Michael Reynolds/Getty Images
President Donald Trump, center, with Omarosa Manigault, left, and Ben Carson, right, during his Black History Month listening session last week.
Searching my iPhone as I watched the Bulls game last Wednesday night, I came across that most desirable of commodities—the latest
was that the president had offered remarks at a Black History Month breakfast that could have been written by the Onion
. The latest
was that he'd hung up on the prime minister
Thursday morning I opened the daily papers I subscribe to hoping to savor the latest
as reported in greater depth and garnished with commentary. But I found nothing—not in the Sun-Times
, the Tribune
, or the New York Times
At least the Times
caught up with the stories Thursday on their websites. Trump's conversation with the Aussie PM "threatened to do lasting damage to relations between the two countries and could drive Canberra closer to China," reported the Times
. And that paper posted the complete text
of Trump's Black History Month reflections—the only way to do them justice.
, to its credit, carried on its website a report
on the Thursday prayer breakfast where Trump asked everyone to pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger; his ratings since taking over The Apprentice
, said Trump, "are right down the tubes. It's been a total disaster." It's hard to fault any medium for skimping on the coverage of whatever Trump said at yesterday's breakfast when it's been overtaken by whatever he said at today's.
This gets me to my point. When I looked for the reporting that wasn't there, I reflected on the dilemma Trump poses: What should the media focus on? There are the moments he's dumbfoundingly inappropriate and self-absorbed, and so easy to lampoon. But some sharp media types warn these instances merely distract journalists from what counts— the edicts and appointments that could alter America for decades to come. When the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court demands to be covered, why should we complain that the morning papers make no mention of Trump's tribute to Frederick Douglass
as someone "who's done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more"? And as Trump puts Iran "on notice," of what importance is it that he's reneging on a deal to accept refugees from Australia because those huddled masses might hide the "next Boston bombers"?
Yet the words that tumble out of the president's mouth tell us so much about his thinking and his judgment and his emotional stability, how can we downplay them? What he does as president can be defended on occasion with real facts, and if those fail with the "alternative facts" his loyalists insist are irrefutable. Anyone who questions them is merely dishing out "fake news," as Trump wrongly said about CNN at the Black History Month breakfast, or is "so biased and really . . . a disgrace," as he went on to say about the media generally.
But when Trump opens his mouth and irrationality and incoherence spill out, it sits there in a steaming heap, defying anyone to deny it exists. His words are his monument; they're also his case against himself.