Con­fi­dence in the news me­dia among Amer­i­cans has jumped from 39pc to 48pc over the past year

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

hy­per­bole — has brought to the fore, if not to cen­tre stage, a con­cern to con­strain an im­pul­sive, at times im­pe­ri­ous, ex­ec­u­tive.

What some com­men­ta­tors call “the guardrails of democ­racy” — Congress, the courts, govern­ment work­ers, jour­nal­ism — are oper­at­ing with new-found pur­pose to check ques­tion­able con­duct.

Leaks to the press, which of­ten re­sem­ble a del­uge and make Trump’s blood boil, come from peo­ple on the fed­eral pay­roll send­ing out SOS sig­nals about what’s re­ally hap­pen­ing be­hind closed doors.

The re­cent rev­e­la­tion by NBC News that Tiller­son re­ferred to the president as a “mo­ron” re­ceived wide­spread at­ten­tion, not just for its de­scrip­tive as­sess­ment, but also for the larger con­cern it tele­graphed con­cern­ing the high­est-rank­ing cabi­net mem­ber’s frus­tra­tion with the White House.

Brand­ing every leak as “fake news”, the knee­jerk re­ac­tion of Trump since tak­ing of­fice, won’t suc­ceed as a strat­egy through­out an en­tire term, and a poll of more than 14,300 re­spon­dents re­leased early last month by Reuters showed that con­fi­dence in the news me­dia among Amer­i­cans has jumped from 39pc to 48pc over the past year.

That in­crease in the pub­lic’s trust in jour­nal­ism oc­curs af­ter sev­eral months of the president rail­ing about press per­for­mance — and us­ing the phrase “fake news” on more than 150 sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions in tweets, speeches, in­ter­views and news con­fer­ences since Jan­uary.

Of greater sig­nif­i­cance and po­ten­tial con­se­quence are the nu­mer­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tions cur­rently be­ing con­ducted about pos­si­ble con­nec­tions be­tween Rus­sia and the Trump busi­ness or­gan­i­sa­tion, the Trump cam­paign or both.

Every time the sub­ject of Rus­sia arises, the president de­nounces even the sug­ges­tion of in­volve­ment or col­lu­sion. In a May tweet, he dis­missed the in­quiry as “the sin­gle great­est witch-hunt of a politi­cian in Amer­i­can his­tory!”

The deci­bel-level of Trump’s de­nials arouse sus­pi­cion that he might protest too much. Is it within the realm of pos­si­bil­ity that du­bi­ous Rus­sian in­vest­ments helped im­prove his real es­tate com­pany’s bal­ance sheets? How about all those Rus­sian-di­rected and truly “fake news” web­sites that played some role in the 2016 elec­tion, es­pe­cially in the key states of Penn­syl­va­nia, Michi­gan and Wis­con­sin?

Three sep­a­rate Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tive com­mit­tees as well as spe­cial coun­sel (and former FBI direc­tor) Robert Mueller keep in­ter­view­ing Trump as­so­ciates and cam­paign staff to try to get to the bot­tom of what did — or didn’t — hap­pen in con­nec­tion to Rus­sia.

The felony charges brought against former Trump cam­paign direc­tor Paul Manafort and two lower-level aides ear­lier this week re­flect the se­ri­ous­ness of the spe­cial coun­sel’s work. How many more politi­cal op­er­a­tives might face crim­i­nal charges?

The out­come of th­ese months-long in­ves­ti­ga­tions, es­pe­cially Mueller’s, could help un­tan­gle fi­nan­cial and politi­cal mys­ter­ies re­lated to the president. The find­ings, what­ever they might be, will also un­doubt­edly in­flu­ence how he’s viewed in the fu­ture and his stand­ing both at home and abroad.

An ax­iom of Amer­i­can elec­tions says the most ac­com­plished politi­cians cam­paign in po­etry and then gov­ern in prose. Trump sought votes in 2016 with­out be­ing po­etic, but on the stump he dra­mat­i­cally ar­tic­u­lated prom­ise af­ter prom­ise — about re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act (Oba­macare) for health cover­age, about build­ing a wall be­tween Mex­ico and the US (with Mex­ico pay­ing for it), about “drain­ing the swamp” of Washington.

The Washington Post com­piled a list of 282 prom­ises a few weeks af­ter last year’s elec­tion. As he cam­paigned, Trump boasted: “We’re go­ing to win so much. You’re go­ing to get tired of win­ning.”

Most of his prom­ises, how­ever, lacked spe­cific, pol­icy-ori­ented pro­pos­als that could trans­late into leg­is­la­tion, and thus far — even with both houses of Congress in Repub­li­can hands — few bills re­lated to those prom­ises have be­come law. And, at this point, no­body’s fa­tigued from win­ning — just from try­ing to keep up with the “show”.

Trump’s govern­men­tal im­pact so far has been great­est in re­vers­ing reg­u­la­tions or or­ders cre­ated dur­ing Barack Obama’s eight years in of­fice, es­pe­cially in the en­vi­ron­men­tal and ed­u­ca­tion sec­tors, and in with­draw­ing from, or se­ri­ously ques­tion­ing, the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion’s in­ter­na­tional pacts, such as the Paris cli­mate agree­ment or the Ira­nian nu­clear deal.

Oblit­er­at­ing Obama’s legacy seems to be the president’s abid­ing pre­oc­cu­pa­tion, lead­ing Con­necti­cut Gov­er­nor Dan­nel Mal­loy, chair of the Demo­cratic Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion, to re­mark tartly of Trump: “If he had fol­lowed Lin­coln, he’d have tried to re­in­state slav­ery.”

In fair­ness, though, that’s a president’s pre­rog­a­tive and an im­por­tant part of ex­ec­u­tive power.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.