Witcover: Media should shun Trump’s stale lies and allegations
WASHINGTON — Nine months after American voters in their collective wisdom ousted Donald Trump from the presidency, he continues to clog our airwaves and headlines with his bold and ludicrous scheme to bully his way back to relevance in our political life.
His Big Lie that the 2020 election was rigged against him through multiple fraudulent actions of state elections officials across the country continues to get wide public visibility. Staged rallies and television appearances have drawn inordinate media coverage in which he essentially repeats the same nonsense of a stolen election.
It is long past the time the fraudulent three-ring circus that is Trumpmania is put in proper perspective. It is a hangover from one of the nation’s most destructive detours into misgovernment at the hands of a reckless and ill-fitted demagogue.
Responsible journalism requires that Trump’s antics and dangerous behavior receive scrutiny. But that obligation does not warrant the almost daily news coverage afforded to his fictitious ramblings. Let him come forward with substantive proposals to address real community needs before giving him such routine access to the public forum he so diligently courts.
In all this, he has shaped the Republican Party into his personal plaything, leaving its once-proud and trustworthy reputation for orthodox conservatism in tatters. Gone are such responsible and revered disciples of middle-road politics as the late Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Howard Baker of Tennessee, to bring the Grand Old Party back to its true moorings.
Among the party’s most senior members is Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, once its presidential nominee but now a relatively muted voice of moderate reason amid the Trump chaos. Meanwhile, newcomer radicals like Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri vie for a share of the Trump spotlight.
If Donald Trump continues to be any significant factor in today’s national political scene, it is as the sharp contrast he presents to the Democrat who ended his presidency in 2020. President Joe Biden is his antithesis in terms of government experience, temperament and congeniality. As such, Biden generally benefits from the comparison among voters who value normality in their public figures.
Biden can sometimes come across as impulsive or given to occasional verbal gaffes. But compared to Trump, he offered in his first months as president a steady hand on the ship of state, steering the country through a perilous time of an historic public-health pandemic botched by Trump.
In recent days, however, his mishandling of the abrupt withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan has tarnished some of that reputation. Yet after Trump’s four-year tour of governance by whim and amateurism, Biden will still offer a preferable alternative to many voters.
Trump’s refusal to go gently into political retirement no doubt will be a burden that his successor will have to bear, as he seeks to “build back better” from the hangover of the Trump nightmare. The rest of us need to keep the former president in proper perspective as well, as a national mistake from which the country needs to make a sensible recovery.
At the same time, the daily journalism trade would do well to treat Trump and his Big Lie as yesterday’s story, and to confine coverage of him in terms of anything truly newsworthy he may have to say.
Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at email@example.com.