Tag Archive: William Safire


“The man who reads nothing is more educated than the one who reads nothing but newspapers.” – Thomas Jefferson

“A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself.” – Joseph Pulitzer

Has there ever been a time in recorded history when past-and-present reporters have been so incensed?

Has there ever been a time in recorded history when past-and-present reporters have been so happy?

trumpenemy1

 

 

Donald Trump is good to the last drop, and reporters, editors and correspondents love it.

In the parlance of journalism, Trump is “great copy,” maybe the best story of all time.

Just like catnip, the media can’t stay away. They can’t help themselves. They not-so-secretly want to bring down Trump, and they want to bring him down hard. He in turn has declared war on the “failing” New York Times and the “Clinton News Network” (CNN) and several others.

Some First Amendment types have brought up the names of the worst despots (i.e., Stalin, Mao, Mussolini …) in global history, stating that totalitarian regimes start this way. These critics completely omit the inconvenient fact that dictators dominate their media and use it for their own propaganda.

Trump may be trying to control the media through Twitter and other means, but he can’t … and he is crafty enough to know that. When his tenure comes to an end, the media will have the last word.

An Adversary By Any Other Name Is Still An Adversary

As a press secretary for a Republican governor (e.g., George Deukmejian) in a blue state (e.g., California) during a time when it was “Morning in America” (e.g., The 1980s), the author of Almost DailyBrett confronted two adversaries on a daily basis: The Democrats in the state Legislature, and the political press corps.

Were these two adversaries officially aligned, and did they coordinate their opposition to our administration? The answer of course was for the most part, negative.

Democratic press secretaries really only have to be concerned with one adversary: Republicans. The media largely serve as their unofficial allies.

enemiesofthepeople

Keep in mind, the vast majority of reporters, editors and correspondents take a vow of poverty to work in the Fourth Estate. As a result, they are distrustful of those who espouse buy low, sell high. The media for the most part concur with those who see raising taxes and manna from the government as the solution to every societal problem.

Is it a stretch to suggest the media (i.e., NYT, WAPO, NBC News, CNN …) are an extension of the Democratic Party? Yes, but not that much of a stretch. Republicans instinctively look at the masthead or the source of any poll or assertion, and immediately discount it, if it hails from predictable liberal media.

Think of it this way, good-and-dependable government is contrary to the economic interests of the media. If government works and is grounded in a steady philosophy (e.g., Deukmejian years), the media is bored and restless … a bored media is a dangerous media.

Consider this question: If 999 planes land safely at DFW Airport and one crashes, which one gets the attention of the newsies? The media feed off crisis, chaos and dysfunction. Whatever you admit, acknowledge or concede will be printed or broadcasted 99 percent of the time … or does Almost DailyBrett understate the case?

And what has Trump given the media? A steady stream of chaos and controversy, which leads to “great copy” and “good dirt.” Let’s ask here and now: Are the media’s best interests consistent with the nation’s well-being? Does the media relish reporting about that one plane, which falls out of the sky, allowing them to cover it and generate good copy?

trumpenemy

If the answer is “yes,” does that make the media a friend, an adversary … or worse?

The great-and-late New York Times pundit, William Safire, ghostwrote these words about the media for largely inarticulate and disgraced former Vice President Spiro Agnew: “Nattering Nabobs of Negativism.”

Is it good politics for Trump to take on the media, especially before red meat audiences such as the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC)?

According to Gallup in 2016, only 32 percent have a great deal/fair amount of confidence in the media, a decrease of 8 percent from 2015 and down 40 percent from the post Woodward & Bernstein era in 1976. Yikes! Guess that means that nearly 70 percent of Americans have a poor or no opinion about the media.

The media relishes pointing out Trump’s approval rating of only 44.4 percent (e.g., Real Clear Politics polling average), but even the unpopular president is running 12 percent ahead of the post-Dan Rather-era elite media. Both Trump and especially, the media, need better public relations.

Trump has many sins to atone for, but he is neither the first White House resident to complain and disdain the media nor will he be the last.

One rule he certainly has violated was summed up beautifully in the 19th Century:

“Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.” – Mark Twain

https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/426038.Joseph_Pulitzer

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/02/17/trump-calls-the-media-the-enemy-of-the-american-people/?utm_term=.8431a8b1b181

http://www.denverpost.com/2017/02/21/the-lefts-hypocrisy-on-trumps-enemy-of-the-american-people-comment/

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/marktwain135280.html

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/Nabobs_natter_about_the_passing_of_William_Safire_1929-2009.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/admit-acknowledge-or-concede/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president_trump_job_approval-6179.html

 

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Whatever you admit, acknowledge or concede, particularly in a supercharged political environment, will be published or broadcast 99 percent of the time.

“I am not a crook.” – Richard Nixon

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” – Bill Clinton

“We fumbled the rollout on this health-care law.” – Barack Obama

obamanews

Consider as Exhibit A the following passage from the Washington Post about President Barack Obama’s Thursday news conference on the troubled Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare):

The president was contrite, and his admissions were many — he conceded that he was left in the dark about aspects of the crowning achievement of his presidency, he acknowledged that he and his advisers underestimated how hard it would be to sell insurance over a Web site…”

In most cases the media … both digital and conventional … has the attention span of a gnat. Remember the government shutdown or the debt ceiling crisis? Ho-hum. That was yesterday’s news.

What is Miley Cyrus smoking onstage or not wearing today?

Having made this point, there are obvious exceptions and these all have legs (no pun intended). These are stories that the media latch onto and, similar to a Gila monster, will not let go until sundown.

Each and every exciting installment of Watergate defined and eventually ended the Nixon presidency in utter disgrace.

The Monicagate impeachment proceedings did not terminate the Clinton White House, but to this day the president’s extracurricular activities with his intern still comes front of mind when president #42 is discussed and assessed.

And now the “crowning achievement” of the Obama presidency is unraveling before our very eyes, and with it his approval rating. The media is more than happy to report as the president and Obamacare head downward-to-the-right.

In no way does Almost DailyBrett morally equate Watergate, Monica Lewinsky and Obamacare. Nonetheless each is a seminal story that defines a presidency and each has “legs” that the media feasted or feasts upon.

Former Vice President Spiro Nolo Contendere Agnew was absolutely the wrong messenger to deliver the infamous William Safire conceived line about the media: Nattering Nabobs of Negativism.

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Even the president seems to agree when he lectured the media Thursday: “The things that go right, you guys aren’t going to write about.” (Guess that would apply to you gals as well.)

Let’s face it: the media thrives on train wrecks and plane crashes. Like a pack of hungry hyenas, the media has an insatiable appetite for what is known in the trade, good dirt. The words, pack mentality, apply directly to the media, who conceive and spread among themselves organic ideas about precisely what went wrong.

Most of all the media elites in particular are looking for telltale signs they are right. This is where admissions, acknowledgements and concessions come into play.

Certainly, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton did not admit or concede anything regarding Watergate or Monicagate respectively. However, each in his own way (Not a Crook, Nixon and That Woman, Clinton) acknowledged for the joyful media the elephant in the room of their respective debacles.

Obama with his football metaphor about fumbling the ball did admit, acknowledge and concede that virtually everything and anything has gone wrong with Obamacare, including failing to live up to the promise that people could keep their health insurance policies, if they wish too.

Americans historically are a forgiving people.

Some contend that it would have been better for Obama to come clean earlier about his oft-repeated promise that if you like your health insurance policy you can keep it is simply not true. Was he misled by his own administration or did he mislead? Neither is good. The media wants to know.

whitehousebriefingroom

From a public relations standpoint, the right counsel is to advise the chief executive to face reality, own up, be contrite and seek forgiveness. Most of all, what is the chief executive and her or his administration going to do about it?

The rub comes with a media that is always looking for signs of weakness, particularly after building up a reputation and brand, senses that proverbial blood is in the water. Presidents, governors, senators, chief executives etc. are generally reluctant to give the media satisfaction (e.g., Nixon in particular).

And when they do, these can become defining moments that have the potential to be eternally enshrined. That was true for Nixon and Clinton. That may or not be true for Obama.

Obama’s advantage is he still has time, but not unlimited time. He officially becomes a lame duck one year from now. Somehow, someway Obamacare needs to finally work for him.

If not, the media, the historians and the country will remember his Obamacare “fumble” and the day he admitted, acknowledged and conceded.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obamato-to-announce-change-to-address-health-insurance-cancellations/2013/11/14/3be49d24-4d37-11e3-9890-a1e0997fb0c0_story.html?wpisrc=nl_politics

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dana-milbank-does-health-care-fumble-mean-game-over-for-obama/2013/11/15/77dc0b0a-4dfa-11e3-be6b-d3d28122e6d4_story.html?wpisrc=nl_politics

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101202677

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Safire

http://www.nolocontendere.org/historyofnolo.html

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/miley-cyrus-biggest-feminists-article-1.1517413

“…They (traditional networks, CNN, NYT etc.) would like to attack any Republican. They’re attacking the governor (Romney). They’re attacking me. I’m sure they’ll presently get around to Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul. I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.”

I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that (allegations of marital infidelity).”  – Newt Gingrich in his heated exchange with CNN Moderator John King, Jan. 19, 2012.

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Even though Newt Gingrich has a propensity for being a loose cannon, I know that his opening response in Thursday night’s debate resonated with conservatives across the fruited plain. He may even win the South Carolina Republican presidential primary tonight at least in part as a result of his exchange with the CNN moderator.

And it reminded me of the double-standard in American politics.

If you a press secretary for a Democrat governor, senator or House member, you wake up each morning knowing that you have one unchanging and unyielding political enemy, the Republicans.

If you are a press secretary for a Republican governor, senator or House member, you wake up each morning knowing that you have two unchanging and unyielding political enemies, the Democrats and the news media.

In my case, I served as the press director of the Deukmejian Campaign Committee in 1982; the assistant press secretary to former California Governor George Deukmejian from 1983-85; the deputy press secretary from 1985-87; and the governor’s press secretary from 1987-89. I knew the double standard back then as a press secretary to a Republican chief executive, and I know it now…Your job as a political spokesperson and message crafter is doubly tough if you work on the GOP side of the aisle.

There are current and former members of the Fourth Estate upon reading these words, who will vehemently disagree with me and try to dismiss my contention as partisan sour grapes. Then there were the people cheering Newt and nodding their heads affirmatively in Charleston, S.C. on Thursday night.

The following night, Bill O’Reilly in his “Talking Points” said that American media is “invested” in liberal politics, pointing to a 2008 Pew Research study that revealed that Americans believe the media supported Barack Obama over John McCain by a 70 percent to 9 percent margin. Surveys of reporters themselves revealed only 8 percent identify themselves as conservative (surprised it was that high).

Some may immediately dismiss this analysis because it emanates from Fox News, which is just the point. Where are conservatives going to get a fair and balanced hearing? MSNBC? The same network that asked Al Sharpton, Lawrence O’Donnell and Rachel Maddow to provide their “impartial” commentary of the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary? Was Mikhail Gorbachev booked that night? Maybe, we could turn to NBC News where Brian Williams could ask Chelsea Clinton for her opinion? Is it too late for Dan Rather to make a comeback? I could go on, but I believe you have the point.

rathergate

A very sore subject between Governor Deukmejian’s office and the LA Times, the largest newspaper in California, concerned the impartiality of the newspaper’s poll conducted by Irwin A. “Bud” Lewis.

There was no secret that the Times wanted former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley elected governor in 1982 and 1986. And for some inexplicable reason the Bud Lewis poll would reliably and consistently reveal that Bradley was faring better against Deukmejian than the other public opinion polls. Was the LA Times poll meant to reflect public opinion or to actually drive public opinion, and help Bradley raise needed campaign cash?

Sorry even a generation later, even though I offer no smoking gun, nobody can convince me that the LA Times was not engaging in Enron-style cooking of the numbers to benefit the anointed one. By the way, we won the closest gubernatorial election in 1982, and achieved the biggest landslide in California’s political history, beating Bradley by a 61-37 percent margin in 1986.

Today, when I see polls being conducted for the New York Times-CBS News or ABC News-Washington Post, I immediately think of the official sponsor and not the results. If these polls can be slanted just a sliver, just a smidge to give more hope, more comfort and build morale for those that mirror their editorial policies, well I guess that is the way it is. Isn’t the role of the media to comfort the afflicted (the liberals) and afflict the comfortable (the conservatives)?

Conservative cries about the double standard are not new and neither are the elitist media responses. The ivory-tower crowd in New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles will dismiss these assertions by pointing back to Spiro Agnew’s statement (written by speech writer and later NY Times op-ed writer William Safire) about the “Nattering nabobs of negativism.” The strategy then and the strategy now is to discredit the message, regardless of its credibility, by tying it to one of the most disdained figures in American history.

For conservatives, they still remember Dan Rather’s live cat fight with then Vice President George H.W. Bush. They remember “Rathergate” and the totally discredited 60 Minutes attack on President George W. Bush’s National Guard service. And now they have John King using the opening question to shame Newt Gingrich. Come on John, couldn’t you have waited until the middle of the debate before springing the infidelity question?

My words will never convince those who refuse to be convinced, but then I weigh the impressive ratings success of Fox News. Is it because the network is indeed “fair and balanced?” Or is it because conservatives have long last found a place where their views and values have at least a snowball’s chance of being fairly presented. Sorry Keith Olbermann, you will never be considered to be fair and balanced…and in fact, I don’t think the word “balanced” will ever apply.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/us-election/9026857/US-election-2012-Newt-Gingrichs-fiery-exchange-with-CNNs-John-King-transcript-in-full.html

http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/oreilly/index.html

http://www.latimes.com/la-histpoll,0,5275501.htmlstory

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/Nabobs_natter_about_the_passing_of_William_Safire_1929-2009.html

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