(Originally published Nov. 17, 2018)
ONE can only imagine the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in the White House bedroom Wednesday night after Fox News announced that it will support rival CNN’s lawsuit against President Trump for lifting its White House correspondent, Jim Acosta’s credentials because he wasn’t nice to “the presidency.” That’s how Trump put it to allege he’s upset that the office was disrespected and that it’s not personal.
Of course it is. Trump can’t stand it when reporters refuse to take his nonsense for answers and persist in asking for real ones. Which Acosta is in the habit of doing.
Reporters who aren’t in that habit — ever — are those on Fox News which Trump views as his personal PR vehicle for its fawning coverage of his shoot-first governing style and outright lying. (Kind of like Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s fake news network, Ontario News Now.)
That Fox has sided with CNN against Trump must be seen by the president as the ultimate betrayal. For the record, AP, Bloomberg, Gannett, NBC, the New York Times, USA Today and the Washington Post among others were to file briefs with the court supporting Acosta and the media’s right to unfettered questioning of the president.
A federal judge ordered the Trump administration on Friday to immediately return Acosta’s White House press credentials, though the lawsuit is continuing.
The animosity Trump feels toward Acosta and CNN in general boiled over in that confrontation in the White House press room last Wednesday.
Acosta was challenging the president’s scaremongering about the Central American migrants fleeting despots and drug lords in hopes of asylum in the states.
A female staffer tried to take the microphone from Acosta who instead held on and persisted with his questioning. This led Trump to call the reporter “a rude, terrible person.”
One imagines Trump storming out of the room and summoning his inner circle to seek out the ultimate punishment for Acosta.
Why not revoke his White House credentials so he can’t bother you any more, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders might have said.
Hours later, Trump’s shameless apologist issued a statement to say that while the president “believes in a free press (no, he doesn’t) and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his administration (no, he does not) . . . we will never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job.”
That’s not what happened, not by a long shot, despite a doctored video Sanders issued to support the decision to yank Acosta’s credentials “until further notice.” Which brings us to Trump’s second calamity.
This week, CBS News reported that Sanders has told friends she intends to resign her White House position at year’s end.
She hasn’t denied it and in spite of her appearance of unwavering loyalty, Trump’s behaviour has probably gotten to her.
Her contentious relationship with the press is often predicated on her boss taking matters into his own hands and making wild policy announcements on Twitter instead of having Sanders do the talking. Sources told CBS that it frustrates her more than journalists.
And so she’s said to be leaving, along with deputy press secretary Raj Shah, joining others in the same sad parade including Sean Spicer, Hope Hicks and the 10-day wonder, Anthony Scaramucci who has since found his way to some respectability as an MSNBC guest analyst.
If that’s not enough to keep Trump up even later at night than he stays now, tweeting, reporters keep finding American soldiers deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border who are willing to concede that they think 15,000 of them armed to the teeth is a bit much to counter that ragged bunch of migrants seeking sanctuary in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Trump has ordered the soldiers to fire on anyone who throws a rock at them. Will they?
What will Trump do if they don’t? Will he order the military to court martial any soldier who doesn’t shoot an unarmed kid throwing stones?
‘What the heck are we doing here?’ is the gist of interviews given by soldiers off the record as Trump makes daft allegations of a marauding horde at the gates intent on invading America.
One suspects the troops would all rather be home for Thanksgiving next week.
Events are piling up on Trump to such an extent that he appears, at times, to be near the breaking point. Such is the nature of his increasingly volatile behaviour since the Democrats gained control of half the Congress.
Democrats can smell blood and they have only to send out the right candidate to challenge Trump in 2020.
It might best be enormously natural Beto O’Rourke who nearly dethroned the political king of Texas, the lamentable Ted Cruz, in last month’s mid-terms.
Hillary? There are signs that Mrs. Clinton is pondering another run. Please, don’t do it. Your time has come and gone. Your party doesn’t need the distraction; it needs a new face.
Will anyone challenge Trump for the Republican nomination? If so, might it be Nikki Haley who seems to have sent him a message by announcing she’s quitting as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations?
There is some talk of encouraging Trump to dump the ridiculous Mike Pence and run on a ticket with Haley. But as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People, the likable Haley may have bigger things in mind.
O’Rourke versus Haley for president in 2020. Now that’s a race to anticipate.
Ian Pattison is retired as editorial page editor of The Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on current affairs.