I could never have anticipated this post. In fact, I can see myself sitting in my journalism class alongside my friends, Marc, Mark and David, Alanna and Lori, and my professors, Isaacs, Patterson, Wood and Friendly. What I wonder, would have happened if I had predicted that 45 years later I would write, and publish where anyone in the world could see it, a commentary containing a reference to a “dick pic”? Never have received my degree, probably.
For those of you who have been on the far side of the moon, shielded from any electromagnetic radiation emanating from earth, a quick recap. Jeff Bezos, who the style books demand must be referred to as, “Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world,” on first reference, woke up one morning to find himself on the front page of the National Enquirer.
One generally finds the Enquirer at the supermarket checkout, where it might come in handy if the store is out of toilet paper. This issue featured the details of Bezos’ impending divorce, along with pictures of Bezos and a woman, not his wife, who he was reportedly seeing.
In spite of the headline, I am not going to argue that this report is not journalism. The press has a special place in the history of the United States. It is the only occupation specifically protected by the Constitution. The framers who wrote that document knew exactly what they were doing. They had employed the press to spread the word, sometimes false, about British abuse of colonialists. That helped fan the flames of insurrection. In fact, I’ve often thought the British might have won the Revolutionary War if they had just confiscated every printing press in America.
Calling another kid by an unflattering nickname is a habit most of us left on the grade school playground. Of course, Donald Trump is not “most of us.” Donald Trump seems to take a particular delight in coming up with a derogatory nickname for people he is not too fond of. “Crooked Hillary” is just one example.
Some of the people he attacks don’t take the bait and engage him in this fashion. I admire them. I don’t think I would capable of that much self restraint. If a punch in the nose wasn’t an available option, and the guy is of course surrounded by Secrete Service agents, I’d at least resort to the obvious retorts. “Donny Draft Dodger” is a good fit. And “Pussy Grabber” would work for an adult audience.
But I am happy to see two of our most recently announced candidates for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 have found a way to meet the Trump insults forcefully, while stopping short of my tendency to stoop to his level.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a frequent Trump target, took a broadside from the Tweeter in Chief after she made her announcement:
Not only did Trump employ his usual nickname for Warren, “Pocahontas”, he took a direct shot at her unfortunate claim of being Native American, something for which she has apologized repeatedly. To that he adds a reference to the campaign TRAIL. The capitalization has prompted critics to charge he is referencing and trivializing the “Trail of Tears”, a series of forced relocation of Native Americans which drove the Natives from their historical lands and cost thousands of them their lives. In his defense, some of his supporters have argued that Trump is not knowledgeable about this history and so could not have intended to make light of the tragic events. Think about it. Using ignorance as a defense.
Without resulting to direct name calling herself, Warren called out Trump for posting tweets she said are “racist” and “hateful.” And at a campaign rally in Iowa she added, “Here’s what bothers me, by the time we get to 2020 Donald Trump may not even be president.” “In fact”, she added, “he might not be a free person.”
Warren is not the only one drawing a barb from Trump. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar recently announced her candidacy for president in the middle of a typical Minnesota snow storm. From the comfort of the White House Trump tweeted:
I could do a whole hour explaining the difference between climate and weather and how Trump just cannot see the difference. We already know he melts in the rain and can’t operate an umbrella. So instead we’ll just let him play the ignorance card again and move on to Klobuchar’s classic response:
Once again a candidate proves she can give even better than she gets, making her point without resorting to the name calling that passes for debate.
And debate is what we need in these troubled times. Debate on the issues of the day and the policy choices we must make. Night after night in 2016 Donald Trump led the evening news by saying the most inflammatory thing he could think of while his opponents, trying to stick to civil discourse and policy based argument, got far less coverage if any. And the media is already at it, focusing its attention on Warren’s claims of native heritage, asking if Klobuchar is too tough a boss, if California Senator Kamala Harris is black enough and does New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand know how to eat chicken.
It would be nice if in 2020 voters demanded better of the news media, and of all the candidates.