When all is said and done, the dog was successfully wagged. We may be closer to waging various wars, and conspiracy theories may be plaguing that dog like an infestation of fleas, but, bottom line, Donald Trump finally got cable news to stop torturing him 24/7 over his ties to Russia. “Putin’s puppet”—that’s yesterday’s trope.
Yes, news from congressional hearings and the words “FISA warrant” and “Nunes” are starting to filter back on to CNN and MSNBC. But after Trump dropped 59 Tomahawk missiles onto a Syrian airfield, flaunted his MOAB, and rattled sabers at North Korea, all those perfectly legitimate investigations suddenly seem less urgent, like so much nitpicking.
Whatever nefarious involvements Trump and his people might have had with the Kremlin in the recent past, the conventional wisdom, for now, is that relations with Russia stink. And that of course is good for Donald Trump.
The RealClearPolitics average of his job-approval numbers shows a small improvement since the Syrian air strike. But here’s Trump’s real payoff: “Fewer Americans now see the president’s approach to Russia as ‘too friendly’ than did in February,” according to a CBS News poll. “If there was anything that Syria did, it was to validate the fact that there is no Russia tie,” said Eric Trump, who, like his dad, muddies the meaning of “fact.”
How did we get here?
With a lot of help from a voracious news media. For the last couple of months, CNN, and MSNBC have been on a binge—all Trump-Russia intrigue all the time. Once the missiles launched, the content of the binge simply changed—to Assad, chemical attacks, and gaming out the repercussions of war.
In the first heady 24 hours or so of the Tomahawk strike, some prominent journalists plunged into rah-rah claptrap. By the end of the next day, it was almost as if the cable-news talking heads had faint memories of once enabling George W. Bush to invade Iraq on the lie that Saddam Hussein had WMD. Or of all those other times a president had thrown cruise missiles at targets—like, for example, Bill Clinton blowing up a factory in Sudan he said was making chemical weapons when it was actually a pharmaceutical plant—just months before being impeached, in 1998.