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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Elites use Trump’s tweets to distract from their fecklessness

It was almost humorous to watch last week as the media went nuts – again – over President Donald Trump’s latest set of tweets attacking MSNBC “Morning Joe” hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. As is known by every political watcher by now, Trump was raked over hot coals for having the audacity to mention, in public, that Brzezinski’s face had been bleeding from plastic surgery.

Condemnation from the usual politicians and media sources was swift and thorough. They whined that Trump, ever the obnoxious self-absorbed ogre, had once again violated acceptable limits of decorum befitting a man Trump tweetoccupying the Oval Office. How dare a POTUS mention that a woman had been bleeding…from her face? Oh, the horrors!

Of course Trump had gotten in trouble for mentioning blood – and a woman -- in another context during the early stages of the 2016 GOP primary campaign. The outrage in that sense was more justifiable. To the extent there are imaginary lines to cross…well, Trump did it on that occasion.

But he is no longer merely an outsider celebrity candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination trying to establish a niche among conservative primary voters. Donald Trump is in the White House along with its two-plus centuries of storied history and distinguished occupants.

Should Trump know better…or was it just an attention-grabbing stunt?

I’m betting on the latter. So are some of the president’s snarky #NeverTrump critics such as Kevin D. Williamson at National Review, who wrote over the weekend, “’I always tell the president, ‘You don’t need them,’ says Sean Hannity, the self-abasing monkey-butler of the Trump regime. The president, Hannity says, can reach more Americans via Twitter than he could through the conventional media. That isn’t true, of course: Only about one in five Americans uses Twitter. Hannity might be forgiven for not knowing this, a consequence of his much more general habit of not knowing things. But he actually does know the president. How could he possibly believe that this man — this man — does not need them?

He needs them the way a junkie needs his junk (emphasis added).

“Donald Trump cares more about how he is perceived in the media than he cares about anything else in the world, including money. Trump is a true discipline of Bishop Berkeley, professing the creed of the social-media age: Esse eat percipi— ‘To be is to be seen.’ Trump is incapable of enjoying anything — money, success, sex — without being perceived enjoying it.”

There are a number of things wrong with Williamson’s premise so it’s hard to know where to begin. It’s curious from the outset that National Review’s self-described “roving correspondent” claims to know so much about what Trump needs. For someone who admittedly “roves” Williamson sure doesn’t know much about human nature and he certainly doesn’t fathom in the least the concept of branding (the bovine version or otherwise).

In accusing the “junky” Trump of needing to be seen and adored Williamson is simply advancing an argument that’s been proffered about Trump the politician since the beginning. I used to subscribe to the theory myself until I, along with the entirety of the American public, witnessed at length how the billionaire real estate developer and reality TV celebrity was able to wholesale manipulate the media into doing his bidding and providing him billions in free coverage at the same time.

Trump isn’t the “junky” in this case; it’s losers like Brzezinski, Scarborough, Trump’s hordes of leftist detractors and #NeverTrumpers like Williamson that are the true addicts. Their incessant compulsive desire to prove to their viewers and readers that Trump is a bad guy and therefore shouldn’t be president despite the opinions and votes of nearly 63 million people is strange to say the least. They’re hooked on Trump and there ain’t no treatment center that’s going to rescue them from their mad dependence.

Likewise, just like a shrewd villain from an episode of Batman, Trump understands that all he has to do is push the send button on his Twitter account and he’ll get the bees-a-buzzing again.

Say you were to spot a hornet’s hive in the yard and impulsively decided to whack it with a rake handle. You know what’s coming out isn’t likely to feel too kindly about your actions. The media isn’t any different than an instinctive swarm of insects and certainly a dolt like Williamson comprehends by now that Trump’s tweeting motivations run a lot deeper than mere personal pleasure.

Why? Because “dependence” is far too simple of an explanation for Trump’s actions. If the president only tweets because he wants a “fix” then he would be doing it all the time, not just a couple occasions a week or whatever it turns out to be. He’d also be ordering his staff to follow his lead.

It’s not a game; Trump has a design. The plan appears to be to pound the media relentlessly until it’s so obvious that they’re a collection of biased self-interested America-haters that they’ll lose everything. Why do you think Trump mentions how they’re “failing” all the time?

It isn’t to get “high.” Trump knows he has to win the battle of public opinion in order to advance his policies and make American great again. If he consistently sits back and takes the bashing from people like Brzezinski and Scarborough – and Williamson – it will make it that much harder to fend off future attacks from the left.

If you don’t believe it, just ask George W. Bush. The Washington establishment can maintain their dignity all they want – and lose public opinion in the process. Bush 43 kept his reputation and left office with around a 30 percent approval rating because he’d lost the confidence of about half his own base. That’s the definition of a loser. Trump is a winner. He won’t allow it to happen.

Fellow #NeverTrumper (at National Review) Jonah Goldberg echoed Williamson’s calls for Trump to put down the phone, writing, “Now, to be fair, I think the more accurate analysis would be to say that the tweeting hurts more than it helps. Not every one of Trump’s tweets is the political equivalent of taking a sock full of quarters and smashing himself in the crotch, only some are. If he just tweeted within relatively sane and presidential parameters, it would be an asset for him.

“Feel free to discount my advice, and just listen to Victor Davis Hanson, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, or virtually every Republican member of Congress who understand that Trump’s tweets distract from his agenda, cause chaos among his staff, make it harder for Republicans to embrace him, and harden attitudes among Democrats and winnable voters.”

Unlike Williamson (who just seems out to smear Trump and score bitter points), Goldberg actually makes some good reasoned arguments as to why Trump should abandon his fondness for social media at-the-ready. His piece is well worth reading if you have time.

But I would disagree that Trump’s tweets truly distract from his agenda – or have any effect on it whatsoever, unless establishment Republicans use them as justification to sit on their hands and perpetuate the status quo.

Trump’s tweets certainly influence the public’s perception of him and therefore are reflected in his overall approval ratings, but his agenda is completely separate from anything that goes out over the internet. Issues are issues – if you’re a member of Congress and you’re in favor of ditching Obamacare it doesn’t matter a hoot what Trump says about Brzezinski and Scarborough, CNN, The New York Times or Washington Post.

The Republicans’ paralysis has nothing to do with Trump – or at least little to do with him. Establishment Republican leaders showed little interest in pursuing the conservative agenda long before Trump ever arrived on the political scene. For them to blame Trump or his tweets now for a failure to advance bills is just a hill to hide behind when frustrated citizens come searching with pitchforks in hand for answers as to why very little is getting done on Capitol Hill.

Granted I haven’t regularly read Williamson’s or Goldberg’s work, but why is it they’re so focused on Trump and willing to give congressional Republicans a pass for their inaction? Is it because GOP representatives and senators like Paul Ryan and John McCain “behave,” don’t tweet, say the right things to the media and then go home to their districts and make all sorts of promises they don’t intend to keep?

There’s little doubt Trump’s tweeting is something new for Americans to chew on. Whether it’s a distraction – or just a diversion – will be debated for a long time, no doubt. In the meantime the calendar will turn, the debt will mount and people will live their lives regardless of what the chattering class thinks about Trump’s mass musings.

It’s about time for Republicans to ignore all the noise and start working on what’s real.

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