White House

Don’t Make Trump Worse

President Donald Trump participates in a virtual Fox News Town Hall in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 24, 2020. (Shealah Craighead/White House)
Right now, even his worst critics have an interest in seeing him do a good job.

The president is not America. Our fortunes are not his fortunes. He is not, as Chris Rock once said of President Obama, “the dad of the country.” If we happen to be of an opposing political faction, the president’s misfortunes may fill us with glee, or his triumphs may cause us anguish. If you hate the president, by all means do everything you can to bruise him. Rejoice in his every misstep. Luxuriate in his errors. Pounce on his gaffes. Make his life a living hell.

But not now.

No one expects the mainstream media to be even-handed anymore. We don’t even expect the media to be professional. That ship has sailed. We get it: You loathe Trump and will put the worst possible spin on everything he says and does until he’s out of office. (At which point you’ll do the same for whoever the new highest-ranking Republican is.) But, for a limited time, is it too much to ask that the media broaden their scope to include the country and the world instead of just their own Ahabian obsessions about Trump? As far as I know, every member of the Washington press corps, even Jim Acosta, is a resident of Planet Earth. Why are they all acting as if they’re looking down from the Nebulon-235 system and not subject to everything that is happening?

For better or worse, during this uncertain flight on a wobbly plane through this storm-wracked air, Captain Trump is at the controls. No amount of whining will make Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden president in the next few months. So can we just call timeout from Silly Season, please? When this is over you can all go back to telling us that ten dollars’ worth of Russian Facebook memes of Jesus arm-wrestling Satan subverted the 2016 election.

At some point the coronavirus scare will no longer be the leading story in the world. There will be plenty of time later to analyze Trump’s performance during this crisis, to mull his overly optimistic early reports and the velocity of his adaptation to changing circumstances. But must the Democratic Party and its communications subsidiary, better known as virtually every major news organization, be so relentlessly hostile right now? Could they maybe knock off the rabid-wolverine behavior for a few weeks?

The president is not us, but for now he is tied up with us. We want him to succeed, do we not? Is it not obvious that, even if you despise everything the man has ever said and done and want his presidency to end so spectacularly it’ll make the Hindenburg look like a Duraflame log, it would be good for us if he got us through these next few months with the least conceivable damage to life, health, and wealth?

We know that the president is unusually thin-skinned and capricious, that he is keenly and perhaps unhealthily focused on what the media are saying about him at any given nanosecond, that he has a short temper and a quick fuse. He goes through cabinet secretaries like a newborn goes through diapers. And pointing out his errors is the legitimate business of CNN, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, the Washington Post, etc. But the way the media are trying to gin up a feud between Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci is disgraceful and disgusting.

Folks, and by “folks” I mean you absolute freaking Muppets, are you trying to get Fauci fired? Do we really want to start over with a new specialist in infectious diseases in the White House? Would you be happy if Omarosa were Trump’s chief adviser on epidemiology? Would you be more secure if Jared were the last man standing during the medical briefings?

The incandescently moronic jibber-jabber (I won’t call it “reporting”) about the bizarre case of the Arizona woman whose husband died after taking fish-tank cleaner he and she incorrectly supposed to be the drug Trump touted in the White House is the kind of barnyard waste product that shouldn’t even make it to national news reports, and ordinarily wouldn’t, except that the media seem to be getting a near-erotic thrill out of any scrap of information they think might set off Trump. The dead Arizona man didn’t take chloroquine. He took chloroquine phosphate, in a massive dose. Please run the tape for me where Trump said, “Everybody take a spoonful of fish-tank cleaner to save your lives.” “The difference between the fish tank cleaning additive that the couple took and the drug used to treat malaria is the way they are formulated,” dryly noted CBS News. Oh, you don’t say? Because I was going to put rubbing alcohol in my martini tonight. Or is rubbing alcohol differently formulated than gin?

This kind of inverted pyramid of piffle is exactly the kind of thing that seems specifically engineered to distract Trump or send him into a rage spiral when we all need him to be calm, measured, and focused on things that matter. The president’s character flaws are well known. Why aggravate them? Could the media take a deep breath and not be utterly insane for, say, 120 days?

Then go back to being nuts! Write all the “Has Trump Been a Russian Asset Since 1987?” stories you want. Write earnest “reporter’s notebook” pieces on how Trump let the contagion spread because he secretly wanted a federal bailout for his hotels. Or, should the havoc wrought by the virus turn out to be much less than feared, go back to rewriting all those “Trump is a xenophobic lunatic for overstating the threat from China” pieces you were doing six weeks ago. For now, though, please stop acting as though the principal duty of the press is to make the president even more erratic than he is already inclined to be.

 

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