The media dreams of Watergate II
That the old media is hostile to the new Administration is not a surprise. But that hostility has become something more -- or at least it has in the eyes of a few key media watchers. The press is now the de facto opposition to the Trump White House -- not the Democrats. According to this essay, it's a role the press seems to relish:
Some of the mainstream media's Trump anti-coverage once was stoked by ideology. Now, the tsunami is being fed by facts and revelations that cause many reporters to feel that their instincts have been vindicated.
And there is no incentive for reporters to calm down, take a breath, give Trump the benefit of the doubt. With Trump's frequent, gleeful attacks on the press, anyone seen as going soft on him looks like a chump. Trump feeds these fears on a near-daily basis.
Journalists have responded by uniting in their opposition. You see this with the sharing, applauding and echoing the critical coverage by their colleagues. And constant reminders to the public to subscribe to the New York Times, Washington Post and other outlets doing a lot of the Trump investigating. These reminders are working, especially for the Times. In what the media website Poynter called a "Trump-bump subscription surge," the Times recorded record net quarterly growth for digital subscriptions at the end of last year, with the momentum continuing into this year.
Trump gets very little positive coverage, and probably won't. The conservative Media Research Center said coverage of Trump on the network evening newscasts during the fall was 91% hostile. That's probably an exaggeration, but the point is no doubt true, and the coverage certainly hasn't become any rosier since the inauguration, with the president's approval rating near 50 percent in a divided country.
Just like the campaign, it isn't clear the media is winning the PR battle. Remember: the public has more distrust of media than Trump. Two polls show Trump's favorable rating in high 40s, and a strong stock market and steady flow of companies bowing to the president on creating US jobs could keep it there, absent even more serious revelations.
The press has always been antagonistic to any White House occupant who also happens to be a Republican. That has not changed. But now the mask of impartiality has been ripped away -- by the media itself.
They may, indeed, hound Trump and his cabinet mercilously over the next four years. They may, quite possibly, look to spin every misstep into a scandal on par with Watergate.
Speaking of which...the Wall Street Journal's Dan Henninger has a column wondering if Trump is headed the way of Nixon:
Messrs. Trump and Bannon should give an older member of the Washington establishment a temporary Oval Office visa to talk about what it was like during Watergate. Mr. Trump surely recalls the giddy frenzy of waking each day during Watergate to see what new anti-Nixon bombshell was on the morning newspaper’s front page.
What happened to Richard Nixon an eon ago looks familiar: Donald Trump’s presidency is getting bitten to death by an invisible, lethal ant hill of anonymous leakers.
Mr. Trump himself outputted this reality in remarks to the press Wednesday: “From intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked, it’s criminal action, criminal act, and it’s been going on for a long time.” It sure has. Ask George Washington.
Back in the days of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the primary unidentified source was known as Deep Throat. Now, when the bar for anonymity is about an inch high, the locutions of invisibility are more elegant. A favorite: “requested anonymity to speak candidly.”
Henninger is careful to note that Trump is not close to Nixon's self-inflicted peril. But with an angry, openly-partisan press looking to neutralize, if not overturn, the Trump administration, the White House -- and Trump voters -- need to be prepared. And they need allies inside the DC beltway.
The key, Henninger says, is Congress:
Forgotten now is that Nixon didn’t resign because of anything proven by the anonymous torrent, but only after he saw he’d lost the support of his own party in Congress. We’re not there, yet.
Mr. Trump is in the White House because voters wanted two things, in this order: 1) change; 2) Donald Trump.
That’s the basics. Get it straight, or 1974 could return.
And there are legions of reporters hoping against hope, and working overtime to ensure that 1974 does, indeed, come back again.