Media Buzz

Some in the media dig in against 'normalizing' Donald Trump

'MediaBuzz' host Howard Kurtz weighs in on the mainstream media calling for the press to not 'normalize' President-elect Donald Trump

 

This is not normal.

Many in the media, mostly on the liberal side, have come up with a verb that captures their disgust at the man who will be America’s 45th president.

It’s a word that clearly signals that they will remain in opposition, in a state of perpetual outrage, that, in truth, they don’t fully accept the results of the election.

Donald Trump, they say, should not be normalized.

To be “normalized” would be to be treated as just another president-elect putting together his Cabinet and White House staff. A normalized process would involve skeptical coverage, aggressive coverage, but would fit within the template of previous transitions.

What those who decry the normalization of Barack Obama’s successor are really saying is Trump is not a legitimate president, and doesn’t deserve to be treated as such.

And the reason I find this troubling is that there’s an echo of what some opponents did to the nation’s first black president. He was unfit, he wasn’t legitimate, he was a Muslim, he wasn’t born here, and we had to “take back our country”—that became a very common rallying cry.

But somehow it’s now okay to say that Trump isn’t normal?

Look, I get that Trump was part of a divisive and polarizing campaign, and that some Hispanics, blacks, Muslims, women and others felt insulted by his candidacy. No one’s saying they suddenly have to love the guy.

But Trump won the election fair and square, despite his sometimes inflammatory tone. Sixty million Americans voted for him. For those who were angry when Mitch McConnell said his top priority was to defeat Obama, doesn’t Trump deserve a shot at a normal presidency? Don’t we all have a stake in his success?

That doesn’t mean refraining from criticizing his policies or personnel picks. But does aggressively covering a president in the same fashion as previous presidents really amount to normalizing him?

Slate is a leader in the non-normalization camp:

“When Donald Trump won the presidency, our vocabularies didn’t bulge to accommodate the reality that this ignorant geyser of hate had ascended to the world’s yugest leadership position. We’re left pressing the same worn-out words into service, paradoxically reminding each other: This is not normal.

"In an essay for the New York Times Magazine, Teju Cole wrote, of the days following Trump’s win, ‘All around were the unmistakable signs of normalization in progress. So many were falling into line without being pushed. It was happening at tremendous speed, like a contagion.’ David Remnick told CNN, ‘We’ve normalized [the results] already. Less than a week after the election is over, suddenly Washington is going about its business talking about who’s going to get what jobs. You would think that Mitt Romney had won. It’s a hallucination.’… ‘He is not normal,’ insisted John Oliver over the weekend. ‘He is abnormal.’ Shouts of ‘normalization’ have become normalized.

“The frame we’re putting around the president-elect emphasizes how freakishly outside the mainstream his views and behavior lie. That’s useful, up to a point. But in appealing to what’s typical rather than what’s right or true, we’re missing an opportunity to make a stronger statement. Trump himself aims to center white men as ‘normal’ and push everyone else to the periphery.”

Ah, now we get to the real agenda: It’s racial. It’s about putting white men back in charge and the hell with everyone else.

Salon is on the same page: “Oprah Winfrey, in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, said Trump’s recent visit to the White House gave her ‘hope’ and suggested he has been ‘humbled’ by the experience. The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins told his readers to ‘calm down’ and that Trump wasn’t the ‘worst thing.’ His college, Nouriel Roubini, insisted the Oval Office will ‘tame’ Trump. People magazine ran a glowing profile of Trump and his wife Melania (though a former People writer accused Trump of sexual assault).

The New York Times’ Nick Kristof dubiously added that we should ‘Grit our teeth and give Trump a chance.’ The mainstays—Washington Post, New York Times and CNN—while frequently critical, are coving Trump’s transition as they would any other. President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have all issued statements recognizing Trump’s legitimacy and pleading we give him a chance.

“Overall there’s a creeping sense that we’re stuck with Trump and we should make it ‘work’ in some type of do-goody liberal appeal to patriotism.

“But this is wrong, both tactically and ethically. Trump isn’t normal and he should never be treated as such, regardless of what President Obama and Clinton and Sanders say.”

Wow. Even saying give the guy a chance is considered a failure. Who appointed Salon as the arbiter of normality?

The Boston Globe’s Renee Graham views Trump more as a vessel:

“Ever since the election that shook up the world, one refrain in columns, commentaries, and social media posts has been incessant: ‘Now that Donald Trump is the president-elect, we cannot allow him to be normalized.’ It’s a defiant, noble stance, but it overlooks a very crucial point: Had racism, bigotry, and sexism not been normalized for centuries, Trump would not be weeks away from becoming the 45th president of the United States.

“Make no mistake: Trump’s election is as disastrous as an Old Testament plague. His election has sparked anger and anxiety, driving thousands nationwide into the streets in protest. Between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. last Wednesday, when Trump’s victory was inevitable, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline recorded a 250 percent spike in calls. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes, has logged more than 200 reports of harassment and intimidation since Election Day.”

And this is Trump’s fault? This is the same kind of circular reasoning that tried to blame Ferguson on Obama.

From the right, National Review's Jonah Goldberg says it's the mainstream media that normalized Trump during the primaries:

"Trump was good for ratings ... The mainstream media and numerous liberal pundits loved Trump’s impact on the GOP for the same reason bored teenagers like to throw lit matches into dumpsters: Garbage fires are fun to watch. The third reason is closely related to the second: The media thought Trump was more likely lose to Hillary Clinton."

How'd that work out for them?

If Donald Trump, with no political experience, rises to the height of the office and can compromise with competing factions, he will be a successful president. If Trump does not, his administration will fail to live up to his promises. That, to my mind, is a more normal outlook than insisting that the country just elected an abnormal businessman.  

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.