Politics & Policy

Trump’s Fortnight: A Revisionist History

President Trump arrives to introduce Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, January 31, 2017. (Reuters photo: Carlos Barria)
The castle walls have been breached; the scribes are diverted.

Our late friend Christopher Hitchens once remarked, only partly in jest, that he had become a journalist because he didn’t want to rely on the press for his information. Just so. Cast your eyes across the contemporary media scene: It seems to have taken on the contours of a moonscape, the gatekeepers having departed under the cover of darkness like so many furtive bedouins scampering over the dunes. When it comes to the gathering of reliable information in this bleak new world– just as The Hitch had anticipated all those years ago — it’s now every man for himself.

For the diminishing few who depend on what could be described loosely and atavistically as the “news media,” the past two weeks have been a blur of “stories” about documents unreleased, Twitter feuds unresolved, bureaucrats unconsulted, crowd sizes underestimated, Beltway slights unredressed, retaliatory threats unconsummated, and exaggerated claims unsupported. Whoosh! The legacy media have emitted a steady stream of ephemera that is not so much fake news as non-news, much of it, one would have thought, not fit to print.

For those of us now obliged to become our own citizen-journalists, the story of the past fortnight is somewhat different, and its sedimentary elements appear to be these:

‐A potentially solid freeze on federal regulation and non-military hiring.

‐The retention of pro-growth, pro-business leadership – i.e., “controversial” leadership — at the US Patent and Trademark Office.

‐The rescission of HUD’s eleventh-hour giveaway to the housing industry. (The Federal Housing Administration fee cuts were untenable, as, perhaps, is the Julian Castro for Senate campaign.)

‐The appointment of an FCC chairman who seems to understand that “net neutrality” is to telecommunications what Common Core is to education.

‐A reinstatement of the ban on the use of U.S. foreign aid to support abortion services.

‐A greenlighting of the Keystone pipeline.

‐The first of a series of steps to reassert U.S border controls (in the absence of which the United States is not a country but a destination).

‐The reopening of CIA detention centers in terrorist-infested zones (which requires executive acknowledgment that there are zones infested by terrorists).

‐Advanced planning for an initiative to dramatically shrink the Obamacare franchise.

‐A debate over tax reform framed to pit the Very Good against the Truly Excellent. (Don’t miss our colleague Kevin Williamson’s superb coverage here.)

‐The recruitment and appointment of an extraordinarily accomplished Cabinet. (The only inexplicable selection is that of the Department of the Interior head, Montanan Ryan Zinke, who was serving as a Republican in the House. If Trump had instead appointed a Democratic senator from a red state to head the Interior Department, and Zinke had gone on to a Senate victory next year over incumbent Democrat Jon Tester, Mitch McConnell would have gained some insurance against caucus hijacking by Susan Collins or John McCain.)

‐And the nomination to the Supreme Court of the single most impressive nominee since Antonin Scalia in 1986.

Rarely has the disparity between the basic file of mainstream journalism and the basic facts on the ground yawned quite so widely. Rarely have the forces of reaction been so intoxicated by the roll-your-own vapors of the symbiotic media — and so discombobulated by the reality of concrete action. And, yes, let it also be conceded here in the land of Not-Always-Gung-ho-for-Trump: Rarely has a fortnight been so productive for citizens of the Buckley-Meyer political disposition.

Rarely has a fortnight been so productive for citizens of the Buckley-Meyer political disposition.

The change we voted for is coming at us, obviously by design, at high velocity. It’s difficult to sort it all out, but the organizing metaphor that comes most easily to mind is the hand-to-hand combat of a medieval siege. Our new president, in the name of all that’s sacred, has launched an attack on the castle, just as the crier had proclaimed he would do. Our insurgent commander has wheeled his trebuchets into position and begun pounding the old stone fortress. As his men begin to scale the walls, the minority leader, racing along the parapet from embrasure to embrasure, is using everything at hand in a desperate attempt to repel the invaders — oil boilers, archers, rock-hurlers. This battle, by God, gives every appearance of being a fight to the death.

Perhaps then we can have a peaceful transfer of power.

Neal B. FreemanMr. Freeman is a former editor of and columnist for National Review and the founding producer of Firing Line. This article has been adapted from his new book, Walk with Me: An Invitation to Faith.

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