NBC “news” marks milestone: Trump can no longer be the shortest-serving president in American history
This is trolling, straight up, by a major American news bureau hoping to give Trump’s critics a giggle at the thought that he hasn’t been impeached yet but will be soon. It’s the political equivalent of a city paper running a story about how many years it’s been since a rival city’s home team won a championship, except that most sports sections wouldn’t run that story precisely because it’s pure trolling. There’s no news hook based on recent events. It’s simply an excuse to convey the message “we dislike you and look forward to your continuing futility with enthusiasm.” It’s exactly the sort of thing the DNC press shop would put out to razz Trump, except that it’s coming from an “objective” news outlet.
That doesn’t justify Trump’s “enemy of the people” comment, but if you’re looking to understand why Steve Bannon calls the media “the opposition party,” here’s a small but sterling example. You don’t run something like this except to make the fact of your opposition plain.
This Presidents Day, as thousands prepare to swarm the streets for “Not My President’s Day” rallies, the president will celebrate a milestone — he’s reached his 32nd day in office.
That small victory means that, despite the demands of his detractors, President Trump will not have the shortest term in the Oval Office.
That unfortunate honor rests with William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States, who died from pneumonia just 32 days into his presidency, on April 4, 1841 — making him also the first president to die in office.
If you strain hard, you can spin that as a cutesy “did you know?” piece on Presidents Day aimed at educating the public about William Henry Harrison, but even then, the Trump angle is gratuitous. The better explanation for this came from Ross Douthat in an op-ed published last month, worrying that Trump’s own prodigious trolling skills would lead the media to respond in kind, to its own detriment, just as Marco Rubio did briefly during the presidential primaries last year:
Mainstream journalism in this strange era may be freer than the fearful anticipate, but not actually better as the optimists expect. Instead, the press may be tempted toward — and richly rewarded for — a kind of hysterical oppositionalism, a mirroring of Trump’s own tabloid style and disregard for truth.
This mirroring is a broad danger, applying to more institutions than the press. Trump comes to power as a destroyer of norms, a flouter of conventions, and everyone will be tempted to join the carnival — to escalate when he escalates, to radicalize whenever he turns authoritarian. The cycle of norm-breaking that began with Robert Bork’s defeated nomination or Newt Gingrich’s ascent (depending on your politics) may escalate on both sides of the aisle. Left-wing protest movements will be tempted more easily toward both absurdity and violence. Deep state institutions will be tempted to become more restive and politicized. Politicians will be tempted, like Marco Rubio talking about Trump’s manhood on the campaign trail, into surrendering their dignity in an effort to be at home in Trumpland…
The danger for the established press, then, is the same danger facing other institutions in our republic: that while believing themselves to be nobly resisting Trump, they end up imitating him.
What is this story on Harrison and Trump if not NBC’s winking version of a Trump-ish tweet about how the “failing” White House is “struggling bigly”?
Here’s Mike Pence this morning at NATO HQ addressing Trump’s “enemy of the people” remark, performing his usual agile moves in ducking the question and reframing it to Trump’s benefit. “Both the president and I want a free and independent press,” he says, “but we will continue to call out the media when they play fast and loose with the facts.” Calling the media out is one thing; calling them an enemy of the people because they’re antagonistic to your administration is Chavista-style populist demagoguery. If you want to defend what Trump said, at least emphasize that he’s been all talk — so far — compared to Obama seizing a reporter’s phone records and labeling him a “co-conspirator” in a leak case to justify accessing some of his emails. Exit question: Are these videos, also from NBC, “news”?