1. Update on Thinking About Trump’s Presidency
As the Trump Presidency has been unfolding, I have increasingly come to think that we have welcomed a Trojan Horse. The Trojan Horse was an apparent gift that the Greeks, departing after years of a bloody and stalemated siege of Troy, left behind. The Trojans dragged it into their city and wildly celebrated their liberation. But during the night the Greek warriors hidden inside the wooden horse descended from it and proceeded to massacre the Trojan warriors and capture the city.
The Trojan Horse of our day may be President Trump, who now seems to come with a cast of warriors who are far more ideological and radical than he is. As his administration policies begin roll out, it seems that with few exceptions he will go along with most if not all radical Republican proposals, like the replacement for Obamacare, that fall outside his relatively narrow range of interests.
Although Trump has made some Presidential appointments that seem sensible, such as his military and foreign policy team, many important agency offices remain unfilled. Statements by Steve Bannon suggest that this may be deliberate, and there may be a concerted effort to concentrate virtually all Presidential decision-making in an unvetted, unconfirmed, and radical right wing White House staff under him and Jared Kushner (See Ryan Lizza, “How Steve Bannon Conquered CPAC—and the Republican Party,” The New Yorker, Feb. 24, 2017).
2. Overreaction from the Left
Mark considers the liberal reaction to Trump’s words, executive orders, nominations, and relationships with the Russians to be a “vituperative storm of irrational abuse” and “frenetic liberal partisanship.” I agree that many of the articles and broadcasts from the NY Times on left have amounted to nothing more than fearful speculation, and I share his distaste for strident statements from the entertainment world. But I do think that here, and uncharacteristically, his rhetoric becomes rather inflammatory to no good effect. Is he suggesting a factual or moral equivalence between liberals and right wing radicals?
3. The Broken Press
I completely agree that CNN and the other cable media provide very little actual information, and spends much of their time opinionating. But the paucity of broadcast news is hardly new. Walter Cronkite once had his entire news broadcast set in NY Times type. The full hour of news took up 1 ½ out of 8 columns on the front page.
I agree less with his claim that the liberal media should stick to reporting the news, and keep the opinions separate. This is a prescription for removing context from news accounts. During recent campaigns Republican candidates (predominantly Republicans) made many false or misleading statements. The liberal media, by and large, simply reported these statements, at best juxtaposing contrary statements from liberal talking heads. The media sustained enormous criticism for doing this on the ground that viewers, listeners, and readers had no way to tell which of the contrasting allegations was true. The media had a responsibility, people said, to investigate, and to call out liars and deceivers.
Mark is right that confirmation bias is a big problem, one to which we are all subject. And perhaps his example of the Tucker Carlson show is a good illustration of his own. I have noticed that when Fox gives air time to so-called liberals, it usually picks the craziest ones out there. No fair minded person would be a liberal if Fox’s “liberal” guests were representative of the species. But of course they are mere grotesqueries, examples of Fox’s own prejudices. I would be just as gullible as Mark if I thought such lunatic dens as, say, Breitbart News were representative of conservatives. As Mark suggests, let them all have each other, stay in their rooms, and don’t make so much noise.