Monday, February 13, 2017

Former Miami Herald reporter Marty Merzer has emerged from retirement to track the Trump administration


Marty Merzer
Journalist Marty Merzer joined the Miami Herald in 1979 and retired from the paper in 2008.

In his more than 29 years at One Herald Plaza, he covered hundreds of stories, including the unraveling of four Miami-based airlines, "the civil war in Beirut, the famine in Ethiopia and the Sudan, the Challenger disaster and the space shuttle’s return to flight, Hurricane Andrew, the Gulf War and the Scud missile attacks on Israel, the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Mars Pathfinder mission, John Glenn’s return to flight, the entire 37-day impasse in Florida’s 2000 presidential election."

"In 1992, [Merzer's] work during Hurricane Andrew helped The Herald win the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. In 2000, his work during the Elian Gonzalez affair helped The Herald win another Pulitzer Prize."

Since retiring and moving to northern Florida, the past nine years or so for Merzer have been mostly uneventful.

That is, until Donald Trump arrived on the scene.

Six days after Trump was sworn in, Merzer emerged from retirement and began posting on his Facebook page, the first of what he calls "The Minority President update."

With his daily posts, Merzer began keeping track of the constant stream of insanity - there's no other way to phrase it - associated with the new Trump administration.

After about a week or so of sharing his thoughts with just his Facebook friends, someone convinced Merzer to go "bigly" with what he now calls the "Minority President Report."

The "MPR" is perfect for anyone who finds keeping up with the Trump administration to be a tad exhausting.

Today, via email, I asked Merzer a series of questions about the MPR.

His responses:
1) After a long and storied career as a journalist, what made you decide to start a blog focusing on the Trump administration, instead of just venting with an occasional Facebook post?
It started as a standard Facebook post or two on my personal page that rounded up three or four breaking news events that seemed beyond belief. A few people started lobbying for it to become a regular, daily thing, but I was reluctant to commit to that. Though I retired from the Herald eight years ago, I’m not really as retired as many people seem to think. I still take regular contract-writing work and I’m kept pretty busy with family and other obligations, and I wasn’t crazy about being saddled with another daily duty. But each day delivered rapid-fire bursts of new provocations and, almost despite myself, my fingers kept typing, and here I am, pretty much locked into a daily feature. I will say that it’s somewhat therapeutic. We each resist and protest in our own way, and I guess this is mine. If nothing else, maybe it’s helping others understand that they’re not alone. Maybe it’ll help, just a little.

Also, outside of New York and Washington, the media environment obviously is not what it used to be. In some places, it’s still somewhat adequate, but in a lot of places, it's just piss-poor, and that helped get us into this mess in the first place. So, a roundup like this of daily developments might actually have some news utility, even if mine contains some tone and snark.

1A: Why the dedicated page?
Within a week or so, I had upwards of 45 people asking to be tagged on each post, so they would see it right away. That took forever because you have to do it manually. So, our daughter, Allie Merzer Fleming, who's professionally active in political and media circles up here in Tallahassee, created the dedicated Facebook page and we advised readers how to set it up for instantaneous notifications of new posts.

2) You've covered just about everything in your 35 years as a journalist. But were you prepared for, or shocked by the campaign and specifically, the events that have taken place since January 20th?
Given the election results, I think we all expected something like this, but the speed and the incompetence and the ill-will and the sheer, overwhelming mendacity with which they've moved on so many simultaneous fronts — no one could have anticipated that.

3) You have two wonderful grandchildren, including an 8 year old grandson who is smart as a whip. Is he aware of of what's going on with our president? Do you discuss the current president with him, and if so, what are his thoughts? What's your advice for any parent trying to explain Trump to a child?
Sol is named after my dad and I think everyone who knows us will agree that he and I have a special relationship. He’s sharp. He picks stuff up, and he draws keen insights and conclusions. I’ve told this story before. On the day after the election, as we drove from gymnastics to Hebrew school, Sol asked: "Poppa, if Trump tries to do bad things, can anyone stop him?” I can sense moments when I know I better get the answer right, because it's going to be remembered. I said: "Well, yes, I think so. We have courts and judges and the Constitution..." Sol said: "And the Bill of Rights." Me: "Right, courts and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights." Sol: "So, Martin Luther King. If Trump tries to change the things Martin Luther King fought for, the courts can stop him?" Me: "Yes, we have very good judges, and they will stop him from violating the Constitution and the Bill of Rights." Sol, after thinking it through: "OK, can we listen to the Beatles?" Which we did.

Just last week, I asked Sol if he remembered that conversation and he did, virtually word for word. And then, I showed Sol a video clip of the federal judge in Seattle who told Trump where he could stick his travel ban. Solly got it. He found it reassuring.

4) Finally, given your almost 4 decades in the business, what does your gut tell you about how all this will end?
A helluva lot of damage already has been done — not only on the policy front, but to what we’ve understood to be the fundamental, civic, humane basis of our society and our republic. Before this is over, more damage will be inflicted, and it’s going to take some time to repair it. I am appalled that, already, we’ve managed to create so many mean, greedy, unprincipled, angry and, in some cases, utterly ignorant people in this country.

When and how do we repair it? Half the time, I’m certain that there is no line that can be crossed for congressional Republicans, that they have no principles, and that they’ll never act — they’re face-down in the Kool-Aid. But the other half of the time, I’m thinking that they’re just keeping him around long enough to pass and sign their Draconian agenda and then they’ll cut him loose through impeachment.

Bottom line: I think Trump gets impeached or resigns or invents a medical malady, and he gets out of there within two years, taking some of the worst players with him. That, of course, leaves us with Pence, who in some ways is worse because Pence actually has core beliefs, all of which are ugly. On the other hand, Pence may not be clinically insane, so that’s what passes these days as an upside.

I've embedded today's MPR below, but you can follow the page everyday by clicking here.

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