Donald Trump has long demonstrated a knack for getting his political opponents to make fools of themselves. Sen. Marco Rubio learned this the hard way on the 2016 campaign trail when he tried to out-Trump Mr. Trump. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former CIA chief John Brennan got caught in the trap last week.
Cuomo took issue with Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” telling an audience full of Democrats that “we’re not going to make America great again – it was never that great.” The audience booed. Cuomo was attempting to insult the president but wound up insulting the country and then spent several days walking back what he said. Cuomo’s late father, Mario, also served as governor of New York. He once remarked: “There are few things more amusing in the world of politics than watching moderate Republicans charging to the right in pursuit of greater glory.” His son is evidence that such behavior is bipartisan.
Brennan, who called Trump’s July press conference with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin “nothing short of treasonous” on Twitter, had his security clearance revoked by the president last week. But during an appearance on MSNBC a few days later, he rescinded his comment. “I didn’t mean that he committed treason. But it was a term that I used,” he said. “Sometimes my Irish comes out.” Trump’s statements after the meeting with Putin were roundly criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike, and Brennan was free to add his voice. But a former top intelligence officer who wants to decry the president’s reckless behavior on cable news and social media might want to be more mindful of his own behavior.
Likewise, the political press has decided that its job isn’t merely to inform the public but also to take down the current White House, even if such efforts cost journalism what little credibility it has left. Last Thursday, hundreds of newspapers nationwide simultaneously published editorials attacking Trump in the guise of promoting a free press. The president regularly accuses news outlets of biased coverage. He prefers tweets and rallies to news conferences because he doesn’t trust the Washington Post and CNN to give him or his agenda a fair shake. Trump’s base comprises tens of millions of voters convinced that the media is as eager as the Democratic Party to run their guy out of office, and last week’s stunt only feeds those fears. Journalists who don’t like what the president has said about the press might want to start behaving like objective reporters instead of liberal political activists.