[Marxism] Trump Ruled the Tabloid Media. Washington Is a Different Story.
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Feb 26 11:59:33 MST 2017
(Very perceptive and cheeky article.)
NY Times, Feb. 26 2017
Trump Ruled the Tabloid Media. Washington Is a Different Story.
By GLENN THRUSH and MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM
WASHINGTON — The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, has taken to
slapping journalists who write unflattering stories with an epithet he
sees as the epitome of low-road, New York Post-style gossip: “Page Six
Whether the New England-bred spokesman realizes it or not, the
expression is perhaps less an insult than a reminder of an era when
Donald J. Trump mastered the New York tabloid terrain — and his own
narrative — shaping his image with a combination of on-the-record
bluster and off-the-record gossip.
He’s not in Manhattan anymore. This New York-iest of politicians, now an
idiosyncratic, write-your-own-rules president, has stumbled into the
most conventional of Washington traps: believing he can master an
entrenched political press corps with far deeper connections to the
permanent government of federal law enforcement and executive department
officials than he has.
Instead, President Trump has found himself subsumed and increasingly
infuriated by the leaks and criticisms he has long prided himself on
vanquishing. Now, goaded by Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist, Mr.
Trump has turned on the news media with escalating rhetoric, labeling
major outlets as “the enemy of the American people.”
His latest swipe — pulling out of Washington’s so-called nerd prom —
came via Twitter on Saturday. “I will not be attending the White House
Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Please
wish everyone well and have a great evening!”
He has made a sharp break from previous presidents — and from his own
comfortable three-decade tango with the tabloids.
“New York is extremely intense and competitive, but it is actually a
much smaller pond than Washington, where you have many more players with
access to many more sources,” said Howard Wolfson, who has split his
career between New York and Washington, advising former Mayor Michael R.
Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
“In New York, you can create a manageable set of relationships in a
smaller universe,” Mr. Wolfson said. “In Washington, that becomes a lot
There is another fundamental difference: During his Page Six days, Mr.
Trump was, by and large, trafficking in trivia. As president, he is
dealing with the most serious issues of the day. They involve the
nation’s safety and prosperity, and it is the role of news organizations
to cover them.
If Mr. Trump’s slap-and-tickle relationship with reporters had a model
back then, people close to him say, it was the gregarious,
unavoidable-for-comment style of Edward I. Koch, the three-term New York
mayor. But his mood in Washington has turned darker, and over the last
week he has executed, alongside Mr. Bannon and Mr. Spicer, what amounts
to the most sustained White House campaign against the news media since
Richard M. Nixon’s second term.
“It’s like Nixonian times again,” said George Rush, a veteran New York
gossip columnist who has covered Mr. Trump for decades. “I just thought
he would have a thicker skin.”
Linda Stasi, who chronicled Mr. Trump’s up-and-down marriage to Marla
Maples in the 1990s for two New York papers, said she could have
predicted the presidential agita. “He would plant stories and he would
get mad if they didn’t come out exactly as he wanted,” she recalled of
earlier dealings with Mr. Trump. “It never occurred to him that he
couldn’t control everything.”
Now, Ms. Stasi said, “he is shocked that he is not in control of the press.”
Attacking the news media, which has an abysmal approval rating among
Republican voters, is sound politics in the short term. But Mr. Trump’s
fury is less strategic than heartfelt. He watches cable TV at night and
exhorts aides like Mr. Spicer and his policy adviser Stephen Miller to
be tougher, according to White House aides.
His anger is compounded by his belief that he should still be able to
plant and steer stories. That was a lot easier to do when he was running
a close-knit real estate and branding business with an aggressive legal
team that demanded that nearly everyone in his orbit sign nondisclosure
For the first time in his life, Mr. Trump is on the public payroll and
subject to a tangle of laws and rules no businessman — especially one
accustomed to overseeing every aspect of a relatively small family
business — would tolerate.
To some extent, the clash with the press was inevitable. Mr. Trump may
be noisier and more confrontational than many of his predecessors, but
he is being force-fed lessons all presidents eventually learn — that the
iron triangle of the Washington press corps, West Wing staff and federal
bureaucracy is simply too powerful to bully.
Mr. Trump’s relationship with the press during the 2016 campaign was
rocky and paradoxical. He was, at times, accessible — frequently calling
reporters to kibbitz, complain or make news.
But as the resentments piled up, his staff, led by Corey Lewandowski,
his first campaign manager, made a point of snubbing journalists it did
not like and confining reporters to a small pen at rallies. Mr. Trump
quickly realized, aides said, that his attacks on the “dishonest” news
media were as popular as his hits on “crooked” Hillary Clinton.
The addition of Mr. Bannon to the campaign team last summer gave the
jostling hostility a sharper edge. Last month, Mr. Bannon described the
Trump-media relationship as “a war” in an interview with The New York Times.
“I want you to quote this,” he said. “The media here is the opposition
party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand
why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
Things have deteriorated since then. The White House, on the defensive
last week after a series of missteps and leaked stories, sought to shift
to offense, targeting the news media as an enemy, in the absence of any
more formidable foil in a city now firmly controlled by Republicans.
Mr. Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs executive and Hollywood producer who
made a fortune from the syndication of TV shows, described the
“corporatist media” as the “opposition party” in a speech on Thursday.
The next day, Mr. Spicer excluded selected news organizations, including
The New York Times, Politico and CNN, from a closed-door version of his
Then there was Mr. Trump’s 10-minute attack on “fake news” during his
speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, which
was met with shouts of approval from the conservative faithful.
Reporters back in New York, however, knew that the president’s call for
an end to “sources” — meaning anonymous sources leaking damaging details
of his campaign’s relationship with Russian officials — did not jibe
with his onetime role as a no-fingerprints gossipmonger, trumpeting his
business dealings and romantic life in late-night phone calls.
“I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources,” Mr.
Trump said. “They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use
somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there. Let their name be put
“He used to be the one leaking!” Ms. Stasi pointed out on Friday from
her office at The Daily News, where she is a columnist. “He was leaking
about himself. He would call up with fake accents and pretend it wasn’t
him. He would tell us 100 times: ‘Now listen, I’m going to tell you
something, but it didn’t come from me.’”
Mr. Trump, who taunted his blind-quoted critics on Friday — “Let ’em say
it to my face!” — hid his own identity to push self-promoting stories in
the 1980s, posing as his own public-relations man under the fake names
John Miller and John Barron.
Despite his dominance of social media, Mr. Trump still retains a
slightly anachronistic view of the press. He prefers ink to pixels,
asking staff members to print out online articles and reviewing the
day’s newspapers — black Sharpie in hand — with Mr. Spicer in the Oval
Office at the end of each work day. Mr. Trump reads bylines and
He also keeps obsessive track of his presence in the press. During an
interview at Trump Tower last spring, the future president proudly
showed off a boardroom filled entirely with stacks of magazines and
newspapers featuring his visage.
The publications, which covered an entire conference table, ran the
spectrum from The Wall Street Journal to The Hollywood Reporter to
Newsweek and Time. Framed copies of Playboy, TV Guide and Variety hung
on the walls. It was a living, expanding shrine to his political rise —
and a physical manifestation of his media fixation.
Still, for a sophisticated consumer of news, Mr. Trump retains a
brutally simple, almost Manichaean view of his coverage: good stories
are good, bad stories are evil. It could prove an untenable attribute
for the most scrutinized man in the world.
“He loves the press; he lives for it,” Howard Stern, a frequent Trump
interviewer and friend, said this month. “He wants to be liked; he wants
to be loved.” Being president, Mr. Stern added, is not “going to be a
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