The Master of the Media is Back on Top of His Game

It’s been more than a month since the mainstream media had an overblown meltdown over something Donald Trump said, so we knew that something would be coming down the pike sooner than later. The Republican nominee has been on his best behavior, apparently hoping to keep controversy to a minimum as he shores up support inside the GOP establishment and goes looking for deep-pocketed political donors. But after pulling off a successful convention in Cleveland and moving past Hillary Clinton in the national polls, Trump reminded the world this week that he can control the media at will.

In a masterful move reminiscent of the Trump who soared past 16 Republican candidates in the primaries, the billionaire scheduled a lengthy no-holds-barred press conference for Wednesday morning and stole the spotlight from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. By the time NBC’s Katy Tur was finished asking Trump about Russia, the media had forgotten all about Hillary Clinton’s GLORIOUS, HISTORIC ACHIEVEMENT.

Tur asked Trump if he had “a relationship with the Russians” that might have something to do with their hacking of DNC servers last summer. The hack led to the publication of more than 20,000 internal emails, some of which painted the Democratic Party in a…um…less than favorable light.

Trump denied that he had any involvement with Russian government officials, but that wouldn’t have made for much of a story. To ensure that the talking heads would be squawking about him instead of paying attention to Hillary’s coronation in Philly, he went on the attack.

“By the way,” he said, “they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted because you’d see some beauties there. So let’s see.”

At another point, he said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Well, you would have thought he suggested selling California to Vladimir Putin. Right on cue, the political world leapt into a full-scale frenzy, accusing Trump of everything from incautious politicking to outright treason. The line between sensible punditry and conspiratorial musings was completely erased; Clinton’s supporters freely suggested that Trump and Putin might be engaged in some kind of international plot to hijack the presidency. Clinton herself said that Trump was an unwitting “pawn” of Putin’s. And every liberal media outlet in the country spread the same false narrative: Trump Encourages Russia to Spy on the U.S.!

First, let’s come back down to earth. Trump did not ask Russia to conduct further espionage. To whatever extent he was serious about the emails, he was quite obviously going off the premise that Russian hackers had cracked Clinton’s private server as well as those of the Democratic National Committee. He was saying, “Show us what you’ve got.” He wasn’t saying, “C’mon, do some more hacking so I can win the election.” Anyone can plainly see that.

But the press sees what they want to see, and Trump knows that. He’s often accused of having little control over his mouth, but if you’ve studied him closely over the past year, you might come to a different conclusion. He has an unprecedented sense of exactly how close he can get to the flames without getting burned. It drives Clinton and the Democrats (and the Republicans, frankly) batty, but these OUTRAGEOUS, DISQUALIFYING, TREASONOUS comments never seem to hurt Trump in the polls.

Part of it’s because Trump rarely backs down – a rarity in modern politics. Part of it’s because he’s built a movement that cannot be derailed by any single remark, even if it’s universally condemned. Part of it’s because Americans find it so refreshing to have a politician who isn’t hemmed in by the usual PC guardrails.

But a lot of it is due to the media’s reaction to Trump’s comments. They over-hype and exaggerate and cry doom every time, and it has the opposite of its intended effect. This is the perfect example. It’s reasonable to question the prudence of a presidential candidate making an overture like that to a devious leader like Putin, but when you start accusing him of treason and all this other stuff…it’s just too much. In their zeal to take Trump down, the mainstream press has lost all credibility.

And somehow, after 12 solid months of being played, no one in that world has learned a thing.

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