One of Jill Abramson’s complaints about America’s major newspapers revealed in excerpts of her forthcoming book is that what used to be called “background” – information added to provide context – has made its way into leads and headlines.
An example of this appeared on the Washington Post website on Wednesday.
“A defensive Trump calls a Cabinet meeting and uses it to boast, deflect and distract,” read the headline on Anne Gearan’s piece.
“President Trump, 12 days into a government shutdown and facing new scrutiny from emboldened Democrats, inaugurated the new year Wednesday with a Cabinet meeting,” the lead read. “It quickly became a 95-minute stream-of-consciousness defense of his presidency and worldview, filled with falsehoods, revisionist history and self-aggrandizement.”
Gearan cited Trump’s comments on Gen. James Mattis’ departure from his post as Secretary of Defense as an example of revisionist history.
Trump “trashed” Mattis “as a failure after once holding him out as a star of his administration,” Gearan wrote. Trump “claimed to have ‘essentially’ fired Mattis, who had surprised the White House by resigning in protest last month after the president’s abrupt decision to pull U.S. forces from Syria.”
Only, it has been known for months Mattis was planning to depart the White House. In October, the president had referred to him as “sort of a Democrat.” Reports on Trump’s frustration with the retired four-star Marine general go back to at least March 2018.
Gearan then chided him for taking credit “for falling oil prices, arguing they were the result of phone calls he made to the leaders of oil-producing nations.”
Trump has encouraged leaders of oil-producing nations, such as Saudi Arabia, to keep production levels high to maintain low. As a result, many Americans are paying less than $2 per gallon for gasoline.
Trump taunted those who have said his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border is immoral, according to Gearan, who wrote, “Then we have to do something about the Vatican, because the Vatican has the biggest wall of them all.”
Gearan perceived this as Trump being defensive. His presidency, Gearan wrote, is “at its most challenging point.”
There is the promise of multiple congressional investigations spearheaded by Democrats who just took control of the House, the strain on the once-powerful economy, which including “financial markets tumbling in recent weeks due in part to worries over his policies and stewardship of government,” – a claim made without evidence – and the fact that Mitt Romney, long a Trump critic, had again criticized him in an op-ed in the Washington Post in a piece “cheered by the president’s Republican detractors.”
“Trump seemed mindful of all this Wednesday as he attempted to seize the spotlight by staging an unusual Cabinet meeting that was geared more toward garnering public attention that serving as a venue for the internal deliberations of his administration.”