Must warring parties follow rules? Or, is all fair in love and war? Well, we have the Geneva Convention…actually we’ve had multiple Geneva Conventions since 1864, though I don’t believe any of them cover the war between Washington media and the White House.
This is not new or news. Remember when the previous administration tried to remove FOX News from the White House press pool in October 2009? Up until then Washington media had given the White House kid-glove treatment. FOX was the only one of the five TV news networks (ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC included) that had criticized that administration. To the media’s credit, other members of the pool and the press quickly criticized the White House.
So, when the Trump White House moved to block some reporters from attending a “gaggle” (non-televised briefing) all members of the press quickly criticized the action. Those blocked included reporters from CNN, New York Times, Politico, Los Angeles Times and BuzzFeed, all of which have been loudly critical of President Trump.
As is the case with most wars, neither “who started the war,” nor “who is to blame” really matters. The White House is not playing by traditional rules, and the media are commenting not only on news, but also on how the White House is not playing by traditional rules, as if such coverage would grab the attention of the White House and make the players follow traditional rules. Not going to happen.
Mr. Trump self-labels himself as a “counter puncher.” Washington media have punched Mr. Trump from the beginning of his campaign, and the punching and counter punching have escalated violently since November 9.
Mr. Trump tweeted he will not attend the White House correspondents’ dinner. I don’t blame him. Why would anyone want to attend an event at which he or she would be punched repeatedly? This is not news.
I hope the White House becomes more open with all media. Sure, Washington media are warring with Mr. Trump and vice versa. We’ve endured 8 years in which Washington media had what Bernard Goldberg described in his book as “A Slobbering Love Affair” with our former president. That administration knew and followed the rules: deny, deflect, distract, move on, and the slobbering media will follow. Unfortunately for the current White House, Mr. Trump has no slobbering media to support him.
Meanwhile President Trump is preparing to give his first presidential address to a joint meeting of Congress Tuesday night. Democratic lawmakers are planning to bring guests who represent people groups they believe Mr. Trump has “targeted,” including Muslims and Dreamers. How else will they protest Mr. Trump and his address?
Presumably Mr. Trump will talk about his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, job growth, the economy, the budget, immigration, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, and tax reform. Hopefully he will refrain from comments about fake news or the media in general. Needless to say, the crowd Tuesday night will in no way resemble the types of crowds Mr. Trump has grown accustomed to.
Hopefully, Mr. Trump will follow his script and refrain from speaking off the cuff, especially if he perceives his audience throwing any kind of punch. No one believes Mr. Trump can unify America, or that Washington media will not spin his words to their own liking…then again, I repeat myself.
Daniel L. Gardner is a syndicated columnist who lives in Starkville, Miss. He can be reached at [email protected]