Last week National Security Advisor Michael Flynn got caught confabulating with the Russkies and lying about it, and had to leave the administration. After that his employer, The Leader, held two press conferences. The first one, on Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, didn’t go so well. The next day he gave another, his first solo presser, to announce a new Labor Secretary candidate, and that one — well, you can read the transcript here, or any random paragraph of it; alternatively you can look at this old M.K. Brown cartoon that captures its spirit. Let’s just say that The Leader was at one point obliged to tell the press (whom he denounced throughout) that he was not ranting and raving, and it wasn’t even among the top three craziest statements he made that afternoon.
While rational people were giving The Leader the old Springtime for Hitler stare, rightbloggers applauded him for attacking America’s enemies (reporters) and defending America’s interests (himself, Russia).
When Flynn was canned, the mainstream press, using their old-fashioned, pre-Dark Time logic, considered it a sign that Flynn had done wrong. Rightbloggers considered it instead a sign that former President Barack Obama had sabotaged Flynn from his house in Kalorama.
“Former Obama Officials, Loyalists Waged Secret Campaign to Oust Flynn,” reported Adam Kredo at the Washington Free Beacon. Kredo said “multiple sources in and out of the White House” told him “Obama loyalists” had “deluged media outlets with stories aimed at eroding Flynn’s credibility.” Stop the presses. But wait! Not only that, these Obama loyalists were responsible for “leaks designed to undermine [Flynn].” So the people who ratted Flynn out weren’t his friends! In light of this revelation, it’s a wonder The Leader didn’t apologize and ask Flynn to come back to work.
Some conservatives blamed this injustice on the national security state, which they used to love but turned against when the NatSec state actually obeyed orders from Obama as if he were a legitimate President. “Deep State Hit Job,” sulked Patrick Poole at PJ Media. “The media-intelligence community pipeline is a swamp that needs to be drained,” seethed Paul Mirengoff at Power Line.
“Make no mistake about what’s happening here: this is a rolling coup attempt,” raged PJ Media’s Michael Walsh, who implicated a number of people and agencies, including the CIA which, Walsh claimed, “has never forgiven Ronald Reagan for taking down the Soviets and spoiling its extremely cozy relationship with the KGB.”
At the New York Post, John Podhoretz warned ordinary citizens “why you should fear the leaks that felled Mike Flynn… Every American should be equally concerned at the potential ‘normalization’ of the tactics used by unnamed government officials to do Flynn in.” Sure, Flynn “should never have been given the national security adviser job in the first place,” Podhoretz admitted, but Obama loyalists — whoops sorry, wrong paranoid; “unelected bureaucrats” is what Podhoretz called them — “clearly made the decision that what Flynn did or who Flynn was merited their intervention — and took their concerns to the press.” And the press exists to post cat videos, not to tell people when The Leader fucks up! Anyway, watch out, folks or, like Thomas More says in everyone’s favorite A Man For All Seasons quote, after you’ve cut down all the Trumpkins, when you’re a senior White House official and have fucked up badly, there’ll be no one there to protect your right to keep anyone from finding out about it!
In his Netanyahu press conference, The Leader rambled worryingly; when a Jewish reporter asked him about anti-Semitism in American, The Leader talked at length about how great his Electoral College victory had been. On the two-state solution Presidents have traditionally advocated for Israel and the Palestinians, The Leader said, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one,” etc. huh what.
Rightbloggers applauded. “This is smart, I think,” said John Hinderaker of Power Line. “The Palestinians need to understand that if they don’t shape up, they don’t get a state.” I know, guys; I checked the transcript too and I don’t see where Hinderaker got that from either, but at National Review Jonathan S. Tobin claimed to have heard something similar, or at least coherent: “His statement was typically Trumpian in that it displayed either his ignorance or his lack of interest in the details, but it’s clear that the president wasn’t supporting either the one-state or the two-state option.” Maybe it’s from subtext only audible to people who’ve received grants from the White House to sharpen up their hearing.
The next day, in his solo presser, The Leader raged against enemies and bragged on himself in a performance that made Nixon’s White House farewell sound like Fred Rogers talking to Mr. McFeely, and many mainstream media types questioned his mental equilibrium: “Is Donald Trump O.K.?” asked Tory Newmyer at Fortune; “Trump’s chaotic press conference has allies and enemies alike nervous about his ‘mental state,’ ” said The Week.
Conservatives, on the other hand, either rejoiced that The Leader was attacking the media, or complained that the media was attacking The Leader.
On the upside of the rightwing mood swing, The Right Scoop cheered, “American people side with TRUMP over the lyin’ media, according to Fox News poll!” “It was a historic beat down of the alt-left propaganda media, and they had it coming,” crowed Sean Hannity. “SWEET JUSTICE: Photos Emerge of Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer Laughing as TRUMP Castigates Liberal Press,” said The Gateway Pundit.
At American Thinker, Ed Straker asked readers “Which movie scene did President Trump’s press conference remind you of?” and gave them some suggestions, e.g.: “The scene in The Matrix Reloaded where Neo beats up a hundred copies of Agent Smith, representing the homogenous liberal media,” and “The scene from The Gamesters of Triskellion where Kirk has to fight several enemies at once in an arena to save his ship. Many supervisors gambling on the fight thought Kirk could never win, just as pollsters claimed that Trump could never win the election.”
On the downside of the rightwing mood swing, The Daily Caller’s Alex Keeney portrayed The Leader and his followers as victims of horrific persecution: ”TV and social media” are “bulging with political content,” he said, and “anyone in private life who even dares to be neutral on Trump” is called “evil, racist, and ignorant” by liberals, who are “punishing people for using their rights to free thought and free speech” and “sending brigades of protesters to blow up opponents’ town hall…” Also, a shadowy organization called “the Left” has “used its control over airwaves and iPhones to amplify a message of intolerance pointed at the very same people it has to persuade. Trumpies, beware: we will find you, and when we do, we will destroy you. We will eviscerate you on Saturday Night Live…” I never dreamed we had such power, nor that we were the only ones with iPhones!
Some swung both ways. At American Thinker Thomas Lifson said The Leader’s presser had “signaled an entirely new era in relationships between a president and the major media… And he and the media both know that if he continues to succeed in undermining the media’s power to sway public opinion, a permanent shift in the political balance of power will be accomplished.” Grrrr, big strong man!
But wait: Lifson then charged the press with trying to railroad The Leader into a nuthouse like in the old Soviet Union: “So what do leftists, ever since Stalin, do when a formidable threat arises domestically? Of course: They call him mentally ill. When they control the powers of the state thoroughly enough, they even lock up opponents in mental institutions.”
As for The Leader’s bizarre and plainly untrue statements, Lifson thought the press was making too much of them: “So bring on a straitjacket, right? That’s how they did it in Stalin’s day.” Again with the Stalin! If the media has so much power, how come I always have to buy my own drinks?
To get away from people who would bother to check his facts, The Leader journeyed on Saturday to Florida for a rally with his fans. It was, as you can read, gibberish, complete with a reference to a non-existent Swedish incident; on-camera supporters holding signs for BLACKSFORTRUMP2020.COM, which proved upon inspection to be deeply, extremely weird; and a guest appearance by an obvious nut (“He says he has a cardboard box with Trump on it and he tells it that he’s praying for Trump’s safety every day… it’s so heartfelt” — The Right Scoop).
Again conservatives styled it a success. “Watch how Melania begins a Trump rally; puts Michelle Obama to shame!” gushed Terresa Monroe-Hamilton at Right Wing News; that is, The Leader’s wife “wore a simple, graceful dress and intoned [The Lord’s Prayer] with reverence and sincerity.” As for The Leader himself, “if I were a leftist, I’d be seriously worried about 2020,” Monroe-Hamilton said. “Trump seems to only get more and more popular,” especially if you don’t read polls.
At the New York Post, Salena Zito bade readers appreciate how hard was the lot of The Leader: “Life in Washington can be confining, draining, and isolating when you are President of the United States,” she sighed. “Visits beyond the DC Beltway can ease those burdens. That’s particularly true for Trump,” she added, because, unlike previous presidents, “he likely misses his wife,” and sees his children less now that they have to pretend he’s not running his business. But rallies like Saturday’s “energize him and his supporters — and that is likely a very good thing, for his team and for the success of the nation,” said Zito.
If you don’t agree that The Leader needs and deserves these public spectacles, along with his (apparently weekly) breathers at Mar-a-Lago, to distract him from whatever he does weekdays at the White House, you’re probably one of those mean liberals the New York Times says make people vote for Trump by refusing to agree with them; expect to be denounced at the next rally, press conference, or two minutes’ hate. Meantime enjoy government by stream of consciousness — remember, if you can’t figure out what he’s trying to say, then what are you worried about?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 20, 2017