By now, the world has read the NYT’s unexpected “get” with the president. The interview revealed Donald Trump to be self-absorbed and ignorant. This isn’t breaking news, it’s the standard operating mode of our president. What has emerged is a Twitter discussion of the journalist’s approach to the interview, which seemed to be like an open-mic interview, with few challenges to the president’s incoherent claims.
While I appreciate Maggie Haberman’s argument that a reporter like Michael Schmidt, who gets an unexpected interview with the president, should just let the commentary flow so that Trump’s incoherence is on full display, I respectfully disagree with her point of view.
We are no longer in the realm of the regular and typical and our president’s ego has seemingly taken control of the republic. Trump challenges news coverage he dislikes, accusing it of being “false news” even as he regularly tells lies and falsehoods with impunity. When responsible journalists fail to challenge the president, for example asking what Trump means by “big bills” and asking specifics about his knowledge of health care or tax policy, the nation loses. When Trump asserts that he knows more “about the big bills….than any president that’s ever been in office” make him demonstrate the truth of that claim. Journalists must push back against a president who claims that Democrats refused to work on a bipartisan basis by pointing out the tax bill was negotiated behind closed doors, outside regular procedures, without hearings and markup, in order to exclude Democrats and the prospect of bipartisanship. Make the president explain that assertion. When he mentions his infrastructure bill, ask him for specifics. Don’t let Trump’s lies and braggadocio be the regular order.
When Donald Trump gets a pass from the responsible media, we all lose. This isn’t about the occasional political victory or loss, it’s about the longterm vitality and health of our republic. We cannot be a nation where truth is in the eye of the beholder.