President Trump describes himself as an immensely popular leader who was elected in a historic Electoral College landslide. He describes his administration as a fine-tuned machine — one that has accomplished more in three weeks than most of its predecessors did in their entire tenures in office.
The mainstream media cannot describe the president or his White House in these terms, because they are paid to describe reality — and, in reality, Trump is a historically unpopular president who was elected with an unexceptional Electoral College margin (and fewer total votes than his opponent), whose first month in office has been defined by an endless parade of embarrassing leaks, legal defeats, diplomatic blunders, and stalled legislative efforts.
So discrediting reality — and those who insist on discussing it — has become one of the Trump administration’s top priorities. On Thursday at CPAC, the White House’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon pursued that objective, aggressively.
In the Washington Post’s transcript of their conversation, the word “media” comes up 19 times; the phrase “opposition party,” which they use as a synonym for the Fourth Estate, comes up six times.
Priebus and Bannon have one basic argument for why the press cannot be trusted: The media did not anticipate a Trump victory.
First Bannon relayed this point:
[A]nd if you remember, you know, the campaign was the most chaotic — by the media’s description, most chaotic, most disorganized, most unprofessional, had no earthly idea what they were doing and then you saw them all crying and weeping that night on — on the 8th.
Then Priebus did:
And the — the — the media attacked us on the campaign; remember, attacked me, you can’t spend the money on Trump, go give it to the Senate. Attacked us on the transition, we — President Trump put in the best cabinet in the history of cabinets I think. Now — feed ridiculous stories and all we do every day and all President Trump does every day, is hit his agenda every single day.
Then Bannon relayed it, again:
Just like they were dead wrong on the chaos of the campaign and just like they were dead wrong in the chaos of the transition, they are absolutely dead wrong about what’s going on today because we have a team that’s just grinding it through on President Donald Trump promised the American people.
Priebus, then, reiterated this sentiment:
[W]e’re hoping that the media would catch up eventually. But we’re so conditioned to it, I’m personally so conditioned to hearing about why President Trump isn’t going to win the election. Why one — why a controversy in the primaries going to take down President Trump.
The media’s coverage of the 2016 campaign was far from perfect. And nearly every professional pundit underestimated Trump’s strength — most, by a great deal. But predicting the future and describing the present are very different tasks. We don’t need to wait and see to know whether the media was correct when it reported that Trump’s first travel ban was stalled by judicial scrutiny; or that his first month in office was actually far less productive than Obama’s; or that the president constantly tells demonstrable lies about these and other matters.
Nonetheless, Bannon wasn’t content to (baselessly) argue that all news reports are irrelevant. Rather, he instructed the CPAC audience to interpret all negative coverage of Trump as a sign of the president’s success.
Asked if there was any hope that the media’s coverage would become fairer as Trump’s successes piled up, Bannon replied:
It’s not only not going to get better. It’s going to get worse every day. And here’s why … They’re corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed — adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has … And as economic conditions get better, as more jobs get better, they’re going to continue to fight. If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.
All news is fake news. Bad news is good news.