President Donald Trump defies isms—conservatism, populism, realism—depriving journalists of a familiar shorthand for explaining political motives. On Day 1 of his administration, reporters could be forgiven for deference toward White House spin that this quality, or lack thereof, displayed tactical decision making. Past Day 100, incomprehensible logic seems a more likely culprit of the mixed messages and contradictory proposals coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (or Mar-a-Lago, as the case may be). Yet some analysts, like drunkards reaching for an empty bottle, still try to fit Trump’s style of governance within a broader philosophical framework.
Amid this morass of alternative facts and parallel media universes, Breitbart News is treated by many in the mainstream press as something of an MRI for the soul of Trumpism. Screenshots of the nationalist site’s homepage are fixtures on the Twitter feeds of journalists grasping for windows to how the other half lives. Its autopsy of the Trump administration’s first 100 days, published via e-book on Monday, provides a longer-form glimpse of what animates the media organization with arguably the most direct line to the Oval Office.
The document showcases a worldview embroiled in the culture war and colored by resentment toward liberal dominance of news and entertainment media, whose names are often bolded throughout its 71 pages. Policy analysis is light; political wins come in the form of momentary dominance over Democrats. Critical deconstruction is reserved primarily for those who dare challenge the president’s agenda.
Author Joel Pollak is unsurprisingly bullish on the Trump administration so far, comparing its first 100 days to that of Reagan and Johnson. The president earned props for nominating a conservative Supreme Court judge, slashing environmental regulations, backing out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, and enforcing immigration laws more strictly. “One could argue, from a left-wing viewpoint, that Trump is a bad president,” he writes. “But no serious observer could claim he has been an ineffective one.”
None. While admitting that Trump has had some setbacks, the e-book pooh-poohs any dissenting views as mere partisanship, a product of unprecedented media opposition. Nevermind Trump’s historically low approval ratings, including with independent voters.
Of course, no good right-wing analysis is complete without Obama-era whataboutism. And Trump’s predecessor “did little of consequence” over the same time period, according to Breitbart. Citing liberals’ praise of Obama’s more activist approach, Pollak chastises the media for a perceived failure to gauge whether that approach was “useless or harmful.” That’s at least partly true, but the e-book exhibits no such digging when it comes to Trump.
“His major achievements have been in foreign policy and national security,” its second sentence proclaims, “where he has restored America’s military deterrent and reversed its international decline.”
Just like that—the only evidence being airstrikes on Syria for which Trump has still not given a clear reason for ordering or broader strategy for follow-up. In employing a superficial grading system fit for cable news, the autopsy gives Trump a whopping 60 percentage points out of 100 because “there were no disasters.” Such a low bar might be shocking were it not coming from an outlet whose banal political analysis has been elevated by a clever social strategy coupled with a sea change in political-media dynamics.
The upshot is that Trump has followed through on his campaign trail promises, if sometimes only rhetorically. “Even when he hasn’t delivered—on health care, for example—Trump has made progress,” Breitbart adds. That vaguely positive framing is particularly glaring given its criticism of the failed American Health Care Act, which stemmed from one of candidate Trump’s key pledges and became the major legislative push of his first 100 days in office.
It’s emblematic of a major fault line for the right-wing outlets now circling Trump supporters like sharks. Should their editorial strategy revolve around the president’s cult of personality, or the generally nationalist public sentiments that helped catapult him into office? With a mercurial Trump seemingly unbound by any coherent governing philosophy, the deciding factor may be whether pro-Trump media organizations can keep up.
TOP IMAGE: Illustration by Christie Chisholm