Navarrette: Trump meets his match in the media: Jim Acosta
SAN DIEGO – Let me tell you something you already know: At the moment, the media is a mess.
It's time to send out a search party, because we've completely lost our way. We went from covering the world to thinking the world revolves around us. We used to hunt for the story; today, we make ourselves the story. Our primary job is to hold the powerful accountable when they do wrong, but never before has there been such a need to hold us accountable for what we get wrong.
Nowadays, even reporters – who are supposed to be trained to keep their opinions to themselves – can't wait to share their opinions with the masses through an interview, a soundbite or a tweet. Then, like Superman slipping back into Clark Kent, they remake themselves as reporters pretending to be objective.
You’ve heard of the #MeToo movement. Well, we're suffering through the #LookAtMe media.
I'm old enough to remember when the media was a referee and not a combatant in the arena. And, although there are mornings when my creaky body would disagree, I'm not that old.
The point is, we're talking about a relatively new phenomenon. It began when Donald Trump started attacking and insulting the media, and the media took the bait by taking it all too personally.
After nearly two years of brazenly trying to topple Trump's presidency – and several months before that during the campaign of trying to make sure he was never elected in the first place by publicizing a dubious dossier and having private dinners with top officials in the Hillary Clinton campaign – the media has created its own version of Trump: Jim Acosta.
It's not easy to find someone who loves himself as much as Trump loves himself, but I think we may have a winner.
CNN's chief White House correspondent clearly has a thin skin, and he dishes it out better than he takes it. He doesn't adhere to the rules of his profession and makes himself the centerpiece of every conversation. He's a master showman who feels most comfortable when he's the star of the show.
Stop me if any of this sounds familiar.
What's more, Acosta seems to have a short memory, and a bad case of selective outrage. He's like a cartoon figure when he gets worked up over things that the Trump administration does – i.e., attacking illegal immigrants – that didn't bother him so much when the Obama administration committed similar offenses.
Before Trump came up with "bad hombres," Obama repeatedly assured us that he was only deporting "gangbangers."
Well, if that was true, then Obama managed to find and remove about 3 million gangbangers. Apparently, America suffered a nationwide crimewave.
The problem is not what Acosta said during an appearance this week on CBS's "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."
His best line went like this:
"If you think ... you can take children away from their parents on the border and put them in cages, if you think you can demonize immigrants and call them rapists and criminals, if you think that you can distort the sense of reality that we all have on a daily basis by telling lie after lie and falsehood after falsehood, and not face any hard questions, then you're just not living in the same United States of America that I live in."
Nothing wrong with that, folks.
The problem is that Acosta was a guest on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" in the first place. It's been clear for a while that Trump is – perhaps unintentionally – helping Acosta's career by elevating his profile and making him a hero with the anti-Trump crowd. It's also clear that the CNN reporter is gamely playing along for his own benefit. These two guys need each other.
Trump gets a foil, and a Latino one at that, which will really inflame the Trump supporters. Can't you just hear them?
"See, you let these people sneak up here from Mexico and the next thing you know they've edged out some more-deserving white American to be a White House reporter and attack our president."
I know that sounds ignorant, but I was in character. Acosta is Cuban-American.
Meanwhile, Acosta gets invited onto talk shows, nails down a book deal and snags some paid speeches. He becomes a celebrity by transcending the news junkies and crossing over to the mainstream.
Everyone wins – except, that is, the country. Also on the losing end are the consumers of what we used to call "news," but which now, more and more, resembles a traveling circus. Sadly, this show doesn't leave you entertained as much as it does depressed and frustrated.