Only in times like these can the internet oscillate between getting excited about the woman serving water on the red carpet at the Golden Globes and fascination with Jeff Bezos’ love life in the same week. That’s especially true when one considers there were pitstops along the way for musicians apologizing for collaborating with R. Kelly and people wondering if the US government shutdown would ever end. Still, at least HBO was trying to get viewers thinking about The Sopranos again, so it wasn’t a complete loss. This, my friends, is what else people have been talking about online over the past seven days.
Mad as Hell and Not Going to Take It Anymore
What Happened: Sure, the president has the right to make an address about any topic he wants, but does that mean television has an obligation to let everyone hear him? That theoretical question turned practical at the start of last week.
What Really Happened: The President of the United States started the third week of the government shutdown with what many considered to be a public relations masterstroke: his decision to take his case directly to the American people.
The announcement grabbed the media’s attention for obvious reasons, but there was one problem that hadn’t been solved by the time President Trump made his announcement: Television executives hadn’t actually agreed to broadcast his address yet.
In reality, however, the choice to air was complicated by the fact that, five years ago, President Obama was denied network airtime for his own Oval Office address on immigration, as others pointed out.
Ultimately, the fact that President Trump was making a public speech about the central issue behind the government shutdown—aka, something that would likely make for good ratings—won the day, and networks confirmed they’d carry the speech. But that wasn’t all they’d broadcast, as it turned out.
By the time the day ended, the televisual stage was set for a full day of speech-making, just as the founders would have intended had they foreseen television and the current political situation and still, somehow, decided to go along with the whole shebang anyway.
The Takeaway: For everyone wondering how this whole tumultuous relationship between the president and the media is going, CNN’s Jim Acosta put things in perspective.
So, About That Presidential Address…
What Happened: The Oval Office address went ahead as planned, although you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, for all the impact it had on what’s actually going on in America.
What Really Happened: After all that build-up—and stories about his preparation, unusually—President Trump gave his brief address from the Oval Office on Tuesday evening, and it was … pretty much a damp squib.
Even there, though, Trump couldn’t claim a win; while his first Oval Office address did well in terms of ratings, the response from the other side apparently had more viewers. Can’t the Media President even win the media war?
The Takeaway: Why don’t we ask a genuine news legend how he feels about what’s been going on? Surely he’ll have a sober, even-handed read that is unlikely to displease anyone, right?
Bye, Bye, Bye
What Happened: Donald Trump, author of The Art of the Deal, had the perfect opportunity to demonstrate his mastery of the art of the deal last week and, in the process, bring the government shutdown to a close. It didn’t go well.
What Really Happened: Post-Oval Office address, things hadn’t really moved one way or another on the shutdown, which left one last-ditch option: actually talking to each other. The day after the address, President Trump had a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. How did it go? Well, it began and then ended. We know that much.
Yes, the meeting ended with the president storming out when he didn’t get what he wanted. Oh, and in case you thought that Trump was being cavalier on Twitter by suggesting that he said “bye-bye,” guess what?
Let’s just say that the meeting sounds like it went particularly poorly for the president, judging by those who were there.
Well, according to some of those who were there, at least. Those in the president’s party had a different version of events, at least publicly.
I mean, that’s certainly one way to try and spin things against the people who didn’t walk out of a meeting after a temper tantrum. But is there any way that everybody involved could get a little pettier?
So where did all of this leave everyone? Nowhere good, seemed to be the answer. As the shutdown headed into its 20th day, and the president headed to Texas for a photo op to try, once again, to convince America that he’s in the right, there seemed little possibility that the two parties were ready to make a deal.
The Takeaway: If nothing else, everyone has to agree that Donald Trump’s reputation as a peerless dealmaker has remained entirely intact during this particular era of American politics. Wait, what does “intact” mean again?
Picking Up the Check
What Happened: Some of you might remember the current President of the United States on the campaign trail, promising that Mexico was going to pay for a wall at America’s southern border. The current President of the United States would probably rather you didn’t remember that.
What Really Happened: On Thursday, as the president was on his way to the Mexico border for a photo-op visit, he made a statement about his proposed border wall that was, well, more than a little surprising to many who’d been keeping track of this whole thing for years.
You bet that people noticed this fascinating new direction from the leader of the United States, mostly because it was so obviously untrue. Here’s the thing, of course: This is the internet. The internet remembers stuff. Take it away, Twitter.
Well, this is just getting embarrassing. But let’s take that as read, and instead ask this question: If it’s not by a check, how is Mexico supposed to be paying for the wall? The president was talking up the potential for the NAFTA replacement, USMCA, but … Well, there’s a problem with that.
Still, at least the wall—whoever pays for it—will be well worth the money and effort, right?
One alternative often raised to end the shutdown and pay for the wall construction is Trump calling a national emergency and using presidential powers to make it happen. But where would that money come from?
The Takeaway: You know, this all seems pretty embarrassing for the president. Let’s take a look at how he was dealing with the fallout a day later on Twitter. Perhaps he would be apologetic and willing to explain the nuances?
Or perhaps not.
You Weren’t Supposed to Look
What Happened: Paul Manafort’s attorneys do not have a very strong redaction game, and it shows.
What Really Happened: There was, perhaps surprisingly, other stuff happening outside of the shutdown and surrounding immigration impasse this week—but the other stuff wasn’t good news for President Trump, either. At the start of the week, attorneys for Paul Manafort were due to respond to a filing from Special Counsel Robert Mueller with a filing of their own, seeking to lay out a version of events that favored their client. It didn’t go as planned, something that might have been clear relatively early thanks to missed deadlines.
So what was in the filing, and why was it delayed and sealed? Come Tuesday, folks got more answers than they might have expected.
There was, however, a pretty big problem with their filing.
Things got so surreal that Manafort’s spokesman actually attempted to clarify the information that no one outside of the courtroom was supposed to know about in the first place.
Welcome to the political and legal realities of 2019, everyone.
The Takeaway: So, the upshot from this, once again, is that Robert Mueller is so far ahead of everyone else that we’re all just picking up crumbs and wondering what the hell baking actually is. OK, not a great metaphor, but you catch our drift.