President Donald Trump is once again taking his case right to the people of the United States and once again he got the unwitting aide of the press corps to help him do it. And even as the regular voters are cheering, the press is booing the whole thing.
Donald J. Trump won the White House not because the media loved him — as it did Hillary Clinton generally, but Barack Obama slavishly — but because he was able to both go around the media and use the media at the same time to take his message right to the American people. Trump again showed this amazing ability to slip around the media while using them at the same time in his Thursday press conference.
Donald Trump is uniquely able to speak to Americans like a “real person.” In other words, he does not come off as a smarmy know-it-all like Obama did nor does he seem shrew-like as Hillary so often did. In fact, he doesn’t seem like a “politician” at all. To Mr. and Mrs. America he comes off as a relatable figure. (Indeed, during his press conference he admitted as much when he said he is finding it hard to realize he is now a “politician.”)
With the media (and establishment Washington of both parties) clearly out to destroy him as opposed to merely reporting on his policies and administration, Trump instinctively understands that he needs to go around the media and take his case right to to the voters.
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But, even with that being the case, the president cannily uses the very press he is “going around” as a vehicle to carry his message to the people. And this February 16 press conference was a perfect example of that canny ability to use the same hostile press corps to make his appeal free of the media’s habit of imbuing “the news” with its own opinions.
This presser was a great example of Trump using the press to bash the press.
The president covered such a number of topics that he clearly bewildered the press into a near catatonic state. But his main point throughout was to damn the press as hostile to him and his administration.
Early in the presser, Trump spoke about how unfair the media has been to his now former adviser General Mike Flynn.
The day before Trump had already insisted that he feels Flynn is a “wonderful man” and decried the “fake media” for how it mistreated the retired general. He also accused the press of helping insiders leak classified material.
During his praise of Flynn during Thursday’s presser, Trump even insisted Flynn did nothing wrong.
“What [Flynn] did wasn’t wrong,” Trump exclaimed. “What was wrong was the way that other people including yourselves in this room were given that information, ’cause that was classified information given illegally. That’s the real problem.”
“You can talk all you want about Russia, which is all fake news, fabricated deal to try to make up for the loss of the Democrats,” he added. “And the press plays right into it.”
Not only did the president insist that Flynn was perfectly right to be talking to Russia to suss out their intentions, but he added that if Flynn hadn’t talked to Russia, he would have order him to.
“I fired him to what he said to [Vice President] Mike Pence, it’s very simple,” Trump said to a question from a member of the press. But he then added, “Mike [Flynn] was doing his job, he was calling countries and his counterparts. So, it certainly would have been OK with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it. I didn’t direct him, but I would have directed him because that’s his job.”
Later, Russia was once again the topic of conversation with the president again rejecting claims that he has ever had anything to do with Russia.
“I have nothing to do with Russia. I told you, I have no deals there, I have no anything. Now, when WikiLeaks, which I had nothing to do with, comes out and happens to give, they’re not giving classified information. They’re giving stuff — what was said at an office about Hillary cheating on the debates. Which, by the way, nobody mentions,” Trump said.
“Nobody mentions that Hillary received the questions to the debates,” he continued. “Can you imagine — seriously — can you imagine if I received the questions? It would be the electric chair. OK, he should be put in the electric — you would even call for the reinstitution of the death penalty, OK.”
If that wasn’t enough to drive the press crazy, Trump also launched into one of his patented attacks on the “fake media” that had his supporters cheering from the grandstands.
As far as Trump’s bodyslam on the press, one of the funnier segments during the presser was when Trump downgraded CNN even farther than he already has.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) February 16, 2017
During the presser, CNN’s Jim Acosta was miffed that Trump was attacking his network. But, as he was complaining about it, Trump interrupted him.
“I’m changing it from fake news,” Trump said before going on to add that CNN is now “Very fake news.”
Most got the joke. Jim Acosta didn’t.
Despite the levity, Trump was very serious about how badly the press has teated him.
“The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people,” Trump said. “The level of dishonesty is out of control.”
Trump also destroyed the media, saying, “I have never seen more dishonest media, frankly than the political media.”
There is nothing else but to post his words…
This morning because many of our nations reporters and folks will not tell you the truth, and will not treat the wonderful people of our country with the respect that they deserve. And I hope going forward we can be a little bit, a little bit different and get along better if that’s possible. Maybe it’s not, and that’s OK too. Much of the media in Washington, D.C. and New York and Los Angeles, in particular, speaks not for the people but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system.
The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people, a tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it, to find out what’s going on because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control. I ran for president to represent the citizens of our country. I am here to change the broken system so it serves their families and their communities well. I am talking and really am taking
The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people, tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it, to find out what’s going on because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control. I ran for president to represent the citizens of our country. I am here to change the broken system so it serves their families and their communities well. I am talking and really am taking
CNN was shocked by the whole thing, of course, but did post an interesting list of some of the president’s most memorable lines that is worth looking over.
While the media may be wringing hands and spitting acid, Trump’s fans are loving all this.
One of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders, Fox News host Sean Hannity, put it well in a Tweet about the presser.
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) February 16, 2017
But his “fake news” detractors? Yep. They are furious.
IJReview.com culled a series of Tweets from the “fake media” showing they are none too happy, to say the least.
This not a laughing matter. I'm sorry, delegitimizing the press is unAmerican
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) February 16, 2017
Trump holding most defensive and unhinged press conference since Nixon said "I am not a crook." pic.twitter.com/WcoEJoQ8oX
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) February 16, 2017
this press conference is why… trump lost the popular vote by 3 million
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) February 16, 2017
Just a reminder if you're watching this press conference, Trump = Republicans. He couldn't do any of this without the support of his party.
— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) February 16, 2017
The Trump Effect: Entire newsroom transfixed by a press conference. pic.twitter.com/nXDuPEQQNC
— Eliana Johnson (@elianayjohnson) February 16, 2017
And Trump's cheering section ends the press conference with applause. Wow.
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) February 16, 2017