American Svengali

“What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?”
Trump looked down and shook his head while this question was asked.
“I think it’s a very nasty question. And I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers, and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism and the same with NBC, and Concast, I don’t call it Comcast (the parent company of NBC News) for whom you work. You need to get back to good reporting.”
“Let’s see if it works.”
On chloroquine, Trump said: “We ordered them. We have millions of units ordered.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease since 1984, however, told the same briefing there was no evidence the anti-malarial drug worked, and its safety risks are unknown.
Trump predicted: “People may be surprised.” * (source multiple outlets)

Mr. President, that is an understatement. I dare say it will shock the entire country.

John Barrymore as Svengali , A still from the 1931 eponymous movie

Mr. Trump is allergic to facts and prefers a sycophantic propaganda-driven media to fawn over, and accept without question, his every word, pronouncement, and declaration no matter how absurd or contradicted by facts. This President cannot handle basic questions that anyone in his position, under these circumstances, would know a reporter will ask.

This man is not responsible for this “Chinese” flu. Still, his ineptness and resistance to early decisive action—considering his well-known disdain for intelligence briefings (which alerted him to the potential crisis with Covid-19 as early as January)—is barely mitigated by VP Pence and Dr. Fauci. History may show the actions of this President failed to prevent increases in hospitalizations, deaths, and the unprecedented collapse of the American economy. (Story link)

In those same intelligence briefings, some Senators—both Democrat and Republican—were smart enough to see the looming financial crisis yet acted in a manner devoid of any sense of honor or decency.

They worried more about their personal well-being than the rest of the country. It will be interesting to see the names of others, privy to the same briefings, who took similar actions.

Regardless of who they are, anyone who used their positions of trust to insulate themselves from the coming financial collapse should resign immediately.

Now there are many rational Trump supports who make cogent and articulate arguments to support the President. Different perspectives, and differences of opinions, are what drive this country to greater achievements.

The very nature of the national emergency may have forced Mr. Trump into taking action. Still, his supporters are correct in arguing he is doing something. If he learned to let someone else have the spotlight, VP Pence and Dr. Fauci, it would mitigate much of the criticism directed at him.

He just cannot help thrusting himself into the spotlight–everything is “beautiful”–even if his statements are devoid of facts, or are outright falsehoods. Yet that has been his pattern since he entered the political forum.

His supporters’ parroted argument that they knew what they were getting—a crude, inarticulate, bull-in-a-china-shop personality—and wanted this politically inexperienced outsider to drain the swamp, falls short under scrutiny. It doesn’t pass the smell test.

If they were seeking such a candidate, they could have done better than this accident of circumstances. The swamp is getting deeper and murkier, it is not draining and the snakes are now poisonous.

Here’s a prediction. However this all plays out, Mr. Trump will resort to his usual course of behavior. He’ll blame all the negative consequences on VP Pence and Dr. Fauci and kick them to the curb. You heard it here first.

For those in the administration and Congress who went along with this Svengali-like personality, when the judgment of history comes on how you followed Trump lemming-like over the cliff, you can invoke the Svengali defense.

In court, a Svengali defense is a legal tactic that purports the defendant to be a pawn in the scheme of a greater and more influential criminal mastermind.

Convincing people he is a “mastermind” might be a stretch. You may have to work at that.

Or, you can say you were just following orders…

*Author’s Note: There is much discussion and disagreement over using Social Media for political discussions. I see the forum as the perfect opportunity to reach a wider audience than might be available to newspaper opinion pieces (which I also write) or other traditional forums.

I have people who read, and comment, on my pieces from all over the world. It opens a line of communication and exchange ideas well worth pursuing.

I also see Social Media as the perfect environment for choice. You can read what I write, respond, agree, disagree, or ignore it completely. The reader has full control.

Polls show a range of opinions on the use of social media for political discussions.

Some of that may be generational where younger generations use social media like my generation used the telephone and my parents generation used cards and letters.

Some of it may be most people are more concerned with being entertained on Social Media by goat videos, sophomoric memes, or jokes than as a source of information.

But what is undeniable is Social Media can have a positive impact when used with proper caution. While using single source reference sites such as Google or Wikipedia may offer some fact checking, accepting the content on Social Media as reliable on its face is dangerous.

But it does offer a platform to stimulate the consideration of multiple points of view. I don’t write these things because I believe I can persuade anyone to change their minds. I write these things so that everyone who reads it will know there are differences of opinions out there.

People often fall into the trap of confirmation bias. If they read something the agree with, they accept it at face value. If it is something they disagree with, they ignore it. By reading different points of view with the intent of understanding–not accepting but recognizing–different perspectives, it opens a door to further understanding.

If I write something that later proves wrong or inaccurate, I try to correct the error. I can admit mistakes. Yet I still see the social media platform as beneficial for the discussion of all topics.

The tone of the discussions is also problematic. Keyboards instill unwarranted courage in some. In a face-to-face discussion, no one tolerates name calling. Most participants would be reluctant to engage in such crass public displays. The anonymity of the online presence acts as an invisibility cloak, masking identity.

My posts all go on my blog, in my name, linked to a variety of Social Media sites and shared by those who follow my blog. I enjoy a polite if intense discussion on differences. I try to be polite and if I cross the line, I apologize, but I still see the platform as beneficial. It gives voice to people who may not otherwise have it.

To make a comparison to when I was growing up. I watched 3 channels, 6, 10, and 12. Then Channel 38 and 56 came along. Once again, I liked them for their entertainment value.

I didn’t watch PBS Channel 36, I wanted entertainment, not enlightenment. I wanted the Three Stooges, not a history lesson. If I wanted to be informed, I watched the news.

Yet, over time I did begin to watch more serious shows. The TV, once just a source of entertainment, became a widespread source of communicating information and bring the wide world into out living room.

Social media, just barely into it’s second decade, is a changing phenomenon.

I think many would prefer Facebook and Twitter and the plethora of others to be just another form of entertainment. As those accustomed to using Social Media almost from birth take over positions of responsibility and political office, that may change as it adapts to their particular preferences.

For myself, I will continue to post and welcome agreement and disagreement from anyone who wishes to take part. I do hope the discussions can be civil, I try to resist–not always with success–resorting to sarcasm, but sometimes I cannot help myself and for that I apologize. But we should still use the platform to express our ideas.

For it is in our differences we find solutions. Perhaps Social Media may be the platform where we once again embrace compromise.

Here are some links to polls addressing the situation.

Where Have all the Real Reporters Gone?

There are no more Walter Cronkite’s


Walter Cronkite was the face of news reporting in America for many years. Others joined him, David Huntley and Chet Brinkley, Eric Sevareid, and more who reported the news without distortion or interpretation.

Oh, that we had such reporters today.

When Cronkite or the others interrupted a television show with the words “we interrupt this broadcast for breaking news,” it was for something that mattered. They told the story, relayed the information, and left the commentary or analysis for those who made their function clear.

Cronkite’s integrity and honesty were so highly respected that, when he went to Vietnam in 1968 shortly after the Tet Offensive and gave a brutally frank report on the conduct and state of the American involvement, his words turned the tide of American support for the war.

After Cronkite’s report, President Lyndon Johnson told his close personal advisers, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the American people.” As history shows, Vietnam was a death knell for Johnson’s administration. Cronkite’s reporting, not criticism, not condemnation, not opinion, just his reporting of the facts on the ground in Vietnam was what made the difference and changed the course of a government.

President Trump’s approach to critical reporting is to attack the source. Such tactics will remain effective until news broadcasters develop a reputation for integrity that withstands such attacks, the absence of such reporters is sad and troubling.

Today’s 24/7 breaking news agenda driven media thinly disguised as reporting is a pox on America and the tradition and powerful voice of an independent and trustworthy free press.

News today is blood sports entertainment. Broadcast media, amplified by social media, has turned news into the Roman Circus. Truth becomes the moral equivalent of Christians fed to lions. The lions being the talking heads misdirecting facts to suit their particular bent and twisted into truth tearing carnivorous attacks.

The reason we ended up with such a divisive election is the result of the media widening the chasm between liberal and conservative philosophies. America’s strengths have always been its ability to embrace a centrist policy. Neither too left or right wing. Marginalizing the extremes on both sides and melding the best into a successful strategy.

Clinton made the error of trying to embrace Sanders more extreme foreign policy agenda and social programs, perhaps out of some sense of recompense for her gerrymandering the convention, and it hurt her in middle America.

Trump exploited this by firing up the extremes of the right, the xenophobic isolationists, and distorting the threat of illegal immigration. His embracing the “criminalization” of his opponent with the “lock her up” chant is a playbook out of many authoritarian governments throughout the world.

And it worked, Sanders supporters who couldn’t vote for Trump or Clinton voted for third parties or didn’t vote at all. Some Democrats crossed over to Trump because of a perception that he was the lesser of two evils.

All of this facilitated, compounded, and occluded by a profit-driven media seeking only to boost ratings.

The print media, a dying breed due to the changing nature of technology and the short attention spans and dirge of analytical thought among Americans, still has not found a way to preserve its place despite continued outstanding reporting by many of the established newspapers.

In the final analysis, until the news is no longer considered entertainment, we will continue down this dangerous road. Those of us who recall the Cronkite’s of the world, in whom you could place your trust in the truth of the reporting, long for a return. Those raised on the 24/7 media circus don’t understand what they’re missing, or the damage it does to the country.