My Facebook feed was hopping with buzz about Kelly Ann Conway’s now infamous pose in the Oval Office during a presidential photo op with a large delegation from America’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Having endured numerous efforts by right wing trolls to shame President Obama for various unpardonable sins of informality in the Oval, many liberals were eager to charge Ms. Conway with a similar offense. So began another social media episode of “your side has terrible manners.”
It’s a stupid argument engaged in by frustrated partisans. Presidential conduct in private, in whatever room of the White House, is not worth serious attention. Kelly Ann’s real sin is disrespect of the honored guests in the Oval Office for a public event. This conduct is not unpardonable, nor was it a worth all the attention it got. It is merely an illustration of her lack of professionalism; an illustration that pales in comparison to her far more egregious lapses of professionalism that have earned her lots of Pinocchio’s from fact checkers as well as an effort to have her formally sanctioned by the American Bar Association for conduct unbecoming a member of the bar.
The conclusion of every respectable media pundit and journalist on this has been that it was not a big deal, but it was “bad optics.”
On the other hand, Donald Trump’s first speech to Congress last night was full of “good optics.” Trump’s effort to make Americans forget that he had, only hours earlier, blamed the military commanders for the death of Navy Seal William “Ryan” Owens was hailed by Liberal commentator Van Jones as the moment when Trump “became President of the United States.” WOW! I say, the moment Van Jones declared Trump has become the P.O.T.U.S. is the moment when optics finally and totally eclipsed substance in American politics.
Jones wasn’t saying the Orange Vulgarian had done anything substantive to earn the title. He was saying that Trump had acted in a way that president’s act...finally. He’s not wrong about that if you isolate his conduct to the 60 seconds or so during which he acknowledged the grieving widow in the House Gallery, but why on earth should anyone with a brain do that!?! The only way anyone could praise Trump for his theatrics is to willfully ignore Trump’s relevant substantive conduct. Van Jones, and political pundits in general, do this sort of thing because they are operating with a reasonable, yet perverse, assumption about average Americans. The only way to praise “optics” as if they were substance is to assume that Americans are too stupid to know they are being played. Of course, many American absolutely are too stupid to know they are being played, (latest estimates hover around 63,000,000 or so) but for every media commentator to explain every political event as if this stupidity was acceptable is ABSOLUTELY NUTS!!!
The reason why journalists and commentators use this sad assumption about their viewers/listeners/readers is that they are trying to enhance their own credibility and avoid turning off potential audiences. Pretending that lowest common denominator perceptions are equivalent to objectivity has got to stop. The fact that public commenters have to actively ignore their own knowledge of events, as well as objectively verifiable reality, in order to credibly explain political events is…say it with me folks…ABSOLUTELY NUTS!!!
We are living in the Age of Trump now. Media efforts to claim objectivity by ignoring facts and substance are no longer viable or credible. The media has to start treating its audience like grownups and let the chips fall where they may. It’s time to bury media analysis of optics because politicians like Trump have broken the code on that. It’s now ridiculously easy to manipulate the media with optics.
Donald Trump is the all-time poster boy for lack of substance. Optics seems to be the only way to discuss his moronic conduct, but it’s a trap. Stop sinking to Trump’s level of superficiality. Hold this intellectual weakling to REAL standards of conduct and persuasion. You can’t beat the anti-intellectual right wing media by out doing them in superficiality and stupidity.
To Van Jones, pal come on…get a grip.Take a little well deserved R&R and come back when you’ve had a chance to re-center yourself.