Let’s start with a thought experiment:
Suppose, just suppose, that in October 2016, the Washington media found themselves in possession of a document (completed unverified but shared with the president of the United States as an example of scurrilous rumors afoot in the land) that said that Hillary Clinton may have been involved in...oh, shall we say...a child pornography ring run out of local pizza restaurant. What chance is there that the document would remain confidential for even a day, much less several months? And what chance would there be that, oh, say, Chuck Todd, the Meet the Press host famous for saying “it’s not the media’s job to fact check,” would dress down the editor of a pretty mainstream website for publishing the document and clearly labeling it “unverified”?
You know the answers. That story would be on the front page of the New York Times, the Washington Post and blaring over every outlet of cable TV news...and no one in the press corps would question whether the underlying document should have been published, even if it was pretty outrageous and unbelievable.
This is the test we need to impose on every outrage of the Trump era. What if Hillary Clinton had done the same thing? If it weren’t so serious and seriously depressing, this little game could bring endless hours of fantasy fun.
What if a President Hillary Clinton had said that the Clinton Foundation would be run (pretty much as is) by her daughter Chelsea? This one’s actually too easy since we have weeks of pundits’ demanding that the Clinton Foundation be dismantled totally, even before the election, because of the “scandalous” conflicts of interest. The Trump Organization to be run by the sons? The pundits shrug, “Not great, but whatcha’ going to do?” Might be fun to keep in mind the Clinton Foundation helps needy people around the world and the Trump Organization lines the pockets of the Trumps.
The president-elect holds a press conference featuring a lawyer explaining how Trump will avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest...without really avoiding them, of course. Then it turns out the attorney works for a firm named the top Russian law firm of last year. (You cannot make this stuff up, folks.) The press conference also features a table full of apparently pristine file folders (some, though not all, stuffed with equally pristine paper) as a prop to show the media how “complicated” it is for him to avoid those conflicts of interest. The pundits laugh about how crazy the Staples shopping spree must have been and there’s nary a peep about the Russia connection. If Hillary Clinton had pulled anything even close to those stunts, heads would be exploding everywhere.
Then there’s the incident with Jim Acosta, the CNN reporter who tried to ask a question at the Trump press conference. Our president-elect, to put it mildly, went off on him and his employer because he didn’t like one of their stories. Conjure in your mind’s eye a President Hillary Clinton doing the same. Can you say “screaming, out-of-control, overly-emotional woman”? The Twitter misogyny meter would be on tilt.
All these examples came from just one press conference so imagine how many hours of fun this little parlor game can provide anyone despondent over the recent election outcome. True, the press conferences may be few and far between, but the outrages go on and on and the Tweetfest promises new material daily.
Perhaps you consider this game frivolous; in many ways, it is. But since the next four years promise to be stressful at best and terrifying at worst, we all need to exercise the relief valve now and again.
And if we can do that while remembering that this is not normal, we may be able to work hard to re-establish a progressive normal. Play on!