NYT's Peters Faults Trump's 'Sound and Fury,' Favors 'Lofty Approach of the Obamas'

April 24th, 2018 11:35 AM

In Monday’s New York Times, Washington bureau Jeremy Peters tsk-tsked the new tastelessness among GOP candidates in “Forget About Restraint, G.O.P. Candidates Echo Trump’s Sound and Fury”-- as in "signifying nothing." The text box: “Greater ease talking about vanquishing foes than governing.”

Peters felt obliged to underline just how awful Republicans had become under Donald Trump. He wrote on Twitter: “Cursing. Arrest Hillary! I'm more Trumpy than he is! How Donald Trump has rewritten the political rules of engagement.”

Don Blankenship likes to believe he knows something about rough justice and who deserves it.

“We don’t need to investigate our president. We need to arrest Hillary,” one of his campaign ads proclaims, mimicking President Trump’s crude 2016 rallying cry, “Lock her up!”

....he has no political experience to speak of.

But he does have a natural inclination for one of the most distinctive and defining contributions that Mr. Trump has made to American politics: its sound.

In Republican races across the country, candidates like Mr. Blankenship are parroting the president as they try to prove to voters that they are cut from the same cloth as he is. They recite the Trump lexicon, spouting his trademark phrases and slurs like “Drain the swamp,” “Build the wall,” “rigged system,” “fake news” and “America first.”

Funny how “fake news” only became a "slur" when Trump started using it too.

They are channeling Mr. Trump’s belligerent and profane style of speaking, seeking to capture that essential but elusive quality that matters so much to voters these days -- authenticity.

And they wear his hats.

Peters found a prominent Republican critic.

“Today the goal is linguistic,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist who specializes in the words and messages that candidates use. “We are no longer rewarding policy; we are rewarding rhetoric.”

“On a personal level,” Mr. Luntz added, “it sickens me.”

This is where it really got rich:

Some Democrats have even begun to believe this strategy has its merits. The lofty approach of the Obamas -- “When they go low, we go high” -- may be unrealistic as long as Mr. Trump is leading the Republican Party.

The “lofty approach” of Barack Obama, who said Hispanics must “punish [their] enemies” in the voting booth? Whose IRS hassled Tea Party conservatives? Who targeted a private citizen for the crime of supporting his opponent? This is Peters’ idea of a “lofty” approach. Apparently it’s easier to paste in a goopy quote from a Michelle Obama convention speech than to actually report on how Obama and the Obama administration and campaign treated their opponents.

Philippe Reines, a longtime adviser to Hillary Clinton, recently wrote an opinion article in The Washington Post that advised Democrats running against the president in 2020 to “swing at every pitch.”

Reines is accused of sexism in a new book by the Times’ Clinton-beat campaign reporter Amy Chozick. Peters skipped it.

That all feels a long way from 2012, when Republican candidates and “super PACs” spent millions of dollars honing carefully calibrated attacks on President Barack Obama that would not be too harsh so as to alienate voters who still liked him but had doubts, and not too soft so as to lack a punch.

A lot of good it did the GOP then: The Times called Republican attacks on Obama racist anyway.

Peters went on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday “It’s just one of the ways that the tone of politics, the civility, has been degraded under Trump....”