Behind the vitriol: Are Trump's critics mimicking his tactics?

Donald Trump, as candidate and as president, has been a brawler, calling critics idiots, morons, psychos, SOBs and, in the case of the media, scum.

As one small example, in a fundraising letter tied to his decision to skip Saturday's White House Correspondents Dinner, the president says: "Why would I be stuck in a room with a bunch of fake news liberals who hate me?"

But even as lots of Trump detractors have decried his street-fighting approach, they have glossed over those who denounce the president in equally strong if not stronger terms.

One thing I wrestled with in writing my new book "Media Madness" was the tone of the vitriol toward Trump from many journalists, commentators, late-night hosts, sports pundits and celebrities—and how they generally get a pass for some truly toxic stuff.

This is in part because the prevailing media culture agrees with much of the criticism of Trump, and in part because journalists believe they're entitled to punch back against a leader who constantly accuses them of dishonesty.

So I was struck by a Victor Davis Hanson piece in National Review that touches on these themes. I don't agree with everything he says—Hanson is a committed conservative attacking the left—but he poses a worthwhile question: Is the Resistance mimicking Trump's tactics?

"Anti- and Never-Trump op-ed writers have long ago run out of superlatives. Trump is the worst, most, biggest — fill in the blank — in the history of the presidency, in the history of the world, worse even than Mao, Mussolini, Stalin, or Hitler. So if Trump is a Hitler who gassed 6 million or a Stalin who starved 20 million, then logically Trump deserves what exactly?"

These comparisons have actually been made.

The piece says Trump has left the intelligence community "completely unhinged," citing the case of John Brennan. The former Obama CIA director has said of Trump: "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history."

Brennan is now a contributor at MSNBC, where such views are surely welcome.

Hanson also lambastes the media, "found to be more than 90 percent negative in its coverage of the Trump administration," for seeking "to delegitimize the president. Journalists declare that disinterested reporting is impossible in the age of Trump — and therefore believe that Stormy Daniels or James Comey's Dudley Do-Right's memos are a pathway to accomplish what they are beginning to concede Robert Mueller cannot.

"Everything from the NFL to late-night comedy shows have become Trump-hating venues. Almost every sort of smear from scatology to homophobia has been voiced by celebrities to turn Trump into a president deserving such abuse — and worse.

"Each cycle of hysteria demands another, as the race to the bottom has descended into which celebrity or politician can discover the most provocative — or crude — Trump expletive."

And that's the question: Are both sides feeding each other's hysteria? And are they doomed to keep blaming the other by overlooking their own excesses?

This subject is also the theme of a conversation between Politico Editor-in-Chief John Harris and New York Times Editorial Page Editor James Bennet, who's been taking heat for publishing controversial material—not to mention hiring (and unhiring) a writer with neo-Nazi pals who used slurs in the past.

Harris writes that Bennet is trying to create "an intellectual and moral center" designed to illuminate.

But the alternative view, says Harris, shared even by some within the Times, sees Bennet's pages "as a place of moral dilution and even surrender. By these lights, in the America of Donald Trump and Fox News, arguments are instruments of power. If demagogues are willing to polarize on behalf of wrong-headed or even intentionally false arguments, it is folly for the Times and other establishment voices to not be equally polarizing on behalf of enlightened ones."

In the conversation, Bennet says Trump is making things worse. But Harris has a different diagnosis: "The media industry has gotten taken over by a noise industry in which the enormous financial incentives, ego incentives reward the discourse that doesn't have much to do with getting to the truth or much to do with solving problems."

That rings true to me. And it means media types should stop blaming Trump for what they’re doing to themselves.