Saturday, June 16, 2018

Seymour Hersh on the Trump Phenomenon

Last Wednesday CNN’s Don Lemon interviewed famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. Given that Hersh has most often been associated with the American left we might have expected him to show his fealty to the Resistance and to shower Donald Trump with high-minded invective.

To Lemon's surprise Hersh chose another tack. He began by noting that Trump has done wonders for the bottom line of media companies. He has increased circulation and subscribers at the New York Times exponentially. In Hersh’s words, many media outlets consider Trump to be “catnip” for their readers.

But, this has some unfortunate side effects. First, it means that the Times and other media outlets feel obliged to offer their audience a steady diet of Trump bashing. Second, it means that the media landscape has become increasingly polarized. If you want the leftist spin, you watch the leftist media. If you want the rightest spin, you watch the rightest media. There seems, Hirsh says, to be no middle ground, journalism that is dedicated to reporting the facts.

He might have noted that the business press is, as it has always been, most likely to report fact as fact.

But, he does have a point when he says that the media are no longer trusted by most Americans. He is suggesting that they have brought it on themselves, what with their pursuit of filthy lucre. Strangely, at a time when the newspaper business was about to go down the drain, Trump has saved them. But, at a price.

Hersh explains:

… there was a time when the media was trusted. You go back to the old days of networks and those days are long gone. I always felt like when I worked at the 'New York Times' what we wrote was trusted. We now have a situation where a lot of people tune in to what they like and don't listen to what they don't like. It's good for cable television on both sides. For FOX News and for MSNBC and CNN, you guys. You've got great ratings. You're making money.

This does not make them all look like noble idealists.

So, Hersh, being a generally contrary soul, has started asking himself why Trump appeals to people. And he noted that the #GetTrump left still has no message, no policies, nothing to offer the people. Consumed by hatred they have lost the ability to think.

He said:

I don't see the Democratic party doing anything but basically running sort of as Hillary did, running against him for the last two months against him in the last two months of the campaign. And I'm not sure if I'm not in the major city in America, I'm not sure -- this guy is different. And I think people are tired of politicians and he appeals for a lot of reasons that maybe we don't all understand, I certainly don't understand him. He's got 48%, 47% of the people. He appeals to them. There's something about him. This is a guy that took down 13 Republicans with a history of more than 200 years of political life.

Of course, the standard leftist explanation for Trump is… bigotry. The left believes that Trump is a sign that much of America is mired in bigotry. And yet, Hersh avers, there must be more to it. After all, Trump beat more than a dozen Republicans for the nomination. And he single-handedly put an end to the Bush and the Clinton political dynasties. Ignore him at your peril, Hersh is saying.

Worse of all, the media has been running a caricature of Trump for so long that it no longer sees what is true or false. It risks underestimating him and consigning itself to oblivion:

Yes, Trump went to the summit not knowing much about it and, yes, he doesn't read anything and he's famous for just running on instinct. There's just an outside chance with all these tweets and all that other stuff, he just may have some idea what he's doing. He's keeping it focused on him, whether good, bad or otherwise, it works for him.

Of course, we must consider that Trump was far better informed than he let on, and that he was playing the media by telling them that he was not going to prepare for the summit. Why is it that the media is so quick to take everything Trump says literally?

Hersh is sounding a warning to the liberal media and the Democratic Party. One suspects that Don Lemon did not get it.

By the by, we should also consider the words of Caroline Glick, someone who is far more favorable to Trump. She praises Trump’s negotiating efforts in Singapore and notes sagely that those who are criticizing him, members of previous negotiating teams, were complete incompetents.

She describes the expert commentary:

We didn’t learn this week whether North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons. Only time will tell.

But we did learn that US President Donald Trump knows how to negotiate.

All of the negotiations experts insist the opposite is true. “How could they agree to a presidential summit without first guaranteeing its end product?” they sigh, knowingly.

“Trump’s showmanship is dangerous and counterproductive,” they sneer.

“At the end of the day, for this to work, Trump will have to copy Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran,” they insist.

Dennis Ross, who mediated the negotiations between Israel and the PLO that led directly to the largest Palestinian terrorism campaign against Israel in history, and Wendy Sherman, who negotiated Bill Clinton’s horrible nuclear deal with North Korea in 1994 and Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran in 2015, as well as all their esteemed colleagues have taken up their pens and stood before the cameras and clucked about how Trump’s Singapore Show is amateur hour.

Evidently, Dennis Ross and Wendy Sherman are not household names. But they symbolize the incompetence of people who have gained stature as negotiation experts. Perhaps it is not necessary to point it out, but neither of them seemed to put American interests first.


Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Of course, the standard leftist explanation for Trump is… bigotry.

My explanation of Trump is the one-two punch of "resentment" + "magical thinking", or in other words populism. But now that we have a bifurcated media, and everyone is in their own echo chamber. Almost the worst outcome at this point is the GOP losing the house and senate. Instead Democrats should hope republicans keep 100% responsibility for all outcomes through 2020.

Sam L. said...

The Left hates Trump. So do their minions in the media. (Which is why some refer to it as the enemedia.) Which is why many of us do not trust the media, or Democrats.

The left simply(?) cannot understand Trump. But Trump does understand the media and the left.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Still waiting for a clear explanation of what the United States got out of Obama’s Iran “deal.”

Ares Olympus said...

Sam L. said... The left simply(?) cannot understand Trump...

How do you understand Trump? It's long looked to me that he craves a cult of affection and adoring attention, even if it has to be imposed by fear or coercion, by having the power and will to punish dissenting voices, currently shown in his sincere admiration or envy towards Kim, “Hey, he [Kim]'s the head of a country, and I mean, he’s the strong head — don’t let anyone think anything different... He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.” - Trump on Fox and Friends

What would the Right or Fox say if Obama or Clinton were expressing such desires?

Sam L. said...

AO, they'd say "DANG! He DOES have some humor in him."

Anonymous said...

Ares: "Sam L. said... The left simply(?) cannot understand Trump...

How do you understand Trump?"


Sam L. said...

Anon, I understand that Trump has been dealing with double-dealers for most of his life (likely some triple- and quadruple-dealers as well). The man has practice, and expertise developed over the years.