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Reich writes: "Now that Trump has been president for almost a year, it's time the media called his behavior for what it is rather than try to normalize it."

Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)
Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

How the Media Protects a President Unfit for Office

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

13 January 18


ow that Trump has been president for almost a year, it’s time the media called his behavior for what it is rather than try to normalize it. Here are the six most misleading media euphemisms for conduct unbecoming a president: 

1. Calling Trump’s tweets “presidential “statements” or “press releases.” “The President is the President of the United States, so they’re considered official statements by the President of the United States,” Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer, said last June when asked during his daily briefing how his tweets should be characterized

Wrong. Trump’s tweets are mostly rants off the top of his head – many of them wild, inconsistent, rude, crude, and bizarre.

Normal presidential statements are products of careful thought. Advisers weigh in. Consequences are considered. Alternatives are deliberated. Which is why such statements are considered important indicators of public policy, domestically and internationally.

Trump’s tweet storms are relevant only to judging his mood on a particular day at a particular time.  

2. Referring to Mar-A-Lago as “the Winter White House. The White House says the term is accurate because Trump does official business from there, and, besides, Mar-A-Lago’s former owner wanted the Palm Beach estate to become a presidential retreat.

Rubbish. Unlike the White House and Camp David, the traditional presidential retreat, both of which are owned by taxpayers, Mar-a-Lago is a profit-making business owned by Trump.

The White House is open for public tours; Mar-a-Lago is open only to members who can pay $200,000 to join.

Mar-a-Lago, along with the other Trump resort properties that he visits regularly, constitute a massive conflict of interest. Every visit promotes the Trump resort brand, adding directly to Trump’s wealth.

Normal presidents don’t make money off the presidency. Trump does. His resorts should be called what they are – Trump’s businesses.

3. Calling his lies “false claims or “comments that have proved to be inaccurate.” Baloney. They’re lies, plain and simple.

Early last year the Wall Street Journal’s editor-in-chief insisted that the Journal wouldn’t label Trump’s false statements as “lies.” Lying, said the editor, requires a deliberate intention to mislead, which couldn’t be proven in Trump’s case. 

Last fall, NPR’s then news director, Michael Oreskes defended NPR’s refusal to use the term “liar” when describing Trump, explaining that the word constitutes “an angry tone” of “editorializing” that “confirms opinions.”

In January, Maggie Haberman, a leading Times’ political reporter, claimed that her job was “showing when something untrue is said. Our job is not to say ‘lied.’”

Wrong. Normal presidents may exaggerate; some occasionally lie. But Trump has taken lying to an entirely new level. He lies like other people breath. Almost nothing that comes out of his mouth can assumed to be true.

For Trump, lying is part of his overall strategy, his MO, and his pathology. Not to call them lies, or to deem him a liar, is itself misleading.  

4. Referring to Trump’s and his aide’s possible “cooperation” or “coordination” with Russia in the 2016 presidential campaign.

This won’t due. “Cooperation” and “coordination” sound as if Trump and his campaign assistants were merely being polite to the Russians, engaged in a kind of innocent parallel play.

But nothing about what we’ve seen and heard so far suggests politeness or innocence. “Collusion” is the proper word, suggesting complicity in a conspiracy.

If true – if Trump or his aides did collude with the Russians to throw the election his way –  they were engaged in treason, another important word that rarely appears in news reports.

5. Calling Trump’s and Paul Ryan’s next move “welfare reform,” as in “Trump has suggested more than once that welfare reform might be the next big legislative item on his agenda.

Rubbish. They’re not going after “welfare.” Welfare – federal public assistance to the poor – was gutted in 1996. Trump and Ryan are aiming at Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

Nor are they seeking to “reform” these programs. They want to cut them in order to pay for the huge tax cut they’ve given corporations and the wealthy. “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform,” Ryan said recently, “which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.”

So call it what it is: Planned cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

6. Describing Trump’s comments as “racially charged.” “Racially charged” sounds like Trump doesn’t intend them to be racist but some people hear them that way. Rubbish.

Trump’s recent harangue against immigrants from “shitholes” in Latin America and Africa comes only weeks after The New York Times reported that at another Oval Office meeting Trump said Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS” and that Nigerians who visit the US would never “go back to their huts.”

This is the man who built his political career on the racist lie that Barack Obama was born in Africa, who launched his presidential campaign with racist comments about Mexican immigrants, who saw “fine people on both sides” in the Charlottesville march of white supremacists, and who attacked African-American football players for being “unpatriotic” because they kneeled during the National Anthem to protest police discrimination.

This is the same man who in 1989 took out full page ads in New York newspapers demanding the return of the death penalty so it could be applied to five black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a white woman in Central Park – and who still refuses to admit his error even though they were exonerated by DNA evidence.

Stop using terms like “racially charged” to describe his statements. Face it. Trump is a racist, and his comments are racist.

Words matter. It’s important to describe Trump accurately. Every American must understand who we have as president. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+32 # Wise woman 2018-01-13 14:40
Your last sentence should include the word "thinking". Trumps followers don't think. Theirs is a knee jerk response to their already racist, mysogenist beliefs. This has been the undercurrent of the country since its inception and grew exponentially after Obama's election. "Such men are dangerous" Shakespeare intoned.
+20 # bread and butter 2018-01-13 14:54
Trump is absolutely unfit for office, by any definition.

Yet, DNC Democrats refuse to even try to do anything about it because they're too busy calculating the political benefit of keeping him, so the next warmongering DNC Republican-lite candidate can be put in office in 2020, without their need to ever listen to their base.

What if there's no country left in 2 1/2 years? Don't worry. The DNC isn't.

Regarding the concept that Pence is "more" dangerous because he's sane, or because he's a religious nut (as opposed to the all-around kind of nut Trump is):

1. Pence is no different than Bush in that regard, and when did DNC Democrats do anything about him?

2. Being a lunatic of the Pence/Bush variety, is NOT the same as being insane in a way that could actually be clinically diagnosed. Trump is showing serious signs of mental incompetence.

Pence and Bush may be evil, and you may disagree with them, but that's not the same thing.

3. The people who elected Pence (and let's face it, it was his philosophy that got elected - and HILLARY DID LOSE - LIKE IT OR NOT), won. Convoluted sentence. Trump won, like it or not. Besides his insanity, our system of government requires that he be allowed to lead, unless there's a compelling reason to remove him.

Trump's insane.

Pence isn't.
-1 # Secret Squirrel 2018-01-14 15:43
Pence is a bible-believing sociopath who would be worse for the U.S. at least Trump is overtly preposterous. Pence would just be a more polite version of Trump. better the enemy you can see than the one you can't.
0 # bread and butter 2018-01-15 09:08
So, Pence is a typical Republican.

I can see that Trump is mentally unstable in a way that endangers us all, but it's good politics for DNC Democrats to sit by doing nothing, so the can be "lesser of two evils".

Which is a typical DNC reaction.
+1 # lfeuille 2018-01-16 19:22
Pence would be easier to oppose. Trump is so frenetic he has the opposition going in all directions at once. Fighting repeal of net neutrality over here and the tax bill here and repeal of DACA and other immigrant protections over here while under the radar, he is appointing judges that will uphold the move toward theorocacy that Pence so desires and also pushing the exact things Pence advocates himself. This never draws any opposition from Trump because it is overshadowed by everything else. That would not be the case with Pence.
+1 # kyzipster 2018-01-16 14:49
What Trump is doing with immigration is far worse than anything Pence might be able to accomplish. I think it's the biggest human rights crisis going on right now, families and communities getting ripped apart, people in hiding, no longer able to work. The law is on his side and I blame Congress and the extreme right. We had a bipartisan immigration reform bill set to pass in the Bush years. Sponsored by McCain and Kennedy, endorsed by Bush. Giving legal status to millions of undocumented workers. The right-wing culture warriors that gave us Trump derailed it. And here we are. Trump is the bigger danger imo.

Pence's beliefs are dangerous, he's a true believer, but the law isn't on his side and I doubt Congress is either. The judicial system is still functional enough to keep him in check. The main reason I think he's preferable is because he's about as boring as they come, unlikely to win re-election in 2020. Common sense would say that Trump doesn't stand a chance but we felt the same way about Bush in his first term. He did far more damage at least so far, if we measure by loss of life.
+23 # bread and butter 2018-01-13 14:56
DNC Democrats say, "we can't remove him because Repugs are in control".


It should.

Q: Why are Republicans ALWAYS able to get their agenda even when they're in the minority?

A: Bad ideas, that are actually believed and pushed, will ALWAYS win over good ideas, championed by weaklings with no convictions whatsoever, other than keeping the corporate lobbyist revolving door operating.
+18 # Farafalla 2018-01-13 18:41
I agree. The MSM does this every day. They allow Trump to function behind his smokescreen and refuse to report how he does it. That's why I need RSN and give as much as I can. I love Robert Reich (trolls be damned) and think he brings great clarity to issues of public policy. I only find him on RSN.
+16 # apotem 2018-01-13 18:55
I agree with Mr Reich but I'd suggest that he submits the above thoughts to the New York Times, Washington Post etc
+16 # Jaax88 2018-01-13 20:32
This is an important article calling out trump for what he is. A racist pure and simple. He should not be president now or ever.
+18 # LionMousePudding 2018-01-13 20:56
Also when they say things like

Trump's speech, which opponents characterized as racist, bla bla bla

The lies and racism are all portrayed as simply being what the opposition has decided to accuse him of. Damnit, they are lies and racism and even if they are so normalized that no one on the humane side even bothers to call them out, they are still lies and should be characterized as such. But to the media- and this has been true more and more as Republicans have more and more had a fragile relationship with anything good or honest in the world- constantly plays it as if there is no reality; there are only opposing teams sparring with words.
+3 # economagic 2018-01-13 21:08
Not bad for Professor Reich, compared to his usual mainstream Democratic pap. These points are mostly well taken, although pointing out the shortcomings of the MSM is like shooting fish in a barrel. Surely, however, he must be aware that there is now a serious question of whether T-Rump is capable of speaking an actual purposeful lie, or whether it is all just stream-of-uncon sciousness BS. Professor Harry Frankfurt's little volume "On Bullshit" is relevant here.
+10 # Adoregon 2018-01-13 22:34
If words matter, here are mine:

Mass protests everywhere demanding Resident Rump resign immediately.
+11 # elizabethblock 2018-01-13 23:40
I'm old enough to remember the "credibility gap" - a euphemism for saying of President Lyndon Johnson that we didn't believe he was telling the truth. And I am appalled at how low we have come.
The old joke was that George Washington couldn't tell a lie, Richard Nixon couldn't tell the truth, and Ronald Reagan didn't know the difference.
Trump? Masha Gessen calls his lies "power lies," lies told not to convince the audience of something that isn't true, but to demonstrate the power of the speaker.
And the way we - or some of us - now take them for granted is "malignant normality," in Robert Jay Lifton's phrase, a phrase he invented to describe the way Nazi doctors assigned to Auschwitz adapted to evil.
+14 # USADUDE 2018-01-14 00:49
President* Trump the racist Nazi sympathizer belongs in a jail cell cleaning his stainless steel toilet himself. He conspired with the Russians communicating using cable news like when we all saw him ask I mean beg Russia to find Hillary’s emails. That was him agreeing to what was discussed by Jr and company in June. Book him Dano. This fraudulent freak has no morals ethics or integrity neither do the gop leadership of treasonous boot lickers. The founders didn’t forsee this shithole of a president cesspool creature or a treasonous party of justice obstructors like the modern gop. Lock them up before they do anymore damage to our country and our relationships with our allies. It takes a special kind of ignorance and arrogance to fuck up our relationship with the U.K. but Baby isn’t welcome in London think about that for a second. No think about it for longer. The largest “ShitHole” known to scientists is above his chin and below his nose. A bigger shithead is hard to imagine. I am giving the country until the midterms if the blue wave doesn’t take back the house I’m selling my houses and going expat. Not going to stick around and say “when they came for me there was no one left to speak out” This must end with impeachment anything less is unacceptable.
+17 # Mimi Kennedy 2018-01-14 01:11
Yes. Thank you. I am humiliated by this president. And endangered. I know many fraudulent elections led Americans to think we were all leaning hard right, poor and immigrants be damned. But it was an illusion fostered by corporations who appreciate small, hard, cruel, government that gives all moneymakers free rein over a population valued only as consumers. We are not Trump Americans by a majority, not by a long shot. But fraudulent elections in important jurisdictions led us to think so. Mr. Reich, please give some thought to those demanding election count transparency. We need it. And your voice could help.
+8 # JCM 2018-01-14 13:56
Mimi: More than likely you are aware of this:

It's amazing how we are all in denial about doing anything about it. So little is said about it in MSM. We will have a hard time wining until we can stop this democracy killing farce.
0 # lfeuille 2018-01-16 19:35
Yes, we need it, but we also need it in the primaries. The argument that the parties are private clubs and can't be regulated doesn't hold up when you consider that they nominate the people who eventually become president.
+10 # jimmythelark 2018-01-14 04:27
Well put Mr. Reich !!! We as a nation and a people must hold him accountable. He is a RACIST and a DESPICABLE person !!! Thanks for having the courage to confront him and the press.
+9 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-01-14 08:18
Sorry to go off topic here but I just saw that Chelsea Manning is going to run for the Senate against the neo-con Ben Cardin in Maryland. Ben Cardin was the dope who signed off on the New Cold War manifesto published by congressional democrats last week. Maybe he thought that would help his campaign. He's wrong. He signed his own defeat warrant.

We should all get behind Chelsea Manning. I am worried that the Democratic party won't support her. She could be the face of the new generation of democratic politicians. She has the courage and knowledge to be a force in the Senate. Sanders and Manning should team up.
-1 # lfeuille 2018-01-16 19:37
They won't. Glenn Greenwald wrote about it yesterday. They are already trying to sabotage her.
+4 # mavrant 2018-01-14 13:27
Somebody humor me please. If trump is found to have obstructed justice, and weather or nor he's guilty of treason, would those that have supported him, knowingly, in this obstructive, and or, treasonous behavior be considered accomplices and punishable as abetting treason, or obstruction? There are too many pointers to treasonous behavior, or obstruction at a minimum, for any of those clowns to go scott the bankers, etc have. That includes v.p, "advisors", like family members. Bunch them in with the Flynns, cannon, etc.
Just a rambling "wish".
0 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-01-14 14:01
I'm still waiting for evidence Trump's "collusion" with the Russians. No matter how many times the media says it, it's not true until we see evidence. So far, speculation.
+1 # PCPrincess 2018-01-15 11:46
For those of you who might assume that Pablo is somehow a 'Trump' supporter because he/she insists on seeing evidence of collusion, think again. Rather, we know there is a lot left un-reported about what happened in the last national election and the bigger story is the corruption and lies and theft of the Democratic Nomination. The fact that Trump or a family member met with business associates in Russia pales in comparison.

Think before marking, or, better yet, ask the poster what they mean. Conversations are always better than a thumbs down/up. If American citizens would ask more questions and demand more answers, we may have had a very different person in the White House now.
0 # crispy 2018-01-16 01:14
Indeed on consortium news Scott Ridder wrote a long article discrediting the russia collusion story
0 # crispy 2018-01-16 01:19
Yes Pablo, consortium news posted an article by Scott Ridder exposing Russia-gate as fraud.
0 # lfeuille 2018-01-16 19:29
True, but obstruction doesn't depend on collusion being proved and there are numerous other crimes he has committed. Unlike what some would have us believe, prosecutors can pursue any crime they come across in an investigation. It does not have to be related to the original charges.
+1 # RLF 2018-01-15 08:45
"Normal presidents don’t make money off the presidency"

Sorry but how did the Clintons end up rich? How did Obama end up rich? The Bushes were already rich so it's hard to gauge but I'm sure they didn't go begging. The president elect is always writing a book and given a 5-10 million dollar advance so that they are then part of the 1% and loath to raise taxes on themselves. Our Government is corrupt and needs to be called as much!
+1 # lfeuille 2018-01-16 19:31
They were poor when they left office. They got rich from outrageous book deals and speaking fees afterward. NOT which they were in office.
+4 # krazykwiltkatt 2018-01-15 20:37
Is it Fascism yet? Tick-Tok.
+2 # lfeuille 2018-01-16 19:26
That's not what the DNC says. They say talk of removing him will make it impossible to strike any deals at all with him and also make it less likely that Dems will ever have a majority even capable of removing him. Face it, Republicans are n vot going to do it. No matter how outrageous he gets, they defend him. The fact is we cannot remove him as a minority party. The votes aren't there.

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