Dear Media: Do Not Celebrate Trump’s Impeachment Proceedings. It is a Sad and Sober Affair
Recent revelations of alleged malfeasance by President Donald Trump in his dealings with Ukraine have presented a serious existential threat to his presidency, more so than any that have come before.
By any measure, the Trump administration is currently spiraling.
Depending on the cable news outlet you’re watching, you can often find evidence of a hidden glee in the current and intense news cycle. The German word “schadenfreude” comes to mind, which loosely means finding joy or pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune.
On other networks, you might see a barely-contained — if strained — triumphalism at the hoped-for political advantage to be gained by Trump during the proceedings. Maybe call it “schadenFox?”
There are good reasons to take serious issue with the Trump way of doing business on a myriad of levels, but we should all be mindful of just how grave this situation is for our country.
As Thomas Paine famously opened The American Crisis, “THESE are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
It is a fool’s errand to compare cable news personalities with the brave Revolutionary War soldiers who volunteered to risk their lives, but the necessary patriotic sentiment is absolutely relevant and an important reminder.
Impeachment proceedings on a sitting U. S. president is a gravely sober affair, and not the time for barely-hidden smiles and swallowed guffaws. The nation of cable news viewers needs leadership from the media on how to see this less as a partisan game, and instead of a very serious affair in which everyone has lost something.
I am old enough to remember Richard Nixon’s resignation and my memory is still clear as a bell. On vacation in Dillon Lake, Colorado, my parents called my sister in to watch the historic moments of Nixon exiting the White House, giving that iconic double V sign.
What I remember most, however, was how sad my parents were, which surprised me since we had a bumper sticker on the back of our Country Squire station wagon that read “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for McGovern.”
After Nixon left the White House, my father immediately removed the sticker from the car, as my mother explained to me that it was now inappropriate. That was not the time for political gamesmanship. It was time to act as a united set of beliefs and political persuasions, not as victors.
The media has dramatically evolved from not just the Nixon episode, but also from President Bill Clinton’s impeachment. Though to be fair, the seedlings of partisan coverage sprang up during Clinton, but what we have now is a rainforest by comparison.
While once there were boring reports, high on journalistic standards, we now consume a product that is a dizzying combination of opinionated analysis and panel discussion, none of which feels the need to abide by accepted journalistic standards. It’s not news, but an entertainment product packaged to feel like news.
It is in this context that we need to remind ourselves that impeachment proceedings against the president of the United States are nothing to celebrate, regardless of our individual politics. It is a sad and sober affair, and regardless of your political opinion, an appropriate tone is critical.
And those in the cable news business that overlook the very serious issues threatening to take down Trump, and instead focus on alleged media bias and not even half-baked conspiracies? Well, your approach is a different sort of joke, and you need to get serious as well.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi set an exemplary tone during a Friday morning interview with Morning Joe. She revealed that she prays for the country and for the president, and that “this is a very sad time for our country. Impeachment is as serious as congressional responsibilities can be.”
There are many reasons for any critical thinker to see that removing President Trump in a fair and bipartisan manner is justified. But to celebrate that process as though your team scored a touchdown doesn’t help a bitterly divided nation heal. It only makes matters worse.
And the pendulum always swings both ways.