Right Opinion

Media Update: Left, Trump and Florida

Bill Wagner · Feb. 24, 2018

I have a couple brief comments on the Florida shooting and aftermath, but first a media update.

It’s a truism that if you want to know the agenda du jour of the Left, you just need to glance at the most important real estate in The New York Times. Take the business section over the last few days.

Above the fold Wednesday there was an article about a Times interview with the CEO of the medical/drug powerhouse Merck. Besides being one of the most prominent black executives in the country, the CEO also made news months ago by resigning from Trump’s economic council after Charlottesville. Now, I own Merck and was looking forward to the interview because it might provide insight into Merck’s strategy, such as why it just bought a biotech company that doubled down on its existing product lines, what it’s going to do to expand/diversify its drug pipeline, and why its stock is down 20% over the last year. You know … business stuff.

Instead we got a headline reading “The CEO who stood up to Trump speaks out” and a full page on why the CEO dropped out of Trump’s group. It wasn’t enough for him to essentially call Trump a racist; he also tossed in his disagreement with Trump on climate change and immigration and noted the full support of his board in going public. The business part was left to a subsequent interview. Why steer the “business section” interview in this direction now, when Merck has so many real business issues to address that inquiring investors want to know about?

Then yesterday, on the front page right-hand column, there was an article with the headline, “Hotel tied to Trumps is awarded tax break.” Sounds pretty ominous, no? But read on. It turns out that the “tax break” is for a $20 million hotel project in Mississippi, owned by local developers. It was granted to them as part of a longstanding state government program to try to convince folks in the hospitality industry to invest in the state, known as the “tourism tax rebate.” The hotel is “tied” to the Trumps (note the plural) because the Trump Organization is providing management services and branding it as a “Trump” property. Ownership remains entirely with the local developers. And the president has ceded all authority in the Trump Organization and moved his economic interest into a trust. The tax break is $6 million, granted over several years, and the local developers had applied for it long before they cut the management services deal with the Trump Organization.

The article notes that this arrangement “could indirectly benefit President Trump” and also cites “legal experts” who say that the deal could violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits the president from taking gifts from other governments. It notes that 23 other projects had been granted similar breaks, but still implies special treatment for Trump cronies by saying that the state governor and the head of the development agency were “supporters of Trump,” and the connection with the developers was made “during the 2016 election campaign.” Uh-oh!

The developers noted that the Trump Organization had no role in the tax application and that the fee arrangement was not related to the tax break. When asked why they did this, the developers said they wanted to “improve the project cash flow.” Gee, ya think? Anyone else wonder why an article about a garden-variety state tax rebate deal (think of a mini version of the billions being tossed around in dozens of similar state programs to lure the next Amazon headquarters) finds its way onto such a prized piece of media real estate, or is even national news at all? Is movement in the 10-year rate not exciting anymore?

Could it be that the primary narratives of the Left that have impeachment implications, namely Russian election collusion and obstruction of justice, are falling apart, and the “resistance movement” is looking like a rather lame 2018 campaign platform after all Trump has accomplished? The Left is keeping alive the hope through media allies that folks will remember that Trump is a racist, immigration bigot who doesn’t care about the environment, and at any moment will be arrested for emoluments clause violations.

On Florida, contrast two media events Wednesday. CNN organized a “town hall” discussion, supposedly on curbing gun violence, and Trump invited several people with varying points of view, including relatives of school shooting victims and students directly involved, to the White House to discuss the same subject. The CNN event devolved into a classic left-leaning attack on any person or opinion other than more restrictions on guns. Sen. Marco Rubio and an NRA spokeswoman attended and were basically ambushed by a hostile crowd that threatened the NRA woman, making her fear for her safety without her security staff. CNN was suspected of planting anti-gun questions, but regardless, there wasn’t a shred of commonsense discussion of options, nor was any point of view other than the standard Left reaction permitted.

On the other hand, Trump ran a meeting where every point of view was allowed to speak and treated with deference and respect. There were a variety of opinions on how to solve the problem of keeping kids in school safe, and political posturing that might keep a campaign issue alive was noticeably absent. What a novelty — problem solving where the issue is something other than who gets elected. Trump had his own opinions, which centered on practical steps that might actually make a difference, some controversial, but he encouraged everyone who disagreed to say their piece. It was a remarkable, open, uncensored, emotional attempt to find real answers, not a propaganda exercise.

The kids were stunningly good, particularly those who had directly experienced attacks in their schools. One teen girl displayed wisdom way beyond her age by stating that the answer is likely to be a mix of solutions involving proposals from all sides of the debate, and we should not let a fixation on the extremes get in the way of practical solutions. Amen to that. The proof will be in the follow-up, but this one actually looks like it has legs. Maybe it’s the fact that the breakdowns in the system were so evident in Florida and the shooting could have been prevented at any one of several obvious steps along the way. The Trump meeting highlighted the commonsense things that could have significant impact and made it clear that purists on both sides that stand in the way don’t have reason on their side.

Ironically, the non-ideological Trump may be the only one who can forge compromises that take the extremists on both sides out of the picture and produce real solutions that address the problems, not just make speeches. He’s a problem solver with the political smarts and instincts to recognize that this time the tipping point may have been reached and may actually move the dial. My guess is that with Trump cover, conservatives like me and the NRA will support practical steps, even including those that give ground on new gun restrictions.

But the Left and its donor base will not be able to accept anything at odds with their gun-control/elimination agenda. Progress on gun violence will continue to be elusive, but this time, it will be obvious who is blocking it. Toss in the Democrats’ grand plan to cut the grass on the border to make it easier to see illegals sneaking in as the solution to immigration reform and Democrat denial on tax cuts/economic growth, and the color of the 2018 wave might be more red than blue. And that’s what it might take to get real commonsense gun/school safety reforms.

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