The night the media went South

Last night, I think that I finally got it: why Donald Trump feels that way he does about mainstream media, particularly CNN. Fake news. It must have been. There was hardly anything that they were reporting that seemed to touch on the truth, at least how I see it.

Trump gave at best a pedestrian and at worst highly inflammatory and exploitative speech in his 2017 “non-State of the Union” address. There had been reports prior to the speech that he was going to show a little compassion towards undocumented Americans, particularly those who were living by the laws of America. Maybe he was going to follow up on his new discovery that health care policy is complicated and that solutions did not lie in slogans, accusations and oversimplifications.

There were some words that he spoke that might have indicated concern for African-Americans (on the last day of Black History Month) or Jews, as anti-Semitic acts continue across the nation, or even those who are poor and are in the greatest need of government support for a hand up. He had a few moments when he was platitudinous towards those among us who suffer the most, but he ruined that when he created an artificial and anointed class of victims as identified in his specious VOICE program (Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement.

It took forever for the speech to end, as the president seemed to Lenny Skutnik everyone in the House Gallery. The coup de grace was a moment that might have come out of Family Feud, but instead it was Trump egregiously falsifying the facts and duping much of the media into believing his false sincerity.

On the surface, Trump was doing something honorable, acknowledging the pain and grief of a woman whose husband had recently been killed in a covert operation in Yemen. What Trump did not tell the nation, though the mainstream media certainly knew, was that  William “Ryan” Owens had died on a problematic mission that was approved by Trump five days into his presidency. The Obama Administration had studied the mission but had not green-lighted it. The degree of serious consideration that Trump gave the “go” order is reflected by the fact that he made his decision while eating dinner rather than being in the Situation Room with knowledgeable advisors (assuming that any such people were in his administration at that time).

Trump did not mention that the plan went seriously wrong, in a somewhat similar fashion to President Jimmy Carter’s well-intentioned rescue mission into Iran in 1980 designed to free captured American hostages. The fact that Owens lost his life in this raid and that considerable treasure was lost while little was gained did not seem to faze Trump. There was no indication of self-reflection that perhaps he, Trump, bore a major measure of responsibility for Owens’ death.

Owens’ father was so upset about the circumstances of his son’s death, that as he told the Miami Herald in a recent interview, he did not want to meet Trump when the president attended Owens’ dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Feb. 1.

“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him,” Bill Owens told the Florida newspaper on Friday.

Owens also called for an investigation into his son’s death and additionally said he was troubled by Trump’s treatment of the Khans, a Gold Star family of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq.

So as Owens’ father chose to not be part of Trump wrapping the flag around himself, the president looked elsewhere to create a charade of concern and non-responsibility. Owens’ widow, Carryn, was naturally grief-stricken. It was an honor for her to sit in the gallery of the House during a presidential speech and have her husband’s life recognized. The bottom line to her was that her husband had died while on a military mission. He was not coming back. The president seemingly felt her pain.

So when the speech was over, I was waiting for the mainstream to put things in perspective. First I tuned  in to MSNBC. Brian Williams called the speech “soaring.” Rachel Maddow spoke next and said something eminently forgettable, not challenging a thing that Trump had said.

Exploitative Trump

I switched to CNN and was glad when it was Van Jones’ turn to speak. I was expecting a dose of reality. Instead, Jones said about Trump’s tribute to Carryn Owens, “He became President of the United States in that moment, period. That was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics.” Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord loved that and only David Axelrod brought a little moderation to the moment.

I went on-line to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post and elsewhere to find some skepticism about Trump’s speech. All I read and saw was how “presidential” and temperate he was.

When the media buys into Trump, it becomes scary. Last night was a “long national nightmare for me.” I’m up now and hoping for better. Like everyone, Van Jones or Rachel Maddow are entitled to times when they are off their game. I say to them what 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern said in his campaign, “Come home, America.”