The upscale, proper, polite, spiritually admirable view of this whole Trump mess, as expressed this morning on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show, is that the media have once again been conned by Trump, this time into focusing on the infamous secret memo about salacious details of Trump’s trips to Russia rather than talking about what is really important, namely that all 17 [!!] of America’s intelligence agencies agree that Russia systematically meddled in the presidential election for the purpose of helping Trump get elected.
Well, I am as eager as any decent highly educated upper middle class professional to concentrate on what really matters rather than being seduced by trash talk and unconfirmed dirt, but I as a warrior in the trenches of the anti-Trump battle, I would like to offer a different view. Do I have evidence for what I am about to write? Please! Be serious! But do I think there is something to what I am going to suggest? Yes, I do. Here goes.
In my view, that two-page addendum to the briefing memo [I assume by now everyone knows what I am talking about] was not a godsend for Trump, but a dagger to the gut, which, by the way, is why he has been Tweeting about it non-stop. How can this be? The Intelligence Agencies’ briefing was solid, multiply sourced, independently confirmed information, while the two-page addendum was malicious rumor. Quite so. But no one in America who matters at this point, which is to say Trump supporters, cares a fig about solid facts, whereas they all do care a great deal about dirty gossip.
What is vitally important in this battle is to delegitimize Trump. Insofar as he is delegitimized in the eyes of the public, he will lose some of the power conferred by his office to change the country. In seven days Trump will be the beneficiary of the most legitimating ceremony in American public life, viz the Inauguration of a President. Anything that makes him look small, foolish, ridiculous, contemptible, out of control will serve to weaken that legitimization.
The press conference made him look out of control, but who watched it? Those of us who have already made up our minds. But the memo, now released by BuzzFeed? Everyone will read that. How can they, when the mainstream media primly refuse to publish it? Come on! Only the mainstream media think it matters what they will and won’t publish.
But if this makes Trump look bad, why will Trump’s supporters believe it? Because it is, as they say in Psych departments, ego-syntonic, which is a fancy way of saying that it just goes to show what we already knew about him.
Will there be more dirt? You bet. Will everyone in America hear about it, even if the mainstream media refuse to publish it? Yup. Will the cumulative effect be numbing or delegitimating? That is the real question. I am betting it will be delegitimating, eventually draining away much of the enormous built-in authority of the Presidency.
We shall see.