Yes, it's true Trump's pugnacious style and fact deprived pronouncements, not to mention outright lies, provide fodder for ratings that news organizations need to survive. It's also true that it's to the benefit of those same news organizations to hope for, if not downright create, the impression there's suspense about the presidential outcome.
Recently, I've watched many news outlets and there's a lot more face time given to Donald Trump and, whether or not they discuss Hillary -- usually in panel discussions pro and con -- not so much devoted to her.
In particular, the past couple of weeks, there's been an inordinate display of the so-called "gentler" Donald Trump, which commentators surmise will cut into Hillary's numbers. Tuesday tonight, Anderson Cooper of CNN kept repeating that Trump's walking back his pledge to deport 11 million was a change we should note, as opposed to what's obvious -- that Trump is losing and wants to get back voters the GOP would ordinarily win by not appearing as draconian. It's certainly not a sincere change of viewpoint. It's a scam only gullible voters will buy.
While we see broadcasts of Trump speaking of brotherhood in front of his mostly white audiences, we don't see much of Hillary at all. Neither in defense of the charges against her -- the never-ending email scandal, the "newfound" tie-ins to the Clinton Foundation, provided by the right-wing Judicial Watch -- nor in a tit-for-tat attack of the Donald. Not even just spouting positive aspects of her agenda.
Is this fair? Is this legitimate reporting, to show America lots of Trump's questionable rants against Hillary, delivered in a somewhat more subdued tone than in the past, calling her a liar instead of "Crooked Hillary," while not contrasting it with an equal amount of Hillary Clinton's charges against him? I'm sure she's out there making speeches, too.
Yes, there are instances when, even in Trump's more issue-oriented speeches, he reverts to his old ways and, thus, gives the follow-up panels discussion points as to why he spoiled what could have been a terrific speech. Or how a "wonderful speech" was harmed by his campaign manager Paul Manafort's resignation.
To my mind, Donald Trump has never given a wonderful speech. Just because he occasionally talks in a less repugnant tone than when he was debating his GOP opponents and often bellows against Hillary doesn't mean there's not a paucity of actual facts. Plus, he lies outright regarding statistics and "failures" of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy initiatives.
When he says 58 percent of African American youth are unemployed, the panels are quick to point out the number is closer to 25 percent. Trump's larger figure includes those still in school. When he talks about her being asleep during Benghazi, mocking her "Who would better handle a 3 a.m. crisis commercial" against Obama in 2008, it turns out the event occurred at 3:45 p.m. when she was at her desk. When he accuses Hillary Clinton of consistently lying, because she handled her email server in an indelicate manner, parsing her words, instead of just saying, "Yeah, it was legal, but it probably wasn't wise," how does this one issue -- which doesn't seem to go away, thanks to GOP desperation -- equate with the many untruths told by Donald Trump in the course of his year and a half campaign?
Lies about Ted Cruz unable to serve because he was born in Canada. Not true, because his mother was American. Spreading "rumors" about Cruz's father being connected to the JFK assassination. His introduction to national politics in 2012 leading the birther movement against Obama, even as no other GOP leader would touch the subject.
No, the media loves Donald Trump, because when he's on screen, ratings soar, as seen in the GOP debates. They love it when he doesn't just attack as most candidates do over issues, but calls people names, using negative superlatives, while continuing to boast about himself. He will provide the best economy, the best trade deals, will get rid of ISIS so fast, will do more for the minority community than the Democrats have, suggesting that in his presumed re-election in 2020 he will get 95 percent of the African American vote.
Is this man for real? I don't believe anyone really thinks so. Even commentators who project the "new" Trump as having more appeal, skeptically opine his pro-minority speeches before white audiences, instead of a black church, aren't really designed to get Hispanic and African-American votes, but are aimed at middle-of-the-road independents and Republicans who want to have any excuse not to vote for Hillary and will be gulled into voting for him.
And now, not content with his normal tendency for prevarication, this man who invited Bill and Hillary to his most recent wedding, who declared Hillary would make a "great" president in 2008, has stooped to a new low. He is spreading rumors about Hillary's health. So, it's not just that she's crooked and incompetent and the worst secretary of state ever, a vote for Hillary will be a vote for a bedridden Hillary (à la Woodrow Wilson in his second term), and thus another chance for Bill Clinton to take the reins.
No facts, no medical reports from doctors who've examined her, no evidence on the campaign trail that the almost 69-year-old Hillary, with an exhaustive schedule, is not keeping up the pace. But there are very stupid people among the electorate who will believe such a thing, as Fox News' Sean Hannity fans the flames, without researching whether it's true.
But back to the emails, what have they proven, except that it would've been better not to have a server in her home. No hacking has been reported. And the latest emails to which Trump refers "proving" Hillary and the Clinton Foundation are crooked, that they are somehow profiting from the connection -- what the hell are they talking about? From what we've seen, the emails are no different from the sort of requests sent by anyone who knows someone in public life. Aspersion has been cast at the foundation, because donors got to meet Bill Clinton, as if that itself is suspect. That a former president wouldn't simply be an attractive aspect of a fundraiser, as opposed to meaning such a meeting would produce an illicit quid pro quo.
No major organization found any impropriety, but even CNN's moderate Don Lemon felt compelled to interject, "Right now." What does that mean? If there hasn't been any, we should imply there might be, thus feeding into a belief there actually has been, which Trump continues to do? What kind of journalism is this?
Lost in this is that money, however it comes, whether from pure hearted souls or a government with human rights issues, if it is put to a good cause, such as training African rural farmers, creating micro-businesses for the poor, fighting against AIDS, for renewable energy projects, it's not a bad thing. And, in the process, if someone from the foundation writes to someone he or she knows at the State Department to suggest a meeting to give expertise about a location hot spot, it doesn't necessarily mean the donor is doing so for some favor to increase business. Critics cite a meeting with a large donor, the Crown Prince of Bahrain, as proof, as if the Secretary of State wouldn't regularly meet with such a person, irrespective of donations.
Until it's proven, and it hasn't been, that Hillary or Bill Clinton profited from anything through her foundation connection during her State Department tenure, should the good works of the foundation and her efforts in public service weighed on the whole, be subjected to Donald Trump's charges that she should be investigated by a special prosecutor? His excessive and hysterical accusations are beyond compare even contrasted with the most angrily fought campaigns in the modern era. They would be laughable, except a major party has nominated him for president, and his name will appear on the nation's ballots, giving potential, however scant at the moment, to the possibility of his election.
Fortunately, in contrast to his overwrought, mostly deceptive, depiction of Hillary, unsavory true stuff about him emerges: the Trump University rip-off scandal, his history of not paying contractors, lawsuits and fines about housing discrimination brought against his millionaire father Fred and himself, his continued failure to produce tax returns, his verbatim statements exhibiting intolerance, insensitivity, racism and sexism, his continual display of a lack of knowledge about almost anything a president has to deal with and the bad temperament he oft reveals. If the media needs to acknowledge Trump's "changed" demeanor, it must also give Hillary equal time to express her convictions. Only then will there be an opportunity for the clearest comparison.
It may well be the media's need to pay its bills will override the mandate to do what it's supposed to do. Thank goodness for the upcoming debates, to give American voters a distinct view of the candidates without any whitewashing of the monster called Trump.
Michael Russnow's website is www.ramproductionsinternational.com