CNN’s landing page is pretty much a good temperature check regarding how febrile the media’s Trump-adjacent COVID-19 coverage is.
As of Monday morning, it’s pretty overheated.
Here’s a good sampling: “Trump officials deflect blame for US death toll, escalate reopening push.” “While Obama calls out ‘so-called grown-ups,’ Trump administration takes a victory lap.” “Senior CDC official rebukes White House trade adviser’s criticism as tensions escalate over reopening strategy.”
At least they’ve forgotten about that time they insisted President Donald Trump seriously told us we had to inject cleaning solution into our veins to kill the coronavirus. They’ve moved onto reopening fears and the fact that former President Barack Obama is attacking Trump again.
And yes, there’s always Obama.
This past week, during his virtual commencement speech for historically black colleges and universities, he had this unveiled criticism of the Trump administration: “More than anything, this pandemic has fully finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing. They’re not even pretending to be in charge.”
Obama echoed a similar sentiment Saturday during his virtual commencement for high school students.
“All those adults that you used to think were in charge and knew what they were doing? It turns out that they don’t have all the answers,” he said. “A lot of them aren’t even asking the right questions. So, if the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you. …
“Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy — that’s how little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way — which is why things are so screwed up.”
The adult in the room, ladies and gentlemen.
The sad thing is that I pick CNN for this exercise because it’s the most identifiably anti-Trumpist of the major cable news channels, but you could pretty much pick any network’s website and come up with the same result.
This isn’t much different from the treatment Trump has received thus far in his presidency — but what was once morbidly funny is now just morbid.
And yet, even with the smear job, the president numbers aren’t as bad as the media would have you believe.
Consider a Gallup poll released Friday that found Trump’s approval rating at 49 percent compared with 48 percent disapproval. According to a news release by Gallup, this is “unchanged from the prior measure in late April and tied for the best of his presidency.”
As Paul Bedard noted in the Washington Examiner, this puts him just shy of the 50-51 percent that most experts say would make him a lock for re-election.
Actually, neither of the last two presidents to be re-elected even had that level of support in the Gallup poll at this point in their presidency. In fact, they were both a tick lower than Trump’s approval rating.
On day 1,209 of Obama’s presidency, he had a 47 percent approval rating in the Gallup poll. On day 1,205 in the George W. Bush presidency, he had a 46 percent approval rating.
Now, granted, both were dealing with pressures. That being said, neither was dealing with a global pandemic that has resulted in mass unemployment and unprecedented lockdowns.
In addition, Trump is naturally divisive; you probably aren’t going to see many poll numbers above 50 percent for Trump — and yet, he’s in the White House.
Bedard pointed out other surveys that look good for Trump. A May Economist/YouGov poll, for instance, showed that just 33 percent of adults felt that he bore “all” or “most” of the blame for unemployment under COVID, compared with 57 percent who said he bore “some” or “none” of the blame.
A McLaughlin & Associates survey from April found 48 percent of people said the media had been unfair to Trump in their coverage of the coronavirus crisis compared to 42 percent who found it was fair.
In some measure, that last poll should probably tell you all you need to know about why the president can’t be counted out this fall quite as easily as the media thinks he can be.
For the media, the coronavirus is all part of a longer story arc. It began before Trump came down that escalator and will follow him down into the grave. To them, he is an incompetent doofus one day and a malevolent godfather making deals with the Kremlin the next. There are even days when he’s the incompetent godfather, like Mr. Magoo shortsightedly bumbling his way into doing exactly what the Russians want him to do.
And then there’s the former president, increasingly worming his way back into our political life by taking shots at afar at his successor — including in virtual commencement addresses.
His message seems to be that the days of grown-ups being in the room has passed. Adulthood in the political sphere, apparently, is now defined as making passive-aggressive comments from afar about the current president to high school and college graduates.
This seems to be a liberal feedback loop: The media covers liberal politicians decrying the Trump administration, liberal politicians point to that media coverage to demonize the administration, the media covers this again, and the cycle of life continues.
This cycle, however, is divorced from how most Americans experience politics and policy. Yes, these are just three polls among a panoply of them. Although Gallup is generally considered one of the gold standards in presidential polling, the polling average of Trump’s approval rating is about three points lower, according to RealClearPolitics.
However, even that number doesn’t indicate an American public entirely convinced they’re being led by a man who told them to inject cleaning products into their veins to fight COVID-19.
If that’s CNN and the media’s universe, well, good for them.
They can continue to plaster their coverage with the same piffle they’ve always said about Trump, only with the panic and righteous anger slathered on with extra vigor thanks to the coronavirus.
They can continue to seethe about Trump’s demeanor and wish for the good ol’ days when there were some real adults in the room.
Liberal politicians can echo this and run a return-to-normalcy campaign, with normalcy being defined as the senescent Joe Biden and the insurgent young left.
They couldn’t figure out why they got Trump the first time. They won’t be able to figure it out this time, either.
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