The New York Times is feeling feisty this morning, going out of their way to point out that the Trump administration’s alternative facts about the inauguration are false in every particular. They also hit the administration with a terrible review of their first days in office from Trump’s own top aides. For good measure, they trashed Sean Spicer, the new press secretary, slapped the president around for not releasing his tax returns, highlighted a new legal challenge that will claim that all foreign payments to Trump-owned companies are violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, and provided more coverage of the massive, global, anti-Trump women’s marches.
There will be no honeymoon for Trump with the Establishment media and that’s not a bad thing. Early kid’s gloves coverage of new administrations is usually as ritualistic as the inauguration ceremony, more done in politeness and respect for the office than for any genuine news purpose. It’s best to dispense with all the fluff pieces and get down to business, and never more so than with this bumbling insulting mess.
There’s no need to single out Sean Spicer to blame for this as Margaret Sullivan did in the Washington Post this morning. She said that Spicer’s Saturday evening press statement “should be seen for what it is: Remarks made over the casket at the funeral of access journalism.” But she then observed that Donald Trump “intends to make the American media his foremost enemy” and that he “wants a flat-out war with the nation’s media for one well-calculated reason: Because he believes it will continue to serve his political purposes, as it has for months.”
While Sullivan advised reporters to resist taking the bait and to strive for fairness, she concluded that with Barack “the only adult in the room” Obama out of office, the media “has to be the grown-up in the room,” since “we’ve just been reminded of who it won’t be.”
Especially without a high profile Democrat remaining to use as a piñata, Trump more than ever needs to use the media as a foil. But this strategy will not prevent people from noticing that he simply cannot do this job on even a pretend level. By making enemies out of both the media and the intelligence community, he’s made sure that people will notice his every failure.