TIME's Cover Story Whines the Spectacle of Trump's Indictment Was a 'Crime Scene'

April 19th, 2023 3:56 PM

Here's a small sign that Time magazine has become less of a "news magazine" than ever. The cover of the April 24/May 1 issue arrived in the mail this week, with yet another anti-Trump cover. It's an orange fingerprint with a cartoony Trumpian mouth in the middle, and in the bottom left-hand corner is the small headline "Unprecedented. By Nancy Gibbs". But turn inside and almost the entire issue is devoted to the "TIME 100" allegedly "most influential" people. 

Gibbs is a former editor-in-chief who now runs the Shorenstein Center at Harvard and serves as the visiting "Edward R. Murrow professor" at Harvard Kennedy School.

The Gibbs piece on Trump's indictment isn't a "news" article. It's a savage commentary. In a Time subscriber email we received on April 5, it was promoted with the words "Column: The Historic—and Entirely Predictable—Indictment of Donald Trump."

In the magazine, it doesn't take up an entire two pages. It's eight paragraphs and 689 words long.

Gibbs unloads her usual purple prose as Trump enters his "long expected season of legal accountability." We would joke that they've tried to force "legal accountability" on him since Robert Mueller started. She played up how there could be second, third, and fourth indictments. Trump never aspired to serve the public, she wrote, only to serve his own profits and ego.

And this is the ongoing damage he does, the careless splashing of paint stripper on the majesty of the American presidency. His peers were not perfect; but few were vandals. Other presidents have tried to salvage campaigns, but none we know of with hush money to a porn star. Other ex-presidents exalt their faithful supporters–but not when they are serving time for insurrection. Other presidents have turned their stature into a revenue stream, giving speeches at six figures a pop; it’s a safe bet that none thought about merch featuring a mug shot.

Gibbs lamented that Trump could exploit his Manhattan indictment to raise millions of dollars, and even blamed the media for being part of the machine: 

The networks running blanket coverage of baggage handlers and motorcades do so in response to perceived demand. They also help create that demand. The Republican lawmakers who know better yet make him a martyr make cynicism cringe.

As a measure of people’s loss of faith in institutions, in courts and judges and prosecutors, in fairness and process and equal justice for all, the entire spectacle is a crime scene. 

This is certainly not how Nancy Gibbs wrote about Bill Clinton, as she pretends he wouldn't be vulnerable to hush-money demands from loose women. He never sprayed his extramarital seed on the "majesty of the American presidency." As governor, he gave Gennifer Flowers a state job in Arkansas before she claimed they had a long-term affair, which sounds like hush money. But Time magazine demanded America "grow up about sex" back then. Let's revisit now Gibbs brought her gaudy verbiage to Clinton's defense back in The Year of Our Intern, 1998: 

"He invited his exhausted audience to take a holiday from Lewinsky and spend a refreshing hour and 12 minutes feeling like a country again. For once the talk on the screen was not of oral sex, but of our lives and fortunes and sacred happiness. He had become all human nature, the best and the worst, standing there naked in a sharp, dark suit, behind the TelePrompTer. That which does not kill him only makes him stronger, and his poll numbers went through the roof....That may have been a miracle, but it was no accident: Americans are less puritanical and more forgiving than the cartoon version suggests, and this President is never better than in his worst moments." — Gibbs, February 9 issue. 

"In the gaudy mansion of Clinton’s mind there are many rooms with heavy doors, workrooms and playrooms, rooms stuffed with trophies, rooms to stash scandals and regrets. He walks lightly amid the ironies of his talents and behavior, just by consigning them to different cubbies of his brain. It’s an almost scary mind, that of a multitasking wizard who plays hearts while he talks on the phone with a head of state, who sits through a dense briefing on chemical weapons intently doing a crossword puzzle, only to take reporters’ questions hours later and repeat whole sections of the briefing word for word."
— Gibbs opening a news story in the March 2 issue.

Both of these were in our "Best Notable Quotables of 1998" issue. They're florid fractions of fawning that we keep on hand for occasions like this. Then there's this sticky Gibbs valentine to Obama from their cover story on November 17, 2008:

Some princes are born in palaces. Some are born in mangers. But a few are born in the imagination, out of scraps of history and hope....Barack Hussein Obama did not win because of the color of his skin. Nor did he win in spite of it. He won because at a very dangerous moment in the life of a still young country, more people than have ever spoken before came together to try to save it. And that was a victory all its own.”