Good morning. Here's our morning roundup of all the media news you need to know. Want to get this briefing in your inbox every morning? Subscribe here.
If being born on third base makes it inevitable that President Trump is removed from certain realities, be apprised that he's trying to keep his finger on the pulse of real America.
As Politico reported over the weekend, there's somebody who diligently scours the press to discern how he's being treated, including watching ample cable news.
"Aides and friends of the president describe Melania Trump as one of several people he calls at night to hear how the dysfunction in his White House is playing out beyond the Beltway, including billionaire businessmen Carl Icahn, Rupert Murdoch and Chris Ruddy."
That's right: To get beyond the bubble of bootlickers when he's at the White House, Trump calls Melania in Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, Carl Icahn, Rupert Murdoch and right-wing media proprietor Chris Ruddy.
Don't they seem as removed from his base as anyone could possibly be? They're a universe away from those Trump supporters in rural Wisconsin, along dead mill towns in Rhode Island or among immigrant wary white-collar professionals in Arizona.
But, of course, as long as that base remains steadfastly supportive, Melania need not be too chagrined over the battering her spouse takes from the evil "mainstream press."
John Feehery, a Republican consultant and former aide to top congressional leaders, tells me, "I think that if Trump can get credit for an improving economy, and if he can promote strength on the international stage, he will be in a strong position in the next election. Little of this other stuff really matters that much."
And there's Washington consultant Ron Howard, a Democrat, who just polled Trump supporters, and notes how they "will not waiver in their support for the president if they sense that he is not being treated fairly and given a chance."
"Democrats and CNN in particular should take care not to constantly pile on everything. CNN now begins almost every 30-minute segment with 'BREAKING NEWS,' yet there is no new news much of the time, and that does play into the 'fake news' narrative."
"The president’s reception and behavior in Saudi Arabia has thus far been very strong, and perhaps he will be able to create a new dialogue with the Muslim world, and that would be an exceptional accomplishment. To not say that the trip has gone very well thus far, would be untrue — which is not to say that it all couldn’t change an hour from now."
Yup. Just this morning he hopscotched from Riyadh to Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Let's see if he dents the unceasing MSNBC-CNN focus on what "Morning Joe" actually called "Trump's metastasizing crisis" on a chyron this morning. Yes, some now choose to deem it cancerous.
Nic Robertson, CNN: "By design or coincidence, his remarks Sunday mirror those made in a similar setting five years ago by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who told Arab League leaders in Cairo that "Russia will always back its allies." (CNN)
Haaretz: "Trump is not even a bully. He simply seeks to ingratiate himself with anyone who is around him. If they are racist, he praises them — so that they will praise him. If they are Muslim, he praises them — so that they will praise him. He not only has no moral core, he appears to have no coherent sense of self." (Haaretz)
Washington Post: "Trump’s narrow focus on countering 'radical ideology,' unfortunately, will only distract us from the real solution. His speech in Saudi Arabia could have been used to rally allies behind a much bolder and more effective strategy that addresses the actual drivers of radicalization." (The Washington Post)
Breitbart: "From Cairo to Riyadh, Trump urged action on terror where Obama offered Islamic apologism." (Breitbart)
Bill Kristol tweeted: "We deal with the world as it is. But breathes there an American with soul so dead who isn't a bit revolted by the scenes from Saudi Arabia?" (@BillKristol)
The roadshow is in Israel now, but it didn't take long in Saudi Arabia to be reminded of the press interest (obsession?) with the attire of a First Lady, if not her spouse. It was the same on Sunday, with a small example a pool report from Anita Kumar of McClatchy.
"FLOTUS arrived at the GE All-Women Business Process Service Center in Riyadh at 1:33 p.m. She was wearing the same outfit she wore earlier in the day — a long-sleeved olive-colored dress that stopped just past her knees and a large leather belt. She wore heels and no head scarf."
I ran this by Jean Gaddy Wilson, a longtime media and corporate consultant who once ran a newspaper industry think tank, New Directions for News. She said, "The Wilson Rule: If you would say the same thing about an affluent White male, it's not sexist, racist, ageist, et.al."
A non-Trump knockout
Media observers are so intent on opining about a journalistic "war" on Trump coverage between The New York Times and The Washington Post, they miss the breadth of non-Trump news and features coverage from both.
Case in point: a knockout by The Times on how China crippled CIA operations by killing and imprisoning informants.
The story by Mark Mazzetti, Adam Goldman, Michael Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo is a bonafide scoop. As Evan Osnos, who's at The New Yorker and was a Beijing correspondent for the magazine and Chicago Tribune, says, "It was news to many China hands, including a number who work on China, with clearances, in the U.S. government."
"Very impressive reporting on a hard case, and it adds a dimension to our understanding of the underside of U.S.-China relations. A hidden side of the competition."
Your bedroom isn't the only spot with lousy Wi-Fi
Michael Shear of The New York Times was sharing pool duty in Saudi Arabia yesterday and at one point informed, "Your poolers would like to note that the conference center, where the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) meeting is happening, has been proving to be difficult in terms of internet."
"All of our cellphones and Wi-Fi hotspots (Verizon and ATT) struggled to find a signal, sometimes not working at all for long stretches."
If the Saudis can buy $350 billion in arms, could they perhaps afford a Best Buy in downtown Riyadh and a call to the Geek Squad?
The Atlantic did a sharp job annotating the president's speech soon after its delivery. It highlighted passages, prompting you to click on them and, bingo, getting their take on the passage.
It was a dinky thing. But as small and regional newspapers continue to lag behind digitally, they should realize this was the sort of quick, smart element that intelligent consumers are getting used to and which makes their offerings often look so pedestrian.
"In what the British tabloid media have described as 'the wedding of the year,' Pippa Middleton, the younger sister of the future queen of England, was married on Saturday in a ceremony attended by the next generation of Britain’s royal family." (The New York Times)
And then there was this fashion "exclusive" from Business of Fashion:
"Giles Deacon on the Inspiration and Couture Craft Behind Pippa Middleton's Wedding Dress: The high-profile commission follows Deacon’s shift from ready-to-wear to couture 18 months ago. Here, he tells Tim Blanks about the joy in making ‘extraordinary, original, different things.’" (BoF)
A-Rod's debut uninspired
From the New York Daily News' Bob Raissman as he both discussed Alex Rodriguez's mediocre debut as a Fox Sports baseball color commentator and wondered about whether Pete Rose would be superior:
"An MLB source said as part of Rose’s lifetime ban from baseball, he is not allowed to enter a broadcast booth. Maybe MLB officials are worried Rose will start dealing a game of Three-Card Monte. Or place a few bets via the company cellphone."
"Seriously though, MLB allows A-Rod, a cat who (PEDs) cheated the game, and lied about it, into the booth as a member in good standing of the broadcast community but still bans Rose from getting behind a booth microphone during a game."
"Lame. Very lame." (New York Daily News)
Las Vegas Review Journal
Sheldon Adelson owns the big Las Vegas paper now, so they not only have a White House correspondent but they're spending to have her travel with Trump's press entourage. It makes for vivid journalism insight and intellectual candor.
Covering Melania Trump at one de facto photo op yesterday, pooler Deb Saunders of The Review-Journal indicated, "There was an in-van dispute as to the color of First Lady's dress. I say olive. Others say tan. I attach a photo, you decide."
The Journal hammers Alex Jones
From a weekend editorial: "Defamation laws are often abused, but this week came a rare victory for the First Amendment and legal recourse against slander. On Wednesday, Alex Jones, a right-wing gadfly who occupies one of the darker corners of the internet, settled a lawsuit filed by Chobani yogurt over odious falsehoods on Mr. Jones’s website Infowars." (Wall Street Journal)
Headline of the day
"The Quants run Wall Street now: For decades, investors imagined a time when data-driven traders would dominate financial markets. That day has arrived." (The Wall Street Journal)
Rex Tillerson on the press
Speaking on Air Force One this morning between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, Tillerson was asked, "Do you like briefing reporters on a plane and would you consider doing this with your own press corps?"
“Well, I know I’m getting some flack about my press corps on the State Department plane because I’ve chosen the smaller plane, but that’s just what I like," said the former ExxonMobil CEO whose disdain for the media is transparent. "It costs a lot less for me to fly that 737. We have two press corps seats on the plane, and I do meet with whoever’s along. I invite them back to my little office and we chat with the two people that are with me.”
A blank protest
The Turkish opposition daily newspaper Sözcü "on Saturday published a totally blank edition to protest detention warrants issued the previous day for its owner and three of its employees." (Turkish Minute)
The "forgotten founder"
Speaking at George Mason University's graduation in Virginia, Washington Post editor Marty Baron opened with a quickie precis on Mason, the so-called "forgotten founder."
"If you are concerned about potential abuse from a government that gains too much power — or is dominated by special interests — you have a lot in common with George Mason." (Washington Post)
The very bad side of Facebook
"Facebook will have an increasingly hard time navigating the ever murky waters of being a major content distributor, if a quick read of the trove of documents published today by the Guardian is any guide. They reveal the giant social network’s internal guidelines on what type of posts should or shouldn’t be allowed on the site." (Recode)
For those who feel the need to: You can say “f*ck off and die,” as well as a surprisingly long list of other vile things.
The morning babble
The punditry was briefly preempted on the national cable morning news shows as networks were live already in Tel Aviv for Trump's greeting at the airport by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"We love Israel, we respect Israel...we are with you. Thank you and god bless you," said Trump
"Remarkable event," CNN's John Berman then said as its "New Day" commenced over live airport video of Netanyahu introducing Trump to his cabinet members, some of whom he'd strong-armed to show against their will.
"Fox & Friends" took the administration line about benefits of the trip so far (read the Saudi arms deal) as it blabbed over that live video. "Saudi Arabia really bent over backwards to make this president look good," said co-host Brian Kilmeade.
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" pulled out the quickest to get back to Trump's domestic political mess and the New York Times Friday story about Trump calling James Comey a "nut job."
It brought back live video on a half-screen but Mika Brzezinski made clear the video, and what was playing out overseas, was secondary because "we're focused on what happens in Washington because what happens in this White House at this point affects the world and this country, and the White House is in meltdown mode." A somewhat self-serving rationale.
Thank goodness for the ever-grounded Andrea Mitchell. She was live overseas and had just heard Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Air Force One justify the Oval Office meeting with the Russians.
But those live images were yanked when Mitchell's brief report ended, prompting a return to the unceasing punditry on the "Russia probe." It left only Fox lingering on Marine One and the amazing image of President Trump taking off for heading to Jerusalem 1:26 p.m. there. Yes, President Donald Trump.