In a telling anecdote related to The New York Times, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg quoted his last phone conversation with Donald Trump a few days after the reality TV host with no experience in governance was elected president.
As some else who had entered politics without previously holding elected office, Bloomberg offered the president-elect some sage advice: “hire a lot of people smarter than you,” he told Trump.
“Mike, there is no one smarter than me,” Trump reportedly replied.
In that one statement, Donald Trump explains everything that has gone wrong with his presidency in one short sentence.
Here we have a president who is too arrogant — and too ignorant — to realize where he lacks expertise and too insecure to get the help he needs.
The one area that Trump does have considerable experience — besides his bankruptcy-prone real-estate businesses — is in the world of television.
Hence, it’s no surprise that the president dedicates an inordinate amount of his time playing America’s TV critic-at-large through his mini-reviews on his Twitter feed.
Trump’s primary interest as a media analyst is in spewing forth his opinions on the coverage conducted by the major TV news operations, likely because his own actions comprise such a large portion of their air time.
A look at the president’s Twitter feed today provides copious examples of the career path that many wish that Trump had pursued rather than embark upon his disastrous foray into politics.
Of course, the limits of the president’s vocabulary and his low-brow aesthetic limit the type of publication that would want to feature his crude prose and thoughtless analysis to supermarket tabloids and brain-free right-wing websites as this commentary on CNN anchor Don Lemon demonstrates.
Don Lemon, the dumbest man on television (with terrible ratings!). https://t.co/iQXCc7lvCt
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2020
Luckily, Trump qualified his assessment of the CNN anchor’s intelligence by noting that the insult was applicable only to those whose ratings fell beneath his threshold of acceptability since there is no one who could possibly compete with himself for the crown of the dumbest man on TV since the days that Gomer Pyle roamed the streets of Mayberry.
Perhaps the most surprising turn in the media landscape of late is the slow dissolution of the romance between the president and his formerly favorite cable news network, Fox News.
Until recently, Trump was more of a cheerleader, collaborator, and promoter of the network than the harsh critic he has been with other media outlets that he labels “Fake News” due to their annoying habits of reporting the ugly truth rather than the whitewashed set of lies that Fox News typically was happy to rebroadcast on his behalf.
In fact, the relationship between Trump and the Rupert Murdoch-owned propaganda feed was so close that it was often difficult to determine which of the two was driving the bus — with Trump repeating the canned lies Fox News host and analysts regularly broadcast in both his interviews and his social media posts.
Of course, there were always a few real journalists at the network who chafed at repeating the misinformation being fed to the gullible members of the public by the Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson-types. The departure of Shepard Smith last year proved that the network was not a comfortable place to practice journalism that wasn’t heavily biased towards it’s most powerful viewer.
With the advent of Trump’s impeachment, however, more of the Fox News on-air talent have found it impossible to ignore the plain facts in front of their faces — an ability that many wish they could teach Republican senators to overcome — and have thus reported stories and invited on guests that have caused the president to rethink his relationship to the network.
Trump bared his wrath towards the trend on Twitter this morning in a series of posts that sounded much like a “Dear John” letter to Fox News.
…..So, what the hell has happened to @FoxNews. Only I know! Chris Wallace and others should be on Fake News CNN or MSDNC. How’s Shep Smith doing? Watch, this will be the beginning of the end for Fox, just like the other two which are dying in the ratings. Social Media is great!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2020
In a line that harkens back to his boast to Mike Bloomberg that there is no one smarter than himself, Trump claims that he alone knows “what the hell has happened to Fox News.”
Acting both as TV-Critic-In-Chief and a self-appointed network executive, Trump suggests personnel changes to rid the network of those journalists who refuse to be bamboozled by his misleading rhetoric and obvious lies, while pointing to the fate of Shep Smith, the Fox News anchor who displeased the man who would be king.
Trump’s prediction of failure for his formerly favorite news outlet reads more and more like an authoritarian threat straight out of the fascist playbook, but his praise of social media — a place where Facebook still allows paid politicals ads to lie with impunity and where Twitter suspends the rules of conduct that apply to ordinary mortals and allows the president to violate the prohibition against personal threats and intimidation because he’s a newsworthy public figure— gives away his political playbook for his reelection campaign.
It also indicates that unless the public rises and demands that social media platforms institute policies that prevent the dissemination of harmful outright lies and intimidating threats for everyone, no matter how prominent a public figure, our media landscape will be complicit in the destruction of our democracy.
On the bright side, however, the fact that even Fox News is willing to buck the president occasionally as his impeachment trial progresses, indicates that they are paying attention to their own polls which now show that a full 50% of the nation want Trump removed from office.
Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.