Trump warns Comey and attacks media

The Donald Trump sacking of FBI Director James Comey is escalating after the reasons for the termination have kept changing, and Trump appears to be unhappy with the bad press.

The sacking is said to be because he was getting increasingly irate with Comey and with media coverage of investigations into Russian collusion with Trumps presidential campaign.

Now Trump seems to be getting even more irate with the media for covering the debacle.

  • Then the President came for the media.
  • Then the President came for the FBI.
  • Then the President came for the media again.

CBS News: Sean Spicer faces first White House briefing since Comey’s firing

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Friday is giving his first briefing since President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, as questions about the timing and reasoning behind Mr. Trump’s shocking decision mount.

Mr. Trump suggested Friday morning over Twitter that maybe “it would be best to cancel” the White House press briefings, after Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave an account of the decision to fire Comey that was in direct conflict with what Mr. Trump said later.

Spicer has been at the Pentagon fulfilling his Naval Reserve duty, and was supposed to continue work at the Pentagon Friday, but was called back to the White House. The president suggested, again over Twitter, that because he’s such “a very active President,” that his surrogates can’t speak for him “with perfect accuracy.”

The White House has claimed Mr. Trump fired Comey because he lost the confidence of rank-and-file FBI employees and because of a Tuesday recommendation from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Comey over his handling of the Clinton email investigation.

But Mr. Trump himself has contradicted initial statements (as well as his own termination letter of Comey), claiming he was going to fire Comey regardless of any DOJ recommendation and that when he decided to fire Comey, he thought of the “made-up” story about his connections to Russia.

Earlier this year, the president also asked Comey to pledge his loyalty. Comey responded that he could promise that he’d be honest with him.

Mr. Trump’s account of the dinner differs from Comey’s, and earlier Friday, he tweeted that Comey had “better hope that there are no ‘tapes.‘”

Comey was leading the investigation into Russian election meddling.

Fox News: It was all Trump’s decision: POTUS changes White House narrative on Comey firing

When President Trump sat down with Lester Holt yesterday, he essentially altered the version of James Comey’s firing that his top aides have been pressing in public.

“I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” he told the NBC anchor. The recommendation in question was a two-page memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who had been on the job for two weeks.

Rosenstein is “highly respected,” Trump said, “he made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey” (who he called a “showboat” and a “grandstander”).

At Wednesday’s press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked: “So it’s the White House’s assertion that Rod Rosenstein decided on his own, after being confirmed, to review Comey’s performance?”

“Absolutely,” she replied. “And I think most of America had decided on their own that Director Comey was not the person that should be leading the FBI.”

But if the president asked for a review to buttress a move he planned to take anyway, then Rosenstein’s letter isn’t the crucial document that was being advertised.

Sanders told ABC’s Jon Karl yesterday she hadn’t had the chance to ask the president that question about whether he had already made up his mind. “Nobody was in the dark…You’re trying to create this false narrative,” she said.

None of this affects the core question of whether the president acted properly in canning his FBI director. But it does underscore that the administration’s rollout of this controversial decision has been shaky.

The media narrative has moved on to whether the White House is engaging in some kind of coverup, with newspaper accounts challenging some of the administration’s key points.

And that is upsetting Trump, further raising suspicions that he is trying to hide something.

NY Times: Trump Warns Comey and Says He May Cancel Press Briefings

President Trump on Friday warned James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director he fired this week, against leaking anything negative about the president and put the news media on notice that he may cancel future White House briefings.

In a series of early-morning posts on Twitter, Mr. Trump even seemed to suggest that there may be secret tapes of his conversations with Mr. Comey that could be used to counter the former F.B.I. director if necessary. It was not immediately clear whether he meant that literally, or simply hoped to intimidate Mr. Comey into silence.

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Trump appeared agitated over news reports on Friday that focused on contradictory accounts of his decision to fire Mr. Comey at the same time the F.B.I. is investigating ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

A self inflicted train wreck by Trump. It was only a matter of time before his reactive behaviour and ego would escalate – at least this is happening on internal matters and not in the Far East or the Middle East.

The presidency could be in a state of failure, but Foreign Policy goes further and asks Is America a Failing State?

We have the tin-pot leader whose vanity knows no bounds. We have the rapacious family feathering their nests without regard for the law or common decency.

We have utter disregard for values at home and abroad, the disdain for democracy, the hunger for constraining a free press, the admiration for thugs and strongmen worldwide.

We have all the makings of a banana republic. But worse, we are showing the telltale signs of a failing state. Our government has ceased to function. Party politics and gross self-interest has rendered the majority party oblivious to its responsibilities to its constituents and the Constitution of the United States.

On a daily basis, Republicans watch their leader violate not only the traditions and standards of the high office he occupies, but through inaction they enable him to personally profit from the presidency, promote policies that benefit his cronies and his class to the detriment of the majority of the American people, and serially attack the principles on which the country was founded — from freedom of religion to the separation of powers.

Is it that bad? It is looking increasingly like that.

Trump has had staunch supporters but some of those must be starting to wonder whether he is unfit for purpose.


Spiralling into a crescendo of crap

News is important to many of us. Therefore media must be important to us, because they provide us with most of our news.

But there seems to be a growing amount of trivia and opinion and unjustified sensation – I don’t know if this is by proportion or just because we have access to many more news sources. Probably both.

Damian Grant writes about Using a playmate to separate the signal from the noise.

This refers to the headlines of a ‘playmate’ naked on Mt Taranaki on a day that the Commerce Commission turned down the proposed merger of two major media companies.

I’m not a fan of the Commerce Commission. I’d like to drag it to the top of a mountain and leave it shivering naked in the cold, but the impending collapse of our news media raises a serious question; does news matter?

I’m not sure that our new media will collapse, but it is certainly going through significant change.

Statisticians have a term; the Signal to Noise Ratio. This refers to the amount of useless data that obscures the signal they are trying to see.

Reading the paper is an exercise in filtering stories about naked girls on a mountain from actual news that will have an effect on your life.

I don’t think it’s quite that simple. There is a growing lack of differentiation between news and entertainment. They even call what would have been current affairs programmes shows now. The show must go on.

Currently the media is spilling billions of pixels and a small lake of ink on speculation about the upcoming election. Are you better informed as a result of reading this speculation, or would your time be better spent walking the dog and waiting for the final result?

I think most people have very good political filters. That’s why media tries to portray boring administration of the country as sensational scandals. Probably with little success most of the time.

Worse than the noise, much of what we read is actively misleading. A car crash story creates the impression that car crashes are a regular occurrence, stories about a housing crisis can easily mislead readers to thinking that there is a housing crisis.

Media and opposition MPs frequently cry wolf about crises.  A major problem with this is that the occasional genuine issues of real concern are easily ignored as same old crap.

The object of the news media isn’t to provide news, it is to entertain and, on occasion, create its own news and controversy by, as an example, deliberately using a mountain’s colonial name in order to generate outrage.

But they end up promoting their own generated ‘outrage’ as further news, or at least other media does to create their own stories.

It was unusual this week to see genuine outrage by some media over how Newshub presented their story on the leaked Pike River video footage. This was an exception.

There’s an old media saying “if it bleeds it leads”.

Obviously there is no news in reporting that thousands of people travelled by car without incident or accident. Crashes and crime are news.

But how news is presented, or over-presented, creates an unbalanced perception of how bad things are overall. And it seems to be snowballing as media tries to make more noise to attract attention.

And there seems to be growing problems of use of ‘fake news’.

Perhaps they should be trying to improve their signal, but the don’t seem to get that message.

Signs are they are spiralling into a crescendo of crap.

Comey ‘probably cost Clinton the election’

An analysis of polls and media coverage by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight makes a strong case in support of the claim that The Comey Letter Probably Cost Clinton The Election

It may well have been the final nail in a poor campaign. Trumps campaign was also poor but it succeeded where it mattered, with the help of Comey.

But Silver also makes a strong case for the influence of the media and their denials of the impact they have.

And this applies to New Zealand as well, on a smaller scale.

Hillary Clinton would probably be president if FBI Director James Comey had not sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28. The letter, which said the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” into the private email server that Clinton used as secretary of state, upended the news cycle and soon halved Clinton’s lead in the polls, imperiling her position in the Electoral College.

The letter isn’t the only reason that Clinton lost. It does not excuse every decision the Clinton campaign made. Other factors may have played a larger role in her defeat…

But the effect of those factors — say, Clinton’s decision to give paid speeches to investment banks, or her messaging on pocket-book issues, or the role that her gender played in the campaign — is hard to measure.

The impact of Comey’s letter is comparatively easy to quantify, by contrast. At a maximum, it might have shifted the race by 3 or 4 percentage points toward Donald Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida to him, perhaps along with North Carolina and Arizona. At a minimum, its impact might have been only a percentage point or so.

Still, because Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point, the letter was probably enough to change the outcome of the Electoral College.

And yet, from almost the moment that Trump won the White House, many mainstream journalists have been in denial about the impact of Comey’s letter.

It hasn’t just been journalists who have been in denial about the effect of Comey’s letter. Trump chooses to ignore it and promote his own greatness, but that is what he does.

Many Trump supporters seem to want to think he won simply on merit and don’t want to consider he wasn’t that great, he just ended up being slightly less ungreat than Clinton in a few key states.

Why would the media want to ‘forget’ about the Comey letter effect?

The motivation for this seems fairly clear: If Comey’s letter altered the outcome of the election, the media may have some responsibility for the result.

The media were as poor throughout the campaign as the Clinton and Trump campaigns, and as with other issues they over-emphasised the Comey letter, helping make it a game changer. The whole campaign debacle was an appalling advertisement for democracy.

One can believe that the Comey letter cost Clinton the election without thinking that the media cost her the election — it was an urgent story that any newsroom had to cover.

But if the Comey letter had a decisive effect and the story was mishandled by the press — given a disproportionate amount of attention relative to its substantive importance, often with coverage that jumped to conclusions before the facts of the case were clear — the media needs to grapple with how it approached the story.

Is the media likely to examine and grapple with how it handled the election? That’s probably as likely as Clinton examining and accepting her own shortcomings, or as likely as Trump becoming modest about his win and his presidency.

If I were advising a future candidate on what to learn from 2016, I’d tell him or her to mostly forget about the Comey letter and focus on the factors that were within the control of Clinton and Trump. That’s not my purpose here. Instead, it’s to get at the truth — to figure out the real story of the election.

The real story is that the Comey letter had a fairly large and measurable impact, probably enough to cost Clinton the election. It wasn’t the only thing that mattered, and it might not have been the most important. But the media is still largely in denial about how much of an effect it had.

That applies to the whole campaign.

Modern media plays an integral part in elections. They are a major influence on what voters learn about candidates.

And media has moved far to far from being reporters, investigators and informers, and they have become far too much political activists and promoters.

This is not just true of the US.

In New Zealand the media have become tools of political campaigns because it generates headlines and stories, and some in media have become virtual political activists, their egos driving their coverage more than balance and perspective.

This is likely to continue because the media are excused by the majority, those who win, those who get favourable outcomes, those in power, in part due to the campaign influence of media.

The media probably cost Clinton the election as much as the Comey letter did, but the media had also contributed significantly to Clinton – and Trump – being the eventual candidates. Two very flawed candidates in a very flawed political system dominated by a very flawed media.

Social media has a growing influence, but in large part that is due to the deficiencies of the ‘mainstream’ media.

Paying for news?

The massive move of media online, and the creaming of profits by international giants like Google and Facebook, have had a huge impact on traditional news gathering and distribution.

Good journalism costs money. It used to be subsidised by general advertising. That model has been demolished.

There is a resistance to pay for news online, in part because there are so many free alternatives – there is no compulsion to pay.

If the Herald or Dominion Post disappeared would most people on Facebook even notice?

Possibly not, but it would be to the detriment of the country, unless alternatives filled the news gap.

Should we pay for our news?

I don’t subscribe to any news service. I gave up my ODT subscription a couple of years ago. I gave up my Sky subscription last year.

I found that I was hardly reading the newspaper (ODT) so it wasn’t worth spending around $26 a month for. I got most of my news from a wide variety of sources online.

And I resented Sky forcing me to pay about $1000 per year when I only wanted a tenth of what they provided.

I haven’t subscribed anywhere else because it is too expensive. A single subscription might be good value if that’s where I sourced most news from, but I regularly read 20 news sources and forums, actually probably more than that. Full subscriptions for them all would be ridiculously expensive.

I would be prepared to pay for news if my money could be spread over multiple suppliers, and it wasn’t too expensive.

I think the biggest problem with traditional media is that they think they can apply their old model of one subscription to a vastly different, very fragmented media world. That’s where they are failing.

I don’t have an easy answer, but if news is to be paid for then a different way of doing things is required.

I never used to read the Herald or Dominion. Now Stuff and NZH online might provide me with about 10% of my news and information, so I’m not going to pay full traditional level subscriptions to both of them, and to a bunch of other providers.

They don’t seem to understand this.

Traditional news companies are too focussed on trying not to lose current subscribers paying full price, but they are gradually losing them and advertisers anyway. And they are not attracting business from part time readers and viewers.

It would be difficult, but a country as small as New Zealand could get radical and set up a universal system of micro payments for pay per view.

I don’t know if that could work.

But I know full subscriptions for fractional use, more obtrusive advertising (I usually just close pages that are too annoying and go somewhere else) and too much trash are failing and will always fail.

If news is too expensive or too hard to view I won’t go there.

If Fairfax and NZME had merged and set up a news pay wall demanding a full subscription I simply wouldn’t have used them.

I don’t actually need news. I can go on holiday and miss a week or two of news and survive quite easily. I can dump Sky and survive quite easily.

It’s actually good to not have to choose between a barrage of crap just to get a small amount of content I actually want.

If media companies want to survive and thrive that need to stop thinking through their traditional subscription lens and understand how us the readers and viewers see things.

The NZME/Fairfax merger didn’t appear to address this at all. They seemed to think if they were big enough they could demand full sized subscriptions, but they would still only be a fraction of what is available.

Available media has become very fragmented. Fragmented payments are probably the only way of getting people to pay what it is worth to them.

NZME and Fairfax merged would have been large, but would still have provided just a fraction of New Zealand’s news.

I would be happy to pay for good news and for good journalism, but not on traditional terms. I would want to spread it across multiple providers.


Ridiculous demands for urgent inquiry

Some media and some politicians are demanding an urgent, immediate inquiry into the Afghan attack the SAS were involved in. This is ridiculous.

Sound governance should not operate on the demands of the every shortening news cycle, nor on the demands of increasingly activist ‘journalists’ trying to create headlines.

The merits of the claims by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson on their book Hit & Run should be carefully assessed, and alternate views also have to be considered.

This will take time.More time than a journalist or pundit getting a book at 5:30 pm, making a pronouncement on the 6 o’clock news, reading the book overnight and leading the morning headlines with demands for instant action from Government.

The Minister of Defence and the head of the NZ Defence Force are out of the country until Saturday. They have to be consulted.

People taking more time and care than journalists jumping to conclusions based on a one sided book need to check through the claims – and ask questions, seek other views, and assess the merits of the claims.

Even Nicky Hager says that time is needed.

Mar 22, 2017 12:57 PM
Nicky Hager
I hope that politicians will have the sense to avoid dismissing any of the allegations we’ve put forward until they have really seriously looked at them and asked questions. I believe that this issue is not going to go away quickly, that we are going to end up with it being investigated over months or years, and it would be wise for all politicians to keep an open mind when they haven’t even had a chance to read the book.

The raid occurred in Afghanistan in 2010.

Hager and Stephenson have been working on the book since 2014.

Demanding action to fit with a ridiculously short news cycle is not only nuts, it’s irresponsible.

Bill English has been criticised for not taking decisive action. That can be expected from bloggers but journalists should know better – if they weren’t so encased in there instant news bubbles.

If in a couple of weeks or a couple of months the Government decides that an inquiry is justified – and that may well turn out to be the prudent option – the same journalists who didn’t  have their instant demands met, and a few politicians and bloggers, are likely to label it a flip flop or u-turn.

I want a Prime Minister who will consider serious issues – as the Afghan incident is – and will seek good advice before making decisions.

Bill English needs to sharpen up on how he deals with media howling for instant action.

But he is correct in taking his time considering how the Government should deal with the claims in the Hager/Stephenson book.

Sometimes Prime Ministers and Governments have to react quickly and decisively to events that happen.

An incident that happened 7 years ago, and claims in a book that has taken 3 years to write, don’t justify instant political action. To the contrary.

Very serious legal issues have been raised, including suggestions of possible war crimes.

A Government not only should but has to take time seeking sound legal advice. They should also allow other evidence to be presented.

Demands for an atom bomb instant reaction are more than ridiculous, they are also stupid.

Media failure over donation reporting?

Posted yesterday (Sunday) at 9:30 am on Whale Oil: Another big donation for National, none for Labour yet

National has scored another big donation, again from Stone Shi.

A New Zealand Herald article National gets $50k donation from Oravida founder is quoted (without being linked), dated Friday.

So, Act and National are receiving big donations. Why isn’t Labour?

Then an our later at Whale Oil: So, a rich man gave money to Labour and the Greens, yet no one reported it

Earlier today I posted about the media announcing that Stone Shi gave $50,000 to the National party and that Jenny Gibbs has given a hundy to Act.

But, what is curious is the lack of reporting over another large donation, given just a few weeks before Stone Shi’s donation.

So, just three weeks before Stone Shi donated to National, Phillip Mills donated the same amount to the Labour party. Why was there no news of this in the mainstream media?

It isn’t like it is hidden, it is just two entries down the list from the Shi and Gibbs donations.

This can only be a deliberate deception by the NZ Herald to ignore large donations to Labour and highlight large donations to National and Act. It should be noted that on 9 November 2016 Phillip Mills also gave $65,000 to the Green party. Strangely that wasn’t reported either.

The register of donations is published in the interests of transparency to the government, yet the very people who are supposed to guard that transparency have failed the public because they have only reported donations to National and Act and not also to Labour and the Greens.

This is tantamount to a corruption of our news media, willingly, by them. The Media party has an agenda, and here is a perfect example of how they mislead, this time by omitting pertinent facts.

The bias is obvious, you just need to know where to look to reveal it.

National gets a donation, it becomes news. Labour gets a donation, not a mutter, not a murmur, not a mention. That is media dishonesty.

This is gobsmacking on a number of levels.

So Slater cut and pasted a Herald article and used it to diss Labour. Then he slams the ‘dishonest journalism’ that he repeated. I wonder if someone tipped him off to have a look at the donation list himself after his initial post, or perhaps he was just fed the details.

Whale Oil still claims to be media. From About:

Whaleoil is the fastest-growing media organisation in New Zealand. Its brand of news, opinion, analysis and entertainment is finding fertile ground with an audience that is feeling abandoned by traditional news media.

They often criticise other media  – while frequently using other media’s content. They claim they are a new way of doing journalism, much better than those they ridicule.

In this case Slater used Herald content to try and score a political hit against Labour, then turned on the Herald for ‘Dishonest journalism’. That in itself is highly ironic.

But why didn’t Whale Oil report on the donation to Labour three weeks ago? It’s as easy for them to monitor Electoral Commission donation lists as it is for the Herald.

They are slamming the Herald for not reporting on something that they didn’t report themselves, until they reacted to a Herald article that they used for their own purposes.

Whale Oil shows few signs of being a media site that does journalism these days.

The Daily Blog does a lot more original content than them now.

Whale Oil has reverted to being a blog that relies on repeating other media content, with trashing of the media that feeds them being some of their only original content.

The failure of Whale Oil to report the donation to Labour earlier is a symptom of it’s failure to become a credible alternative media outlet.

War with the press strategic

It is fairly obvious that Trump and his campaign team, and now Trump and his White House team, are running a war on the media strategy.

This is made easier by how some of the media have dealt with Trump and how they continue to report on him.

VOX: Trump can be impulsive. But his war with the press is strategic.

Donald Trump very deliberately picked a fight with the media to help fuel his rise to the White House, and now that he’s there — and his administration is struggling — he is strategically escalating it.

On Friday, the administration canceled press secretary Sean Spicer’s scheduled briefing to the full White House press corps, and replaced it instead with an off-camera briefing to which some media outlets were invited — and others were excluded, including CNN, the New York Times, Politico, and BuzzFeed News.

This isn’t an isolated incident. The move came on the heels of a morning speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in which Trump complained, at length, about what he called the “fake” media, saying “they are the enemy of the people.”

And at Trump’s freewheeling press conference last week, he similarly started off by denouncing members of the media who, he said, “will not tell you the truth and will not treat the wonderful people of our country with the respect that we deserve.”

Trump can be erratic, reactionary and unpredictable but this is too consistent to be anything other than a deliberate strategy.

Though Trump is surely motivated in part by personal pique here, and he has long complained about the press, it’s now indisputable that the attacks on the press are part of a deliberate White House strategy — one that has the fingerprints of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who early on in the administration suggested the media was the “opposition party” and Trump’s most important foe.

Some claim this is to divert from what the White House are achieving. Andrew Prokop claims this is to hide their lack of achievements, including:

  1. He’s ended his first month without any significant accomplishments (since his controversial immigration and travel order is currently frozen in the courts).
  2.  2) He’s been plagued by a seemingly endless series of leaks from what appears to be every level of the government.
  3. There are burgeoning scandals potentially implicating his administration officials and associates — scandals publicized and often exacerbated by the aforementioned leaks.
  4. With Democrats reduced to minority status in both houses of Congress, and years remaining before candidates begin challenging him for the 2020 election, he’s lacking an obvious enemy to make his foil.

It could be a bit of both – diversion from what they are trying to do and diversion from failures.

Trump appears to be trying to solve all these problems by attacking the press. Doing so changes the subject from his lack of accomplishments and scandals. It also discredits the institution that is the conveyor of a great deal of negative information about him. And it gives Trump a nemesis he can fire up the conservative base by fighting.

The strategy certainly seems be be pleasing at least some of Trump’s support base, who only seem to see positives in him so anyone who criticises is seen as a negative.

But the fairly large number of sceptics and opponents are unlikely to be converted to the Trump cause by this. They also risk losing from support if Trump fails to live up to his boasts.

Trump and his team are deepening the divide. This may or may not be a deliberate strategy.

Will it work? Maybe, to an extent (every President will always have opponents).

The bigger picture here is that being president is difficult, and Donald Trump has had a particularly rocky start to his administration.

With his appointees bogged down in Congress, no evident movement on any of his major legislative priorities, his main executive action blocked in the courts, and his top national security aide already fired and replaced, Trump has little to show for his first month in office.

The idea that he can get his mojo back by attacking the press might seem to make sense. After all, Trump enjoys fighting, so if the goal here is to please the president by picking a fight, then mission accomplished.

But if the goal is to actually get anything done in this administration, it’s not so clear this is wise. Picking random fights with the media won’t help the White House get anything through Congress. It won’t make FBI investigations go away. And it won’t help the administration’s arguments in the courts.

Another problem is that if the administration destroys its own credibility by waging a war on the press, it could have a hard time getting its message out later when it truly needs to — say, during a major crisis of some kind.

A ‘cry wolf’ problem. This also applies to when there is actually valid criticism of some media – it could be largely ignored as just more strategy.

The media has a credibility problem, but so does Trump. It’s likely the bulk of the public will become even more disillusioned with both the politicians and the press.

Moves like this could also make the leak problem worse. The more people inside the government get scared that Trump is threatening democracy, the more they might be motivated to leak a damaging bit of information before it’s too late.

Finally, it’s also worth remembering that presidents can greatly damage themselves by overreacting to leaks. The Watergate scandal came about because President Nixon was furious at leaks, and in an effort to “fight back” against leakers, his White House aides created the “plumbers” to retaliate against leakers and political opponents (because plumbers, you see, fix leaks). This eventually led to the botched Watergate break-in at the DNC headquarters. That didn’t play so well in the press, either.

Trump, Bannon et al may feel that they are invincible, the best anti-press revolutionary strategists ever.

But for all it’s faults the media is a many pronged and resilient combatant, spread around the US and around the world.

And all they have to do is observe, investigate and report. They don’t have to try and run the world’s biggest power and biggest bureaucracy at the same time.

Comical Donny and the buttons

Donald Trump’s anti-media button pushing antics could be comical, if it weren’t for serious matters like nuclear buttons.

‘Nobody hates the media worse than me’?

Trump should love the US mainstream media, because they more than anything gave him the exposure he needed to win the presidency. Negative was good, even great. It fed his campaign.

But as President he is continuing and even escalating attacks on media now that he doesn’t want negative press. Or is using them as a diversion from what he and the Whiter House are trying to do.

He has established two big bogeys, Muslims and media. I wonder what he thinks of Al Jazeera.

Politico: Trump escalates his feud with the media

President Donald Trump fired the latest shot in his self-proclaimed war with the media Friday, doubling down on his declaration that the press is an “enemy of the American people.”

“I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake,” Trump said in his remarks at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. “A few days ago, I called the fake news ‘the enemy of the people,’ and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources. They just make them up when there are none.”

This appears to be a deliberate strategy of telling Americans to only believe his crap and to disbelieve anyone else’s crap. This is working with his supporters, who seem to be under some sort of ‘Donald can do no wrong’ spell.

But with his RCP average approval rating at 445  compared to disapproval at 49.8 it seems that he can suck in less than half the people at this time.

He condemned the use of anonymous sources, which he claimed without evidence were fake accounts drummed up by an industry with its own agenda that everyday Americans must fight against. He ominously vowed to “do something about it.”

Trump cited polls conducted by CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC News over the past two years that signaled that he wouldn’t prevail in the presidential election as evidence of the media conspiring to create “a whole false deal” to suppress GOP voter turnout.

Except that media actually gave his campaign the coverage it needed.

Reporters, he said, are very smart, very cunning and very dishonest people who cry “First Amendment” when their stories are criticized, or, in the president’s word, “exposed.”

That’s very dishonest but that’s the irony of Donald Trump – it’s a standard tactic to accuse others of what he is. Bannon and Breitbart have done it. Slater and associates have done it. It’s one of the top strategies from their play book.

“I love the First Amendment. Nobody loves it better than me. Nobody,” Trump said. “I mean, who uses it more than I do”

Nobody does bullshit better than Trump.

But the First Amendment gives all of us — it gives it to me, it gives it you, it gives it to all Americans — the right to speak our minds freely. It gives you the right and me the right to criticize fake news and criticize it strongly.”

“As you saw throughout the entire campaign, and even now, the fake news doesn’t tell the truth. Doesn’t tell the truth,” he continued. “I say it doesn’t represent the people. It never will represent the people. And we’re gonna do something about it, because we have to go out and we have to speak our minds, and we have to be honest.”

Well, that would be a change then. But I don’t expect the smoke and mirrors and fire and brimstone to abate.

Trump, in his address before CPAC, didn’t directly address the allegations, but he did voice his opposition to “people that make up stories and make up sources.”

“They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name,” he said of the media. “Let their name be put out there. Let their name be put out.”

Trump sarcastically stated, “A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being.”

“Let them say it to my face. Let there be no more sources,” he added. “They are very dishonest people. And they shouldn’t use sources. They should put the name of the person. You will see stories dry up like you’ve never seen before.”

Politics without ‘sources’, political media without sources would be gutted. Of course anonymous leaks can be misused and abused, and often are, but the alternative is far worse.

Trump appears to be trying to be building another wall, a wall of silence around the White House which only allows himself and his apparatchiks to trumpet from the parapets.

This would be Emperor has clothes, but it’s easy to see what’s beneath the ruffles and rhetoric. Easy for those who haven’t been sucked in by his spell.

“There are no nine people. I don’t believe there was one or two people,” Trump said. He provided no evidence to refute the Post’s account but suggested he has insight because he knows the sources.”

So he doesn’t want others to use anonymous sources but ‘the people’ should accept his anonymous sources without question? A typical Trump double standard.

“Nine people,” he continued. “And I said, ‘Give me a break,’ because I know the people. I know who they talk to. There were no nine people. But they say nine people. And somebody reads it and they think, ‘Oh, nine people, they have nine sources.’ They make up sources. They’re very dishonest people.”

This is all trivial, pathetic bullshit. But it’s Trump.

Is he knowingly trying to play the people like this? Or is he being used as a comical diversion while the real power is built and wielded?

It would be comical if there wasn’t so much at stake, for the world. This is the person who said:

“I am the first one that would like to see … nobody have nukes, but we’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power.

“It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack”.

It turned out that Comical Ali and Saddam Hussein didn’t have the weapons of mass destruction as claimed by another US president.

This president does have weapons of mass destruction far greater than are needed to obliterate the world. And while he pushes the media’s buttons as a diversion, the real risks are not a laughing matter.


Quoting Trump

It’s hard to get away from Donald Trump’s media confrontation. Vox: 9 things it’s hard to believe the president of the United States actually just said

On leaks and ‘fake news’:

Question: I just want to get you to clarify this very important point. Can you say definitively that nobody on your campaign had any contacts with the Russians during the campaign? And on the leaks, is it fake news or are these real leaks?

Trump: Well, the leaks are real. You’re the one that wrote about them and reported them; I mean, the leaks are real. You know what they said, you saw it, and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.

So one thing that I felt it was very important to do — and I hope we can correct it. Because there’s nobody I have more respect for — well, maybe a little bit but the reporters, good reporters.

That’s typically bizarre – the leaks are real but reporting them is fake.

Just rambling on about ‘fake news’:

Trump: I don’t mind bad stories. I can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it’s true and, you know, over a course of time, I’ll make mistakes and you’ll write badly, and I’m okay with that. But I’m not okay when it is fake …

I mean, you have a lower approval rate than Congress. I think that’s right. I don’t know, Peter (ph), is that one right? Because you know I think they have lower — I heard lower than Congress. But honestly, the public would appreciate it, I’d appreciate it — again, I don’t mind bad stories when it’s true but we have an administration where the Democrats are making it very difficult.

Against CNN:

Trump: I mean, I watch CNN, it’s so much anger and hatred, and just the hatred. I don’t watch it anymore because it’s not very good. … I think it should be straight. I think it should be — I think it would be frankly more interesting. I know how good everybody’s ratings are right now, but I think that actually — I think that’d actually be better.

I don’t watch it any more because it’s very good — he’s saying no. It’s OK, Jim. It’s OK, Jim, you’ll have your chance. But I watch others too. You’re not the only one so don’t feel badly. But I think it should be straight. I think it should be — I think it would be frankly more interesting.

Perhaps Trump could try talking about important, interesting issues rather than moan about negative press, that they then report on.

On not talking about military stuff:

Trump: I’m not going to tell you anything about what I’m going to do. I’m not going to talk about military stuff. I will not say, “We are going to attack Mosul in four months. We are going to attack in one month. Next week, we are going to attack Mosul.”

In the meantime, Mosul is very, very difficult — you know why? I don’t talk about military and certain other things. You were going to be surprised to hear that, by the way, my whole campaign I said that. I don’t have to tell you.

Back to ‘fake news’ and confidence in the media:

Reporter: When you call it “fake news,” you’re undermining confidence in our news media …

Trump: No, no. I do that. Here’s the thing. OK. I understand what you’re — and you’re right about that, except this. See, I know when I should get good and when I should get bad. And sometimes I’ll say, “Wow, that’s going to be a great story.” And I’ll get killed.

I know what’s good and bad. I’d be a pretty good reporter, not as good as you. But I know what’s good. I know what’s bad. And when they change it and make it really bad, something that should be positive — sometimes something that should be very positive, they’ll make OK. They’ll even make it negative.

So I understand it. So, because I’m there. I know what was said. I know who’s saying it. I’m there. So it’s very important to me.

Look, I want to see an honest press. When I started off today by saying that it’s so important to the public to get an honest press. The press — the public doesn’t believe you people anymore. Now, maybe I had something to do with that. I don’t know. But they don’t believe you. If you were straight and really told it like it is, as Howard Cosell used to say, right?

Ranting and raving about not ranting and raving:

TRUMP: I won with news conferences and probably speeches. I certainly didn’t win by people listening to you people. That’s for sure. But I’m having a good time.

Tomorrow, they will say, “Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.” I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But — but I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it.

But tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, “Donald Trump rants and raves.” I’m not ranting and raving.

On Russia, Hillary Clinton and uranium:

Trump: By the way, it would be great if we could get along with Russia. Just so you understand that. Tomorrow, you will say “Donald Trump wants to get along with Russia; this is terrible.” It is not terrible.

It is good. We had Hillary Clinton try to do a reset. We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20% of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? It’s this thing called nuclear weapons. And other things. Like lots of things are done with uranium. Including some bad things.

But nobody talks about that. I did not do anything for Russia. I’ve done nothing for Russia. Hillary Clinton gave them 20% of our uranium. Hillary Clinton did a reset, remember with the stupid plastic button that made us all look like a bunch of jerks?

A nuclear holocaust would be bad.

Trump: I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it: Nuclear holocaust would be like no other. They’re a very powerful nuclear country, and so are we.

If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along — and don’t forget, we’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. There’s no upside. We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other.

They’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.

Is Trump really this stupid? Or is he being deliberately stupid to play to the media? Or playing to a stupid audience?

Trump media conference

There is a lot of buzz about Donald Trump’s media conference – or more like a media condemnation.

Stuff: Donald Trump calls impromptu news conference, and uses it to attack the media again

US President Donald Trump has gone on the defensive over his presidency, accusing America’s news media of being “out of control” at a White House news conference, vowing to bypass the media and take his message “straight to the people.”

Nearly a month into his presidency, Trump said he had “inherited a mess” but his new administration had made “significant progress” and took credit for an optimistic business climate and a rising stock market. He pushed back against widespread reports of a chaotic start to his administration marked by a contentious executive order – now tied up in a legal fight – to place a ban on travellers from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

“This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine,” Trump declared on Thursday (Friday NZT).

That’s not how it appears. It’s not just problems with the media, Trump has ongoing problems with the Courts and had a senior appointee resign.

During the news conference, Trump made a number of misstatements. He said for the third time in two days that he had won 306 Electoral College votes in his election. The correct number was 304. He called it “the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan,” when in fact his predecessor, Barack Obama, won 334 electoral college votes in 2012 and 365 in 2008.

When pressed on the figures, Trump said that he meant he achieved a bigger Electoral College victory than any Republican since Reagan in 1980 and 1984 but a reporter pointed out that wasn’t true either as George Bush senior brought in 426 electoral votes in the 1988 election.

When further challenged on this claim, Trump said, “I was given that information. I don’t know. I was just given it. We had a very, very big margin.”

While this may seem like nit picking over numbers it is symptomatic of Trump’s ego problem and his looseness with basic facts. Perhaps those who supply him with information are tardy with facts – or perhaps this is a deliberate strategy to divert from things that really matter.

“The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people,” Trump said.

This is a standard Breitbart/Bannon tactic – accuse opponents of what you are guilty of, in this case deliberate dishonesty.

The president announced that he would announce a “new and very comprehensive order to protect our people.”

Perhaps this time they will consult with people with a knowledge of the law and experience with drafting legal orders.

Reaction from an undeterred ‘fake news’ organisation:

Another ‘dishonest media’ report:  Trump blasts ‘out of control’ media, defends agenda, administration

President Trump’s feud with the media turned into an all-out war Thursday afternoon.

His early presidency beset by damaging leaks and a burst of staff turmoil, Trump used a hastily called press conference to blast the media’s coverage of his administration in his strongest terms yet. He claimed the press is “out of control,” reports on his team’s ties to Russia are “fake,” and news outlets are attacking him because they oppose his agenda.

“The media’s trying to attack our administration because they know we are following through on the pledges that we made, and they’re not happy about it,” Trump declared at the White House.

The president spoke and took questions for over an hour, even joking with some reporters toward the end and saying he was having fun. In a bid to preempt negative coverage of his remarks, Trump insisted he was not “ranting and raving.” But he lamented that the “tone” of coverage of his administration is one of “such hatred.”

“The public doesn’t believe you people anymore,” he said.