A Lot of Rice

    Once I was taking a bus tour in China, and the tour guide kept pointing out a bunch of boring obvious stuff, "China grows a lot of rice. We have a lot of rice in China..."

    After a while, I noticed that when he said, "look out on your right", there was something unsightly and run-down on the left, and vice-versa.

    As we get all hot & bothered by what's going on, stop a bit and consider what else is happening that might not bother us, might have escaped our notice.

    Government by misdirection - keeps us fighting the wrong battles at the wrong times. Sure, he *might* be literally crazy, but so far he's getting what he wants.

    Of course the media still makes money as the enemy - maybe more. Stopping stopping that side-show would be costly.

    Caveat Spectator - it's a magician waving something bright and shiny, more bread and circuses.

    BTW, anyone seen the lions? And who are they supposed to eat?




    By the way, Ross Douhat basically agrees.

    Good post...and a coupla points:

    • Important to distinguish between the GOVERNMENT saying "look right," as in your anecdote, and the press saying "look right." Right? Unless we're going to say, as Douthat seems to say, that Trump is duping the press into saying, "Trump is telling you to look right, so you should look left," so that he has cover to actually go right without anyone noticing. It's a version of that multi-dimensional chess game Obama was supposed to have been playing.

    • He's getting everything he wants because he's only issued EOs and the like. He hasn't had to convince anyone to go along with him first. And it's hard to know what has actually transpired as a result of those orders.

    • Also, if I'm reading things correctly, he's not getting everything he wants. When there's a big freak out about an EO, the administration seems to walk things back quite a bit. Examples now elude me, but it seems they've walked back things on the Muslim ban, for instance.

    • While I wouldn't advise a "constant freak out," I'm not sure anyone should wait until the reality becomes clear, and then freak out. After the election, a number of pro-Trumpers said that the media made the mistake of taking Trump literally, but not seriously. Very clever. But now it seems we should have taken him literally, because he's doing all the things he said he would do. We should always take Trump literally. Why not? How else could or should the press take him? When he says he's going to build a wall, he means he's going to build a wall. Some friends tried to school me by saying that Trump meant a "metaphorical wall," you know, beefed up security. But, in fact, he meant a WALL, and not a Shakespearean wall, either.

    • If we wait until everything becomes crystal clear, it may be too late. Facts on the ground. Plus Trump can always say, "I told you I was going to do X, why didn't you object then? Unlike most politicians, when I say I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it." [Cue the applause from the peanut gallery.] Which was what he said about his global conflicts of interest: "You knew about all that when you voted for me." Of course, BEFORE the election, such objections were deemed prematurely raised.

    • So I think the press should take everything Donald says literally. Lay out the consequences of said policies. And force Donald et al to walk it all back when uproar ensues, and stay on him until he has, in fact, defused the bomb before saying the coast is clear. This doesn't have to involve "freaking out": just good, crisp and compelling reporting. But we can't let his WH or anyone else get away with saying something like, "When Donald says he plans to ban all Muslims, he REALLY means X." (That is, something much less offensive.) Obvious ploys like saying he's not banning Muslims; he's only banning people from countries that happen to have (99.8%) Muslim populations should be called out for what they are. Or ploys like saying, "He's just implementing Obama's 2006 law" should also be called out as lies.

    • On top of this reporting, the press should maintain a 360-degree view of events so as not to miss the stuff "on the right." And keep a "running tab" on all the issues so that things like the Muslim ban or his refusal to cough up his tax returns and other unresolved issues don't become yesterday's news. This is one of Trump's other tactics: He throws so much stuff out there, it becomes hard-to-impossible for the press to keep up with it. As soon as they printed one outrage during the campaign, he was on to the next one. This is still his MO.

    As you said, the speed at which the Trump thing is coming out puts the press into an interesting position.
    I think it has gone beyond messaging and now has the press just simply trying to keep up with the input.

    More Rugby than Chess.

    I vote for constant freak out.

    Trump tries always to control the news cycle. He's like a magician who uses misdirection to keep you in his thrall. The press needs to stop relying on being fed the story and go out on its own to find the real story. Print it, and then force Trump to come to them. He can call them liars all he wants, but if they stay at it, public opinion will turn and he'll start melting like the Wicked Witch of...where was she from?

    The other thing to note is that during the campaign, the press made the opposite mistake by just allowing him to blab on with no push back. Better to err on the side of too much criticism than too little.

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