"Migrant-filled Europe is spiralling into chaos," read the headline to an article by Roger Boyes in The Times of London yesterday morning after the murder on Tuesday by knife-wielding teenage Islamicists of a French priest while he was celebrating mass. It created a nicely ironic contrast with the headline to Dan Balz’s article in this morning’s Washington Post: "Donald Trump once again proves he’s the chaos candidate." Needless to say, Messrs Boyes and Balz had quite different ideas of "chaos" in mind, but for anyone less narrowly focused on the little world of American politics than the American media are, Mr Trump may be looking more plausibly than ever like the "chaos candidate" in Roger Boyes’ sense — which is to say, the one people are likely to turn to when chaos threatens.
This must be all the more likely when the "chaos" threatened by the Post is so obviously bogus. Mr Balz’s anti-Trump outburst, one of many in today’s papers and on today’s websites, was inspired by the bouncing billionaire’s joking remark at a press conference yesterday about the alleged Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee’s e-mails. According to The New York Times, Mr Trump said that maybe the Russians should be given the job of seeking out the more than 30,000 missing e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s illegal private server — since, so it seems to me to be understood, our own government has so far proven unequal to the task. "I think," he said, purporting to address the Russians directly, "you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press." Then, almost under his breath, "Let’s see if that happens. That’ll be next. Yes, sir." Can there be any doubt about the sarcasm? Yet here’s what Dan Balz had to say about it:
No one could remember a serious candidate for president seeming to urge a foreign power to carry out espionage on the United States and at the same time call on that country to intrude on a presidential election and possibly influence the outcome. It is another example of Trump doing and saying the unthinkable and daring the Democrats and his opponents to make it cost him politically.
By "no one" he presumably means no one else belonging to the media pack whom he had a chance to consult before filing, since anyone outside that little world would at once have understood the remark to have been a joke at the expense of the media themselves and their cozy relationship with the Democratic party — with whom they may be supposed to share an interest in keeping the public’s memory of the missing e-mails well and truly deleted.
Mr Balz was far from the only one among his media confreres not to get the joke; nor was he the only one who pretended to think that Mr Trump’s remark bordered on the treasonous. He did caution, however, that what the media were trying to sell as yet another Trump "gaffe" might not have quite the same self-destructive power that he confidently expects it would with another candidate. In other words, we have been here before — with the media standing by and looking with mock horror on the supposed "chaos" invoked by Mr Trump, which nobody outside the media and the Democratic party leadership can be bothered to get very excited about. He even feels constrained to admit that this alleged gaffe may conceivably turn out to be as much of a dud as all the others.
Maybe it’s not only the joke that the media don’t get. Maybe they also don’t get that the public are on to them and their blatant partisanship and so are disinclined to believe in the shock and outrage with which they have now come almost routinely to greet Mr Trump’s obiter dicta. This is especially likely to be the case given the relative lack of shock and outrage on the part of the media at the kind of "chaos" deplored by Mr Boyes, not to mention their unwillingness, matching that of the Obama administration, to recognize it as Islamicist-inspired. The media’s dishonesty in pretending to be disinterested while more or less openly supporting one side over the other in America’s political battles has finally caught up with them just in time to discredit their own attempts to discredit the honesty of Donald Trump. Can they imagine he won’t ruthlessly exploit this weakness in their continuing offensive against him?