What Donald Trump did Thursday night in Montana is really dangerous – CNNPolitics
What Donald Trump did Thursday night in Montana is really dangerous Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large Updated 9:41 AM EDT, Sat October 20, 2018
(CNN) During a Thursday night campaign rally in Montana, Donald Trump, the President of the United States, praised a Republican Congressman for assaulting a reporter .
Don’t believe me? Here’s the relevant passage on Rep. Greg Gianforte from Trump’s speech:
“But Greg is smart. And by the way, never wrestle him. You understand that? Never.
Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of … He was my guy.
I shouldn’t say this, because — there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. So I was in Rome with a lot of the leaders from other countries talking about all sorts of things, and I heard about it. And we endorsed Greg very early, but I had heard that he body-slammed a reporter.
“And he was way up. And he was way up. And I said, oh, this was like the day of the election, or just before, and I said, oh, this is terrible, he’s going to lose the election. Then I said, well, wait a minute, I know Montana pretty well. I think it might help him. And it did!” View this interactive content on CNN.com
A bit of background: Gianforte, a wealthy businessman, was the GOP nominee running to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as Montana’s congressman in a May 2017 special election. Polling suggested Gianforte had a clear lead but the race was shaken up in its final 24 hours, literally, when audio emerged of Gianforte grabbing and body-slamming a political reporter for The Guardian named Ben Jacobs.
After initially suggesting Jacobs might have been to blame — despite all evidence to the contrary — Gianforte acknowledged he had acted inappropriately. He won the special election anyway. Within weeks, Gianforte had sent Jacobs a letter of apology and said he would plead “no contest” to a misdemeanor assault charge. He eventually pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to a 180-day deferred sentence, 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management and a $300 fine.
What we have then is this: A reporter asked a Republican candidate (and now Republican member of Congress) about health care. The candidate assaulted him. No one disputes this chain of events. Gianforte pleaded guilty. He faced a suspended sentence and fines.
And this is the man, in Gianforte, who Trump praised on Thursday night with these words: “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of … He was my guy.”
Trump undoubtedly viewed this line as a success because people laughed — always his measure of whether a barb worked. But, ask yourself this: What was the humor proposition here? What were people actually laughing at?
The answer is this: They were laughing at one person assaulting another. (Again, the assault is not up for debate; Gianforte pleaded guilty to doing it.) It is funny, theoretically, because the person on the wrong end of the assault is a reporter. Reporters, in Trump’s rhetoric, are loathsome, dishonest creatures — not capable of human emotions. And, feeling bad for them is the surest sign that you are a “snowflake” — one of those easily offended liberals who bow to the altar of political correctness and see everything as a potential trigger warning or outrage.
What all of that spin and, frankly, garbage, misses is that what Trump is doing — along with those who laugh when he does it — is dehumanizing reporters. These aren’t people like you and I, Trump is saying. They deserve to get beat up, to get assaulted, to get roughed up a little bit. They’re so bad and so dishonest, they don’t deserve the common courtesy that you would grant to someone you meet on the street. They aren’t like us. They’re other. And, therefore, we can do whatever we want to them.
Trump stood by his rally performance when asked whether he regretted his comments. “No. No. not at all,” Trump said Friday.
“He’s a great guy,” Trump said of Gianforte. “That was a tremendous success last night.”
All of which, on its own, is troubling. Very troubling. But, Trump’s celebration of an ASSAULT on a reporter — I just can’t emphasize this enough — is made even worse by the fact that the world is currently watching Istanbul where Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared inside the Saudi Arabian consulate more than two weeks ago. The expectation — including from Trump himself — is that Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, was killed inside the consulate .
The Saudi government had denied involvement and, to date, Trump has taken their word for it — noting that in his conversation with King Salman, “the King firmly denied any knowledge of it.”
The point here is that even as we are dealing with an international incident revolving around the near-certain murder of a journalist by a government that didn’t like what he said and wrote about them, the President of the United States is praising a member of Congress who assaulted a journalist for asking him questions.
“All Americans should recoil from the President’s praise for a violent assault on a reporter doing his Constitutionally protected job,” White House Correspondents Association president Olivier Knox said in a statement Friday.
I find it very hard to believe how anyone — even if you hate journalists and love President Trump — could fail to see the danger here. If you make reporters out to be deserving of being knocked around and assaulted, how big a leap is it until someone hears that as free license to do something far worse to a reporter?
Nebraska’s unusual tourism campaign: ‘Honestly, it’s not for everyone’ | CNN Travel
Lilit Marcus, CNN • Updated 19th October 2018 Facebook Twitter Email (CNN) — Plenty of cities, states and countries around the world spend millions of dollars on advertising campaigns encouraging people to travel there. But not Nebraska. The central US state is better known for corn production than for must-visit destinations . Unlike nearby Kansas, it isn’t the setting of a famous movie such as “The Wizard of Oz,” and unlike Oklahoma , it doesn’t have its own Broadway musical. There’s no instantly recognizable Mount Rushmore or Gateway Arch to use on postcards. A billboard from Nebraska’s tongue-in-cheek ad campaign. Courtesy Nebraska Tourism Commission That’s OK, though. The Cornhusker State’s new tourism slogan is actually an anti-slogan: “Honestly, it’s not for everyone.” The campaign, which launched in October 2018, went viral overnight — but it was the result of a yearlong campaign by the state’s tourism board, designed to educate people about Nebraska while also showing off a sense of humor. “We knew we had to be innovatively disruptive in order to begin to change perceptions,” John Ricks, executive director of the Nebraska Tourism Commission, told CNN Travel. “Being the least likely state in the country for people to visit, we built the campaign by talking to out-of-staters and translating their generally unfavorable perceptions into an admittedly different, yet totally honest, approach.” Before launching the campaign, Ricks and his team polled people in Nebraska and in neighboring states to find out what they associated with tourism in Nebraska. One of the tourism campaign’s print ads. Courtesy Nebraska Tourism Commission The answer? Somewhat depressing. Even some locals said “there’s nothing to do here.” Even more of a downer was the data from a 2017 survey by MMGY which named Nebraska as the least-visited US state. Rather than get discouraged, though, Nebraska decided to turn the comments into the campaign, injected with a dose of self-effacing humor. In the ads, slogans like “There’s nothing to do here” and “Famous for our flat, boring landscape” are paired with images of Nebraska’s waterfalls, rock formations and other decidedly not-flat natural features. Will this clever, viral campaign help Nebraska to move up in the ranks from No. 50 to No. 49? Maybe. Or maybe not. Whatever. Related content
In MAGA world, Trump’s jokes always land
MISSOULA, Mont. — Donald Trump had the crowd hanging on every word, every pause, every gesture. The thousands who gathered here had come to see what the president might serve up next. But they weren’t all that interested in hearing his latest policy pronouncements — they wanted to see Trump’s stand-up shtick. And on Thursday night, Trump’s newest bit was a tribute to the Montana congressman who gained nationwide attention last year for body slamming a reporter.
Story Continued Below
“And by the way, never wrestle him. Do you understand that? Never,” Trump deadpanned, pausing for a moment to soak in the roaring crowd. “Any guy who can do a body slam — he’s my kind of guy,” the president continued, using his hands to mimic a body flipping onto the ground.
“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” Trump reassured Rep. Greg Gianforte, who pleaded guilty last year to assault over the incident, insisting it had actually helped him get elected to Congress.
Outside the Missoula International Airport, Trump’s remarks met, predictably, with widespread outrage. The White House Correspondents’ Association said Americans should “recoil from the president’s praise for a violent assault on a reporter doing his Constitutionally protected job.”
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But few people gathered in the hangar where Trump spoke were recoiling. After the rally, Peter Gianna, a retired law enforcement officer wearing a cowboy hat and a rain jacket, was chuckling as he relived the body slam jokes with a friend, expressing disbelief that Trump had gone there.
“Some of the things he says just make me laugh,” he said.
Trump’s brand of humor — cutting, insulting and sometimes even downright mean — has long offended and shocked the president’s critics. But for his supporters and allies, Trump’s irreverent jokes, which have become a central part of his increasingly frequent rallies across the country, are a feature, not a bug.
Inside Thursday night’s rally, Kendrick Richardson, 18, a student at Washington State University who came to Montana to see the president, repeatedly laughed at Trump’s zingers.
“Donald Trump’s a funny guy,” he said. “That’s a part of his charisma. That’s one of his best features.”
A group of people waiting in line for Trump’s speech recounted the president’s recent mockery of Stormy Daniels. “What did he call her? Horseface?” one woman remarked. Nearby, a married couple — Freddy Martinez, 36, a student, and Sarah Martinez, 35, a truck driver — burst out laughing.
“These individuals come to these rallies to be entertained,” said Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann. “I think in many ways he’s giving these supporters and attendees exactly what they want. He is at his absolute best at his rallies. That’s where he absolutely shines and he knows it.”
Trump’s advisers say the president’s crass sense of humor is at the core of his appeal to a conservative base that has rejected political correctness — and they’re betting that his jokes, paired with his broader say-anything attitude, will help deliver a repeat of the success he saw in 2016, rallying Republicans ahead of the midterms and helping him get reelected in 2020.
Responding to criticism of Trump’s body slam joke, Eric Trump told Fox News on Friday, “Oh stop. He wasn’t the guy that body slammed anybody. He can have fun. By the way, this is actually exactly why my father won.”
Indeed, there’s no hand-wringing or finger-pointing in the West Wing after the president delivers a crude one-liner. In fact, some Trump advisers, one of whom privately compared his rally performances to a stand-up comedy routine, have urged him to incorporate more wisecracks into his speeches.
One former White House official bluntly underscored the potential political windfall of Trump’s shtick: “His style and the way he speaks is a bigger part of his appeal than his actual policies.”
A senior administration official added, “The sheer volume of people that support him because he’s willing to be funny and ballsy and say what he thinks — you cannot underestimate that.”
Trump’s meandering prime-time rallies — featuring crass impressions of his Democratic opponents and jabs at the #MeToo movement — have put the president’s divisive sense of humor in the spotlight. While Trump’s opponents paint him as out of touch and mean-spirited, the president’s supporters see his comedic stylings as an invaluable weapon against his potential Democratic challengers. Trump has already started to anoint his possible opponents with derisive nicknames like “One Percent Biden.”
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“His speaking style is what endears him to his supporters,” said Brian O. Walsh, president of the pro-Trump group America First Action. “It’s a big part of what fueled him through the primaries and the general election. The unpolished everyman who says what he thinks.”
West Wing aides have long believed that Trump’s sense of humor goes unnoticed by the media, which they believe unfairly take everything the president says too seriously even after fawning over President Barack Obama’s frequent jokes.
“He has a great sense of humor that he doesn’t get credit for,” said another senior White House official. Trump’s aides and advisers sometimes suggest jokes or issues he might want to touch on, but most of the president’s quips aren’t scripted. “It’s better when it’s more natural,” the official said.
Aides argued that Trump makes plenty of jokes that aren’t acerbic or biting, adding that his aggressive attacks are often in response to what he views as a slight. “He’s very much a counter-puncher,” counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said in an interview earlier this week. “He rarely draws first blood and he always gets the last word.”
As for the complaints that his jokes cross the line, Conway echoed Eric Trump’s point. “One of the reasons that the president made it to the presidency is the rejection of political correctness,” she said.
Even some of Trump’s critics acknowledge privately that the president has a talent for reading a room and playing to his audience, pointing to his timing and ability to execute a barbed joke. Comedian Andrew Dice Clay, known for his crass and politically incorrect jokes, once made the case that Trump stole his act. Last year, Judd Apatow joked that he knew Trump would win the election because he was much funnier than Hillary Clinton.
At a recent rally in Iowa, the president skewered Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, mocking the lawmaker for insisting that neither she nor her staff leaked Christine Blasey Ford’s private letter describing her alleged assault.
Slapping a confused expression on his face and shaking his hands, Trump pretended to be Feinstein: “Wha, wha … no, I didn’t leak.” He then poked fun at the senator for at one point double-checking with a staffer that her aides didn’t leak the letter.
His caricature prompted gleeful chants of “lock her up” from the riled-up crowd.
Trump egged them on: “In other words, did she leak it? 100 percent.”
He paused, then quipped, “No, I don’t want to get sued. 99 percent.”
The crowd erupted in laughter.
Trump isn’t the first president to draw attention for making regular quips. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were all known to deliver pithy one-liners.
Obama, for his part, had a penchant for dad jokes, and during his repeated appearances at the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner he took aim at his critics, while poking fun at himself, as well. “I look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be,’” he said with a wink at the 2013 WHCA dinner.
However, Obama could sometimes be ruthless. During the 2011 WHCA dinner, he lambasted Trump, who was then pushing the false claim that Obama wasn’t born in the United States.
“All kidding aside, obviously we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience. For example — no seriously — just recently in an episode of ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks,” Obama said dryly. “And there was a lot of blame to go around. But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil Jon or Meatloaf. You fired Gary Busey. And these are the kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night.”
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The mockery got under Trump’s skin and was reportedly one of the factors that drove him to run for president. Since ascending to the White House, Trump has skipped every WHCA dinner.
Veterans of past White Houses of both parties said Trump’s brand of comedy is unique in that it’s deeply acerbic and rarely self-reflective. For example, his performance at the 2016 Al Smith Dinner in New York — an annual event of bipartisan comedy — was widely panned as too caustic. He got booed for several lines, including one directed at his rival, Hillary Clinton: “Here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.”
David Litt, a former Obama speechwriter who helped craft jokes for the 44th president’s WHCA addresses and is now a writer for “Funny or Die,” said Trump’s humor is often based in cruelty.
“He weaponizes what he would call jokes to an unprecedented extent,” Litt said. “All of the examples of him telling a joke are also examples of him being a bully.”
Litt added that the laughter at Trump’s rallies “is about solidifying a tribal identity at the expense of someone else. It’s laughter in agreement rather than laughter because something is funny.”
Trump’s defenders counter that the president’s humor isn’t always mean-spirited. And while he is rarely self-deprecating, he has recently made a few jokes at his own expense.
“I never had alcohol, for whatever reason,” Trump said earlier this month. “Can you imagine if I had? What a mess I would be. I would be the world’s worst.”
Kaufmann, the Iowa GOP chairman, added that Trump’s humor “can actually be very subtle and very dry. It’s not all hard-hitting, partisan stuff.”
He pointed to a joke Trump made about the large number of Nebraskans who attended Trump’s rally in Iowa last week. After the crowd cheered more loudly when he mentioned Nebraska than they did when he mentioned Iowa, Trump quipped, “I didn’t know you were bringing half of Nebraska.”
When world leaders stirred after Trump claimed at the United Nations General Assembly last month that he had accomplished more than any other administration in history, Trump smiled and ad-libbed. “Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK,” he said, prompting laughter from the crowd. Trump’s defenders played the moment off as a tactful and humorous way to read the room. But the president’s critics painted him as wounded and defensive, a criticism that frustrated many in the White House and boosted their belief that the media don’t understand the president’s sense of humor.
When he’s not in public, Trump is not known as a jokester. Current and former White House aides said the president is often deeply serious in private.
“Few would describe him as being really funny behind the scenes or finding things particularly humorous,” another former White House official said. “He’s usually not especially lighthearted, but [he] can be.”
Trump rarely laughs in public, a phenomenon first highlighted by Gawker during the presidential campaign. “It’s not as if he has no sense of humor or is incapable of that,” the former official said. “But he tends to smile or chuckle rather than give a big laugh.”
Asked about the apparent shift in tone at his rallies, the former official said, “It’s performance art. He’s putting on a persona and he’s going through a routine of sorts.”
Restuccia reported from Washington and Schreckinger reported from Missoula, Montana.