Jan. 16, 2018 – Now that Trump has been president for almost a year, it’s time the media called his behavior for what it is rather than try to normalize it. Here are the six most misleading media euphemisms for conduct unbecoming a president:
1. Calling Trump’s tweets “presidential “statements” or “press releases.” “The President is the President of the United States, so they’re considered official statements by the President of the United States,” Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer, said last June when asked during his daily briefing how his tweets should be characterized
Wrong. Trump’s tweets are mostly rants off the top of his head – many of them wild, inconsistent, rude, crude, and bizarre.
Normal presidential statements are products of careful thought. Advisers weigh in. Consequences are considered. Alternatives are deliberated. Which is why such statements are considered important indicators of public policy, domestically and internationally.
Trump’s tweet storms are relevant only to judging his mood on a particular day at a particular time.
2. Referring to Mar-A-Lago as “the Winter White House.” The White House says the term is accurate because Trump does official business from there, and, besides, Mar-A-Lago’s former owner wanted the Palm Beach estate to become a presidential retreat.
Rubbish. Unlike the White House and Camp David, the traditional presidential retreat, both of which are owned by taxpayers, Mar-a-Lago is a profit-making business owned by Trump.
The White House is open for public tours; Mar-a-Lago is open only to members who can pay $200,000 to join.
Mar-a-Lago, along with the other Trump resort properties that he visits regularly, constitute a massive conflict of interest. Every visit promotes the Trump resort brand, adding directly to Trump’s wealth.
Normal presidents don’t make money off the presidency. Trump does. His resorts should be called what they are – Trump’s businesses.
3. Calling his lies “false claims” or “comments that have proved to be inaccurate.” Baloney. They’re lies, plain and simple.
Early last year the Wall Street Journal’s editor-in-chief insisted that the Journal wouldn’t label Trump’s false statements as “lies.” Lying, said the editor, requires a deliberate intention to mislead, which couldn’t be proven in Trump’s case.
Last fall, NPR’s then news director, Michael Oreskes defended NPR’s refusal to use the term “liar” when describing Trump, explaining that the word constitutes “an angry tone” of “editorializing” that “confirms opinions.”
In January, Maggie Haberman, a leading Times’ political reporter, claimed that her job was “showing when something untrue is said. Our job is not to say ‘lied.’”
Wrong. Normal presidents may exaggerate; some occasionally lie. But Trump has taken lying to an entirely new level. He lies like other people breath. Almost nothing that comes out of his mouth can assumed to be true.
For Trump, lying is part of his overall strategy, his MO, and his pathology. Not to call them lies, or to deem him a liar, is itself misleading.
4. Referring to Trump’s and his aide’s possible “cooperation” or “coordination” with Russia in the 2016 presidential campaign.
This won’t due. “Cooperation” and “coordination” sound as if Trump and his campaign assistants were merely being polite to the Russians, engaged in a kind of innocent parallel play.
But nothing about what we’ve seen and heard so far suggests politeness or innocence. “Collusion” is the proper word, suggesting complicity in a conspiracy.
If true – if Trump or his aides did collude with the Russians to throw the election his way – they were engaged in treason, another important word that rarely appears in news reports.
5. Calling Trump’s and Paul Ryan’s next move “welfare reform,” as in “Trump has suggested more than once that welfare reform might be the next big legislative item on his agenda.”
Rubbish. They’re not going after “welfare.” Welfare – federal public assistance to the poor – was gutted in 1996. Trump and Ryan are aiming at Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
Nor are they seeking to “reform” these programs. They want to cut them in order to pay for the huge tax cut they’ve given corporations and the wealthy. “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform,” Ryan said recently, “which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.”
So call it what it is: Planned cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
6. Describing Trump’s comments as “racially charged.” “Racially charged” sounds like Trump doesn’t intend them to be racist but some people hear them that way. Rubbish.
Trump’s recent harangue against immigrants from “shitholes” in Latin America and Africa comes only weeks after The New York Times reported that at another Oval Office meeting Trump said Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS” and that Nigerians who visit the US would never “go back to their huts.”
This is the man who built his political career on the racist lie that Barack Obama was born in Africa, who launched his presidential campaign with racist comments about Mexican immigrants, who saw “fine people on both sides” in the Charlottesville march of white supremacists, and who attacked African-American football players for being “unpatriotic” because they kneeled during the National Anthem to protest police discrimination.
This is the same man who in 1989 took out full page ads in New York newspapers demanding the return of the death penalty so it could be applied to five black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a white woman in Central Park – and who still refuses to admit his error even though they were exonerated by DNA evidence.
Stop using terms like “racially charged” to describe his statements. Face it. Trump is a racist, and his comments are racist.
Words matter. It’s important to describe Trump accurately. Every American must understand who we have as president.
Robert B. Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fourteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock”, “The Work of Nations,” and”Beyond Outrage,” and, his most recent, “Saving Capitalism.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, “Inequality For All.” His latest documentary, “Saving Capitalism,” is streaming now on Netflix.