Former senior adviser to President Barack Obama and current CNN Senior Political Commentator David Axelrod wrote Sunday in What the MRI of Donald Trump’s soul reveals about Donald Trump’s “horrendous week” and what it revealed about him.
If you want a brief synopsis, what it revealed is not pretty. What Axelrod doesn’t say is that it was never actually hidden in the first place.
Axelrod writes that “holy hell is raining down upon him” for recent events:
His blithe assertion that he would encourage Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear arms; his defense of his campaign manager’s alleged strong-arming of a female reporter; and his suggestion, quickly recanted, that women who have abortions should be punished, created a sense of chaos around the candidate. He continued to stumble over the abortion issue all week.
According to Axelrod, “The media analyzes and parses every word with a greater seriousness and intensity when spoken by a likely nominee for president of the United States.”
There is some truth to this. At the same time, what Axelrod says is only partly true. As has been pointed out, Trump still has – even after all this revealed madness – an advantage over Bernie Sanders when it comes to media coverage.
Far from putting words in Trump’s mouth, the media has not paid enough attention to the things Trump has actually said. He got a free pass until it got so bad it could not be ignored anymore – the same chain of events we witnessed with the media and Mitt Romney in 2012.
So let’s not go overboard with praise for the media with all this talk of “parsing.” Parsing is not something the media seems to be “into” these days. Bad enough Trump lives in a reality bubble. The media shouldn’t be in one too.
Axelrod writes of Trump supporters,
They have rallied to the Strong Man, who scoffs at constitutional niceties and international norms and promises to Make America Great Again. For these voters, tired of nuance and complexity, Trump is the anti-Obama ideal — a guy for whom every problem, from terrorism to stagnant wages, is a nail just waiting to be walloped by a leader who has the strength and guts to pick up the hammer.
And that’s the problem. That isn’t how the world works. Problems aren’t nails to be pounded. There are humans on the other end of those nails, and sometimes, the nails themselves are human. None of this is new: For years Republicans have tried to solve the world’s problems like Trump wants to solve them, and he is far from the first to rail against Obama’s imagined timidity.
Here’s the thing: Obama is the adult in the room; has been nearly the only adult for the past seven years. He has done what needs to be done and he has done it well. Against incredible odds. He has done it without staring a war. Without nuclear proliferation. He has done it without destroying NATO, or our decades long relationship with old allies and new. He has done it without sacrificing the world’s economy at the altar of austerity.
As Paul Krugman has noted, Barack Obama is a “hugely consequential” president. And before you say Krugman is pro-Clinton and anti-Sanders, Krugman wasn’t always a big fan of Barack Obama. The measure of a man is that he is not immune to the facts around him. That he can admit he was wrong.
All the Republican Party has to do is put together a “scandal float” and push it out there and watch the mainstream media go chasing after it. They’ll climb all over it but you won’t see a lot of parsing, let alone admitting of mistakes.
We have to be careful, when analyzing people and events, that we don’t mistake what is obvious to us as things even on the radar of others. Axelrod, for example says that “In the last week, under a front-runner’s scrutiny and pressure, Trump looked like a guy who simply can’t hack it.”
Yet “Trump zealots,” as Axelrod calls his fanboys and fangirls, “that 35% of the Republican primary base who seem unshakably committed,” aren’t going to see it that way at all. They don’t see a guy “who simply can’t hack it” but a messiah who is being nailed to a cross. They see a guy who is not the perpetrator of racism, but it’s victim.
Now granted, 35 percent of anybody isn’t going to win you any elections. Not in a country where the democratic process still works even a little. But those 35 percent of people are enough to lose somebody else an election, and if they follow Trump off the cliff the GOP establishment is now fighting to avoid, the result doesn’t bode well for whoever that establishment ends up running with.
Axelrod admits this dichotomy between people who see Trump’s soul begin “to come into sharper focus” and those of “his loyal base may have been unbothered.” Sure, “much of the rest of America was alarmed at what it showed,” but the media isn’t alarmed enough to see past its own biases. They seem rather to have a sick fascination with Donald Trump and for a long time have been pulled along by him, like all those “scandal floats” we talked about.
Before you let Axelrod, part of the media now, pat said media on the back for being tough on Trump, let’s remember that Trump has gotten many a free pass, and the media should not have waited as long as it did to scrutinize, or “parse” Trump’s comments. As Media Matters for America reported the other day of Axelrod’s own network,
CNN president Jeff Zucker reportedly dismissed criticism of overcoverage of Trump as “too much handwringing.” Zucker also reportedly defended the hiring of multiple Trump surrogates as CNN on air contributors.
No. Don’t expect a lot of parsing there. Just because CNN occasionally gets something right doesn’t mean they’re not usually more like Fox News than not.
So…if you look at both the mainstream media and the right-wing media, the differences seem to be more one of degrees.
It was obvious from the first words out of his mouth that Trump’s soul was ugly, and by shirking its own journalistic ethics, the mainstream media is as much responsible as the Republican Party for the rise and continued success of Donald Trump.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.