It is interesting to consider how U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest scandal, certainly the most serious to date, helps us better understand how the Russian collusion stories led to Trump’s unprecedented attacks on the media. Trump was vicious and he was personal. He was also desperate. He needed to create a diversion.
After all, it was his very own son, his namesake, whose very own emails show how he was receptive to colluding with the Russians to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. His brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Trump’s then campaign manager, Paul Manafort, were also on the email chain. How much worse could it get? Boy, did the president need to create a diversion?
Trump’s attacks on the media were becoming crueler and crueler. When he attacked yet another woman TV anchor in the ugliest of sexist ways, you just knew there was no turning back. The president kept firing heavy artillery. And his targets in journalism and public opinion fired back.
Commentators dismissed Trump for being disgusting. They also said he is “off balance,” a nice way of saying he is crazy. The thought of anyone going on TV to say the president is crazy makes you believe that he may very well be. Why else would anyone ever even suggest such a thing to a mass audience?
Anyone who knows anything about politics knows that only losers attack the media. They do so out of anger, bitterness and often humiliation. They feel a need to strike back because they feel hurt and misunderstood. These are usually politicians who have great difficulty accepting responsibility for their own mistakes.
When president Richard Nixon got into Watergate trouble, he rekindled his lifelong distrust of the news media. But, unlike Trump, he did so with a certain degree of cunning. Rather than get the Oval Office and the presidency immersed in the language of aggressive, over-the-top attacks, he used Spiro Agnew, his vice-president, to do the dirty work. Agnew was a very good attack dog – until he was kicked out of office for taking kickbacks.
Agnew was not only a loser, he was a disgraced loser. Just as Nixon turned out to be when he, too, was forced to resign. They are prime examples of how those who attack the media are those with dirty hands, guilty consciences and lots to hide.
It was interesting to see how some opinion leaders in the United States sensed that Trump had so much to run from that he used his attacks on the media to divert attention from the real issues plaguing his presidency. And, while it may have worked, temporarily diverting attention from the Russia probe, that wall came crashing down because Donald Jr. took the Russian bait and then invited his brother-in-law to be stupid too.
It is all so silly and so amateurish you wonder how the Trumps made so much money in the private sector. But they did, doing it their way, not the Washington way. The president who came to Washington vowing to “drain the swamp” now finds himself trying to stay afloat in the very dirty water of the same swamp he so cursed.
And it only took six months for Trump’s son and son-in-law to be directly implicated in the Russia scandal, with no escaping the fact they both exercised terrible judgement – terrible judgment that may prove to be criminal. This is devastating news for a president who has seen turmoil and constant controversies diminish his chances of ever getting his head out of that water.
Trump is stuck in quicksand of his own making. He is stuck in a pile of his own lies and wide-gapped contradictions. He is also stuck with his decision to attack journalists and the organizations they work for. When a political leader gambles with his or her credibility, the journalists swim like sharks because they are emboldened by seeing their adversary, in this case the president, struggling to get his game back.
But, of course, that is assuming Trump has a workable political game plan to get back to. Tweeting and lying don’t cut it.
Nor does running a family business in the White House.