I am often amazed at how many people on social media and elsewhere talk about how much they miss Walter Cronkite and “real” newsmen.

This is primarily said today by people who are politically conservative and Trump devotees who take exception to any reporting that is even slightly critical of the current president.

I only remember him as an old man, but I miss Walter Cronkite, too — just not in the sense that Trumpers do. Their idea of what they think journalism is — “someone just reading off the news and letting us decide” — is a bit misguided. Real journalism and coverage of current events demands fact-checking and putting those events and the players involved into proper context to keep the people informed. That proper journalism frequently makes Trump and his administration look bad is a result of a light being shone on their commitment to obscuring the truth and blurring reality.

Cronkite and others understood the importance of true journalism, and I strongly suspect he and his ilk would not have given the time of day to the fact-free drivel that much of the ratings-driven corporate media has let slide from Donald Trump and his administration while often only mildly challenging them.

When it comes to the whirlwind of the past week, at least three people with CNN seem to be done with the softball approach.

It started with Dana Bash after she, along with millions of others, watched American civic customs being flushed down the toilet in a “debate” in which Trump acted like the petulant 5-year-old that he is, interrupting Joe Biden and moderator Chris Wallace some 150 times.

“That was a s***show,” Bash said. This is a family newspaper so I won’t spell it out, but it’s the only reaction a rational viewer could have to what the country was subjected to for 90 minutes. The debate is perhaps now most memorable for Trump's mocking of Biden for wearing a mask all the time in public appearances, which was mind-numbingly stupid — and now ironic given that three days later he was being taken to Walter Reed Hospital after being infected with COVID-19.

Trump has now been transferred back to the White House. How serious is his condition? With all the predictably mixed messages, we really don’t know for sure. What we do know is that he has not and will continue to not handle this diagnosis with any sort of humility, grace or intelligence.

As Trump, orchestrating a circus of machismo, arrived at the White House on Monday evening and walked to the top of the balcony — a scene seemingly straight out of a Mussolini news reel — CNN’s Jake Tapper was not amused.

“Cinematic flourishes aside,” Tapper tweeted of the slapdash propaganda production, “this is video of a 74-year-old, clinically obese man with COVID-19, on serious medication, as he goes home to risk exposing even more healthy people to the virus he has, with a current death count of more than 210,000.”

Chris Cuomo, in a lengthy and necessary monologue, accurately described the desperate publicity stunt (a day after Trump carelessly disregarded the well-being of Secret Service agents to go on a joyride around) as “a bunch of bulls***.”

That’s precisely what it was, and, as Cuomo asked rhetorically, “How much bulls*** do you need in your life?”

While no person with a clear conscience would wish ill upon anyone, we knew this is what would happen. Trump will never pass up the opportunity to frame any situation as all about himself.

Here’s the start of the second paragraph of what The Washington Post’s editorial board wrote Monday night:

“We had hoped that perhaps once Mr. Trump tested positive, once he was on oxygen and had to be hospitalized, he would be chastened, perhaps gaining a better understanding of the fear and anger across the country at his botched handling of the pandemic.”

Give me a break. You knew the man who sought to publicly downplay and dismiss the virus from the start and who said in April “I take no responsibility for anything” would not become a changed man.

To its credit, the editorial board wrote in the next sentence, in response to his reckless declaration that people shouldn’t be afraid of COVID-19: “Mr. Trump shows no sign of undergoing any such epiphany. His tweet suggests that he is returning to the tactic of happy talk that has characterized his disastrous response to the pandemic all year long.”

So let’s stop pretending the man will ever change or is capable of showing any basic form of empathy for those who have suffered.

As of Monday, there were 7.5 million known infections in the U.S. and at least 210,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 — including 48 from Barrow County and 76 from my home county, Laurens. Two more there who I know are fighting like hell to hang on.

In all of his videos and messages, Trump has not once mentioned all of those dead Americans and his families. And yet he has the audacity to say — after months of inaction or delayed action that has cost many of those lives — that he “learned so much” about COVID-19 after his hospitalization.

The reality is, Trump doesn’t have some mythical powers to be the one to take down the virus. What he had and continues to have is access to world-class, around-the-clock treatment and care that almost no one else does. If he fully recovers, great. But those people who have died, many alone, didn’t deserve to have their graves danced on with those disgraceful stunts of the past couple of days.

Time will tell how Trump’s bout with COVID-19 will unfold. With the lack of forthcoming information from his White House doctor, and once you cut through the White House gloss, there remain unanswered questions. But this much is certain: As long has he draws breath, he will, without a second thought, continue to put others at unnecessary risk, all for vanity and out of political calculation. And no, he does not care about. Never has, never will. 

Walter Cronkite would have told you this. It was he who helped bring the Vietnam War into people’s living rooms so they could see the war for the calamity that it was. Public sentiment eventually arrived at the conclusion that it was a lost cause for the U.S. I wonder if some of us wouldn’t benefit from the networks today broadcasting more images and footage from COVID wards in packed hospitals. I don’t know if it would make a difference to some in this post-truth world, but I would hope it might drive home the fight that continues and what is at stake for so many.

The profanity from these anchors may offend you, but don’t lose sight of the message. No, you should not be overrun with fear. But you should be smart and use common sense. That starts with not listening to Donald Trump and his dangerous implication that you don’t have anything to worry about because "look at me."

How much BS do you need in your life? In this case, it could be a matter of life and death.

Because for of all of his bluster, when he reached the top of that balcony Monday night, the president, pumped up on steroids, carelessly ripped off his face mask and was visibly gasping for air. And some of us will be, too, if we don’t wake up now. He, as his doctor has said, is not out of the woods yet. And neither are we.

And those of us who haven’t already should start acting like it.

Scott Thompson is editor of The Barrow News-Journal. He can be reached at sthompson@barrownewsjournal.com.

(1) comment

Cheryl Brownstein

Thank you Scott for your straightforward opinion piece. I know it won't be popular but the truth is often unpopular. If only those who want to follow the misinformation of the WH would stay away from the rest of us. But they won't and that means his lies are a problem for all.

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