Trump is more fun to write)
In the first pages of Frankly we won this election – the Wall Street newspaper Journalist Michael Bender’s New Book on the Chaotic Last Year of the Trump Presidency – Readers are Plunged Headlong into the Manic and Terrifying Chaos that unfolded in Washington DC January 6 of this year. The opening scene of the book: A secret hideout, protected by armed Secret Service agents, where Vice President Pence crouches with his wife and eldest daughter after a mob stormed the United States Capitol. United States. Pence is on the phone with senior Pentagon military officials. “I want them here – and I want them here now,” he orders, a reference to the National Guard. It reads like a scene from one of those luscious thrillers you find in airport bookstores. No need to guess how this one ends, though.
The eccentricities and extremes of the 45th president and his administration may not have been conducive to stable governance, but they seemingly still make a revealing copy. Indeed, the book publishing industry is in the throes of a whole new Trump boom, as a wave of new titles rises in an attempt to unzip the hurricane of madness that has given us all the following. Last year : disastrous coronavirus response, of course, ultimately followed by Trumpworld refusing to accept the November election result. We also got the lopsided rhetoric from Trump himself that inspired his supporters to violence, as well as Trump’s ban on social media as well as everyone else. these crazy pursuits contest the results of the November elections. Lawsuits, by the way, alleging the sort of lyrical conspiracy theories typically born in the darker corners of the web.
At the same time, it’s also worth stopping to consider the corollary of all the dizzying revelations contained in these new books – like Michael Wolff’s newly released Landslide: The Last Days of the Trump Presidency. As well as the next Only I can fix it: the catastrophic last year of Donald J. Trump, published on July 20 and written by Washington post journalists Carol Leonnig and Philippe rucker.
Covering the Trump administration, teetering from crisis to crisis, was like taking a 4-year journey on a crowded train to nowhere. One that somehow ended up going off the rails. Trump’s successor, no matter who he turned out to be, was always going to look like the dictionary definition of boring, compared to what came before him. Turning the page, however, at least seemed to suggest that we would have, at the very least, four years of political altimeter stabilizing again. That the reality show would be over. Or, at least, no longer concentrated in the Oval Office, right?
Well, not necessarily, because you wouldn’t know it – just at the right time, the media is doing this thing again. This thing where its practitioners offer Very Serious Punditry on the wrapping paper, instead of what’s actually in the box.
Basically, Trump apparently made such a number out of some members of the Fourth Estate with Stockholm Syndrome that they are now sort of missing the most entertaining POTUS (i.e. the one he was most entertaining on d ‘to write). And now, just six months after the start of the new administration, some openly complain that President Biden is too “boring.”
“The White House press room”, expressed a recent WaPo history, “has been a little more boring over the past six months.”
And, this title of The New York Times: “Voters chose boredom over elation. They have Biden’s penchant for pontification. Heck, the story even begins with Biden himself deeming one of his own speeches too boring. From the play:
“I know this is a boring speech,” the 46th President said after 31 minutes and 19 seconds filled with statistics (2,374 Illinois Bridges), college studies (on-site child care increases productivity), global gross domestic product comparisons (China was No. 9, but is now No. 2) and forecasts economic growth of 7.4%.
Elsewhere, this play adds in the same vein: “What may seem like a high-stakes drama to those inside the Washington Beltway often looks like the stuff of PBS documentaries in the rest of the country. Which seems to blame everyone – you know, outside the – being far too engrossed in the appearance of politicians strutting the DC podium. Because these people don’t care enough about, you know, the serious stuff.
It is, unsurprisingly, a line of attack that Trumplandia and the former president himself gleefully use as a club. At Wolff Landslide, for example, there was a point where Trump hinted that they would all be back “in four years and beat that sleeping bastard.”
The people of Biden, at least some of them, are leaning out to this story about the president, almost as if it was a badge of honor. Here is the reaction of Biden White House’s chief of staff, for example, to the effect the demise of the Trumpian controversy in DC has on more partisan media:
Yet far more illuminating than all of this are the anonymous comments some reporters have recently shared with Julia Ioffé, which she recounts in a recent episode of his fantastic newsletter Tomorrow will be worse. Some extracts from this particular edition:
“The reporting mechanisms have changed so much”, a reporter told Ioffe. “It was just that really outrageous time when you could almost guarantee that with enough effort you could find out what was going on in the situation room. Now you can’t – and it’s maddening.
“I mean, it wasn’t just the fact that Trump was a gravy train. It is also juxtaposed with the most boring administration in modern history. You go from a circus with fiery chainsaws to… what? An old man watching his dog?
“I loved covering up Trump. It was a great and fascinating story. It wasn’t just him; it was about his movement, institutions and America. The story was always so dramatic and had these larger-than-life characters. The stakes often seemed very high. I also like to cover Biden, but it’s just not that dramatic. “
Media critic Eric Boehlert, written in his own newsletter Press run, rightly eviscerates all of this as a theatrical critic masquerading as political journalism.
To consider the Venn diagram at the intersection of politics and media today is ultimately to be struck by the idea that truth is no longer so much the sun around which certain categories of journalism revolve, but rather a giant MacGuffin. It’s the difference between talking about a thing and actually interacting with it. The way reporters covered Trump was certainly the apotheosis of this phenomenon. But, as we’ve seen, that now extends to Biden as well. Stories about the new president thus become stories about “history” about the new president. This is why so many Americans end up losing interest in reality television altogether and wondering what else is going on.