In the new era of Trump politics, we’re facing a mountain of unprecedented political behavior. Our President-elect is constantly saying and doing new things to make us question (and fear) just how much that office is going to change.
Dan Rather, ever a voice of reason and intelligence, posed one such question to his Facebook page:
Here’s a question that the press has never had to deal with before: how do you deal with a president-elect, and eventually a president, who regularly Tweets untrue or intimidating statements?
The post goes on,
By the nature of the office, when a president says something it’s usually news. Words can move markets, start wars, shift the direction of major domestic and foreign policy. And that’s why most presidents are constrained and careful with their public statements.
Not so Donald Trump. It’s one of the things his supporters love about him and his critics despise. And anyone who thought Trump was going to change after the election, well, as the saying goes, the past seems to be prologue.
Rather ponders that question that every face of the media has to deal with, and with its consequences. How do you shine a light on the ugliness, knowing it won’t disappear just because you let it hide, without giving it the attention it needs to grow? At what point does a refusal to ignore a thing turn into validation?
When Trump rants about anything from Hamilton to his disrespect of the First Amendment, it seems natural for respected media outlets to ignore it. These are Tweets, not news. But again, when the President tweets something, that IS news, just as it was when a presidential candidate did the same. Is Trump unhinged? (I mean, obviously.) That’s worth covering. Is he deliberately deflecting with Tweet slight of hand? News outlets need to make sure they’re covering what he’s distracting us from, but the act of mania-based deflection shouldn’t be ignored. All of this is news, “and it’s important that the press doesn’t normalize it.”
On this page I am going to try to walk a balance between bringing attention to Tweets when I think they are serious enough to merit, but not allow my postings to be too distracted from other important news. It will be a process to figure it out and I would welcome your thoughts and continued engagement as we go through this.
In times of like this I sometimes try to imagine what my journalistic hero Edward R. Murrow would do. in this case, I can imagine him shaking his head and shrugging in disbelief. “Son, I saw a lot in my time, but I never saw anything like this. Good luck, but I fear you’re on your own.”
We can’t ignore Trump or his supporters. But we also can’t risk normalizing this behavior. Maybe a good step is constant questions, and constant discussion. Some day we’ll look back on this time and see with clarity where we went wrong and where we need to go now. In the meantime, we can at least make sure we stay vigilant and stay together, keep talking and keep always asking: WWERMD?