Editorial: The Optics Were Bad, But Who Cares?

By The Editorial Board

During the federal government’s shutdown, the national media’s narrative has flowed in one direction: President Donald Trump is responsible for 800,000 workers going without a paycheck for the foreseeable future, because he refuses to budge in his demand that Congress fund border-security initiatives that include a wall along the Mexican border.

Trump himself, of course, teed this up for the media to hammer him. During that infamous Oval Office meeting a month ago with soon-to-be-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump proclaimed that he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security.”

So, considering that, why wouldn’t the national media lay this at Trump’s feet?

Taking that cue, many Democrats apparently are sufficiently comfortable to believe they won’t suffer any serious criticism, at least from the elite media — even if their actions conflict with claims of solidarity with suffering furloughed federal employees. Here’s an example.

Last weekend, according to the conservative Washington Examiner, 30 Democratic lawmakers jetted to sunny, warm San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a winter retreat hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Ostensibly the meeting was held there to discuss Hurricane Maria relief, the Examiner reported, and the group’s chartered 737 was loaded with 250 pounds of donated medical supplies for storm victims.

Yet the plane also carried 109 lobbyists from powerful corporations like R.J. Reynolds, Facebook, Comcast, Amazon, PhRMA, Microsoft, Intel, Verizon, as well as unions such as the National Education Association. The Examiner noted the lawmakers’ schedule was “packed with free time,” and in San Juan, they dealt with the woes of beach frolicking, poolside cocktail receptions and a performance of “Hamilton,” starring Lin-Manuel Miranda.

One leader of the junket, Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., defended the trip, saying it had been planned long in advance of the shutdown.

Rep. Darren Soto of Kissimmee, who represents eastern Polk County, was also among the leaders of what was billed as the largest-ever congressional delegation to visit Puerto Rico, his office told us in an email.

Soto’s spokeswoman, Oriana Piña, told us that since the shutdown Soto has met, and continues to meet, with affected federal workers. The trip was an extension of that, she indicated.

“In Puerto Rico, members participated in lengthy meetings on the Federal Government Shutdown, Hurricane Maria Disaster Relief, Promesa Fiscal Board and economic reforms, Medicaid funding and President Trump’s misguided plan to raid Florida and Puerto Rico disaster relief funds for a border wall,” Piña wrote. The delegation heard from Gov. Ricardo Rosello and his administration as well local lawmakers, mayors and leaders of labor, business and nonprofit groups.

“In the wake of Hurricane Maria and the economic recession there, Puerto Ricans roundly welcomed the Congress’s focus on this often forgotten US Territory,” Piña added. She pointed out that Soto, who himself is Puerto Rican, represents the district with the most Puerto Rican constituents. “Thus,” she said, “the Island’s future is a critical issue for our district. It’s time for the Senate and President Trump to pass House bills to re-open the government” — including $1.3 billion for border security — “and stop holding our constituents hostage over his proposed border wall.”

Very well. We believe that Soto and other lawmakers did some of the people’s business in San Juan, and sought answers to the island’s various problems, which go beyond disaster relief.

But the issue is perception, which often becomes reality once filtered by the media. And in this case, it won’t.

Imagine the endless, mind-numbing loop of hostility we’d see in the media and on social media if a Speedo-clad Trump we’re shown plopped into a poolside Chaise lounger sunning himself at Mar-a-Lago right now, or golfing at one of his resorts.

Nonetheless, this is how things roll in our national politics, and the media coverage of the same.

We’ve forgotten that politics, in its best if not always most agreeable form, involves compromise. We also seem to have forgotten that it was nearly a year ago when Trump offered a deal that some, including us, are saying is the way forward — Congress funds the wall in exchange for a legal remedy to allow some 700,000 Dreamers, or those illegal immigrants brought to America as children, to remain in the country.

The president, as far as we know, has not taken this off the table. Meanwhile, the Democrats’ proposal for border security borders on doing almost nothing new.

Yet as with the narrative about the shutdown, the calls for compromise, which really isn’t one, largely flow in one direction — that is, Trump reopens the government and capitulates on the wall.

Juxtaposed against the plight of the workers they claim to care about, the Democrats’ excellent adventure to San Juan exhibited an incredible show of hubris, indifference, or simple tone-deafness. But they know that with a largely compliant national media, they won’t pay a price for some shutdown sun and fun.

This article provided by NewsEdge.