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Commentary By Jason L. Riley

The Media Do Battle With a Pragmatic New President

Culture Culture & Society

Trump talked policy in his Florida rally, but journalists thought it was about them.

During labor disputes at major newspapers, it’s not uncommon for reporters to withhold their bylines from stories to demonstrate frustration with management and win sympathy from readers. This can sometimes get management’s attention, but it’s unclear how many readers notice or care.

In recent weeks the Washington press corps’s coverage of its continuing personal feud with Donald Trump, which pits a supposedly tyrannical president against a supposedly noble Fourth Estate, has dominated the news. Does the public care about this standoff as much as the media believe?

“They have their own agenda,” Mr. Trump said of the national press at a rally in Florida Feb. 18, where he pitted the elite media against his supporters. “And their agenda is not your agenda.” The president is on firmer ground than his media foes.

Republican presidents have been accustomed to harsh criticism from the mostly left-wing Beltway journalists who cover them, but no one in memory has received as much sustained abuse as Mr. Trump. Most major news outlets showed nothing but contempt for him and his supporters throughout the campaign, and the disdain has only escalated since the election.

“They could not defeat us in the primaries and they could not defeat us in the general election,” Mr. Trump told supporters, referring not to his political opponents but to the press. “We are not going to let the fake news tell us what to do, how to live, or what to believe. We are free and independent people, and we will make our own choices.”

It’s also becoming clearer that the media are more interested than Mr. Trump in maintaining this antagonistic relationship. Mr. Trump won the White House as an outsider who preached the sort of pragmatism on display in Florida, where he spoke at length about his administration’s intention to focus on jobs, crime, border security and economic growth.

“I know that you want safe neighborhoods where the streets belong to families and communities, not gang members and drug dealers,” he said. The president talked about reducing violent crime nationwide and assembling a task force that will focus on urban areas. He said “safety is a civil right.” The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that murder rates in Chicago, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Memphis have returned to record levels reached in the 1990s. For millions of Americans, that task force can’t come soon enough.

Mr. Trump’s approach to job creation is no less commonsensical. He wants to cut red tape and use our natural resources...

Read the entire piece here at The Wall Street Journal


Jason L. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a Fox News commentator.

This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal