Sunday Opinion

Two pictures worth 1,000 words

A couple of visual comments on the news, as well as columns by Bob Franken and Rich Lowry. Don’t you feel more informed about current events, already?

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No, President Trump in not diminished

Midterm losses typically humble a sitting president of the United States, but Donald Trump is beyond humbling. He is the most unbowed president ever to lose a house of Congress.

Anyone who thought Trump would be taken down a notch, even by a more stinging electoral rebuke, doesn’t know the man. He will remain the ringmaster of American politics until the day, presumably in January 2021 or 2025, when he gets on Marine One for the last time. He made the midterms about him, because, really, what else would he make them about?

Trump will never lose his interest in airtime, or the ratings. He boasted at a rally that, thanks to him, interest in the midterms was running higher than ever. And he was right. Even if Democrats had a larger victory, on the scale of the Republican sweep in 1994, it would be impossible to imagine Trump getting upstaged.

His 90-minute post-election Q&A in the East Room of the White House was expansive, combative, boastful, gripping, outlandish, conciliatory, amusing — and unlike any postelection news conference we’ve ever seen (even without Trump mentioning, by the by, that he was firing his attorney general). The press loved every minute of it, practically begging him to keep going. The perverse symbiotic relationship between Trump and the media, so key to the success of both, is alive and well.

According to Trump, the election wasn’t a “thumpin'” or “shellacking” –George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s words for their own setbacks – it was a personal victory that had been blighted by some Republicans not sufficiently embracing him. He proceeded to mock by name fellow Republicans who had lost, in another presidential first.

Trump has legitimate bragging rights: The Republican showing in the Senate was strong. His political base is still there for him, and in many key statewide races, there for the candidate he endorsed and stumped for. His rallies are still a hot ticket. He now has a cadre of allies, like newly elected Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom he basically created.

Alienating traditional Republican voters in the suburbs, of course, comes with a real cost. For one thing, it hands Democrats a constituency spread throughout the country, as demonstrated by the GOP carnage in widely dispersed House races. But, for Trump’s purposes, the GOP’s strength in Florida, Ohio and Iowa suggests that, all things being equal, key pieces of his 2016 electoral map are still ripe for the picking in 2020.

Losing the House is a blow, not so much because it stalls Trump’s congressional agenda (there wasn’t going to be much of one), but because he now has an adversary with subpoena power. Investigative conflict looms. The subject matter will be most unwelcome to Trump, including his tax returns and his businesses.

The fight won’t be. It will be high-stakes combat of the sort that he thrives on, the more intense, perilous and dramatic, the better. Because he will be at the center of it. Trump’s genius at keeping our interest is undimmed, whether we are appalled, energized or entertained. He’s so far avoided a fate worse than electoral setbacks — getting tuned out.

Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review. (c) 2018 by King Features Synd., Inc.

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Journalists: Ditch your White House passes

I’ve said this before, but my colleagues in media have either disagreed or simply ignored me. After Jim Acosta’s confrontation with the president at a White House press conference and the subsequent retaliation, it’s time for me to renew my call for all reporters who hold so-called hard passes to turn them in and abandon their post at the White House en masse.

Yes, it would be a gesture of defiance to a president and administration that uses reporters as props. There is nothing in the First Amendment that guarantees freedom of the props. Besides, the nation’s current chief executive demonstrates time and again his utter disregard for the entire Constitution.

Consider the tone of his postelection news conference, after the frayed Democrats were able to weave a takeover of the House of Representatives. That’s a big deal. Yet Trump somehow managed to twist the midterm results around into a “tremendous success,” because Republicans had expanded control of the Senate. The Senate wasn’t really in play, but whatever.

Once again, he hurled invectives at any media type who dared ask a tough question. When CNN’s Acosta tried to ask whether the president had “demonized immigrants” with his campaign rhetoric, Trump rejected him out of hand, and a press office intern tried to take away Acosta’s microphone. Jim held on to the mic and brushed the intern in the process. He even said to her “pardon me, ma’am.”

He then persisted with his line of inquiry, which Trump refused to answer except for a tirade: “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person.” That was it. Just another day in White House paradise. Except that the administration later decided to lower the boom on Acosta.

They pulled his press pass, denying him access to the grounds. That apparently is an unprecedented action, particularly when it was accompanied by a statement from press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that it was really because Acosta was guilty of “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.”

How shall I say this? That’s another Sarah Sanders lie. Various camera shots showed that it was a lie. To make matters even worse, Sanders’ press office distributed a video that had been clumsily doctored! There should no longer be a White House Correspondents’ Association, simply because there should no longer be any White House correspondents.

Then the crowd of self-respecting journalists, which includes many of them, will give up their access to the grounds and go back to their offices. They can work their phones – I’m told they even have portable ones these days – and do some old-fashioned reporting, mining that gold mine of corruption that defines this president and his accomplices.

Sure, if he wants to stage a news conference, we should go. If he wants to hold a rally, we should tape it, and the TV networks can decide whether he’s simply firing the same old ignorant, racist bullshot. In any case, it’s time for them all to escape the White House prison and do journalism to explore whether it’s the president who is the “enemy of the people.”

Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN. (c) 2018 Bob Franken Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Categories: Sunday Opinion

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