- - Tuesday, October 9, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

After the Kavanaugh frenzy, the nation’s newsrooms have taken on a deathly quiet, the stillness upon the land that follows a late-summer tornado. What’s an ink-stained wretch to do now that Brett Kavanaugh is sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court? The new justice is attended by the ladies of his clerk pool, and Page One is up for grabs again.

The unexpected resignation of Nikki Haley at the United Nations has set the pack in hot pursuit of a scandalous reason why she quit. But it won’t be easy to write a Stormy Daniels or Christine Blasey Ford into her past, which would be grist for weeks. She’s not running for anything, after all, but from something.

Who could abide for long the ordeal of representing the United States at such a den of pretentious freeloaders, eager to squeeze maximum high life out of the America they despise. We all owe Mrs. Haley a debt for staying as long as she could. Maybe she just wants to get a life, and her promise to campaign for President Trump’s re-election in 2020 gives the lie to anything the media can dream up about the “real reason” she wants to come home to America.

The sleuths at CNN News can always go back to the missing Malaysian airliner, and the editors at the network are already at work in the archives in the basement, searching for footage to illustrate the rescue of the story, if not the plane, from the briny deep. Or if not that, there’s always something about the old standby, Donald Trump.

“They may not like us,” the president said of the media at a rally the other night in Springfield, Mo., “but in 2020, about six months before the election, every single one of those haters is going to endorse us because without us, they’ll have nobody watching television.” The president is stretching expectations, but he has a point.

In the pre-Trump era newsrooms in Washington, one correspondent could manage covering the president. Not any more. Covering every step the president takes requires double- and triple-teaming. In addition to a White House beat, lately there’s the Russia-collusion beat, the Stormy Daniels beat (although in truth Stormy is getting a little long in the tooth), the Christine Blasey Ford beat and a team to cover the latest Michael Avenatti beat. Mr. Avenatti cultivates a more extensive freak show than Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey ever did.

Covering Donald Trump has become a cottage industry, a boon for conservative and liberal media outlets alike. Nobody knows this better than Donald Trump himself. An anonymous op-ed about clutter and chaos inside the White House was the talk of the town when a supposed operative inside the Trump administration burst into ink declaring, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” It drew millions of “page views,” the new yardstick for measuring readers, and millions of television viewers as well.

The president hit The New York Times and The Washington Post at his Springfield rally, drawing mocking boos and hoots from the crowd when he said of his critics, “they have nobody reading their phony papers.” He predicted (with tongue firmly tucked in cheek) that both newspapers would join the major television networks in endorsing him for president two years hence.

CNN, perennially number three of the cable networks behind Fox and MSNBC, and the most Trump-deranged of them all, owes the greater debt to the president. This summer CNN had its third best quarter since 1996 among total viewers. During the week that Paul Manafort, the onetime Trump campaign chairman, was convicted of money crimes and Michael Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, pleaded guilty to others, CNN drew 1.25 million viewers. This was hardly spectacular compared to the 2.26 million Fox pulled in, or the 2.12 million who watched MSNBC, but impressive for a soap opera about politics.

Books are back, too. “The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump” by Gregg Jarrett is a #1 New York Times bestseller, and Bob Woodward’s “Fear” was a first-day sell-out, the biggest single day sale in Simon & Schuster history. “Fear” has stayed at the top, and Omarosa’s “Unhinged” is still #5 in the hardcover nonfiction (loosely defined) category.

In the reality television show playing out in real life at the White House, new chapters spring up like mushrooms after a summer’s rain, with new characters every week. Old characters resurface, like Michael Avenatti inserting himself in the Kavanaugh saga. “Isn’t he from the Stormy Daniels episode?” a viewer might ask. Trump fatigue syndrome might be expected to fade soon, but this grand old opera shows no signs of it yet. With the 2020 presidential circus just ahead, we might all be deranged, for good or ill, before the curtain finally rings down on the Donald.


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