As I traveled through Europe, Trump’s White House seemed to be fading.
As I touched down in D.C. after my summer in Europe, awaited by the news about Omarosa, Trump’s frenemy poised for a fortune-making tell-all book Unhinged, I felt glad that I was on holiday during the White House frenzy. Leaving on vacation was a conscious decision after 17 months of a never-ending news cycle in the White House, I had reached a point of complete burnout.
A knowing change to my voluntary exposure to the White House stress came in the form of a plane ticket to Europe without a set return date to D.C. A quest similar to the one of Eat, Pray, Love from D.C to Serbia, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, England, and France.
The biggest realization of my journey was the importance of the role I have as an independent White House correspondent. I have an unusual freedom to report my own thoughts and insights, without being beholden to special interests and political agendas. That’s a novelty in itself that for a fact, I know, should not be a novelty.
What I’ve learned on my journey was that European newsrooms see the Trump administration in a much different way than we do, in America. “American journalism is in your face”, I was told by one of the leading British journalists over the coffee we were having at the Portcullis House in the UK Parliament.
“I’ve worked with some of your colleagues during the primaries, some of them are so into themselves, they think they’re Gods”, it was added. I could not controvert. There is a lot of vanity in our profession, and in some way, the White House press corps is an ideal playground for the “jealous and ambitious”, which I was warned of by a Senior WH Correspondent on one of my first days in the White House.
It’s just a state of affairs, a provision of life that comes with the territory and naked ambition that shows on any side of the ideological spectrum. “Take it as a fact but watch your back”, I guess would be the White House slogan.
However, what I’ve learned in London is that the British press corps is more united than the one in D.C. Their enemy is the government, the news desks clearly agree on that and they support each other, which is not a case in America. During my stay in London, I watched closely how British newsrooms are covering Brexit, Trump, and the Russian collusion. What surprised me was how civil the debate over Brexit is.
As I found myself in front of the train station in Munich, for a moment I thought that I’ve just stepped into the Middle East. My observation was just that, an observation, and yet many to whom I have told this, asked me what that meant. Without implying any normative meaning to it, it means that Germany has changed and is deeply affected by the refugee crisis.
Standing at the highest point in the Alps in Davos, I suddenly cleared my vision. It was the first time I was able to see the world for what it is from the height of the Swiss Alps and enjoy glorious nature. The Alps do not go anywhere, they stand still, indestructible and untroubled. With, or without Trump, the world will still go on.
Maybe Trump is an error in history, an error that needed to happen so the establishment wakes up to problems American people share. Even those who voted for Hillary in lack of better options to save democracy were not satisfied. The beginning of Trump’s Era was the end of the establishment and a clear sign that the politics of political correctness has reached its limits.
Secluded, in the famous Davos, the main stage of the World Economic Forum, sampling overpriced fondue while melting Swiss francs away, a paroxysm of Trump’s Americana came to mind. And they could not be further away from the elite powers of Davos.
The place where only politics is food. This time, the journey took me to the Northen Italy, to lakes and glaciers and irreproachable views. I’ve immersed myself in the art of Dolce Vita, the one that I’ve forgotten in America working around the clock. “I’ve driven myself to the ground and for what?”, I overheard an American saying at the next table in what appeared to be a powerful moment of reflection.
London is the place to be. Sitting on the terrace of the UK Parliament overlooking the Thames river while the London Eye kept spinning, I was getting ready to attend as a guest from the gallery, the last session of the parliament. At the press gallery, a few journalists, namely men, were taking notes in an old-fashioned way. The next day Theresa May went on holiday, and soon after, Boris Johnson wrote a controversial column on females wearing the burka. The attack he received was not about the comments he made, but a calculated decision to weaken him as a potential leader of The Conservative Party. Europe is not the same anymore and I did not understand the anti-EU sentiment until coming back to Britain.
I understand the argument for the leave vote and for Britain it makes sense, but what does not make sense is the selfishness that is spreading throughout the world and is best formulated in the “America first” policy.
Trumpism was not invented in America, it came from Europe, but it evolved into a much more extreme form under Donald Trump. The bully culprit style of Donald has infected America and has given rise to social division. I am not sure how America will recover from that, Trump has pushed European nationalism to another level and got away with it. We live in an Era where a politician can get away with pretty much anything. The media knows that and is on the lookout for sensation, stories emerge and disappear like a summer storm, real journalism is in peril, and most of the relevant topics have no coverage.
In the world of Trump, there’s only Trump, and what I’ve realized in London is that while zeroing on Trump is important it cannot be the sole purpose of journalism.
People see through it and if I am tired of covering it, then you must be exhausted from reading about it too. It all became like watching an unscripted reality show, one episode after the other without any resolution packaged into a breaking news.
The base of any trust is the truth. The newsroom should approach politics and social issues without complying to perceived expectations and a need for audience approval. Corporate networks own the market share and they comply with popular demand respective of the political option they support. That’s not what journalism should be about.
As I went from London to the South of France, the politics unfolded at the private beach clubs and it was able to find me at all times, even when I was completely disconnected from the news and Twitter.
Next to me, a very old Russian oligarch with a very young woman, topless and with a big tattoo on her buttocks. Anywhere I turned, there was a Russian, even at the random tables in the restaurants. As I walked out of the Plaza Hotel on The Promenade des Anglais in Nice, the sound of the Russian music came as a surprise, but only to me. Europe has a very different view of Russians than what you can hear on the major news networks in America.
The problem with the way the issue of Russian interference in the US election is tackled is one of semantics. When talking about it, a differentiation between the Russian people and the Russian government should be made at all times.
I do not think that any of those Russians leading a rackety lifestyle on the French Riviera care about Trump or Putin in the way we do. They are spending their money and suntanning under the sun of the Cote d’Azur. “What’s Comrade Sagan doing in a Ferrari?” one revolutionary asked when Francoise Sagan, a celebrated, left-wing French novelist tipped up at the barricades in a sports car.
“It’s not a Ferrari, it’s a Maserati,” she responded. Comrade Trump lives the same motto with the American workers and during photo ops with bikers under the portico of his multi-million dollar Bedminster estate in New Jersey.
Perception is a reality. “Money may not buy happiness, but I’d rather cry in a Jaguar than on a bus.” Bonjour Tristesse. Good morning, D.C.