Early this morning, before Trump’s latest tweets about Fox, Robert Tracinski made a provocative comparison about how progressives and Trump view loyalty to their respective causes: “It turns out that, just as you will never be woke enough, you will never be #MAGA enough.”
What he meant was that there are new litmus tests for wokeness all the time and failing any one of them is apt to call your woke cred into question even if you’ve passed all previous tests. Your good standing as a soldier in the cause depends on your answer to the next test, not the ones you’ve already taken and aced. You’re liable to be cast out for a wrong answer at any moment.
Same with Trumpism, said Tracinski, except there’s really only one litmus test there — doing and saying whatever Trump wants you to do and say at a given moment to back him up. No matter how often you’ve complied previously, any refusal will call your MAGA bona fides into question. Trump-style political correctness can involve matters as weighty as supporting his actions to pressure Ukraine over Biden and Burisma or as trivial as defending his off-label use of hydroxychloroquine to prevent COVID-19 even though there are still no solid clinical trials proving its efficacy. Whether the drug works or not is beside the point. You don’t defend HCQ because you have reason to believe it works, you defend it because Trump wants you to, because it would make him look bad to be out on that limb all alone.
This afternoon he went after Fox News again, part of a pattern lately. Tracinski cited his recent weird bout of Fox-bashing as Exhibit A in how one can never quite be loyal enough to satisfy Trump. As if to prove Tracinski’s point, he dropped this out of the blue:
….Hahn, Richard Goodstein, Donna Brazile, Niel Cavuto, and many others. They repeat the worst of the Democrat speaking points, and lies. All of the good is totally nullified, and more. Net Result = BAD! CNN & MSDNC are all in for the Do Nothing Democrats! Fox WAS Great!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 21, 2020
Running three hours of pro-Trump propaganda in primetime every day with the biggest cable-news audience in America isn’t enough to spare you from nasty criticism about some of your employees being “garbage.” Fox failed the new litmus test after passing the previous 50,000, even though it’s not quite clear what the litmus test was in this case. What’s he mad about? Was it Cavuto scolding him a few days ago for taking hydroxychloroquine? Did some rando Democrat dare to say a critical word in an interview? Who knows?
I had to google Chris Hahn and Richard Goodstein to find out who they were. As for poor Juan Williams, imagine having an ego so fragile that the combined firepower in your favor of Tucker and Hannity and Ingraham and most of “The Five” plus an endless array of hardcore MAGA contributors like Dan Bongino isn’t enough to soothe you from the slings and arrows of the one liberal on the network who gets extended speaking time after 5 p.m. each day.
He really does want an out-and-out state media outlet, and made no bones about it by admitting in his tweet that he expects the network to work for his reelection. No matter how close Fox gets to that model — and it’s a lot closer to unquestioning Trumpism now than it was circa 2015 under Ailes, when it was still nominally neutral in the GOP primary — it’s not close enough to suit him. Just as you’ll never be woke enough, you’ll never be MAGA enough.
My pal and Townhall cousin (and Fox contributor) Guy Benson gently pushed back in a tweet today:
Quick thought: It is not the job of a news network to help a politician win an election, even if many of its opinion personalities favor that outcome. It is the job of a news organization to include a wide array of perspectives. People with alternative opinions are not “garbage.”
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) May 21, 2020
That’s a noble thought, and it should be true, but I say we poll Fox viewers and let them say what they think job one for the network should be. Debates over Fox’s programming always devolve into comparisons between the “news side” and the “opinion side” but Trump’s making the straightforward point that sometimes the goals of those sides conflict. When they do, which goal should take precedence? That’s a tension that exists in all partisan media — when the truth and the cause conflict, which should come first? — and different people answer it differently. How do Fox’s audience prioritize between the two?
I know which way I’d bet. I’m pretty sure Fox management would bet the same way. So in a sense, Trump is right: If the audience wants a state-media outlet that works to reelect the president, why shouldn’t they get one? Fox is already 80 percent of the way there. Why keep the 20-percent fig leaf of Juan Williams and Chris Goodstein or whoever? Be who you are.
Here’s Mark Cuban smuggling a truthbomb onto Hannity’s show last night and detonating it, which may be why Trump is grumpy today. My tinfoil-hat theory based on (almost) nothing is that Trump is going after Fox lately not just because he fears losing in the fall and needs a scapegoat but because he might be thinking of launching a competitor to Fox next year if he ends up unemployed. Remember that rumors of a “Trump TV” were swirling in October 2016 when it looked like he was going to fall short against Hillary. Starting his own network would be a logical next act for him after the presidency for all sorts of reasons. If he starts building a stabbed-in-the-back narrative about Fox now and then blames them for his defeat later, it’ll help convince outraged Fox fans to make the switch from ersatz Trump TV to the real deal in 2021.
Mark Cuban: He’s the most powerful man in the world and he always plays the victim card. The dems are out to get me. The media is out to get me… He’s supposed to be the world’s best counter puncher and he hasn’t knocked anybody out. He just plays the victim. pic.twitter.com/jgRNkvV8hE
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) May 21, 2020