Bob Woodward Is Right: The Press Is 'Emotionally Unhinged' About Trump
The legendary newsman calls for more reporting rather than more outrage or puffery.
Here's what The Washington Post's Bob Woodward has to say about media coverage of Donald Trump:
BOB WOODWARD at Global Financial Leadership Conference in Naples, Fla., shortly after CNN sues White House over @Acosta :: "In the news media there has been an emotional reaction to Trump … too many people for Trump or against Trump have become emotionally unhinged about this."
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) November 13, 2018
In subsequent tweets, NBC's Dylan Byers adds:
WOODWARD on CNN lawsuit: "This is a negative … Trump is sitting around saying, 'This is great.'"… "When we engage in [Trump's strategy] we're taking his bait."…
+ WOODWARD: "The remedy [isn't a lawsuit], it's more serious reporting about what he's doing."
This strikes me as essentially correct—and it's worth noting that Woodward is talking about both pro- and anti-Trump folks. Although the latter vastly outnumber the former in the press, there's no question that Trump Derangement Syndrome cuts both ways. Recall, for instance, the Wall Street Journal piece by David Gelernter about "The Real Reason They Hate Trump" for a classic example of pro-Trump derangement.
Woodward's comments call to mind recent remarks by Jon Stewart. The former Daily Show host told CNN (of all places):
[Journalists are] personally wounded and offended by this man. He baits them and they dive in, and what he's done well, I thought, is appeal to their own narcissism, to their own ego…
It's all about the fight. He's able to tune out everything else and get people just focused on the fight and he's going to win that fight.
Stewart is right. Anybody who tries to go toe-to-toe with Trump reliably ends up getting flattened or, at the very least, wasting his or her time. And Woodward is right to stress the need for more and better reporting, regardless of your feelings about the president.
For instance, is the president's deregulatory agenda actually doing anything? Trump partisans say yes while a recent report says no. What is the reality? Read this by Reason's Christian Britschgi to find out. Is the migrant caravan still an existential threat (no, it never was)? Did the end of the world speed up because the United States pulled out of the Paris climate agreement (no)? Is Trump adding massively to the national debt, which is coming due with a force that threatens to swallow economic growth for years to come (yes)?
There are a hell of a lot important stories to figure out. It would be a shame if the press lets its feelings get in the way of doing its basic job.