Trump: Let's face it, the media has to let me win in 2020 for the sake of their own survival

He’s not wrong.

Well, he’s sort of wrong. The media, which is normally chest-deep in the tank for Democrats at election time, will be nose-deep in 2020. Their own self-regard as Protectors of Enlightenment is the most important thing to them and they’ve already come to see Trump as the embodiment of all things unenlightened. Everyone worries about their bottom line but a Brahmin caste worries about its holy duties first.

But their bottom line will be hurt by Trump’s defeat. Badly. And POTUS knows it.

Mr. Trump said he believes members of the news media will eventually cover him more favorably because they are profiting from the interest in his presidency and thus will want him re-elected.

“Another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes,” Mr. Trump said, then invoked one of his preferred insults. “Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times.”

He added: “So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.’ O.K.”

There’ll certainly be some “Has Trump gotten a bad rap?” reassessments come election time but that has less to due with propping him up for their own sake than with trying to make the election more interesting and competitive for maximum drama. Plus, it earns them impartiality points. When they’re inevitably accused by righties of having savaged Trump for his entire presidency, they can point to the “bad rap?” story and say, “Nuh uh. See?”

Still, he makes a good point. How the hell are they, and we, going to go back to traditional presidential news consumption after four years of Trump? Reporters will need to be retrained to learn how to cover a dull presidency, where there are no tweets to drive the cycle, no Russia investigations, no weekly reports of some cabinet staffer or another being close to quitting or getting fired. More than anything, we’ll all need to learn again how to slow down. Right now we’re riding a roller coaster at full tilt whose track is getting built while the ride is in progress. A nut shoots 600 people in a crowd in Las Vegas and the roller coaster just whooshes by.

One year out, this may be Mr. Trump’s greatest trick: His tornado of news-making has scrambled Americans’ grasp of time and memory, producing a sort of sensory overload that can make even seismic events — of his creation or otherwise — disappear from the collective consciousness and public view.

He is the magician who swallows a sword no one thought was part of the act, stuffs a dozen rabbits into a hat before the audience can count them — and then merrily tweets about “Fox & Friends” while the crowd strains to remember what show it had paid to attend in the first place.

Diplomatic crises. Human tragedies. The Mooch…

“We crammed six years in,” said Jason Chaffetz, a former Republican congressman from Utah who left the job at the end of June.

Imagine going from that to a Mike Pence presidency, where the daily news would consist of things like “The president got a new pet rabbit today.” Needless to say, Trump is right that he’s been gold for the news industry, both pro-Trump and anti. Fox had its best year ever by some measures but so did MSNBC. The “failing” New York Times actually saw revenue growth this year. It’s the least he could have done for the media after they gifted him with $2 billion worth of free coverage during the Republican primaries, when they thought he’d be easy pickings for Hillary in the general.

But it’s not just old media that’s all Trump, all the time. Check this out:

When you filter out Trump, the 2017 news cycle looks like this:

Annnnnnd when you don’t filter him out, it looks like … this:

MSNBC and the Times will survive a Trump defeat in 2020. Twitter might not.

Here’s another interesting Trump quote from the same wide-ranging NYT interview where he talked about the media’s financial interests:

“There is no collusion. And even these committees that have been set up. If you look at what’s going on — and in fact, what it’s done is, it’s really angered the base and made the base stronger. My base is stronger than it’s ever been. Great congressmen, in particular, some of the congressmen have been unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is. So, I think it’s been proven that there is no collusion.”

He was surprisingly chill about Mueller in the interview, saying he expects he’ll be treated fairly, reflecting his sense — which I think is accurate — that the Russiagate investigation isn’t all bad for him, just mostly bad. (The same goes for his relationship with the media and he knows it.) *If* Mueller finds no presidential wrongdoing beyond bad management in not doing more to keep his deputies from chatting with Russians during the campaign, Trump will claim vindication and there’s not much Democrats will be able to say in response. In the meantime Mueller and the media are useful foils in that they’re both disliked by the right, which helps keep most Republicans unified behind the president as the congressional GOP struggles to get major legislation passed.

What’s not accurate, though, is his belief that his base “is stronger than it’s ever been.” That may be true of the part of his base that’s still with him, determined to defend him from the Mueller probe and the media’s attacks, but his base is smaller now than it was when he was sworn in. If the goal is to build a movement that’s gradually shrinking but diamond-hard in its support, his enemies are helping with that. To the extent that it’s to build broader support across the electorate so that he’s not left trumpeting polls that show him at 46 percent approval, no. But some new tax cuts plus an infrastructure bill in January might change that.