Trump, in unprecedented fashion for a president, rips press

Trump, in unprecedented fashion for a president, rips press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The leaks are real. But the news approximately them is fake. The White House is a fine-tuned machine. Russia is a ruse.

For its stunning moments & memorable one-liners, Donald Trump’s first solo news conference as president has no rivals in recent memory. For all the trappings of the White House & traditions of the forum, his performance was one of a swaggering, blustery campaigner, armed with grievances & primed to unload on his favorite targets.

In nearly an hour & a half at the podium, Trump bullied reporters, dismissed facts & then cracked a few caustic jokes — a combination that once made the candidate irresistible cable TV fodder. Now in office, he went even further, blaming the media for all yet sinking his not-yet-launched attempt to “make a deal” with Moscow.

That matters, Trump said in one of his many improvisational asides, because he’d been briefed & “I can tell you … nuclear holocaust would be like no other.”

This was his & his aides’ attempt to obtain the boss his groove back. Trump used the event to try to claw his young administration back from the brink after a defeat in court & the forced resignation of his top national security adviser.

He taunted reporters & waved away their attempts to fact-check him in real time. He (incorrectly) touted his Electoral College total & repeatedly blasted his November opponent — somehow mentioning Hillary Clinton more than anyone else in his defense of his administration’s early days. He bragged that his White House is “a fine-tuned machine” & claimed “there has never been a presidency that has done so much in such a short period of time.”

If only the news media would donate him credit. Over & over, he accused the political press of being dishonest & suggested that any negative coverage of his administration was “fake news.” He unloaded a torrent of grievances while positioning himself as the stand-in for the everyman, who, he declared, hates & distrusts reporters as much as he does.

“The press — the public doesn’t believe you people anymore. Now, maybe I had something to do with that. I don’t know. But they don’t believe you,” Trump charged. “But you’ve received to be at least a little bit fair, & that’s why the public sees it. They see it. They see it’s not fair. You take a look at some of your shows & you see the bias & the hatred.”

The hastily called news conference was not on the White House’s original schedule for Thursday, & some of Trump’s own aides were surprised when the president let slip at a morning meeting that he would hold the event in the East Room just hours later.

The performance was vintage Trump, a throwback to the messy, zinger-filled news conferences he held during the early stages of his campaign. And, when combined with a rally slated for Saturday in Florida, it appeared to be the start of a one-two punch meant to re-energize a president whose White House in recent days has been buffeted by crisis & paralyzed by dysfunction.

Yet it was a far cry from the “buck stops here” mantra popularized by Harry Truman & other presidents who believed that the ultimate responsibility for any White House struggles lay with the president himself. Trump was eager to assign blame elsewhere, ignoring the nation’s healthy economy & relative peace when he took office to say “to be honest, I inherited a mess, a mess, at home & abroad, a mess.”

He mostly blamed the media for his woes, rebuffing suggestions that he was undermining confidence in the press or threatening the First Amendment by trying to convince the nation that “the press honestly is out of control.”

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“The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk approximately it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people,” he said. “Tremendous disservice.”

Never before has a president stood in the White House & so publicly maligned the press or attacked reporters by name, according to presidential historians. Not even Richard Nixon in the days of Watergate.

“It was bizarre theater,” said Douglas Brinkley, a professor of history at Rice University. “He turned a presidential press conference into a reality TV show in which he can be the star & browbeat anyone who objects to him with the power of his office.”

But for Trump, it continued a defining theme & amplified his chief strategist Stephen Bannon’s decree that the media are “the opposition party.”

Trump had put claims of press prejudice at the center of his campaign in an unprecedented way & earlier this month falsely accused the media of refusing to cover terrorist attacks across the world. Though Thursday’s news conference was a messy, fact-challenged affair, it may well have been cheered by Trump supporters across the country who had packed arenas last year to jeer reporters & chant “tell the truth” at the press pen.

An Associated Press-GfK poll taken on the eve of the election revealed that 87 percent of Trump’s supporters saw the media as biased against him.

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President Donald Trump points to a member of the media as he takes questions during a news conferen …

Trump retains support among Republicans, & solid majorities of Americans say he is following through on his promises & is viewed as a strong leader, according to a Gallup survey. But his overall job approval rating is much lower than those of past presidents at the same point in their administrations. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 39 percent of Americans approve of his job performance while 56 percent disapprove.

For all of Trump’s complaints, he appeared to delight in sparring with reporters in what was only his second news conference since last July. Several times he extended the event in order to field more questions.

Not that he answered them all. He dodged inquiries approximately his campaign’s links to Russia & talked down several reporters before they could complete their questions.

On one subject in the news, he did defend the national security adviser he recently fired.

But he moreover made a point of complimenting a softball inquiry approximately the first lady as “a very nice question.” He teased CNN reporter Jim Acosta for having the same last name as his new pick for labor secretary — Alexander Acosta, whose appointment was ostensibly the reason for the news conference — & said he asked his staff to make sure the men weren’t related.

There were startling moments aplenty.

He chided a Jewish reporter wearing a kippah for asking a question approximately anti-Semitism. He asked an African-American reporter whether she could assist set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus. He displayed a rare moment of introspection when he discussed his love for kids amid his “very, very hard” decision whether to potentially deport young immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children.

But mostly it was Trump’s bravado on display, as when he incorrectly asserted that his Electoral College victory had been the largest of any president since Ronald Reagan — & then simply dismissed a reporter’s attempt to correct him.

“Well, I don’t know, I was given that information,” said Trump. “But it was a very substantial victory, do you agree with that?”

___

Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire

Politics & GovernmentElectionsDonald TrumpWhite House

Source: “Associated Press”

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