The first week of Donald Trump’s presidency received wall-to-wall coverage from the mainstream media. His every word was fact-checked, after a fashion.
Nor was the sole concern what Trump said. It also mattered what wall he was standing near when he said it. By “wall-to-wall,” I mean wall-to-wall — from CIA headquarters to the border with Mexico.
But on the whole, the mainstream media seems to be missing or under-playing one significant angle on the nascent Trump administration. The president is keeping his campaign promises.
Personally, I think it’s ridiculous to demand that Mexico pay for a wall designed to advance U.S. interests. I have mixed feelings about coercing a U.S. company not to build a plant outside the U.S. I’m okay with a 90 day suspension of entry for people from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, but can understand why some find this problematic.
Each of these policies or practices, though, fulfills a campaign promise (or attempts to, in the case of the wall). President Trump is doing what candidate Trump said he would do.
It turns out that Donald Trump needed to be taken both seriously and literally.
Keeping campaign promises is a good thing. One can even argue that it’s a sine qua non of a properly functioning democracy.
To be sure, keeping campaign promises has become unfashionable. Breaking them is often viewed as a sign of “growing in office” or, in the case of Barack Obama, commendable political sophistication.
Obama received credit for being shrewd enough not to say, as a candidate, what he really thought/planned to do about gay marriage and immigration policy. In the media’s view, his dissembling was a means to a desirable end, and that’s all that mattered.
If one makes odious campaign promises, there’s only so much that can be said for keeping them. But the mainstream media has no special expertise in assessing odiousness. By contrast, it has the ability to discern whether an action is consistent with a promise and to report whether it is.
Thus, there’s no excuse for the under-reporting of a central fact and unifying theme of the Trump ascension to date — the fact that he’s taking the steps he promised the American people he would take.