CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin had some thoughts on Friday afternoon about President Trump’s announcement of a deal to end the government shutdown. The president’s speech was listless and un-newsy, yet there was some cheering among the assembled crowd as the president returned to the White House following his remarks.
“Thirty-five days, 35 days of federal workers rationing asthma medicine for their kids, sleeping in cars, driving Uber late-night shifts just to make ends meet, and this man is not getting a single penny for his wall," said Baldwin in kicking off a CNN panel discussion. "Thirty-five days, and people are applauding him. This man single-handedly shut down the government. It is shameful,” she continued.
CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash said there was a four-letter word that describes the president’s action: “Cave.”
No argument there. The network’s chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, noted that White House officials were applauding their boss. “That was just right out of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ to see the White House and people inside the White House, applauding the president during one of the biggest tactical defeats, strategic defeats of his career. To me, just felt like the Upside Down out of ‘Stranger Things.’ ”
At some point in the future, some algorithm will crawl this sliver of Trump coverage. It’ll undoubtedly classify the analysis as a moment of negative coverage for the president — and that data point will roll into larger figures showing that some 90 percent of shutdown coverage was negative toward President Trump. Or greater.
How could it be otherwise? Think of what happened here: In December, the president said he’d gladly own a government shutdown. Then a budget agreement was in the works until Trump, fired up by right-wing commentators, scotched a consensus and held out for funding for his border wall — for which he’d promised many times during the campaign to secure funding from Mexico. He then proceeded to sulk and stonewall and whine and show utter ignorance of the plight of unpaid government workers: “Local people know who they are, (where) they go for groceries and everything else. . . . They will work along. I know banks are working along. . . . And that’s what happens in time like this,” said the president.
How do you fashion positive coverage of such a sequence?
CNN has branded itself as a “Facts First” organization, following an unprecedented series of attacks from the president. “Sharp-elbowed Editorial Judgments Second” might be an appropriate adjunct to that slogan. “It is shameful” is a perfectly legitimate opinion to articulate regarding the president’s behavior on the shutdown, though it’s a bit redundant. With this president, the facts themselves double as condemnations.