Despite her gaffes, media make Ocasio-Cortez a Beltway superstar

Donald Trump, who stayed quiet while the spotlight was on another president, roared back on Twitter yesterday in the wake of the Bush funeral.

And it’s clear he's been stewing about the Mueller investigation, which just dropped its sentencing memo on Mike Flynn and plans to do the same today with Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort.

"Without the phony Russia Witch Hunt, and with all that we have accomplished in the last almost two years (Tax & Regulation Cuts, Judge’s [sic], Military, Vets, etc.) my approval rating would be at 75% rather than the 50% just reported by Rasmussen. It’s called Presidential Harassment!"

First, Rasmussen tends to report higher numbers for Republicans; Reuters had Trump at 41 percent approval.

Second, there's no question that the probe, and the constant media coverage of all the indictments, convictions and guilty pleas, has hurt Trump. But would he be 25 points higher in this deeply divided country?

And third, whatever the problems with the Mueller prosecution, what Trump calls harassment is a duly authorized investigation ordered by his own deputy attorney general.

But such tweets also underscore what Trump supporters love about their man. They're argumentative, ticked off, in-your-face, and if they embellish or stretch reality, so be it.

Which brings me to the Democrats' latest media darling, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Trump's third year will undoubtedly be defined by his battles with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. And his fourth year will definitely be defined by his campaign against one of the seemingly dozens of Dems trying to win the White House.

But the woman who, at the age of 28, knocked off a veteran congressman to win a seat representing Queens and the Bronx seems to be getting as much attention as her far more experienced colleagues.

Hats off to the dogged young candidate who pulled off this feat. But she has really been struggling with the facts.

Ocasio-Cortez recently tweeted: "$21 TRILLION of Pentagon financial transactions 'could not be traced, documented, or explained.' $21T in Pentagon accounting errors. Medicare for All costs ~$32T. That means 66% of Medicare for All could have been funded already by the Pentagon. And that's before our premiums."

This was, I'll simply say in the holiday spirit, spectacularly wrong. She was off by, well, $21 trillion.

The Washington Post fact-checker gave her four Pinocchios.

The congresswoman-elect mangled a study cited in a Nation piece that was actually about Pentagon funds, between 1998 and 2015, that lacked adequate documentation.

In fact, the Defense Department hasn't received $21 trillion in appropriations over all of American history.

Ocasio-Cortez did not apologize.

But The Federalist says her "mind-numbingly stupid" tweet shouldn't mask her appeal. Writer Jesse Kelly says the politico class made "the exact same arguments" against Trump.

"It is critical for folks on the right to avoid the mistakes made by the left. We must learn from how they treated (and treat) President Trump and endeavor not to make the same mistakes.

"Do not underestimate this woman, and do not think your savage mockery of her stupidity will be an effective tool to stop her. It won't. It will instead be personalized by her supporters, creating an army that will lay down and die for her (or at least vote for her), just like the army Trump has. You should be afraid of Ocasio-Cortez. Be much more afraid than you are."

I don't know that Republicans need to be very afraid, but the piece is on to something.

The Federalist's Emily Jashinsky made the same point last month after Ocasio-Cortez spoke of "all three chambers of Congress": "Denigrating unpolished, less-than-flawless politicians who speak to the working class is not a great look."

Of course it matters that Ocasio-Cortez is a democratic socialist (and a bit math-challenged). But she does seem to have a common touch — not surprisingly, since her last job was as a bartender and she worries about earning a living before her House salary kicks in.

When she showed up in Congress dressed professionally and pundit Eddie Scarry snarked "that jacket and coat don't look like a girl who struggles," he got buried under an avalanche of hostile tweets. Ocasio-Cortez asked whether he thinks "he can delete his misogyny without an apology? I don't think so. You're a journalist - readers should know your bias."

If you look at her Instagram, she's seen hugging and high-fiving people and posing for selfies. She tweets photos of herself making mac and cheese.

As the Federalist says, "She's pretty. She's young enough to understand and take advantage of this current political world. Most importantly, her naiveté about the things of government make her more appealing to the common man, not less."

The media are treating Ocasio-Cortez like a superstar. An Atlantic piece was headlined "How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Plans to Wield Her Power."

Power? She's at the bottom of the seniority ladder. But the media spotlight gives her a different kind of power.

The Hill yesterday ran this piece: "Ocasio-Cortez on Why Young People Need to Run for Congress."

She's taken on Amazon and made news the other day for saying she'd actually pay her interns.

None of this changes her gaffes, her inexperience and her tenuous grasp of how government works. But as with Trump, the more her critics overreach, the more they build her up — maybe even to 75 percent approval.