It's easy to dismiss Donald Trump's latest spat with Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski as so much fluff, feuding among our elite that belongs in gossip magazines, not serious publications. And yeah, there is a great deal to that. But there actually is something serious going on here.
Joe Scarborough is an independent conservative commentator on the liberal MSNBC, so Trump apparently believed that the show should give him unqualified support. In presumable retaliation, the National Enquirer, a clear Trump ally, publishes a story (true) that they were having an affair while both married to someone else. It would further appear that (unnamed) persons in the Trump Administration called, trying to get them to apologize for criticizing Trump and give more favorable coverage in the future and they would drop the story. And not just once. Apparently they made repeated calls to the hosts, and calls to their friends and children as well. Apparently these were frequent, ongoing calls that sound like clear harassment. Scarborough apparently has the texts and phone records to prove all this.
All of which might have been kept quiet if Trump had not, in one of his endless unforced errors, tweeted, "[L]ow I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came … to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!" For reasons I do not really understand, Republicans decided that this time Trump had gone too far and condemned him. And then then whole story came out.
So, yes, in many ways it looks like so much fluff, a gossipy piece for the National Inquirer, but certainly nothing worth wasting time on when the Senate is trying to figure out how to strip 20 million people of their health insurance, Congress still hasn't figures out how to write a budget or raise the debt ceiling, we are getting drawn into a Syrian quagmire, Saudi Arabia is driving Qatar into the arms of of Iran, and evidence is mounting that the Trump campaign really did collude with the Russians.
But this really is significant and not just fluff. On the campaign trail, Trump talked about using the power of the Presidency to punish journalists and newspapers that criticized him. Up till now, it has all been empty talk. But this is his first attempt to do just that.