Why is President Donald Trump still trying to turn the media into the bad guys of his reality TV show, er, I mean presidency?If media bashing is the last refuge of scoundrels, as I often say, Trump had better save some for a rainy day. He’s having plenty of those already.Sure, media bashing is easy. At his news conference marking the end of his first four weeks in office, Trump reminded the reporters that media approval ratings are lower than those of Congress. That’s cruel.But we’re used to it. Just about everybody hates the media, according to polls, but everybody has at least one favorite medium, whether it’s in print, online or over the air. That’s how we stay in business.Politicians, by contrast, can beat bad press as long as they have the voters with them. For Trump that’s still debatable, and he can’t seem to forget it.In fact, he was beating up on the press on the very day that a new Pew Research Center poll found his job approval to be much lower than those of other president in their first weeks in office: 39 per cent approved, while 56 percent disapproved.I think Trump beats up on the media casually calling us “liars,” “scum” or “dishonest,” unless we give him friendly questions and glowing coverage because he needs a foil.After all, he has both houses of Congress under control of his party. He has a pivotal seat to fill on the Supreme Court, tilting its majority in his favor. If things go wrong, who’s left to blame? Ah, yes, the media!Attacking the media might chip away at the ability of news media to challenge Team Trump’s “alternative facts,” as his counsel Kellyanne Conway memorably described their spin.Media bashing also enables Trump to promote himself as a heroic champion of ordinary Americans against the media elite and what Vice President Spiro Agnew lambasted as “nattering nabobs of negativism,” a label I often have worn with pride.The line between politics and entertainment has been thinning ever since the rise of television. But Trump has taken the show biz side to a new level. Judging by his raucous first solo news conference as president, the former real estate developer and star of “The Apprentice” never really left TV in his own mind.He merely moved from entertainment programming to the news channels, which for him was a remarkably easy move to make after years of reinventing himself through TV.As Trump’s long-time friend and adviser Roger Stone explained in the PBS “Frontline” documentary “The Choice 2016,” Trump’s 14 seasons on “The Apprentice” gave Trump the star power that he needed to get himself elected without having any experience at running government.”The Apprentice” took Trump into households nationwide as the perfect Hollywood version of a corporate leader, complete with a tall throne-like boardroom chair and a memorable commanding tag line: “You’re fired!”And appearances matter. “The elites say, ‘That’s reality TV,’ ” Stone recalled. “But the voters don’t see it that way. To them, TV news and entertainment it’s all television.”Right. It’s all television. In fact, there are moments when “It’s all television” seems to be the Trump administration’s unofficial motto.Unfortunately for him, Trump sounded in his news conference as though nobody gave him the script for running the White House. For 77 minutes, the news conference hopped from topic to topic, with Trump dodging the hard questions which was almost all of them. His style that merged boasting, scolding, a sermon and a comedy monologue. He was Mr. President as Mr. Entertainer.The hastily organized presser seemed to be aimed at countering reports of chaos, scandal, incompetence and other troubles in his new administration. Hey, no chaos, he tried to assure the world. “This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine,” he said.I don’t think anybody believed that. However, he did give us a new Orwellian observation about the media to top Conway’s “alternative facts”: “Leaks are real, the news is fake.” Wrap your mind around that for a while.In fact, if the leaks are real, the news is real, too. Trump needs to face that reality or end up on “America’s Next Top Failure.”Clarence Page is a syndicated columnist and member of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board.
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