Major Garrett
Major Garrett

Are you down in the dumps? Has political hate and vitriol have you feeling blue? Are you following the example of Barbra Streisand and eating lots of pancakes each morning, after hearing the latest news report about Donald Trump?

Fear not. It could be a lot worse, according to panelists at a Commpro webinar held Oct. 30 at Edelman’s New York headquarters.

Michael Zeldin, CNN legal analyst, considers Trump’s attack on the media chump change compared to the WWI era when Woodrow Wilson launched an all-out assault on dissent.

Wilson created the infamous Committee on Public Information, on which Ed Bernays—the "father of PR” served, to gin up support for the US entry into war in Europe. He was the evil genius behind gems such as the Espionage Act of 1917 and Sedition Act of 1918, which prohibited the use of “disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language” against the US government, flag, armed forces and institutions. 

Thankfully, president Trump isn’t up to Wilson’s anti-media standards, yet.

George Creel, head of Committee on Public Information

“We live in a time of domestic tranquility,” said Andrew McCarthy, contributing editor of National Review. Speaking after news broke about pipe bombs being mailed to top Democrats, McCarthy, a former US attorney who prosecuted Omar Abdel Rahman (“The Blind Sheik”) for the 1993 World Trade Center attack, said the number of US bombings is way down from the late 1960s and early 1970s when left-wing groups ran amok in terror attacks against the US government to protest the Vietnam War.

McCarthy believes people who moan about living in troubled times are guilty of “presentism,” which ignores the past.

Missing "an American president"

Major Garrett, chief White House correspondent for CBS News; Richard Levick, CEO of Levick in DC, and Joe Lockhart, president Clinton’s press secretary, also sat on the panel. They weren't so upbeat. 

The trio's common theme: missing "an American president," one who could inspire the whole country during a time of crisis.

For instance, Bill Clinton comforted the nation after the 1995 Oklahoma city bombing. George W. Bush grabbed a bullhorn and mounted a pile of rubble in New York following the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. Barack Obama delivered an inspiring eulogy and sang “Amazing Grace” at Charleston’s Emmanuel African Methodist Espiscopal in 2015 following the murder of its pastor and eight parishioners. 

In contrast, Trump initially focused on the lack of an armed guard at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 Jews were slaughtered last month.

The panelists view Trump as the leader of his tribe of supporters who cares little about rest (and majority) of Americans.

Some takeaways: 

Garrett is confident that journalism’s credibility will outlast the Trump administration.

Levick said Trump is the opposite of George Washington, perhaps the greatest US president, in so many different ways.

Lockhart, an Edelman vice chairman, issued a warning, noting that the president called the 2016 vote “a rigged election” in which he falsely claimed that 3M people voted illegally. And Trump won that election.

Lockhart worries that Trump may not accept the results of the 2020 election, if he loses.

And more important, how will his supporters react?