The Trump administration is figuring out how to get around probable Congressional resistance and unilaterally implement a $100 billion tax cut that would go mainly to the wealthy by changing the way assets are adjusted for inflation in calculating capital gains.
The Trump administration is willing to meet with the leaders of Iran with no preconditions despite recent rhetoric that seemed to move the two nations farther apart than ever.
The Trump administration is threatening to shut down the government in the fall should Democrats and Republicans fail to provide the funding to build the wall on the border with Mexico.
All these are real news stories from the first days of a week at the end of July, a time when real news used to slow down so everybody could take a break. They all serve a purpose especially for an administration increasingly under pressure from very serious investigations concerning very serious allegations.
In one way, the strategy is similar. Keep tossing out ideas, the more outrageous the better, and watch as reporters scramble to keep up. And it might appear that the press has caught on, that reporters are more willing to call a lie a lie and more willing to do something they call “fact-checking in real time.”
But fact-checking was what reporters always were supposed to do. And they were supposed to do it in real time, not repeat outright lies or misdirections for a news cycle or two and then double back to point out the gap between what had been said and reality.
The challenge with the three news stories above is that they do not fall into the category of lies. Nor are they examples of fake news.
They are real. The president or one of his people said it. Nobody in any position to know anything about the specifics has done anything to cast doubt on items that clearly qualify as important and dramatic.
What they cry out for is context, something that will never be available in shouted replies, if they should come, to shouted questions as the president walks to and from a helicopter.
In fact, the president has a point when he criticizes that practice as disrespectful. It is. It also is pointless and nonproductive. Instead of shouting along with the rest, imagine if most or even half of the reporters spent time instead on relevant analysis of the latest shiny objects dispensed by the administration.
How have the previous tax cuts really worked out? Who would benefit from the new ones?
How has the strategy of meeting with extremists worked out when there have been no preconditions?
How would the wall have affected the recent debacle of separating families as they tried to enter the United States?
If you look, you will find some reporting on all these. But if you keep tuned to cable news, not just Fox, you will more likely see endless repetitions and endless speculation about who thought what.
Donald Trump does not need to lie or criticize to beat the press. All he has to do is distract them and they do the rest for him.