OPINION | Trump, Mika and Joe all show zero ability to act like adults
Just two weeks after we heard so many pleas for less heated rhetoric and responsible dialogue following the attempted massacre at a GOP congressional baseball practice that left four wounded, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. But somehow, it’s only gotten worse.
And it’s not only worse, it’s the stuff of drunken texts from teenagers — except everyone involved, from the president to MSNBC “Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, in Thursday morning’s case, appears to be totally sober.
For starters and most obviously, Trump needs to stay away from the kind of rhetoric we witnessed this morning in defending himself from the “Morning Joe” sophomoric-insult-to-grab-headlines-and-go-viral attempt of the day.
But here’s the sorry reality: Trump is Trump. At 71, he isn’t going to change.
He doesn’t care much for what the office represents in terms of gravitas or civility. That’s who he is, and most (not all) of his supporters absolutely love it when he punches back at a media that is as thin-skinned as he is.
And as we’ve seen time and again, the media has zero idea how to handle being criticized so candidly from a sitting president.
A recent Harvard study analyzing most major news organizations showed NBC News and CNN reporting negative news on the Trump administration at a 93 percent clip. Ninety-three percent. His supporters hear those kind of stats and are glad the target isn’t taking it. Again, that’s just the reality on the ground.
But this tweet about Mika Brzezinski is going way, way over the line, even for Donald Trump:
“I heard poorly rated Morning Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came …” Trump tweeted before adding, “to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”
I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
To use a term from the campaign, that’s deplorable coming from the commander in chief. And what he’s done (again) is to squander what was shaping up to be a winning week, for lack of a better term, in the ongoing war with the media after a CNN retraction led to three resignations of decorated reporters at the network. The story shifts now with the White House back on the defensive with some GOP lawmakers slamming said tweet.
All of that said, the media is in a very bad place right now. Major high-profile retractions recently from the likes of CNN, The New York Times editorial board and Vice News give Trump all the ammunition he needs to broad-brush the entire Fourth Estate as “fake news.”
So what exactly prompted Trump to go off on Mika and Joe again? Here’s a few examples of what passes for political analysis today on “Morning Joe”:
The program has continually called President Trump a “fake president,” starting just days after his inauguration.
“My mother had dementia for 10 years,” he said. “That sounds like the sort of thing my mother would say today … it’s beyond the realm,” he said.
Scarborough called Trump a “bumbling, bumbling dope” in May.
Scarborough said Trump looked like “a kid who pooped in his pants” in June.
Brzezinski revealed what was supposed to be an off-the-record conversation with KellyAnne Conway, alleging the senior adviser to the president only was sticking with Trump “for the money” while needing to “take a shower” after defending him. Conway says it never happened. Regardless, off-the-record is supposed to mean off-the-record, but Brzezinski shared anyway in a scene right out of “Gossip Girl.”
Brzezinski, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in April, had this exchange with a reporter (emphasis mine).
Question: “Do you think he takes it more personally when criticism comes from a woman?”
Brzezinski: “I think so. He just won’t even engage. Joe will punch him in the face and he’ll come back for more.”
Joe and Mika seemed to have figured out that by saying things so over-the-top and provocative on their show on a daily basis, it gets them a pat on the back, a gold star and most importantly, a story in Mediaite, which everyone in the industry reads and was my former home.
And that’s what most important to them and many others in this industry now — going viral. And the way to do that is to be more shocking one day to the next.
But in the case of Joe and Mika, there’s an additional motivation. They were basically ostracized from the elites in the media bubble in 2015 and most of 2016 for being too friendly with Trump as a candidate.
So now in an effort to gain acceptance again, to be invited on Seth Meyers and other programs, they’re tripling down on the personal rhetoric against Trump because the media bubble loves it. They’re back in the club. And after Trump’s stupid attack today, Mika will be crowned martyr of the day after her comments that Trump staffers need to be “lobotomized” for having the audacity of being loyal to the guy they work for.
In the end, it’s quite simple: The president needs to be above these kind of tweets that step on positive narratives like the sugar trade deal with Mexico announced earlier today. Be above the insults; punch back when warranted. Any opinion shows begging for attention should be ignored. We lose as a country when it get this deep into the swamp.
As for Joe and Mika, there’s plenty to criticize this presidency about on policy or staffing or messaging. But when getting as personal, as vitriolic, as childish as they have, it only plays into the Trump narrative that the media is the true opposition party with an agenda that goes beyond tough reporting.
Trust in media is at an all-time low. We’ve heard that for a while now.
Let’s add basic civility and maturity to that list.
Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill