The Worst Thing We Read Yesterday
The clearer the facts become about Donald Trump and his administration, the further beyond the grasp of conventional news coverage the situation goes. What is a conventional analyst to do? NBC’s Jonathan Allen, surveying the news landscape, decided it was time to go right past the problem and use the conventions anyway. So he published a piece that applied ordinary presidential altitude analysis—the president was down, and now he’s back up—to the puffs of dust rising down inside the sinkhole where the presidency would be.
Hence the subhead declaring that “the most unconventional of commanders-in-chief is suddenly hitting some standard presidential notes.” The argument was that a week had gone by, including a foreign trip, during which Trump had not committed very many truly heinous blunders or casual acts of defamation. This qualified, by the lowered measure Allen was using, as “seemingly disciplined.” An expert was brought in to testify:
“He’s pitching a great game right now,” said Sean Spicer, Trump’s former White House communications director. “The last six, seven, eight days have been the best string of days in his administration.”
There was something almost touching about the wobble, the hopeful Trumpian stretch for “six, seven, eight.” It wasn’t true, of course. (Or was it, narrowly speaking? Had there been a six-day stretch before this that went by without an atrocity?) To the extent Trump had kept himself out of trouble at the G20—paring back his bilateral meetings and skipping the closing press conference—it was a continuation of the vanishing act that is, along with the criminal investigations, the defining feature of his presidency.
As for those criminal investigations, though, events forced Allen to include a caveat in his writeup of the president’s break from controversy and scandal:
Of course, there are clear exceptions to the trend — one big one in particular.
The president has escalated his Twitter attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, which he calls a witch hunt, particularly in the wake of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen pleading guilty to lying to Congress about efforts to build a real-estate development in Moscow while Trump was campaigning for the presidency in 2016.
Ah, right, yes, there was that time—Monday, it was—that the president tried to openly tamper with a witness. In a different reality, it might have been an impeachable offense. But Congress is not going to impeach the president, so it’s best to pretend it didn’t happen, or pretend that though it did happen, it didn’t mean anything. If outlets like NBC just act as if it’s all standard behavior, these things will be the standard.