Throughout the entirety of the 2016 presidential election cycle, Ben Shapiro often referred to Donald Trump as “a hammer who sometimes hits a nail and sometimes hits a kitten.” This has always struck me a perfect metaphor for the president, a man who has never made subtlety and nuance his calling cards.
However, the fact that Trump clubs everything in sight can sometimes make it difficult to distinguish whether the target deserved its punishment.
Enter Jim Acosta. On November 7th, the reporter went toe-to-toe with the president during the post-midterms press conference at the White House. Acosta grilled Trump on his decision to send troops to the border in response to the migrant caravan, asking why the president had chosen to “demonize” immigrants.
Trump responded by telling Acosta to “let me run the country” and Acosta “should run CNN.”
The president also told the reporter, “You are a very rude person. The way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible, and the way you treat other people is horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.”
Only hours after the press conference ended, the White House revoked Acosta’s press credentials. Less than a week later, CNN retaliated by filing a lawsuit against the fine folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Writing about Jim Acosta creates a sort of paradox: the man does whatever it takes to grab as much attention as possible, so writing hit-pieces about the guy, while completely warranted, gives him exactly what he wants.
Acosta’s entire schtick is obnoxious self-aggrandizement (even the New York Times described him as a “showboat”), but Trump’s decision to revoke his credentials was not a strategically sound play. Some of the president’s worst rhetoric is his “the press is the enemy of the people” routine, and all that this move does is throw gasoline on that fire.
Jim Acosta has done more than enough to merit a ban from White House press conferences, but Trump’s inability to keep his mouth shut has turned the loathsome reporter into a martyr.
The smart move would have been to keep Acosta around solely for the purpose of smacking him around whenever he stepped out of line. Every word that Trump said about the reporter was true, and Acosta never fails to provide the president with new material to use in his oft-justified rants about fake news.
One thing Trump excels at is dominating a room, and a guy like Acosta stands no chance against the master. The CNN reporter’s ego repeatedly writes checks his body can’t cash, and his incredible thirst for the spotlight means he’ll never back down from Trump – even when it’s obvious he should retreat.
If the courts rule in CNN’s favor, as it appears they will, Trump will undoubtedly escalate his war with the network. The president refuses to get punked, especially by a low-life like Acosta, and he won’t accept the ruling lying down.
This goes back to why the decision to remove Acosta was a mistake in the first place: Trump is now overexposed. The more bombastic his rhetoric gets, the more the media can credibly play the “unhinged” card against him.
It doesn’t matter if Trump’s gripes are justified, a guy can only get away with so much screaming before the soccer moms in Fort Worth start to get a little fatigued. One only has to look at the turnout for this year’s midterms to realize that for Trump to win re-election, has to exceed his results in 2016.
If he plans on pulling that off, Trump has to start thinking about how he can start building coalitions on his side instead of blowing up everything in sight on the other side. That is going to take a little more restraint which, to be fair, is quite the ask when dealing with a twit like Jim Acosta.