A “Kinsley gaffe” is when someone in Washington DC accidentally says what they are really thinking. Jack Shafer at Pathetico made such a gaffe in his column titled “How Not to Listen to Donald Trump.”
Now it could be that Obama did commit the biggest political crime in the history of the USA. If there’s a shred of evidence, I want Obama investigated. If the investigation bears fruit, I want him to have a fair trial. If he’s found guilty, I want him punished. But show me that shred of evidence first or I’m going back to bed.
At the three-and-a-half-year mark of his presidency, we have ample proof that Trump’s barking about the criminality of others—almost always his opponents—is routinely groundless. As many have written, he is a terrible source of investigative leads and he routinely spins nonsense to reset the conversation in hopes that it will deflect the press from his political problems. And he’s doing it again. As a serial and unreliable accuser, Trump is like that cocoa puff who loves to phone reporters with evidence of massive wrong-doing but when interviewed only has a shopping bag full of unrelated, yellowing news clips. The biggest difference between the cocoa puffs and the orange one, of course, is that the cocoa puffs only want to be heard while the orange one hopes his hogwash will get enough play to influence voters in November.
This is where it gets tricky for reporters. But it’s time to establish a new standard for our coverage of the president.
Journalists should still write down what he says, just as we should always listen to the cocoa puffs when they call. But the urgency of our investigations should be informed by what sort of substantiation Trump and his surrogates provide. Does the press have an obligation to debunk every allegation he makes, even the vague and tissue-thin charges he makes on a regular basis? Who made him our assignment editor? Trump has cried wolf so many times—deliberately wasting journalistic resources by sending reporters off to investigate spurious charges—that it’s now incumbent upon him to invest his charges with some tangible proof if he expects reporters to follow his lead. At the very least, Trump should explain what law was broken and cite its page number in the legal code, offer to share with journalists the evidence he has collected, and present the criminal or civil complaint he has filed. Unless and until he does that, reporters have no duty to publicize his blabber beyond recording it for posterity in a brief mention inside the A section.
We can expect more, not less of Trump’s wolf-cries as the election approaches, as international affairs professor Tom Nichols tweeted Wednesday. “The Trump people are going to unleash a blizzard of bullshit, including selective releases and declassifications and leaks, and if the media chases every one of these as bombshell, they’re going to end up being a functioning arm of the Trump campaign,” Nichols wrote. Telling the president to put up or shut up with his accusation—to put the onus on him to show that there is a there there—is the only way press can declare its independence from his tricks.
Did you catch it?
Here is is:
Does the press have an obligation to debunk every allegation he makes, even the vague and tissue-thin charges he makes on a regular basis?
Jack Shafer reveals the media mindset – “debunk Trump”- which is responsible for so much of the news coverage Trump receives. That’s why Trump mentioning Hydroxychloroquine as a promising treatment for the ‘Rona virus resulted in a drug that’s been around for 60 years suddenly being declared Public Enemy #1.
The media is worried about Obama henchmen getting indicted. They’re worried, but they don’t want to talk about it. They are going to place an embargo on all the bad news for Democrats between now and November. They’ll dress it up in high-falutin’ moral terms, but they’ll do their best to ignore the 500 lb gorilla sitting in the living room.
“Gorilla? What gorilla?”
If there’s a shred of evidence, I want Obama investigated.
“Shred? What shred?”
Meanwhile, ever bit of negative news for Trump will get rushed to publication after running it thru a TDS amplifier.
If you had any doubt about where Shafer is coming from, his citation to “international affairs professor Tom Nichols” tells you everything you need to know. Nichols is a rabid NeverTrumper.