Our various one-track minds: Atop the front page of the Washington Post, three journalists report the latest from Candidate Trump today.
We were struck by the limitations of Trump's one-track mind—and by the limitations of the one-track mind found at the Washington Post:
GOLD, DEMIRJIAN AND DEBONIS (6/11/16): It was a bad time for Sen. Cory Gardner to be caught in an elevator with a reporter. Donald Trump had just referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts as “Pocahontas”—again—and the Republican freshman from Colorado was struggling to figure out how to respond.Candidate Trump was at it again. In another way, so was the Post.
“I think people need to be treated with respect, and that’s what we’ve demanded from everyone,” he offered.
But was it racist?
Gardner clammed up. He politely referred further questions to his press secretary.
We agree with Senator Gardner. It would be a better world if people were more frequently treated with respect.
In our view, it would also be a better world if reporters had a wider range of lenses through which they viewed Trump's conduct.
Candidate Trump had made his latest unusual comment—again. Once again, he had referred to Senator Warren as "Pocahontas." According to the Post report, he had also referred to her as "Goofy Elizabeth," the comic book-level term of derision he has selected for her.
In the course of the Post's report, its team of reporters quoted the views of various people concerning Trump's "Pocahontas" comment and his behavior in general.
Senator John McCain said he tries to avoid "personal insults." Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) said Trump should avoid such "pejorative" language.
Several other Republican senators dismissed the "Pocahontas" remark as a joke. In some ways, we think Republican strategist Stuart Stevens had the most salient reaction:
GOLD, DEMIRJIAN AND DEBONIS: The “Pocahontas” line spurred chatter at former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s ideas summit Friday in Park City, Utah, where some attendees said they were aghast at Trump’s many race-based lines of attack.Personally, we wouldn't say Trump is "sick," but we think Stevens was in the right ballpark. We would say that Candidate Trump frequently seems disordered, perhaps diagnosable.
Stuart Stevens—the chief strategist on Romney’s 2012 presidential bid, who, like Romney, has vowed not to vote for Trump—said the candidate’s use of “Pocahontas” to attack Warren was both racist and inappropriate.
“If you said this in a sixth-grade class, the teacher would tell you, ‘Don’t say this,’ ” Stevens said.
“This is a sick guy, and Americans are not longing for a president who’s going to go out and use ethnic slurs against people,” he said. “It’s amusing in the same way telling dirty jokes around a frat house can get laughs, but most people grow out of that. It’s childish.”
Candidate Trump seems to have no normal concept of the role of accuracy in one's public statements. He rarely seems to have any idea what he's talking about.
He constantly self-contradicts, often within mere minutes. And yes, we'd say that his behavior is frequently "childish," as Stevens said.
In the relentlessness of his inaccurate statements, Candidate Trump is in a class by himself in the modern political era. That said, the press corps has been very slow to establish this as a troubling fact about Trump.
Treatment of his constant misstatements is consigned to little-read fact-check blogs. In hard copy, on page one, reporters seem inclined to limit themselves to one question only:
Are his statements "racist?"
Is it "racist" when Candidate Trump derides Warren as "Pocahontas?" In our view, the candidate's conduct in this latest pitiful episode doesn't rise to that level.
The sheer inanity of Trump's behavior strikes us as its defining characteristic, along with the relentless inaccuracy of his public statements.
That said, we see a problem. Modern journalists have themselves been inane, and relentlessly inaccurate, for perhaps three decades now. Perhaps for that reason, modern journalists seem to have a hard time recognizing or discussing those traits in Candidate Trump.
Modern journalists have been inventing facts to fit preferred narratives for decades. Perhaps for that reason, modern journalists have been very slow to challenge this part of Trump's game.
Modern journalists seem to know only one question: "Was that last statement racist?" They seem to know just that one play, have only that tool in their tool shed.
In our view, this limitation isn't impressive, intellectually or morally. It tends to pose as moral concern. It strikes us as a moral pose and as a form of shirking.
Was Candidate Trump's latest statement racist? For ourselves, we don't think this latest inane behavior rises to that level.
In our view, Trump is disordered, apparently dishonest, relentlessly inane. So too, we'd submit, is the national "press," with its one-track mind.
The fact-check we still haven't seen: Did Donald J. Trump really send investigators to Hawaii in 2011 to check the facts of President Obama's birth?
Did those gumshoes, if they really exist, really uncover various facts which were highly disturbing?
In 2011 and 2012, Donald J. Trump made these claims again and again from very high platforms. In the process, he helped turn our public discourse into an even larger trash heap.
Were any of those statements true? Or was Donald J. Trump simply lying? To this day, we haven't seen a major news org investigate this behavior by Trump. It's a major part of his recent history, but the press doesn't seem to care.
Let's take a guess about the pass which is being extended to Trump. Perhaps this behavior was so much like the press corps' own behavior in recent years that news orgs haven't been able to see it for what it is.
Childish name-calling they can spot. Gigantic, rolling ugly inventions largely escape their ken!
Trumpism didn't start with Trump. It started inside the press. For decades, it's been the norm.