So I caught part of President Trump’s latest press conference while eating lunch Thursday. I’ve since watched the whole thing on video. I’ve reviewed the transcript of it online. And I have come to an inescapable conclusion: There is something seriously wrong inside the head of the President of the United States. What began as an opportunity to introduce Mr. Trump’s new nominee for Labor Secretary, R. Alexander Acosta, rapidly degenerated into the usual airing of the grievances, resentments, and narcissistic obsessions of one Donald J. Trump.
His favorite whipping boy, of course, was what he calls “the dishonest media,” a designation which might have been somewhat more compelling had Mr. Trump himself not told so many outright lies. He claimed “the biggest electoral college win since Reagan” (George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all had greater margins). He claimed to have given a news conference “every time I made a speech, which was like every day. OK?” (As the Toronto Star noted, this was “not even close to true. Trump indeed gave near-daily speeches during the campaign, but he did not do a single news conference over the last three months of the campaign”). He claimed a “smooth rollout” of his Muslim travel ban (the chaos and confusion caused by the ban is well-documented). He said his administration is running like “a fine-tuned machine” (except, one supposes, for the National Security Adviser forced to resign for lying to the Vice President; the freelancing “spokesperson” who’s been barred from both the usually friendly “Morning Joe” and from CNN; the labor secretary nominee even some Republicans couldn’t stomach; and so on).
To Trump, however, any fact that contradicts what he says is “fake news.” This is the case even if , for example, said “fake news” led him to fire National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn for lying to the Vice President about his contacts with Russia--after which Trump griped about how unfairly Gen Flynn was treated.
Supposedly it’s also “fake news” that his campaign was in contact with agents of Russian intelligence at about the time the Russians were hacking the computers of the Democratic National Committee. The leaks that led to those stories, however, are serious business, “so unfair,” according to Trump, and need to be investigated. When pressed on the apparent contradiction, Trump explained that leaks are real but the news that comes from them is fake, “because so much of the news is fake.” Get it now?
See, here’s something Mr. Trump probably doesn’t get about this whole leak business. I’ve tried cases in criminal and domestic courts for over 25 years now, and “where did you get that?! You’re not supposed to have that!” when confronted with damning evidence is the cry of a guilty man.
Mr. Trump spent a lot of time complaining, as he always does, about how unfair everything is to him. After all, he said, “I inherited a mess.” Funny, I seem to recall every time President Obama mentioned the mess he’d inherited, including the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the wingnuts shrieked “When is Obama going to stop blaming Bush for all his problems and show some leadership!?”
A real low point (there were so many) was when Trump responded to a question from April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks as to whether the Congressional Black Caucus was going to be included in meetings on Trump’s “urban agenda.” “Do you know them?” Trump said challengingly. “Do you want to set up the meeting?” When Ryan noted that she was only a reporter, Trump snapped “well then, set up the meeting.”
Oh, and he also rudely dismissed a Jewish reporter in a yarmulke for asking about rising anti-semitism in the country. “Not a fair question,” he snapped. “Sit down.” This must have reassured his large and devoted neo-Nazi following that he’s still on their side.
All of this is just catnip, of course, to Trump’s hard core supporters. Sure, the leader of the Free World sounded like an angry drunk at the end of the bar raging at the TV when the bartender flips it to CNN. But Trump could have done the conference in a clown nose and rubber duck hat, honking a bicycle horn and speaking in pig Latin, and his base would eat it up, so long as he attacked the press and put a black reporter—a woman, no less-- in her place. All it lacked to make it like the good old days of the campaign was some random old white dude smacking April Ryan in the face as she was led out.
In the end, this wasn’t a press conference. It was another rally for the troops, yet another campaign event for the man who’d rather keep campaigning than actually govern.