Presenting: the worst take of all time. The record-holder and now-and-forever champion. The Holy Grail of Both Sides-ism. The dumbest thing you have ever heard. The final, definitive proof that this country will collapse in on itself before the press comes to terms with the manifest unfitness of the current White House occupant or the consequences of his nation-be-damned acts. The Great Stinker of Takes.
AP FACT CHECK: Democrats put the blame for the shutdown on Trump. But it takes two to tango. Trump's demand for $5.7 billion for his border wall is one reason for the budget impasse. The Democrats refusal to approve the money is another. https://t.co/9IWnqUgl2d
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) January 9, 2019
Not only was the Associated Press ratioed thoroughly and well for this abomination of punditry, but most commenters were rightly focused on just what this would mean for every other fact-check in the world. “Police officers put the blame for the bank robbery on the bank robber, but it takes two to tango. Perhaps the bank should not have been open on Tuesdays” was a typical formulation.
All government shutdowns—and, apparently, this is going to be a commonplace Republican tactic now—are caused when one side wants a new concession that it estimates it can get if it holds the entire United States budget and every United States citizen hostage. Trump’s version, however, is unusual, in that he, a raging self-absorbed narcissist still furious over the shellacking his allies got in the recent midterm elections, is demanding a ransom that even the majority of his own party has not been able to stomach giving him. Trump had two years of undivided Republican government to press for his wall; he did not get it, because even his own party considered the demand too expensive and too stupid to force through.
In a sudden new fit of pique after the midterm drubbings (and a series of indictments and court filings that have implicated him, personally, in likely state and federal crimes), Trump is now demanding that Democrats give him what a unified Republican government would not. His hostage: the whole of government, but most critically furloughed and unpaid federal workers and the Americans who rely on the services they provide. His demand: billions of dollars for a vanity project his own party refused to give him. His motivation: a purely political effort to prove his virility to an increasingly shrinking but still obsessively racist base.
There has been absolutely no non-Trump-humping evidence of any new crisis that would justify the extraordinary demands Trump has made, in any venue. The Associated Press headline writers know that as well as anyone else.
And from a “fact-checking” standpoint: When the government shut down, the Democrats were not in charge. It was just before Christmas. We were there. The Associated Press reported on it.
Because the media is still unable to decipher what its reaction should be to a president who takes shockingly unusual actions based on manifestly false claims, we continue to see obsessive press attempts to both-sides their way through each day’s workload, regardless of how ridiculous the comparisons are. The New York Times had its own version, taking Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer to task for saying Trump was hurting “millions of Americans” when only “800,000 federal workers are furloughed or working without pay”—while admitting in the very next lines that “there is a multiplier effect when considering family members” and that it “spills into the broader economy,” which is an effing-good definition of “hurting millions.”
The inclusion was transparently an attempt to invent a (false!) quibble with Trump’s opposition in an effort to pretend at an equivalence of misleading rhetoric that absolutely no rational human being believes to be present. It was intended as political signaling, and an effort at normalizing an extraordinary situation by filtering it through a familiar but misleading lens.
What’s next? If Trump indeed declares new “emergency powers” based on an entirely fictional crisis, will headline-writers sniff that, while it is true that his actions are either illegal or a grotesque misuse of power, it is asylum-seeking children who hold the blame for goading him into it?
This is ridiculous. We are in an extraordinary and dangerous situation. Press outlets burping away with petty, misleading takes that attempt to “balance” Trump’s instability and overt, brazen lies against the nation’s reluctance to go along with each tantrum and fantasy is only compounding the damage.
The Associated Press responds, and is fully committed to the bit:
A few points here: (1) The Senate had, by unanimous voice vote, already passed a funding bill without Trump wall money on Dec. 19—a bill that Trump had previously agreed to. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, who remained throughout the process a Republican, refused to take up that bipartisan agreement, thus precipitating the shutdown. (2) Both the House and the Senate were under Republican, not Democratic control throughout this process, and in fact until approximately one week ago. (3) Presidents make budget “requests,” but the president does not fund the government. The legislative branch alone bears that responsibility. (4) It is literally impossible to be this bad at this unless you are trying to be this bad at this. It’s almost, but not quite, impressive.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.