Donald Trump's credibility will be put to the test, yet again: Today's talker
President Donald Trump will take his case for a border wall directly to the American people in a presidential address Tuesday night, as the government shutdown continues.
Should you even watch Trump's address?
By Bill Goodykoontz
President Donald Trump wants to address the nation from the Oval Office on Tuesday night to talk about immigration — specifically his desire to build a wall — and, presumably, the shutdown of the federal government.
Broadcast networks are giving the president a slot in prime time to make his case. Cable news outlets will, too. Pundits, armchair and otherwise, have taken to social media to debate whether the networks should have granted Trump the time.
Just what we need, division concerning division.
Should they have? I think, probably, yes.
Although that comes with a major caveat: It is essential that all the networks fact-check Trump in real time, as he's speaking. They have the technology, and they need to use it.
There's no requirement that networks air this or any other presidential address. And prime time is expensive real estate. But, typically, if it's something of national importance, they will air a presidential address.
Though not always. They didn't broadcast President Barack Obama's immigration speech in 2014, so there's precedent for not doing so.
The argument for not airing the speech runs something like this: Trump has repeatedly lied about immigration, about the shutdown, about the causes and effects. Plus, he has a history of trashing the news media. So why give him free air time to keep it up, particularly when you can’t challenge misstatements and lies in real time? Why let him mislead even more people on a bigger stage?
The argument for airing it seems simpler: He's the president. But it’s really more complex than that. Again, there's no guarantee of free air time — the government doesn't run the networks. But this president has been different from the start. The regular rules don't apply, no matter what the issue.
But even if you believe Trump won’t be truthful or forthcoming, you can argue that it’s important to get him on the record, in front of the nation, taking about immigration. Then you have the facts of what he said (although for his supporters, that hasn't mattered so far).
Plus, there's a news hook to this address that others have lacked: the shutdown. There are no signs of an agreement any time soon, and it's affecting hundreds of thousands of federal employees. People want answers, and they want responsibility. An address aired on broadcast networks could — could — help provide that.
Of course, there are no guarantees. But if Trump does lie, the networks must point it out AS IT HAPPENS. At this point, it's hard to imagine a win-win situation with any of this, but that might be the best option, at least.
What others are saying
Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg: "Going public — the strategy of trying to win support from the people at large, in the hopes that they’ll pressure their representatives to follow the president — mostly didn’t work for Ronald Reagan, didn’t work for Bill Clinton, and didn’t work for Barack Obama. It’s even less likely to work for President Donald Trump, who is less popular now than those presidents were for most of their time in office, and who is trying to sell a policy that consistently polls badly. ... Overall, speeches of this kind — addresses intended to sway public opinion about an already announced policy — just aren’t very important, even though the context here, the government shutdown and immigration policy, certainly is."
David Leonhardt, The New York Times: "I’ll confess to being torn about the major television networks’ decision to air President Trump’s speech Tuesday night on the border wall. On the one hand, the networks said no to President Obama when he asked for air time to give a speech on immigration in 2014. They said it was too political to deserve a free prime-time spot — and Trump’s speech is clearly political, as well. But if they had said no to Trump, the decision would have dominated the political conversation for at least a couple of days. ... I do hope the networks fact-check Trump as soon as the speech is over. It’s likely to be filled with his usual array of false claims."
Sally Kohn, USA TODAY: "Trump will speak to the American people about his demands for a southern border wall, which have led him to shut down the government. He will, undoubtedly, gin up fear about a 'crisis' mounting at the U.S.-Mexico border. ... Americans don’t support Trump’s wall because they know the truth — that we have a tough immigration and border enforcement system already working, and way bigger problems to focus on fixing in our nation."
What our readers are saying
Unfortunately, President Donald Trump will be preaching to the choir with his address. The Trump haters will still hate Trump after the speech. Immediately following the speech, MSNBC and CNN will quickly take to the air and refute everything that Trump said, and who do you think the liberals will believe?
— Robert Johnson
Democrats have voted for border security in the past. They're just opposed to Trump and his wall. Once again, Democrats prioritize liberal politics over the safety of American citizens. To Democrats, U.S. citizens are acceptable collateral damage now.
— Mira Dean
"Fake news" are desperate to stop anything that counters their globalist agenda. Trump doesn't attack the free press; he attacks fake news.
— Cara Claudel
Stop the call to censor our president! Let people watch his address and decide what to believe.
— Angela Harrell Montgomery