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When assembled country club golfers started booing reporters and cheering references to "fake news" at Trump's Friday “press conference" held in Bedminster, N.J., that was the moment the media event crossed over into the realm of farce. It was just the latest in a presidency that has been marked by so many moments of shame.
Highlighting the unseriousness of the event, which was carried live on national television and where Trump lied without pause about a raging pandemic, Trump used assembled reporters as his foil. "You’ll get to meet the fake news tonight. You’ll get to see what I have to go through," he told supporters beforehand. "Who’s there? Oh all my killers are there, wow. So you’ll get to see some of the people that we deal with every day.”
As America catapults towards a certain pandemic death toll of at least 250,000, Trump shows no signs of concern about the national health crisis. Focused on his re-election and petty fights with his opponents in the press and the Democratic Party, Trump's dangerous and irrational behavior continues to escalate. And the press is aiding him by eagerly participating in what are clearly re-election events dressed up as "press conferences." Last month, at a supposed press event held in the Rose Garden where no questions were taken, Trump used the event to air endless, bogus attacks against Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
These flippant press conferences have been scheduled like clockwork for the last few months, as Trump seeks a national platform during his stalled re-election run while being limited by the pandemic, which has effectively shut down his beloved rallies. Turning the media events into partisan gatherings, Trump's trying his best run his re-election via televised press gatherings, where journalists become the target of his wrath. "He's finally found a way to hold his precious rallies,” tweeted blogger Heather Parton. “Just hold them at his resort properties and call them "news conferences.””
Serious journalists should walk away and refuse to be extras in the Trump charades — refuse to legitimize his scheduled rants. Instead of walking away, reporters seem eager to cooperate. Insistent on casting themselves as willing props in Trump's increasingly erratic re-election campaign, journalists and news outlets refuse to make the common sense decision to not show up at the absurd proceedings, especially since they're so often void of serious news. (The same can be said for the pointless White House press briefings, which contain no useful, factual information.)
Covering Friday's event at the Trump National Golf Club, the Associated Press referred to Trump's cheering country club fans as "props in the surreal gathering." The same could be said for the assembled reporters.
After each of these staged Trump "press conference," there's often lots of media hand wringing about what just happened, and how it wasn't an actual media Q&A. "Presidents do not use the Rose Garden in that kind of naked political fashion," tweeted CNN’s Jim Acosta recently. "That was not a press conference, as the WH described it. It was a campaign rally disguised as a press conference. It was a bait and switch." And then the next day the same indignant reporters show up to help stage the same Trump-sponsored kabuki dance all over again.
Less than 24 hours after Friday's farce, where fantasy predictions were made about the coronavirus "disappearing," Trump scheduled another "press conference," and the same journalists showed up for the pseudo-rally event. It featured more cheering, taunting, mask-less members of Trump's country club, which cemented the surreal atmosphere. The press conferences are official White House events paid for by taxpayers, even though they clearly function as campaign events.
Some commentators applauded CBS News' Paula Read who effectively ended the Saturday news conference when Trump retreated after she asked why he kept lying about signing the Veterans Choice legislation, which President Barack Obama made law. That was a strong moment from a journalist holding Trump accountable. But Trump has told that lie 150 times in public (!), so why haven't reporters pressed him on it before? Given the stunning rate at which Trump lies, his media sessions with reporters these days should be nonstop encounters where reporters aggressively press him on obvious lies, like the Veterans Choice law.
Major news organizations have shown themselves to be unwilling and incapable of saying no to staged Trump events, even though journalists have conceded they aren't newsworthy.
"Over time, the news conferences have become increasingly devoid of actual news," ABC News conceded, in a report specifically about how Trump is using them not to inform the public, but as a way to maintain a high media profile. Over the weekend, the Times admitted the Bedminster session, featuring polo shirt-wearing Trump loyalists, contained "almost no news." A reminder that today's strategy of wall-to-wall Trump coverage was created just for him — the idea that his every incoherent utterance must be treated as breaking news.
A clear co-dependency has been established throughout the Trump presidency — He needs media attention to stroke his narcissistic needs, and the press has opted to enable the egomaniac. To now do that during the campaign season under the guise of press conferences, just means reporters are serving as GOP props.
💪🏻 GOOD STUFF:
In a helpful reminder that Fox News does not speak for all Republicans, a group of influential GOP officials in Ohio have made public their plan to vote against Trump in November, and to mobilize other Republicans to do the same.
From their declaration in the Cincinnati Enquirer, “Republicans against Trump: 'We will not make the same mistake this November’”:
In 2016, many Ohio voters put their faith in Donald Trump, us included. That was an error of judgment, not intent. For these reasons, we’re joining with other Republicans in this state to vote against President Trump this November:
He has created a culture of fear within the Republican Party as well as across the country, demonizing anyone with differing opinions. He belittles, berates, and ruins the careers of all who oppose him – including his own appointed government agency heads, respected military leaders and war heroes.
🎸 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Neil Young, "Lookin' for a Leader — 2020"
This is great and much needed. Sometimes it's a tricky songwriter goal to write a smart, relevant song about a topic so big and obvious as, Trump Is Bad. But Young pulls it off nicely here.
Built around a shuffling, front-porch beat, the song features just Young and two other instrumentalist as they keep things simple and direct. Lamenting Trump's wreckage, the song's key element is the sense of hope it maintains about finally turning him away.
The song is actually an updated version of "Lookin' for a Leader" which Young wrote in 2006 ahead of the 2008 campaign:
Apologies for only sending two columns last week. We had a six-ton tree incident at the PRESS RUN headquarters, via Tropical Storm Isaias.