After a tumultuous month of incumbency, President Trump actually plans to begin his 2020 re-election campaign Saturday in Florida with one of his most vital campaign props in tow — the news media that he makes a daily art form of undermining with institutional and personal attacks.
“You know, you’re dishonest people,” he told reporters at his news conference Thursday, with the ease of an insult comic in a Las Vegas lounge. “But I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it,” the president was fair enough to admit as he lambasted the media nonstop.
“Fake news!” “Russia scam!” “Ruse!” he proclaimed, dismissing reports on the turmoil in his White House.
After a while it began to make sense: Of course, Mr. Trump craves a break from the White House caldron for the familiar escape to another hyperbolic campaign stop at an airport hangar full of zealous supporters. He needed the press to play the punching bag that so delighted his political base. Aides filed for re-election on Inauguration Day, an extraordinary step that lets Mr. Trump raise campaign funds for what will be a state of endless campaigning.
The news conference proved to be another signature recapitulation of himself by himself — Mr. Trump’s relentless superlatives of self-congratulation, his paint-ball putdowns of any and all critics, his swaggering dismissal of controversies already occurring in plain sight.
Viewers may wonder why the president returned repeatedly to his media attacks. But the news workers who thrive on information more than insult already know the answer — they’re a perfect distraction from real events hatched in Mr. Trump’s new administration, like the embarrassing retreat of his labor secretary nominee from Senate scrutiny, the dismissal of his national security adviser for secretly buttering up Russian adversaries and the courts’ unceremonious spiking of Mr. Trump’s unconstitutional attempt to choke off Middle East immigration with a photo-op stroke of his pen.
“The press honestly is out of control,” was Mr. Trump’s reaction to “fake news” and “illegal leaks” — shocking news stories that originated with trusted news sources alarmed at what has been happening in less than a month of the Trump era.
He’d better get used to it. American history shows there’s no reasonable alternative to the power of human curiosity in a democracy, especially when a president dares to claim exclusive ownership of reality.
“Will we be incessantly harassed and vilified?” Martin Baron, editor of The Washington Post, asked after the election. “The answer, I believe, is pretty simple,” he said with barely a shrug. “Just do our job. Do it as it’s supposed to be done.”