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Thursday, September 15, 2016


Trumping the media

by Tom Sullivan

Samantha Bee the other day observed that news network executives have "traded their balls for ratings" (just her opinion, she adds). That's why the New York Times Washington Post gets to wring its hands this morning about Donald Trump being the "least transparent U.S. presidential candidate in modern history" (online headline):

... He is the first since 1976 to refuse to release his tax returns. He has declined to provide documentation of the “tens of millions” of dollars he claims to have donated to charity. He has yet to release a comprehensive accounting of his health. And, while Wednesday’s letter about Melania Trump’s immigration from her home country offers a few new details, there is no documentation to back up the claims.

At the same time, Trump and his aides are criticizing rival Hillary Clinton as secretive and demanding more information from her about her emails and health. Many Democrats also see Trump’s refusal to release basic information as hypocritical since for years, he was one of the loudest voices demanding that President Obama release his birth certificate to prove he was born in Hawaii and qualified to be president. Trump also called on Obama to release his college applications, school transcripts and passport applications.
There is a reason Trump gets away with this, as Samantha Bee pithily observed: because the media lets him. The Washington Post's Paul Waldman wrote yesterday about Donald Trump's appearance on the Dr. Oz show to "disclose" his medical records, prepared no doubt by his own Dr. Bornstein:
Coming from him, I imagine it included testimonials to Trump’s superhuman strength and sexual magnetism. But if you’re waiting for anything like a complete medical history on Trump, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

I say that because we’ve seen this many times before. There’s some policy plan or personal information about Trump that reporters are asking for, his campaign promises that it’ll be released very soon, then the press’ attention moves on to other things, and the campaign never delivers. That’s what will probably happen here too.

This is how Donald Trump deals with stories he doesn’t like: He either says he’ll answer at some later date, or just refuses to answer entirely, knowing that eventually, people will stop asking.
Chris Hayes last night discussed Trump's evasive maneuvers with Rebecca Traister [lead-in timestamp 6:00]:
Hayes: Trump, he doesn't ever give the first piece in the breadcrumb trail, whereas Hillary Clinton … We now have a whole bunch of State Department emails, right? We have medical records. We start to get these breadcrumb pieces and that inevitably, sort of...

Traister: And it gives more material, and inevitably in any amount of material you’re going to find something that is interesting or reportable, and then it’s like, “we found this interesting thing"...

Hayes: And in Trump’s case, he could say ... he could produce a letter from the IRS saying he is under audit ...

Hayes and Traister (together, laughing): But he is not going to do that!

Hayes: Because what would happen if he did that? Other things would follow.

Traister: Yes.

Hayes: And yet it seems to me Hillary Clinton gets … that’s why we [have] the paradox of her as this private person, I think, who doesn’t like the press, about whom we know more than anyone.

Traister: Right. But this is where once you follow this trail, if you are Hillary Clinton, is where you can get … I mean there is almost nothing she can do. Because she can’t not give it either. If she doesn’t give anything over, it would only more fully enhance, you know, that “she’s got something to hide.”
Clinton has a breadcrumb trail going back decades that the press finds easy to follow and easily searchable. Whereas Trump refuses to start one. Kurt Eichenwald, speaking of his blockbuster expose on Trump's conflict of interest exposure from his worldwide business dealings, said he had to do some major digging across the world to come up with this original reporting.

Other reporters seem to think that's not their job, an astonished Waldman writes, leading Trump to think "he can get away with this lack of disclosure, and we’ll just take his word for it that everything’s cool and there’s nothing to worry about." It is so much easier on reporters to politely ask politicians to give them what they want, and to drop it and act as stenographers when they don't.

It works for Donald Trump, and makes a lot of reporters look like they do too.

Update: A sharp reader noted I misidentified my news outlet above.