The press conference President Trump had Thursday might has been blogged about by yours truly as a "Trump Did Not Have A Great Day" post, but I'm not sure that's exactly how I would describe what transpired. I think a pretty good analysis of the entire presser with transcript was done by NPR, and I encourage looking at what I think is a pretty even-handed review. The presser itself took place while I was at work, so my impressions of what was said largely came through checking my Twitter feed at work whilst at lunch--and you would be quite reasonable to assume my Twitter follows lean left, and the conservatives and Republicans that I do follow lean "never Trump". My impression was that the nearly 1.5 hour event was kind of a damn mess.
I guess I still consider it a damn mess, but I recognize that for people who are pro-Trump, this is not a problem. Did he say things that weren't entirely factually true--sure, but they were "truthy" in the sense of fitting in with his worldview and specific hyperbolic style. Was he basically pissing and moaning about bad press coverage? You bet--but many people are critical of and even distrust mainstream media journalism. Also, I think because what Trump does and says is so highly different from what conventional politicians do or say, a person used to covering more traditional figures is liable to read his eccentricities as more erratic or disordered or imply that he's collapsing or self-destructing or that this one news thing is going to just disable his presidency--
It doesn't work like that, though. I think in both the liberal and conservative camps, we've gotten a little bit inured to clickbait-y titles that suggest that some figure was "destroyed" or "slayed" or "totally owned" by some event. But this never the actual case. Show me a chalk outline around a greasy spot where that individual once stood and I would call that "destroyed". "Made to look uncomfortable or even a bit emotionally aroused" is not actually "destroyed". In other words, from a liberal perspective, I am inherently distrustful of people who want to positively state that this early in a presidency, any number of off-the-wall utterances taking place can mark the end of a presidency. Especially for someone whose entire candidacy, nomination, and general election tactics were predicated on--what would I even call it? "Off-the-wall-ism"?
That said, as a critic of political communications and policy, I guess there might be any number of blogposts I could spin off of any given exchange or paragraph. I mean, seriously. Even basic things like Trump's fetish for discussing his electoral win is simply peculiar. His 304 electoral vote win was not the most significant since President Reagan. He likes saying it was "306" and seems to want to imply it was a massive landslide. It just wasn't. Or citing Rasmussen's claim that he has 55% approval--which disagrees with Pew and Gallup--but still wouldn't qualify as "through the roof" relative to being in what should be the "honeymoon phase" of his presidency. Which he isn't getting because his White House is not a "finely-tuned machine" (OMG--this was a thing he said!) but more like some good old boys making their way the only way they know how, which might be a little bit more than the law will allow.
He's obsessed with "ratings", but doesn't quite correlate the concept that popularity and effectiveness are not the same thing. And he's not yet achieved effectiveness despite his claims--shit like the botched Yemen raid and his skimpy staffing are on him, not the people reporting on him. He seems dilatory about vetting people or things. His "I can't believe it's not a Muslim ban" was not properly checked out. Leadership should include sharing responsibility for failures and taking a problem-solving approach to challenges--not complaining about them. For a person with business executive experience, he does not seem to be translating any acquired skills to government executive capacity. This is worrisome, because that is the exact flexibility his voters seemed to be counting on.
For blaming others for his own failures, look no further than the title of this post--Trump wants to claim that the leaks coming from his general circle are real, but the news they result in is fake. If the leaks are genuine inside information--why wouldn't the reporting of them constitute real information? It's kind of hard for me to reconcile the major WikiLeaks fan, who cheered on the possibility of Russia hacking Hillary Clinton's emails (which never did happen) with the POTUS so pissed-off about the impromptu transparency experiment from what must only be disgruntled folks under his unique leadership. I would suppose that if the news was made-up, it would be fake. But if the leaks are real, the news can't be much else. And "fake" is not either synonymous with "stuff the president would rather not be discussed".
But regarding the recent resigfiring or firignation of former General Michael Flynn, again, Trump is trying to have things all kinds of ways. Flynn did something wrong enough to be fired (or have his resignation accepted) in committing a sin of omission to VP Pence over the content of his conversation with Russian officials. But Trump might have been fully briefed on that and allowed Pence to be in the dark--so why did that happen? Also, Trump allows that the actual breach of the Logan Act in discussing ending sanctions with Russia seems to have been Flynn's job, and he has no problem with that--notwithstanding that the law doesn't let you go on the "making foreign policy clock" before you're sworn in. Also--Flynn lied to the FBI when questioned about it apparently, which would also be a felony. But that is somehow not the bit Trump is concerned with. He wants it to look like Flynn was great and got fired anyway because Trump was swayed by fake news and despite everything you ever heard from Trump and his kids, he doesn't have anything to do with Russia so why are you even looking at this disagreeable thing that the Trump administration is apparently all balls deep in?
That sure sounds sincere, and also really fucked up.
But, and don't think I'm forgetting his thinking that all black people know each other because April Ryan and the CBC, he really showed his behind on the anti-Semitism question, because this is his second bite at the apple, and he jacked it up.
On Wednesday, he had a presser with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and was asked about the rise of anti-Semitism occurring contemporaneously with his campaign and what he would say to reassure Jewish people alarmed by this thing. And Trump sort of mentioned his electoral votes (OMG--so obsessed!) and then eventually got back around to saying Jewish people would feel loved because
some of his best friends his family members were Jews.
Not the most persuasive or even sane argument in the world. But when an observant Orthodox Jew asked, even starting with saying Trump isn't being accused of anti-Semitism himself, Trump snaps at him, saying he should sit down, and defends himself in a way that isn't really such a great defense. The rise of hate in the US is real. The threats against Jews are real. They are terrorism--but President Trump can't even use his bully pulpit to say that people shouldn't attack religious minorities? He can use his bully pulpit to strike out at Nordstrom over his daughter's clothing line (which is ongepotchket) but doesn't have the leadership skill to say he disavows anti-Semites and thinks they should stop harassing decent Americans?
What we get instead is dreck. He could have called out the Pepe Frog brigade who joke about ovens and dissemble about whether this image or that is really a sheriff's star and offered a defense of people with real fears. (But no. I don't think so. When you can't even mention Jews to commemorate the Holocaust, you are basically too invested in cultivating the sensitivities of deplorables to pour the anti-Semitic piss out of your jackboot.)
He called it--his critics were going to accuse him of ranting and raving. But he didn't so much rant or rave as piss and moan, and the narrative he provided was full of sound and fury, and signified the nothing his administration thus far was good for. And also reminded those of us who care about such things, why it was all so very, very bad.