About a year ago I noticed Donald Trump had developed an amazing strategy to keep the fake news media totally engrossed on meaningless stories while he did “real work” assembling his administration, getting the economy roaring, and feeling out his enemies. I called this “cheese in the maze.” It included everything from stories about feuds between various members of the administration to odd tweets from Trump himself that seemed to have nothing to do with his agenda.
It dawned on me this was all by design. Newt Gingrich had said of the media, “they are going to chase a rabbit, so you might as well give them a rabbit to chase.” And he did.
For month after month, the fake newsies pursued the most astonishing array of stories that all seemingly had one endpoint—showing that Trump’s team was in “chaos” or “collapsing” or “fighting among themselves.” Trump loved it. Even if there was genuine chaos, he is a master of navigating through waters where only he knows where he’s going. But for the most part, Trump’s “cheese” kept the fake news media rats chasing a plethora of leads from “sources” that came from the White House itself, most often deliberately.
That was not to say everything was perfectly smooth or harmonious in Trump’s White House. After all, he brought in fairly high level (and high-ego) people, including H. R. McMaster, Steve Bannon, and Rex Tillerson. It was inevitable that after a while, some, or all, of these personalities would be gone. And so they were.
But by late 2017, a different pattern began developing. As Trump stabilized his administration, purged the leakers and GOPe loyalists, and remade the government in his own image, the stories more or less stopped. Instead what took over was . . .
Trump’s policies took on a life of their own—almost all as he had predicted—and suddenly the economy was booming, judges were getting confirmed, enemies were coming to the negotiating table, and taxes were being cut. Although the fake news media often tried to avoid covering these stories, the fact was Trump no longer needed to generate anything for the rabbits to chase. Instead, the news cycle began to be filled with Trump news (in reality, Trump friendly news, even though the fake news media attempted to spin it differently).
So take the past week. Trump did two rallies, the Supreme Court handed him four victories, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement . . . and it’s only Wednesday! Trump’s activities and his constant stream of winning have replaced the “cheese,” feeding off their own momentum. During the campaign, Trump promised “You’ll get tired of winning.” it seems as though the Trump news that his supporters would see as positive is now falling like rain. On a single day, the Supreme Court gave him a major victory in the Janus labor union case, Justice Kennedy announced his retirement—whereupon Mitch McConnell announced that he would ensure Trump’s nominee to replace Kennedy would be confirmed—and Trump held a rally in North Dakota.
In. One. Day!
But there is something else largely hidden at work. Trump has gone from making seemingly disconnected tweets to making short announcements that, once again, the fake news media pays little attention to. These announcements are viewed as off the cuff remarks, such as when Trump announced he was planning to reform and reorganize government, or rebuild the nation’s space capability. Then, virtually nothing is said about the subject of that announcement for weeks, even months. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, Mick Mulvaney emerges with a full-blown plan to . . . reorganize government. This has now become an almost reverse “cheese in the maze.” Trump is quite openly telling everyone what he plans to do, but the fake news media ignores him until it appears months later as a fully developed policy.
This was largely the story of the tax cut bill. Be honest: How many had heard most of the details of the tax bill even one week out from it being voted on? Trump has said in a comment largely ignored that we would send a manned mission to Mars. You can bet someone in NASA is working that plan right now. “Cheese in the maze” is a thing of the past. Today’s news is winning. And more winning.
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