Well, that happened.
And happened and kept happening.
Last week was a doozie even by today’s speed-of-Trump news cycles. The midterms have come and gone and the President claimed victory despite losing the House of Representatives. CNN’s Jim Acosta got his White House press credentials pulled after once again failing to understand the difference been journalism and commentary.
An hour later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions finally walked the plank while 85-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg took a tumble of a different kind, cracking three ribs in a fall in her Supreme Court office.
Meanwhile, In Thousand Oaks, a demented former Marine murdered a dozen innocents for hell-only-knows what reason.
Where are the cat videos when we need them?
Lost in this avalanche of national news were stories that ordinarily would have us buzzing: for the first time in 100 years, the sheriff of Los Angeles County may have lost his re-election bid. Alex Villanueva, a candidate who campaigned to be the sheriff of the resistance, clings to a tiny lead over the incumbent, Jim McDonnell. Meanwhile, FBI agents came knocking at the home and office of L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar. They weren’t trick or treating.
And then there was this curiosity: Former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won a Senate seat in Utah. I’ll come back to Romney.
We rightly mourn and stew over the horrific murders at the Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks, yet another reminder there is no sanctuary from irrational violence. Neither a Sabbath service in Pittsburgh, a yoga class in Tallahassee or college night in a country music bar in the “fourth-safest city in America” inoculates us from the horror of the mentally disturbed with a grudge and a gun, or a truck or car or knife or pipe bomb.
Round up the usual suspects!
Let’s argue again over the Second Amendment, mental health care, violent video games, social media, lack of prayer in schools, whatever makes us comfortable. The one undeniable fact is our society produces an inordinate number of people who act upon their hoarded grudges and hatreds by killing total strangers, ideally in large numbers.
Kids in Denmark play the same video games as kids in Newbury Park. What are we doing wrong?
Back to the president.
At Donald Trump’s post-election press conference, CNN’s Jim Acosta crossed the line of professional decorum for the umpteenth time, allowing his personal animus toward the president to render him incapable of objective journalism. President Trump called on Acosta despite their checkered history, and Acosta immediately “challenged” Trump over his use of the term “invasion” to describe the migrant caravan moving toward our border with Mexico.
“We have a difference of opinion”, said the president.
But Acosta wanted to debate not report. The exchange quickly turned ugly and personal with the president calling Acosta a “terrible person.”
I have no idea if Jim Acosta is a terrible person, but he has proven himself to be a terrible reporter.
If CNN wants Jim Acosta to have a platform to air his personal opinions, it should let him host a show like Sean Hannity on Fox News or Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. In that forum he would be free to sound off all he wants. Or he could gasbag in print, a privilege this newspaper and its readers afford me. But Acosta has no business engaging this president or any president in vitriolic debates at the White House.
Of course, the administration then made it worse by pulling his credentials and converting Acosta into a First Amendment martyr. He is no such thing.
The president would have been better advised to inform CNN that Acosta is welcome to continue covering the White House but will never be called upon again, the journalistic equivalent of asking a foreign government to recall an unwelcomed ambassador.
I’m very concerned by the president’s attacks on the press and branding the media “the enemy of the people.” But the media is not without sin. Acosta is Exhibit A of journalistic malpractice.
It’s also time we put a spotlight on the epidemic of passive but equally destructive ways politicians subvert a free press: silence. A prime offender is our own Dianne Feinstein.
Feinstein rarely talks to the media about anything. She was just re-elected to yet another term in the Senate, yet barely said boo to her constituents or the press that serves as our watchdogs. Politicians routinely cherry-pick interviews, agreeing only to friendly softball press events, and often not even that. While we rightly criticize Trump’s press-bashing, the quiet, freezing out of media scrutiny at L.A. City Hall, Sacramento and nearly every other hall of power is equally destructive to an informed electorate.
And then there is Jeff Sessions.
The former attorney general earned the President’s unending wrath for recusing himself after the Russia probe became an issue. As a prominent member of the Trump/Pence campaign, Sessions could not possibly head the investigation into the campaign he served. Everyone seems to understand this except Donald Trump. Now, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is calling for street protests over the Sessions firing, praising him for defending the rule of law Of course, Maddow felt no such admiration when Sessions stood up for the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, the ultimate law of the land, when California thumbed its nose at our federal system by legalizing recreational pot at the state level and creating our own foreign policy with SB54, the so-called sanctuary law.
Finally, let’s return to Mitt Romney.
Romney, who was mocked by President Obama for calling out Putin’s Russia, also famously called out candidate Trump, labeling him a “con man” and “unworthy of the office.” Love him or hate him, some day Donald Trump will not be president. What will the Republican Party look like then? What will it stand for? Having remade the GOP in his image, what will it mean to be a Republican post-Trump?
I believe Romney ran for the Senate to pick up the baton dropped by John McCain upon his death from brain cancer. As the former presidential nominee of his party, as was McCain, and having shown the courage to speak out against the president’s worst impulses, Romney will be uniquely positioned to be the voice and conscience of what’s left of Ronald Reagan’s Republican Party. If so, Romney will be doing a great service to the nation.
Have you seen the cat on YouTube that high fives his owner? Click it. You’ll smile.
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. Hear him weekdays, 5-10, on AM 790 KABC. He can be reached at: Doug@KABC.com.
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