National Security & Defense

The press, the president, and the jihad, &c.

(Reuters photo: Carlos Barria)
On Trump, Assad, journalism, PC, and more

President Trump was talking about the global jihad. “You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons and you understand that.”

I’m not sure I understand, entirely. The press doesn’t report terror attacks because journalists don’t want people to know about the jihad and its dangers?

I would like to hear the president elaborate on his comment, for the benefit of those who don’t understand entirely. The elaboration would be interesting, I think, and critically important.

‐The president has claimed that between 3 million and 5 million people voted illegally in our November election. He and other Republicans vowed an investigation — as there well should be. You can’t have 3 million to 5 million people vote illegally in this country and then merely shrug. This is a very big deal.

I hope that the press keeps after Republicans about this: When will the investigation occur? Once it does, what are the findings?

Illegality of this magnitude should not be ignored.

‐As a rule, the president should not single out people for insults. Or so I believe. On Sunday, Trump tweeted, “I know Mark Cuban well. He backed me big-time but I wasn’t interested in taking all of his calls.He’s not smart enough to run for president!”

I wonder whether it’s true that Trump wouldn’t take Cuban’s calls, or all of them. I remember when Trump claimed that he refused to see Charles and David Koch. The Kochs said they requested no such meeting. The Kochs seemed to me more credible.

The president — any president — has a bully pulpit. He should not use it for bullying. (I borrow this point from my colleague Rick Brookhiser.) He should not use it for schoolboy taunts either. “Not smart enough!”

By the way, you may have noted the lack of a space between the second and third sentences of Trump’s tweet. I’ve tested it: A space would have meant 141 characters (one over the limit)!

‐Bashar Assad says that he likes what he hears from President Trump about terrorism. (For a news article, go here.) I hope Trump and his administration bear in mind that, when it comes to murder and mayhem, no one can surpass Assad and his dictatorship. I think the old man, Hafez, would be amazed. And impressed. Appalled? I doubt it: more amazed and impressed.

(I detail the drama of the Assad family in Children of Monsters, available here.)

‐Charlie Sykes, the veteran conservative broadcaster, has written what I regard as an important article: “Why Nobody Cares the President Is Lying.” One thing he says is that many people on the right won’t believe anything that comes from the “MSM” — the mainstream media. If they don’t see it on the Drudge Report or similar outlets, it doesn’t exist. It is “fake news.”

This is a problem indeed — and I say this as someone who has inveighed against the MSM for years. In fact, you could say that I’ve almost made a living off it.

Not long ago, while tweeting, I linked to an article from the Washington Post. Someone responded to me, “You have linked to the Post. Epic fail.”

So, there you have it: epic fail. That ends the discussion.

People like me are always pointing out what’s wrong or stupid in the Post (to keep this outlet as our example). But the truth is, there’s plenty that’s right and smart as well. If you perused the Post every day, you would know a lot — a lot that is true.

Can the same be said of — to pick an easy target — the National Enquirer? Our president has cited this publication, and said that it ought to win Pulitzers.

Last month, there was a ridiculous headline in the Post: “David Gelernter, fiercely anti-intellectual computer scientist, is being eyed for Trump’s science adviser.” Professor Gelernter is one of the most intellectual people you’ll ever meet. He is practically the definition — the stereotype — of an intellectual. He dwells in the world of ideas, day in, day out.

So, conservatives like me feasted on that headline for a couple of weeks at least. It was a stupid, stupid headline. Yet there were 70 things in the paper that day, surely, that were okay, good, or excellent. Was I right to ignore them? Was I simply highlighting man-bites-dog?

This is a big question.

And I tremble to ask: What if people cherry-picked my writings? Forget National Review or The New Criterion — just me, personally. Would I be embarrassed? No, never! (I like to think.)

‐Let me tell you something weird about the modern world — related to journalism. As a journalist, you report or comment on the president, Congress, the U.N., etc. You know: public affairs. And then others report and comment on you!

As though you were the story. As though you mattered (which you sometimes do, especially if you work for one of the big and influential outlets).

When I was a kid, I came up with something I thought was pretty funny: “There are two kinds of people in the world: people who say there are two kinds of people in the world and people who don’t.” Well, I never wanted to be one of the people who do.

But I do think there are two kinds of journalists today: those who cover the president, Congress — public affairs; and those who cover other journalists. Journalism can seem like an endless ping-pong match between journalists.

But they, we, are not the story. The story is not about us. (Except when it is, which it is occasionally.) We are not president. Or the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Or dogcatcher.

You know?

‐I pause for a language note. Above, I wrote, “… there are two kinds of journalists today.” Actually, I prefer “two kinds of journalist.” I think it is more correct. But most people go the other way. And I have sort of gone with the flow …

‐The headline read, “German town stops playing kids’ song after vegan complains.” Huh? I will quote the article:

A town in Germany has stopped playing a popular children’s song about a fox who steals a goose after a complaint from a vegan.

Limburg’s town spokesman Johannes Laubach told the dpa news agency Thursday a local woman had asked the mayor to remove the tune from the town hall’s mechanical carillon.

Laubach said the mayor had temporarily granted her request. The carillon — a series of bells — has a repertoire of 33 tunes, including 15 German children’s songs, that are played several times a day.

In the annals of political correctness, this deserves to stand out …

‐I was in Washington last week (Washington, D.C.). Very, very cold period. I was walking on the Mall about 9 a.m. There was a man who had apparently spent the night over a grate. He was still sleeping. He had a scraggly blanket, a basketball, and a few other belongings. Damn, it was cold.

Question: Why did he not go into a shelter? Because any shelter would have been too terrible? Worse than the elements? Because he was insane?

I often wonder these things.

‐I am in the Lincoln Memorial fairly regularly. Never have there been fewer than there were on this day — because of the cold. I kind of liked it.

Remember when Nixon went to the Lincoln Memorial in the middle of the night? About 4 a.m., actually? To talk with those student-protestor types? Remember reading about it, at least? Interesting episode.

‐There is a sign near Lincoln that says, “Respect, Please.” Shame that people need to be told. Was there a time when they did not? (I think so.)

‐As I’ve said, there were relatively few visitors on this morning, but there were a bunch of teenage girls in tiaras (no sashes). They must have been part of a beauty pageant. There were also some military personnel, in dress uniform.

As I’ve said — have I said that before? — I am in the Memorial fairly regularly, but what if you made one visit to it in your life, and it fell on that day? I think you would remember, not just Lincoln, but the girls in the tiaras and the servicemen in their uniforms.

‐A side of a bus — still in D.C. — said, “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” As the bus advised, it came from Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well. The bus was advertising the Folger Shakespeare Library. “The Wonder of Will: 400 Years of Shakespeare.” There was a hashtag (because there must be a hashtag): “#MakeLifeMoreVivid.”

Yes, that’s a good idea, and Shakespeare for sure does that.

A word from the National Review Store: To get Digging In: Further Collected Writings of Jay Nordlinger, go here.

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