“Frankenstein” Republicans Losing Control of Their Monster

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Earlier this week I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about choosing a president via reality TV. Ironically, the White House itself resembles the cast of The Apprentice these days.

Trump’s newly appointed communications director Anthony Scaramucci has gone rabid, claiming the White House, like a fish, “stinks from the head down,” a reference to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Scaramucci, acting like an extra on The Sopranos, has vowed to fire the entire communications staff in order to stem the tide of leaks from disgruntled White House employees. (Chicago Tribune, July 28, 2017)

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claims the Donald likes pitting his employees against each other, a fact confirmed by former employees of the Trump organization. (Tribune, July 28, 2017) I half expect to see the president on TV, sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office and shouting, “You’re fired!” at Priebus, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

Things in Washington have clearly gotten out of control. Donald Trump’s insulting tweets about Sessions and threats to fire Mueller have been met with dismay by Congressional Republicans, who have issued stern warnings to Trump not to remove either man from his post. But that’s a little like expecting the pit bull in your backyard to play nice when you’ve trained it to be a killer.

In a week when the President of the United States managed to politicize a Boy Scout Jamboree, offend the LGBT community, and appear at yet another self-aggrandizing rally in Ohio, it is hard to see how the party that unleashed the Trumpian monster will be able to rein him in.

Trump actually managed to do something positive this week, and that was to bring jobs into Wisconsin by way of a deal with electronics company Foxconn. (We’ll ignore the inconvenient fact that the supposedly saved jobs at Carrier in Indiana are going away.) Yet the behavior of both the president and his minions has overshadowed any good news coming from the White House.

Meanwhile, many Republican leaders are experiencing buyers’ remorse about supporting a president who has turned out to be a loose cannon they can’t control.

If ever there were a time for Republicans to reach across the aisle and unite with Democrats to do something about Frankenstein’s monster, that time is now.

Pen and Sword

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Many Fox News media personalities (I hesitate to call them journalists) are crowing over the president’s smackdown of the “liberal media” in his now infamous press conference last Thursday. Having been singled out by Trump as praiseworthy for their supposed fair and respectful coverage of His Highness, Fox pundits went on their own rant about liberal media bias with conservative comedian (also a term I’m using loosely here) Greg Gutfield yesterday. What Gutfield and friends don’t seem to realize is something Trump, however buffoonish he appears, understands quite well: The pen is mightier than the sword.

When Trump tweeted, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!,” the entire political establishment on both the Left and the Right should have called for his immediate resignation. Instead, the lone critic among conservatives was Sen. John McCain, who to his credit has been unceasingly critical of Trump’s unconscionable statements.

On his show, Gutfield proved that he has totally missed the point of Trump’s relentless attacks on the media by pointing out that no one has tried to ban or silence news outlets. But the Trump administration knows it doesn’t need to take such drastic action. Instead, they seek to create a reality in which the media in general is suspect, not to be trusted. Among Trump’s loyal supporters, this has already been the case for months. But as serious allegations surface concerning the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and other Trump administration ties to the despotic regime, it has become imperative for them to discredit the very independent press that could do the most damage to their existence.

I grew up during the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon. America learned about the Republican dirty tricks and coverups of the Nixon administration only because two intrepid reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, relentlessly pursued the truth. I have no doubt that there are serious journalists right now who are investigating Trump’s ties to Russia. But will they be believed?

There are some encouraging signs of the media fighting back. Chris Wallace, anchor on the right-leaning Fox News channel, took White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to task this morning for Trump’s words. As he pointed out to Priebus, “You don’t get to tell us what to do, Reince. You don’t get to tell us what to do any more than Barack Obama did. Barack Obama whined about Fox News all the time, but I’ve got to say, he never said we were an enemy of the people.”

A free press is the very foundation of a democracy. Without true freedom of speech and an acknowledgment of the difference between facts and opinions, a democratically elected president can become an autocrat. It is up to responsible journalists to keep asking the probing questions, to keep investigating, to keep seeking the truth, whether it favors the Right or Left.

And it is up to the American people not to let a bully tell them whom or what to believe.