We’ll be seeing a bit less of the “Crooked Hillary” line of attacks this month and quite a bit more of the crooked media according to Donald Trump. During a blistering attack on the mainstream press from the stump this week, the GOP nominee went directly after CNN and the New York Times, implying at one point that he might have to look at revoking the Gray Lady’s credentials for his events. (The Hill)
“I’m not running against crooked Hillary, I’m running against the crooked media,” Trump said at a rally in Fairfield, Conn. “That’s what I’m running against, I’m not running against crooked Hillary.”
Trump has repeatedly lashed out at media that he calls “dishonest” over the course of his campaign.
Earlier Saturday, he bashed the New York Times after a report came out in which sources characterized Trump as “sullen” and struggling to recover in light of lagging poll numbers.
He renewed those attacks on the Times at the rally Saturday, saying he’s considering revoking their credentials to cover his rallies.
I have to wonder if this isn’t yet another case of Trump’s lack of experience in politics. Sure, he’s heard about media bias and he’s got people telling him all the time to be careful when dealing with the press. But until you’ve experienced it for yourself first hand it might still come as a surprise. If you’ve got an “R” after your name in any given election you’re going to be getting hammered a lot harder in the pages of the nation’s largest newspapers and on most cable news shows. Was Trump really prepared for that or did he go into this thinking that the press would be won over by his charm and somehow bend the usual rules of engagement?
Perhaps he should have been listening to some of his own surrogates. Trump supporter Scottie Nell Hughes was getting into the debate this morning on Twitter, recounting her time in the White House press corps after George W. Bush’s reelection.
— Scottie Nell Hughes (@scottienhughes) August 14, 2016
This was a never a secret, though seeing the members of the press openly booing the President of the United States wasn’t the sort of thing one talked about on the Sunday morning shows. Still, this has been the basis for the rules of the political road for some time now. Rather than the New York Times, perhaps Trump should have taken a peek at the coverage he was getting on social media from NBC News. As The Hill Reported yesterday, they’ve taken to outright snark in their Twitter feed.
NEW: Donald Trump says only way Hillary Clinton can win Pennsylvania "is if cheating goes on;" does not specify if he is being sarcastic.
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) August 12, 2016
Last month I posed the question of whether or not the American political media was prepared to handle a candidate who regularly employs sarcasm and throws around snark generously. Modern politicians – particularly Republicans – are carefully groomed to monitor every syllable passing their lips specifically to avoid giving the press some sort of talking point to latch onto and beat them up over it. Trump has no such filters and has repeatedly demonstrated that he has zero interest in developing them. In response, the media seemed to be at a loss and have now taken to employing some snark of their own in response. Is this a coarsening of the national debate or simply an evolution toward language that many of the voters are used to hearing and using around their favorite watering holes every week?
In the end, this isn’t exactly a sea change for the Trump campaign. He’s been attacking the media since day one and taking them by surprise initially. Expecting him to change course now is an unlikely prospect at best.