Media Priorities

A Republic, if you can keep it.”

* This is personal as well as professional. It comes with being part of the Trump-demonized mainstream media. It comes with being labeled “an enemy of the people.” It also comes with wanting what’s best for your country.

We all know that Trump won’t be morphing into the sort of retired-president status his predecessors pursued. He’ll be working on a family-brand, media empire; proof-reading a few pages from a ghost-written memoir; suing somebody; and likely prepping for a 2024 Oval Orifice run. No more Trump Steaks and Trump University comebacks.

But he will need enabling—beyond GOPster sycophants and base deplorables. He’ll need the media—not just the Breitbart, InfoWars and Fox & Friends lapdogs. He’ll need the mainstream media watchdogs to keep him, uh, relevant—or at least prominent in most news cycles–while out of office. And that is, alas, right in the “good copy” wheel house of print and visual media. As are readers, ratings and sponsors.

But, sometimes, “country first” is more than an idealistic directive to self-serving politicians. In this case it means the mainstream media—which, as we embarrassingly recall, greatly abetted Trump’s reality-TV, celebrity candidacy with its gratuitous, over-the-top coverage of his smarmy, 2016 vaudeville rallies. That means not repeating the “This just in”/“Breaking News” gambit of four years ago–when the “Apprentice” crackpot was like an intersection accident that witnesses couldn’t help staring at.

We all deserve better than the Trumpian version of “if it bleeds, it leads.” That’s because we are all part of a democracy demonstrably vulnerable to the unhinged, autocratic whims of a narcissistic cult leader whose followers await high-profile, civil-war dog whistles. This is much more than a mainsteam media mulligan; this is now the serious media’s role in a come-to-Jesus inflection point for our assailable republic. Joseph Pulitzer had it spot on. “Our republic and its press will rise or fall together.”

* Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for the coronavirus—as well as for farcical fealty and mask indifference.

* “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”–Attorney General William Barr, no longer sounding like the president’s personal lawyer.

* “Trump’s agenda is to use these recounts and lawsuits to raise money, to have money to freeze the field in 2024, and to be an effective surrogate and spreader of money in 2022.”–GOP donor Dan Eberhart.

* In the opinion of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, there’s no way the world can curb climate change “without U.S. leadership.”

* Lou Holtz, 83, recently received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from “the greatest president in my lifetime.” Embarrassing—and not just because it puts the former Notre Dame coach in the presidential medal-receiving, acolyte company of Rush Limbaugh. That suck-up blarney line references a Holtz lifetime that includes the FDR Administration, among others.

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