It is not clear what will happen to O’Reilly, who does have a large fan base. He very will might wind up elsewhere, but it is doubtful that either a major network or another cable news network would take him. Most likely he will wind up at an outlet with much less exposure than he received at Fox.
The bigger question is whether the loss of such stars will reduce the ratings, and influence, of Fox. It will take time to see if other hosts can build as large a following. Current plans are for Tucker Carlson, who now has Megyn Kelly’s old 9 pm time slot, to move up to O’Reilly’s 8 pm time slot. The Hollywood Reporter also reports that a show now on at 5 pm, The Five, will take over the 9 pm time slot. They describe The Five as a “panel show hosted by a rotating panel including Dana Perino, Bob Beckel, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Greg Gutfeld, Juan Williams and O’Reilly Factor contributor Jesse Watters.” Considering the structure of the prime time “news” shows, I wouldn’t be surprised that if one of these people, or somebody else, should achieve a larger following, Fox changes to a single anchor prime time show in the future.
Our history of military intervention in the middle east has consistently failed to provide the desired results, and has repeatedly added to further destabilize the region and produce results contrary to our national security interests, including fueling terrorism. Intervention in Syria is even harder to justify when there is no favorable goal even being proposed, or sides worthy of supporting. Despite this, far too many people who should know better, both in the media and on the left, have been applauding Trump’s bombing in Syria, which appears far more impulsive than based on any coherent strategy to reduce deaths.
There are some who we would expect to be cheering Trump on. As Jack Shafer notes, “Nobody projects network war delight better than CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.” He showed that MSNBC is no better:
If cable news is just a fancy talk show about the news, then the hoarse hollering of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews is an hour-long news monologue. Almost gleeful about the war, which has temporarily lifted him from the slog of the Trump-Russia and Gorsuch stories, Matthews battled Blitzer Friday night for the title for Cable News’ Most Unbearable.
Unfortunately, far more journalists have fallen for the appeal of war. Margaret Sullivan has chastised those in the media who have become excited over the attack, giving a few examples:
“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night,” declared Fareed Zakaria on CNN, after the firing of 59 missiles at a Syrian military airfield late Thursday night. (His words sounded familiar, since CNN’s Van Jones made a nearly identical pronouncement after Trump’s first address to Congress.)
“On Syria attack, Trump’s heart came first,” read a New York Times headline.
“President Trump has done the right thing and I salute him for it,” wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens — a frequent Trump critic and Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist. He added: “Now destroy the Assad regime for good.”
Brian Williams, on MSNBC, seemed mesmerized by the images of the strikes provided by the Pentagon. He used the word “beautiful” three times and alluded to a Leonard Cohen lyric — “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons” — without apparent irony.
She further discussed the media coverage in general:
Why do so many in the news media love a show of force?
“There is no faster way to bring public support than to pursue military action,” said Ken Paulson, head of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center.
“It’s a pattern not only in American history, but in world history. We rally around the commander in chief — and that’s understandable.”
Paulson noted that the news media also “seem to get bored with their own narrative” about Trump’s failings, and they welcome a chance to switch it up.
But that’s not good enough, he said: “The watchdog has to have clear vision and not just a sporadic bark.”
Clara Jeffery, editor in chief of Mother Jones, offered a simple explanation: “It’s dramatic. It’s good for TV, reporters get caught up in the moment, or, worse, jingoism.”
She added: “Military action is viewed as inherently nonpartisan, opposition or skepticism as partisan. News organizations that are fearful of looking partisan can fall into the trap of failing to provide context.”
Dan Rather once again put matters in perspective, and showed what we have lost in journalism over the last few decades:
The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief. It is an awesome responsibility. Committing the use of force and American men and women in uniform is about as serious as it gets. But the truly great presidents understand that knowing when NOT to act is as important as knowing when to act.
It is a whole lot easier starting wars than finishing them. And there are many historical examples of where a promise of limited engagement quickly metastasized into something much bigger.
There is a tendency to rally around the flag, and a President who takes on a war footing can see a boost of support. It is often transitory. There are arguments to be made that President Assad in Syria has crossed a line that demands U.S. military interference. Whether this should have been a unilateral action is something we all must consider. Whether President Trump has a plan for what comes next must be debated. Whether there is a coherence to this missile strike fitting into a larger foreign policy strategy is a question that should give us all pause.
The role of the press is to ask hard questions. There is ample evidence that this Administration needs to face deep scrutiny. The lies we have heard, the chaos in governance, and the looming questions about ties with Russia – itself a major player in Syria – demand that the press treat this latest action with healthy skepticism. Perhaps it was the right thing to do. Perhaps a strong and wise policy will emerge. But that judgement is still definitely hanging in the balance.
The number of members of the press who have lauded the actions last night as “presidential” is concerning. War must never be considered a public relations operation. It is not a way for an Administration to gain a narrative. It is a step into a dangerous unknown and its full impact is impossible to predict, especially in the immediate wake of the first strike.
Alex Pareene warned about the consequences of pundits praising Trump for the bombing:
You think Donald Trump noticed how the first thing he did that actually got the TV guys to like him was kill a troop?
Here are some things Donald Trump is famous for:
1) Noticing which things he does that elicit positive attention and then doing those things over and over and over again.
2) Craving the validation of the press, generally the sort of press a 70-year-old upper class New Yorker pays attention to, especially cable news.
If one dead American service member won him this much praise, just imagine how much they’ll respect him when he kills a couple hundred—or a couple thousand!
Now that Trump has learned that there is a direct relationship between a president’s body count and how “presidential” the mainstream political press considers him to be, the whole world is fucked.
Eric Levitz gave four reasons why it is “profoundly irresponsible to commend last night’s events without equivocation.”
(1) While eyewitness accounts strongly suggest that the Assad government was behind Tuesday’s attacks, Trump’s retaliation came before any thorough investigation confirmed that evidence. The speed of Trump’s reaction betrays a lack of caution that should be unnerving even to those who support confrontation with Assad.
(2) The strike reportedly killed 16 people, including four children. In the opinion of the White House’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster the strike did not eliminate Assad’s ability to deploy chemical weapons, but merely degraded it. What’s more, there are already signs that the attack might enrage Assad more than it deters him.
If our concern is minimizing the deaths of Syria’s beautiful babies, it is by no means certain that last night’s action will not, ultimately, prove counterproductive.
(3) Congress never gave Donald Trump the authority to commit an act of war against the Syrian government, and to claim otherwise is to give the executive unilateral authority to kill people anywhere in the world, in the name of our republic. It is astounding that more people aren’t perturbed by that prospect, given that:
The Los Angeles Times is continuing its series of posts on Donald Trump, today addressing Trump’s War on Journalism. Here are some portions:
In Donald Trump’s America, the mere act of reporting news unflattering to the president is held up as evidence of bias. Journalists are slandered as “enemies of the people.”
Facts that contradict Trump’s version of reality are dismissed as “fake news.” Reporters and their news organizations are “pathetic,” “very dishonest,” “failing,” and even, in one memorable turn of phrase, “a pile of garbage.”
…By branding reporters as liars, he apparently hopes to discredit, disrupt or bully into silence anyone who challenges his version of reality. By undermining trust in news organizations and delegitimizing journalism and muddling the facts so that Americans no longer know who to believe, he can deny and distract and help push his administration’s far-fetched storyline.
It’s a cynical strategy, with some creepy overtones. For instance, when he calls journalists “enemies of the people,” Trump (whether he knows it or not) echoes Josef Stalin and other despots.
But it’s an effective strategy. Such attacks are politically expedient at a moment when trust in the news media is as low as it’s ever been, according to Gallup. And they’re especially resonant with Trump’s supporters, many of whom see journalists as part of the swamp that needs to be drained.
Trump has been criticized many times before for his attacks on the news media. I included some examples here, including criticism from Fox for the benefit of those who prefer that source, here, and here.
Even many on the right see how terrible a president Donald Trump is. For example, Jonah Goldberg writes, “the problem is Trump’s personality. His presidency doesn’t suffer from a failure of ideas, but a failure of character.”
Republicans are likely to pay a political price for the presidency of Donald Trump. Jonathan Chait has written about how Donald Trump will do far more harm to the Republican Party than if Hillary Clinton would have won.
Imagine what the political world would look like for Republicans had Hillary Clinton won the election. Clinton had dragged her dispirited base to the polls by promising a far more liberal domestic agenda than Barack Obama had delivered, but she would have had no means to enact it. As the first president in 28 years to take office without the benefit of a Congress in her own party’s hands, she’d have been staring at a dead-on-arrival legislative agenda, all the low-hanging executive orders having already been picked by her predecessor, and years of scandalmongering hearings already teed up. The morale of the Democratic base, which had barely tolerated the compromises of the Obama era and already fallen into mutual recriminations by 2016, would have disintegrated altogether. The 2018 midterms would be a Republican bloodbath, with a Senate map promising enormous gains to the Republican Party, which would go into the 2020 elections having learned the lessons of Trump’s defeat and staring at full control of government with, potentially, a filibuster-proof Senate majority.
Instead, Republicans under Trump are on the verge of catastrophe. Yes, they are about to gain a Supreme Court justice, no small thing, a host of federal judges, and a wide array of deregulation. Yet they are saddled with not only the most unpopular president at this point in time in the history of polling, but the potential for a partywide collapse, the contours of which they have not yet imagined. The failure of the Republican health-care initiative was a sobering moment, when their early, giddy visions of the possibilities of full party control of government gave way to an ugly reality of dysfunction, splayed against the not-so-distant backdrop of a roiled Democratic voting base. They have ratcheted back their expectations. But they have not ratcheted them far enough. By the time President Trump has left the scene, what now looks like a shambolic beginning, a stumbling out of the gate, will probably feel like the good old days.
The converse is also true. Democrats are in a position to be far more successful than they would be if faced with having to defend a triangulating Hillary Clinton in the White House, who very likely would have been more successful than Donald Trump in moving the country to the right. Rather than facing inevitable loses in Congress and in the states, Democrats now have a shot at retaking the House, especially if they present a clear alternative to the Republicans, as opposed to running again as a Republican-lite party.
The Los Angeles Times has posted the third in a four part series criticizing Donald Trump. (Update: It now appears to be a six part series.) Yesterday I pointed out the first two parts on Our Dishonest President and Why Trump Lies. Part three is on Trump’s Authoritarian Vision. They started with the authoritarian mindset behind Trump’s campaign promises to unilaterally fix everything:
To Trump’s faithful, those words were a rallying cry. But his critics heard something far more menacing in them: a dangerously authoritarian vision of the presidency — one that would crop up time and again as he talked about overruling generals, disregarding international law, ordering soldiers to commit war crimes, jailing his opponent.
Trump has no experience in politics; he’s never previously run for office or held a government position. So perhaps he was unaware that one of the hallmarks of the American system of government is that the president’s power to “fix” things unilaterally is constrained by an array of strong institutions — including the courts, the media, the permanent federal bureaucracy and Congress. Combined, they provide an essential defense against an imperial presidency.
Yet in his first weeks at the White House, President Trump has already sought to undermine many of those institutions. Those that have displayed the temerity to throw some hurdle in the way of a Trump objective have quickly felt the heat.
Consider Trump’s feud with the courts.
He has repeatedly questioned the impartiality and the motives of judges. For example, he attacked the jurists who ruled against his order excluding travelers from seven majority Muslim nations, calling one a “so-called judge” and later tweeting: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”
It’s nothing new for presidents to disagree with court decisions. But Trump’s direct, personal attacks on judges’ integrity and on the legitimacy of the judicial system itself — and his irresponsible suggestion that the judiciary should be blamed for future terrorist attacks — go farther. They aim to undermine public faith in the third branch of government.
The courts are the last line of defense for the Constitution and the rule of law; that’s what makes them such a powerful buffer against an authoritarian leader. The president of the United States should understand that and respect it.
The article went on to discuss other institutions under attack by Trump:
The electoral process
The intelligence community
They concluded with a look at the checks on presidential power, wondering if they will be enough:
Trump betrays no sense for the president’s place among the myriad of institutions in the continuum of governance. He seems willing to violate long-established political norms without a second thought, and he cavalierly rejects the civility and deference that allow the system to run smoothly. He sees himself as not merely a force for change, but as a wrecking ball.
Will Congress act as a check on Trump’s worst impulses as he moves forward? One test is the House and Senate intelligence committees’ investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election; lawmakers need to muster the courage to follow the trail wherever it leads. Can the courts stand up to Trump? Already, several federal judges have issued rulings against the president’s travel ban. And although Trump has railed against the decisions, he has obeyed them.
None of these institutions are eager to cede authority to the White House and they won’t do so without a fight. It would be unrealistic to suggest that America’s most basic democratic institutions are in imminent jeopardy.
But we should not view them as invulnerable either. Remember that Trump’s verbal assaults are directed at the public, and are designed to chip away at people’s confidence in these institutions and deprive them of their validity. When a dispute arises, whose actions are you going to consider legitimate? Whom are you going to trust? That’s why the public has to be wary of Trump’s attacks on the courts, the “deep state,” the “swamp.” We can’t afford to be talked into losing our faith in the forces that protect us from an imperial presidency.
These criticisms of Donald Trump are very similar to those I quoted a few weeks ago from Brian Klaas, a fellow in comparative politics at the London School of Economics, and author of The Despot’s Accomplice: How the West is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy. I have also discussed the increased interest in dystopian novels about falling into authoritarianism, including warnings from Philip Roth.
While Trump is not the only threat to liberty on the political scene, at least Trump is blatant in his attacks, and there is wide-spread understanding of the threat he presents. This has helped to mobilize opposition to him very early in his term.
Jake Tapper’s appearance on Bill Maher provided some hope about the future of media coverage in challenging government, but the interview also got back to partisan double standards. The Hill summarized some of the good points (with full video above):
CNN’s Jake Tapper on Friday tore into President Trump’s claims of news media bias, saying “there’s no bias when it comes to facts and there’s no bias when it comes to decency.”
“I’ve never really seen this level of falsehood,” Tapper said on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
“Just quantitatively. It’s not just, ‘If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor,’ it’s conspiracy theories based on nothing that have members of his own party distancing themselves from him.”
Maher noted that Tapper “sounds different” lately in adopting a more critical style in “speaking truth to crazy.”
“Politicians lie. It wasn’t invented on January 20,” Tapper said, but Trump is trying to “discredit the entire fourth estate, the entire media, we’re all fake news except for ‘Fox And Friends.’ ”
“The truth of the matter is that there’s no bias when it comes to facts and there’s no bias when it comes to decency,” Tapper added. “It is empirically indecent to make fun of the disabled. You don’t have to be a Democrat or a Republican or Independent or socialist or libertarian. That is just indecent. My children know better than that.”
Having the media point out when Trump is lying is far better than the common practice of the media reporting what both side say as if they are equally valid. Trump lies quite frequently in an administration which has become known for its use of alternative facts, and this should be pointed out. The news media provides an important service when it points out when politicians are lying.
Rachel Maddow had Twitter excited yesterday evening when she tweeted: “BREAKING: We’ve got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC. (Seriously)” I was immediately suspicious as to whether she really had anything. After all, MSNBC pretends to be a news channel. If they really had a major scoop, they would have announced it at the time on whatever show was on. Instead they used this to build excitement for Maddow’s show, and then waited until after the first break to show what they had.
It turned out that she had virtually nothing. All she had was two pages from Trump’ 2005 tax return which showed that he reported an income of $150 million and pain $38 million in federal income taxes. If anything this helps Trump, debunking claims from Hillary Clinton that Trump has “paid nothing in federal taxes.” There was certainly nothing here linking him to Russia. The little information released was so favorable to Trump that some are speculating that Trump was behind the “leak” of these two pages.
We did learn that Trump has taken legal deductions to legally minimize his taxes. Shocking. I do that too (even if not on the level which Trump is able to). He has also supported elimination of the alternate minimum tax. A wealthy Republican wanting to change the tax laws to reduce taxes on the wealthy is hardly a scoop.
Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia remains an open question. There have certainly been some items to raise questions, such as the incidents involving Jeff Sessions and Mike Flynn. It does appear that many who have spoken with the Russian ambassador, including advisers to Clinton as well as Trump, have been Retconned into forgetting the meeting.
Thomas Wood has put together an impressive “Russiagate Timeline.” There is certainly enough smoke to demand an investigation, including a review of Trump’s tax returns. However, despite claims from Clinton supporters, there is zero evidence of the key question of whether there was any coordination between Trump and Russia to influence the election.
After just over a month of Donald Trump’s presidency, Americans have very low expectations. His speech to Congress (transcript here) was received very favorably as he did not attack the media, or anybody else, and there wasn’t a single false claim about how large his election victory was. He even managed to wear a good looking tie which was not too long.
The speech boosted optimism. Hopefully that came more for a general feeling of decreased panic over fears that we might have an insane president, as opposed to any true belief in his policies. While the preliminary polls do show support for his agenda, viewers are often initially supportive of the speaker. The devil is in the details, and he gave very little detail as to how his general principles could turn into legislation. As Politico put it, Last night, Trump promised America could have all the cake it wants, and lose weight, too. What happens when he needs to deliver? Unfortunately this point seemed to be lost by many in the media who gushed over the speech, relieved that they were not attacked once again.
Brian Beutler also pointed this out, among several other failings in the speech which the media has paid too little attention to:
He alluded to courtroom convictions to create the false impression that terrorism in the U.S. is principally a consequence of weak vetting and porous borders—a false justification for his Muslim ban, which the courts have enjoined. He cited an increase in homicides in 2015 to foster the impression that violent crime is at a historic high, rather than a historic low. He outsourced to Defense Secretary James Mattis a lie about a raid he ordered in Yemen—which resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL, numerous civilians, and an eight-year-old American girl—falsely heralding it as “a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence.” Hours earlier, Trump had blamed his own military planners and Obama for its obvious failure. He also claimed to support NATO, which he has previously described as obsolete.
Fact checkers, including The Washington Post, PolitiFact, and Factcheck.org had their usual lists of falsehoods from Donald Trump. These might not matter with regards to public perception of the speech. The facts will matter when they try to govern based upon fantasy.
Public Policy Polling reports, Trump Badly Losing His Fights With Media, but their findings do show that the news media, and reality, are doing far less well than they should. From their findings:
PPP’s newest national poll finds that Donald Trump is losing all of his fights with the media- and voters really think he needs to reduce his cable news consumption.
62% of voters nationally think Trump should keep his cable watching to less than an hour a day, and 82% think he needs to keep it under 2 hours a day. Just 6% of voters in the country think it’s a good idea for Trump to spend more than 2 hours a day watching cable news.
Last week Trump declared that the news media was the ‘enemy of the American people’ but we find that only 35% of voters believe that, to 53% who say that isn’t the case. By a 48/44 spread they say it is actually Trump who is the greater threat to the American people than the media. We asked voters who they thought had more credibility between Trump and each of the outlets he singled out for attack last week, and Trump loses out to every one of them by double digits.
They put up various media outlets in head to head polls against Donald Trump. The New York Time came out the best, beating Trump by a 52 to 40 percent margin. NBC, CNN, ABC, and CBS came out just slightly less well, beating Trump by ten to eleven points.
They also reported that, “We also in general find that voters find the media outlets Trump considers hostile to him credible, while it finds the outlets more friendly to him less credible.” They compared the number seeing each media outlet as credible versus not credible and reported net credibility. The New York Times and the major network news had net credibility ranging from 19 to 25. CNN lagged behind at 15 but still was seen far better than Fox, which had a positive net credibility at 6. Daily Caller, Info Wars and Breitbart had negative net credibility ranging from negative 31 to negative 36.
To a pollster’s mind this would be a big victory, but we are not looking at general election polling. In a general election, a win of ten points or more would be a landslide. While we saw how a three point victory was not enough for Clinton to win in the Electoral College, there is no question she would have had a large victory in the electoral college if she could have achieved a ten point victory.
However, this is not a general election poll. I still find it discouraging that in a question of who is more credible, Donald Trump, who has lied every day since taking office, is seen as more credible than major media outlets by forty percent of those polled. At least the more mainstream media was seen as more credible than the right wing sources which do intentionally spread misinformation.
This is not to say that the media doesn’t have its faults. CNN, for example, concentrates on star power over in depth coverage. They spend a tremendous amount of time with talking heads trying to tell people what they should think as opposed to giving the facts. Despite these faults, their errors in fact are rare compared to the constant deluge of alternative facts spread by Donald Trump and his administration. It is valid to complain that CNN presents superficial coverage and biased opinions. That is not the same as being “fake news.”
Donald Trump has received considerable well-deserved criticism for his attacks on the news media, including calling the media the”enemy of the American people.” Trump continued to attack the media at CPAC today, including a threat that “we’re going to do something about it.” He claimed that he was only attacking “fake” news, but his attacks have included many mainstream media outlets. He bases his attacks on coverage which is negative towards him as opposed to opposing news which is actually fake.
The Trump administration has also been packing the press briefings and his new conference with friendly newspapers and blogs and primarily taking questions from these sources. They have escalated this in blocking news media they see as unfriendly to them from covering today’s briefing. The Hill reports:
Spicer decided to hold an off-camera “gaggle” with reporters inside his West Wing office instead of the traditional on-camera briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.
Among the outlets not permitted to cover the gaggle were news organizations President Trump has singled out for criticism, including CNN.
The New York Times, The Hill, Politico, BuzzFeed, the Daily Mail, BBC, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News were among the other news organizations not permitted to attend.
If you feel that all we hear about these days is Donald Trump, you are right. Due to a combination of factors including his breaks with conventional norms and his own use of social media, Donald Trump is dominating the news more than is usual for a newly-elected president. His impact on the media extends beyond the conventional news. Farhad Manjoo even found a way to measure this:
Consider data from mediaQuant, a firm that measures “earned media,” which is all coverage that isn’t paid advertising. To calculate a dollar value of earned media, it first counts every mention of a particular brand or personality in just about any outlet, from blogs to Twitter to the evening news to The New York Times. Then it estimates how much the mentions would cost if someone were to pay for them as advertising.
In January, Mr. Trump broke mediaQuant’s records. In a single month, he received $817 million in coverage, higher than any single person has ever received in the four years that mediaQuant has been analyzing the media, according to Paul Senatori, the company’s chief analytics officer. For much of the past four years, Mr. Obama’s monthly earned media value hovered around $200 million to $500 million. The highest that Hillary Clinton got during the presidential campaign was $430 million, in July.
It’s not just that Mr. Trump’s coverage beats anyone else’s. He is now beating pretty much everyone else put together. Mr. Senatori recently added up the coverage value of 1,000 of the world’s best known figures, excluding Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump. The list includes Mrs. Clinton, who in January got $200 million in coverage, Tom Brady ($38 million), Kim Kardashian ($36 million), and Vladimir V. Putin ($30 million), all the way down to the 1,000th most-mentioned celebrity in mediaQuant’s database, the actress Madeleine Stowe ($1,001).
The coverage those 1,000 people garnered last month totaled $721 million. In other words, Mr. Trump gets about $100 million more in coverage than the next 1,000 famous people put together. And he is on track to match or beat his January record in February, according to Mr. Senatori’s preliminary figures.
This includes Trump dominating conversation beyond the news. He is everywhere on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and Reddit. He comes up elsewhere:
It is impossible to ignore Trump. His impact has been seen in many areas already, but probably the most on immigration. This excites the haters on the right, and is met with appalled criticism from others. The New York Times is not exaggerating in writing, Mr. Trump’s ‘Deportation Force’ Prepares an Assault on American Values.
Probably the most fearful narrative about Donald Trump is that he is an authoritarian, in Putin’s mold. There has been increased attention paid to George Orwell’s 1984 and other books about authoritarianism. Jonathan Chait has looked at these fears:
The prospect that President Trump will degrade or destroy American democracy is the most important question of the new political era. It has received important scholarly attention from two basic sources, which have approached it in importantly different fashions. Scholars of authoritarian regimes (principally Russia) have used their knowledge of authoritarian history to paint a road map by which Trump could Putinize this country. Timothy Snyder, Masha Gessen, and other students of Putin’s methods have essentially treated Putinization as the likely future, and worked backward to the present. A second category of knowledge has come from scholars of democracy and authoritarianism, who have compared the strengths and weaknesses of the American system of government both to countries elsewhere that have succumbed to authoritarianism and those that have not. Their approach has, more appropriately, treated Trump’s authoritarian designs as an open question. Trump might launch an assault on the foundations of the republic. On the other hand, he might not.
What are the signs of impending authoritarianism? Trump has rhetorically hyped violence, real or imaginary, committed by enemy groups, while downplaying or ignoring violence or threats from friendlier sources. He said nothing about a white-supremacist terror attack in Canada that killed six people before denouncing a knife attack a few days later by an Islamist radical in France that killed nobody. He quickly directed a government program on countering violent extremism to focus exclusively on Muslim radicalism and stop work halting white-supremacist terrorism. Just as he urged his campaign crowds to rough up protesters, he treated news that pro-Trump bikers would patrol his inauguration not as a threat to create chaos but as a welcome paramilitary force. “That’s like additional security with those guys, and they’re rough,” he gleefully told reporters. Trump’s rhetoric follows a pattern of politicizing violence, simultaneously justifying stringent government action against enemies he has designated while tacitly justifying vigilantism by extremists sympathetic to his cause.
Since his election, Trump has obsessively fabricated a narrative in which he is the incarnate of the will of the people. According to his own concocted history, he won a historically large Electoral College victory, and would have also won the popular vote if not for millions of illegal votes. He has dismissed protesters against him as paid agents, denied the legitimacy of courts to overrule his actions, and, most recently, called mainstream media “enemies of the people.” This is an especially chilling phrase to hear from an American president. Totalitarian dictators like Stalin and Mao used designation of a political figure or a social class as an “enemy of the people” as a prelude to mass murder.
It is worth noting that, so far, normal political countermobilization seems to be working quite well. “The Resistance,” as anti-Trump activists have come to be known, has already rattled the once-complacent Republican majorities in Congress, which Trump needs to quash investigations of his corruption and opaque ties to Russia. Whatever pressure Trump has tried to apply to the news media has backfired spectacularly. His sneering contempt has inspired a wave of subscriptions that have driven new revenue to national media, which have blanketed the administration with independent coverage. Popular culture outlets, rather than responding to Trump’s election by tempering their mockery, have instead stepped it up, enraging the president.
The most plausible (to me) mechanism by which Trump might ensconce himself in power was laid out by Matthew Yglesias three months ago. The scenario Yglesias described would be one in which Trump used the authority of the federal government to compel large firms to give him political support. Companies that opposed him, or who even refused to offer support, might be punished with selectively punitive regulation, while those that played ball might be rewarded with lax enforcement of labor, antitrust, or other regulation.
So far there is no evidence such a scenario is playing out. To be sure, Trump is attempting, sporadically, to bully the private sector. But the effort has backfired. Firms whose leaders make favorable statements about the president have seen their stock get hammered. A long list of prominent CEOs has openly criticized Trump. The reason for this is obvious. Trump’s supporters may have disproportionate power in the Electoral College, but his opponents have disproportionate power in the marketplace. Firms cater in their advertising to the young, who overwhelming oppose Trump, rather than to the old, who strongly support him.
If Trump has a plan to crush his adversaries, he has not yet revealed it. His authoritarian rage thus far is mostly impotent, the president as angry Fox-News-watching grandfather screaming threats at his television that he never carries out. The danger to the republic may come later, or never. In the first month of Trump’s presidency, the resistance has the upper hand.
Donald Trump earned 59 Four-Pinocchio ratings as a presidential candidate. Now that he’s president, he has continued his proclivity for making dubious, misleading or false statements. He also often repeats the same debunked claims even though they have been fact-checked. It’s hard to keep up with all of Trump’s rhetoric, so the Fact Checker is assembling in one place all of his suspect statements from his first 100 days as president. You can sort them by various categories and see how many times he has repeated the same false statement.
The most frequent topic of these claims is immigration, which came up 24 times. Other frequent topics are biographical record (17 claims) and jobs (17 claims).
The most common source of false claims was Twitter, but there were also plenty in other remarks, prepared speeches, and interviews.
Will that affect Trump’s political future? Perhaps less than you might think. In a Fox News poll conducted earlier this month, 45 percent of people said they trust his administration more than the media to tell the truth to the public while 42 percent said they trust the media more. That distrust of the media coupled with Trump’s aggressive efforts to discredit the press make stats like those above irrelevant to many of his supporters.