DONALD TRUMP: *low guttural hiss* Tonight I have worn my RED tie.
On the morning of January 20, 2017, the President-elect is to visit Barack Obama at the White House for coffee, before they share a limousine—Obama seated on the right, his successor on the left—for the ride to the Capitol, where the Inauguration will take place, on the west front terrace, at noon. Donald Trump will be five months short of seventy-one. If he wins the election, he will be America’s oldest first-term President, seven months older than Ronald Reagan was at his swearing-in. Reagan used humor to deflect attention from his age—in 1984, he promised not to “exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” Trump favors a different strategy: for months, his advisers promoted a theory that his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, who is sixty-eight, has a secret brain illness and is unable to climb stairs or sit upright without help, and, in speeches, Trump asked whether she had the “mental and physical stamina” for the Presidency.
- Trump’s casino bankruptcies, which left investors holding the bag while he skedaddled with their money
- Trump’s habit of refusing to pay contractors who had done work for him, many of whom are struggling small businesses
- Trump University, which includes not only the people who got scammed and the Florida investigation, but also a similar story from Texas where the investigation into Trump U was quashed.
- The Trump Institute, another get-rich-quick scheme in which Trump allowed a couple of grifters to use his name to bilk people out of their money
- The Trump Network, a multi-level marketing venture (a.k.a. pyramid scheme) that involved customers mailing in a urine sample which would be analyzed to produce for them a specially formulated package of multivitamins
- Trump Model Management, which reportedly had foreign models lie to customs officials and work in the U.S. illegally, and kept them in squalid conditions while they earned almost nothing for the work they did
- Trump’s employment of foreign guest workers at his resorts, which involves a claim that he can’t find Americans to do the work
- Trump’s use of hundreds of undocumented workers from Poland in the 1980s, who were paid a pittance for their illegal work
- Trump’s history of being charged with housing discrimination
- Trump’s connections to mafia figures involved in New York construction
- The time Trump paid the Federal Trade Commission $750,000 over charges that he violated anti-trust laws when trying to take over a rival casino company
- The fact that Trump is now being advised by Roger Ailes, who was forced out as Fox News chief when dozens of women came forward to charge him with sexual harassment. According to the allegations, Ailes’s behavior was positively monstrous; as just one indicator, his abusive and predatory actions toward women were so well-known and so loathsome that in 1968 the morally upstanding folks in the Nixon administration refused to allow him to work there despite his key role in getting Nixon elected.
Does It Matter That Donald Trump Has Banned Us?
Does Donald Trump believe in the well-established role of the press in American democracy? It certainly doesn’t look that way. In recent months, his staff has roughed up a reporter and thrown another one out of a press event, and he has insulted journalists and blasted unfavorable news coverage. Yet he has benefited from oodles (that’s the technical term) of free exposure in the media. And he obviously craves media attention — in much the same way an addict craves his fix.
Now, the latest chapter: Calling The Washington Post phony and dishonest, Trump has revoked the press credentials that allow Post reporters access to his campaign rallies. This gives The Post unwanted membership in a growing club of banned news organizations, including Politico, BuzzFeed, the Des Moines Register and the Huffington Post. The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, called Trump’s action “nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press” and pledged that his paper would keep reporting vigorously about the presumptive Republican nominee.
That’s something that ought to matter deeply to American citizens. After all, journalists represent the public when they attend events, ask questions and dig for information. Trump, like Sarah Palin before him, may be trying to score points with his base, which considers the media infected with liberal bias. Beyond the troubling big-picture questions, how much does it really hurt The Post not to have the credentials? National political correspondent Karen Tumulty told me that’s still unclear: “The value of that little piece of paper on a string around your neck is actually pretty limited. Often, it is most useful for the opportunity to talk to people in the crowd and hear what is on their minds.” It becomes crucial, though, she said, when a candidate takes a trip overseas, as Trump is going to do soon. And “my real question here is whether a credential is the same as access.” Will The Post be able to get its questions answered by campaign officials and Trump himself, or will it be entirely cut off?
At BuzzFeed, politics editor Katherine Miller told me that her organization’s best reporting work to date has had nothing to do with access, or lack of access, to Trump rallies, but much more with the time-consuming tasks of digging through audio recordings and following up on tips that reporter Andrew Kaczynski has been doing, far removed from public events. A lack of credentials has never “impeded our coverage or what we’re trying to do,” Miller said. “The most interesting stuff isn’t happening inside the arenas.” She’s right. And that’s always been the case. Bob Woodward recalled the early retaliation by the Nixon administration in 1972 to The Post’s Watergate reporting: A society reporter, Dorothy McCardle, was banned from White House dinners and parties. “It was absurd,” he said. But it became far less so when The Post’s broadcast licenses were challenged, which in turn caused the company’s stock price to plummet. “They hit Katharine Graham where it could hurt,” Woodward told me. “And she didn’t flinch.” That’s a solid tradition at The Post, where Baron said Monday that Trump coverage would plow forward, “honorably, honestly, accurately, energetically, and unflinchingly.” That matters more — a lot more — than a little piece of paper on a string.
Donald Trump, The Welfare King
TRUMP: No, other than to say, we’re working hard, I think we’re all in the same business of trying to make our country better, a better place, so we have something in common. I’ve been treated very, very badly by The Washington Post, but, you know, I guess — and I’m your neighbor, I’m your neighbor right down the road, in fact we’re actually giving a press conference there in a little while, I think your people are going to be there. And by the way, Bob Costa is an excellent reporter, I’ve found him to be just an excellent reporter. I should tell you, because I have to give you the good and the bad. Not that he does me any favors, because he doesn’t, but he’s a real professional.
The GSA [General Services Administration], I will say, GSA has been very professional, they’ve been very, very professional. They chose us over—I think they had more than 100 people who bid, you can imagine, because of the location, but they had over 100 people that bid, and it was broken down into ten finalists, and I got it. We got it because of the strength of my financial statement and also because of the strength of what we were proposing. So we’re having a news conference there today. What time is that, Hope?
TRUMP: 2:15. I hear a lot of the press is going to be there, we’re going to give them a tour of the building. It’s still a little bit rough — as an example, a lot of the marble surfaces all have sheetrock covering, and plywood covering on them, so a lot of people won’t see as much as they think. It’ll be like a miracle, you take it off and it explodes, like it’s finished, right? But that’ll be a fun news conference.
HIATT: George Shultz, it’s interesting, was associated with a foreign policy of Reagan that was very much devoted to promoting democracy and freedom overseas. Is that something you think in today’s world the United States should be doing?
HIATT: Well, forget Freddie Gray, but in general, do you believe there are disparities in law enforcement?