No denunciations of “fake news.” No talk about journalists composing an “opposition party” or being the “enemy of the American people.” Also, no chance that that cease-fire lasts.
Vice President Pence made clear in a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC's “Morning Joe” that Trump's tonal shift is not permanent. This was his exchange with co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough:
BRZEZINSKI: Is the war on the media over? Are we going to hear the words “fake news” anymore or is that page turned?PENCE: Well, I think what you have in this president — and frankly all of us in the administration — is a willingness to call out the media when they play fast and loose with the facts.BRZEZINSKI: He called us the enemy of the people. It's pretty strong terminology.PENCE: Yeah, well, Mika, when you see some of the baseless and fabricated stories that have come out and been treated with great attention, you know, it's frustrating.SCARBOROUGH: But, you know, “enemy of the people”? That's a Stalinist term.PENCE: Well, look —BRZEZINSKI: And blocking media. Are we going to see that again?SCARBOROUGH: Was that a turning point? He's moving away from that sort of rhetoric?PENCE: I think one of the reasons why President Donald Trump was elected is because he's a fighter. The American people want a president who will fight for their future, who will fight for American jobs, fight to make America strong in the world again but also, you know, he's willing to make his case and challenge his detractors when unfair criticisms come his way.
Keep in mind that Trump thinks all criticism is unfair. In an interview that aired Tuesday morning on Fox News, Brian Kilmeade asked the president if he could think of a time — just one time — when he received criticism and thought it was justified.
“No, probably I could never do that,” Trump replied.
A politician who is that thin-skinned won't be able to resist the urge to lash out when negative coverage inevitably comes his way again.
Even Pence, whose demeanor is more subdued than Trump's, couldn't help but take his complaint about the media to the extreme — saying that the White House has been frustrated by “fabricated stories.” Reporters do get things wrong sometimes, but there is no evidence that journalists at major news outlets are making stuff up.
Fabrication is perhaps the gravest sin in journalism, yet the Trump White House throws the charge around with little regard for its seriousness — and no supporting evidence.
That brand of combativeness is written into Trump's DNA. One speech doesn't change that.