CBS, NBC judge Trump differently through 84 days

On April 13, CBS and NBC ran stories trying to sum up the Trump presidency through the first 84 days. NBC placed a priority on Trump’s forceful military tactics. CBS focused on his early reversal on several issues.

“About two weeks before the election, candidate Donald Trump put out what he called ‘A Contract with the American Voter,’ a list of actions he said he would take in his first day and his first 100 days,” said CBS anchor Scott Pelley.

CBS highlighted key reversals:

  • “Here’s the problem with NATO, it’s obsolete,” said Trump during the campaign. “It’s no longer obsolete,” said Trump after a meeting with NATO’s secretary general.
  • Trump campaigned saying, “China is killing us.” Trump backtracked when he said, “As you know, President Xi is a terrific person.”
  • In Trump’s inauguration speech he said, “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone.”As president, Trump referred to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad as “a butcher” while defending his strike on a Syrian base. This attack contradicted his promised “America first” doctrine.
  • Trump’s statements on Russian relations have shifted from his optimistic remarks before the election.
  • He has backed away from his claim about China’s currency manipulation.

All that preceded acknowledging Trump’s successes in pushing through Judge Gorsuch and the Keystone XL Pipeline.

NBC aimed to clarify Trump’s foreign policy based on his actions so far as president.

“The Trump Doctrine may be coming into clearer focus as the Commander in Chief flexes US military muscle, sending a message to the world and turning the focus away from domestic setbacks and internal troubles,” said NBC Anchor Lester Holt.

In a week where the U.S. attacked Syria and Afghanistan, while raising tensions with North Korea, NBC linked them with one motive.

“Tonight, President Donald Trump’s emerging doctrine: show strength,” said NBC reporter Kristen Welker. NBC recalled Trump’s vow to fight terrorism.

“Mr. Trump campaigned as a hawkish pro-military candidate, promising to vanquish ISIS” said Welker.

“Their days are numbered. I won’t tell them where and I won’t tell them how,” said Trump in a clip from last April.

NBC summarized his term by comparing his actions domestically and abroad.

“And as president, his foreign policy successes, so far, outweigh his domestic agenda, which had been on the rocks from health care to the travel ban,” said Welker.

“If it also distracts from some of the problems he’s had in domestic policy, I don’t think the White House minds that one bit” said Mark Halperin, NBC senior political analyst.

Howard Schneider, former editor for Newsday, took issue with Halperin’s statement.

“[It] was an unfair shot,” said Schneider. “That was interjecting something that was out of bounds for this kind of report; it was pure speculation.”

Schneider felt that besides the Halperin quote, both reports were fair to the Trump administration.

Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, felt NBC’s report let the Trump administration off the hook too easily.

“CBS did it the right way. NBC stretched mightily to make it positive,” said Ornstein. “The failure to get any legislative accomplishments is a big deal. NBC fell short.”

Ornstein also praised CBS’s report for being “more critical and tough.”

“The standard in some ways has to start with a benchmark, and the appropriate benchmark is what Trump himself promised he would do in the first 100 days,” said Ornstein.

Schneider agreed that CBS did a good job of framing his performance against his promises.

“If the president lists three or four top priorities, and doesn’t get them done, it’s okay to say he hasn’t achieved those things,” said Schneider. “The Keystone Pipeline was not the same thing as getting rid of Obamacare.”

Jon Mednick

Jon Mednick is a senior broadcast journalism and marketing double major from Reisterstown, Maryland. He is currently a video editor at CBS affiliate WUSA9 in Washington, D.C. where he has been working for almost two years. Jon has worked with Pulsefeedz, the Left Bench, Capital News Service and WMUC Sports in his four years at Maryland. After he graduates in May, Jon would like continue pursuing a career in sports broadcasting. He can be reached at @J_Mednick on Twitter.

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