Via Mediaite, the best part comes at the end when the camera cuts to a tighter shot of Joe and he speaks directly to it. The chyron might as well be “I Know You’re Watching, Donald, So Listen Closely.”
If it were true that the media always won, President Hillary Clinton would be wrapping up her first week on the job today. Scarborough’s ready for that comeback, though: Trump is at ~40 percent approval, he notes, and Hillary was conspicuously weak opposition. He can’t go on this way flailing at everyone who makes him unhappy and expect to preserve his political capital. Can’t he, though? The point of Bannon’s attack on the media yesterday was to lock down the devotion of the American right, which, if it works, will cement that 40 percent as Trump’s floor. It’s us or them, Bannon seemed to be saying of the press. If you dislike the media, you must rally behind Trump. If that works, and it probably will, it’ll make Trump bulletproof on the right as reporters fire one story after another at him questioning his judgment and his basic fitness for office. As for the rest of the electorate, Bannon probably believes (not incorrectly) that another 10-15 percent can be won over with the right mix of policy outcomes notwithstanding people’s suspicions about Trump personally. If the economy grows, if the coming infrastructure package provides some sweet photo ops of hardhats in the Rust Belt going back to work, he’ll be just fine. And don’t forget, the 2018 map favors Republicans strongly; even if Trump’s agenda isn’t the political smash Bannon’s hoping for, there’s plenty of margin for error. The key right now is to make sure that Trump’s job approval doesn’t slip to the point where Republicans in Congress start getting nervous about following him. Framing the media yesterday explicitly as an “opposition party” is a way to command loyalty from them and from the base as the administration gets its sea legs.
But this isn’t a matter of pure strategy either. Trump genuinely appears to hate the media when they’re “unfair” to him, which in his mind seems to be whenever they’re critical of him. (When they’re “fair,” i.e. complimentary, he adores them.) Bannon appears to sincerely hate the media too for Breitbartian reasons, because they’re a force impeding the cultural advance of the right and, in his particular case, the cause of nationalism. Given the success they’ve had over the past year, I think they believe they really can win a war with the media — but even if they can’t, they might say it’s worth doing in the name of inflicting some serious, long-lasting damage on the institution. The media has been the chief enemy of the populist right for 30 years at least and now a president championed by the populist right is in a position to do battle with them. It’s only slightly overstating it to say that the prospect of that battle is why populists elected Trump. How could he possibly pass on fighting it, whether it’s strategically smart or not?