LA Times’ ‘The Problem With Trump’ is a powerful editorial series

REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Apparently, the reign of the current incumbent is so disturbing to editorial writers of the Los Angeles Times that they have launched a four-part editorial series to count the ways that Donald Trump's presidency is alarming.

With apologies in advance to my friends and colleagues through the years who write them, the idea of unsigned institutional newspaper editorials never made much sense to me. Maybe back in the days when an actual person owned the newspaper, and ran it, and wrote or at least supervised the writing of the editorials it made a little more sense to claim that those opinions reflected the beliefs of some specific human being. But that’s way long ago.

Nowadays, an editorial is presumably somebody’s opinion or a mélange of somebodies who meet during the day and talk things over. But the reader is asked to accept that what they are reading is the opinion of “the newspaper.” That’s the part that doesn’t make sense to me. I prefer to know whose opinion I’m reading. Anyway, those nameless somebodies need their jobs, so I’ll get off my own backsliding views (and off my high horse) and onto what may be some of the most powerful editorial writing I’ve encountered in a long time.

And we owe it all to President Trump.

Apparently, the reign of the current incumbent is so disturbing to editorial writers of the Los Angeles Times that they have launched a four-part editorial series to count the ways that Trump’s presidency is alarming. In the first two parts, which were available Monday, she, he or they spoke eloquently — and in case you hadn’t heard about them, I thought I would just pass them along.

The series is titled “The Problem With Trump.” Part one, a sort of overview of several problems to be discussed in the course of the miniseries, was headlined “Our Dishonest President.” And that was a link to it. It begins:

It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters. The Times called him unprepared and unsuited for the job he was seeking, and said his election would be a “catastrophe.”

Still, nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck. Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office.

Instead, seventy-some days in — and with about 1,400 to go before his term is completed — it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.

You can probably tell already whether you’re going to like the series.

That piece outlines what I take to be the themes of the three remaining installments, each of which is built around a problem (or category of problems) with our current incumbent, namely:

Trump’s shocking lack of respect for those fundamental rules and institutions on which our government is based;

His utter lack of regard for truth;

And thirdly:

His scary willingness to repeat alt-right conspiracy theories, racist memes and crackpot, out-of-the-mainstream ideas.

As I write this late Monday, the second installment of the series, titled “Why Trump Lies,” is also available via this link. It begins with the unarguable statement: “Donald Trump did not invent the lie.”

I’m getting a little emotional in my old age but, at the risk of committing hype, the first two installments of the series struck me as among the best editorial writing I’ve ever read.

With your permission (or, to be honest, without it) I’ll wait till the last two installments are published and pass along those links for your convenience and edification, if “convenience and edification” are the words one wants here.

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Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/04/2017 - 01:28 pm.

    We Told You So! We Didn’t Know!

    Yes, a powerful piece of writing.

    Before the election, the Times knew that Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters, was unprepared and unsuited for the job he was seeking, and his election would be a “catastrophe.” Okay, I’m right with you on that. After the election, they are shocked–shocked!–to find that he is living up to their every expectation, and even going further.

    Why did they think he would behave himself once in office? What in his past career, his past life, gave them any reason to think that what we saw was not what we would get? Such faith in the transformative power of the Oval Office is, at best naive. America elected someone who came across as a narcissist and demagogue, etc., and that’s what he is. No “Surprise! I’m really a measured person who thinks before he acts and does not give in to his worst impulses.” Enough voters in enough strategically placed states wanted the campaign Trump, and that’s what they got.

    That’s what the rest of us got, too.

    • Submitted by Patrick Tice on 04/04/2017 - 05:24 pm.

      Exactly so.

      Thank you – I was going to say pretty much the same thing. How anyone expected anything but what we now have is a mystery to me.

  2. Submitted by Jan Arnold on 04/04/2017 - 03:38 pm.

    Links

    Please include all the links, in order, in the final article on this. Make is easy for us to follow.

  3. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/05/2017 - 07:30 am.

    Coexist

    The LA Times wrote “It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters. The Times called him unprepared and unsuited for the job he was seeking, and said his election would be a “catastrophe.”

    I start coming to the conclusion (OK, I knew it long ago) that our problem is not fake news but selling opinions as facts. And of course, an even bigger problem is that, according to research, a lot of people, especially the young ones, cannot distinguish one from another. This first paragraph from the LA editorial is absolutely meaningless but it is presented as a fact (“it was no secret” implies “everyone knew”). And it is funny how they cite themselves (or are they talking about the NYT) to support their statement…

    The editorial goes on to state that “President Trump has taken dozens of real-life steps that, if they are not reversed, will rip families apart, foul rivers and pollute the air, intensify the calamitous effects of climate change and profoundly weaken the system of American public education for all.” To any objective observer it is obvious that these “disastrous” results are either subjective (if not purely partisan) predictions or, in case of ripping families apart, maintaining the existing law of the land (doesn’t almost every incarceration result in “ripping families apart?”)

    Pretty much, this “great” editorial could have been replaced with one word: “Resist!” Or three words: “Trump is evil!” But why not if 90% or more of LA Times readers (I am guessing, of course, but I think I am pretty close) want to read this and think exactly this way. Logic is irrelevant, facts are not necessary, and the fate of the country is beside the point despite all the rhetoric at the end. Wouldn’t it be nice if the editorial said that Trump and Republicans had won everything that was just remotely possible and it would be prudent to work with them, including voting for Gorsuch since there is no way to stop him anyway, and listen to people who live between NY and LA? Wouldn’t it be nice if the article could have been replaced with another word: “Coexist!”

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/05/2017 - 09:59 am.

      Coexist =/= Acquiesce

      “Wouldn’t it be nice if the article could have been replaced with another word: ‘Coexist!’” A nice sentiment, indeed, but it in no way follows from your prior sentence.

      “Coexistence” does not mean “refusing to express disagreement” or “dissenting from policy decisions.” It does not mean pretending that electoral victories mean no one can disagree anymore. It certainly does not mean that the perceived opinions of one demographic take precedence over anything anyone else thinks.

      BTW, did you express the same opinions when the tea partiers were “coexisting” with the Obama administration?

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/05/2017 - 08:53 pm.

        I totally agree

        “Coexistence” does not mean “refusing to express disagreement” or “dissenting from policy decisions.” It does not mean pretending that electoral victories mean no one can disagree anymore. It certainly does not mean that the perceived opinions of one demographic take precedence over anything anyone else thinks.” I totally agree with this entire paragraph of yours… I just don’t see where I said anything that contradicts this… Working together doesn’t mean agreeing on everything – it just means talking instead of insulting… and agreeing to reasonable things while not trying to slow down things that cannot be stopped… They teach that in kindergarten…

        As for the Tea Party, I quite often disagreed with their means and tactics… However, COEXIST is not a Tea Party’s motto… but a liberal one…

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/07/2017 - 11:10 am.

          Well . . .

          “Wouldn’t it be nice if the editorial said that Trump and Republicans had won everything that was just remotely possible and it would be prudent to work with them, including voting for Gorsuch since there is no way to stop him anyway, and listen to people who live between NY and LA?” Voting for someone because he’s “inevitable” is acquiescence.

          • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/07/2017 - 09:33 pm.

            Sorry

            When I said “voting for Gorsuch,” I actually meant “not filibustering voting for Gorsuch” – sorry I wasn’t clear on that. As for “acquiescence,” you didn’t mention it in your post earlier but fighting inevitable is a waste of time and is not a good path to cooperation, at least in politics. And of course it is not the same as not showing disagreement – they could still vote no at the end.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 04/06/2017 - 11:08 am.

      Well…

      “our problem is not fake news but selling opinions as facts”

      One key way to identify the difference is when the top banner line says:

      “Opinion Page”

      And this is where the Times expressed the sentiments you disagree with before the election and after.

      And if the right had any interest what so ever in “coexisting” we would be commenting on the initial work of Justice Garland at this time and not Senate nuclear options.

      Our problem is selling lies as facts. The only way to coexist is to find a common ground based on truth and Trump’s most significant characteristic is to distort the truth to an unprecedented level, making finding any truth based common ground nearly impossible.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/07/2017 - 07:36 am.

        Facts and opinions

        I didn’t say it is really difficult to distinguish opinions from facts… I said opinions are sold as facts and people are buying it thinking they facts… All editorials are, in theory, opinions, but this one, as many others, is written as if they are stating facts…

        Times didn’t express its opinions, it gave it as facts as I pointed out. And again, Coexist is a liberal slogan so they have to live up to that first…

  4. Submitted by Bob Petersen on 04/05/2017 - 07:33 am.

    More of the Lame Same

    The LA Times has never been kind to the conservative, so not sure why this is such a big deal. Other presidents and numerous politicians from both sides of the aisle are also egotistical and perpetuate lies to no end. Sad thing is that this paper sheds more light on what becomes more abundantly clear in that the media, for the most part, is so one-sided and selective in it’s coverage that is just sick.

    Although it is easy to see Mr. Black’s predilections from all his writings, I would expect this subject to be looked at more critically than just passing a slanted message because many in journalism want to show what people should think.

  5. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 04/05/2017 - 11:01 am.

    Let’s not normalize Trump’s habit of lying: No President in our history has had his propensity for telling or repeating fabrications, and in the face of powerful and numerous rebuttals or fact-checking. He takes the breath away, and so does that poor soul named Sean Spicer, whose job it is to try to make Trump’s lies look legit.

    I saw a news clip last week of a woman who supports everything Trump does, and her a priori conclusion (“Why would he lie? What reason would he ever have to lie”?) put blinders before her eyes. She wasn’t going to entertain even the suspicion that her President was telling whoppers. So she didn’t look or listen to any news item or editorial opinion that outlined just how he’s been lying.

    That’s really sad. At least I’m watching programs that try to explain why people like that not-poor white woman think Trump is great. I’m trying to understand, while she’s in hiding from any truth that contradicts her conclusions before-the-fact.

    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/07/2017 - 07:37 am.

      Please share

      Can you please share the names of the programs you are watching to understand?

      • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 04/08/2017 - 03:24 pm.

        The woman to whom I referred appeared in an in-depth look by PBS at Trump supporters, to see how firmly they still supported him, or not. They zeroed in respectfully and asked questions and let those supporters make their own case. No one “interpreted” what they said; I drew my conclusions about that woman’s a priori and counter-factual conviction that Trump doesn’t lie about anything at any time because Why would he? directly from her own statement.

  6. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/05/2017 - 08:54 pm.

    Journalists should be emotionless and impartial when they are at work, just like doctors and judges… Instead, they are running on pure emotions… News must be facts, opinions must be facts with logical conclusions. How often does that happen?

  7. Submitted by Joe Musich on 04/05/2017 - 11:13 pm.

    It is incredible …

    and unbelievable that a newspaper would do a multiple part editorial on the dangers of Trump as President. Factually the LA Times is a long ways from being the liberal paper it might have been in past years which makes this effort even more shocking. But not shocking in the sense of inappropriate. It is wholly a need that this be shouted out until all hear. This is a dangerous human. He and his cadre are literally showing a desire to gut America and what we try to represent for the species. Manipulation is the skill in this three card monte bait and switch nightmare many knew we would would witness if his cadre arose to power as it has. But it has been achieved if that is an appropriate word to use because of our informational news sources being turned against the concept of information. The tide seems to be reversing as this multiparty editorial may suggest. The

  8. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/09/2017 - 10:54 am.

    LA Times

    Historically, the LA Times had a reputation of being a right wing paper, and also of being a very bad newspaper. But that was in a different world. While newspapers are indeed something, they are not what they used to be, not even newspapers like the New York Times or the Washington Post.

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