CBS Chief White House Correspondent, Major Garrett, has covered six presidential candidates and four presidencies. He has worked for both print and TV media spending 6 years at Fox News before taking his current job. We had the opportunity to share an hour with him of what they called “conversation” at the Newseum in Washington DC where a moderator and audience asked good questions about Garrett’s experience as a White House Correspondent.
He says that he first met president Trump as a candidate and was greeted the first time by Trump saying to him, “Major. Fantastic.” “Major” was referring to him and the “fantastic” referred to his being the first major network present to cover him. That told Trump that he was getting through. Garrett has since been to over 100 Trump rallies. Major Garrett shared some insights into Trump saying Trump has no sense of time but does have a sense of memory. He remembers things but not in any chronological order or clear accuracy. He says that he will only remember the wins from the mid-term election and the losses are already forgotten. He doesn’t brood on losses but will remember insults.
Garrett said that the mid-term election was extra-ordinary in that it was the largest turnout since 1966. 113 million people voted. What happened in 1966? Vietnam was gaining attention but the real upheaval had to do with the Civil Rights Act passage as it stuck a fork in segregation, Jim Crow and other racial inequity ending what had been a period of White Supremacy, most pronounced in the South. As Lyndon Johnson predicted, this flipped the South from Democrat to Republican parties including the conversion of our current Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, who was on the wrong side of this history. You could not be elected Governor of Georgia as Perdue was and not be on the wrong side of history because that was where the majority of voters were then. The state is now split 50/50.
While claiming not to be one, Trump has, however, given air to the white supremacists to a degree not seen since 1966 and the mid-term election turnout reflected it. Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by 3 million and 6 million more voters pulled the lever for democrats than republicans in congressional races in the mid-term election. Demographics are progressively weighted against the GOP. That is going to be an issue that shows up in more disputed elections and charges of electoral fraud as the GOP gets frustrated. The red states lost the civil war and the civil rights war and they are now fighting a war with demographics that they are going to lose too if democracy continues to prevail.
Trump is at war with the major media, but Major Garrett is not at war with the presidency. Recently there were a couple instances where the president clashed with correspondents, with CNN Jim Acosta at least temporarily losing his white House credentials. Trump admonished another reporter for asking a “stupid” question, which is any question that he does not like. Neither correspondent gave up the mic without protest. Garrett, on the other hand, says that he has given up the mic believing that the president has the right to call on who he wants to with the press and that he has not always gotten his question asked after surrendering the mic as directed.
There is a split within the media as to how to handle the president. Garrett says that the president doesn’t always conduct himself as he should, but that will be recorded by his history. He says that doesn’t mean that the press should go to Trump’s level. He believes they should conduct themselves professionally even when Trump does not. That will be how they win in the long run. That has to be an extremely frustrating situation to be caught in.
I have listened to a Sarah Huckabee Sanders news conference on the radio driving home and she deflects question after question after question and when she does add any substance, it is frankly most often inaccurate. A press conference is then “deflection and falsehoods,” so what good is it? I think that it was worse listening to it than watching it. Why bother? Why does the press even show up? Why not boycott the exercise in futility? That is a question that has the press corps divided. Just being there to record the deception and falsehoods provides perspective. That is the news.
When Acosta got his credentials pulled, CNN Chief Jeff Zucker ordered his network to stand down and not give energy to the White House action turning it into a challenge which the White House would very much enjoy engaging in. The media does not want to become the story. That just lets Trump’s narrative win. Major Garrett doesn’t want to be the story and will bend to avoid becoming so. He gave up the mic voluntarily.
Garrett said that his best description of the Trump White House is “Cirque Du Soleil on acid.” He was interviewing Trump supporters as to why they support Trump. One told him that “Trump understands that this country is coast to coast…not coast and coast.” I think that most Trump supporters would support that. Trump support is concentrated in rural America. The Trump primary demographic base is the less educated/older/white/male. He is losing in the cities and he is losing in the suburbs. There has been no indication whatsoever of Trump expanding that base enlarging it.
I agree that the two coasts do not understand the heartland. There is a cultural divide that has become exploited as a political divide worse than it needs to be for political purposes. While I agree that the two coasts do not understand the heartland, the reverse is also true. That is another report.
David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.
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