WH press secretary vows transparency and honesty on first day

Bill Carter, a media analyst for CNN, covered the television industry for The New York Times for 25 years, and has written four books on TV, including The Late Shift and The War for Late Night. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.

The Trump administration is officially over.

But nobody thinks Donald Trump is going away; he has too many acolytes and too much obsession with self-promotion and self-aggrandizement for that to ever happen.

    Still, a significant portion of the country, exhausted and debilitated from four years of assault on political and social norms perpetrated by Trump and his associates, would clearly much prefer if this “long national nightmare” really did come to an end, just as it did when that phrase was minted in the wake of Richard Nixon flying off into disgrace.
    In other words: If only the discordant din sent up by the Trump era simply went silent.
    That is certainly the view among many media critics who have long blamed various national news organizations for amplifying Trump’s already bumptious — and deafening — voice. “He should be ignored forever,” goes the scolding message. “No more showering him with attention, which he then gleefully bathes in — and contaminates.”

    The only problem with this is that Trump will surely be pounding home his fraudulent account of events for years to come, offering up a torrent of new lies directed at his successor and harmonized by a cacophonous choir of unrepentant backup singers.
    The media should not be expected to watch passively as Trump inflicts some new blight on the nation — even if that’s the prescription from every media doctor with a Twitter account. And a continued focus on Trump will not be because the media wants to keep the ratings gold flowing in (or at least that won’t be the only reason).
    New outrages will demand more legitimate coverage. But also Trump leaves behind a body of work that no responsible journalist could consider a closed book. The litany of still under-covered or unresolved news stories that merit fuller journalistic examination is long — and compelling.
    Here are five that certainly qualify to be on some media outlet’s still-active case list:

    1. How much did Trump’s relentless adventures in golf wind up costing the taxpayers, and how much of that cash went directly into Trump’s own pockets via his resorts? There have been plenty of running estimates, but a thorough examination could provide a comprehensive, and likely startling, accounting. And Trump’s six-month Secret Service extension for his children will surely only add to taxpayers’ tab.
    2. What ever happened to the health care plan that was due in two weeks? When Lesley Stahl of CBS News interviewed Trump last October, he made a point that he was ready to present a comprehensive health care plan. But when his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany later presented Stahl with a fat binder, the contents did not include a plan at all — only a series of executive orders. Were there ever charts, graphs, estimates or proposals beyond the executive orders that Trump signed?
    3. What exactly was Trump’s source for many of his most batty pronouncements? Where did he come up with his confident assertion that wind turbines cause cancer? Or that ingesting disinfectant could treat Covid? Or that America was so afflicted with inadequate water pressure that toilets had to be flushed 10 times?
    4. Did Trump ever read the President’s Daily Brief? The daily brief, which is a roundup of the most sensitive intelligence about national security issues gathered by US intelligence services, is prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. What might have been missed by his complete disinclination to spend any time reading this valuable information?
    5. Can there ever be a reasonably accurate accounting of lives lost or forever damaged because of Trump’s negligence, incompetence or deliberate cruelty? The pandemic count is disastrous worldwide, but shockingly worse in the United States on his watch, in large part due to his refusal to acknowledge the threat and his lethal disregard for mask-wearing. Children were separated from parents at the border; they will now likely be scarred for life. Death row inmates were hastened toward their executioners. Trump idolaters took lives and lost lives while advancing causes devoted to him.

      There is plenty more, of course. Much air time and ink will be expended in coming months in evaluating the political impact of Trump’s ongoing influence in his party and over his fandom. That’s a guarantee, because political reporters love that kind of thing.
      But the toxic legacy of his tenure is not a story — a long list of stories in fact — to walk away from, not even for the sake of a little peace and quiet. It has never been more accurate: no justice, no peace (or quiet).
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