The Donald, Hillary, and the 'Extremely Dishonest' Press

October 17th, 2015 10:09 PM

The headline in The New York Times says it all:

     CNBC Gives In to Donald Trump on Details of the Debate

The story by Jonathan Martin reads in part:

CNBC will allow the Republican presidential candidates 30-second opening and closing statements at a debate this month, bowing to the demands of Donald J. Trump and other leading candidates that they be allowed to introduce themselves…..

…The Oct. 28 debate at the Coors Events Center in Boulder, Colo., will last two hours, including commercials, another accommodation to Mr. Trump, who was unhappy with the length of the three-hour Republican debate last month in California.

…By moving to adjust the format, CNBC may be setting a precedent for the other media organizations sponsoring debates. The presence of Mr. Trump in the race led to record-shattering viewership of first two Republican forums. Were the provocative real estate magnate not to appear at future debates, the audience could sharply drop off.

In other words? Donald Trump takes on the media -- again -- and wins. "Trump Schools CNBC," proclaimed Fox Business Channel on screen.

Back in May of 2014, I sat down with Donald Trump to interview him for The American Spectator. The article ran two months later. What calls this to mind is that one of my questions focused on the criticism of Republican leaders and Mitt Romney in 2012 from conservatives and the media. There was a considerable feeling that neither Romney or other GOP leaders had stood standing up and fought back when the media was seen as unfairly attacking them. At the time in 2014 Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was in the headlines for controversial remarks on race, and Trump had been asked about the situation. I’ve gone back and looked up Trump’s reply to me, which went like this:

Well, I see firsthand the dishonesty of the press because probably nobody gets more press than I do. As an example, last week I was on a Fox program, a Fox show, and I very much lambasted Donald Sterling. And then at the very end I said: “On top of which he has the girlfriend from hell.” And the haters and the very dishonest reporters that have their own agenda, they didn't cover what I said about Donald Sterling. They only took the girlfriend from hell and they said "oh he's not blaming Donald Sterling he’s defending Donald Sterling, he’s blaming the girlfriend.” That's not what I said. I said very strongly -- in fact a lot of people were very angry at the press, at certain people, even press that normally wouldn't come to my defense -- because when they got the transcript they saw the whole thing was about Donald Sterling. But they took that last little sentence out and they said “oh I’m defending Donald Sterling” and I'm blaming the girlfriend.

The press is extremely dishonest. Much of it. Some of it I have great respect for and they're great people and honorable people. But there's a large segment of the press that's more dishonest than anybody I've seen in business or anywhere else. They’re extremely dishonest and very dishonorable people. And the one thing you have to do is you have to inform the public. The public has to know about the dishonesty of the press because these are really bad people and they don't tell the truth and have no intention of telling the truth. And I know who they are and I would expose them 100%. And I will be doing at that. I mean as I go down the  line, I enjoy exposing people for being frauds and, you know, I would be definitely doing that. I think it's important to know. Because a lot of the public they think “oh they read it in the newspaper"  and therefore it must be true. Well much of the things you read in the newspaper are absolutely false and really disgustingly false.

Notice anything? He said "I know who they are and I would expose them 100%. And I will be doing that." He added "But you got to fight ‘em. You got to fight ‘em.”

The Donald has been nothing if not true to his word. Since the launch of his campaign he has quite publicly fought with NBC, Fox News, Megyn Kelly, CNN, MSNBC, various reporters for same, Univision, Jorge Ramos (whom he briefly had tossed from a press conference)  and now…CNBC is feeling the heat. And on the issue of debate rules, the man who wrote The Art of the Deal won the day. CNBC caved.

Is it any wonder Trump is leading in one poll after another for the last four months?

It would be a mistake to simply ascribe his frequently double-digit leads in the polls to the fact that he is fearless in taking on the media. The real lesson here is that by being fearless in taking on powerful media organizations -- something his Republican competitors not to mention the GOP leadership in Washington are almost always afraid to do -- Trump is seen as exhibiting a prime trait of the job he seeks: leadership. Bold leadership.

As that interview he gave to me in 2014 illustrates, when Donald Trump says something -- he follows through. He does it. He has been absolutely true to his word as he promised me he would. Certainly none of his media targets from this year would doubt for a second that when he said “you got to fight ‘em” he meant it.

Contrast Trump’s approach with that of Hillary Clinton. As criticism has piled on the former Secretary of State over her e-mails and Benghazi earlier this year, what was Clinton’s response? She went into a cocoon. Here, to pick an example at random, is a Hillary story from US News and World Report in March of this year. The headline?

     It's Time to Really Meet the Press: If Hillary Clinton has nothing to hide, she should stop hiding.

The story by a sympathetic Susan Milligan opened by saying:

It’s not difficult to understand why Hillary Clinton is wary of the press and of excruciatingly heavy scrutiny. There she was, in 1992, a smart, confident, capable woman whose husband was running for president. The couple’s sales pitch was that by voting for one, you’d get both: two Ivy League-educated attorneys with experience in public policy. Instead, the female part of the couple was treated with pettiness and nastiness. Her hair (and black headband) were criticized, as were her legs. She was criticized for saying she just didn’t want to spend her days baking cookies and having teas. (What person, male or female, with a professional degree would want to consume the hours that way?) When questions were raised about her husband’s affairs with other women, the ire and blame quickly shifted from him to her: Forget about whether he betrayed a commitment to his wife. What was wrong with Hillary Clinton that she wouldn’t leave the bum? And when Bill Clinton won anyway, the gender-based barbs at Hillary Clinton continued, with whispers that she was alternately either a lesbian or having an affair with Vince Foster, a White House official who tragically took his own life.

So we can see why she might be a little defensive. What’s perplexing is that after all this time in public life, she is still acting so defensively.

Milligan went on at length, ending her piece this way:

The press corps can be relentless, it can be mob-like at times and even mean. But the best way for Hillary Clinton to protect herself from the press is not to avoid the media, but to face them, every day and without fear or apology. If she doesn’t have anything to hide, she ought to stop hiding.

In her own way, Milligan was suggesting to Hillary exactly the strategy Trump is following by instinct. He protects himself by quite deliberately not avoiding the media. He faces them without fear or apology -= and if he is displeased he will make sure the journalist or journalistic institution in question - not to mention all of America and the listening world - knows it.

But, of course, Hillary Clinton isn’t about to go there. While she has begun to improve her media skills, it is stunning that after all these years as a public figure her first instinct is - run and hide. Be deceptive, sly.

Is it any wonder the American public responded in one Quinnipiac Poll  to a free-association question by saying, as headlined here by ABC, the following:

      Poll: 'Liar' Most Frequently Associated Word With Hillary Clinton

The very same poll had respondents saying of Trump that he was “arrogant.” With even worse descriptives trailing along like “blowhard” and “idiot.”

Trump’s reaction was to just keep going. He kept talking. Sitting down with just about anyone and everyone - once, of course, his fights with the interviewers (or most of them) had been settled to his satisfaction. Not so with Hillary.

One of the classic wisdoms of writing films or novels is the advice to “show, don’t tell.” If a female character is to be furious with a spouse, the writer doesn’t give her a long angry speech. The point is made by having the character slap her hubby across the face. Thus illustrating her anger by showing, not telling.

One suspects that one of the reasons Donald Trump is doing so well in the polls is that when it comes to dealing with the media he shows, not tells. Which is, in fact, showing leadership.

At this point in the campaign none of his GOP opponents have grasped what Trump is doing. With the possible exception of Ben Carson - who lately has stood his ground and fought back when attacked and now has co-signed that CNBC letter with Trump threatening not to show up for the debate unless their conditions were met.

After all this time in the public spotlight, Hillary Clinton still hasn’t learned the lesson. She’s a tells, not shows. Except when it comes to hiding from the media. Which, ironically, shows what a Clinton presidency would be like. Quite vividly.