Via Mediaite, is my headline not a fair characterization of her point here? Colbert mentions Khashoggi’s disappearance and asks why she and Scarborough think it’ll have a lasting impact, whereupon Mika brings up Trump’s refrain about the press being the enemy of the people.
I’m going to pay her the compliment of assuming that she doesn’t think Islamists only started getting rough with their critics on January 20, 2017. What she means is that the Saudis may have been led to believe by Trump’s anti-media rhetoric that he might shrug off the murder of an American-based journalist in their own consulate. He might want to! But Trump doesn’t operate in a vacuum, even on foreign policy, and the Saudis would know that. They have their fingers in a lot of pies in Washington, as Scarborough notes earlier in the clip. They’re sophisticated about American politics; they pay big bucks to many informed observers for that sophistication. They would have understood that if the Khashoggi assassination were exposed, it wouldn’t be a simple matter of Trump riffing on “fake news” afterward. Congress would have something to say about it, particularly with Democrats poised to take back the House. American media would be outraged. Between the pressure from the press and from Congress, Trump would be boxed in and forced to take action against Riyadh whether he wanted to or not.
You could make the case, in fact, that Trump’s attacks on the media have left him with less room to maneuver on the Khashoggi fallout than an average Republican president would have had. Because he’s gone so far over the top with the “enemy of the people” chatter, he’s vulnerable to the accusation that his hostility to the press includes actually condoning their murders. That’s why he can’t just plead “realpolitik” here and go on with business as usual with the Kingdom. Realpolitik is “I don’t care what our worst allies do to their enemies so long as they deliver for us.” The Trump worldview, as suggested by Brzezinski citing his “enemy of the people” remarks, is “I like what our worst allies do to their enemies because they’re my enemies too.” To convince people that’s not true, he might have to overcorrect by punishing the Saudis more than a different Republican would.
But look, this entire debate is absurd. As much as Trump often undervalues journalists, Joe and Mika overvalue them. The clip below picks up with Scarborough’s face a mask of indignation that the Saudis would have targeted a Washington Post columnist for death. Meanwhile, the UN announced four days ago that if the Saudi-led war in Yemen drags on much longer, something like 13 million people might be facing the worst famine the planet’s seen in decades. The unspoken foundation of the media outrage over Khashoggi’s death is that, since he was one of their own and since the precedent set by his murder threatens them too, they believe his life was worth much, much more than the average Yemeni’s. Or the average non-media Saudi dissident’s.
But it’s absurd on the other side too. Michael Brendan Dougherty is correct about how stupid the Trump/Saudi apologists sound:
The crass journalism that implies “Maybe Khashoggi has it coming” is the biggest self own. What would the House of Saud deserve?
— Michael Brendan Dougherty (@michaelbd) October 19, 2018
Khashoggi could have lived a thousand lifetimes and never matched the ruthlessness or cupidity that the Saudi royals demonstrate year by year. They’ve bankrolled the global spread of Salafism for decades yet we’ve had to sit through days of excuses from some righties citing Khashoggi’s own Islamist sympathies to suggest he deserved death. He wasn’t murdered for those Islamist views either, of course; he was murdered for believing that the “reformist” crown prince wasn’t as much of a liberal hero as he’s been cracked up to be. He was right. But to the apologists, because Trump must be protected at all costs, the Saudis necessarily did no wrong.
By the way, look out for Mika noting in her parade of horribles about Trump that he “had both sides fighting each other” during the Kavanaugh saga. That’s pure garbage, as anyone who followed the news over the last month knows. Trump was a minor player in the Ford/Kavanaugh drama until the last few days before confirmation, when he challenged Ford’s story a bit at one of his rallies. The two sides were “fighting each other” because SCOTUS seats are always the highest political stakes, because Ford’s account forced #MeToo and due process into direct conflict, and because the last-minute revelation of her accusations reeked of a dirty trick. McConnell and Grassley and Lindsey Graham were all far more pugnacious with Democrats than Trump was. But Mika has her narrative and so the facts must yield, even though she’s describing something that played out two weeks ago. It’s amazingly Trumpy of her. I wonder if she’ll ever see the irony.