There was a curious incident that I watched at the Trump press conference a couple days ago. An Orthodox Jewish reporter tried to ask a question about an increase in anti-Semitic graffiti, threats, and other actions since the election. The President cut the reporter’s question off and spoke about how he was the least anti-Semitic person in the known universe, or maybe it was the least anti-Semitic person in the local galaxy, some such thing.
I was sorry to see that, because it was a missed opportunity for the President to take a stand against anti-Semitism. But having read the interchange, I can see that the President thought the reporter was accusing the President’s supporters of being anti-Semitic. The President (and the rest of the world) has heard that accusation over, and over, and over again. So the President assumed that’s what the man meant, and that it was thus a partisan attack.
In fact, I don’t think the reporter was assigning the attacks to either political party. He was just concerned about anti-Semitism and wanted the President to speak out against it.
But he made two huge errors. First, like far too many wordsmiths, he got enamored of complexity. For example, if it were my intention to give the President the opportunity to speak out against the anti-Semitic threats and attacks, I would have said
“Mr. President, will you condemn anti-Semitic attacks from either side of the aisle?”
Instead, the reporter said:
“However, what we are concerned about and what we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it. There’s been a report out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to——””
BZZZT! At that point the President came to the wrong conclusion, cut the reporter off, and defended himself.
The second mistake the reporter made was, he’s approaching this press conference like it’s some neutral encounter. It seems like he thinks it is an Oxford debate, or a dispassionate inquiry into the truth. Or at least a collegial interchange, rough at times but overall friendly or at least respectful.
It is nothing of the sort. It was a sword-fight between the President and his opponents in the press. Most reporters represent papers and TV stations that attacked the President relentlessly before, during, and after his election. And since then it has only gotten worse.
As a result of the fact that far too many reporters these days are merely Democratic operatives with bylines, a large majority of the questions being asked were specifically designed to hurt the Administration, demean the President, question his judgement, and generally attack him in one of a hundred ways. The majority of the reporters are not looking for the truth, and many wouldn’t recognize it if they saw it. They don’t care about truth. They are looking to wound and weaken the President and the Administration.
So if a neutral and innocent reporter wants a question to the President to NOT be interpreted as just another attack, that must be made clear in the question itself. If you want someone to recognize that you are innocent, you must differentiate yourself from the surrounding jackals and hyenas by being very, very clear that you are not attacking, not looking like you are attacking, not sounding like you are attacking, staying as far as you can from attacking. Clarity is your friend when someone wonders if you are their friend …
Now, the reporter had the right idea. He tried to show it wasn’t an attack, but he went about it in the wrong way. He tried to show it was an innocent question by preceding it with a compliment to Trump on his overall support of the Jewish people, viz:
““Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I haven’t seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their zayde,” which is Yiddish for “grandfather” and often a word of great affection.”
And I’m sure he was quite sincere and honest in that statement. However, Trump the businessman, and Trump the Hollywood star, has seen many, many people compliment him as a prelude to attacking him. So the gesture was totally wasted. Any good negotiator would recognize that statement for what it is and discount it entirely, it’s just feel-good filler designed to soften you up … and as a result, when the reporter got to the actual question itself, and his words were unclear and difficult to parse, guess what?
The President took it as an attack and responded accordingly.
Color me unsurprised. Saddened, because of the wasted opportunity to take a stand against anti-Semitism and prejudice. And saddened because some poor reporter pulled out his pen without realizing he was in the middle of a sword-fight, and as a result he was unjustly and undeservedly berated by the President … but unsurprised nonetheless.
Raining again, the Oroville lake level is going up but looks like it will hold, life is a wonderful thing.
As Always: If you comment please QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU ARE REFERRING TO, so we can all understand your subject.