After five years of underestimating Donald Trump, and nearly a full year since he tried to steal the 2020 election, you'd think the media would "get it" by now. But, according to our guest on today's BradCast, the national press is still under-appreciating and under-reporting the very real threat that Trump and his far-right radicalized Republican Party now represent to democracy itself. And maybe that's on purpose. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]
But first up, some brighter news. President Biden has now reversed Trump's unprecedented (and likely unlawful) rollback of protected public lands established by his predecessors in three different national monuments. On Friday, Biden restored environmental protections for millions of acres of pristine expanses and sacred tribal lands at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts marine monument off the coast of New England. Deb Haaland, the nation's first native American Interior Secretary, was justifiably emotional about today's return of protection from mining, drilling and other development for millions of acres of sacred lands and architectural treasures. Biden's rollback of Trump's order, however, left in place a small parcel of acreage newly established as protected public lands by the former President at Bears Ears. So that national monument is now even larger than it was before Trump attempted to sell it off to his investors. Add it to the long list of losses for our loser former President.
And here's another. New documents released by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight on Friday reveal that Trump's company concealed losses of more than $70 million on his D.C. hotel during his four years in office, even while a major part of the business at the Trump International Hotel at the old D.C. post office building came from foreign governments, as well as lobbyists and businesses hoping to curry favor with the disgraced President. All of that, as Trump attempted to portray the project publicly as a stunning success while the Trump Organization had to quietly pump in more than $24 million dollars to it to cover losses, and as Deutsche Bank, according to the Democratic Committee co-chairs, offered "undisclosed preferential treatment" on a $170 million loan for the project that had been personally guaranteed by Trump. The Trump Organization is now desperate to find a buy to unload the loser project, but there are reportedly few takers as the current, inflated asking price.
While the media failed to adequately sound the alarm about a Trump property just blocks from the White House used as a deposit box for unconstitutional payments to the President from foreign governments, businesses, lobbyists and party faithful during his tenure in the White House, are they doing any better in raising what should be an even louder alarm following the past year of Trump attempting to steal a second term while directing supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol itself to block the Constitutional transfer of power on January 6th?
Our guest today, longtime media analyst ERIC BOEHLERT argues the mainstream corporate media appear to have learned next to nothing. More insidiously, he suggests, they are even "purposely" ignoring what he describes in a PressRun newsletter this week as "the clarion calls of democratic doom." That, despite alarm bells and clear signs that American democracy is facing an unprecedented internal threat from the rise of rightwing authoritarianism. "America isn’t guaranteed a happy ending," he writes, "although most of us grew up with the shared assumption that it was."
"There's a failure of imagination, but I feel like it's a purposeful failure of imagination," among the press, he tells us today, citing what he sees as the media's vested interest in the return of Trump as a candidate and even as President in a second term. "After the election, long before the insurrection, Trump was doing everything in his power, as we now know more and more" to try and overturn --- yes, to steal --- Joe Biden's election victory. "But in November and December of 2020, Politico called it 'bad sportsmanship.' There was lots of media coverage on he was 'sulking' in the White House. Basically the media's narrative was 'Just give him some time. He's mad. He's upset he lost. No big deal. He's not going to try to steal the election. The Republican Party would never do that,' etc. And we know how that unfolded."
But, nearly one year and an attempted U.S. Capitol insurrection later, the "purposeful failure of imagination" by the press still persists, he charges. Given all of the many signs of increasing political violence and radicalism from the Right and the Republican Party itself, how should the press be appropriately covering and warning about what appears to be going on in and our nation? How could they --- and we --- be doing a better job of adequately sounding the "fire alarm"?
Boehlert explains, and cites by way of one critical example, the media's fear of "taking sides", even when the two sides are no longer Democratic v. Republican parties, but democracy v. authoritarianism. "'We can't take sides! If the Republican Party is anti-democracy, we can't be PRO-democracy, because that looks like we're opposing them! So we're just going to recede into the sidelines, and we'll give you updates every time they try to demolish our democracy.'"
"It's just this passive frog in the boiling water, the lack of clarity about authoritarianism in this country. This idea that it can't happen here, we are immune to this, we are immune to fascism, we are immune to authoritarianism. Oh sure, in the last ten years, it's happened in Hungary, it's happened in Poland, it's happened in Turkey. Those aren't us," he snarks. "We've been doing this for 270 years. No matter what Trump and the Republican Party hatch, this country is indestructible, this democracy is indestructible --- which is a complete fantasy."
Tune in for much more.
Finally, after starting off today with some good news for native Americans, we end with a bit more, as the Biden White House becomes the first to officially commemorate Indigenous Peoples' Day this coming Monday, on what is still officially known, barring an act of Congress, as Columbus Day...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)