Why Trump Is Wasting His Energy on Blumenthal – Vanity Fair

President Donald Trump’s new era of Twitter moderation took a predictable U-turn on his first day of vacation as he bashed Sen. Richard Blumenthal as a “phony Vietnam con artist” who lied about a military past.

Blumenthal’s real transgression was the same as the “failing” media Trump harps on, namely bringing up all that sticky Russian stuff. As for regurgitating Blumenthal’s own personal deceit of long ago, the great self-image maker is spinning his wheels, as journalists who know Blumenthal well can attest.

“The story died surprisingly fast here, even in 2010,” says Mark Pazniokas of the Connecticut Mirror, an online news service that’s been a refuge for quality Hartford Courant journalists scared away by downsizing there. He was state politics writer for the paper.

“The national talking heads pronounced him DOA,” he recalls, after The New York Times broke the 2010 story about Blumenthal, Connecticut’s former attorney general, fabricating service in Vietnam.

But his support proved stable and the cable news pundits moved on. Pro wrestling mogul Linda McMahon (now Trump’s small business chief), “who had a campaign budget of $50 million in a state where $10 million is a decent campaign bankroll, tried to resurrect the issue closer to the election with massive media buys. They didn’t take.”

Don Carter, Blumenthal’s underfunded GOP rival last year, tried resurrecting the deceit but it didn’t work for him, either. “So, I’d say the conventional wisdom is that there is a small base, which may or may not be the third of the electorate still with Trump, that thinks Blumenthal is a fraud.”

Pazniokas notes that Trump “tweeted the same misleading attacks in May after Blumenthal criticized the Comey firing, and Blumenthal responded with the same I-won’t-be-bullied line he employed today. It was a one-day story then, and I suspect it will be again this time.”

“Blumenthal is certainly vulnerable to attack for stealing the glory, such as it is, of being a Vietnam vet (I am one),” says Tom Condon, former chief editorial writer for the Courant and now an urban and regional affairs for The Connecticut Mirror.

“Falsely claiming any credential is wrong, obviously. But Trump calling him on it? Trump, who didn’t serve a minute due to (alternative?) bone spurs that disappeared? Shame is among his many deficits. At least Blumenthal served, as a statewide Marine reservist, with, I think, six months active duty time.”

And as Condon notes, the whole Blumenthal saga was odd. “There were times — including a debate I moderated — when Blumenthal stated his military record correctly. But two or three times, he didn’t. I have no idea why people do that. The revelation hurt him but not fatally; he was running against a weak opponent, and he had been attentive to veterans. It has mostly been forgotten here.”

“He’s also had great name recognition because, indeed, he is a media hog. All the clichés — the most dangerous place in the world is between Dick Blumenthal and a TV camera; he’d attend a garage door opening, etc — apply.”

Which is to say, if we can’t bank on new Chief of Staff John Kelly changing Trump’s promiscuous social media tendencies, we can on something else: Blumenthal going on TV and Trump responding and drawing attention to a senator whom even Trump & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade conceded this morning is “a Connecticut senator no one cares about.”

Apple’s Instagram account launched

“Apple has opened its first official Instagram account, and is using it to bring its ‘Shot on iPhone’ campaign to the Instagram world. The company’s @apple Instagram handle will feature exclusive content captured by iPhone users, curated by Apple, with each post credited directly back to the Instagram account of its creator.” (Ad Age)

“The handle launched with a short film titled ‘Intention’ that features a montage of images set to a soundtrack of contributors discussing the ‘magic of photography.’ The company also posted films featuring the work of three Instagram users, Jeryl T., Jess R. and Shawn T., as part of the launch.”

Streaming news galore

Twitter will give us streaming news shows from BuzzFeed, The Verge and Cheddar. (Poynter) The BuzzFeed addition will be brought to us by Wendy’s.

What does this portend for the news business? I have no idea beyond the possibility of an increase in morning rush hour traffic accidents in states without laws against hand-held cellphone use.

Netflix kicks ass

“The stable of characters thought up by the writer who co-created Wanted, Kingsmen and Kick-Ass has been bought by one of the biggest players in filmed entertainment,” namely Netflix. (Gizmodo)

In fact, it’s the first acquisition by Netflix as part of a larger strategy to create more original content. (The Wall Street Journal)

Fox’s steadfast audience

Let’s see. As The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi notes, “Through crisis after crisis, shake-up after shake-up, one thing about Fox News Channel is apparent: Its viewers aren’t going anywhere.”

The latest mess involves its suspension of Eric Bolling, a B-list pundit who was seen as ascending at Fox, after allegations of texting inappropriate photos to three female colleagues. “In the meantime, it has scrubbed Bolling, Soviet-style, from some of its social media accounts, raising questions about whether he’ll be back.”

The Fox audience is a cable version of Casablanca’s Captain Louis Renaud (Claude Rains), namely “shocked, shocked” by gambling in Casablanca. It’s either a cynicism-driven lack of chagrin, as with Renaud, or something else, like ignorance.

Then, again, steadfast support of their hero in the White House is largely unshaken after months and months of deceits big and small.

The end of print?

Cory Haik, publisher of Mic, argues in Recode that “Written journalism has a strong place in the pantheon of complex and deep storytelling, and we should continue to leverage this format. It’s not going away.”

“But I also believe that the new mixed-media formats in social video (primarily short- and mid-form) offer a rich opportunity to deliver complicated news in compelling ways. I see short-form social video, and visually driven, mobile tap-through stories as much the same media. We are seeing this developing and coming together across all platforms: Facebook, Google, Apple, Instagram, Snap and more.”

Investing in “internet virality”

“As TV, radio and newspapers give way to the megaphonic power of social media, today’s donor class is throwing its weight behind a new group of partisan organizations that specialize in creating catchy, highly shareable messages for Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms.” (The New York Times)

“Viral media expertise is emerging as a crucial skill for political operatives, and as donors look to replicate the success of the social media sloganeers who helped lift President Trump to victory, they’re seeking out talented meme makers.”

When should the press use terms like “f—— idiot?”

Inspired by Anthony Scaramucci, Poynter Senior Scholar Roy Peter Clark takes on the matter of when to use the most vulgar of language.

“It was shocking to see recent examples of sexual language in The New York Times, once honored and ridiculed as the Old Gray Lady. The paper’s slogan ‘All the News That’s Fit to Print’ was to distinguish it a century ago from the sensationalism of the so-called yellow press.”

But “newspaper standards and practices, while enduring, are not eternal. They were created to match market forces and to face new political, economic, social or technological problems.” Here, he offers a guide (in fact, a four-quadrant “Potty Box”) to help one figures this out, with the central factors being the level of profanity, news value, social context and standards/practices.

How Trump trade policy impacts many supporters

Politico did a smart piece on the impact of Trump’s foreign trade policy on farm state supporters, like those in Eagle Grove, Iowa. Yes, the manufacturing sector is nervous on his indecision on tariffs but for the agriculture sector the Trans-Pacific Partnership “was a lifeline… a chance to erase punishing tariffs that restricted the United States—the one-time ‘breadbasket of the world’—from selling its meats, grains and dairy products to massive importers of foodstuffs such as Japan and Vietnam.”

A question only real journalists can answer

“Why Does the Anna Faris/Chris Pratt Breakup Feel So Singularly Heartbreaking?” (Slate)

Firm grasp of the obvious

“Most Republicans trust the president more than they trust the media” (The Economist)

Amazon’s covert manufacturing

Quartz does some investigating of “800 trademarks that Amazon has either been awarded or applied for through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office” and identifies “19 brands that are owned by Amazon and sell products or have product pages on amazon.com.”

Its main point: “Only one of the brands makes clear that it’s an Amazon product: Pinzon, a bedsheets and towel brand. The rest appear to consumers like any other company’s products on Amazon.”

It’s all about cutting out middlemen by producing one’s own products, even if being a bit surreptitious about it all.

Morning babble

Trump & Friends was both down and up on Chicago this morning, chagrined with Mayor Rahm Emanuel suing the Justice Department over Jeff Sessions’ plan to yanks funds from so-called sanctuary cities. But it liked a Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll that claims 62 percent of Americans support U.S. forces defending South Korea against threats from North Korea.

Polling self-servingly was in evidence at CNN, where its own poll shows that just 24 percent “trust what you hear from the White House,” or what CNN, at least, quickly tags a “growing credibility crisis.” Errol Louis underscored the country’s polarization, with 83 percent of Republicans backing him even given their qualms about his modus operandi. Brian Stelter and Bill Carter mulled Trump’s tweeting and the show again relied heavily on newspapers, notably a New York Times disclosure on a draft government report about drastically rising temperatures.

Morning Joe on MSNBC digested numbers that co-host Joe Scarborough deems “bad news for the president.” It even had a New Hampshire poll, given to it “exclusively,” shows softness among pro-Trump Republicans and claiming that a hypothetical challenge from Ohio Gov. John Kasich today would result in Kasich beating either Trump or Mike Pence if the latter were the candidate.

But, as for what a general Democratic strategy should be, it’s muddled beyond bashing Trump, as Scarborough and Democrat Harold Ford Jr. noted once again. They did so without apparent initial tweets from the president, suggesting he was either in the Bedminster pro shop with an early tee time or had misplaced his phone.

But, alas, wait. The social media silence was short-lived. Some benign ones did surface subsequently and suggested he was indeed watching Trump & Friends, retweeting an opiods story and informing that the world that he’s holding a meeting on the topic at 3:30 p.m.(presumably after golf).

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: jwarren@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

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