On September 2, a curious headline from that cable news site crossed my computer screen:
“Trump appears to encourage North Carolinians to vote twice to test the system.” [emphasis added]
The ensuing story was about President Donald Trump clearly urging voters in that state to commit a Class 1 felony by voting in person and by mail. Here is the president’s entire quote, courtesy of local news station WECT in Wilmington, North Carolina:
“Well, they’ll go out and they’ll go vote, and they’re going to have to go and check their vote by going to the poll and voting that way, because if it tabulates, then they won’t be able to do that. So, let them send it in, and let them go vote, and if the system is as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they won’t be able to vote. So that’s the way it is. And that’s what they should do.”
With the exception of the president’s de facto personal attorney general and fixer William Barr, who shockingly claimed ignorance of the law, blowback to Trump’s suggestion was swift.
Aside from officials in North Carolina quickly advising voters to ignore the president’s orders, in the swing state of Pennsylvania, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar said, “Needless to say, this is not the message that we are sending. Nobody should vote twice. Nobody should try to vote twice. We all have one fundamental vote that we should all exercise once and once only.”
As often happens after tossing up his fatuous word salads, Trump and his complicit minions walked back his statement. White House Press Secretary for-the-moment Kayleigh McEnany said Trump “does not condone unlawful voting.” Eye rolls all around. Rinse and repeat. On to the next daily outrage from the West Wing.
Yet, I could not shake off CNN’s word in its headline, “appears.” The president, one of the most transparently corrupt heads of state we have ever endured, whose filter between brain and mouth is as porous as a torn coffee filter, suggested as plain as day that voters should break the law.
So why the lukewarm treatment? Was it an attempt to be “fair and balanced,” to quote another cable news channel that is anything but? Or, was the word some kind of convoluted peace offering from a network that has been at battle with Trump throughout the four years of his presidency, a network he has called “enemy of the people”?
Not long after the CNN headline, upon reporting that AG William Barr (again!) was taking over the president’s defense in a civil defamation suit brought by a woman who has accused Trump of rape, the New York Times printed the following: “In a highly unusual legal move, lawyers for the Justice Department said in court papers that Mr. Trump was acting in his official capacity as president…”
“Highly unusual”?! Hello! Seems to me that a “move” like this is perhaps, well for starters, a blatant take down of American democracy, worthy of a Pearl Harbor headline screaming above the fold of the bloated gray lady herself.
Leading up to the fateful 2016 election coverage toward Trump was positive and shallow, via glowing profiles and, most disturbingly, in the media’s willingness to ignore ties to the Italian mafia, to bottom feeders such as Paul Manafort, the late Jeffrey Epstein, and various Russian mobsters like Felix Sater.
Shady tax scams and gaming the system always took a back seat to the sexier gossip of his divorces, his inflated net worth, and which party he attended with which barely legal supermodel.
As journalist Sarah Kendzior writes in her book Hiding in Plain Sight, reporters during critical months of 2015 and 2016 “ignored blatant crimes in favor of an obsessive focus on Hillary Clinton’s emails, a misalignment of priorities that was stoked by the FBI itself.”
Trump knows how to use words for his benefit. I suspect he also knows that long before he entered the political scene that Americans were worn out from a constant barrage of spins, lies, and half-truths. Who even knows what the truth is anymore?
Words still matter. In journalism school, I had a professor who would not allow the word “very” in any of the copy we submitted. It adds nothing, he bellowed as we cowered in front of our electric typewriters, and only weakens the word that follows. As in “President Trump is a VERY skilled liar.” Or, “President Trump’s fealty to Russia’s Vladimir Putin is VERY disturbing.”
Very is among a passel of useless weasel words, much like maybe, probably, seems, perhaps, almost and, yes, appears to.
With that in mind, I would have amended the CNN headline this way: “Trump encourages North Carolinians to vote twice to test the system, sow confusion, and commit felonies so that he can steal yet another election.”
See? It’s not that difficult to state the facts, and today, more than ever, I think we deserve it.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.