By now you’ve no doubt seen the international crisis which was spawned when Donald Trump answered a question about the DNC email hack, saying he hoped that the Russians found the rest of her 30,000 erased emails. Flipping through the cable news networks this morning you’d think that he just offered to sell the nuclear codes to the highest bidder. The reactions have been swift and ominous from all corners. The editorial board of the Washington Post issued a dire warning, telling voters to beware that, “Donald Trump just invited a Russian cyberattack of his opponent.”
Ed Rogers, writing for the same paper, asked, “[I]f Trump is willing to use Putin’s resources for his political gain today, what would stop him from reaching out to Putin once he comes to terms with the fact that as president, he can’t take many of those actions himself?”
These are symptoms of something which has been going on for quite a while now, but I believe it took a long time to sink in for me because I’m “guilty” of the same thing so often myself. You see, this is something the media isn’t equipped to handle. Trump has already told Fox and Friends that he was being sarcastic when he said that. This answer was replayed on CNN this morning and the response seemed to strike the anchors there as if the GOP nominee had suddenly begun speaking Klingon. And yet, the idea that someone running for office could regularly engage in sarcasm or even some off color language or jokes is so foreign to the political media that they feel obligated to treat obvious sarcasm as if it was a serious policy proposal. And in reality, it’s not much of an “obligation” to deal with because it helps them continue the narrative and paint Trump as some sort of out of control monster.
As I said, I think I had a hard time recognizing this pattern at first because I engage in the same mannerisms myself on a daily basis. In fact, it probably infects at least three quarters of my writing. But here’s a clue for the reporters covering this election: I’m not the one in the minority here. Though there are still plenty of people left with more gentile sensibilities, most of the people watching your broadcasts call on sarcasm on a regular basis. Beyond that, plenty of people use some “colorful” language on a regular basis as well, even though you don’t allow some of it on the air.
Trump has done his share of that as well, and his opponents have tried without success to make hay of it. Have you seen this ad from the Clinton campaign which warns America that “our kids are listening?”
Featured right up front is a quote from one of The Donald’s stump speeches where he supposedly says of businesses who move their jobs to Mexico, “… and you can tell them to go **** themselves.” The reality is that he didn’t actually say the F word there. He censored himself and just mouthed the offending expletive silently. (You can watch the uncensored clip here if you remain in doubt.) But still, everyone knew what he was saying anyway.
Guess what? I say that too… probably far more often than Trump. I don’t do it in an office setting or write things like that in my professional work because that’s not an accepted standard. But it is how many real Americans speak. And I’ll let you in on another personal confession here: the first time I heard that bleeped out clip I wasn’t offended… I smiled. And I can assure you that a lot of other people did as well, even some who probably wouldn’t speak that way. Politicians are mostly a group of clones dropped out of a cookie cutter on this score and I find it difficult to be put off if a candidate comes along who actually shows some signs of a temperature that rises above tepid.
Trump is sarcastic. He’s easily exercised. And when he starts in on a subject and the room temperature rises, you get more of that. The media loves to act offended and point to this as a reason why he must not be qualified to lead America. But the fact is that sarcasm and the occasional expletive are part and parcel of how much of the nation actually speaks. This has left the media completely flummoxed, leading to the headlines about how Trump is going to sell out our national security to Russia.
Do you honestly believe he’s that daft? If so, then you’re ready to believe anything about him. Trump’s not a politician and he doesn’t talk like a politician. Sooner or later cable news is going to have to come to terms with that.