Mark L. Hopkins: Footnotes on previous items
Our president and the media:
Sergeant Joe Friday on the popular TV show of the 60s, “Dragnet,” used to say, “Give us the facts, nothing but the facts.” Unfortunately, there appears to be “Alternate Facts.” Chuck Todd who is the News Director of NBC says, “Alternate facts? Alternate facts are false by definition.” President Donald Trump says the news media presents what he calls “fake news.” He says there is bias in our news media reporting. Is it true?
I think I can answer that question with a resounding “YES.” Humans write the news, fill the editorial pages of our newspapers, and create the commentary on our TV news casts. Any time humans are involved there is bias. So there cannot help but be bias no matter how hard the leadership of our media tries to keep it out.
So, what should President Trump do about this “biased” news he doesn’t like? One obvious solution is to stop countering what the media writes with his own version of the news. One quiets criticism by doing things that bring support. He promised a return of manufacturing jobs, better foreign trade deals, a replacement for Obamacare, better control of our borders. Whatever the news media writes about, our president and his policies, his presidency rides on his ability to come through on those campaign promises.
If President Trump chooses to go toe-to-toe with the American media, not only will he lose that fight but his presidency will likely go down the drain. I am reminded of a saying by Mark Twain, America’s favorite humorist. He wrote, “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”
Odd presidential characteristics:
Presidents all have characteristics that take some getting used to and President Trump is no exception. Ronald Reagan often fell asleep during briefings from his Cabinet members. And, he liked jelly beans which necessitated keeping some close-by wherever he was. George W. Bush had difficulty remembering names. So, he gave nicknames to those he saw from time to time. Once his staff knew the nicknames they could identify who President Bush was talking about.
President Trump’s primary egocentricity is that he exaggerates. His favorite words are adjectives such as “great,” “huge,” “biggest,” and “tremendous,” Whether it is how many attended his inauguration (the largest crowd ever), how many cast illegal votes (millions), or unemployment statistics (42 percent are unemployed), one can argue that his statements are lies, “alternate facts,” or just exaggerations. Whatever they are it is likely they are going to continue and we need to get used to them.
Odd and sometimes uncomfortable presidential characteristics are as old as the presidency. George Washington had wooden teeth which affected his conversations and what he could eat. Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson detested each other and care had to be taken to keep them apart. James Madison had an inferiority complex related to his height (5-feet-4). Ulysses S. Grant smoked 20 cigars a day. (He died of throat cancer.) John Quincy Adams liked to skinny dip in the Potomac River. William Howard Taft weighed 325 pounds and often got stuck in the White House bath tub. Warren Harding was an obsessive gambler who once gambled away a set of White House dishes. Thomas Jefferson suffered from a fear of speaking in front of people which is why he spoke publically only twice during the eight years of his presidency. President Harry Truman liked to sneak out for a walk on the streets of Washington D.C. without his security detail. They had to watch all White House exits at his usual early morning walking time to catch him when he tried to sneak out.
With Reagan, Bush, the other presidents, and now with Trump, once those who work closely with him are used to a president’s unique personal eccentricities things should begin to move forward more smoothly. At least we can hope, can’t we?
— Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. You will find Hopkins’ latest book, “Journey to Gettysburg,” on Amazon.com. Contact him at email@example.com.