sábado, 18 de fevereiro de 2017

Shooting the messenger: how Trump's media vitriol could ultimately backfire / McCain savages Trump administration and inability to 'separate truth from lies'

Donald Trump’s first solo press conference provided the bulk of material for Thursday’s late-night hosts. Comedian’s ranging from Trevor Noah to Seth Meyers reacted to the event while Jimmy Fallon impersonated the president, who began by saying ‘You’re all fake news, I hate you all very much and thank you for being here’

‘They will say, Donald Trump rants and raves,’ the US president told reporters in a blistering 77-minute question-and-answer session that covered Russia, intelligence leaks, the firing of Michael Flynn, the electoral vote – and uncomfortable encounters with reporters on the issues of antisemitism and race.

Shooting the messenger: how Trump's media vitriol could ultimately backfire
The president’s belligerent approach to the press may distract from problems in the short term, experts say, but history shows such hostility can end badly

Lucia Graves
Friday 17 February 2017 18.32 GMT

Though it was ostensibly called to announce his new nominee for the Department of Labor, Donald Trump’s 77-minute freewheeling press conference on Thursday spent little time on the matter.

Instead, speaking to a room of reporters who repeatedly sought to clarify when and if Trump staffers had had contact with Russians, he recast the event as a referendum on reporters everywhere.

The president claimed that the media served not the people but “special interests”, reaping profits from a rigged system, and he sought to tar the press as universally untrustworthy. “The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. The press are out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control,” he said.

He launched aggressive broadsides at individual journalists, as when Trump asked black journalist April Ryan if she would schedule a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus for him. “Are they friends of yours?” he said.

And Trump referred to the media as an entrenched “power structure” and vowed to go around it entirely. “We’re not going to let it happen. I’m here again to take my message straight to the people,” he said.

“This level of public vitriol directed at the news media by the president is unprecedented in American history,” said Mark Feldstein, a former CNN correspondent and professor of journalism at the University of Maryland.

“No president has ever declared war and given such loud voice to that unhappiness in his very first week. Actually, his very first day,” said George Condon, a former president of the White House Correspondents Association who spent a career covering presidents.

Trump’s White House has been off to a rocky start. Less than a month into his tenure, during what is traditionally a honeymoon period, Trump has the lowest approval ratings of any recent president at this point. His former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is the shortest-serving in history after being forced out following an inappropriate discussion with the Russian ambassador. And Trump’s cabinet is one of the slowest to be filled in history.

Trump is blaming the media for these failings as the bearer of bad news, not its creator, said Frank Sesno, a veteran former journalist who runs the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.

“It is not the media that made the call to the Russians. It is not the media that apparently lied to the vice-president. It is not the media that prompted six Republicans to tank the labor secretary nominee. It’s not the media that ruled against the immigration ban,” Sesno said. “Instead, he’s isolating, accusing, distracting, demonizing and blaming others.”

“The media is the messenger and what we saw … is he’s willing to try to discredit them by any means necessary,” said the Dartmouth political science professor Brendan Nyhan, who studies the interaction of politics and the media.

The American fourth estate has endured through difficult moments.

Sedition acts passed under presidents John Adams in the late 18th century and Woodrow Wilson in the early 20th made it a criminal offense to criticize the government.

But these situations – the instability of the nascent American government and world war, respectively – are without parallel in modern times. And neither president ever stooped to publicly attacking the press the way Trump does, Feldstein said. “They did not seem obsessed with the issue. They viewed these as emergency measures that were necessary to protect national security.”

Feldstein, who wrote the book on Richard Nixon’s toxic relationship with the press, said Trump should see a warning in Nixon, who similarly treated the press with contempt. “That gained him some mileage when running for office and appealed to the Republican party at the time,” said Feldstein. “But ultimately he was impaled on that kind of paranoid bunker mentality and I think Trump risks the same happening to him.”

Trump’s hostility toward the press did not start with his inauguration. As a candidate, he held the media in pens during his rallies, urged supporters to boo reporters, threatened to “open up” libel laws to make it easier to sue journalists,
and regularly banned entire outlets from his events on a whim.

But the “pivot” pundits predicted when Trump became president has yet to materialize , even after he took the oath of office last month.

Trump’s media obsession is often dismissed as a sign of his poor temperament. But it’s also a political strategy that allows him to change the subject of debate from one of substance to matters of tribal allegiance, according to Nyhan.

“This is the conversation Trump wants to have,” said Nyhan. “There is a method to his madness.”

Trump’s re-election campaign even fundraised using the press conference, telling supporters in an email that they were the “last line of defense” against the media.

People tell pollsters that they hate Congress but keep re-electing their individual representatives, and the same can be said of journalism. People hate “the media ”, but are loyal to individual outlets and reporters.

By taking on the media as a whole, Nyhan note d, Trump has a built-in advantage – an individual versus a unpopular institution.

“It’s a massive problem that I don’t think we’re really grasping with as an institution,” said a White House reporter who declined to be named out of fear of retribution from Trump officials.

So how can journalists respond?

According to Sesno, the former CNN anchor turned academic, journalists need to do a better job of explaining their value and process.

For instance, Trump has painted leakers as vile and unpatriotic. But the press should also defend them as whistleblowers who help hold government accountable. “How do we explain that leaks are part of the process of both journalism and democracy?” he said.

It also means stepping back and admitting some of journalism’s problems, Sesno said, such as elitism and a lack of connection with, for instance, rural white working-class voters.

Feldstein thought there was reason for Trump to reconsider his strategy, too. To explain, he cited the old adage : “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”

“Ultimately the media does have the last word,” Feldstein said, “including literally writing his obituary when he dies. So there are long-term costs he will face for his approach.”

McCain savages Trump administration and inability to 'separate truth from lies'
Republican senator uses Munich speech to reflect on ‘disarray’ in Trump White house, saying president contradicts himself

Staff and agencies
Saturday 18 February 2017 02.31 GMT

John McCain said on Friday that Donald Trump’s administration was in “disarray” and that Nato’s founders would be alarmed by the growing unwillingness to “separate truth from lies”.

The Republican Senator broke with the reassuring message that US officials visiting Germany have sought to convey on their debut trip to Europe, telling a Munich security conference the resignation of the new president’s security adviser, Michael Flynn, over his contacts with Russia reflected deep problems in Washington.

“I think that the Flynn issue obviously is something that shows that in many respects this administration is in disarray and they’ve got a lot of work to do,” said McCain, a known Trump critic, even as he praised Trump’s defence secretary. “The president, I think, makes statements [and] on other occasions contradicts himself. So we’ve learned to watch what the president does as opposed to what he says,” he said.

Without mentioning the president’s name, McCain lamented a shift in the US and Europe away from the “universal values” that forged the Nato alliance seven decades ago. McCain also said the alliance’s founders would be “alarmed by the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies.”

The chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said “more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticising it as our moral equivalent”. The senator also regretted the “hardening resentment we see toward immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims”.

European governments have been unsettled by the signals sent by Trump on a range of foreign policy issues ranging from Nato and Russia to Iran, Israel and European integration.

The debut trip to Europe of Trump’s defence secretary, Jim Mattis, and his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, to a meeting of G20 counterparts in Bonn, went some way to assuaging concerns as they both took a more traditional US position.

But Trump is wrestling with a growing controversy at home about potential ties between his aides and Russia, which he dismissed on Thursday as a “ruse” and “scam” perpetrated by a hostile news media.

Mattis made clear to allies, both at Nato in Brussels and in Munich, that the US would not retreat from leadership as the European continent grapples with an assertive Russia, wars in eastern and southern Mediterranean countries and attacks by Islamist militants.

US vice-president Mike Pence will address the Munich conference on Saturday with a similar message of reassurance. Pence will say Europe is an “indispensable partner”, a senior White House foreign policy adviser told reporters.

Mattis told a crowd that included heads of state and more than 70 defence ministers that Trump backed Nato. “President Trump came into office and has thrown now his full support to Nato. He too espouses Nato’s need to adapt to today’s strategic situation for it to remain credible, capable and relevant,” Mattis said.

Mattis said the US and its European allies had a shared understanding of the challenges ahead. Trump has alarmed allies by expressing admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Mattis, however, has spoken out strongly against Russia while in Europe. After talks with Nato allies in Brussels on Thursday, he said he did not believe it would be possible to collaborate militarily with Moscow, at least for now.

The Europeans may need more convincing that Washington stands with it on a range of security issues. “There is still a lot of uncertainty,” Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s foreign minister, told reporters. “The big topic in Munich is looking to the USA to see which developments to expect next.”

European intelligence agencies have warned that Russia is also seeking to destabilise governments and influence elections across Europe with cyber attacks, fake news and propaganda and by funding far-right political parties.

British defence minister Michael Fallon said: “We should be under no illusions about the step-change in Russian behaviour over the last couple of years, even after Crimea”, referring to Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.

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“We have seen a step-change in Russian military aggression, but also in propaganda, in misinformation and a succession of persistent attacks on western democracies, interference in a whole series of elections including ... the United States.”

Nato’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, held talks with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Munich, seeing progress on encouraging Moscow to be more open about its military exercises that the alliance says are unpredictable.

Russia says it is the western alliance, not Moscow, that is destabilising Europe by sending troops to its western borders. “We have different views,” Stoltenberg said of the crisis in Ukraine, where the west accuses the Kremlin of arming separatist rebels in a conflict that has killed 10,000 people since April 2014. Russia says the conflict is a civil war.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report

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