Writing the sentence “Donald Trump doesn’t handle criticism well” seems like a waste of your and my time, but every article needs an opener. President-elect Donald Trump has spent the week flailing on Twitter, as he does, against the media organizations he dubs “fake news”, Mexico’s government, the United States intelligence community, and Meryl Streep, amongst others. Read that sentence a few times.
Where to begin? During his first press conference since the election, which quickly became a cacophony of shouts, questions, and bluster, Trump refused a question from CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who persisted in attempting to get his words out until Trump referred to his “terrible organization” as “fake news” and moved to another journalist. CNN was quick to respond, reaffirming the first amendment right to a free press, confirming that what they had been reporting was corroborated with other agencies, and challenging the Trump team to specifically name the false assertions CNN made in their reporting. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for a response but my interest is piqued.
What bothers me is a thread of anxiety that should have run through anyone paying attention to this whole ugly campaign: by arbitrarily designating what is and is not “fake news”, the latest buzz-phrase to fall off the Trump train, Trump (and his supporters) can now uncritically dismiss and snub any news organization that holds him accountable. His incestuous love affair with the Breitbart team should very clearly display exactly how concerned he is about unbiased reporting. Trump shows himself once again to be unable to weather criticism. His claims of transparency ring extra hollow if he is going to move the goalposts any time someone makes him uncomfortable.
As if that isn’t enough, the ex-president of Mexico, Vincente Fox, told Trump that he could pay for the border wall (a central plank of his campaign platform) himself but not to expect any money from Mexico. Trump blustered a bit more, suggesting he would get the money from Mexico eventually, but his statement that Congress would be footing the bill for it (i.e. we will be) suggests that he is just as aware as the rest of us of the likelihood of that happening. Seems the swamp draining gets delayed more and more each day.
The United States intelligence agencies, it was reported this week, gave both Trump and sitting president Barack Obama intelligence briefings on the possibility of Russian interference with the election (ordered by Vladimir Putin) to sway the results in favor of Trump by the hacking and selective leaking of sensitive documents from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. Buzzfeed (an organization much closer to the “fake news” descriptor) went a step further and published a 35 page report alleging that members of the Trump team had contact with the Russian government. It also included some other (hilarious) assertions that Trump hired prostitutes to piss on each other in a bed he knew Barack and Michelle Obama once slept in on a diplomatic visit to Russia. Supposedly there is video evidence being held over Trump’s head by the Kremlin. It’s the sort of thing that keeps a person hitting the refresh button on all major news websites. Read this paragraph again. Whether or not the report is verifiable is up for debate. Early this morning, there was a new assertion that the incidents in the report were fabricated entirely by a poster on 4chan. Stay tuned.
As far as Meryl Streep goes, I admit to laughing and enjoying the central message of her speech, and I appreciated the mention of the nonprofit organization the Committee to Protect Journalists, who are dedicated to preserving press freedom (very prescient in light of Trump’s CNN snub this morning), but I’m conflicted. Right wingers were quick to come up with a riposte meme showing Streep give a standing ovation to Roman Polanski in 2003, a man who knows a thing or two about illegal sex acts. No one is clean when it comes to politics, and there were quite a few voices wondering aloud why Hollywood turned a blind eye to American drones patrolling the skies of Middle Eastern nations too weak to tell us to get out and stay out.
Barack Obama gave an emotional final speech in Chicago. He mentioned being more optimistic about the country than when he began his presidency (how, I couldn’t say) and that Americans must be vigilant and fight for what we believe in. A good message too, but I would be lying if I said that Trump’s constant barrage of assertions, half-truths, and whole fictions makes it extremely hard to know even where to begin. As I said during the campaign, Donald Trump has an itinerary that seems to change depending on the direction of the wind in the morning. With him constantly on the offensive and his cabinet appointees contradicting him as well, it’s going to be hard to know what we are even supposed to be resisting.