When the national media were focused on the most meaningless, mindless controversies of the 2016 campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump was leading a massive movement, dominating the Republican primaries and handily sweeping the electoral college to become president.
What a difference six months in office makes.
Now it’s the White House busying itself with the little and stupid things people don’t want to hear about, and the press is winning.
Voters who decided the election didn’t care that Trump was on video in 2005 joking about how sexually irresistible he is. They didn’t care that he mocked a reporter who happened to be disabled (mostly because that’s a media-generated lie). They didn’t care that Trump, when Washington was certain he would lose, wouldn’t pre-emptively concede the election to Hillary Clinton by vowing to “absolutely accept the result of this election.”
That’s what the media cared about. Voters cared about immigration, jobs and a sense of pride in traditional American culture, all things Trump campaigned on.
The tables have turned since then and that has never been more apparent than with Anthony Scaramucci’s performance in his first days as the new White House communications director.
New Yorker magazine writer Ryan Lizza wrote Wednesday on Twitter he had a “scoop” that, according to “2 knowledgeable sources,” Trump was having dinner with Sean Hannity, former Fox News executive Bill Shine, and Scaramucci.
This would be vaguely interesting to reporters but with the zeal of a Wall Street banker who just stepped out of a 1980s dance club, Scaramucci immediately dialed up Lizza to complain that “the Mooch” — he actually refers to himself this way — would fire “the entire place” unless Lizza told him who “leaked” about the dinner.
The new communications director, a role typically reserved for people who understand how reporters operate, then rambled on about his grievances with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus (“a fucking paranoid schizophrenic”) and top adviser Steve Bannon (“I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock”).
After Lizza published his account of the interview, Scaramucci went on Twitter to suggest he didn’t realize he was being recorded in his conversation with someone who gets paid to record things and that he “made a mistake in trusting in a reporter.”
The previous day, Scaramucci went on CNN to drone on and on about Priebus and their “brothers”-like relationship.
Scaramucci on CNN: “Now, if you want to talk about the chief of staff, we have had odds, we have had—”
Trump voter at home: “This guy sucks.”
And while Scaramucci was filling out workplace evaluations, congressional Republicans, backed by Trump, failed again in attempting to repeal Obamacare.
Where are the new trade deals, the tax reform, and the “wall”? Where is Trump?
In the last 10 days, he has used two hour-long interviews as opportunities to moan about his “beleaguered” attorney general, tweeted about CNN’s ratings (“bad”) and wallowed in victimhood about Republicans who “do very little to protect their president.”
During the campaign, while reporters were consoling Megyn Kelly over nothing, Trump was selling himself as a successful businessman who could cut through Washington’s waste.
“I have very little debt, great cash flow,” Trump said in 2015 at a campaign rally in Virginia. “And I’m not saying that to brag, I’m saying that because that’s the kind of thinking we need in the country.”
Nobody knew “that kind of thinking” actually meant brooding on the little things to the point of incapacity.
The national media focused on the small during the campaign and as recently as last week, NPR was still producing segments pondering all the ways the press “failed” in 2016.
Trump had a big message and won.
That was then. Now that the White House has shrunk, the results aren’t the same.
Eddie Scarry is a media reporter for the Washington Examiner.