Posted on August 16, 2016
Trump’s Free Fall
Media made him, and they will destroy him
While Donald Trump is busy formulating the official excuse for his likely defeat, his loyalists are blaming conservative magazines, supporters of his primary opponents, and anyone else who hasn’t demonstrated sufficient fealty to their hero. They might stop to consider that Trump himself has employed a campaign strategy that all but assured his destruction once he secured the nomination.
Former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone, who is reportedly still a very close confidante, explained in a January interview with Politico that his candidate had “totally committed himself to an entirely communications-based strategy, something that veteran political strategists like me were skeptical about. ‘What do you mean, you’re going to run a campaign and spend almost nothing on paid television or paid radio, or any paid advertising?’
“He envisioned a campaign that was all communications, based around the notion that he would go into these states, do these big speeches, and the speeches would get wall-to-wall coverage from the networks, which it did [sic]. And then, on top of that, you know, as many television interviews as he could smash into one day. So, and I’m sure you remember this, there was a period in which you couldn’t turn on the TV or the cable without getting Donald Trump … therefore, he believed that you could compete with paid media through the free media.”
Conservatives have another name for the “free media” to which Stone refers. We know them as the liberal media. You know, the same liberal media that commit themselves to politically defeating and personally destroying the Republican candidate in every presidential general election campaign. For Trump to gamble on their benevolence has been, to put it mildly, a colossal blunder.
Still not seeming to realize this, Trump is now lashing out at the media with the righteous anger of somebody who feels betrayed. During the primaries, he once joked that he could shoot somebody and he wouldn’t suffer for it in the polls. Now he can’t get away with spitting on the sidewalk. Once he won the Republican nomination, the media suddenly became judgmental toward him. No longer does he get the sort of coverage that Hillary Clinton is getting, in which the story becomes the media’s own wonderment at how nothing seems to negatively affect her.
If only Trump were a conservative, or if he had any idea what it’s like to be one, or even if he had one as a close advisor, he would have known to expect this since the day he announced his candidacy. Anybody who had observed liberal media bias during previous presidential election cycles would have warned him that the reason he was getting valuable free media in the primaries was that he was the candidate the media most wanted to oppose in the fall, but that he could expect them to start giving him the Quayle treatment a minute after the balloons fell from the convention hall ceiling.
For a Republican presidential candidate to rely on his ability to manipulate the “free media” is like Daffy Duck handing Elmer Fudd a shotgun and asking him what season it is. He’d have to actually be oblivious to the fact that liberals mean him harm.
Then again, that’s entirely plausible coming from a candidate who associates so closely with the likes of Stone, a man so far outside the Republican mainstream that he was chairman of the Specter ’96 campaign. It was Stone, with his first wife Ann, who founded the pro-abortion group Republicans for Choice. Also an advocate of gay marriage and pot legalization, Stone would later bolt the GOP to join the Libertarian Party.
Stone says he was skeptical of this “free media” strategy, but evidently he didn’t know enough to warn Trump about how dramatically the media would turn on him once he became the nominee. Neither, apparently, did any of the people who are officially advising Trump today. So much for his ability to hire good people to cover for the gaps in his own knowledge.
Ultimately, this absurd strategy, like most of Trump’s problems, is of his own making. Not only has he exhibited remarkably poor foresight, but for a man who so relishes being in charge, he abdicated control of his messaging to the liberal media with an astonishing lack of skepticism. His having done so is enough to validate the suspicion among conservatives that he’s really still a Democrat at heart. Why else would he have expected to get what he wanted for free?
The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press