“The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
White House adviser Steve Bannon told this to the New York Times on January 26th and the Trump administration has been treating them that way ever since.
The media has no actual legislative power beyond publicly lobbying or attempting to sway public opinion for or against policy, but with how much Democrats are in disarray it’s easy to see why the Trump administration has lined up establishment and legacy media to be a Trump foil.
Bannon’s declaration is the only explanation needed as to why Trump decided to forego Saturday evening’s White House Correspondents Dinner for another campaign-like rally in Pennsylvania, a move he has telegraphed for weeks after announcing he would sitting the “Nerd Prom” out. For better or for worse, this is not a ‘normal’ presidency and Trump knows his base.
For him to sit along nodding and laughing while hosts take pot shots at him and his “back country yokel hick voters” would look worse than anything for him at this point. No wall? No problem. No Obamacare repeal? Hey, it’s coming. But to sit and fraternize with the enemy, all decked out in eveningwear and drinking champagne would be a betrayal and enough bad optics to derail core support for the Trump Train.
Sitting out the dinner for another campaign-style rally is a no brainer move that in the long run pays off for him. Despite dragging up tired cliches from the 2016 campaign like “Lock her up” and a reading of The Snake, there was a powerful message from Trump to his base.
“A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital right now. They are gathered together for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner without the president,” Trump said, firing up the adoring crowd:
”And I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from the Washington swamp spending my evening with all of you and with a much, much larger crowd and much better people.”
As with his message in Wisconsin earlier that week, Trump was keeping up appearances in the states that he pulled right out from under Hillary Clinton in 2016 and already matter heading into 2020. The message to the rust belt: “I care about you, they don’t.”
This is all about appearances and in the arena of appearances, Trump is winning.
He is simply exploiting an almost complete lack of self introspection on behalf of established corporate media. Whatever lessons are to be learned from 2016’s stunning result, the media at large has decided that they were not part of any of it, despite Trump winning while declaring that the media were as much of an opponent as Hillary was.
And the media did exactly what he said they were going to do. They did themselves no favor this past weekend by once again dressing up for their annual big pat on the back while sniffing glasses of their own flatulence and laughing at jokes by Hollywood comedians at the expense of Trump and his supporters, as if they were purposefully going out of their way to prove his entire point.
If there were any doubt how the night was going to go, Alec Baldwin appeared briefly in a SNL backstage intro
There was plenty of self satisfaction and grandstanding. What there was not was a serious examination about the public standing of media, the industry and the people a part of it. As noted by Townhall editor Katie Pavlich, the WHCA offered a $5,000 gift toward a post graduate degree for a student at Berkeley, while simultaneously handing out lapel pins with the words “First Amendment” on them.
The same industry reminding us daily of how they are exactly like firefighters also wouldn’t address the recent outcry over New York Times columnist Bret Stephens’ piece about the alarmism over climate change that caused more Co2 to enter the atmosphere from heads exploding than any coal plant has in history.
Politico Deputy Editor Blake Hounshell declared on Twitter that while without a sitting president, the WHCD had lost some of it’s glitz, at least it had gained its self respect back. I for one appreciate that kind of honest admission even if Hounshell doesn’t exactly know what he’s admitting.
The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold received an award for his deep dives into Trump’s philanthropy, or lack thereof. Fahrenthold, who was honored a few weeks ago with a Pulitzer for his aggressively anti-Trump reporting, personifies the “opposition party” that Bannon described. But while his colleagues keep showering him with honors, they either can’t or won’t articulate why none of his hard work — which included unearthing the “grab ’em by the pussy” tape — seemed to ultimately matter to a jaded electorate.
The highlight of the night for the room no doubt came when both Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were honored. “I want to thank Woodward and Bernstein for inspiring a generation of journalists. And I would like to thank Donald Trump for inspiring the next” comedian Hasan Minhaj ended his speech. Town gossip Dylan Byers tweeted out “The salience of Woodward & Bernstein hosting first Trump-era #WHCD is many here believe there could be a Watergate moment for them with Trump.”
All of this plays right into Trump’s hands that these are members of an opposition party, badly out of touch with the country and simply out to get him impeached as fast as possible.
On top of the WHCD, there was liberal darling and election PTSD sufferer Samantha Bee throwing her own Anti-Trump television special where she “member berried” Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush and acted as though she would have been the WHCD host host had only Hillary Clinton been elected. Because just one room full of D-list celebrities mingling with journalists to prove Trump’s point wasn’t enough apparently.
This could have been a year for the media to gather and reflect on what has become of their industry as they snack on free pizza and sip cappuccino from Tom Hanks’ espresso machine. But beyond tacit admissions, like Hounshell’s, that they did indeed treat the past eight years as one long tongue bath massage to a former President, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. For every time they talk about the bound duty to keep Trump honest, questions arise as to why there was no need for that Woodward and Bernstein moment in the eight years prior.
It would be hard to top the tone deafness of a President Obama toasting the press corps in 2015, while the city of Baltimore went up in flames on a CNN split screen, but this year comes close. In a year in which the media has declared that “Democracy Dies in Darkness” (to market a dying newspaper) they are content to post selfies and pat each other on the back and tell us all how great and important they are.
“As for the other guy, I think he’s in Pennsylvania because he can’t take a joke.” Hasan Minhaj joked. Minhaj is right that Trump can’t take a joke, but Trump can take a hint. And the media and Hollywood, apparently still in the dark over the mood of the country, joke about his visits to Pennsylvania and Wisconsin at their peril, again.