If you’ve been enjoying ad-free PRESS RUN since its launch, or just recently became a reader, please consider subscribing for $6 a month to support fearless media commentary. Thanks!
From the moment he descended the Trump Tower escalator six years ago this month to announce his candidacy for president, the political press has wasted an extraordinary amount of time and energy trying to normalize Trump. Shying away from the much-needed clarity that defines his hateful and anti-democratic ways, reporters have struggled to be forthright and to put his dark urges in the forefront.
Today as Trump plays the role of behind-the-scenes power broker from Mar-a-Lago, he continues to draw endless press attention, as journalists chronicle his every endorsement and petty political slight, as well as report on the Republican Party as it continues to embrace his harsh likeness. But the post-presidency Trump coverage regularly lacks the same element that defined his White House coverage — context.
Too often Trump is merely depicted as a slightly rogue pol, when in fact, with his ceaseless lies about a “stolen” contest, he’s done more to damage free and fair elections in this country than any other elected official in American history. He left behind a legacy of unmatched abuses, ranging from violations of longstanding norms to potentially criminal behavior.
Even in the wake of the newest revelations of how Trump aggressively corrupted the U.S. justice system and blatantly politicized the Department of Justice in a way that would make Richard Nixon cringe, he’s somehow still normalized in the day-to-day press coverage.
A recent Politico report about the role he might play in the 2022 midterm election cycle described Trump as “freewheeling.”
After Trump lost to Joe Biden by 8 million votes, he falsely claimed victory and demanded election officials in battleground states throw out millions of votes. Including the time he phoned Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and demanded state officials "find" enough votes to nullify Biden's narrow victory in that state.
Then he incited a deadly mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol and tried to stop the certification of Biden’s win.
While in office he told tens of thousands of lies and likely killed an untold number of Americans by downplaying the Covid-19 pandemic and urging people to inject bleach into their bodies. That’s when he wasn’t demanding the DOJ investigate his political enemies, firing government whistleblowers, and enriching himself by billing the U.S. government millions of dollars, including for Secret Service agents to stay at his properties while protecting him.
This was the lede to that Politico article: “The former president is returning to the national spotlight with plans to play a central role in the GOP's push to reclaim power, huddling with members of the conservative Republican Study Committee at his New Jersey resort last week.”
Aside from a stray sentence or phrase, you’d think you were reading about former President Mitt Romney, or former President John McCain, or some other mainstream Republican politician. There was nothing in the Politico article that suggested Trump poses a danger to U.S. democracy. He was simply presented as another former president wielding power.
And when Politico did make a passing reference to Trump’s effort to undermine the 2020 election and overturn the legitimate results, it was politely phrased as Trump’s “repeated false claims.”
Another recent Politico piece detailed the political currency of Trump endorsements:
While candidates are calculating that they need voters to see them as Trump-approved, the former president is protective of his political brand and recognizes that his much-coveted endorsement — and the performance of the candidates who get it — is one of his primary means of maintaining relevance.
In theory, it was a straightforward report about the power of endorsements and how Trump “relishes” the attention. But that’s the problem — it’s based on the premise that Trump’s an ordinary politician with a conventional history of serving in office.
There was never a hint that there’s anything odd, newsworthy, or questionable about politicians lobbying for the endorsement of a pathological liar bent on destroying the U.S. ballot process, and someone who sicced the limitless power of the DOJ on reporters and members of Congress in order to secretly seize their phone and email records. That uncomfortable media conversation remains off the table.
Over at CNN, they published a piece last week dissecting the standing between Trump and his former vice president: “Six months after their relationship deteriorated in the midst of an insurrection at the US Capitol, Donald Trump and Mike Pence appear to be on the mend.”
The entire focus was the internal GOP politics of Pence needing to stay in Trump’s good graces. There was no mention of the fact that the two men oversaw a criminal enterprise while serving in the White House.
Then there was this amazingly passive and naïve portion:
To prepare for a scenario in which Trump doesn’t run, Pence has been crafting a pitch to voters that communicates his allegiance to the former president by underscoring their policy accomplishments and time in office together.
Trump’s policy accomplishments!
Did CNN mean when he obstructed the Mueller investigation? Abused the pardon power? Tried to recruit Ukraine into launching a bogus criminal investigation into Joe Biden, while withholding $400 million in U.S. aid in the process? Are those the policy accomplishments Pence plans on emphasizing if he runs for president in 2024?
Trump continues to rule the GOP. The press needs to treat him as the madman he is.
(Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images)
📰 GOOD STUFF:
The great Critical Race Theory scare continues unabated as the GOP and Fox News whip up hysteria over an academic theory that, that until recently, was rather obscure.
But it turns out lots of conservatives screaming about the dangers of CRT don’t know what it is.
From Kyle Whitmere at AL.com’s “Alabama lawmaker wants to ban critical race theory, so I asked him what it is”:
So what does his bill say?
“It’s pretty simple,” [Rep. Chris] Pringle said. “All it says is you can’t teach critical race theory in K-12 or higher education in the state of Alabama.”
That is a short bill, if not a simple one. But it didn’t answer my question: What is this critical race theory educators would be forbidden to teach? Pringle has seen enough legislation to understand the law requires specificity. Many bills begin by laying out their legal definitions. How would his bill define critical race theory?
🐎 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Jamestown Revival, “Bound for El Paso”
What a gorgeous piece of Western storytelling here, by the ridiculously talented vocal duo of Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance, who make up Jamestown Revival. Brandishing their proudly traditional sound with just an acoustic guitar and harmonica, they instantly transport listeners to another century.
“Bound for El Paso” is a twisting tale of family, friendship and death, taken directly from the frontier short stories of American novelist Louis L’Amour.
In a quiet saloon
Near Culberson county
An argument led to the end of a gun
From the bar stood a traveler
Who did what he could
To even the odds that were three against one
🎙 Click here to listen to the music that’s been featured on PRESS RUN, via a Spotify playlist.
Click hereto listen via Apple Music.