number of Trump supporters are misogynists, white supremacists, and/or actual literal Nazis.

I’d *like* to think that ”normal Americans” are capable of telling the difference, and that you’re an “abnormal American”. I’m pretty sure about the latter, but only iffy on the former.

“Clinton called her opponent’s followers deplorable”

Half of them were called deplorable, first of all.

Many of them have shown this to be the case, as with the number of patently untrue things high percentages of R’s are reputably and repeatedly shown believing, and the slipping of the mask off many white supremacists.

Yes, it is a bithsides case.

Bruce Bartlett says:

You might also have mentioned the poor quality of his staff and his poor management skills. People like JFK and even Reagan attracted the best people their parties had. Trump attracts the worst.

True. I could have included that.

Gerald W Landrum says:

Attracts and recognizes as kindred spirits!

Sandra L Hall says:

Thank you for this. It seems that the only thing he excels at is keeping himself in front of us at all times through an event or tweet.

I have always trusted the MSM much more than many of my friends but I have begun to doubt, with a few exceptions that they are up to the task in this case.

Nancy M Ruff says:

It might also help to keep in mind that the “voters” chose another candidate. The EC installed him.

Gerald W Landrum says:

Support, call for, demand popular vote and end to states’ winner take all electoral votes giving some people three times voting power over others.

Jake Jackson says:

That particular complaint would have any credibility if your crowd had mentioned it prior to Nov. 9, 2016. Face it: You’re mad because your candidate lost, and you simply cannot stop throwing that tantrum.

Fred Fnord says:

Gee, it’s not like there’s been a movement to abolish the electoral college for over a hundred years, that has been steadily gaining ground for the last twenty years or anything like that. Nope, nothing to see here. Uh-uh.

Shorter “Jake Jackson”: “I love injustice, as long as it is done towards people I disagree with.”

“Tantrum” is a Funny-strange (not funny-haha) word choice given certain incomprehensible tweetstorms.

The left, plus media critics, have also been “throwing tantrums” since months before November 2016: James Comey’s bullcrap in July 2016, voter suppression starting 2010, the famous Hillary non-scandals since just about the time Chris Cillizza p it his name on anything.

Tantrums from the left, and the media, are far different than those coming from the POTUS. Two wrongs don’t make a right. And when you’re the POTUS you don’t get a free pass for acting like an ass because your enemies (not the POTUS, by the way) also behaved badly.

If we could avoid re-running the 2016 election or rehearsing every culture war battle since Spiro Agnew, I would sure appreciate that.

Ring, ring. 2000 is calling. There was a wee issue involving the EC then as well and, while you clearly haven’t kept up, many others have kept the issues with the EC very much in thought.

Robert Fergison says:

People get “angry”. Dogs become “mad”. Well, I digress. We are not angry that our candidate lost the election. We are angry that the greatest country on Earth is being run by a petulant child.

Beth Mazur says:

Earlier today I was listening to Katie Tur on MSNBC talking about her new book, describing some of the tshirts at trump rallies. Specifically tshirts using the “c” word to describe Hillary and women in general. She said it with something like horror in her voice. I thought to myself….where was this horror during campaign. Seems like she wants to have it both ways…treat his campaign with seriousness during it but now that it’s over she can be horrified. Really not trying to blame her just tell you what I thought when I heard her this morning. Ps I worked in tv news most of the 80’s and 90’s and am aware of the difficulties they face.

This was talked about extensively during the campaign. It was in evidence not only at Trump rallies but also in the comment sections on the internet. Still is. Comments about Clinton often include obscenities. I used to frequently remark how when the left criticized Trump they rarely called him a bastard. But Clinton (and any other woman being criticized) was a cunt. Just because you didn’t hear these things does not mean they didn’t happened. They were not reported because Clinton’s emails were so much more horrifying!

I’ve seen her interviewed several times re her new book as well as saw her coverage during the campaign. She’s the classic example of both sides “Broderism” and is still giving credence to the Trump white voter base. I’ve little respect for someone who took all that abuse as a female journalist and still wants to provide Trump and his supporters cover.

Gerald W Landrum says:


Thank you for this succinct and insightful commentary. I too cringe when he is said to be presidential; narcissistic personalities don’t change, they adapt to situations to suit their own interests. They are otherwise immutable!

Sherparick says:

I just wonder what feedback you get from Dean Baquet, Carolyn Ryan, Maggie Haberman, Peter Baker, and Glenn Thrush at the NY Times about your criticism. They seem to be in a constant state of whiplash at the Times as they go from writing puff pieces for access to shock and amazing when he twits or go into Trump being Trump off the cuff. They all basically continue the Times tradition of political coverage as theater criticism and sports writing, with an aversion to policy and the consequences of bad policy.

They don’t engage with me much, but here’s one case where they did.

Maybe because most are white and make they don’t really experience the harm in what they’re doing. It also doesn’t begin to touch the way they treated him in the election. It’s the gentlest, most positive and idealist way to frame their actions.

Jake Jackson says:

Liberals just cannot have a conversation without hauling out the “hate whitey” card. Okey doke, then. Just see how many elections you win.

No one said anything about hating white people. If your belief is that it’s hateful to say that white poeople benefit from racism rather than being harmed by it, I’m wondering what you think with regards to actual racist hatred and suppression.

buzz off, would you? your trolling is unwanted here.

But all of these character traits were on display during the campaign – in fact, people who have had to deal with Trump have known these things about him for decades. The MSM could have made more of a point to cover that during the campaign; they could have devoted more resources to following the Russian connections, rather than dismiss them as “some say” Trump’s campaign has connections to Russian operatives. The MSM could have done some deep diving into the known corruption, the known connections…. instead, it focused on Hillary’s emails.

Until the MSM comes to terms with its role in getting Trump elected, acknowledges how and why it bought into the Russian propaganda, and – above all – reforms how it covers political news, the MSM really can’t be trusted. So far, I don’t see any signs of that happening. Still a lot of self-justification and Hillary-blaming.

Lit3Bolt says:

The MSM will never do that.

Trump made the MSM money, and continues to make money for them. He’s made careers. The conservative infotainment industry hitched their star early to Trump, and every network and newspaper followed, just as they piled onto the lazy “Clintonz R Corrupt, Raises Questions” funhouse hall-of-mirrors narrative.

The election was treated as celebrity journalism and a celebrity feud from the start. I’d argue that the 2000 election was treated the same way. Whenever there is an election with a relative unknown, high profile journalists and op-ed writers must do at least some basic journalism to inform their readers (and themselves), the basic Who What Where Why and How. But when both political figures are so high profile that most of the country knows of them, most journalists skip that step and dive immediately into the narratives (who’s up, who’s down, etc.).

How many stories were there about “Who is Hillary Clinton?” “Who is Donald Trump?” that informed readers and voters about their most basic accomplishments and history? Did the MSM bother with these stories, or just started of their assumptions of the celebrity? And would viewers even notice them in the cacophony of horse-race narrative?

Thank you for this.

I do think Trump suffers from at least one cognitive impairment (and there may be others) known as Dunning-Kruger. It’s basically the idea that within the subset of incompetence — there are some who are totally unaware of their incompetence.

This not only helps to explain a lot of his past behavior – it helps us all to understand what to expect in the future. Total incompetence.

Thanks. I am familiar with Dunning-Kruger.

As George Will said a couple of months back on MSNBC, and I paraphrase, “Trump does not only not know what he doesn’t know, he doesn’t know what is to know something.”

Janelle A. says:

Succinct, “distilled down to the core of the matter” analysis is what we need right now, so I thank people like you and T. Coates for pieces like this.

But there is more at play than the media having an Asimov/I. Robot circular error. We know this because there were scattered examples of journalists/pundits saying definitively: “stop…just stop…this all madness…the emperor is naked right now.” That these few examples exist proves there is another dynamic at play. I suspect it’s ratings & clicks. And, we need to say that out loud, lest we normalize the media’s failings like we did/do Trump’s.

But, brilliant list of his deficiencies…i.e. the truth. Thank you.

Perhaps the people of the United States should give some thought to whether direct election of the head of government is a good idea. In the parliamentary system used by most of the democratic world the prime minister must win and retain the respect and support of his or her party. He or she must have had years of high-level political experience, generally as a government minister and/or alternative prime minister (leader of the opposition). To be successful, leaders must be adept at developing policy as well as confident and well-informed in defending policies and decisions in parliamentary, public and media forums. The system has its weaknesses, but it ensures considerable scrutiny and pressure on would-be populist leaders.

Gregg Hanson says:

Along with these excellent points, the country needs a bottom-up renovation of the educational system. Few are talking about teaching critical thinking to people who are less advantaged. Anyone can learn to question regardless of their income or status in the society.

I put it this way but yours is better, shorter and clearer. Hat’s off.

So what SHOULD reporters do? Leaning toward respect for the office is projection on reporters’ parts.

Wonderful 96 seconds – thank you!

And so where does this leave us? What is the exit strategy? Eight months in, I’m sick sick sick of him and just want him to be gone gone gone.

Absolutely true! the part where – if the president cannot be trusted, reporting what he says become absurd – that is so real because when I listen to the news and hear “the president said..” I just want to laugh. Who believes this man anymore? on top of being a liar, he’ll say one thing today and the complete opposite an hour later. The press and the media are amazing handling the situation. It could not be any crazier.

As long as the NYT, WaPo, etc., normalize Trump, I wouldn’t give them a cent. It’s simple to report Trump’s words while simultaneously highlighting his zero credibility. Use the English language: “Trump says…” or “Trump wrote in a tweet”, should be replaced by non-editorial words and phrases such as insists, waffles, backtracks, reverses, contradicts. Hypertext links can connect every new statement to previous, contradictory statements on the same topic. If the print versions of articles need footnotes, put them in. There’s never been footnotes in newspaper articles, you say? There’s never been Trump.

Just saw Maureen Dowd and Andrew Rosenthal today in an open conversation. Very insightful. Normalization of DT is not ok. However do not minimalize or marginalize his supporters. They will always be there for him. Ain’t goin to flip anytime soon.

Robin Swieringa says:

The voters’ choice was Clinton. The electors’ choice was Trump. Respect the voters’ choice and speak, report, write the truth about Trump. Enough of trying to make even a burlap sack out of a sow’s ear!

Michael Weber says:

For more than two centuries, the office of president of the United States has been larger than the person occupying it. Until 2016 when all that changed, for the worse. This has been obvious from day one. And yet we fail to see the truth, tell the truth, believe the truth that the emperor has no clothes. Shame on all of us.

Theron C. says:

I disagree. This is the current cognitive dissonance told by many to help remain pure and avoid the harsh fact that this is a direct result of mass media consolidation into the hands if a very small number of very big businesses whose every action is one that serves the ‘shareholders’.

This means that their are no insulated, protected, Independent, editorial boards and all journalism us now based on revenue.

If speaking the truth, plain, verified, and factual is deemed ‘disrespectful’ and thus potentially deleterious to views, click-throughs, ratings due to an ‘offended’ demographic then the truth is not told, plain words not published, facts left by the wayside in order to present the least objectionable form of the ‘news’.

This extends to the long time use of false equivalency and unwarranted binary categorization of controversial issues in order to present a supposedly neutral reporting which does not offend and thus does not do damage to revenue.

This is why Hillary’s emails were covered more often and in greater depth than each and every one of Trump’s _multiple_ transgressions not only against common decency but clearly demonstrating unfitness for the office. The emails were covered, IN TOTAL, more than all of Trump’s failing combined AND every one of these failings were far more telling and serious.

The media needs to stop lying to itself before it can stop lying to us (either by omissions, false equivalency, or like means) and it is time that WE as Americans demand a return of the Fairness Doctrine, demand a break up of media conglomeration, demand a return to older and wiser FTC/FCC rules in areas such as the number of media outlets than can be owned in a single geographic region AND nationally. Bowing to Capitalism and Efficiencies is only reciting the liturgies of Mammon.

Theron C. says:

Doh… This means that there…. I blame all typos on my google pixel.

Theron C. says:

Let me also note that this notion of a respectful press shows a marked ignorance of history and why we enshrined the freedoms of the press in the very first set of amendments to our constitution, the ‘Bill of Rights’.

Were you to immerse yourself in the writings of our nations earliest journalists, their commentary on the President or other holders of high office both elected and appointed, you will find yourself amongst very many pointed opinions from poisonous quills. Many of which wielded by the very men who composed these rights and formed this nation.

The office, like our Democracy… to invoke De Toqueville… gets the respect it deserves.

Thank you for writing this. I agree with just about all of it…and I have a problem with that. I am not a journalist, and I do not know the journalist’s code, so please forgive me if I am missing the point.

You write “If nothing the president says can be trusted, reporting what the president says becomes absurd. You can still do it, but it’s hard to respect what you are doing.” My answer to that is “Too Bad!”. Please….Just report what he says…don’t make a “interpretive maneuver”. If journalists would just report the statements, then the public can come to it’s own conclusion. And based on 1-6 above, that may become obvious.

I feel that “Main Street Media” has fallen in love with interpretive maneuvers…and you can’t blame them!! Viewers and readers eat up interpretive maneuvers, which brings in larger ratings and more dollars…and that seems to win over everything…possibly even the truth….no matter which side of the isle you’re on! Trump is the best thing to happen to journalism. The media wants him to be President. The media NEEDS him to be President. Obama was boring. Bush was boring. The “interpretive maneuver” brings in the readers and viewers, and makes journalism sexy. And corporate executives at the top know this!

But when this type of interpretive maneuvering is used over the factual, or boring news, then one cannot calling itself a “news”papers or “news” stations. It should be called “opinion”papers or “entertainment news” station.

Chell Abrahmz says:

Point 3. You assume he is aware enough to know what he needs to know and is choosing not to learn. Not so. He thinks he does know all he needs to know. The guy is literally that stupid. What he does possess is a survivalist instinct, sheer cunning.

Point 4. He operates from one foundational belief/premise – what’s in it for me? His loyalty is to himself. He does have a position. It’s the position of ‘what best serves me?’

As for journalists, I see no conflict of interest here. If you do respect your job and do respect the position of presidency, then you are duty bound to call out a naked emperor. It is because you have such respect for the position of president, that you must call out Trump as the fake he is. You can still respect that people voted for ‘that’ and now we have time and evidence on our side, we can see the people made a mistake. I’m sure it’s not the first time and won’t be the last.

Not calling out Trump because the people voted for him (actually, they didn’t. 3mill. more votes for Hillary, it was the electoral college that voted for Trump), is another way of saying the people can never get it wrong. History is replete with examples of where the people got it wrong.

“Point 3. You assume he is aware enough to know what he needs to know and is choosing not to learn.”

No, I don’t.

“Point 4. He operates from one foundational belief/premise – what’s in it for me? His loyalty is to himself.”

That’s why I referred to narcissistic personality types.

“As for journalists, I see no conflict of interest here.”

I didn’t say conflict of interest. I said there is conflict in their code: what they have to honor.

Also, to everyone. I do know how the electoral college works and I do know what the final voter totals of the election were, and so does everyone else.

Are you aware that the Trump Campaign seated 50 Electors who either lacked the required qualifications to serve, because they held another office in states that forbid electors to do so, or were not residents of the counties they claimed as domicile?

Knowing what the vote was doesn’t tell the dirty pool part of the story.

Finally something I agree with. I also read the article about how he treats people in the white house and I’m assuming everywhere else too that continue to support him and stand by him because ” that just means he likes you” is beyond absurd. This man deserves no respect or even the time of day from anyone president or otherwise.

William F. Johnston says:

There is no “Press” in the main stream media – it is indeed “Media” which is the message service for the dominant ideology (Capitalism – Neo-Liberalism) – Clinton-Bush-Obama-Trump just different sides of the same coin).

Len Garden says:

Holier than though piss poor CFR-member sensationalist finger-pointing shamelessly partisan so-called journalists. You get those chickens that you bred coming home to roost. Shame on you dirty disingenuous $#&% for calling the kettle black. A pox on your medium. We don’t need you–never did. Go back to the obit dept. because we don’t need your punditry.

Mark J. McPherson says:

His actual policy views may be missing from public view in any coherent form, but his cabinet choices sure suggest one, no matter the occasional bipartisan, outlying gesture.

He leads through self-aggrandizment and humiliation of others, fed by his intuitive grasp of weakness in others and his craven willingness to exploit those weaknesses.

He is surprisingly inept when complimenting others (a combination of lack of credibility and interest in anything other than himself). It has to be always and only about him.

Four decades ago, the true character behind the myth that was still under construction emerged from Trump’s regulatory wrangling over his casinos. Trump’s character has remained a simple though deeply unpleasant constant. What changed was his access to power and an apparent erosion in cognitive ability but he’s the same guy. He never speaks to inform yet most journalists feel compelled to parse his every utterance and Twitter character. When a publication or journalist rises above the Tweeter of Babble some fine reporting has resulted. By definition, that kind of reporting does not use Trump’s word as a guide.

When such reporting gains traction, Trump begins bleating and tweating and the main body of journalism attempts to follow the “trail” of breadcrumbs that have been flung randomly across the floor and kicked about. The comments and analysis becomes predictably cacaphonious and serves to drown out the real reporting.

Responsible Journalism requires independence, impartiality and objectivity. This means that where opposing viewpoints exist, the journalist should reflect both in their piece.

If the president lies, the piece should report evidence that of the fact that it’s a lie.

If he bullies someone, the tone of his act should be compared to what others have done in a similar situation.

If he breaks a law, the actions of others to file complaints, bring lawsuits, or criticize him for it should be mentioned or described.

If he blunders in statecraft, examples of more successful efforts in similar situations should be mentioned.

By taking an impartial viewpoint in this manner, it is possible to report what he does and says without normalizing it.

Jack Appelmans says:

Trevor Noah proposed a simple approach to dealing with Trump’s behavior when he was still just a candidate.

What a vile little insect you’ve become, Rosen. The world will be improved when you are composted.

Terrible article. Sorry. What is your point? We are nearly a year out of the election and it amazes me people are still crying over it which is what this piece is, more salty tears.

The author clearly doesn’t like Trump and as his opinion that’s fine, but writing an apology piece on how hard it is for you to do to your job as a journalist because you don’t like the man in the office simply tells me you shouldn’t be in your profession. Surprise, but part of your job is to report stories you may be opposed to or dislike. Acting like you are handicapped in your ability to report because of the subject matter tells me you are in over your head and this job isn’t for your thin skin. It’s ok, as there’s lot of professions I’d like to have too but am not capable of like being a firefighter, stock investor or race car stunt driver. So instead I teach government. No biggie.

Might be time you look at a change of career.

Greenmatters says:

You teach government. Ok, now I finally understand why Trump was elected. Do you teach at Wharton, by any chance? What in the world are you teaching the kids? Dictatorship 101? 50 Ways to Destroy a Democracy? Get Rich Quick Off Your Government Today! Tyranny for Modern Times? Anybody (Literally, Anybody) Can Grow Up to Be President?

LOL! No! We cover dictatorships and oligarchies earlier in the block. You know, Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, North Korea, Venezuela etc. Judging by your comment I think it would do you a world of good to take a refresher course on Government since your use of the basic vocabulary is way off definition. At the very least go Google tyranny, dictatorship and democracy. That’s week 1 material.

Fear and Loathing in the White House
You said it all,

An aside: Please see the Facebook page “People’s Bill Of Rights For White House Transparency” — a measure to strengthen the working press against intimidation and abuse by the politicos of the press office and the occupants of the West Wing. Understanding that it is a watchdog unfettered press that stands between the people and tyranny, now is the hour to return credentialing authority to the White House Correspondents Association and codify access as access to Congress is ensured for reporters covering Congress.

I am going to close comments on this post, because what is the point of replaying the 2016 election?

But I will give you another 90 minutes. Get your last pointless culture war digs in at the other side.

slopester says:

I have come to the conclusion that until Trump/Pence are removed by whatever means possible we will continue to experience terror at what this country has become and will in the future. T does not represent the American people We all knew that when he stepped off the escalator to announce his candidacy as he accused the Mexicans for” bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They are rapists…” At that moment every person in this country should have understood who this man was. You either agreed with him or you saw him as an ignorant racist who showed little care for his words and their consequences.
It continued to get worse. In his speeches ( were they daily?) his actions, his lack of any consistent point of view, his hurtful, insulting, degrading rhetoric all his began to solidify his base as well as his enemies. all of this we know. But within this nightmare voted in as president we continue asking, “How did this happen? Who is to blame? Hillary? No. The Electoral College? No. His promises for new jobs and finally, a shake up of Washington? No. If we run this horror movie backward we finally come to who I blame for this. It was the Republican party! Out of 19 candidates who entered the primary race no one could predict how allowing the choice of Trump as the front- runner and candidate for their party would eventually bring this country to it’s knees! He should never have been allowed to shoot down every other candidate as if at a Coney Island shoot-the -duck- and- get- the- prize game. One by one they each vanished.Because without the foresight and wisdom the party should have shown another candidate might have been the winner. And maybe the president. They should done anything to prevent Trump from emerging the Republican candidate.
I disagree that nothing could have been done. Anything could have been done to stop this man who brings shame, embarrassment, ignorance, lying, deception and narcissism to the most powerful position in the world. He should have been removed after the 1st debate.

If there is a silver lining to be found in this fiasco, it is that Donald Trump offers us the possibility of imagining a world in which the Imperial Presidency is revoked.

If the republic survives despite his manifest incompetence, he may have performed the salutary duty of reminding us that the separation of powers is alive and well; that our over-reliance on the occupant of the Oval Office is anti-Constitutional.

The political press as currently organized is both a response to the Imperial Presidency — with the White House beat being the pinnacle of the career ladder, especially for television correspondents — and also an indispensable pedestal on which that corrupt structure stands.

Any repeal of the Imperial Presidency will not only mean spending less time hovering around the Oval Office and dug in at the Briefing Room, it will also mean assigning less importance to the interminable campaign effort devoted to winning said office. If the prize is diminished, so will be the newsworthiness of seeking it.

Speaking of the separation of powers, Congress has been as inept for years about fulfilling its Constitutional function as the current President seems to be at fulfilling his. Frittered away has been the Congressional power to declare war, its responsibility to appropriate funds, its decision-making over the federal budget.

Why has the political press not been as flummoxed by the manifest failure of Congress over all these years as it appears to be now by the failure of the President? Because loyalty to that anti-Constitutional imperial worldview trumped their duty to safeguard a legislative republic, that’s why.

Now perhaps, the political press can heal itself at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue by looking past the foolishness at the White House in order to hold Capitol Hill properly to account for its dereliction of duty.