Here’s a basic storytelling rule of thumb: good people behave like good people and criminals behave like criminals. That’s how storytellers signal to their audience that the story they’re telling takes place in a world we all recognize. Now — if it’s a good story, the good people may turn out to be criminals and one or two of the criminals may turn out to be good people. But, we’ll see all that in the context of the story. Actions and thoughts will tell us who the real good people and criminals are just before the final fade out. Regardless of who turns out to be what, when the full picture is revealed, good people will have behaved like good people and criminals will have behaved like criminals.
Donald Trump is a criminal. Being a rich, white guy, we shrugged off Trump’s pre-POTUS criminality in real time, letting him repeatedly piss all over us. When the Washington Free Beacon hired Fusion GPS to do oppo research on Trump back in the early days of the 2016 campaign, Fusion started its work by first getting its hands on every piece of publicly available material about Trump. Books, magazine and newspaper pieces, TV and radio appearances — everything. Their due diligence — the work they did BEFORE actually starting the work — convinced them (Glenn Simpson, Fusion’s co-founder testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on August 22, 2017) that Trump had strong ties to Russian gangsters and likely laundered their money through his bankrupt Atlantic City casinos.
That’s why Fusion hired Christopher Steele (and his company Orbis). Steele had excellent contacts and sources inside Russia, having run MI6’s Russia desk.
To see Donald Trump as just a “different kind of POTUS” (as many in our news media still do), is to see Al Capone as just “a different kind of businessman” or Pol Pot as “just a different kind of politician”. Yeah, okay — you could say that and you’d be right, but… it’s kinda beside the point. But, if you don’t see Trump as a criminal — either because you truly don’t see him that way or because you refuse to — then you are reporting on a Donald Trump who doesn’t actually exist except maybe inside your head.
Example — NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell. She seems like a very nice person. That very nice person should find another line of work. She’s not particularly good at journalism — all her awards be damned. Kelly is a lipstick-wearing steno pad. She thinks “journalism” is repeating back the words people speak to her. But Kelly doesn’t leave it at that — just repeating, say, what Donald Trump says. No, Kelly goes the extra mile. She “characterizes” Trump’s bullshit — she “puts it into his voice” — speaks what she insists is Trump’s thinking behind it all.
Oh, FFS! Kelly’s a nice person — we all agree. Donald Trump isn’t. He’s a rapist and a racist and a bigot and a serial adulterer and an abusive parent and a criminal and a traitor (that’s just for starters). His thought process doesn’t work the same way Kelly’s does. He doesn’t justify himself to himself the way Kelly justifies herself to herself. So, when Kelly applies how SHE thinks to how Trump thinks — it’s completely wrong. The person she’s describing — Trump on the outside, Kelly O’Donnell on the inside — DOES NOT EXIST except in Kelly’s soft, mushy mind.
Kelly’s not the only offender here. It’s the rare working journalist who’ll put themselves inside Trump’s head. “We can’t know what he’s thinking,” they insist — as if Trump’s own words, whole PATTERNS of thinking and the assurances of those who know him weren’t enough to convince THEM. FFS — in a civil trial, all one needs is 51% certainty to win and what is the news media if not a court of PUBLIC opinion?
In most talking head panels, they’ll allow for 90% of the spectrum of possible explanations for Trump’s behavior. He’s completely innocent is at one far end. But, look to the other far end — it’s not there: that’s the missing 10% (generously assuming that total innocence and total guilt are equally likely when only total guilt actually is). Think about that — these conversations between serious people will allow that Trump could be completely innocent but completely guilty? No way! If you can’t allow for the possibility that Trump is 100% a criminal — and does what he does BECAUSE he’s 100% a criminal — then when you put yourself inside his head and (try to) stare out into the world through Trump’s red-rimmed eyes, you’re mis-reporting it. Hell, you’re not seeing it, period.
Want to know why Trump will do anything and everything to stay POTUS for the rest of his life? HE’S A CRIMINAL! He’s been protected all this time by that ludicrous DoJ RULE (it’s not a LAW) — put in place to hinder Nixon and Agnew! Without it, Trump would have been indicted eons ago. Team Mueller would NOT have felt constrained; they held back accusing Trump because that same rule prevented Trump from, in essence, defending himself. A technicality has kept the most corrupt president in the country’s history in power.
If you think of Trump that way — desperate to avoid testifying under oath because you will perjure yourself because you ARE a stone cold criminal and a traitor — then his behavior isn’t mystifying at all. The dots all connect and the picture you get is complete and logical. But, as we know — it ain’t just Trump.
Our news media scratches its head even harder when it tries to make sense of Republicans. “Why, oh why do Republicans go along with this madness?” our press asks itself. They all must be terrified of Trump. Terrified of his voters. Yes and yes. But it’s bigger than that. Prison is the bigger motivator — fear of going to prison and dying in prison. The split second Trump has a legal nightmare, so will virtually every single Republican — because that’s how conspiracy works. See something, SAY something. See something, say NOTHING? An actual journalist should ask “WHY?” Why say nothing? Who are you protecting?
The Republicans knew even before the 2016 convention that Trump was dirty. But then, they were already dirty, too. That’s why then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan admonished the meeting of muckety mucks to stay silent on the matter of “Putin paying Rohrbacher and Trump” by “keeping it in the family”. Sounds like a mafia family, no?
It’s the storyteller’s job to keep the heroes and the villains straight inside their head. To do that though, you have to have a deeper grasp of who they really are. You have to look past the icing and dig into the cake beneath. Imagine you’ve just taken a mouthful of rotten cake — made even more horrible because the icing was so pretty. No projectile vomiting allowed! Now — describe the taste in your mouth.
I bet the only thing you say about the icing is how deceiving it was. Now, please — go on! Tell us how terrible that cake tasted and still tastes. Tell us how you might never get its essence out of your mouth or senses even. Finally — how do you feel about the baker? Put yourself inside HIS mind as he concocts the flavor he intends to fool you into tasting.
I always wonder this about Kelly O’Donnell. If Trump (because he’s Trump) said “I know for a fact that Kelly O’Donnell eats children!”, would Kelly faithfully report it even though she’s pretty certain that she doesn’t eat children and never has? Or would Kelly — as she always does — repeat the words simply because Trump said it?
I betcha Kelly would (finally) draw a line. I bet that she’d (finally) step outside of her ivory tower of “both sides do it”. She certainly wouldn’t put herself inside Trump’s thought process so as to personalize WHY he thinks Kelly does this terrible thing because, she’d know, every thought she’s attributing to Trump is utter bullshit.
Isn’t perspective funny, that way?