For a press that regularly laments President Trump’s lack of graciousness, you’d think newsrooms would try harder to show those virtues themselves.
Early Wednesday morning, the day after Christmas, the president and first lady Melania Trump arrived in Iraq, surprising American troops with a personal visit. The president was cheered and applauded as he took to the stage and spoke to service members stationed far from home. After his remarks, he shook hands, posed for selfies, and signed autographs for those who asked. It was a lovely episode, one that the troops clearly appreciated and enjoyed.
It would take a hard, graceless heart to scrounge for something to criticize in the president’s surprise visit. It’d take a conniving, cold partisan to go after the eager service members who asked the president to sign their red “Make America Great Again” trucker hats. Yet, that’s exactly what a sizable portion of the news media did.
TV anchor Soledad O’Brien, for example, took credit for the visit, claiming Trump and the first lady went to Iraq only because they felt pressured from critics.
“Shaming him seems to work,” she wrote, explaining later, somewhat nonsensically, that, “the President … prepped for this trip several weeks ago. The shaming seems to have worked.”
In other corners of the press, newsrooms adopted a “too little, too late” attitude toward the Iraq visit. MSNBC aired a segment Wednesday titled, “Amid scorn over Syria, Trump finally visits troops in combat zone.” The Huffington Post took it a step further, publishing a snide and aggressive headline that read, “Trump Visits Iraq, His First Trip To A Combat Zone In His Life.” They obviously hauled out their old headline from the days of President Bill Clinton and simply changed the name — not!
The Washington Post’s coverage of the president’s visit spent nearly as much time cataloging various loosely related criticisms aimed at the White House as it did recounting the details of the actual visit. NBC News published a flatly untrue story Tuesday evening titled, “Trump becomes first president since 2002 not to visit troops at Christmastime.” The news giant could be forgiven for getting it wrong. It cannot, however, be forgiven for standing by the story even after the facts became known. NBC updated its headline and added a lengthy editor’s note, leaning hard on the defense that, technically, Trump didn’t visit on Christmas Day. Christmastime, as most people know, lasts until Epiphany on Jan 6. The mealy-mouthed and snide editor’s note reads, “As of the end of Christmas Day 2018, Trump had not visited troops during the holiday season, and had announced no plans to do so. The article was correct, but on Dec. 26, the situation changed.”
Other newsrooms have rushed to make a scandal from the fact that the president autographed MAGA hats for certain military personnel. After Trump’s visit, reporters jumped to argue that those members of the armed forces who sought or accepted Trump’s autograph have violated various military regulations by participating in “partisan political activities.”
Merry Christmas, anonymous American service member stationed in a desert. The press is here to explain why you should be disciplined.
To be fair, not everyone in the press used the president’s visit as yet more ammo for their attacks on the White House. In contrast to the widespread gloating, sneering, and self-congratulation, CNN’s Chris Cuomo gave credit where it was deserved.
“Good move for potus – seeing troops in Iraq after Xmas,” the news anchor tweeted on Dec. 26. “Yes, this potus has waited longest to do so, but he did it. And it means a lot to troops. Keep it positive and abt them – potus will get warranted positive coverage.”
Good move for potus – seeing troops in Iraq after Xmas. Yes, this potus has waited longest to do so, but he did it. And it means a lot to troops. Keep it positive and abt them – potus will get warranted positive coverage.
— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo)
December 26, 2018
Unsurprisingly, Cuomo was eaten alive on social media shortly after tweeting praise aimed at the president. Because that’s exactly the sort of thing that happens in the era of #Resisting. To suggest that Trump did something decent is to commit an act of apostasy. It will be punished mercilessly by true believers. Perhaps that’s why newsrooms are so loathe to give Trump credit where it’s due.
The press ought to listen to its own criticism of the president and learn a little decency.