A Fresh Normalization Cycle For Trump

Additional, fresh signs that the current political and media environment continues to help the president

Publisher’s Riff

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Image result for trump on meet the press today

Chuck Todd’s speedy, geeky, snark-lite and unmistakably starstruck “ow-wow-I-got-an-interview-with-the-president” recent Meet the Press interview of President Trump was no match for Trump’s gregarious, New York City-hustle, talk-all-over-folks, beat-down and double-down with lies response style. Walking away from it, old school viewers of MTP missed Tim Russert, his grittier pile-on interrogation would have been much preferred for Q&A that seemed somewhat out of Todd’s league. The Washington reporters’ clique and some on the left might think they scored a victory for “free press” by prompting a fresh batch of “did-he-say-that?” one-liners (and follow up tweets) from the president. But, Todd’s grinny, soft chuckle inability to counter Trump’s seasoned salesman baritone offered the president an optical opportunity to look more presidential than he really is. The MTP roundtable assessment was afraid to reveal to Todd that he actually got played; indeed, Todd showed this when reflecting during an early morning Sunday preview segment with local newscasters on the Washington, D.C. NBC 4 affiliate, convinced that the president doesn’t “really know, isn’t getting all the information” on what’s happening to children on the U.S.-Mexico border because if he was “he’d stop it.” Oh, ok …

Even though the presidential election mash-up between Democratic nominee and Republican incumbent is over 16 months away, a confluence of events over the past week show Trump is on a path to a second term. Even the president’s own outrageous missteps and the occasional credible allegation of sexual assault against him seemingly gain less coverage and noise than Hillary Clinton’s manufactured email scandal did in 2016 or Joe Biden’s uncomfortable shoulder rubbings and hugs of women and general old-man weirdness. Not only did the Meet the Press interview actually help Trump, but it rationalized his decision-making process: he now does not look like an equivocating and scared Commander-in-Chief who was openly punked by the Iranians, but, according to him, he is reasonable convener of “doves and hawks” who also acknowledges that his National Security Adviser John Bolton is unhinged to have the United States military would “go against the whole world.” Instead of highlighting the president’s inability to fill crucial Cabinet positions and properly manage a nearly $5 trillion organization, he was able to craft the narrative that he’s simply bogged down by “personnel” issues. And, he was able to solidify the flipped narrative that, actually, he’s the one who wants “humanitarian aid” for imprisoned migrant children on the border, but Democrats won’t approve the funding for that.

Media types like Todd and his colleagues might take it that the interview went well because it was “revealing.” One might argue: How much more reveal do you need to know what this president is all about and what he’s up to?

Democrats, meanwhile, are tripping all over themselves and won’t be satisfied until Trump wins re-election. Congressional Democratic Party leadership took to placating the Black intelligentsia last week with a showy House subcommittee on reparations and no legislative movement to follow, while offering no official counter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s views on the matter. Biden still can’t articulate better responses to his role in authorship of the infamous 1994 Crime Bill, his 1970s views on busing and his relationship with openly segregationist Senate colleagues long ago. But, his critics still can’t explain which of the other Democratic primary candidates, including the less experienced Senators, could navigate the Senate better than Biden, who was simply saying he’s a better legislative branch institutionalist who knows what conversations to have and the buttons to push - perhaps fashioning himself as an East Coast Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson, not known for his politeness, was by all accounts extremely effective at getting bills passed because of his intimate familiarity with Congress.

Neither Cory Booker or Kamala Harris, still new to the Senate have that familiarity. Nor doe Elizabeth Warren, also new; Bernie Sanders, not as new, has burned so many bridges over the years with his scorched-earth style as the anti-lawmaker that is still remarkable he gets re-elected with barely any major bill-passing record to speak of. Interestingly enough, Booker and others complained loudly about Biden’s relationship with late Southern Democratic segregationists such as Sen. James Eastland (Mississippi) and Sen. Herman Talmadge (Georgia), but then how to explain Booker’s own coziness with the likes of Gov. Chris Christie, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz? Booker has been on a desperate, bipartisan “we’re-all-friends” congeniality tour since he arrived in the Senate. No one bothers him about that because many see the common-good value in it.

Meanwhile, as Democrats engage in a fresh round of circular firing squad, the Democratic National Committee is now officially spending in the red while finding itself heftily out-raised by its rival Republican National Committee. The crowded primary is not so much a problem, really, but the party can’t craft a unifying message and progressives seem bent on the perfect completely obliterating the good: How much change agent can anyone expect with this current president getting re-elected, bolstered by an enabling Senate and Supreme Court?

Democrats would have a better chance, perhaps, focusing more on re-taking the Senate and expanding their state legislative and guberatorial, all of which Republicans currently control. The presidential race, at the moment, is shaping up nicely for the incumbent.