Dubbed “the decider,” Donald Trump basked in lots of undeserved media glory last week after he invented a crisis with Iran, then claimed to have solved it by calling off a planned bombing raid on the country at the last minute. Largely missing from the tick-tick “crisis” storytelling was the media acknowledgement that the whole episode seemed to confirm Trump doesn't know what he's doing, and that his stated reasons for aborting a military strike seemed completely arbitrary.
Yet the press coverage likely thrilled the White House, as reporters eagerly played up the drama. “Lawmakers in the room watched as the weight of his duties as commander-in-chief bore down on him, lives hanging in the balance,” CNN breathlessly reported. “That cautious mindset would hang over Trump's deliberations throughout the day as he huddled several times with his national security team.” The Washington Post newsroom cheered that Trump had avoided “a potentially devastating new crisis in the Middle East,” while the New York Times stressed Trump “navigated his way through one of the most consequential foreign policy decisions of his presidency.”
I'm sorry, but are we being serious? Trump blustered for a day or two about dropping bombs on Iran in response to the downing of an unmanned U.S. drone—i.e. the downing of a flying camera—then decided not to, and the Times immediately placed the about-face among the “most consequential” chapters of Trump's presidency?
What the whole soggy saga proved, once again, is that the press really has no idea how this White House and administration function, in part because the press has been completely locked out of both. Reporters occasionally acknowledge the truth, like in this Times dispatch, but couch it all in the Trump “mystery”:
The full story of how Mr. Trump set in motion an attack on another country and then canceled it remained to some extent shrouded in mystery even to some of those involved, according to interviews with administration officials, military officers and lawmakers, many of whom asked not to be named.