I have been a fan of CNN’s Jim Acosta since the outset of the Trump Administration because he’s often the only White House Reporter that pushes back against Trump. He clearly gets under Trump’s skin, which is why I like him, and it’s also why Trump revoked his hard pass. On the other hand, I don’t work with Jim Acosta, I don’t spend a lot of time with him, and because I don’t even watch cable news, my exposure to Acosta is generally limited to 45-second videos posted to Twitter.
With that in mind, I found a Politico story on the Acosta/Trump situation illuminating. “Donald Trump and Jim Acosta, a Love Story” basically framed this whole fiasco as typical Trump theatrics, the very sort he adores, that this is all bullshit, and Acosta actually helps Trump by giving him a foil.
Had Acosta’s behavior truly offended them, Sanders and Trump could have permanently stifled the pesky reporter by treating him like a ghost, averting their gazes and picking other reporters during question time. Acosta couldn’t have done anything about it. Instead, Sanders and Trump regularly called on Acosta, counting on the likelihood that he would do that Acosta thing of speechifying and playing microphone hog as he attempts to turn a question into an extended back-and-forth. Sanders and Trump have pretended exasperation at Acosta’s posturing—posturing that hasn’t broken much news, by the way—but not so secretly they happily wallow in his pomposity. By getting Acosta to play the preening, self-aggrandizing, sanctimonious reporter and using him as the punching bag for the White House’s anti-press strategy, Sanders and Trump have created a unique public venue to exhibit their hatred for the “fake news” of CNN.
The TV moments created by Acosta’s clashes—see the Guardian’s reel of their best sparring matches—have served him, too. If you’re a fan of reporters who are better at lecturing than asking a question and think White House briefings and presidential press conferences should resemble the bloodsport of duels, then you probably find the Acosta clashes sufficiently enriching to make CNN your cable news destination.
Politico’s Jack Shafer, of course, supports Jim Acosta’s lawsuit, but also contends that press briefings are largely useless, anyway. On that point, I can’t disagree:
Televised White House briefings have always been political theater but under Trump’s management they’ve generated as much genuine news as a low-wattage kitchen microwave. The endless bickering between Sanders and the press corps and her obfuscations have become the story, much to the detriment of journalism. I wouldn’t go so far to call the briefings useless—they can connect reporters to otherwise hard-to-find facts and get the administration on the record—but for real news you have to rely on reporters like Maggie Haberman who spend little time in the daily briefings waiting for news to arrive.
In either respect, Acosta won the first round of his lawsuit today against the White House, and a federal judge — one appointment by Donald Trump — granted him back his hard pass. Essentially, he granted CNN a temporary restraining order, which is tantamount to saying, “I haven’t made my official ruling, but because my ruling on First Amendment grounds will more likely than not go in favor of CNN, I’m giving Acosta back his hard pass in the meantime.”
That is a far cry, however, from how Sarah Sanders characterized the judge’s ruling.
However, that last line — “There has to be decorum in the White House” — is rich. You mean, decorum like this:
This is a photo of some individuals respecting the Oval Office…The photo shows Nugent, Kid Rock, and Sarah Palin in some kind of private party…How did they even get in to the White House? @washingtonpost @CNN pic.twitter.com/6IALB5Q2K0— Dana Moore (@DanaMoore004) November 13, 2018
Or maybe she means decorum like this:
Taking control: Donald Trump behind the wheel of a truck during a meeting with drivers and haulage executives at the White House in March.— Financial Times (@FinancialTimes) January 20, 2018
See more of the president's first year in pictures at: https://t.co/luolWvh2O3 pic.twitter.com/hVEii1lsXH
Or maybe she means decorum like this:
Trump is asked by a female reporter if he intends to direct Whitaker to "reign in Muller." He responds w/ the particular insult he reserves for women in the press: "What a stupid question that is…what a stupid question, but I watch you a lot, you ask a LOT of stupid questions." pic.twitter.com/Rz4uPBHEmm— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) November 9, 2018
In other news, Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George, offered the perfect description for this Administration today: It “is like a shitshow in a dumpster fire.”
(Note: It’s been awhile, so in case you’ve forgotten, Taika is our header substitute for Sarah Huckabee Sanders.)