How do we get our news about America? The answer, in my experience, is that we don’t. We don’t get news about America, we get commentary. When it comes to Donald Trump that commentary is almost invariably negative. A measure of that is The Australian. After all, that is probably the best place to go among the MSM to get anything approaching balance. Alas, respected commentators Paul Kelly and Greg Sheridan have shown a proclivity to bucket Trump in personal terms at every opportunity. Is it any wonder fear and ignorance about Trump is widespread in Australia.
Greg Sheridan was at it again last week. Under a heading of “Good Trump, Bad Trump” (paywalled) and a split picture of a haloed and horned Trump, Sheridan made a series of (to me) laughable conjectures. His problem began by letting his headline write the story. He presumably awoke with what he thought was a good headline. Now, how can I write something to fit it? He probably mused.
Me, I can’t write headlines. Quadrant Online’s editor writes most of my headlines based on the storylines. Message to Greg: Write your story first.
“Every day will start with the question is today a good Trump day or a bad Trump day?” Apparently this is to be gauged by Trump’s tweets. Put this in context of Abbott stopping the boats and knighting Prince Philip. Who the heck cared about the second, except the precious media beating it up? People won’t care if Trump criticises the press in tweets if he can secure the US southern border, lower taxes, reduce regulations, and create millions of new jobs. Notice something when it comes to criticisms of Trump: it is a policy-free zone.
Then comes the nomination of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. Sheridan finds this “deeply perplexing.” It seems to me that you might not like the nominee, but perplexed? Tillerson is a highly experienced and successful businessman with a record of negotiating international deals. There is nothing perplexing about his nomination.
His company’s drilling in Russia was stymied by sanctions after Russia took back Crimea. He doesn’t like sanctions and thinks they don’t work. So what? His shareholders don’t like sanctions either because they damage profitability. And sanctions have hardly been wildly successful as a means of disciplining despots. So far as I know, neither Cuba nor North Korea has been brought to heel.
It is all quite silly. Representing ExxonMobil means exactly that. Representing the United States means that he will switch teams and loyalties. It happens all the time in the sporting arena and we don’t question whether a transferred player will deliberately start kicking own goals.
But I am not a mind reader. Sheridan is. Apparently Trump is so dumb that he hired Tillerson because of his (Tillerson’s) current “geopolitical thinking”. In turn, Trump thinks that Tillerson is so dumb that he will continue to act as secretary of state as though he represents ExxonMobil. Dumb stuff all round.
At length, presumably to fill up column space, we are told the bleeding obvious that Tillerson holds shares in his company and will benefit if sanctions on Russia are lifted; though, he can remove this conflict by cashing out his shares. Duh! Get this leap of logic from Never-Trumper John McCain, which is given undeserving currency: Tillerson has been awarded the Russian Order of Friendship, hence he is friend of Putin, “a murderer, thug and KGB agent whose aeroplanes are precisely targeting hospitals in Aleppo.”
Then there is the made-up stuff. “Trump upset Beijing by asking why the US should abide by the one-China policy…if Beijing does not give Washington a good trade deal.” This is simply not true; and, pertinently, Trump is not directly quoted. Trump made the point that a foreign country was not going to tell him who he could take a phone call from. Hooray! I would have thought. He further made the points that diplomacy was a two-way street, that China is building militarised islands in the South China Sea, was not sufficiently bearing down on North Korea and is behaving unfairly in trading with the US.
Trump doesn’t give away his negotiating position before he starts — unlike the geniuses who have been running foreign policy over the past eight years. But their record in producing mayhem in the Middle East and in unleashing Russia and Iran is apparently OK because none of them is conflicted by owning oil company shares. Give all of us deplorables a break!
Trump also has a “tendency to thrash US institutions.” And the scant evidence for this is his questioning of the role of the CIA in leaking (apparently) disinformation to the The Washington Post about Russian hacking of the DNC and John Podesta. First, there was no hacking in the sense of gaining access and manipulating data. There was leaking of truthful information; maybe through phishing, which requires an idiot on the other side (i.e. in this case a Democrat) giving out their logons and details.
If the CIA has proof it was the Russians, that it was Putin-inspired, that it was designed to benefit Donald Trump then they should present it to Congress not leak it to the press. And if the Russians are so clever and were intent on electing Trump why didn’t they release any of Hillary’s 33,000 deleted emails, which they surely would have ‘hacked’. Now that would have been a useful point for a journalist/commentator to make. But, of course, that doesn’t fit the Trump-bashing agenda of those whose elitist perspective insulates them from understanding what is happening on the ground.
Brexit and Trump shows how large the gap between pundits and punters has become. I see no evidence of the gap closing. Let’s face it: the pundits know that the punters are dunces and deplorables. Most journalists and commentators wouldn’t write as they do if they had an ounce of objectivity and respect for their readers’ intellect and commonsense.