OPINION: Trump’s Press Conference
I’m sitting here at the Paradise Bakery & Cafe at Tatum Boulevard and Shea in Phoenix — a gentle breeze with sun heading out far west toward a new day somewhere, and it’s 73 degrees, and with all the rain we’ve received, the hills are beginning to green unlike I’ve seen them do since the late 1990’s. In a few weeks, all of these hills and little mountains will look like a scene out of Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa.
I heard Trump’s press conference today in its entirety. It was good to see him do it, what with all the news lately, which passes for the so-called “conventional wisdom,” foretelling the end of the Trump Presidency in mere weeks due to mistakes and being out of control.
Even Congressional Republicans — led, of course, by silly over-the-hill hacks like Arizona’s own Sen. John McCain, and the curiously feminine-looking (perhaps in transition?) Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, assuring America that they will see to it that President Trump and his entire Administration will be thoroughly investigated at every opportunity, in perpetuity — apparently for being Russian moles.
I’m not concerned about it.
President Trump handled himself brilliantly in his press conference. When’s the last time an American President went 80 minutes in a press conference — particularly when the heat’s on? Answer: Never — so far as I can find.
Usually an American President is only too happy to get out of the room after taking a few questions from the media barracudas. But not President Trump who was, as he said several times, enjoying himself and having a great time.
Here’s what the President accomplished in his presentation today:
1. Made many reporters (and their respective media organizations) look like partisan hacks and thereby reignited and reinforced an impression that a large percentage of American citizens agree with.
2. President Trump — again and as usual — personally shepherded the news cycle for the day, and probably for the coming days heading into the weekend talking flak shows. The discussion will now be how inappropriate his press conference was. Meanwhile, other issues will recede in the public consciousness.
3. The President completely and boldly contradicted the conventional wisdom that his Administration is in chaos and utter disorder while tying such impressions to unfair and unbalanced media treatment.
4. The President took the opportunity to point out that leading Congresssional Democrats aren’t interested (so far) in working with him and are therefore directly responsible for delays in getting important things done.
5. The President turned back a loaded question from a reporter about him not meeting with members of the Black Congressional Caucus (the impression being that Trump is racist) by pointing out that Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) backed out of a planned meeting with him, then President Trump asked the black reporter if she could set it up. Beautifully played.
6. The President made a reporter look like an idiot when the reporter asked him what he was going to do about the Russian sailing vessel patrolling 30 miles off the U.S. Atlantic Coast by launching into his signature “I’m not going to tell you what I’m going to do” routine regarding military and sensitive strategic issues — which is a correct attitude and one that he successfully campaigned on. He left the reporter looking like a moron for asking a question already asked and answered, repeatedly.
7. The President created vast opportunities (time-wise) to just slap-around, wreck, and otherwise politely verbally castigate and shame various media organizations (particularly CNN) for coverage transgressions that most Americans are already aware of, and believe in.
8. The President boldly called out some news media for their fairness — which means that those stories will be read and discussed more in the coming days, to his benefit.
9. By holding this press conference — something that he should be doing regularly — the President took the rhetorical offensive (which is his best and most natural modus operandi) and played the whole media establishment like a church organ to his advantage, as he always does.
10. The President inoculated himself by explaining how the media would — post-news conference — spin it as if he was inappropriate and out-of-control. The media is already doing this, and therefore, President Trump gets to say I told you so, again.
As we have all observed, it is quite easy for American Presidents to get behind the proverbial curve-ball such that they must constantly be on the defensive against the media twits. All modern Presidents have suffered horribly, at times, from this — indeed, you can go back to President Richard Nixon for the beginning of this trend. And, of course, unlike President Trump, President Nixon truly loathed the press and this was coupled with his overly-serious, confrontational demeanor he took in all of his face-to-face interactions with them. Nixon had a terrible press personality and he was often awkward in trying to defend himself.
President Ford was genial, but never said much — a good idea — so perhaps he wasn’t as dumb as everybody liked to think.
President Reagan was excellent in front of the press — if somewhat insubstantial — but he was not the happy eye-poker that President Trump is.
President H.W. Bush was awkward and syntactically challenged when appearing before the press, and his impatience and exasperation with them often showed and tended to make him come off as condescending.
President Clinton was superb in front of the press — but then again, it’s an advantage to have a media establishment willing to eat out of your hand, which is what President Clinton had — even on the day he was impeached. Heck, President Clinton could have been caught playing hide the monkey with his first cousin and it would have been all right with the establishment media — they loved him.
President W. Bush was generally dismissive of the press and when he was before them, he suffered even worse from verbal syntactical wire crossings than his father did — which is why the media treated him like a dope, and why he often looked and sounded like a dope. With all due respect to President Bush, the fact is, in many ways he was (and is) a dope, and so maybe the media was fair to him.
President Obama was mostly a boor, and a bore, during his press conferences, because he had the tendency to pontificate on policy specifics and details that most people were anesthetized by in short order. His boorish aspect was (and continues to be) his penchant for lecturing the rest of us upon his view of correct moral and social responsibilities and shaming us for his conception of our past failures. I don’t think the media much cared for his style — but then President Obama had the strategic foresight to make sure he did most of the talking, and so during the course of his Administration, he didn’t have to answer many press conference questions anyway. President Obama was (and is) a natural born droner, and this was a superb foil against media questions. Afterall, who in the American Media is going to substantively question a Nobel Peace Prize winner apparently skilled enough to win without having done anything for peace in the first place? No wonder the media was perpetually awed by him.
My point is that President Trump needs to continue to put himself out in the public on, at least, a weekly basis. He’s good at it — the best we’ve had — and his unparalleled ability to bitch-slap the media in such an easygoing entertaining manner is what will keep his intended agenda front and center.
If, on the other hand, he allows himself to be sequestered from the face-to-face public — as every modern American President has been — then the media and the rest of the Establishment hacks will sandbag him into oblivion and tie him up hopelessly in goofy and unproductive political games.
Next stop: Trump rally in Orlando, Florida this coming Saturday. Watch him control the news cycle to his advantage again in less than two days.
Trump as Trump is the strongest chess tactic he has with which to make real change against a vast Establishment that doesn’t want change. I hope he continues in this manner. He’ll have to, or the Establishment will gunnysack him like an unwanted kitten out the open window of a fast moving car. This is how it works.