JOHN BRUMMETT: Feeding the narrative

Posted: September 11, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

The leaders of national mainstream media have gone off their rockers almost to the extent that Donald Trump exists permanently apart from his.

The New York Times is the greatest newspaper in the world. Let's get that said. Now let's behold with extreme distress the blunder committed last week by that paper's editorial-page leadership--not, let us hasten to stipulate, the newsroom.

The editorial section's supervision thought it advisable to publish an unsigned op-ed submission from a person it assured readers was known to it as a "senior official" of the Trump administration. The anonymous essay asserted that members of this administration work daily to protect the country from the president's amorality, recklessness, impulsiveness, lack of knowledge and existential threat to the nation's well-being.

The paper assigned intrigue to something evident in plain sight: The man who tweets insanity each morning, and who rambles in that stream of mad consciousness before rallies of vapid minds, could never be permitted, of course, his unfettered way as president.

That the world survives day to day is a testament to the obvious fact that someone in the White House is saving us from what 46 percent of the voters and the majority of electors foisted on us.

Last week, elite media beheld Bob Woodward's usual book scoops and the anonymous essay and talked of the supposed constitutional crisis of what amounts to a kind of coup d'état with staff and/or agency officials wresting authority from Trump.

I'll tell you who had the scoop on that. I did.

In a column dated Oct. 11, 2017, under the headline, "A job for the Marines," I wrote: "How screwy is American politics? It's this screwy--the country is being run currently by Marine generals after a bloodless and benevolent modified coup that liberals find themselves thankful for."

I could see it nearly a year ago from Little Rock. And I put my name and picture to it.

Anonymity is for the usual online commenters on these columns, and now, alas, for The New York Times and the pack following it.

The breathlessness of the leading mainstream media gave rise to the latest regrettable spectacle of Meet the Press on Sunday morning.

Chuck Todd, the eager insider and moderator, made the anonymous essay the centerpiece of his set-up, granting it full credibility and impact. Then he flailed about interrupting White House spinner Kellyanne Conway as she, with a relaxed smile, expertly played a trump card.

It was that she was there, in the studio, by name, in the flesh, saying the op-ed was nonsense, and wondering why Meet the Press would value a phantom more than it valued her accountable presence across from the moderator, fielding whatever erratic bluster he might hurl.

It was supposed to be "meet the press," not "confront the coward."

Then Meet the Press offered yet another panel. One of the panelists, Cornell Belcher, a Democratic strategist, said listening to Conway made him fear for the country. But I was already fearing for the country; I was newly afraid during that interview for the media that Kellyanne was damaging, with the media's help.

Then a panelist and radio talk-show host, Erick Erickson, provided the only insight. He explained that Trump's supporters generally accept both the Woodward book and the op-ed--regarding Trump's wildness and the mitigation of him by staff--but they just don't care, or they like it.

Trump is a mad man, but he's their mad man. The more he makes Chuck Todd sputter, the more they like it.

Anonymity at the highest level is unfortunate even when it reveals vital new information. But anonymity to tell you the same thing a yokel in Little Rock wrote nearly a year ago is evidence, I fear, of validity in the Trump base's chortling that Trump has driven his critics crazy.

I don't want a full coup. Of course not. I just want the generals and others to provide a temporary backstop of sanity. I want them to be self-empowered by special circumstance to ignore as necessary this preposterous second-place and Russian-endorsed atrocity as supposed commander-in-chief.

For the readiest but hardly only example: Trump bathes himself in a crush on Vladimir Putin. The people around him recognize Putin for the monster he is and impose sanctions on Russia. That's how it can work. That's how it must work when the president doesn't have good sense.

Meanwhile, the resistance needs to move beyond the grandstanding of Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. It needs positive ideas and its own relatable political leaders.

It needs something akin to the return of "no-drama Obama."

Barack ventured into the midterm elections last week. He gave a typically cool and calm speech saying the answer to Trump was not to get mad, or do a hashtag, or give in to ironic detachment, but to vote.

He's right, though the choices need to be better than the madman and anonymous.

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John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 09/11/2018