An Undisciplined Media Unwittingly Helped a Wounded Trump at His Bizarre Press Conference
Let’s stipulate that President Donald Trump’s bizarre and hyper-combative marathon press conference was an embarrassment for our country and a degradation of his office. In a rational world, Trump’s narcissistic and infantile display of deceitful delusion would have repercussions because his own party would condemn him and a significant majority of the American public would repudiate his behavior.
However, after witnessing this kind of show repeatedly in the last three years of the national nightmare that is having to pretend Donald Trump is of legitimate presidential timbre, we know that of this is unlikely to be the case. Instead today’s ridiculous press conference further proved that the media seems to not understand (or care?) that the definition of insanity is to continue doing the same thing over and over, all while expecting a different result.
The primary “result” of this press conference was that Trump mostly, though not totally, got exactly what he wanted, and that was largely because of the undisciplined way the media responded to him. Like a wounded animal who needed to show his herd that he is still strong and in charge, Trump used the highly unpopular news media as a weak opponent on whom he could flex his combative muscles.
Trump’s fans will never leave him as long as he keeps fighting and continues to make the “enemies of the people” look bad. Trump’s constant drumbeat, with the help of the state-run “conservative” media, of attacking the mainstream media as “Fake News!” has been so successful with his base that he has turned the fourth estate into the equivalent of Wily E. Coyote in a constant but doomed pursuit of him, the Roadrunner.
By playing right into his game (largely because they know it makes for entertaining television and makes them more famous), the media allowed Trump’s behavior, which would seem abhorrent to most Americans in a vacuum, to appear to his fans as justified self-defense. While no one is suggesting that he shouldn’t have been asked tough questions (at least half of the inquires he faced were amateurish wastes of time and lots of important questions were never asked), taking his bait and engaging in direct confrontation, without any real substance to back it up, is counterproductive to anything other than raising the reporter’s Q-rating and Twitter followers.
For instance, does anyone really believe that CNN’s Jim Acosta wasn’t absolutely thrilled when he was inappropriately personally attacked by Trump? He benefitted, in his universe, far more for that spectacle than he would have if he had simply asked better questions and showed that the president’s behavior in response to them was far worse than a relatively lowly reporter.
As for the media’s many self-serving post-presser complaints about Trump’s reaction to them simply doing their job of holding the president accountable, their lack of self-awareness is staggering. This argument might be a winner with non-liberals if these very same media personalities had not had their pom-poms out cheerleading for Barack Obama for nine consecutive years before then suddenly remembering their supposedly sacred role the instant Trump was elected.
If the media really wants to expose Trump for who he really is, the best method is to essentially use the karate concept of absorbing his energy and using it against him. When they fight back in such an over-the-top reality show-type fashion, instead of showing Trump as being profoundly unworthy of his office, they diminish the entire proceedings in a way which makes many people think that it isn’t all Trump’s fault. For others, the entertainment aspect of the fiasco is actually well worth the price of dramatically shrinking our vital institutions.
Had Trump just been asked pointed and substantive questions (how the hell did no one ask him why he has backed away from his “100 percent” promise to testify in front of Robert Mueller?!), to which he then had his unprovoked temper tantrums, the public’s reaction would be far more negative to him. He desperately needs an enemy to engage with him because, as president with a microphone which can’t be taken away, he knows that he can do no worse than a draw in any situation, and will usually end up being seen by his supporters as the “winner.”
Interestingly, the biggest “news” out of the press conference probably dealt with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who would be the best candidate for Trump to use as his secondary “boogie monster” after the “Fake News!” media. The biggest decision Trump must make with a Democratic House is whether he decides to use Pelosi as a target of Republican rage, or if he tries to mollify her by offering liberal policy deals, which would likely appeal to his actual beliefs as a life-long Manhattan Democrat.
It is clear from his actions today that his prepared to go in either direction, but seems to prefer the latter gambit (which should scare the hell out of those Republicans who still pretend to at some level to be conservatives). If the media obsessed 1/10th as much about Trump promising to force Republicans to vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker as they are about how they got their feelings hurt by his mean words about them, things might actually change.
Instead, we are just going to keep going through this exact same new cycle, with the only difference being how much Trump and the media will have to raise the temperature in order to keep everyone sufficiently entertained.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at email@example.com
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.