Thursday, Sep 20, 2018
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Keith Burris

The Kabuki dance of disdain

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    President Dwight D. Eisenhower did not run the United States like a reality show, but with a professionalism and dignity lacking in today’s political world.

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    Political commentator Laura Ingraham has been criticized for her inflammatory remarks, but some hope to silence her.

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    Keith Burris.

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There are times when I think our national politics has gotten, well, just weird.

What, for example, is the Omarosa story actually about? Why was she working in the White House in the first place? What was her qualification? What was her duty there? And how is it that someone — a person who is about to be fired — enters the White House Situation Room with a recording device?

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More and more of our national journalism is either a chronicle of the trivial and absurd, like Omarosa, or Kabuki Theater — a series of elaborate, ritual dances encompassing posture and gesture, but ultimately mere self-gratification, irrelevant to national life.

During a trip overseas recently it became very clear to me how obsessed the U.S. media is with President Donald Trump. Not his policies, anything but his policies, but his unworthiness.

I took to reading British newspapers to find out what was going on in my own country, to say nothing of the world.

When, exactly, did the press become our moral arbiters?

In May, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said: “We have to acknowledge that there is so much more happening in the world than Donald Trump … the upshot is that we risk not covering a lot of really important things ...”

It’s not just “all Trump, all the time,” it is “all illigitimate Trump all the time.” And this campaign is quite unprecedented in scope. There was some of it with Richard Nixon and some with Barack Obama: He’s not my president and he has to go. But not like there is with Mr. Trump.

Much of the media is a full participant in the left’s unrelenting drive for this President’s delegitimation. CNN, for example, is on an endless crusade to prove that the President is not only corrupt, ignorant and unhinged, but incompetent.

If so, then why is the economy doing so well? Why is North Korea at the table? (A train going from South Korea to North Korea does not make Kim Jong Un trustworthy, but it beats war.) How are good people picked to be secretary of defense, or secretary of state, or associate justice of the Supreme Court?

Luck?

True, there have been some dreadful Cabinet picks too.

Alright, someone punch my ticket: I, too, deplore the President’s more than occasional childishness, and churlishness, and unstatesmanlike behavior.

My idea of a good president is Dwight Eisenhower or Jerry Ford.

But we are never going to see presidents like that again. Because the country wants a reality show. Drama and melodrama. It started with the Kennedys.

Yes, the President would be his own worst enemy, were it not for the national press and the Democratic Party. Yes, he is himself the second-worst distraction from his own accomplishments. And, yes, as Peggy Noonan has said, he thinks his greatest weakness (an inability to be silent, which ability is the beginning of dignity) is his strength.

Oh, what many of us would give for a year of silent Cal or even laconic Ike: A president not always in our faces. That would be the start of limited government.

But, really, what is the point of the existential and unquenchable Trump bash? What is it about but virtue signaling? And isn’t it rather easy virtue?

It would be so much harder, but better, for the press to go deep into issues — from gun violence and what might actually work to ameliorate it, to which people come into the country legally and why, to whether the steel industry really could make a partial comeback.

Instead, so much energy goes into the ritual dance of disdain. One must daily signify one’s disdain for the President. Indeed, those of us in the press must out-disdain each other.

Hence, several hundred newspapers felt compelled to scold Mr. Trump in unison this week. It was supposed to be about freedom of the press. It was really about Donald Trump, and press unity regarding him.

Freedom of the press ought to mean, in part, diversity of thought.

No, we in the press are not the enemies of people. The people know that.

For sure the President ought to say that the press informs the people. And that most journalists do what they do out of a sense of service, and love for the republic, and the things for which its stands.

Maybe the press should also declare a truce.

Is it just possible that Donald Trump loves the country as much as we do?

Can’t we be satisfied to say that some of his policies are wrong headed and ill-conceived?

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Instead the Kabuki dance does on: Signify your disdain for Mr. Trump. Repeat. Signify again. Repeat.

● A Washington columnist says Sarah Sanders Huckabee should be shunned and unemployed for the rest of her life because she corrupted herself by working for a lying, scheming politician. Really? How about George Stephanopoulos? Or the sainted Bill Moyers? Or the late Bill Safire?

● Laura Ingraham is to be obliterated and labeled a racist because she said America is not what it once was. I think she’s wrong, at least the way she articulated it. But I don’t think she should be buried. I admire the commentator, Steve Hilton, who contested speech with speech and made the essential point: We are the only country in the world where anyone can be one of us. You can live 30 years in France and not be French or 50 years in England and love it but never be an Englishman. Everyone and anyone can be an American, You don’t have to be Anglo-Saxon, you only have to believe in our constitution.

● The #WalkAway dude, Brandon Straka, is refused service because his politics are wrong.

Good grief.

You can’t sell a guy electronics because he is a disenchanted Democrat who now likes Mr. Trump? That is the America that no longer resembles the one we all grew up in.

Ours also used to be the only country in the world where people could completely disagree about politics and still be good friends.

Let’s make it that way again. Let’s stop the posturing for those in our tribe and cut members of the other tribes some slack. Let’s admit that those we disagree with are people of good will and not our enemies, but our neighbors.

Keith C. Burris is editor and vice president of The Blade, and editorial director for Block Newspapers. Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.

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