MEMBERS ONLY: Cable News Is Already Trying To Handcuff And Ball-Gag The House Dems

(image via Reuters)

You might be surprised to learn that I’ve always kinda’ liked former RNC chairman and current MSNBC analyst Michael Steele. He’s a Never-Trumper and a seemingly reasonable guy regardless of his former political affiliations.

Despite running the RNC, Steele was the first national Republican to confess to and apologize for the Republican “Southern Strategy” — collectively defining the party’s race-baiting tactics since the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. It’s important to further note that prior to Steele, Republicans routinely denied any such strategy existed. Steele’s apology was a big step toward eliminating it. Trump, of course, destroyed any chance of that.

Likewise, I’ve never hated NBC’s Brian Williams. Early in the Trump administration, Williams was a strong anchor voice following Trump’s daily corruption and indignities, going a long way to erasing his, shall we say, veracity issues.

However, both Williams and Steele, during Tuesday’s night’s midterm election coverage, groaned at the notion that the Democrats should conduct robust oversight of the Trump administration’s criminality. At one point late in the evening, after the Democrats appeared to secure the House of Representatives, Ari Melber reported that a Democrat (unclear who) announced the prospect of finally getting a look at Trump’s mysteriously audited tax returns.

Williams chided the idea of pursuing Trump too hastily. Later, Michael Steele joined the preemptive scolding, suggesting that tough oversight into Trump would “play into Trump’s hands.” I won’t bore you with the brief exchange I had with Steele about this on Twitter. Suffice to say, Steele acted like a snot.

Cutting to the chase, we should sincerely hope the Democrats don’t listen to Steele or some of the other cable news scolds. It’s a perennial trap the D.C. media sets for the Dems: standing up to the Republicans, fighting fire, is unserious and will drive voters away in two years. Now, they’ve added a twist: get tough with Trump and Trump will go crazy, so, good heavens, leave Trump alone!

What they’re insisting upon — acquiescence in the face of an aggressor — is not unlike demanding the Dems adopt the behavior of an abused spouse. Don’t leave, don’t fight back, don’t call the authorities on the abuser otherwise he’ll go crazy.

Long ago, the television news media capitulated to the Republicans on the “liberal media” myth, partly out of weakness and partly out of fiscal considerations given the rise of the ratings and profit motive in the news.

Since then, the approach by many very serious TV pundits is to perpetually caution the Democrats against getting tough on the Republicans, otherwise the Republicans will squawk. At the same time, every panel show is stacked toward GOP guests.

The Republicans have been granted unearned latitude to engage in various forms of awfulness, with impunity in most cases. When the Democrats push back, the TV news gets gun-shy and warns against pushing back. This metastasizes into the conventional wisdom, prompting the Democrats to do exactly that. And when news anchors on television treat a scandal as less serious, voters respond accordingly with frustration and apathy. Then guys like Trump escape full accountability.

This is how we get Trumpism, and all of his corruption. This is how he keeps getting away with it. Because pursuing that corruption by the other side is seen as frivolous — as if presidential crimes aren’t real news, but instead shiny objects for activists and radicals to scream about on the internet. Some scandals might be worthy of the news, but the very same scandals are clearly not serious enough for congressional hearings…by the Democrats.

It’s as if TV executives have cast the parts in the show, and when the Democrats step outside of their pre-ordained roles, it throws off the entire dynamic of the TV news narratives.

The problem here is this: the old scripts and the old narratives are irrelevant now. This is a national emergency. It’s a crisis so immense, it’s difficult to fully encapsulate how much danger we’re truly facing by this president and his insanity. The Democrats who will control the House committees, especially Adam Schiff in the Intelligence Committee and Jerry Nadler in the Judiciary Committee, have a responsibility to guard the nation against Trump’s recklessness. This is basic checks and balances — the oversight duties of the Congress. Without these checks, Trump will continue to trample over the rule of law, consolidating his nefariously gained power and advancing closer to a fascist dictatorship.

Wednesday afternoon, Trump fired Jeff Sessions, throwing the entire Mueller investigation into jeopardy. Now, Matthew Whitaker, Trump’s hand-picked acting attorney general has the power to not only fire Mueller but to burn-with-fire any report Mueller issues about the president’s crimes, including Wednesday’s obvious obstruction of justice. According to Michael Steele and Brian Williams, should the Democrats ignore this and refuse to hold hearings and, instead, focus on reaching out to Trump? We can assume so, and it’d be a disaster. Not only would this widen Trump’s latitude to do more, but Trump would humiliate the Democrats in the process, as he always does to allies and foes alike. As Rick Wilson says, everything Trump touches dies. He’s not to be trusted. He deserves only harsh treatment commensurate with this crimes.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have no intention to Hulk-out and suddenly play Trump’s game. Does anyone really believe Schiff or Maxine Waters or Elijah Cummings will start holding rallies and name-calling on Twitter? I’m reasonably confident the House Dems will continue to act like the adults in the room, but in the face of Trump, they’ll take an appropriately hard-nosed adversarial posture. As they should.

This is a pivotal moment in American history. Do not listen to the cable news people who warn of dire repercussions should the Democrats check Trump’s advance toward despotism, if it’s not already too late.

Bob Cesca is the host of the Bob Cesca Show podcast, a twice weekly political talk show. He’s also a contributor to Salon.com. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.