Coping with the Insanity of the Trump Era
We are living through a terrible era in our country’s history. Our president is dangerous, vindictive, and immoral. Because we cannot live every minute of the day in a state of outrage, we tune out the insanity, or normalize it to the extent that we can laugh at the absurdity. But there are moments when the totality of the nightmare that is the Trump administration hits us all at once.

The past week represented one such reckoning for us. There was no horrifying revelation, as when the nation learned that the administration was separating families at the border and placing children in cages (how did we manage to normalize that?). Instead, it was a cascade of smaller stories that created a sickening picture of the state of our country.

Last Thursday, as Trump was re-tweeting a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slurring her words, his administration proposed a rollback of discrimination regulations protecting the rights of transgendered medical patients and health insurance customers. This came on the heels of a measure to permit homeless shelters to turn away trans clients.

On Monday, The New York Times’ Coral Davenport and Mark Landler revealed that the administration was sabotaging the National Climate Assessment, which charts global warming and the effects of fossil fuel emissions. Not only is the administration refusing to combat this existential threat to the planet – it is brazenly manipulating the information the public receives about it.

(Not to be outdone, Energy Secretary Rick Perry rebranded the word “gas” as “freedom gas,” as in “the United States is spreading freedom gas throughout the world”).

Yesterday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill banning abortion in certain circumstances, the latest in a string of victories for a pro-life movement that has been empowered by Donald Trump’s support. On the same day, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the White House ordered personnel aboard the warship USS John S McCain to move the ship out of sight when the President, who loathed McCain, arrived for a nearby event. Crew members draped a tarp over the name of the ship, and crew members bearing the ship's name were given the day off and barred from Trump's event.

None of these obscene developments constituted the biggest news of the week. That distinction belonged to Robert Mueller’s brief televised statement Wednesday about the Russia report. While his comments may have wiped away many of the administration’s disingenuo u s mischaracterizations o f the Mueller report, the one man capable of ridding us of Trump with just a few words declined to do so, tossing the matter back to Congress. When Mueller walked off stage, it felt like no one would save us.

In The Times on Wednesday, the writer Jennifer Finney Boylan authored a moving essay about life in the Trump era.
“Incredibly, the monstrousness of our age no longer shocks me,” she wrote, “not least because I spend part of each day taking it all in."

“It’s not that he has created this nightmare,” she wrote of Trump. “It’s that so many people — including ones I love — think it’s all just fine.”
The Media Primary
Back on the campaign organizations always play an outsized role in presidential primaries, but they have never been granted the kind of make or break power that the Democratic National Committee handed them on Wednesday.

The DNC announced the terms of the third Democratic debate, scheduled for September 12 th . Qualification rules were tightened substantially over those of the coming June and July debates, practically ensuring that bodies will start dropping from the field as candidates fail to reach the required threshold of 130,000 donors and two percent support in the polls.

In doing so, the party fired the starting gun on a 100-day Hunger Games contest among the lesser names who populate the bottom half of the field, with editors at The Times, Washington Post and their broadcast counterparts handed the job of selecting the promising ones along the way.

Four years ago, there were only two major protagonists in the Democratic primary – Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. That ensured both would receive plenty of coverage, good, bad or ugly. With two dozen candidates in the field in 2020, that won’t be the case. Newspaper editors can't give everybody a golden profile or a damning take-down. Television producers and bookers can't give all of them equal airtime – they’ll have to make choices, especially after devoting most of their coverage to frontrunners like Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris and Buttigieg.

If you’re a candidate who can’t get on Morning Joe or written about in The Times or the Post , chances are that dollars won't flow and polls won’t be where you'll need them to be to qualify for the September debate stage. Voters will ultimately caucus or pull the lever for their candidates, but the media is going to winnow the field down long before Iowa and New Hampshire.

That means the fate of the bottom half of the field (and perhaps of the country) will rest in large part in the hands of a small group of editors, reporters and columnists at the prestige print outlets, along with a small handful of television show producers and twenty-something bookers.

No pressure, guys. 
When you say the quiet part out loud
Stories about Bill de Blasio's tortured relationship with fundraising laws are nothing new in New York. It seems that every major outlet has had at least one scoop about pay-to-play accusations and investigations into the mayor's alleged penchant for taking campaign cash from those who have business before the city.

But lately, the coverage seems to have taken a turn that will make most readers laugh or cry, depending on your perspective.

This week brought twin hits on the mayor. In the first, The City , which brought us  a huge scoop  on the mayor's questionable fundraising tactics that delayed de Blasio's 2020 campaign kickoff, hit gold again.

After using the Freedom of Information Law to obtain an internal Department of Investigation report for their initial story, The City went back to court and won an appeal to uncover the report's redactions. The result was a story detailing the case of the mayor  dialing up Douglaston Development for a $25,000 check just days after greenlighting a Bronx land transfer  and $12 million in taxpayer funding for a Douglaston project.

All the coverage of de Blasio's fundraising practices has led his donors to start speaking more candidly about the reasons they contribute to him.

"He was very helpful to us in building, and supportive of building, the island that we're building in the Hudson River,"  billionaire Barry Diller
Here and There
HuffPost's  Ashley Feinberg  moves to  Slate …CNN Business has named Jill Disis  Asia editor… The Times Matthew Schneier  becomes New York's new features writer …Jonah Allon becomes communications director for Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, while Dawn Baskerville becomes his new deputy communications director.
"She is the absolute best at what she does - a journalistic force of nature. Period." - Times writer Dan Barry, tweeting about his colleague Maggie Haberman after she took flak for a story about Hope Hicks.

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Kirtzman Strategies is a strategic communications and public affairs firm that works with public officials, nonprofits, companies, tech startups and education organizations.
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