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The Trump administration’s strange, parallel world

Irony is dead.

As I contemplated the strange news of yesterday that Kellyanne Conway is rebuking a White House reporter (and the White House press in general) for being rude and disrespectful toward the current administration, Lewis Carroll’s phrase “Through the looking glass” kept popping into my cerebrum.

So I googled it and got:

“Through the looking glass” is a metaphorical expression. It means: on the strange side, in the twilight zone, in a strange parallel world. It comes from the idea of Lewis Carol’s novel: “Through the Looking-Glass,” and the strange and mysterious world Alice finds when she steps through a mirror.

The Trump experience has taken us through the looking glass in so many ways. I favor good manners, in a vague, general way. But, sad to say, to a lifelong journalist, good manners rank in the norms of my craft somewhere behind pursuing facts of a news story. So a certain amount of yelling and interrupting occurs.

I was born in the late Truman period, so Trump is my 13th president. That fact is depressing enough. But I would say that all of my first 12 presidents maintained a certain commitment to that vague, magic combination of seriousness, dignity and civility that gave them and their representatives at least an arguable basis from which to lecture reporters on manners and respect for their office and other elements of what might be called civility. Nixon detested the White House media (and violated his oath). LBJ was boorish and manipulative. But there was still a vague and evolving set of norms that preserved a modicum of civility in the president-press relationship.

Then my 13th president changed all that. He has put on a clinic of incivility, mendacity disrespect for those norms that previous training would have suggested would render any presidential candidate unelectable. And yet there he sits, in the Oval Office, defining presidential-ness down on a daily basis.

Well, they’re just norms, not mentioned in the Constitution. The current incumbent may well be violating things that are more important than norms of civility. And I should also say that Conway, while she is a spin artist of the first order and hardly a truth-teller, does generally stay calm and civil in her public appearances.

But, all that aside, for a spokester in the employ of this particular president, who routinely calls reporters liars and worse (in fact, the entire entity of the news media is routinely ignored, lied to or berated and denounced by this president) has moved the line, in a way that Conway’s relatively good manners cannot do much to repair.

Personally, I have no idea whether the old levels of civility can ever come back. But if this president wants to know who killed them, he should start by looking in a mirror.

If you’d like to watch Conway, very calmly and nicely rebuking the media for their manners, and what she calls the media’s “shouting and pouting” in the press room, there’s a clip of it in this link.

The other surprising/interesting thing about her fairly long rebuke is that the gaggle of reporters following her as she delivered let her get through it without interruption.

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Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/27/2018 - 09:43 am.

    In a Wonderland they lie, Dreaming as the days go by

    For Trump’s supporters, his unpresidential behavior is a feature, not a bug. In fact, it could be the most important feature.

    Sure, they’ll try to minimize it with a shrug (“Hey, he’s just saying what he thinks.”). They may even excuse it by saying it doesn’t really matter, or (even weirder) that it’s all part of some master plan to distract the libs while he makes his brilliant policy breakthroughs. I would believe it, if policy was ever a part of Trump’s electoral appeal. His positions on issues have careened around like a ferret on speed. He governs by angry tweets directed at those who don’t show him sufficient fealty (does anyone think his all caps tirade against Iran was prompted by anything other than their failure to tremble at the sight of his spear and magic helmet?). The only consistent values he has espoused are his own glorification, and a reflexive desire to undo anything and everything President Obama did.

    That’s red meat to his supporters. American conservatives have, in the last few decades, shown a real tendency towards hero worship. Both Presidents Bush disappointed them in that regard, so now they turn to a man whose sole talent is self-promotion. He is also the anti-Obama, which is fine because conservatism has meant hating all things liberal, and especially hating Obama. It doesn’t matter if the Obama erasure hurts them personally, or makes the United States look like some comic opera principality. Hatred of Obama and, by extension, Senator Clinton, is definitional for them.

    Sure, the more intelligent Trump supporters will dance around it. They will throw out a few generic statistics that, when examined, show nothing more than that the country is continuing on an economic trajectory that began under Obama. They are willing to overlook the criminality, the grifting, the lies, and the trashing of democratic norms because . . . why? Well, President Clinton lied too, so that’s all they have.

    Michael Cohen now appears to be willing to testify to personal collusion by Trump with the Russians. Will that make a difference? No–it’s fake news, and anyway, what’s important is the trade “deal” with the EU. Never mind that Trump has just been caught in an extended lie to the American public, and never mind that the “deal” is just calming a crisis that Trump created in the first place. He’s not Obama, and he has the correct hatreds. What else is there?

    • Submitted by Misty Martin on 07/27/2018 - 12:44 pm.

      Yes, I know exactly what you mean.

      One of my very best friends, a gentle, Christian man who has the most tender of hearts, told me yesterday that President Trump WOULD be re-elected for a 2nd term, and that nothing would ever show up to show any collusion with Russia, etc. As if he just KNEW all of these things and could make a prediction of that magnitude.

      And he could very well be correct – BUT, I would at least like to CONSIDER the other side. I just don’t get it. I do not see how Trump’s followers still can follow him. It’s as if he’s the Pied Piper and there are those of us (me included) that just don’t hear the music.

      • Submitted by Steve Roth on 07/31/2018 - 01:38 pm.

        For all the analysis…

        …one thing is consistently missed, or at least ignored, and your friend is a great example: a large percentage of Trump supporters fit all the definitions of a cult. And Trump’s behavior and actions certainly fit a cult leader’s…

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/27/2018 - 10:06 am.

    “Baghdad Bob” comes to mind.

    Fewer and fewer news conferences are being held. A siege mentality takes place. Donald Trump become the arbiter of truth.

    …“Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” Trump said. “Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.”…

    Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes…

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/27/2018 - 10:47 am.

      Who you gonna believe?

      When Chico Marx said it, it was funny.

      When the President of the United States says it, it’s beyond sad.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/27/2018 - 12:53 pm.


        (real name Leonard) was smart enough not to believe his own shtick.
        That’s why it was funny when he said it.

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/27/2018 - 10:13 am.


    The First Amendment refers only to Congress and legislation, not to the President and executive orders.
    Just another example of Trump trying to establish one-man authoritarian governance.

  4. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/28/2018 - 07:55 am.

    We must change our ways

    As the walls close in, Trump acts more and more like he is cornered. His wiggle room keeps getting smaller and smaller as Mr. Mueller opens more and more doors and flips more and more knowledgeable people. Apparently, Trump is not the stable genius he claims to be. Trump has said in the past, “He alone could fix it.” It is starting to look like he really has fixed it. The problem for him is the wrong person is in the trap. It brings back the old saying, “Oh! What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” Yup it fits perfectly! You know Trump feels cornered when he is willing to postpone another meeting until next year with his buddy Putin. I think Trump sees he will be very busy over the next few months and it won’t be the business he was elected to do, America’s business. Trump will be doing his business, trying to keep his rump out of prison.

    It seems to be there has never been such an unethical group of so called leaders in the Executive and Legislative branches of the government as there is now. We keep losing more and more of our democracy. Cabinet members striking meetings from their calendars, Trump won’t publish foreign phone call contacts, kicking reporters out of news conferences. The fact that trump always calls CNN fake news says to me he finds them to be the most credible news media. Truth has become nonessential to our politicians. Congress has abdicated their power to Trump. Obstruction of justice has become politically fashionable. I wouldn’t be surprised to find some in congress guilty of obstruction of justice when all is said and done.

    Nothing ever gets done to completion with Trump. Next year when the Trump tax cuts show up the news will be bad news as the deficit is pumped up. We all know who benefitted the most from the tax cuts – corporations and the already wealthy. What happened to those staunch conservative deficit hawks – fake news.

    A great part of our American way is that you get to vote for whom ever you like. Supporting a politician says as much about their beliefs as it does about your beliefs. When you vote to support that politician, it says as much about them as it does about you. When you find out that politician struggles with the truth, is misogynistic, bigoted, racist and xenophobic and you continue to support them that says a whole lot about you.

    We must change our ways

    • Submitted by Steve Roth on 07/31/2018 - 01:40 pm.

      It’s not just Trump…

      …but the GOP as well – we’ve never seen a party so complicit and working so hard, to keep the truth from the American people.

  5. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 07/27/2018 - 04:42 pm.

    [The quotation marks I put around this brief post are to indicate that, like Kellyanne Conway, I am almost whispering quietly when saying the most outrageous things. She whispered, in the clip Eric provides, to chastise the horrid White House press for shouting questions at the president after staffers had asked the press to leave the room; this was the incident when the president replied “No” twice to a shouted question by a female CNN reporter. That “presidential “No” was an embarrassment for White House staff, who lied to cover up what the president said. As they lie to do so frequently.

    [Then, they banned the CNN reporter from a White House briefing, and the new, former-Fox TV WH communications director–you know, the guy responsible for the WH EDITING OUT Putin’s “Yes, I did (support Trump in 2016)” and “Yes, I did (direct my people to take active measures to support Trump’s election in 2016)” out of the video and the transcript of the Helsinki Q and A along with the reporter’s questions, the guy who’s instituting Trump’s Brave New World by manipulating what we saw with our own eyes, so history contains truth and the Trump administration’s editing of a truth we all witnessed–played a long little game disputing that his banning of the CNN reporter was really banning her.)

    [Kellyanne’s hypocrisy is sickening when she makes a great show of the “civility” of her not shouting, while the president models incivility every day.]

    Incidentally, and not whispering: That new ex-Fox guy is a piece of work. Watch him.

  6. Submitted by Brett Adams on 07/28/2018 - 01:48 am.

    Hey, where’s the Trump support?

    Come on, there’s usually at least one post here that defends this horrible, lying, traitor-in-chief excuse of a president … The real answer to anyone who has eyes and ears is obvious. Maybe they finally see the writing on the wall, as the evidence keeps piling up, and in a bizarre echo, John Dean is calling it, as those who’ve been fooled (no, there’s still no excuse for that) wake up to some weird, steroided-out parallel Nixon-universe, where the crimes are magnified tenfold, and the cost is the sellout to enemies, and the soul of a nation hangs in the balance.

  7. Submitted by M. Berger on 07/31/2018 - 10:33 am.

    Presidential Oath of Office

    Here is the full text of the US presidential oath of office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” This is the oath that Donald Trump took.

    Can some American explain to me how calling for black athletes who do not stand for the National Anthem to be fired by the team owners is not a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitutions?

    I would be willing to wager that Donald Trump has neither read the US Constitution nor even knows what’s in it.

  8. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/01/2018 - 11:48 am.

    The Saturday Night Massacre

    Version II is nearing, stay tuned:

    Trump calls for Sessions to fire Mueller. (Today)

    Sessions declines

    Trump fires sessions.

    Rosenstein becomes AG.

    Rosenstein refuses to fire Mueller.

    Rosenstein fired.

    38 Year old, Jessie Panuccio, # 3 in line becomes AG

    Panuccio fires Mueller.

    Paul Ryan has nervous breakdown.

    Senate refuses to consider Trump AG nominee Judge Jeanine…

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 08/02/2018 - 06:48 am.

      You Had Me

      Until “Senate refuses…”

      The “leadership” of the House and Senate are as pliable as a piece of clay when Trumps tweets. A few may quietly balk and mouth pious disapproval, but they’ll all fall into line.

  9. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 08/01/2018 - 08:47 pm.

    I think you are afraid to use the correct terminology

    Its a Fascist regime, led by a fascist, got basically all the elements, treat it accordingly. Don’t see the great modern day fascist pulling any punches now do you?

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