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How the Press Serves the Deep State

By       Message Daniel Lazare       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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From Consortium News


New York Times building in New York City.
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The New York Times has made it official. In a Sunday front-page article entitled "Trump Ruled the Tabloid Media. Washington Is a Different Story," the paper gloats that Donald Trump has proved powerless to stop a flood of leaks threatening to capsize his administration.

As reporters Glenn Thrush and Michael M. Grynbaum put it: "This New York-iest of politicians, now an idiosyncratic, write-your-own-rules president, has stumbled into the most conventional of Washington traps: believing he can master an entrenched political press corps with far deeper connections to the permanent government of federal law enforcement and executive department officials than he has."

Thrush and Grynbaum add a few paragraphs later that Trump "is being force-fed lessons all presidents eventually learn -- that the iron triangle of the Washington press corps, West Wing staff and federal bureaucracy is simply too powerful to bully."

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Iron triangle? Permanent government? In its tale of how Trump went from being a favorite of the New York Post and Daily News to fodder for the big-time Washington news media, the Times seems to be going out of its way to confirm dark paranoid fears of a "deep state" lurking behind the scenes and dictating what political leaders can and cannot do. "Too powerful to bully" by a "write-your-own-rules president" is another way of saying that the permanent government wants to do things its way and will not put up with a president telling it to take a different approach.

Entrenched interests are nothing new, of course. But a major news outlet bragging about collaborating with such elements in order to cripple a legally established government is. The Times was beside itself with outrage when top White House adviser Steve Bannon described the media as "the opposition party." But one can't help but wonder what all the fuss is about since an alliance aimed at hamstringing a presidency is nothing if not oppositional.

If so, a few things are worth keeping in mind. One is that Trump was elected, even if only by an Eighteenth-Century relic known as the Electoral College, whereas the deep state, permanent government, or whatever else you want to call it was not. Where Trump gave speeches, kissed babies, and otherwise sought out the vote, the deep state did nothing. To the degree this country is still a democracy, that must count for something. So if the conflict between president and the deep state ever comes down to a question of legitimacy, there is no doubt who will come out ahead: The Donald.

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A second thing worth keeping in mind is that if ever there was a case of the unspeakable versus the inedible (to quote Oscar Wilde), the contest between a billionaire president and billionaire-owned press is it.

Both sides are more or less correct in what they say about the other. Trump really is a strongman at war with basic democratic norms just as innumerable Times op-ed articles say he is. And giant press organization like the Times and the Washington Post are every bit as biased and one-sided as Trump maintains -- and no less willfully gullible, one might add, than in 2002 or 2003 when they happily swallowed every lie put out by the George W. Bush administration regarding Iraqi WMDs or Saddam Hussein's support for Al Qaeda.

Riveting TV

Trump's Feb. 16 press conference -- surely the most riveting TV since Jerry Springer was in his prime -- is a case in point. The President bobbed, weaved, and hurled abuse like a Catskills insult comic. He threw out pseudo-facts, describing his victory, for instance, as "the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan" when in fact George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all got more votes. But commentators who panned the display as a "freak show" or simply "batshit crazy" didn't get it. It wasn't Trump who bombed that afternoon, but the press.


Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.
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Why? Because reporters behaved with all the intelligence of a pack of Jack Russell terriers barking at a cat up a tree. Basically, they've been seized by the ide'e fixe that Russia is a predator state that hacks elections, threatens U.S. national security, and has now accomplished the neat trick of planting a Kremlin puppet in the Oval Office. It doesn't matter that evidence is lacking or that the thesis defies common sense. It's what they believe, what their editors believe, and what the deep state believes too (or at least pretends to). So the purpose of the Feb. 16 press conference was to pin Trump down as to whether he also believes the Russia-did-it thesis and pillory him for deviating from the party line.

More than half the questions that reporters threw out were thus about Russia, about Mike Flynn, the ex-national security adviser who got into trouble for talking to the Russian ambassador before the new administration formally took office, or about reputed contacts between the Trump campaign staff and Moscow. One reporter thus demanded to know if anyone from Trump's campaign staff had ever spoken with the Russian government or Russian intelligence. Another asked if Trump had requested FBI telephone intercepts before determining that Flynn had not broken the law.

"I just want to get you to clarify this very important point," said a third. "Can you say definitively that nobody on your campaign had any contacts with the Russians during the campaign?" A fourth wanted to get the President's reaction to such "provocations" as a Russian communications vessel floating 30 miles off the coast of Connecticut (in international waters). "Is Putin testing you, do you believe, sir?" the reporter asked as if he had just uncovered a Russian agent in the Lincoln Bedroom. "...But do they damage the relationship? Do they undermine this country's ability to work with Russia?"

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Freelance journalist and author of three books: The Frozen Republic (Harcourt, 1996); The Velvet Coup (Verso, 2001) and America's Undeclared War (Harcourt 2001).


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