A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
At any given time President Trump is in multiple fights. Right now it’s especially cringeworthy: He is insulting John McCain seven months after McCain’s death AND complaining about Robert Mueller AND punching back at George Conway.
These storylines are often covered independently, as if each spat stands alone, best understood on its own. But Conway is saying that that’s the wrong way to understand Trump. All of the feuds and fictions are connected, Conway says, by narcissistic personality disorder.
So when Conway says all Americans “should be thinking seriously *now* about Trump’s mental condition and psychological state,” he’s also suggesting a different way to cover the president.
Fox’s Brit Hume, just to pick on one commentator, said Wednesday that it’s “beyond me” why Trump gets in “petty disputes.” I hear this kind of thing a lot on cable news. “WHY?” Well, Conway is offering an explanation. He tweeted Wednesday: “What really matters — who cares about me — is how many people have now reviewed the diagnostic criteria for Narcisisstic Personality Disorder?”
Narcissistic ‘disorder’ talk in prime time
On Wednesday’s “AC360,” Anderson Cooper spoke with Rolling Stone senior writer Alex Morris, who wrote the story that Conway credited with being “the article that first got me to really understand you.” Dated April 2017, it was titled “Trump’s Mental Health: Is Pathological Narcissism the Key to Trump’s Behavior?”
Morris: “Donald Trump is certainly not the first narcissistic president we’ve ever had, but it’s a matter of degree.”
Cooper: “There’s a difference between being narcissistic and then actually having a disorder.”
Morris: “Right. There’s a difference between the personality trait and an actual disorder. I think what a lot of mental health professionals are coming out and saying is that this has crossed the line. This is a problem.”
The power of Twitter?
Where is Conway sounding his increasingly urgent alarms about what he calls Trump’s “condition?” On Twitter, the same platform where Trump loves to take on his critics. Conway v. Trump has been unfolding almost entirely on Twitter — the conservative lawyer has given very few interviews.
When Trump counter-punched and insulted Conway earlier this week, Conway’s concerns instantly became much more newsworthy. Conway took advantage of the attention by re-sharing several of his past critiques of the president. And he wrote to Trump, “you guaranteed that millions of more people are going to learn about narcissistic personality disorder and malignant narcissism! Great job!”
Meanwhile, Trump’s derogatory comments about McCain led some of the country’s nightly newscasts on Wednesday…
Checking the “Executive Time” clock
Former Obama W.H. aide/CNN analyst Sam Vinograd emails: “There’s no pause button on the rest of the world turning while POTUS has a mean girl moment.” She says “we used to painstakingly review President Obama’s schedule every day and how he spent each minute because presidential time is such a major but finite resource. It was the most important thing we did, because if he misused time that increased the risk of threats going unaddressed, etc. This whole Conway thing is just another very public signal that he doesn’t work…”
The pro-Trump view
Trump’s supporters “don’t want a politician who’s PC,” former RNC chief of staff/CNN commentator Mike Shields said on “AC360.”
“They want someone who kinda tells it like it is and offends people,” Shields said. “His supporters like it that we’re going to come on here and be offended. We’re the people that they want to see offended. That’s the whole purpose — is to offend us.”
Or as Chuck Todd put it on Wednesday’s “MTP Daily:” There is “a part of the Trump base… that just wants to make liberals cry, I guess, or just wants to — what is it — own the libs, that that’s all the Trump candidacy is for these folks…”
– First full day of March Madness games!
– FCC chair Ajit Pai is speaking at ACA’s annual summit in the A.M….
– Comcast is having a 12:30 p.m. ET media call to “announce the launch of a new service.” Xfinity Services EVP Matt Strauss will be doing the talking…
AOC on the cover of TIME
The interview is by Charlotte Alter… The cover photo is by Collier Schorr… Alter describes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as “Wonder Woman of the left, Wicked Witch of the right,” and “the second most talked-about politician in America, after POTUS…”
Counting down to Apple Day…
New iPads! New AirPods! Apple has been making news all week long in the run-up to Monday’s streaming service curtain-raiser in Cupertino.
Reporters are expecting some big news about Apple’s news ambitions on Monday as well… And the NYT’s Mike Isaac has a preview: The WSJ “plans to join a new paid subscription news service run by Apple,” while “other publishers chafe at the terms that the Silicon Valley company is demanding of its partners.” Per Isaac, both the NYT and WaPo “have opted out of joining the subscription service…”
>> The skeptics: BI’s Lucia Moses talked to a half-dozen publishing execs who said “Apple is pitching itself as a savior to the publishing industry — but that its logic is flawed…”
>> The mystery: Is the WSJ undercutting its own digital subscriber biz by becoming part of a bundle? I have a feeling this will make a lot more sense next week…
FOR THE RECORD
– Yahoo News is launching a new series called “The Ideas Election” on Thursday… The first piece is a deep dive into policy ideas surrounding child care…
– At the one-year mark, the Google News Initiative is giving itself a check-up and “announcing new tools to fact check content…” (9to5Google)
– Worrisome news for Berks County, PA: “Reading Eagle Company, the family-owned business that has published the Reading Eagle newspaper for more than 150 years, is filing for bankruptcy protection.” The paper will continue to publish under Chapter 11… (Reading Eagle)
– “The Penny Hoarder, a multimedia-heavy personal finance publication based in St. Petersburg, laid off 45 employees on Tuesday, slashing roughly half its newsroom and a majority of its visuals team in a company-wide reorganizing effort…” (CL Tampa Bay)
Congrats to the Mirror Award finalists!
Syracuse U’s Mirror Awards honor outstanding media industry reporting… Winners will be announced June 13, but the finalist list came out on Wednesday. Here’s the full list…