I may be suffering from PTSD. Political Traumatic Stress Disorder, that is. Two stories in the headlines brought back some vivid memories and hammered home a lesson that cleaner-than-thou conservatives would do well to at least hear out.
The stories were about actor Jussie Smollett and the suit by Covington Catholic High School students against the Washington Post for $250 million — which, coincidentally, was the pittance that billionaire owner Jeff Bezos paid for it.
Both Jussie Smollett and the Washington Post say they are “mounting a vigorous defense” of their alleged indefensible actions.
Smollett is being charged with giving a false report to police about fictional Make American Great Again hat-wearing white assailants who tried to lynch him. What Chicago police suspect that he really did was give himself some minor injuries and hire a pair of brothers from Nigeria to help concoct a fake hate crime. A grand jury handed down a 16-count indictment against him last week.
The Washington Post is being sued for defamation of private citizens and minors to boot, a bunch of goofy boys from a Catholic boys school in Kentucky. The family of the boy who was held up for the most scorn for doing nothing wrong, Nick Sandmann, has hired some world class libel attorneys to press the case.
Because of the media’s awful reporting and refusal to forcefully correct the narrative when it turned out to be wrong, the boys were called racists and received death threats. Their high school was closed for days on credible threats of violence.
Of course, the thing that both cases have in common is that red hat, which is like a waving a red flag in front of a bull to so many liberals. The Covington boys were in DC for the pro-life march and likely got a bunch of them as souvenirs. Smollett allegedly added that MAGA hat flourish to his story to strike a blow against the man who came up with it, President Donald J. Trump, and the Americans who elected him.
I’m a consultant, not a lawyer. For all I know, Smollett and the Washington Post may have competent legal counsel who can get them out of this jam. But let us observe that this is what Trump does. He puts his opponents on defense, with his thumbs that won’t stop tweeting and his mouth that won’t stop roaring. They don’t like it one bit and in their rage they often make inexcusable errors of judgment.
For instance, the President’s constant prodding of Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” for her claims of discrimination over Native American ancestry, annoyed her so much that she released the results of a DNA test that proved her claims of Indian ancestry are, at best, 1/64th true.
Smollett had an important part on a popular Fox show. He may lose that, and a whole lot more, because he allegedly decided that Trump was so bad that simply denouncing him wouldn’t do. Instead, Smollett had to act out a part in a real life anti-Trump drama.
And the Washington Post ran with a story of a clash between these mostly white Kentucky boys and an older Native American man who got right in their faces and started banging a drum. Oh and also a bunch of black nationalists who were insulting the boys in racial and sexual terms. And yet somehow the boys ended up the bad guys.
The paper’s error of judgment has to do with the mindset left-leaning journalists impute to anyone wearing that hat. Trump’s constant charges of “fake news” drive beltway journalists bonkers. They’re supposed to ask the questions, do the interrogating, set the agenda. They don’t like being put on the defensive one bit.
Neither did I. I worked for both of President Trump’s GOP nominee predecessors, John McCain and Mitt Romney, as a strategist. We spent every day playing defense, never playing offense. And we lost. Badly.
This is how Trump wins where we failed. He goes after his opponents and doesn’t stop unless they relent. “Norms” and manners rarely slow him down. Trump’s opponents are not used to this from a Republican. It leads to freak outs and panic attacks in public that Trump’s ardent supporters enjoy mocking on social media, right along with their insulter-in-chief. They’re a long way from being sick of winning.