A group of white nationalists, neo-Nazis or whatever they were held a meeting of a couple hundred people in Washington this week. During the proceedings the leader of the “National Policy Institute” (somebody named Richard Spencer) apparently did a “Heil Trump” salute which immediately put the media into a tailspin. Normally you might imagine that a conference of racists small enough to fit into your average comedy club wouldn’t attract much attention but it’s been playing on a loop on cable news ever since. Why? Because it gave the cable news networks and major papers yet another chance to demand that Trump apologize for, condemn or in some other way comment negatively on this group of crackpots.
I quickly began seeing commenters on social media weighing in on the importance of the President Elect moving quickly and decisively on this vital bit of national business. Here’s just one example.
There were plenty more along those lines.
Watching Morning Joe today, Scarborough was entertaining more guests who continue to claim that everyone in the country with a sketchy (or flatly Nazi) agenda who may support Trump somehow represent him and are therefore somehow his responsibility. Joe pushed forward the idea that Trump needed to, “calm the waters” for everyone who claims to be so terribly worried about this. Of course, Trump’s team already put out a statement which read as follows:
“President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind, and he was elected because he will be a leader for every American,” the statement reads. “To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds.”
And what did that get him? The Huffington Post immediately described it as a “Tepid Response” which obviously didn’t go far enough. But this is how the game is being played in the media and unless this gets shut down they’ll be doing it for the next four or eight years.
In reality, this should be a fairly easy call for Trump. Was he at the meeting led by Spencer? Did he send anyone to the meeting? Was there, in fact, anyone from the Trump organization there or involved in the presentation? If the answer to all of those questions is no (and it is) then Trump has absolutely nothing to answer for. They couldn’t even tie Bannon to this group aside from describing one of the leaders as his “buddy.” If they’d had at least that much of a connection then they might possibly have had a story. But there’s no there there with this report. There is simply no real need for him to go around denouncing every new chew toy the media finds to latch onto because they are not reporting news. They’re digging up any nuggets they can find to feed into the perception that Trump is somehow associated with these groups.
Let’s jump into the Way Back Machine for a moment and remember that in August of this year a Grand Dragon of the KKK in California endorsed Hillary Clinton. Did you see that story playing on a loop on CNN for days on end? No, you did not. And the reasons are that it didn’t fit the narrative of trying to elect Clinton and the story was garbage to begin with. Thanks to the right of free speech, anyone can endorse or praise any party or candidate they wish. That doesn’t mean anything unless the subject embraces the endorsement.
While I haven’t been hired to provide advice to the Trump transition team I’ll offer a nickel’s worth of it anyway. In the future, every time one of these nonsense stories begins consuming the news cycle, Trump should refuse to condemn whatever the flavor of the week is. Instead they should issue a default, repeating statement every time explaining that they don’t comment on ginned up fantasies concocted by the liberal media in an attempt to undermine and discredit his presidency before it ever begins.
The longer the incoming administration agrees to talk about these stories, the more time the media has to keep spinning them as if it was actual news. Don’t feed the beast and it will eventually starve. And this is one beast that Trump should definitely put on a diet immediately.