Donald Trump’s press conference Thursday was the worst political failure in presidential history. And the presser was the most deft performance by a President ever witnessed.
Wait … which of the above sentences is true? Depends who you ask. First, let’s look at the response of Trump’s detractors.
Trump held court during a news conference that lasted an hour and fifteen minutes, carving out a stunning moment in modern American political history. He displayed a sense of anger and grievance rarely vented by a President in public — let alone one who has been in office for just four weeks.
President Trump on Thursday aired his grievances against the news media, the intelligence community and his detractors generally in a sprawling, stream-of-consciousness news conference that alternated between claims that he had “inherited a mess” and the assertion that his fledgling administration “is running like a fine-tuned machine.”
…Yet moments later, the president seemed to acknowledge the widespread reports of turbulence and upheaval emanating out of his West Wing, only to claim that his White House — which so far has been marred by staff infighting, a controversial travel ban, false statements and myriad leaks — was operating seamlessly.
New York Times:
[T]he session was marked by an extraordinarily raw and angry defense the likes of which has never been seen in a modern White House. At times abrupt, often rambling, characteristically boastful yet seemingly pained at the portrayals of him, Mr. Trump seemed intent on reproducing the energy and excitement of his campaign after a month of grinding governance. He returned repeatedly to his contest with Hillary Clinton and at one point plaintively pleaded for understanding.
From these reports, it appears that a petulant, dissembling Trump ranted and raved for more than an hour and caused incalculable damage to his presidency and his agenda. But not so fast. Despite these reports by the “objective” press, let’s see how reporters not as reflexively contemptuous of Trump reported the event.
President Trump Thursday abruptly revived the aggressive, freewheeling style he exhibited during the presidential campaign — boasting, attacking and complaining his way through an hour-long East Room news conference.
As he did during the campaign, Trump singled out reporters for particular scorn, touting them as embodying of everything that he saw wrong with Washington: elitism, dishonesty and insularity.
Townhall’s Guy Benson:
With the media loudly demanding that he take questions from traditional mainstream outlets following yesterday’s kerfuffle, President Trump gave the press what they wanted: A lengthy news conference at which reporters from virtually every outlet under the sun were able to pose questions, often with multiple follow-ups.
Trump began by reading with a lengthy statement from which he characteristically departed and ad libbed at some length. It felt like a choreographed effort to talk over the heads of the news media “gatekeepers,” and communicate directly with the American people. While he frequently oversimplifies and over-applies his frustrations (dismissing all news and polls he doesn’t like as “fake,” for instance), the president is understandably frustrated with a press corps that really has seemed determined to cover his administration in a relentlessly negative light, sometimes in hysterical and unfair terms, from day one.
The president spoke and took questions for more than an hour and 15 minutes, even joking with some reporters toward the end and saying he was having fun. In a bid to preempt negative coverage of his remarks, Trump insisted he was not “ranting and raving.” But he lamented that the “tone” of coverage of his administration is one of “such hatred.”
“The public doesn’t believe you people anymore,” he said.
I missed the press conference live and, according to a brief perusal of journalist Twitter, I assumed it was a train wreck. Later, I caught it via YouTube.
Trump concluded his press conference with a response to a question about crime. “This isn’t Donald Trump that divided a nation,” the President said. “We went eight years with President Obama and we went many years before President Obama. We lived in a divided nation. And I am going to try — I will do everything within my power to fix that.” Just so and Godspeed.
Rashomon, a 1950 film directed by Akira Kurosawa, focused on a murder retold by four characters. The versions were radically different, each flattering the teller and confirming their own biases. As with so much news about Trump, his press conference served as its own Rashomon.
So what did you see in today’s presser: A bravura performance by Trump holding the deceptive press corps’ feet to the fire, or a lying President devastated by truth-telling journalists?