SAN DIEGO – What’s the date today? Don’t ask the media or the White House. Neither of them has the foggiest idea.
They’re both stuck in November 2016. And curiously, neither wants to admit it – even though they’re both quick to accuse the other of being needlessly mired in the past and inexplicably intent on replaying the presidential election.
In a recent example, as part of his unrelenting campaign to create a hostile work environment for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, President Trump tweeted: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”
Unbelievable. Do you know what’s really weak? Trump’s memory. He’s the one who, as president-elect, took off the table the idea of prosecuting Clinton – either for mishandling classified emails or allegedly using the Clinton Foundation and the State Department to shake down foreign donors. Cutting off his options was a dumb move for someone who is always telling us how smart he is.
Over the past week, much of broadcast media have hammered Trump for being stuck in time, and obsessing too much over an election that occurred almost nine months ago.
But these talking heads have no room to talk. They’re just as guilty of constantly revisiting the 2016 election, if only to better understand what the heck happened.
The rules to this game are quite simple. If dwelling on the election makes you look good, or your opponent look bad, then by all means do it. But if recounting those events makes you look bad or your opponent look good, then you want no part of it.
And so when Trump spent much of his first 100 days in office bragging about his well-orchestrated victory over Hillary Clinton, many in the media yelled “foul.” How uncouth for the victor to be such a poor winner, they said. The message to the president was clear: Focus on the present and get on with governing.
There were also the questions about whether the Trump campaign colluded with Vladimir Putin and the Russian government to steal the election from Clinton. The questions sprang from denial and disbelief, as a media that had lost touch with everyday Americans refused to accept that Trump had anything to sell that anyone would want to buy. And as the media hounds searched for the Russian Connection, the Trumpistas certainly did themselves no favors by continuing to act guilty even as they proclaimed their innocence.
And so when Donald Trump Jr. released personal emails about meeting with a Russian lawyer in the final months of the campaign, the media treated the story as a smoking gun. Some of them even saw it as vindication of their claim that the badly run Clinton campaign may not have been so badly run after all. In fact, for analysis on the story, CNN turned to one of its newest contributors – Robby Mook, Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager. Obviously, these folks are not big on subtlety.
Now who’s living in the past?
As this tacky telenovela continues, let’s be clear why the media hate Trump so much. It’s not just partisan bias; a Center for Public Integrity survey in October found that 96 percent of political donations from media figures in last year’s general election went to Clinton. And it’s not just foolish pride and the fact that, as I have noted, too many in the media can’t get over the fact that they missed the big story of Trump’s victory.
It’s also the fact that – consistent with the old adage that we despise most in others the characteristics we see in ourselves – Trump and broadcast media are the same animal.
Both have narcissistic instincts and take themselves too seriously. Both love the sound of their own voice, and dismiss opposing views. Both relish going on the attack, but have thin skins and take criticism personally. Both know how to make lots of money from shrewdly marketing a brand. Both worship at the altar of mass communication and understand the power of mega soapboxes to shape public opinion and advance political agendas.
And most of all, both Trump and the media are having a tough time getting beyond a dreadful election that most Americans would like to forget.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.