Early Tuesday morning, the president of the United States retweeted a doctored political cartoon depicting a large locomotive labeled TRUMP obliterating a figure labeled CNN.
It was soon deleted from Donald Trump’s account. The White House simply said the retweeted image — originally from an account full of anti-Semitic and racists posts — was inadvertent.
That’s always possible, but it’s not likely.
Trump’s done it before. In July, he tweeted a 2-decade-old WrestleMania video showing him knocking down a man and then punching him in the head. CNN’s logo was superimposed on the man’s head.
The second suggestion of violence against CNN came yesterday only days after Trump’s re-election campaign aired a commercial that starts with photos of well-known TV journalists such as Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper of CNN, Chuck Todd of NBC, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and George Stephanopoulos of ABC. It ends with a voice-over calling them and others “enemies of the president.”
Trump’s strategy of blaming the media for his inability to effectively govern has been clear since February, when he called the press “the enemy of the American people.” It was on display again yesterday when he faulted the media for his fumbling responses to Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
At a Trump Tower news conference Tuesday, he made it clear he regretted the carefully scripted words he uttered a day earlier when he condemned the actions of neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Yesterday, he went back to his false equivalency — blaming “both sides” for the death of a 32-year-old woman. He said “very fine people” marched with those demanding that whites take back their country from minorities and Jews.
The news conference was supposed to be about infrastructure, but instead of presenting a detailed plan about how to fund major investments to bring back jobs and improve our roads, water systems, bridges and tunnels, Trump held up a sketch of how he was changing the permitting process.
The media aren’t responsible for his inability to rebuild America. Nor are they to blame for Republicans’ failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act after seven years of promises to do so. Or for escalating tensions with North Korea. Or the Trump administration’s inability to generate momentum to revise the tax code. Or the striking down of Trump’s poorly drafted travel ban by the courts.
Instead, the news media are doing their jobs, holding the powerful accountable. The media are not the enemy when they report how the president uses words loosely and intemperately, damaging or embarrassing the United States before the world.
The news media are obliged to dig for facts, present them honestly, fairly and respectfully. They deserve to be called out when they’re wrong, superficial or invasive. But don’t be suckered by Trump’s argument that the media are what’s stopping his agenda. As yesterday’s debacle proved, he is his presidency’s worst enemy.