News Sips 1/17: 4 Days, Shaky Berlin, Never Trumper? Never Hired, and Press Danger
Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the January 17, 2017 edition:
The countdown to the Trumpening continues. On Friday at noon, power will change hands from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. Washington DC, which, strangely, seems to have larger protests when Republicans take office than when Democrats do, is bracing for massive crowds on the day of the Inauguration through the weekend. Anti-Trump demonstrations are planned by people who have not yet come to grips with the way the Electoral College works and think that Donald Trump is an illegitimate President.
Several Democrats from the House of Representatives will be skipping the Inauguration in an attempt to show that they are in solidarity with the protests. It was widely reported that Rep. John Lewis, one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights era compatriots will not attend the inauguration. Media outlets like CNN claimed that this was the first Inauguration Mr. Lewis would skip. This isn’t true, he skipped President Bush’s first Inauguration. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24413-2001Jan20.html)
According to most polling (take it for what it’s worth given polling accuracy), Mr. Trump will enter office with high unfavorable and a low approval rating. This isn’t terribly surprising given that his unfavorable on the campaign trail were always high (spoiler: he won anyway). Mr. Trump will enter office with a Republican House and a Republican Senate. More importantly, he will not see himself as “owing” anyone for getting him there. There’s a good chance that Mr. Trump will completely disregard convention of presidential focus grouping and fingers in the air in order to govern with a degree of ideological integrity that we haven’t seen in at least a generation.
Is this assessment overly optimistic? Sure. However, it’s the week of the Inauguration. With Democrats prophesying war, famine, pestilence, and death, perhaps a light counter-balance is in order. Being optimistic about Mr. Trump, especially as he takes office, is the correct posture to take. We hope both for Mr. Trump’s success and the nation’s.
Berlin Rattled By Trump
Over the weekend, Mr. Trump gave interviews to some of the foreign press. In those discussions he alluded to the idea that he had on the campaign trail that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was moving towards obsolescence given the current state of threats to the world order. Of course, predictably, Mr. Trump’s concerns were met with hawks and warmongers calling Mr. Trump dangerously naïve on the issue and calling him a pawn of Russia.
Mr. Trump reiterated his concerns over the weekend with European press agencies while simultaneously casting significant shade on the policies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (who will certainly be seeking re-election as Chancellor). Mr. Trump raised two important points that rattled Berlin. First, Mr. Trump directly criticized Merkel (who he said has his respect, but….) for allowing almost un-checked immigration from Syria and the Middle East into Germany. These refugees have been a massive challenge to both the social welfare state as well as the counter-terrorism abilities of Germany (and other European states). Mr. Trump’s “Eurosceptic” views (being opposed to the ceding of national sovereignty of European nations to the super-state model European Union) are well-known and he was a supporter of Britain’s decision to leave the EU (many political sources now see Brexit as a harbinger of the populist feelings that swept Trump into office).
Beyond criticizing Ms. Merkel’s approach to “refugees,” Mr. Trump went on to note that he would consider a tax on German cars and products. Mr. Trump’s views on trade imbalances are well-known, but have been widely perceived as geared against China, Mexico and Japan rather than against European trading partners. However, Mr. Trump’s ideological consistency showed that he’s not above renegotiating agreements wherever he feels American interests are being given a back seat.
Given that Mr. Trump will ascend to the Presidency in days, there is a strong likelihood that the “globalist” forces (that is, breaking down national barriers for a freer exchange of goods and people—though also, now, linked with pushing a progressive, post-Christian worldview), will be in retreat. It’s unclear how long this retreat will last and what challenges may lie in Mr. Trump’s path.
Never Hire Never Trumpers
As the Washington Post reports this morning (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/never-trump-national-security-republicans-fear-they-have-been-blacklisted/2017/01/16/a2fadf54-d9a3-11e6-b8b2-cb5164beba6b_story.html), there is a growing fear among establishment Republicans that signed “Never Trump” pledges that they have been blacklisted from jobs with the Administration. Honestly, at the outset, that makes complete sense. I know a lot of smart, decent, Never Trumpers. They’re good folks. However, the poor judgment that they showed (or, call it ideology) in taking a public stand against the Republican nominee when it looked like he wasn’t going to win, only to grovel back when he takes power shows the “swampiness” of the DC political class.
Again, this is not to cast aspersions on the very good, hard-worked and passionate Republicans who were opposed to Donald Trump. We’re in a free country and we have the right to free expression. However, given that we are in a free country, we also must deal with the consequences of using our rights. In this case, signing pledges and swearing never to support the, now President, wasn’t a merely one-off event. If you had the “moral clarity” to take the “principled” stand and oppose Mr. Trump and to never support him, then retain the moral high ground and don’t seek a job in his Administration.
Obviously we are being harsh in talking about these folks who feel offended that their “principled stand” is coming back to bite them, but, again, this is the type of culture that Mr. Trump has, at least in theory, been elected to eliminate. Certainly it is a good thing that people are willing to make stands on principle. However, they must be willing to deal with the consequences. Or… was it just that they didn’t think Mr. Trump would win and that opposition would drive more clicks to their websites?
The Dangerous State of the Press
The Washington Post published an opinion piece by one of their editors (following Mr. Trump granting the Post an interview over the weekend) that called the future of journalism under Mr. Trump “hellish.” This comes on the heels of Mr. Trump deciding not to take a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta (who was yelling at the elected leader of the free world) in favor of one of the other nearly-400 credentialed journalists at a press conference last week.
With only days to go until Mr. Trump’s inauguration, the Fourth Estate is gearing up for an ongoing fight with the incoming Administration. Mr. Trump, whose media savvy earned him over an estimated $1 billion in free coverage during the campaign, is well-aware that he will get coverage. Unlike in previous Administrations, where Republicans played by the rules set by the media, Mr. Trump and his team, have taken a directly hostile approach to the “gotcha” questions and overt bias in the press (simply look at the twitter feeds of the “objective” media reporters who are supposed to be covering Mr. Trump and reporting the news and you’ll see exactly the concerns that Mr. Trump has). The concern really isn’t that journalists have their own personal opinions, but rather that Mr. Trump’s views conflict so much with the neoliberal narrative of the past eight years that many find it jarring.
Added to all of this are reports that the incoming White House staff may move the Press Corps out of the White House and into the Old Executive Office Building. This is being done (if it actually happens) in order to open up briefings to larger groups of reporters. The current briefing room seats only 49. There were thousands of requests for credentials at Mr. Trump’s press conference and there is the sense in the incoming Administration that limiting coverage to the traditional media no longer serves the popular interest. Of course, the traditional media sees this as an attack and that the incoming Administration is moving them out in an attempt to reduce transparency. This is a flimsy argument, of course, given that the goal would seem to be giving more journalists the opportunity to cover the White House.
It is abundantly clear that one of the major narratives of the Trump Administration will either be the dissolution of traditional media into a mere shill for the defeated husk of the neoliberal agenda or a reimagining of the media into a reporter of facts, rather than opinions.
As always, there are more things going on in the world, but these should get you started for today.