Friday, January 13, 2017

I'm not a journalist; I don't...

...even play one on TV. I'm just a proverbial "blogger in a bathrobe in his parents' basement," except that I actually work on the first floor of my own home. But I am wearing a bathrobe right now and this room does have the feel of a basement.

Having said all that, I think McKay Coppins was spot-on in his characterization of Trump's masterful handling of the media at his "press conference" this week. Here's a sample (my emphasis):

At the dawn of the Trump presidency, America’s political press corps is feeling anxious, territorial, threatened—and the president-elect showed Wednesday that he’s ready to take advantage.

In the 18 hours leading up to Trump’s news conference, the press had been busy obsessing over BuzzFeed’s controversial publication of a dossier containing salacious, and unverified, claims about his relationship with Russia. Knowing they would field questions about the story, Trump and his team came prepared with a divide-and-conquer strategy—seizing on the intra-industry ethics debate surrounding the report to drive a wedge between their media adversaries.

Trump spent the rest of the news conference demonstrating his newfound respect for members of the press by taunting them, chiding them, and happily hurling insults at them.

The long-awaited news conference proceeded generally along the same lines, with Trump easily manhandling the press corps while access-starved correspondents competed to get their questions answered on camera.

Here's just one example of what I thought was a colossal blunder by one of the reporters present:

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President-elect, can you stand here today, once and for all and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign. And if you do indeed believe that Russia was behind the hacking, what is your message to Vladimir Putin right now?

And here was Trump's non-answer:

TRUMP: He shouldn’t be doing it. He won’t be doing it. Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I’m leading than when other people have led it. You will see that. Russia will respect our country more. He shouldn’t have done it. I don’t believe that he will be doing it more now.

We have to work something out, but it’s not just Russia. Take a look at what’s happened. You don’t report it the same way; 22 million accounts were hacked in this country by China. And that’s because we have no defense. That’s because we’re run by people that don’t know what they’re doing. Russia will have far greater respect for our country when I’m leading it and I believe and I hope — maybe it won’t happen, it’s possible. But I won’t be giving (ph) a little reset button like Hillary. Here, press this piece of plastic. A guy looked at her like what is she doing? There’s no reset button. We’re either going to get along or we’re not. I hope we get along, but if we don’t, that’s possible too.

But Russia and other countries — and other countries, including China, which has taken total advantage of us economically, totally advantage of us in the South China Sea by building their massive fortress, total. Russia, China, Japan, Mexico, all countries will respect us far more, far more than they do under past administrations.

Imagine, instead, if the question had been simply:

Can you stand here today, once and for all and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign? (Stop.)

And if the press had actually demanded an answer?

My guess is that over time reporters will get a lot savvier at covering President Trump. As I wrote yesterday, he's very, very good at this but his shtick won't last forever. In the meantime, stop asking this guy multi-part questions! It just makes it easier for him to dodge them, like in the example above. Ask Trump point-blank questions and make him answer them.

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