David A. Graham of the Atlantic asked and answered a question yesterday that nobody seemed interested in listening to:
How many times can Donald Trump announce his 2020 campaign? At least five, by my count.
The occasion—or “occasion”—was the news cycle anticipating the president’s televised rally in Orlando, which was being covered by all the major media as the launch of his reelection campaign. As Graham noted, the real official launch of Trump’s 2020 campaign happened on Inauguration Day in 2017, and he followed that by going into outright campaigning:
Just 29 days later, Trump threw the first rally of his reelection campaign. It’s probably not a coincidence that that rally was also in the crucial swing state of Florida—in Melbourne, about an hour from Orlando. There’s nothing all that unusual about a president hosting a rally; what was unusual was that Trump was advertising and paying for the event through his campaign, a decision that perplexed campaign-law experts I spoke with at the time.
Graham’s piece also logged the three separate occasions on which Trump had already gotten credit for unveiling his “Keep America Great” reelection slogan. Nevertheless, the three New York Times reporters writing the paper’s main story about the spectacle would treat the slogan, and the rally, as news:
As he formally declared his intention to run again, he told the audience that his new slogan would be “Keep America Great,” pledging to wage a relentless battle on behalf of his supporters.
“Formally declared” wasn’t true, “new slogan” wasn’t true, “pledging” and “on behalf of his supporters” would both crumble under evaluation if anyone were evaluating them. This is how it’s all going to be, over and over, again and still. Everything is worse than it was; every day is worse than the day before. The president was shouting that the election is going to be a contest with actual destruction as the stakes. The body count in the camps keeps rising and a career bigot is going to be the new spokesperson for the camps. The Times, having granted the fictitious campaign launch its status as a real media event, dutifully fact-checked the things the president said at the rally he had gotten everyone to cover:
This is misleading… False… This is exaggerated… False… False… This is exaggerated… True… True… This is misleading… False… This is misleading… This is misleading… This is misleading… This is misleading… This is exaggerated.
Donald Trump said misleading things yesterday, but the Times was there (right there!) to warn people about it. It is important to hold the president accountable, that way, isn’t it?
What Trump understands or senses or exploits about the political media is simply that the political media have no idea what they are doing. Their closest thing to an idea is daily, repeated guesswork about what the rest of the herd thinks it ought to do. Their defining condition is a cycle between gullibility and forgetfulness: someone says or does something that registers as news—that is, as a story they already know, with some aspect that can be packaged as novelty—and they report the news, and then another day comes and they repeat the whole thing. The entire political calendar between now and November 2020 is nothing but National Chocolate Chip Day and National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.