Tuesday, November 22, 2016

First Post-Press President

So, which statement below is the most shocking:

Statement No. 1: President-elect Donald Trump has not held a formal press conference since July.

Statement No. 2: The press expects the formality of a press conference in order to disseminate news.

We’ll get on to the shocking bit here in a moment, after an aside on sides:

I’m not taking the side of Donald Trump. I did not vote for the man. And while he is the president-elect, I’ll be watching what he does with a wary eye.

I’m not taking the side of the press either. Much of the national press has been openly hostile toward the president-elect, both via righteous indignation and bitter spitefulness.

And, eh, the title probably already gave my opinion away. That the press expects the formality of a press conference in order to disseminate news is the more shocking statement.

One of Trump’s campaign platforms – and this is likely to be carried through his presidency – is disdain for the media. His supporters love his disdain, for both good and bad. And given his proclivity for self-aggrandizement and Twitter, the man likely sees no reason to have the press filter any of his news or ask any pesky questions, when he can go straight to his voters via Twitter, YouTube, and other direct means that let him control the message and yet still get it out to a mass audience.

He wins.

And he makes the national media look like a bunch of losers as they have to report on his tweets or his YouTube videos as news, or leave the front pages or news segments empty.

And with Steve Bannon (yuck ick ptoo schveinhunt!) as a presidential strategist, Trump will have no shortage of Internet outlets willing to present his news unvarnished, just as he wants it.

Trump, in short, does not need the press. And his ardent supporters will love him for not using it, seeing his disdain for the press as part of his promise to draining the DC swamp, which is just as full of journalists as it is of bureaucrats in their mind.

This will, of course, annoy the national press to no end. Trump’s fans will love it.

This will, of course, annoy the liberals to no end. Trump’s fans will love it.

This will, of course, lead to even less accountability on the Executive Branch, which is a terrible, no-good, awful thing to happen.

Or will it?

I think it won’t.

If Trump’s press disdain continues, leakers will abound and revel in sneaking tidbits and bombshells to the national press. Leaking is a DC tradition, and isn’t likely to stop if the Big Man in Charge doesn’t like the press, because the same venues that a press-hating president can use to his advantage also lend advantage to those within the draining swamp to focus light where it’s needed.

Richard Nixon’s disdain for the press was legendary. He blacklisted many a reporter and news organization. He really wanted to be the first post-press President, and we saw a precursor to that with his “Checkers” speech and the many appeals through the press and outside of it to the Silent Majority. Technology just wasn’t yet on Nixon’s side. Despite his disdain for the press, news still got out.

Today, it’s a different game, with the fractured television news landscape but more importantly with the Internet. Trump can turn to Twitter or YouTube and get his message straight to the people who want it, without interference or filtering or gatekeeping or curation or hostility from the press.

And the national press need not be hamstrung if there are no formal press conferences to attend. If they are, they’re the Wusses of the Swamp and deserve to be driven out.

The national press folks are not wusses. They are the Madame Medusa of the Swamp:

Trump’s position on the press, of course, will not endear him to them, because to DC journalists, it’s all about access. So they’ll be even more openly hostile to him. For good and bad. And we’ll get ourselves into a feedback loop that’ll be just as disastrous as when the wizards at Unseen University discovered that hole that led to another universe and built a privy over it. Turns out the hole didn’t lead to another universe, but led instead to a disused University cellar, which quickly filled.

So the lesson here: Trump does not need the press. And if the press needs Trump, they need to make him – or his supporters – need them. Trump may help them in his own erratic way, but I wouldn’t count on a full suck-up from Trump to the press on any account. How they national press will get Trump or his supporters to need them is a mystery.  But pouting over the lack for formal press conferences isn’t going to do it.

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