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Trump’s Press Conference Performance Confirmed Everything Bad We Thought About Him

Trump East Room Press Conference

For most of last night and all of this morning, and likely continuing into the weekend and the Sunday shows, nearly the sole topic of discussion has been the news conference that President Trump held yesterday afternoon in the East Room of the White House. It was a hastily arranged affair, seemingly announced only two hours prior to when it actually occurred. It started out normal enough with Trump announcing that he had selected Alexander Acosta, who served as both a United States Attorney in Florida and in the Justice Department in Washington under President George W. Bush before becoming Dean of Florida International University School of Law, for Labor Secretary to replace Anthony Pudzer, who had withdrawn his name the day before. Oddly enough, though, Acosta was not present for the announcement and his appointment was only part of a long, rambling monologue that Trump gave before taking a single question from the assembled reporters, a monologue in which he continued his bashing of the media, his complaints about leaks regarding the contact that Michael Flynn and other members of his Administration had with Russian officials, and his parallel insistence that while the leaks were deplorable the reporting about them was, somehow, fake news. And that was just beginning of a nearly ninety-minute affair that left most viewers wondering what in the world they had just watched:

WASHINGTON — President Trump, smarting from a series of crises, moved his surrogates aside on Thursday and assigned the rescue of his month-old presidency to the only spokesman he’s ever really trusted — himself.

For days, a frustrated and simmering president fumed inside the West Wing residence about what aides said he saw as his staff’s inadequate defense and the ineffectiveness of his own tweets. Over the objections of some top advisers who wanted to steer him away from confrontation, Mr. Trump demanded to face the media, determined to reject the narrative that his administration is sinking into chaos, scandal and incompetence.

In a rowdy, free-for-all news conference hastily staged in the East Room, Mr. Trump attempted to deflect attention from news coverage about Russian intelligence, the resignation of his national security adviser, the defeat of his labor secretary nominee, and deepening questions about his ability to govern.

“I turn on the T.V., open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos,” Mr. Trump said as he attempted — with little discipline — to read from prepared remarks listing his accomplishments since being inaugurated one month ago. “Chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.”

From there he offered a disjointed and emotional performance in which he appeared to release pent-up anger and suspicion about the “dishonest media,” Democrats, intelligence officials, “criminal” leakers, Hillary Clinton, environmentalists and judges.

Taking a room of reporters and the television audience on a journey through the Trump psyche, the president was at times angry (at the news media), playful (“I love this,”) bewildered (by “bias and hatred”), occasionally respectful (“It’s a great honor to be with you”) and needy (“I’m really not a bad person, by the way”).

Ever the salesman, Mr. Trump painted his presidency as he wishes it to be: an Electoral College victory so massive it was historic — a falsehood pointed out by a reporter in the room — plus accomplishments in the first four weeks that have outpaced, he said, every other president.

For his supporters, the performance was certain to be energizing. Mr. Trump turned sober questions from journalists into, at times, mesmerizing television. He attempted to reassert his command of “dishonest” journalists at a time when the news media is questioning his capacity to lead. It all made the brooding boss feel better, people close to Mr. Trump said.

The news conference, they said, was Mr. Trump’s best effort at spitting the bit out of his mouth and escaping the bridle of the West Wing, where he views his only way to communicate his side of any argument is his 140-character limited Twitter feed.

Still, it is unlikely that Mr. Trump’s 77-minute performance will divert much long-term attention from questions about his campaign’s relationship with Russia, or reassure wavering Republicans on Capitol Hill that their agenda is on track. Yet Mr. Trump’s close allies said he had met his more immediate goal of soothing himself with a sense of control over his own administration.

Mr. Trump, who has long required employees to sign nondisclosure agreements, has been unnerved, aides said, by leaks big and small, ranging from disclosures about his evenings spent alone in the White House residence to the details of his calls with global leaders. Now, Mr. Trump finds himself at the mercy of a vast, leaky bureaucracy.

“The first thing I thought of when I heard about it is: How does the press get this information that’s classified? How do they do it?” Mr. Trump said of the leaks. “The press should be ashamed of themselves.”

The news conference was not without its high points for the embattled president. His initial statement about a surge of optimism in the business world and more jobs was, however fleetingly, a focused message on the issue that helped elect him. And he lured a few reporters into a trap of debating the quality of their reporting as opposed to the merits of their original questions.

And after complaining to aides about the dour delivery of his press secretary, Sean Spicer, at the daily televised briefing, Mr. Trump laced his own banter with humor.

But he also revealed how crushing he is finding the onslaught of criticism that a president receives, saying that he has long preferred the business media to the political press corps he must now deal with.

With the same lack of discipline that his supporters on the campaign trail found refreshing, Mr. Trump lashed out at the news media, which he called “out of control.” He accused The New York Times of publishing what he termed a “discredited” story — evidently a reference to an article this week about current and former American officials who say that phone records and intercepted calls show that members of his campaign had repeated contact with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.

He said The Wall Street Journal had published an article that was “almost as disgraceful.” He mocked Jim Acosta, a CNN correspondent, saying at one point, “Yeah, go ahead, Jimmy.”

His exchange with Mr. Acosta — a frequent foil for Mr. Trump in his news conferences on the campaign trail — made it clear that the president believes that the American people are with him, and against the news media. “That’s why the public sees it,” Mr. Trump said. “They see it. They see it’s not fair. The public is smart, they understand it.”

Mr. Trump also blamed former President Barack Obama — whom he had often described in glowing terms since his inauguration — for handing him a failing government.

“I inherited a mess,” Mr. Trump asserted. “It’s a mess. At home and abroad, a mess. Low pay, low wages, mass instability overseas, no matter where you look.”

At one point, Mr. Trump searched for a new face among the veteran White House reporters who were challenging him and settled on a journalist wearing a skullcap whom he clearly did not recognize, hoping for the best.

“Are you a friendly reporter?” Mr. Trump said. The response of the reporter, Jake Turx of Ami magazine, a Jewish publication, could not be heard in the room.

The president’s anger then flared when Mr. Turx asked about a rise in anti-Semitic incidents around the country.

Telling Mr. Turx to sit down and accusing him of lying about asking a “very straight, simple question,” Mr. Trump rejected the charge that he is personally anti-Semitic — something the reporter had explicitly said he was not asserting.

Perhaps the lowest point of the entire affair came when April Ryan, the Washington correspondent for American Urban Radio Network, asked Trump why he had not scheduled a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus yet despite the fact that they had requested such a meeting in a letter sent just days prior to his Inauguration. Trump responded by claiming that he had a meeting set up with committee member Congressman Elijah Cummings but that it was canceled after Cummings was told not to meet with the incoming President, a claim that seemed absurd on its face given that Cummings is a senior member of the CBC and not known as being someone who easily takes orders from others. Cummings later confirmed that Trump had not told the truth and that there had never been a meeting scheduled between the two men. As the exchange with Ryan continued, Trump asked the reporter is she knew the members of the CBC and if she could schedule a meeting for him, a statement that made one wonder if Trump thought Ryan was his secretary or whether he figured that she would know the members of the CBC since she too is African-American.

At other points in the press conference, Trump continued his long-standing practice of insulting the media as useless, treating individual reporters such as CNN’s Jim Acosta (no relation to the Labor Department nominee noted above) in an especially condescending manner, and making the same false claims that he has in the past. For example, he claimed that his Electoral College win was the largest since Ronald Reagan, a claim which is, as I have noted before, a demonstrable lie. When NBC’s Peter Alexander gave him a live fact check on the claim by pointing out that both President Obama and President Clinton had larger Electoral College victory, Trump responded by claiming that he meant the largest by a Republican. When Alexander responded by noting that President George H.W. Bush had gotten more than 400 Electoral Votes in 1988, Trump responded by claiming that this is what he was “told,” without specifying exactly who told him what was obviously a falsehood. In reality, the only President who Trump beats out in terms of Electoral College wins is George W. Bush who, of course, won rather narrow victories in both 2000 and 2004.

All of this led to an amusing fact-check video on this morning’s Morning Joe:

The entire affair left one wondering a simple question that I asked on Twitter shortly after it ended:

It’s safe to say that there has never been a press conference like the one much of the nation watched unfold yesterday afternoon, not under President Nixon during the height of Watergate when reporters like Dan Rather were grilling him while the walls of scandal, not under President Reagan during Iran-Contra or under Clinton during the Lewinsky affair and impeachment, and not under President Bush 43 during the lowest points of the Iraq War. It’s as if Donald Trump lives in a completely different reality from the rest of us and that he has no awareness of what’s happening around him. While ever President is likely on somewhat of an unsteady footing during the first months in office, Trump now seems completely out of his element and lashing out irrationally in much the same way that he did during the Presidential campaign, which perhaps explains why he’s scheduled a campaign rally for Fort Lauderdale this weekend while he has down at Mar-a-Lago for the third weekend in a row since becoming President. Based on reporting, it seems clear that his Administration is internally dysfunctional, with Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus apparently engaged in a battle for influence and control that will likely only end with the departure of one or the other in the near future. They’ve bungled everything from the immigration executive order rollout to their cabinet appointments, and they can’t seem to stay on message. Perhaps it will improve in the future, but that’s only going to happen if an adult takes charge inside the West Wing and if they somehow manage to get the President himself to stay on message. Neither of those things seem to be very likely.

None of this should come as a surprise, of course. This is the Donald Trump we saw running for President, and the Donald Trump that has been a ‘celebrity’ since the 1980s. Anyone who thought that actually becoming President would change him in any respect was being incredibly naive, and the odds that he’s going to change at all at any time over the course of the next four years, or longer, are pretty much non-existent. The problem that this leaves the nation, of course, is that this is a man we’re stuck with as President until at least January 2021. As bad as these first four weeks have been, they’ve all unfolded over the course of what has been a relatively calm period of time in domestic and world affairs. What happens when, inevitably, Trump is faced with his first real international or domestic crisis? How will he react when he faces his first Congressional defeat, or a rebuke from the Judiciary even more substantial than the one dealt last week by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals? Or when his poll numbers dip even lower than they already are, which they inevitably will at some point in the future? If his behavior so far is any indication, it won’t be pretty and, in the wrong circumstances, it could end up being disastrous. Of course, the American people knew this long before Election Day. Many of us spent more than a year warning about this man. Now he’s President, though, and we all have cause to be concerned about where he’ll taking this country while he’s in power.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Trump’s all over the place quoting Rush Limbaugh as saying that Trump’s press conference was one of the best he (Limbaugh) had ever heard.

    ReplyReply

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  2. Mark Ivey says:

    “Trump now seems completely out of his element and lashing out irrationally”

    He just needs to do some more “Nuremberg type rallies” and he will be RIGHT as rain again.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

  3. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    I’m sure Jake, JKB, Guarneri and the like loved the performance by the worlds most visible sufferer of Dunning-Kruger effect.
    For the people more interested in reality it’s pretty apparent that the man is not able to perform the duties of the office. He makes Bush 43 look brilliant.
    I don’t know how this happens; but someone in power needs to recognize the fact that Trump is not in any way capable of handling a significant crisis.
    I mean…I want to laugh about the clown…he’s unhinged…but it’s going to be a serious tragedy when something happens.

    ReplyReply

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 3

  4. Lit3Bolt says:

    Trump is informed by Fox News and talk radio and kook websites like Infowars.

    The fact that conservatives and libertarians never called out these charlatans UNTIL NOW is telling.

    Oh NOW it’s a crisis, that we have a POTUS who actually believes Fox News!

    So let me deliver a message from America’s liberals:

    F— you.

    You are part of the problem. You are part of Trumpism. You have enabled these flarkers for years and years, and NOW, you want flarking LIBERALS to SAVE YOU, because you cannot count on your fellow Republicans/Libertarians.

    Here’s your Ayn Rand President. Too bad he happens to be a Peter Keating, instead of a Howard Roark. But democracy/meritocracy something something, except, OH WAIT, we live in a flarking popular reality TeeVee show, and if Hillary Clinton is BORING or DOGGED BY QUESTIONS FROM REPUBLICANS/AKA HER NATURAL POLITICAL ADVERSARIES….

    And you know what annoys me THE MOST about flarking Republicans/Libertarians?

    You could have had it all.

    You could have had a Grand Bargain cutting SS/Medicare under Clinton, or Bush, or Obama.

    But you couldn’t, because you know why? The Baby Boomers were too old by then.

    And then Fox News ruled that compromise with Democrats equaled treason.

    And that was game over. You hitched your fate to Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh, and Matt Drudge.

    It worked for a time. Bush squeaked by on 271 votes, and was the weakest war President in history. No biggie.

    Then it lead to the election of the first black man to POTUS.

    That, of course, lead to the “whitelash” of Trump. Also Clinton fatigue. It’s hard to separate.

    So now we have a POTUS that is essentially, Richard the Second. Convinced of his Divine Mandate to Rule by his extremely weak Electoral College victory, he has demanded FEALTY and LOYALTY AND FRIENDLINESS from the press.

    And he watches cable news, and doesn’t listen to his intelligence.

    And Bannon is content to play the role to Ellsworth Toohey.

    Great job, Republicans/Libertarians. Thanks. Treason in defense of Russia is the price you pay for a small vial of liberal tears.

    Because as long as liberals are mad about it, it’s worth doing. Selling secrets to Russia? Good. Destroying NATO? Amen. Abandoning Israel? White Power.

    ReplyReply

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  5. Moosebreath says:

    The ever-shrill Paul Krugman nails it in his column today. Key paragraph:

    “The point is that you can’t understand the mess we’re in without appreciating not just the potential corruption of the president, but the unmistakable corruption of his party — a party so intent on cutting taxes for the wealthy, deregulating banks and polluters and dismantling social programs that accepting foreign subversion is, apparently, a small price to pay.”

    ReplyReply

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 38 Thumb down 4

  6. CSK says:

    @Mark Ivey:

    That’s why he’s going to Melbourne, Florida, tomorrow: to hold a “mega”rally” in a hangar at the airport. You can obtain tickets at his website.

    And yes, he’ll feel much better after the waves of love from his cult members have washed over him.

    ReplyReply

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  7. Pch101 says:

    Trump succeeds in being both a glaring aberration in the history of presidential politics and a logical extension of Republican party politics at the same time. It’s a remarkable, er, achievement.

    It goes to show you that combining bad ideas with populist fervor only makes those bad ideas worse. What makes populists populists is their contempt for the system, i.e. their inability to play nicely with others. But it isn’t possible to make a government function and be that tone deaf at the same, as this circus of failure has demonstrated.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

  8. Argon says:

    Oh, it wasn’t an SNL skit?

    Dang, we’re screwed.

    Over that The American Conservative, Pat Buchanan is ruminating (like a cow?) that the ‘deep state’ is attacking Trump. But really, ‘The Deep State’ is just standing in a long line like so many others.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

  9. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Breathtaking, simply breathtaking

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  10. James in Bremerton, WA says:

    The GOP Senate seems to be getting a clue. The Russia stuff is DoA. Two committees will begin, and then comes the drip drip drip from the world’s intel communities. GOP chairman so-and-so will sadly shake his head, compelled to widen the scope of the investigation to save his butt.

    This is the only armor left for the GOP, which is being taken down in real time by the man-baby disaster. Seems like sane minds in the Senate are waking up to this. The House? Not so much…

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  11. michael reynolds says:

    The corruption is beginning to seep out into plain view.

    SHANGHAI (AP) — China has awarded President Donald Trump a valuable new trademark. The win comes after a 10-year dispute and raises a host of ethical questions about the president’s foreign intellectual property.

    China’s Trademark Office posted the registration of Trump’s new mark, which became official Feb. 14, to its website Wednesday. It gives Trump the right to use his name for building construction services in China through 2027.

    This may be the first foreign trademark Trump has received as president, but it’s unlikely to be the last. He has 49 pending trademark applications in China alone.

    Remember how Trump was against the one China policy? And then how he suddenly switched sides?

    He was bribed.

    ReplyReply

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  12. CSK says:

    Everything that reasonable people fear about Trump–the unhinged stream-of-consciousness rambling, the bluster, the rage, the paranoia, the ignorance, the feelings of persecution–is what his fan club members love about him.

    This can’t be emphasized enough. The crazier Trump gets, the more his loyalists will support him.

    It will be interesting to see how the rally/lovefest in Melbourne turns out tomorrow.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  13. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    So, Liberals pointing out that conservatives have lied FOR YEARS to forward their corporate agenda… and every occasion of IOKIYAR…

    Means that LIBERALS are responsible for Trump and the complete bats#it insanity of this ramshackle administration ????.

    O M G that is the wildest spin I have ever heard, and I remember Nixon vividly.

    Kudos for the most dramatic lack of grasp on reality !!!

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  14. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yep. Bribed. Blatantly.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  15. KM says:

    Trump now seems completely out of his element and lashing out irrationally in much the same way that he did during the Presidential campaign

    Trumpkins are praising their Dear Leader for his pwnage of the press. He showed them who’s Boss (and incidentally, treated a black female reporter like the damn help she clearly was) so all this “non-sense” about him being out of his mind depth are clearly librul lies and fake news to confuse right-thinking Americans. I’m mean, like look at him! He got up there and totally proved he’s the bestest President and that these illegal leakers are going down! Who cares that they were reporting a crime Trump was hoping you wouldn’t notice, they’re criminals!! And Hillary!!! OMG did you know, she lost! BIGLY! To him, Donald J Trump your Awesome President for now and forever, amen. Presser over, now go get me a sammich set up my meeting woman.

    Truly, this was an ass-whooping for the ages, Doug. To say otherwise is to be like Shepard Smith, a FOX traitor who lies about how the President is wrong about stuff and is mean. Don’t be like Shepard Smith, Doug. They’ll cast you out into the abyss with Megyn Kelly and all the other conservatives who won’t fall in line for the Donald. You might as well hang out with the libruls – I hear they have cookies over on the Dark Side. :)

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  16. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    The Mango Mussolini now has an approval rating of just 38% according to Gallup.
    An 18% drop since he was sworn in just 4 weeks ago.
    plum·met
    ˈpləmət/
    verb
    gerund or present participle: plummeting
    fall or drop straight down at high speed.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  17. rachel says:

    Wanna bet the SNL writers are working like fiends right now to do this press conference justice?

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  18. Pch101 says:

    @KM:

    Half of our citizens have an IQ below 100.

    Hey, they have to vote for someone.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  19. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: For the lawyers, how is receiving a trademark, which is a thing of value, from the Chinese government not a violation of the emoluments clause?

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  20. mannning says:

    No one expected the progressives/liberals or the media to offer any support for Trump. He presents himself as not quite all there, yet he takes on the Left, the Media, Leftist judges, Obama’s ideas of governing via regulations and EOs, and any individual that challenges him openly. Obviously, these targets are lashing back at a furious rate, organizing nation-wide disloyal opposition at every turn, in the hope of taking Trump down.

    Meanwhile, the nation’s critical businesses, foreign involvements, military rebuilding, and eradication of much of Obama’s rule continues unabated, if somewhat delayed here and there, in any practical sense. Both Obamacare and Tax reform are on the agenda, and these items will raise even greater opposition from the left, not to mention perhaps the most galling decision to fill the empty Supreme Court seat, and the most important next one as well, with conservatives. Were it not so drawn out and raucous, this show would beat the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey three ring circus for entertainment.

    ReplyReply

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  21. Jake says:

    Every conservative I’ve personally heard from thought his press conference was excellent and long overdue. I’ve listened to those on the right for many years complaining that Republicans never fight back when they are slandered and lies and misrepresentations are spread about them. Now, we have someone who will fight back hard and not just lie down and take it.

    Naturally, heavily biased, partisan, unethical “reporters” are outraged that they can’t just get by with doing whatever they feel like no matter how dishonest and manipulative without getting called out for it. At the same time, they are getting so explicit with their Trump hatred that even non-partisan people couldn’t avoid noticing it. It’s very hard not to admire Trump’s guts. He’ll go right into the lion’s den and antagonize the violent lions without hesitation. The “press’s” refusal to recognize how millions of Americans actually view Trump (and them) is one of the reasons Trump won.

    ReplyReply

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  22. Pch101 says:

    @Jake:

    Every conservative I’ve personally heard from thought his press conference was excellent and long overdue.

    Thanks for confirming my point that American conservatism is no longer a political movement, but a social club for stupid people.

    ReplyReply

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 46 Thumb down 3

  23. James in Bremerton, WA says:

    @Jake: How is it “gutsy” to act like a 10 year old spoiled child?

    That is what he is. You cannot avoid this truth, Jake. Until you treat him as such, no one is going to take the GOP at all seriously.

    ReplyReply

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  24. David M says:

    @Jake:

    What purpose does going after the media serve? How does it actually accomplish anything?

    ReplyReply

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  25. David M says:

    @mannning:

    [Trump]takes on…Obama’s ideas of governing via regulations and EOs

    Um, it’s been obvious since before the election that Trump is going to be the executive order president. It’s literally all he has. And yet people who raged about OEs from Obama support Trump.

    ReplyReply

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  26. ltmcdies says:

    @rachel: don’t they just have to copy the transcript from yesterday?

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. ltmcdies says:

    @David M: all I saw was a guy yelling at another bunch of guys and ladies then trying to get the black lady to do some scheduling work for him.

    other than that …it really was an SNL sketch in the making.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  28. David M says:

    @ltmcdies:

    I won’t disagree that that it was completely bonkers, but the Trumpkins think it was the greatest thing ever, and he showed the media. I just don’t understand why they would care about taking the media down a notch. Even if Trump was successful, what’s the point? It’s completely meaningless.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  29. Scott says:

    @Jake:

    I’ve listened to those on the right for many years complaining that Republicans never fight back when they are slandered and lies and misrepresentations are spread about them.

    Change right to left and Republicans to Democrats and you get the same argument heard on the other side.

    It is all bar talk.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  30. SC_Birdflyte says:

    A disclaimer: this is not intended to put me in violation of Godwin’s Law. DT’s behavior these last few days is reminiscent of the last weeks in the Fuhrerbunker, with the leader demanding counterattacks by nonexistent armies. My bet is that Bannon wins, Priebus goes over the side and starts plotting with Paul Ryan a challenge to the Prez in 2020.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  31. Mr. Bluster says:

    Obviously, these targets are lashing back at a furious rate, organizing nation-wide disloyal opposition at every turn, in the hope of taking Trump down.

    Pussy grabbing President Pud will take himself down.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  32. Mikey says:

    @David M:

    What purpose does going after the media serve? How does it actually accomplish anything?

    It has one intended purpose: to position Trump in his supporters’ minds as the sole reliable source of information.

    Once he succeeds at that, he can convince them to believe and do anything he wants.

    It’s a strategy favored by autocrats throughout history, and if there’s anything we know Trump’s supporters want, it’s a Trumpist dictatorship, with themselves as the beneficiaries and the unfavored groups–minorities, women, non-Christians–being put in their “proper” place.

    ReplyReply

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  33. David M says:

    @Mikey:

    I understand why Trump is doing it. What’s in it for the MAGA morons cheering him on? What does it get them?

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  34. Mikey says:

    @David M: They get a President who represents the full voice of their hatreds.

    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  35. KM says:

    @David M:

    I understand why Trump is doing it. What’s in it for the MAGA morons cheering him on? What does it get them?

    I guess it depends on what MAGA means for said moron.

    Does it mean jobs or economic recovery? Well, it does nothing practical but confirms for them the media’s stories about the immigration EO must be slander for a really great idea. How that translates to jobs is a South Park joke in the making (PROFIT!!) but it gels with their guts that immigrants are somehow to blame for their lack of $35hr jobs for high school dropouts. If only the damn media wasn’t distracting him with stupid things like treasonous underlings, he’d be on those jobs so fast!! STFU media let him do his job!
    Result: little but they are willing to give him enough rope to hang us all

    Does it mean America First (TM)? If you were dumb enough to elect somebody who won’t hire Americans over foreigners for his own companies for MAGA reasons, then you are dumb enough to believe his rambling that these lying liars who lie are keeping him from instilling Greatness back in our country. Soothing the feels like putting on a Raffi song for a baby. We’re #1! Libruls hate America, sad! They’re keeping us from being awesome – terrible!
    Result: Psychological validation and confirmation of beliefs. Warm, fuzzy feelings inside

    Does it means culture war victory? Bitch-slap that media, Donald! Do it! Make the libruls cry for daring to ask you about stuff! Who cares if it’s true, we want to spite our enemies and choke their rivers with our dead! You do what you gotta do, man – we’re behind you no matter what if it makes them hurt!!
    Result: Rage-ahol shots with a chaser of librul tears all around! Permanent liver damage and shortened life span. They will tell you it was worth it when going for their liver transplant (at the taxpayers expense, of course). Schedenfreude is a hell of a drug

    ReplyReply

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  36. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Jake:

    Every conservative I’ve personally heard from thought his press conference was excellent and long overdue.

    You apparently do not know any Conservatives. You certainly aren’t one. No Conservative would think anything about Trump is excellent and long overdue.
    We all noticed that confronted with the fact that Trumps EC margin was not the largest since Reagan, which you claimed, you ran and hid.
    Now you are back spouting about dishonest media.
    Why not go back from where you crawled…where you can all revel in your “alternative facts”.

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  37. al-Alameda says:

    @mannning:

    Obviously, these targets are lashing back at a furious rate, organizing nation-wide disloyal opposition at every turn, in the hope of taking Trump down.

    Thank you Comrade Mannning.
    As you know very well, Republicans had no problem being ‘disloyal opposition’ for the past 8 years, in the hope of taking Obama down.

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    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 2

  38. Pch101 says:

    @David M:

    Many people are joiners who want to be led and wish to belong to something that is bigger than themselves.

    That instinct can be channeled for good or for bad. This is an example of the bad.

    If you want to understand them a bit better, then get Jake to explain what it’s like to be a sheep who feels like a wolf.

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  39. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:
  40. David M says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Seems like fake news, as it didn’t report Trump had defeated the forces of liberalism with his tiny, tiny hands.

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  41. Terrye Cravens says:

    @Lit3Bolt: Even Fox news has had enough..at least Shep Smith has:

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  42. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    Everytime I’ve thought Shep Smith has had enough, he then reminds me that his capacity for abuse is endless.

    Maybe now that Ailes is out and Roger is failing, he’ll finally leave now though…

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  43. Terrye Cravens says:

    @mannning: Trump has not accomplished anything other than to convince most Americans that he is insane. He has not rebuilt anything, he has not improved anything, he has not fixed anything. He has attacked the media and anyone who fails to kiss his ass and that is just about it.

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  44. Terrye Cravens says:

    I think Rush Limbaugh and his ilk know damn well that Trump came off like a loon yesterday, but they are not going to admit it. And the same is true for a lot of his supporters. They know Trump lies, that he is a crook, that he is a hypocrite and that he is delusional, but a lot of those people feel they have no choice but to go down with the ship. The only thing that will change their mind is money…the loss of it.

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  45. the Q says:

    Daryl’s brother etc…..Thank you, thank you, thank you for the post of the year….”Dunning Kruger effect”…..you have no idea how many times I will use that to destroy a wingnut and their insane ramblings concerning… well, anything really!!!!! And I think we liberals sometimes fall prey to the reverse “Dunning Kruger effect” – high-ability individuals may underestimate their relative competence and may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others. lol

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  46. grumpy realist says:

    The fact is, at some time, reality will hit home. Whether it’s climate change, the loss of bees (leading to a collapse in agriculture), the continual acidification of the oceans (with its affect on sea life), or even an asteroid–at some point Trump and his fanbois are going to discover that no, we’re not living in The Matrix, and no matter how much you whine about How It’s All The Media’s Fault, Mama Nature Don’t Care.

    The Universe Does Not Care. Tattoo that on the inside of your eyelids, people, because you’re going to learn this the hard way, I suspect.

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  47. I remember one of the first episodes of Yes Minister. The main character(The Minister of Administrative Affairs) turns to the TV, then, there is a news break about a military coup in an African country. He then phones the Foreign Minister, asking him about the coup, that answers him saying that he does not know about the coup because his TV was broken.

    I’ve never thought that joke could describe the President of the United States. In 2017.

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  48. MarkedMan says:

    @Jake:

    It’s very hard not to admire Trump’s guts. He’ll go right into the lion’s den and antagonize the violent lions without hesitation.

    I just noticed something about the “Thumbs up/ Thumbs down” individual comment feedback. When I’m just reading a comment, the choices are “Helpful/Unhelpful”. But when I hit reply the choices change to “Agree/Disagree “. And that brings a dilemma in responding to Jake’s comment: of course I disagree with him. But it is actually very helpful in getting insight into the mind of 40% of the population, I.e. The Trump supporter.

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  49. MBunge says:

    I’ve come to finally understand that the existential crisis you folks are undergoing makes any attempt at actual discussion a waste of time. Historical accuracy, however, is always important.

    Barack Obama spent all of 2013 with positively Trumpian poll numbers, yet I don’t recall his significant unpopularity with the American people raising too many eyebrows at the time.

    And as, Heaven help us, Michele Frickin’ Malkin has pointed out, Barack Obama had not one, not two but three Cabinet nominations go down in flames.

    Just keep it in mind.

    Mike

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  50. rachel says:

    @Terrye Cravens: Shep Smith is FOX’s token reporter. When the FOX and Friends crew or O’Reilly denounce Boss Tweet, then we know they’ve had enough.

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  51. Hal_10000 says:

    Every conservative I’ve personally heard from thought his press conference was excellent and long overdue

    Well, here’s one telling you that it was batcrap insane.

    The thing is … I think you have a point. A lot of the Trumpers like the idea of a President who “tells it like it is” and confronts the evil liberal media. The thing is, we’ve had Presidents who could speak off the cuff, who could be honest and could confront the media when necessary. Reagan was like that. Clinton to some extent. The difference was that they a) had a grasp of facts and policy and weren’t just making stuff up; b) had a basic respect for the institutions of this country, including the institution of a free press; c) had enough credibility that when they need to tell the press something important, they would be believed.

    The problem with Trump’s style is that while it appeals to people like you, it is alienating everyone else. Trump’s approval is now down to the high-30’s, lower than Obama at any point in his Administration. People like me who were willing to give him a chance or slowly losing that will. The “fake news” phenomenon is somewhat real — there are a lot of BS anti-Trump stories floating around. But Trump is the one who feeds that by being unpredictable and unreliable. Nothing sounds crazy. And every day, more and more people have a “Brownie Moment” where they realize how dangerously unstable, uninformed and corrupt this man is. His style is going to eventually drive away everyone. And it’s going to put us in a position where when the President needs us to believe him and trust him — say because of a crisis with Russia — we won’t.

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  52. de stijl says:

    @mannning:
    @Jake:

    Don’t fret. President Warren will pardon Trump in 2020 as an act of mercy.

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  53. de stijl says:

    On some level, I believe that I am defiant because the Trump presidency is an existential threat to America. My brain has had a hard time processing the fact that an utterly unfit paranoid petulant man-child got elected to the Big Chair.

    I, we, have to move past denial – “This cannot be happening” – That is an action and thinking impediment. Donald Trump, of all people, is the President of the United States. He’s really, actually the President for now.

    Focus on risk mitigation. Make this waking nightmare an abhorrent aberration. A blip. Retake the Senate in 2018. Contest the House. Protect the state. Press on the Russian connection and the tax filings because that investigation will absorb congressional attention, and more importantly, we need to know the truth.

    It’s apparent that Trump and his crew are Putin puppets (which is shocking), but it is unclear whether they are witting or unwitting puppets. Trump, himself, may be compromised (on video). His minions may have colluded with Russian intelligence on hacking the election.

    I want the answers to those questions, but much, much more I want the core institutions of my country preserved. There is an uncomfortably high probability that Trump is an extinction level event and we have to survive him.

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  54. de stijl says:

    We live in an era where we have no real rivals as a nation. We live in the short era when China has not yet become the dominant global power.

    Absent a adversary that would focus our attention, we are apparently apt to do foolish things. We did a foolish thing and now we have to deal with consequences and, hopefully, survive them.

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  55. al-Ameda says:

    @MBunge:

    I’ve come to finally understand that the existential crisis you folks are undergoing makes any attempt at actual discussion a waste of time. Historical accuracy, however, is always important.

    As Trump and Republicans show us every day, historical accuracy is not important at all.

    Also, this so-called ‘existential crisis’ that you think liberals are undergoing is not a crisis at all, rather it is actually a blend of schadenfreude and hope.

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  56. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    I remember one of the first episodes of Yes Minister…

    A truly fantastic show, for those that follow politics. Worth locating and watching.

    For those unfamiliar, it is the shock of an elected politician being confronted by the reality that career functionaries actually fill and keep government running.

    The elected official (a Cabinet Minister) quickly finds that his expectations of reform, upheaval and change is impossible without finding common ground with those who actually run government.

    Clearly, something completely beyond the grasp of our currently elected American administration.

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  57. dxq says:

    I won’t disagree that that it was completely bonkers, but the Trumpkins think it was the greatest thing ever, and he showed the media. I just don’t understand why they would care about taking the media down a notch. Even if Trump was successful, what’s the point? It’s completely meaningless.

    Hating liberals is a serious driving force among low-information hillbillies.

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  58. Pch101 says:

    @MBunge:

    Halley’s Comet will return to our corner of the solar system long before you make a smart comment.

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  59. Jim Brown 32 says:

    So…I heard about this press conference and I couldn’t wait to watch it at home after work to see the fireworks. I watched the whole thing in full–it was no different that any other Trump interview.

    You guys are being Jedi mind-tricked by your nice little media echo chamber. There was no unhinged nor unraveling–in comparison to his other press interactions. What actually happened–was that Trump took the attention off the Flynn firing by using the WH press corps as a prop to message his supporters and change the news cycle. He does this on purpose because, like little 8 year old girls–news media (predictably) runs to the teacher to report every outrageous thing little Donnie Trump said on the playground. Trump is creating the new cycle at will now.

    The Flynn firing was a bleeding wound–Trump cauterized it in 2 hours with this press conference.

    Oh and before i forget–not many black people outside of polticos care about the Congressional Black Caucus so Trump dissing them is low risk to him. Frankly, I laughed when he asked Ryan to set up a meeting because everybody knows that he wont meet them AND they won’t meet with him. Any Black person that goes near Trump will get torn a new one by the community with a level of vitriol that I’ve never seen paralleled. Any politically sensitive Black person–like those on the CBC–will steer clear of Trump. No one–not even the great Jim Brown is immune. It hurt me to see a man that has done so much for the community take it on the chin like he did when he went to Trump tower.

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  60. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl:

    My brain has had a hard time processing the fact that an utterly unfit paranoid petulant man-child got elected to the Big Chair.

    Unfortunately, I think it’s that very attitude that helped get him to where he is now. People couldn’t imagine he’d win. So they just assumed he wouldn’t. This thinking probably influenced more than a couple of voters who decided to stay home or vote third party under the assumption that Hillary would comfortably win no matter what. And when I see all this talk four weeks in about the imminent collapse of his presidency, I have to wonder if people haven’t learned this lesson at all.

    Yes, his approval ratings have plummeted. But I was hearing similar gloating before the election about how his massive unfavorability numbers were supposed to make him unelectable. One of the most underrated factors in the election was that a lot of the people who gave him negative ratings in the polls ended up voting for him anyway. Indeed, sometimes it feels like there are no Donald Trump fans, just people who say “Yes, he’s terrible, but….”

    And that’s not to mention the numerous, numerous predictions from 2015-2016 about how he was on the brink of dropping out of the race. So I feel a sense of deja vu when I hear people now talking about him quitting early or somehow being impeached by this spineless Congress.

    Your mention of focusing on taking back the Senate is relevant here. The Senate map in 2018 is skewed heavily toward the Republicans because far more Democratic seats are up for grabs. And that’s not even getting into the gerrymandered House.

    I’m not trying to be a doomsayer here. Democrats have some real opportunities here, and there’s at least a possibility the Republicans are on the verge of a political catastrophe without the country facing an “extinction-level event,” as you put it.

    But Dems really, really need to purge themselves of the temptation to view Trump’s demise as something inevitable. It’s not helpful. If America was dumb enough to elect Donald J. Trump, then America is dumb enough to reelect him. We need to accept that fact before we go about working to prevent that outcome.

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  61. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    People couldn’t imagine he’d win. So they just assumed he wouldn’t.

    I actually predicted in August 2015 here on OTB that Trump would win the nomination. And got dismissed and savaged and called a naive fool by the most fair-minded of the the principles here (Thanks, Steven!).

    (Full disclaimer: I also incorrectly predicted that nominee Trump would get stomped in the general election Mondale-style. I even included a list of states that Trump would have to win in order get the EC victory – including Florida and Pennsylvania, and Ohio, etc.Obviously, I got that very wrong. So there’s that.)

    But Dems really, really need to purge themselves of the temptation to view Trump’s demise as something inevitable. It’s not helpful. If America was dumb enough to elect Donald J. Trump, then America is dumb enough to reelect him. We need to accept that fact before we go about working to prevent that outcome.

    I get where you’re coming from, but I disagree with your premise that “Dems really, really need to purge themselves of the temptation to view Trump’s demise as something inevitable. It’s not helpful.”

    That is helpful. It’s very helpful. It’s helpful as a positive focusing attitude (as long as we understand that a positive attitude won’t get you the the win, but a negative attitude is much more likely to get you the loss.)

    One of Trump’s advantages is that he refuses to accept failure. Flip that and reverse it.

    Assume (with caveats) that Trump and the Republicans will lose specifically because of Trump.

    Hang Trump around every Republican’s neck. Make them own him or make them disavow him.

    The outward-facing message has to be positive. The behind-the-scenes tactics and strategy must, obviously, be more in line with what I think you’re advocating. In that we totally agree.

    But the messaging should be that Trump is dangerous and unfit and he has failed and anyone who supports him must go because we need a safe and stable America.

    Make him an aberration.

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  62. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl:

    I actually predicted in August 2015 here on OTB that Trump would win the nomination…. I also incorrectly predicted that nominee Trump would get stomped in the general election Mondale-style.

    It’s funny, I was nearly the opposite way: I repeatedly pooh-poohed the idea that Trump could win the nomination. (The weird thing is that I had a dream early on that he’d be the nominee, but after I woke up I dismissed it as an absurd fantasy. Maybe I should trust my instincts more.) But once he got the nomination, I always accepted that he could win, I thought the idea of a Mondale- or Goldwater-level defeat was a pipedream, and I repeatedly warned people here that contrary to what was often asserted, Dems had no built-in advantage in the electoral college, and that in fact Trump’s support was more efficiently distributed in the states he needed to win than Clinton’s. (When I pointed this out in the summer of 2016, I received 9 downvotes, probably my all-time record.)

    I didn’t quite “predict” he would win. There were times when I grew overconfident about Hillary’s chances. But I was not totally blindsided by his victory as some people were, and the way I envisioned it happening ended up being strikingly accurate. (Six days before the election, I wrote the following: “If her popular vote lead shrinks to less than 1% or disappears entirely (or, alternately, if the polls are off and she already is in that range), then a lot of those supposedly “safe” states like Penn., Wisconsin, NH, Michigan, etc. will rapidly become a lot less safe.”)

    A lot of my thinking on these topics was influenced by my reading poli-sci and other data-oriented blogs like FiveThirtyEight. I also held a cynical belief that most voters were puppets who did whatever partisan media told them to do. I always rolled my eyes whenever I heard something along the lines of “the masses are rising up against the establishment,” a theme I’d been hearing variations of for as long as I’d been following politics, most often from supporters of cult figures like Ross Perot or Ron Paul.

    In the general election, however, my political realism probably helped me see things more clearly than some other people. I realized the high level of partisan polarization today, and that most voters will vote for pretty much anyone with an R or D after their name. I saw there were a lot of undecided voters in the polls, and I guessed that they consisted disproportionately of Republicans who weren’t thrilled about Trump but who would probably break for him in the end.

    One thing I noticed that unnerved me–and it was something Nate Silver and RCP’s Sean Trende warned about, mostly to deaf ears–was that there was a kind of groupthink settling around a lot of pundits, a belief that Trump couldn’t possibly win. This belief probably filtered to the Clinton campaign itself. Why, after all, would she spend time and money in Arizona, a state she manifestly did not need that was always going to be an uphill battle to win, while ignoring Wisconsin? She was intent on expanding the electoral map as if she didn’t have to worry about protecting her home turf.

    And consider this: If the Democratic share of the electorate in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan had increased by just 1%, Hillary would be president now. Wanna bet how many voters stayed home because they thought she was a certain winner?

    That’s what I’m referring to when I talk about the dangers of assuming Trump’s impending demise.

    One of Trump’s advantages is that he refuses to accept failure.

    That’s different. Trump challenges the legitimacy of whoever bests him in anything, but he very often accepts the possibility that someone else will be declared winner, just so he can whine about how everything was rigged against him. That is not what I’d call an example worth emulating.

    Moroever, I disagree that this trait is at all an “advantage.” There simply is no evidence that Trump won the election because of his Trumpiness; if anything, he won very much despite it. He was running against an unpopular candidate in a year when Dems had held the White House for two straight terms, and even then, he just barely eked out an electoral college victory while losing the popular vote. I don’t think his boorish behavior or antics helped him for a second; his poll numbers always took a nosedive whenever they received a lot of attention, and he would do better when the focus was away from him and on Hillary Clinton, which happened to be during the final week of the campaign.

    Looked at objectively, the fact is that he very nearly tanked a very winnable campaign, because he was amateurish and divisive. Just because he didn’t quite go down to defeat doesn’t make him a political mastermind.

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