Joseph Sabino Mistick: Trump's tweets seduce media, eclipse other news
After North Korean leader Kim Jung Un claimed “the entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk,” no one could have been surprised at Donald Trump's response.
“I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” he tweeted. That's just Trump, and his supporters love this stuff. He stands in for them, using words they wish they had used when faced with some past personal slight. And it works politically because those schoolyard responses are shiny objects, dominating the headlines. There may be far more important issues, but the media are willingly seduced by Trump's latest tweet.
Leading up to Republican passage of so-called tax reform, Trump repeatedly claimed he would not personally benefit. Hours after the bill's passage, Trump told his rich pals at Mar-a-Lago, “You all just got a lot richer,” according to CBS News. And Forbes reported that just one rule change will save Trump $11 million a year. In pre-Trump times, this would have caused collective outrage, but now it gets lost in the maelstrom of the things he says in the wake of events.
Starting on Christmas Eve, a flurry of Trump tweets attacked FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, James Comey and Hillary Clinton. He even called for jailing Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Later, he launched Twitter attacks on Pakistan and the Iranian government. And then he tweeted a threat to cut off aid to the Palestinians for not showing appreciation or respect.
For his sake, the more outrageous his tweets are, the better. If they captivate the press and public, far more important Trump administration actions slide by without fanfare. And as reported by The Washington Post's James Hohmann in The Daily 202, this holiday break saw a lot of big changes announced in news dumps, easily eclipsed by Trump's tweets.
At 2017's end, the Interior Department rescinded an Obama-era fracking regulation that “would have tightened standards for well construction and wastewater management” and “required the disclosure of the chemicals contained in fracking fluids.” Just before New Year's Eve, the administration granted oil companies' request to weaken rules designed to prevent another Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including worker safety provisions. A week earlier, protections for migratory birds fell to the Big Energy interests, a win for the Koch brothers and billionaire Trump energy adviser Howard Hamm. Northern Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness had a bright future until Interior decided, just before Christmas, to renew expired leases for copper and nickel mining operations.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration ended 2017 with a critical shortage of managers, hobbling its ability to ensure worker safety. And the already small Chemical Safety Board, charged with investigating major chemical accidents, prepared to shut down, unfunded.
So, the next time Trump bombards us with outrageous tweets, ask yourself this: What else is going on that he doesn't want us to know about?
Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer (joemistick.com).