The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Not Broadcasting Trump’s Oval Office Address Would Be Partisan Bias

(Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Making the click through worthwhile: Why the networks would be partisan fools to reject broadcasting President Trump’s prime-time address, the American Psychological Association declares war on “traditional masculinity” and what besets modern men of all classes and races, what you didn’t know about Elizabeth Warren, and a point about those young men choosing to spend their lives playing Fortnite.

The Networks Must Broadcast Trump’s Prime-Time Oval Office Address!

You probably saw the analysis that the cable-news networks airing Donald Trump’s rallies during the 2016 presidential primaries amounted to about $2 billion in free advertising. By the end of the general election, the estimate was up to $5 billion. If Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC didn’t broadcast every Trump rally in its entirety, they certainly aired a lot of them, and way more than any other Republican candidate. We can speculate that in the cases of CNN and MSNBC, they saw Trump rallies as hideous freakshows that would repel voters and drive them into the arms of the Democrats. (Whoops.)

Then-CBS Chairman Les Moonves said in February 2016 that Trump was terrific for ratings, and he was enjoying every minute of it.

“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” he said of the presidential race.

Moonves called the campaign for president a “circus” full of “bomb throwing,” and he hopes it continues.

“Most of the ads are not about issues. They’re sort of like the debates,” he said.

“Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? … The money’s rolling in and this is fun,” he said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going,” said Moonves.

(Moonves must count as one of Tucker Carlson’s “mercenaries” who “has no skin in the game”, right?)

CNN President Jeff Zucker later said he regretted giving so much airtime to Trump rallies.

But now the networks are debating whether they should broadcast a live Oval Office address? Come on, guys. This is a long bipartisan tradition for American presidents, and this is the first time Trump has done this. We’re almost two years into his presidency. Refusing air time to Trump would be straight-up partisan bias. You hear a lot of accusations that President Trump destroys civic norms. Denying a president air time for an Oval Office address because you don’t like him, his policies, or what he’s likely to say destroys civic norms, too.

Matt Yglesias is pointing to a time in 2014 when the networks refused to interrupt prime-time programming to air an address about immigration from President Obama.

But by that time, Obama had already addressed the nation in prime-time with three press briefings in 2009; addressed a joint session of Congress (separate from the State of the Union Address) in September 2009; announced the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011; announced plans to end the Afghanistan War in May 2012; addressed the nation after the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013; argued for a targeted military strike against Syria (that he eventually rejected) in September 2013; announced an end to the government shutdown in October 2013; and announced airstrikes in Iraq in August 2014.

It’s just not plausible to argue that the broadcast networks were stingy with Obama, or that Trump’s demands are excessive. The strongest argument is that the State of the Union address is three weeks away, on January 29, and that the statements from the president tonight are likely to overlap with what he says in a few weeks. But the good news for the networks is that tonight’s remarks will fit in a half-hour window. (If they include a Democratic response, that might take an hour.)

The good news is that cooler heads have prevailed; as of this writing, CBS, ABC, Fox, and NBC are planning to air Trump’s address as well as PBS, Telemundo, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News.

What We Owe Our Boys

David French writes a great column, lambasting the American Psychological Association for their declaration that “traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression — is, on the whole, harmful.”

Yet as we survey a culture that is rapidly attempting to enforce norms hostile to traditional masculinity, are men flourishing? And if men are struggling more the farther we move from those traditional norms, is the answer to continue denying and suppressing a boy’s essential nature? Male children are falling behind in school not because schools indulge their risk-taking and adventurousness but often because they relentlessly suppress boys and sometimes punish boys’ essential nature, from the opening bell to the close of the day. Especially in fatherless homes, female-dominated elementary-school experiences often mean that boys are exposed to few — if any — male role models, and male restlessness is therefore viewed almost entirely as a problem to be solved rather than a potential asset to be shaped.

What stories get men excited? Ones with adventure, celebrating valor and bravery, making tough decisions under pressure. No one would be thrilled by the stories of American Sniper or Master and Commander or Die Hard or Indiana Jones if things came easy to the heroes. For tens of thousands of years, humanity survived because small groups of men went out into the wild and hunted and brought back food. That was inherently risky and dangerous; we evolved to find risk and danger exciting — or at least appealing and frightening at the same time. The risk of injury makes it exciting; as Tom Hanks says in A League of Their Own, “the hard is what makes it great.” As Jordan Peterson says, do not bother kids when they’re skateboarding. They are experimenting with risk and developing their own ability to live with a certain amount of danger.

And this often-but-not-always masculine impulse manifests itself in a million ways in modern life: driving fast, playing sports of every kind, diving off the high dive, rock climbing, lifting heavy weights, eating super-hot peppers, martial arts, competitive shooting, mosh pits, roller coasters, bungee jumping, skydiving, hiking and camping in the woods, spelunking, and sometimes going back to the actions of our ancestors through hunting. Even when guys do something that seems sedentary — video games, chess, board games — they’re often bringing a competitive spirit to it, an eagerness to demonstrate that they stand out at a particular activity. You could even argue that arguing on the Internet is a form of competition. That’s hard-wired into us.

We yearn to be important. Tony Robbins argues that significance is one of the six core human needs. But modern society — and some would argue, a lot of modern schools — are often about emphasizing our insignificance, how we are part of a collective whole, and how we must subjugate our individual desires and impulses to the collective good: sitting in classrooms in neat rows of desks, standing in line, only speaking when we’re called upon. We are graded on performance, yes, but also on our obedience — how well do we do what someone else wants us to do?

We grow older and get jobs. We live in a box, get into another box-like car, sit in traffic among lots of other boxes, head into another big-box office building where we sit in another box-like cubicle, typing into another box. The good life in white-collar America can give you plenty of comfort and pleasure, and it can keep you away from adversity. But on some level, we crave at least a little adversity — without it, there are no triumphs. There is no growth. Comfort is wonderful, but we learn very little from it. We want a little bit of pain, or at least to be able to tell the tale of encountering great adversity and surviving to tell the tale. As David writes:

All of this is hard. Very hard. Especially when combined with the fact I mentioned at the start of the piece — the creation of a “grown man” involves short-term pain. As with so many things, we want the result, but we hate the process. Effective role models understand this reality, and they preach relentlessly about the worth of sacrifice.

Take, for example, one of the world’s most popular celebrities, Dwayne Johnson (better known as “The Rock”). He shares a mantra for life improvement that particularly resonates with young men — “blood, sweat, and respect.” You sweat and bleed and in return you earn respect. It’s a more vivid version of “no pain, no gain.” Virtuous traditional masculinity is inherently incompatible with a pain-avoidance culture.

Is it any wonder when modern society offers men a “reward” that can begin to feel like an endless series of boxes, that they sometimes turn into self-destructive risks? Alcoholism, drug use and addiction, fighting, philandering, God knows what else. This is why people, and in particular men, have mid-life crises. They’ve done all the right things, checked all the right boxes, done what they’re supposed to do . . . and find the results strangely unsatisfying. They’ve worked hard, only to find that they lead lives that have no adventure, no discovery, no exploration.

David writes, “When it comes to the crisis besetting our young men, traditional masculinity isn’t the problem; it can be part of the cure.” It’s not just for young men!

The Sides of Elizabeth Warren You Probably Didn’t Know About

She’s a lot more than just implausible claims to Native American ancestry. Over on the home page today, I offer 15 things you probably didn’t know about Elizabeth Warren.

ADDENDUM: Our David Bahnsen with an important point about the current debate over populism:

No one who cares deeply for American families, blue-collar workers, and those who are on the outside looking in in today’s globalized and changing economy can plausibly claim that it is NAFTA’s fault that those young men playing Fortnite for eleven hours a day do not have shining neighborhoods. If we say that NAFTA hurt their desire to spend time more productively, we must discuss labor dynamism, not accept basement-dwelling and video-game addiction as the logical outcomes to changing economic circumstances.

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