Anyone still want to argue against my position that the White House briefing shouldn’t be televised? Watch these two tools, Acosta and Glenn Thrush, do their grandstanding best to filibuster Miller, with Acosta reduced to citing the poem on the Statue of Liberty to counter Miller’s points about assimilation and wage effects. What happened here is simple: Reporters knew they were going to go toe to toe today with one of the few committed nationalists in the White House on the pet issue of the populist right, the one that helped Donald Trump get elected and turned Steve Bannon into a power broker. They had to make their opposition plain, if not to the average person watching than at least to their colleagues in the media who would have torched them for not questioning Miller aggressively. This reeks of “virtue-signaling” even more than it does of standard media bias; Miller clearly gets the better of Acosta in particular on the substance of the policy — challenging him on why he privileges low-skilled foreigners over low-skilled Americans is a nice turnabout — but I don’t think Acosta minded. The point wasn’t to get a thoughtful answer out of Miller or even to “win,” it was to display his virtuous plumage and let the rest of the media know that he threw down with the nationalist gargoyle. Turn the cameras in the briefing room off and you don’t have that problem. If Acosta wants to make speeches about Emma Lazarus, he can stand in front of his bathroom mirror and talk into a banana.
The exchange with Thrush is more restrained, with the latter demanding evidence that immigration hurts the economy, Miller offering some, and Thrush continuing to demand it, which, again, tells you how thoughtful these exchanges are. Miller does get in a nice dig, though, by asking Thrush how he’d feel if reporters had to compete for their jobs with a huge glut of immigrants like so many other Americans do. That point has been made before by prominent Republicans but it’s quality populist red meat.
I wonder if it occurs to these people that their less-disguised-than-usual disgust at restrictionism and theatrical skepticism that immigration might not be an unvarnished good is, in fact, one of the proverbial reasons we have Trump. And also why Miller is a fan favorite among right-wing populists. It’s not just that he wants to limit immigration, it’s that he refuses to concede an inch rhetorically that that position is indefensible to the point of being scandalous. Anyway, after this performance, Trump’s probably going to make him Attorney General or something.