According to the Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler, an exultant cheer went up in his newsroom on Monday when web traffic for the Post’s latest anti-Trump salvo surpassed that of its last big hit, the Access Hollywood tape. “Blood lust” was how the Drudge Report described the scene. And appropriately, this new story of President Trump inappropriately disclosing secrets of intelligence gathering was, like the Access Hollywood scoop, an anonymously sourced hit. We have arrived in an era where anonymous attacks form the bedrock of Washington correspondence — even when principled government officials come forward and strenuously assert that the reporting isn’t true.
So are we reading the Washington Post, or Us Weekly? In our world turned upside down, Washington DC has gone tabloid.
Donald Trump made a name for himself in part by regularly appearing on the cover of New York City tabloids in the 1980s and 1990s. Fast forward to 2017, and the guy is now president, still appearing on the cover of various grocery store check-out scandal sheets — like the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Journalists from these institutions conduct their reporting like they’re covering Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce. If we believed Star magazine every time they reported childless Jennifer Aniston was pregnant in her late 40s, she’d have a bigger brood than her ex-husband Brad. And if we believed the Washington Post today, our president’s braggadocio is ushering in the Apocalypse.
Regarding the Post’s latest bombshell which they broke on Monday: According to unidentified “current and former U.S. officials,” President Trump “revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week.”
Seems pretty bad at first glance, right? Well, let’s take a closer look: According to The Post‘s “insiders”, Trump disclosed classified information pertaining to potential terrorist attacks conducted by ISIS using laptop computers as bombs on passenger aircraft.
(Haven’t we read about this laptop threat for months? Isn’t that why several airlines have recently banned the use of laptops on certain routes?)
Sure, Trump bragging about his “great intel” to the Russians might piss off the ally it came from, but it sounds like he was mostly just reiterating the stuff that even the White House shoeshine boy knows.
As is usually the case when the media breaks down into hysterics over Trump, there are few credible arguments that he violated the law or engaged in illicit behavior.
Instead, the guy was just doing what he promised on the campaign trail: Forging a better relationship with the Russians. Maybe this isn’t the best way to do it, but how can anyone feign surprise at Trump’s behavior?
Yet because some nameless ghost declared that Trump’s behavior “could expose the source of the information and the manner in which it was collected,” Americans are supposed to clutch their collective pearls and invest in a comfier fainting couch. Sure, the source in this instance could just be a White House janitor, but isn’t the story that much sexier when he prefers to remain anonymous? After all, Trump could have done something bad, what more evidence do you need?
It doesn’t matter that people who were actually in the room when this scandal unfolded like Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster flatly denied that “intelligence sources or methods [were] discussed.”
he journalists just parse his words with a tweezer and accuse this famously blunt-spoken man of doublespeak. The reporters would rather act like they’re in a Robert Ludlum novel and meet with brave leakers in the shadows — accuracy comes second. What makes a higher profit at the end of the day, the Bourne movies or The Post?
And then there’s Glenn Kessler’s much-noticed tweet Monday evening on how the newsroom began “cheering” because it broke the paper’s record “for most readers per minute.” I can only imagine how the Watergate investigation would have unfolded if Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (from a bygone era at The Post) were more excited about website traffic instead of seriously getting to the bottom of an a massive crime and coverup.
If you think the attacks on anonymous sourcing from Trump supporters is wearing thin, just look at what The Times said about them. In March of last year, their beleaguered ombudswoman Liz Spayd announced a new policy intended to curb the the use of anonymous sources by the paper’s reporters. Any stories that “hinge on a central fact from [an anonymous] source,” according to Matt Purdy, a deputy executive editor at The Times, “are potential journalists I.E.D’s.”
Of course, that didn’t stop Times reporters Matthew Rosenberg and Eric Schmitt from quickly confirming their buddies’ story at The Post using — you guessed it — anonymous sources.
Trump certainly rewrote the book on politics by showing how an amateur can become a professional. In response, many of America’s beloved journalists are showing how a professional can turn into a loathed amateur.