Too Much Trump on TV May Be Too Much Trouble for His Campaign

Donald Trump is learning something that given the high regard he has for himself he may find hard to believe:  that there is such a thing as too much Donald Trump.

The president is a man who likes being on television.  He worships at the altar of ratings. Airtime to him is like air itself is to mere mortals. He needs airtime to survive.

But it looks like he’ll be getting less of it going forward, at least when it comes to talking about the coronavirus is concerned.

He liked telling the millions who tuned in to his daily briefings that he was doing a great job fighting the virus.  And he acknowledges that, “One of the reasons I do these news conferences, because, if I didn’t, they would believe Fake News.  And we can’t let them believe Fake News.”

And it’s not just the usual liberal media suspects he’s fought with.  He told Kristin Fisher of Fox News – yes, Fox News, his favorite cable channel — that she was too negative. “You should say, ‘Congratulations! Great job!’ Instead of being so horrid in the way you ask the question!”

Fighting with reporters – even a Fox News reporter — may be red meat for his base, but there’s concern among Republicans that these are serious times and that Americans were tuning in for new information — not brawls with the press, “entertaining” as they may be. They worry that he’s not helping himself with the voters he’ll need in November, especially suburban women.

As the New York Times reports, “Mr. Trump’s single best advantage as an incumbent — his access to the bully pulpit — has effectively become a platform for self-sabotage.”

For some time now liberals both in and out of the media thought there was too much Donald Trump on TV.  Now his own political team apparently thinks the same thing.

It’s one thing to brag about how wonderful he is or claim – incorrectly — that he has “total authority” over what 50 state governors can and can’t do during the pandemic.  But wondering, out loud on national television, if injecting disinfectant into people would combat the virus, may have been a bridge too far.

According to the Times, “His daily news briefings on the coronavirus outbreak are inflicting grave damage on his political standing, Republicans believe, and his recent remarks about combating the virus with sunlight and disinfectant were a breaking point for a number of senior party officials.”

Senior party officials, it’s worth noting, who have reason to worry that Republican candidates for the House and Senate may wind up as collateral damage in November.

So presidential briefings and news conferences about the virus will be few and far between from now on. If there’s a vaccine, he’ll be out there on TV, of course, announcing the breakthrough to the world — and probably taking credit for it. Aside from that, we probably won’t be hearing much from the president about the virus – not as much as we used to, anyway.

The more he talks, and the more he gets things wrong, and the more he fights with reporters, the more trouble he’s likely to get into with less partisan, swing voters.

In times of crisis, Americans – regardless of their political party – tend to rally around their president.  They did after Pearl Harbor.  And they did after 9/11.

But polls indicate they’re not rallying around this president, even though far more Americans have died as a result of the virus than died at Pearl Harbor and in New York on 9/11 – combined.

And Joe Biden’s low profile has turned out to be an unforeseen advantage for the former vice president.  While President Trump is getting into fights with reporters and making dubious claims that raise concerns about his competency, Biden, sequestered by the virus and making only sporadic appearances on TV, has moved up in the polls — and is beating the president in most national head-t0-head match ups.

Who could have seen this coming?  Usually during a campaign the candidate wants as much exposure as he can get.  But for Biden, being under “house arrest” in his basement, the less exposure he gets the better off he may be.  After all, when Joe talks you never know what incoherent thought is going to come out of his mouth.

The early 20th century architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe coined the term “less is more.” Less Biden may be more of what his campaign needs to take on the incumbent president. But Donald Trump, our narcissist-in-chief, may have to accept that “less is more” also applies to him.

That is, if his ego will let him.

About Joe Biden, Biased Journalists and Hypocritical Feminists

By now you know that Tara Reade has accused Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her in 1993 when she worked in the then-Senator’s Washington office.

And you also know that Biden’s campaign has said the allegation is not true.

Since there obviously were no witnesses, no proof one way or the other, it sounds like a typical “he said/she said” story.

Except for one thing:  For over a month since the accusation surfaced, the “he” – Joe Biden – hadn’t said anything publicly about the allegation. Not a word.

Until last Friday.

Asked about the accusation by Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC, Biden said, “No, it is not true. I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened.” And he added, “I assure you it did not happen. Period. Period.”

Brzezinski didn’t go easy on Biden, but she failed to ask at least one pertinent question: After he said, “I assure you it did not happen,” she should have said: “If it’s that clear cut, why did it take you over a month to finally say that?”

If he really is innocent – “Period. Period.” — if the charges really are a fabrication, why not say so early on?

His silence until now, of course, doesn’t mean Biden is guilty of anything. Like anyone else, he’s entitled to the presumption of innocence.

Maybe his political team simply figured that he didn’t have to say anything because Democrats know him; they know his character; the allegation wasn’t resonating, so why respond.

What changed?

Biden likely broke his silence because the New York Times – after ignoring the story for almost three weeks — published two long articles on Tara Reade’s allegation and the absence of Biden’s response.

Just two days before Biden went public, the Times reported that pressure was building on him to say something – and it wasn’t only coming from the usual suspects on the right.  Liberals were also concerned, privately complaining that Biden was not showing leadership on a matter of importance to women.

“Activists and women’s rights advocates have urged Mr. Biden to address a former aide’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her in 1993,” the Times reported. “His lack of response has angered them.”

The Times also reported that, “Biden advisers have circulated talking points urging supporters to deny that the incident occurred.”

One of those talking points even suggested that an investigation by the New York Times found that “this incident did not happen.”  But that wasn’t true. And the Times issued a statement saying its investigation “made no conclusion either way.”

So why would Biden’s political team urge supporters to go on TV and say something that was untrue? Why would the campaign prod supporters to lie for their candidate?  Even people who want to see Biden defeat Donald Trump must have wrestled with an uncomfortable question: Is that what his campaign would do if Biden really were innocent?

The Times may have come late to the party, but some news organizations didn’t show up at all.

According to the Media Research Center – a conservative organization that monitors liberal bias in the news, “ABC, NBC, CNN and MSNBC [have] all invited Biden on their airwaves for interviews, but they refused to confront him even once about these allegations. Out of 77 questions, not a single one asked the former Senator and Vice President about Reade’s charges.”

As Mark Hemingway put it on the Real Clear Politics website: “If the mainstream media were on the payroll of the Democratic National Committee, how would they have handled the Biden allegations any differently?”

Compare that to how the mainstream media dealt with accusations made against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. They pretty much ran with every accusation thrown at him, no matter how flimsy or outrageous.  And Tara Reade’s story is supported by her brother and multiple friends who say she told them about the alleged attack not long after it supposedly happened.

This is how the liberal media double standard operates:  If a Republican up for a seat on the Supreme Court has been accused, publish every unsubstantiated claim that might bring him down. If a Democratic presidential candidate is in the crosshairs, play down the accusation – or ignore it for as long as you can.

But if Tara Reade was getting the cold shoulder from journalists running interference for Biden, she figured she might get some public support from prominent political women who have championed sexual assault victims in the past.

But that didn’t happen either.

Before she went public with her story, Tara Reade sent letters to Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris describing what she claims happened and asking for their support.

As National Review Online explains, “Warren, who argued on the floor of the Senate that [Christine] Blasey Ford’s allegation was sufficient to disqualify Brett Kavanaugh, responded with a form letter informing Reade that she couldn’t help because Reade was not a constituent of hers and suggesting that she reach out to her own representatives. Harris, who similarly insisted on the veracity of Blasey Ford’s claim despite the lack of evidence, didn’t respond to Reade’s letter at all.”

Then there’s Senator Amy Klobuchar, another supposed champion of women who claim sexual abuse. When asked about Tara Reade’s claim, she echoed a talking point from the Biden campaign and said that the New York Times conducted a “thorough investigation.”  That apparently was good enough for her – not surprisingly since she would like Biden to pick her as his running mate.

And then there’s Stacey Abrams, the losing candidate for Governor in Georgia in 2018, who also wants to be Biden’s vice presidential candidate. She went even further than Klobuchar.  Speaking about Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against Judge Kavanaugh two years ago she said, “I believe women.”  That was then. Now she says, “The New York Times did a deep investigation and they found the accusation was not credible.”

Again, that was a Biden camp talking point but it was a lie.  Even the Times said it wasn’t true.

And when asked about Reade’s accusation, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who once called on the FBI to investigate Brett Kavanaugh, said she “stands by” Biden. “He’s devoted his life to supporting women, and he has vehemently denied this allegation.”

Because of statements like that, because of endorsements for Biden from Hillary Clinton and other high-profile liberal women, Tara Reade, who had been a lifelong Democrat, has now been abandoned – tossed aside by feminists who lecture us about believing women but put politics over principle – and by journalists who were running interference for Biden.

For over a month, Tara Reade says she hadn’t been invited to tell her story on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN or MSNBC. Now that Biden has told his story publicly, it’s a safe bet that some TV news organizations will finally discover her.  At least one, CBS News, says it already has asked for an interview.

Fox wanted her on but she initially said no – then decided to appear on the channel for an interview conducted by Chris Wallace on Sunday. She cancelled, however, because she had received death threats, and was afraid.

As for Joe Biden, if he thinks the matter is now in the rear view mirror, he apparently didn’t read the New York Times on Saturday, just one day after his TV proclamation of innocence.

In its lead editorial, the Times wrote that, “Last year, this board advocated strongly for a vigorous inquiry into accusations of sexual misconduct raised against Brett Kavanaugh when he was nominated to a seat on the Supreme Court. Mr. Biden’s pursuit of the presidency requires no less. His campaign, and his party, have a duty to assure the public that the accusations are being taken seriously. The Democratic National Committee should move to investigate the matter swiftly and thoroughly, with the full cooperation of the Biden campaign.”

We may never know the truth about what happened, or didn’t, in 1993.  But we do know this:  Too many journalists have a corrupt and unholy alliance with the Democratic Party and its liberal values.  And too many Democratic women are hypocrites.

As Joe Biden might put it:  Period.  Period.

Impeaching the President Comes Down to “Rooting for Laundry”

Editor’s Note:  This column is free to all and first appeared on the website …

A few days ago, as I was writing this column, my TV was on in the background and some Democratic congressman was yammering about what an awful human being Donald Trump is and why he should be impeached. A few minutes later some Republican congressman took his place and began yammering about how the president was being railroaded, about how impeaching him would be a vindictive deed that his tormentors will come to regret.

Despite the passion on both sides, it wasn’t good TV. If this had been a reality show, it would have been canceled a long time ago. We all knew how the “drama” would end — and we’ve known it before the show even began.

First, Donald Trump gets accused of high crimes and misdemeanors. Then he gets impeached. And then, in the final scene – which will play out soon enough — he gets off, no conviction. If you didn’t know all of that, you’re the only one who didn’t.

And despite the fact that they’ve been at it now for roughly a million hours, nobody is changing anybody’s mind. That may not literally be true, but it’s pretty close. Democrats are dug in. Republicans are dug in. Swing voters are still making up their minds. But at this point, it looks like the Democrats haven’t convinced them that Donald Trump is a threat to national security.

All of this, strange as it may sound, reminds me of something Jerry Seinfeld once said. He was talking about the fickleness of sports fans and noticed that they cheer for their favorite star player who wears their team’s uniform — until he decides to leave the team for more money and puts on the rival team’s uniform. Then when he comes back to town to play against his old team, the fans boo the very same guy they used to cheer.

As Jerry put it: The fans are just cheering for clothes. They’re rooting for laundry.

That’s what we’re all doing these days — rooting for laundry.

If you’re on the blue team, you were glad that Donald Trump was impeached. If you’re on the red team, you think he’s getting a raw deal.

This is just one reason that I have come to believe that most Americans — whether they’re members of the chattering class in the media or your next-door neighbor — have lost the ability, and sometimes even the desire, to persuade anyone to change his or her mind on just about any important issue. Too many of us have put a “Do Not Disturb” sign around our necks and don’t want to be exposed to any ideas that we don’t already hold.

To be clear, having strong beliefs and hanging on to your principles is a good thing. But as a friend puts it, it’s not beliefs and principles we’re hanging on to, it’s identity that we cling to; what matters most now is what team we play for.

And the impeachment hearings are a lot like the cable TV news channels that were carrying the show. We don’t watch opinion shows to consider what the other side is saying. We watch to get our own views and biases validated. If we’re on the red team, we want conservative opinion. And if we’re on the blue team, we look for liberal echo chambers that will confirm our progressive ideas. No one is watching the other side to learn something they hadn’t already thought about.

It’s the same with the impeachment TV show. No one is watching to learn something they hadn’t already thought about.

A lot of Americans would feel a lot better if the politicians were honest about what they were doing. President Trump’s real impeachable offense to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and the rest of the progressive gang is that he beat Hillary Clinton in 2016. They wanted him out from the moment he got elected.

But they can’t say that. Why? Because telling the truth in Washington will get you in a lot more trouble than telling a pack of lies. The progressive base that makes the most noise for the blue team would never tolerate such honesty. Not that the other side is any better.

So, I wonder: How is rooting for laundry good for any of us.

When Lovers Become Haters

Editor’s note: This is a special guest op-ed from Premium Member, Michael G. Frankel.

Reading Bernie Goldberg’s column this week, Who’s Worse — Trump or His Enemies?, I was inspired to comment in more than a cursory manner.

Think back to the summer and fall of 2016, when we were inundated with signs, slogans and angry voices telling us that “LOVE TRUMPS HATE.” At that time, it was a forgone conclusion to millions of Americans (not just Hillary supporters, but also those of us resigned to voting for Trump because he wasn’t Hillary) that we were about to have another Clinton in the White House. And with her victory would come another four years of the Obama quest to fundamentally transform America. (The concept of fundamental transformation is interesting unto itself. Try telling your spouse that you really do love her and are proud of her but that she needs to be fundamentally transformed and you are the one to oversee that transformation. Then duck!)

I went to bed early on Tuesday, November 8, 2016, because I was feeling tired and depressed, particularly as I contemplated that in a few hours America would choose Hillary to be our next President. I arose early Wednesday morning, had a cup of coffee and began a long walk to help me come to grips with the numbing reality that our president for the next four (or, God forbid, eight) years was a person who would finally have the awesome power she had lusted for so long.

That’s when my son called as he was on his way to work and asked me if I could believe that Trump had won the election. My reaction was quick: ha ha, nice joke. When he told me that the networks had all confirmed Trump’s victory, I had goosebumps and more spring in my step — not because Trump won, but because Hillary’s lust would be unfulfilled and the transformation of America would at least be slowed down.

At the same time, I felt compassion for friends of mine who were Hillary supporters, or at least Hillary voters who voted against Trump more than for Hillary. I tried to put myself in their shoes and feel their disappointment and depression. But I also believed that, as in past years, our political differences would be set aside to some extent and we would all move forward as Americans whose love of, and pride in, our country would reemerge.

Boy was I naïve.

As we moved forward into December and January (before Trump had even taken office and done anything as President), it became clear that the purported Lovers were in fact Haters. It was one thing to hate Trump because of his language and behavior (past and present). It was another thing to extend that hatred first to those who ardently supported him, and then to anyone who voted for him, and finally even to life-long Democrats like Alan Dershowitz who were not willing to sacrifice their principles and fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law.

One can understand, to some extent, why someone might project their hatred of Trump to nameless, faceless others out of frustration and fear. (Note that understanding such reactions is not justification, but rather mere acknowledgement of how people can work themselves into an emotional frenzy — especially when seeing things through a highly emotional lens in which identity politics, labeling and hate-filled rhetoric is omnipresent.)

But what about the animus directed by Haters towards their relatives and lifelong friends who have the temerity to espouse different views regarding Trump or a controversial political issue?

I have spent countless hours trying to understand how family relationships and close friendships have been torn asunder and offer the following observations:

  1. In almost all cases, it is the Hater who has no tolerance for his or her former friend/relative who sees things differently. The Hater in many cases will not or cannot even have a civil discussion. The hatred simply overwhelms the Hater.
  2. As noted by Bernie, in many instances, the Hater views himself or herself as morally superior to the subject of their scorn. Smugness becomes a communal badge of honor.
  3. When asked, the Hater (if honest) will admit that their morally superior ends justify the means chosen to serve those ends. This is how someone like Professor Dershowitz, a leading guardian of Constitutional values, is disparaged and demeaned by those who pretend to be proponents of American values and fret about “existential threats to our democracy.”

Can the tide of hatred be reversed, and if so, how? It should be obvious that the hatred did not begin in 2016 and will not dissipate easily or anytime soon. It also should be obvious that there are strong forces from multiple directions that revel in their hatred.

But there are millions of us across America who still believe in all that America is and will continue to be. This American middle, as has always been the case, is not monolithic in its political views. Some lean left while others lean right. We will always have differences as to our viewpoints. What’s critical is that respectful and civil dialogue occur at grass roots levels. It is unlikely that mutual respect and civil discourse will emerge from the political class, the media or academia. Perhaps our houses of worship or other community organizations could take the lead by trying to foster dialogue and civility among their congregants and members who have diverse views on important issues.

Let’s hope the dialogue begins before it truly is too late.

Jay Leno is Half Right About Today’s ‘Late Night’ Politics

Former Tonight Show host Jay Leno made some political news earlier this week in an appearance on NBC’s Today. When asked if he missed his television hosting duties, Leno answered with an unequivocal no.

“It’s different,” he added, referring to our uncivil political landscape. “I don’t miss it. You know, everything now is, if people don’t like your politics they – everyone has to know your politics.”

Leno explained that it’s “tough” to be an effective late-night comedy host when people see you as “one-sided.” He pointed out that when he was at the helm, he tried to follow Johnny Carson’s lead with bi-partisan humor, where viewers weren’t quite sure where he stood politically — and perhaps more importantly, they didn’t care.

“Because, you know, the theory when we did the show was: you just watch the news, we’ll make fun of the news, and get your mind off the news, ” said Leno. “Well, now people just want to be on the news all the time. You just have one subject that’s the same topic every night, which makes it – makes it very hard. I mean, all the comics, Jimmy and Colbert and everybody else, it’s tough when that’s the only topic out there.”

While some would argue that Leno wasn’t quite as down the center during his Tonight Show tenure as he now portrays himself, there’s no doubt that he was far less political than his primary competition, David Letterman, who Leno decimated in the ratings for many years. And when Jimmy Fallon replaced Leno in 2014, the former Saturday Night Live cast member’s avoidance of political partisanship proved successful as well. His lighthearted, optimistic approach to comedy handily beat both ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel and CBS’s Stephen Colbert in the ratings.

But it didn’t last.

The era of Trump ushered in a much deeper and often mean-spirited focus on politics. And shortly after the presidential inauguration in 2017, Stephen Colbert (a committed liberal and fierce vocal critic of the president) jumped ahead in the ratings (where he has dominated ever since). Kimmel turned fiercely political as well, sometimes using his late-night platform to issue sanctimonious denunciations of Trump, Republicans, and conservatives. And Fallon, who has admitted in the past to not even caring all that much about politics, has been sharpening his political blows to keep up.

This would indicate that Leno was right when he suggested that late night hosts are just catering to the times — aka giving the audience what it wants. And in this respect, what those shows are doing isn’t all that different than what the cable news networks have done for some time: tailor their products to appeal to an increasingly tribal grievance culture.

While there are plenty of people — including political pundits — who agree with Leno, I do think there’s an additional factor at play here.

Yes, today’s politics are highly divisive, and a lot of national news stories reflect that. Our eternally combative, truth-challenged, reality-show president (backed by an intensely loyal political following) clashes every day with his often unhinged and ideological political opponents — opponents that include a reflexively hostile mainstream media that seem incapable of covering him fairly or objectively.

But it seems to me that there is still a huge demand, especially in such polarizing times, for broadcast entertainment that isn’t so ridiculously dependent on politics. I mean, it’s not like prime-time network shows, cable entertainment shows, and streaming entertainment shows (like the ones we enjoy on Netflix and Amazon Prime) are suffering from not being overtly political.

Why must the late-night stuff be different?

I have a theory that the shift to a more politically partisan late-night culture is more an issue of ease than it is a programming adjustment to meet the evolving demand of consumers.

Could it be that the current kings of late night — wait for it — just aren’t that funny? Could it be that the political theatrics and our cultural divide serve as a metaphorical crutch for the comedic shortcomings of these hosts and their writers?

Don’t get me wrong. Colbert displayed a knack for political comedy in his years on Comedy Central, and he enjoyed a good amount of success from it. Kimmel has a certain wit about him, and — though I’ve personally never been a fan — people seem to think that Fallon is good at sketch comedy. That’s all fine and good, but this current crew sorely lacks the natural comedic talent that their predecessors had an abundance of.

Sorry, but it’s true.

Additionally, Carson had folksy charm that ingratiated himself to viewers on a personal level. Letterman (before he turned bitter) was extraordinarily creative and unconventional. Leno, though he wasn’t as talented as Carson and Letterman, had an authentic good-naturedness about him that appealed to a wide spectrum of viewers.

But again, more importantly, they were funnier and more welcoming than the people we see now. They didn’t need an outrageous political environment in order to draw viewers.

So while I think Leno is right in that today’s late-night scene is a reflection of a politically and culturally divided nation, he’s being far too charitable to today’s hosts and writers who’ve taken advantage of the situation. Leno, Carson, and Letterman brought people together though comedy, and they did it by being funny and inviting. Unlike today’s crew that channels societal angst, they diffused it. And that type of thing takes real talent.

Relying on partisan politics for ratings isn’t “tough,” as Leno suggested. It’s actually quite easy. Much easier than comedy, in fact. And that’s why those who are ill-equipped to produce broad, quality humor are under so much pressure to go the political route. It’s the path of least resistance in times like these.

America still has a collective sense of humor. The late-night players just don’t have what it takes to appeal to it.

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