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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Why reporters still don't get Trump

Let me explain why reporters in Washington still do not get President Trump or his voters.

It comes down to sources.

We send our best and brightest journalists to Washington, or at least that is where they land. They often work their way up by covering the bowels of government.

A reporter is only as good as his sources. The people they come in contact with are intelligent, credentialed, and competent. They work for think tanks, lobbyists, Congress, and of course, government.

They cultivate the reporters.

Thus, the reporting out of Washington is based not on the truth so much as by what serves best think tankers, lobbyists, congressional staffers, and government bureaucrats. They have seen presidents come, and they have seen presidents go. They are the permanent party.

And a smart reporter hitches his star to the guys who will be there A.T.P.L. -- After This President Leaves.

Now the sources are not necessarily evil. Indeed, they are good people who want government to do good things for the people. But they are myopic. They only see issues in terms of what the government can do -- and in their eyes the government can never do too much.

The sources actually thought everything was swell under Obama. They did not know any better. How could they? Their contacts outside the capital were limited to like-minded people.

They are smarter than the rest of us. As Bill Clinton said, they are better at spending your money than you are.

Nancy Pelosi best summed up the mindset of these think tankers, lobbyists, congressional staffers, and government bureaucrats:
We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy. 
She saw a problem for a few people (less than 1 million out of 320 million actually could not overcome pre-existing conditions for health insurance, based on post-Obamacare signups) and extrapolated it as a problem everyone faced, and therefore everyone's health insurance had to be overhauled.

Pelosi truly considered requiring people to buy health insurance as somehow giving people freedom, not taking it away:
Imagine an economy where people could follow their aspirations, where they could be entrepreneurial, where they could take risks professionally because personally their families health care needs are being met. Where they could be self-employed or start a business, not be job-locked in a job because they have health care there, and if they went out on their own it would be unaffordable to them, but especially true, if someone has a child with a pre-existing condition. So when we pass our bill, never again will people be denied coverage because they have a pre-existing condition.
Pelosi saw 22 million people not carrying health insurance as a problem. She assumed they wanted it.

So did all of Washington.

They still assume this to be true. It is not.

But Washington sticks to its assumption, which is why they will not repeal Obamacare.

Well, one reason. They also do not want to give up control of the health insurance of 320 million people.

If everyone in DC thinks everyone in America has a right to health insurance at a price set by government, then dagummit, it is true.


This is just one of the assumptions that government now runs on. Other assumptions:

Immigration. GOOD.
Capitalism. BAD.
Government. GOOD.
Industry. BAD.
Multicultural diversity. GOOD.
Cultural appropriation. BAD.

Now then, only 4% of the people in DC voted for Trump, while 46% of the people outside DC did.

So why would they see Trump coming?

But instead of respecting Trump's voters, they wrote them off as ignorant, and irredeemably deplorable.

The stories from the reporter's sources continue to feed a storyline that caught them unaware last year. They measured his candidacy by money raised, polls, and pundits -- as if he were a politician.

He isn't. That's why he won.

They have not learned. They are sticking by their sources. They do not see him as he is: a successful businessman. Instead, they see the superficial. Reality show star! And they call a man who grew a business to 22,000 people over a 45-year career "inexperienced."

Until reporters start going beyond the stereotype -- beyond their prejudices -- and view Donald Trump as a human being with faults, sure, but virtues as well, they will never, ever get him.

And the nation is worse for that.

The reporters in Washington are not an independent press. They are beholden to their sources: think tankers, lobbyists, congressional staffers, and government bureaucrats.

A reporter is only as good as his sources, which is why as a group, the ones in Washington stink.

Caution: Readers occasionally may laugh out loud at the media as they read this account of Trump's election.

It is available on Kindle, and in paperback.

Caution: Readers occasionally may laugh out loud at the media as they read this account of Trump's nomination.

It is available on Kindle, and in paperback.

Autographed copies of both books are available by writing me at

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  1. I agree with this post. But.....I have never liked the phrase "the best and brightest" as it relates to anyone.

    The best and brightest don't follow the herd.

    I hope in this piece it was said with tongue in cheek (as many Washington reporters seem to be the slowest and dullest (as well as quota hirings). I think many great reporters would hate to live in the cesspool that is Washington, or choose not to report on politics, and refuse to go there.

  2. One of my sons spent a year doing research as an intern for one of the big conservative think tanks. He came away disillusioned by the experience. While he respected the older men he was around, the behavior of the young up-and-comers was self serving and bent on climbing a ladder. These were people not dedicated to a cause, but to themselves. In other words, the basic mentality of the left prevailed even on the right, it merely tied itself to policies that differed from the left in degree, not in kind. This was quite some time ago. His take was that the conservative think tanks would end up being pale copies of those on the left, corrupted to a great extent by their people becoming creatures of their environment, rather than capable of changing that environment. He considered it a failure of the right to put their treasure in DC, where it could be overwhelmed by corruption, rather than in more benign environs. Just living there and paying rents, using the Metro, and buying groceries changes one's ways of thinking. These people no longer identify with those in their old home towns.

    If it is even this bad for people who are supposed to be right wing, imagine how bad it is with the ones who go there diving in with both feet. Absolute monsters.

    1. 28 years in Gaithersburg. Every word of your post is true, Doc

  3. As always, thank both of you for your insights. What motivates them to go to Washington is the problem.

  4. If the reporters covering the federal government were any smarter they would have better jobs. They must have an attitude similar to Ed Norton's. He wrote on the back of all his mail "S.W.A.K." And no, it's not "Sealed With A Kiss." It's "Sewer Workers Are Kings." They revel in the swamp. - Elric

  5. How far can idealism take someone who has to eat and put a kid through school? I visited DC regularly in the Clinton years, saw a little of its inner workings. Like everywhere its denizens seemed to be driven by self interest but it had a peculiar characteristic in that the intensity of access to federal money was the definition of worth among its rulers but nearness to the ruler was the definition of worth for those who created its functionality. Most of these men and women, being civil servants, were in the middle class at best.
    It reminded me a little of the Air Force where the proximity of your house to that of the commanding general determined your social status. Getting ahead, if one can call it that was determined by how happy you could make your boss, but you always knew his job was never going to be yours because he was appointed by a politician or had massive seniority.
    For this reason, although with some trepidation because I
    swear I am not now and never have been a journalist, I disagree some with Don's premise that Trump is not understood and that this is so because of cultural contempt. Yes some of the lower echelon are the 27 y/o newbie arrogantes Rhodes referred to but at the highest levels they are not at all. Most are old warriors who have been around for years their egos swollen with pride by the scalps they have taken. These people are not being fed pablum in a dark cage that has never seen light, they understand Trump very well, what he represents and who he represents. They do not attack or lie or make stuff up out of ignorance or by the direction of some clever manipulative source, rather it is that they are closer to he general, the boss, and they want to stay that way by making him happy. Are Bezos, the NYT scion, the owners of Comcast, Disney, Time warner, all unaware of what makes Trump tick? I don't think so. The masthead for the NYT is "all the news fit to print". the key word is Fit. It is a pejorative word, actually a latin subjunctive meaning "should become", chosen for a purpose. It means "what I think is in MY best interest is what the news should become", nothing else. the reporters Don refers too know who "my" refers to, and it is not some slimy eel in a think tank, it is the guy writing their check. Reporters are smarter than Don give them credit.