Acosta Is His Own Worst 'Enemy'
I’m not going to be buying Jim Acosta’s new book. I’ve already been snookered by a slick carnival barker once, back when I was a young man at the Feast of San Gennaro. No need to pay money twice for the same old sleight of hand.
The grifter’s trick is to show you one thing while making you think you’re seeing another. Acosta is pitching a book called “The Enemy of the People” and he wants you to think he is “the people.” He isn’t. Is he “The Enemy of the People”? That’s giving him too much credit, but he is the enemy of the truth.
I’ve already written about Acosta numerous times, and included in my book “The Media Matrix” an essay titled “Jim Acosta and the Hubris of Celebrity Journalism” that first appeared at RealClearPolitics. The premise is simple — that reporters like Acosta have an entitlement mentality. In other words, they have made the mistake of reading their own positive press and thinking they are indispensable. Actually they are just insufferable.
That was on full display in the excerpt CNN published from Acosta’s book last week. What you get is one part self-righteousness, one part self-serving quotes from anonymous sources, one part presumption of Trump’s guilt, and one part hysteria. Here is a typical passage:
Intense frustration with Trump's management style has also led some senior White House and administration officials to arrive at damning assessments of the President.
"The President's insane," one senior official said, in a moment of exasperation with Trump's behavior behind the scenes.
Asked what the aide meant, the official complained Trump failed to understand the constraints on the executive branch built into the US Constitution by the nation's Founding Fathers, the guardrails installed to protect American democracy from the possibility of a rogue president.
Here you get the anonymous sources, the hysteria, the presumption of guilt, while the self-righteousness is offloaded to the exasperated “senior official,” who is a convenient cutout for Acosta’s fabled outrage.
No doubt aware that anything Acosta says is subject to intense suspicion, CNN also rolled out octogenarian White House press corps brawler Sam Donaldson to reassure us that “What Jim Acosta is doing is exactly right.” I suppose that Donaldson makes Acosta look good on the theory that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
Donaldson certainly gives Acosta cover for his paranoia about President Trump with such over-reaching statements as “History shows that tyrants and would-be tyrants always attempt to destroy a free press.”
Point of fact: Trump hasn’t tried to destroy the free press; he has tried to teach it some manners. Maybe he isn’t the person best positioned to do so, but there is no doubt that most Americans share his low regard for journalism in general, and TV journalism in particular. There is also no doubt that Trump has been more accessible to the press than any president in my lifetime. He’s never met a scrum of reporters that didn’t have the same effect on him that catnip has on a kitty. If reporters don’t enjoy the rambunctious claws and teeth of the president, they should stop feeding him.
Donaldson compares Trump to other presidents since Kennedy, and finds him to be the only one who doesn’t “understand and accept the important role of the press.” Still, I doubt that John Kennedy would have been downing shots with editors and reporters if they had been writing stories about his romantic conquests instead of congratulating him on them. Likewise, it’s hard to imagine Lyndon Johnson looking kindly on a press (or Congress) that had taken a long, hard look at how he acquired his personal fortune (which, unlike Trump’s, had been amassed entirely while he was on the public payroll).
Let’s face it: Donaldson is just one more victim of Acosta’s con game. By trusting Acosta, Donaldson loses more than money though; he loses his own credibility, especially when he describes the showboating Acosta’s behavior at a Trump press conference last November as “perfectly reasonable and appropriate.” If you don’t recall the incident, here is a summary as described in my own column about Acosta last November:
Acosta gave President Trump a moral lecture in the form of a loaded “question” about why Trump called the migrant “caravan” an “invasion.” According to Acosta, it is not an invasion because the migrants were hundreds of miles away, and besides, the migrants aren’t going to be “climbing over walls and so on.” One week later, as we all know, members of the caravan (and of course it’s not really a “caravan”) were sitting astride the border wall and invading U.S. territory. So much for Acosta’s credibility.
Furthermore, it wasn’t Acosta’s moralizing and scolding of Trump that earned him the title of “a rude, terrible person” from the president; it was his shocking treatment of a White House intern whom he pushed aside when she tried to collect a microphone from him. Yet Donaldson simplifies the story into the president attempting “to ‘lift’ a reporter's White House pass because he didn't like the reporter's questions.” Wrong on two fronts. 1) It wasn’t a question; it was a statement. And 2) the statement wasn’t the proximate cause of the White House reaction.
Of course, the facts don’t matter to people like Donaldson and Acosta; they have their anti-Trump narrative already worked out, and they can make any facts fit that narrative with a little stretching and shadow play.
There was another writer a long time ago who warned us not to believe the pretty pictures that dance alluringly in front of us. The parable of Plato’s cave tells us that sometimes we are seeing only what someone else wants us to see. I bet that Jim Acosta has read the parable of the cave. I also bet he hopes you haven’t.