"There is a great anger in our country, partly caused by incorrect and even fraudulent news coverage The Fake News Media, the true enemy of the people, must stop the open and obvious hostility and report the news accurately and honestly That will do much to dispel the flame of Anger and Indignation and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony, Fake News Must End! "
So. The reason, according to Donald Trump, that we have "anger" and "indignation" in this country, and that he is not able to "bring all parties together in peace and harmony", is because the media report false stories.
There are many things wrong with this logic (and these tweets) – both factually and morally. Here are a few:
3. Trump's tweet condemns the media to foster divisions and includes this rule: "The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People." We have a president who at the same time insists that the media is the main cause of the division and hatred that is emerging in this country and that the entire free and independent media is an enemy of the American people. The irony is suffocating.
What makes all of this worse is that Trump does not hate the media at all. He loves the media. His Twitter feed, his interviews, back-and-forth with reporters all make clear how much an avid consumer of the mainstream media he is. He spends hours watching TV and tweeting about it every day. He not only knows reporters who surround him at sight, but he also knows stories they have written about him and whether those stories in his mind were good ("true") or bad ("fake") to him. We have never had a president who is a media expert, or who cares just as much about what the media think of him as Trump.
And it is that fact that is really terrible here. Trump knows that the media did not do this. But he also knows that his Republican base hates the media. And that, with just eight days before the midterm elections, the media attacks on the horrific events – including some that are directly targeted at the media – will work on a revolution in that base. And a grouped base could reduce the battle of what appears to be a very difficult election.
That is his only calculation. A political designed to take advantage of this situation. And that – and this is VERY important to think about – is the fundamental difference between Trump as President and every person who came before him as president: he has zero believe in the idea of the president as a moral leader in the country.
Trump is right that he has not created the politically polarized world in which we live. (I would debate the accusation that Bill Clinton has ushered in.) But earlier presidents saw the growing divisions between parties – and the tendency to label those you disagree with as morally bankrupt or angry as a problem they President, could try to solve through their own moral leadership. Trump saw the polarization in the country as an opportunity to exploit from the moment he became a candidate for president in 2015.
That double reality almost makes sure that when moments such as the white supremacist violence happen in Charlottesville, Trump responds with his "both sides" doing bad things. Or that when a series of women comes out with the claim that Roy Moore as teenagers has entered into relationships with them and in some cases has attacked them, Trump will first raise his hands and insist that no judgment is possible. The same goes for the accusations of domestic violence against the former secretary of the White House, Rob Porter. Or Trump's claim that "bad" people were behind the questions raised about his candidate Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh.
In the world of Trump there is no morally good and morally wrong. There are only people who like and support him and those who do not. If you are an advocate of his (or someone who has said nice things), he leans back to find ways to make you free. If you are politically against him, then everything you do will be thrown in the service of a lie or a lie.
You can agree or disagree with the policies of Barack Obama or George W. Bush or Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush or Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter. And a lot of people did – and do. But what all these men had in common was a moral compass – an idea of how the presidency of the United States is not just a task where you do everything to help your friends and hurt your enemies, but get a job in with which you are seen as a beacon of moral leadership in the country and the world.
Trump does not see the presidency like that. And that complete moral vacuum – where it is impossible to say what is right or wrong, unless and until you know the political motivations of a person – already has terrible consequences in the country.