On the first workday of 2018, Donald Trump proved that he’d made no New Year’s resolutions to sober up politically. He’s going to be the exact same maniac he was in 2017, on Twitter at least. CNN posted a dizzying Hollywood Squares matrix of Trump’s nine morning tweets. In just a few minutes, he attacked his own “Deep State Justice Department,” called for Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin to go to “jail,” again mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man,” savaged the “Failing New York Times,” and took credit for the fact that 2017 saw zero fatalities in domestic air crashes. There have been zero fatalities in domestic air crashes since 2009. (Thanks, Obama!)
Trump is incorrigible and still, predictably, dangerous. Over the long holiday weekend, angry progressives vented some of their fear and outrage over that at the very same New York Times Trump attacked, singling out three articles that made it look like the nation’s most important paper is bending backward to meet the president on his own terms, truth be damned. You can trace a connection between Trump’s ever-accelerating craziness and abuse and the Times’ growing trouble with its progressive readers. If you cared enough to do so, that is.
First came Michael S. Schmidt’s “impromptu” interview with the president at his Mar-a-Lago resort, also known as his faux-opulent Florida grift. It turned out Schmidt was lunching there with right-wing Trump pal Christopher Ruddy of Newsmax, and Ruddy told reporters that he helped broker the sit-down. It’s fair to call the Trump-Schmidt meeting impromptu as long as Ruddy’s role in making it happen was disclosed, but the Times was sketchy about that. Schmidt described squatting at the president’s side in a catcher’s position for 30 minutes, until his thighs began to ache. That might explain why so many balls got past him.
Trump made impossible and/or incoherent claims about taxes (“I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest CPA.”), something he called “chainlike immigration,” health care, and his relationship with China’s leaders, who he claimed “treated me better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China.” Schmidt challenged none of it, even telling Trump his China nonsense “makes a lot of sense” and agreeing that indicted campaign manager Paul Manafort worked for Trump “for a very short period of time.”
As social media went up in flames over the lies, grandiosity, and delusion that was evident (and unchallenged) in Schmidt’s piece, Times staffers circled the wagons around Schmidt, insisting he’d done a service in just letting Trump ramble on. (This Times-writer pushback has become an increasingly troubling practice at the Times in the Trump era. Defending colleagues is laudable; circling the wagons, and insulting your critics, is not.) The Washington Post quickly found that Trump told 24 lies in 30 minutes. Not only did the Times fail to fact-check the piece when it ran; a later fact-check counted only 10 lies.