The Bully Trumpet
President Trump held a nearly 80-minute press conference on Thursday defending his Administration, assailing the media and along the way making some good news. Political reporters are bewildered by his unconventional style, but the spectacle was Mr. Trump at his Trumpiest.
“We have made incredible progress. I don’t think there’s ever been a President elected who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done,” as the President characterized his “fine-tuned machine” and “one of the great cabinets ever assembled in American history.” He said he was “making this presentation directly to the American people, with the media present, which is an honor to have you”—before he went on to call the media “dishonest,” “false, horrible, fake” and filled with “such hatred” for him.
One reporter went as far as to accuse Mr. Trump of “undermining confidence in our news media,” and, duh, his goal was to use an East Roomful of journalists as his foil. They seemed to recoil aesthetically from how he communicates—with his exaggerations, unrehearsed digressions and streams-of-consciousness, or unconsciousness as the case may be.
But Mr. Trump’s larger message is reasonably clear and coherent. He exposed himself to press scrutiny and answered multiple pointed questions on Russia and other controversies. President Obama tended to filibuster at his press events, and he’d have reached perhaps the third question by the 60-minute mark.
Mr. Trump categorically denied any personal or campaign involvement with the Russians, which means he’s laid down a marker if his position is later contradicted by the evidence. He also had a point when he explained that “the real problem” with the Michael Flynn imbroglio is the “classified information that was given illegally.”
On immigration, Mr. Trump said that the Administration is withdrawing the travel ban executive order, whose rollout was far from “perfect” as he claimed. But he says he’ll issue a new version, presumably with better legal arguments, more security analysis and competent logistical preparation.
Mr. Trump also expressed sympathy for the “dreamers” who immigrated to the U.S. illegally as children with their parents. Some of his hard-line advisers favor deportation, but the President seemed to demur, noting the involvement of “some absolutely incredible kids, I would say mostly. They were brought here in such a way—it’s a very, it’s a very, very tough subject” and “I love these kids, I love kids, I have kids and grandkids.”
Mr. Trump was also right to argue that “I think we’re setting a record or close to a record” in the time the Senate is taking to confirm his cabinet. This time that’s not an exaggeration. He added: “I’m going forever and I still have a lot of people that we’re waiting for. And that’s all they’re doing, is delaying. And you look at [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer and the mess that he’s got over there and they have nothing going. The only thing they can do is delay.”
Oh, and by the way, Mr. Trump announced a new nominee for Labor Secretary, which was the nominal reason for scheduling the impromptu Q&A. (See nearby editorial on Alex Acosta.) If we were Mr. Trump we’d call it the greatest afternoon’s work in all of human history, but then it wasn’t the worst either.