Ever since Donald Trump won the presidential race last November 4, legions of people in the “mainstream media” have been on a never-ending quest to bring down the GOP leader, and they’re even willing to assign “faint praise” as a means of leading into harsh criticism.
The most recent person to use that strategy is Philip Elliott, a Washington correspondent for TIME magazine who entitled his column in the upcoming September 4 edition of the publication “Trump Tries Presidential Before Reverting to Old Habits.”
Elliott began his missive by asserting:
For about a day it seemed that President Donald Trump had embraced the part of his job that is not just tweets and bluster.
Standing in an auditorium of enlisted military -- with much of his war cabinet in the front row looking somber -- the president checked his gut on Afghanistan, the U.S.'s longest war.
"My original instinct was to pull out," Trump had said on August 21, brushing aside his years of mouthing off against the conflict. "But all my life, I've heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office."
“So Trump rebooted yet again and performed like previous presidents,” Elliott stated. “He stood before the flags as he announced an unspecified increase in troops fighting the 16-year-old conflict. For the audience at home, it looked nothing like the racially charged chaos that had defined the previous week.”
“He even praised racial and religious diversity in the military,” the columnist noted before asking. “Would he finally deliver on his campaign promise to start behaving more presidential than anyone but Abraham Lincoln?”
Of course, Elliott replied: “No.”
“As much of the country has learned begrudgingly, it's hard to change a man who rose to the top defying all expectations,” he continued. “You can merely hope to limit the collateral damage.”
“A day after his speech at Fort Myer, the former real estate developer was back onstage in Arizona as ‘Trump the Tormentor,’” the correspondent asserted.
Elliott continued: “Trump lashed out at ABC News's ‘little George Stephanopoulos,’ praised the ‘heritage’ contained in Confederate statues and knocked CNN (the Cable News Network) for firing ‘poor Jeffrey’ Lord, a Trump mouthpiece who got his pink slip for tweeting a Nazi salute, ‘Sieg Heil!’"
Actually, that last line is a false accusation. Media Research Center President Brent Bozell explained in an August 14, 2017 column:
Firing Lord on a hate-speech premise is flirting with slander. He was not employing this language as his own. In a Twitter debate with a leftist group, he was (correctly) labeling it fascistic for its efforts to silence conservative voices through intimidation and threats. That group continued its rants and Lord responded by mocking them with "Sieg Heil.
Elliott continued: “The president complained that ‘the damned dishonest’ journalists didn't give him credit for calling out hate groups in Charlottesville, Va. … It's time to expose the crooked media deceptions,” blaming his foes for "fomenting divisions."
“These two contradictory and vacillating faces of the Trump presidency present a clear and present challenge to his own governing coalition, such as it is,” the TIME correspondent asserted.
“When Congress returns after the Labor Day holiday,” Elliott noted, “lawmakers will have to hit the ground at breakneck pace to both raise the debt ceiling and keep the government open after September 30, all while the base is starting to fray.”
Without revealing any sources for this claim, the columnist asserted: “Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were horrified with the president's remarks after white nationalists clashed with protesters in Charlottesville.”
“Communication between McConnell and Trump has gone dark,” he continued. “The Senate tactician has told colleagues he thinks they are watching irreparable damage to the party.”
As is usually the case when liberal Democrats discuss conservative Republicans, the correspondent couldn’t resist giving people on the other side of the political aisle “advice” on how to “make things better.”
If there is hope for smoother waters ahead, it comes from the newly reorganized group of aides who now surround the president.
Gone are the minders from the establishment wing of the GOP: the longest-serving Republican National Committee chairman in history, Reince Priebus, is out as chief of staff. The burn-it-down nationalists, led by strategist Stephen Bannon, have also been kicked outside the White House's iron gates.
“For now,” the correspondent asserted, “the pecking order inside the West Wing runs directly through the Trump family tree, the old campaign war rooms in Trump Tower and a network of military brass.”
“What's not clear is whether this more harmonious team, many of whose members have never worked in government before, can guide Trump to a more consistent and predictable approach to the presidency,” he added.
“That is needed to manage the nettlesome war in Afghanistan, deliver on promises to Wall Street and keep the economy from teetering off a cliff,” the correspondent noted.
Elliott concluded his column with one last dig at Trump: “For that, they'll have to count on the president's own gut instincts -- a risky move these days.”
The next presidential election is more than three years away, so Trump and the Republicans have plenty of days to get back on track regardless of the “risk.”