Another dazzling performance by President Trump from the Oval Office last Wednesday as he took on all questions from the Fake News Media.
POTUS covered the entire globe, from the Bahamas and Hurricane Dorian to China and the trade talks, Iran and North Korea, Boris Johnson and Brexit, and Mexico and the border wall.
The protectors of the Fake News narrative immediately started undermining Trump with the voracious appetite of termites. That was true of CNN and MSNBC, naturally, but also Neil Cavuto and his merry band of globalists on Fox Business. It is tempting to spend more time talking about the media midges who buzz and bite the president incessantly, but what’s the point? If they can’t understand that a hurricane hitting Florida head-on from the Bahamas is likely to make its way to Alabama in some form, then what, exactly, can they understand?
So today I’m going to keep the focus on a president who talks directly to the American people and promises to fight for us and our national interest anytime, anywhere. That’s the real story, and the one that the mainstream media has persistently missed.
Despite his disdain for huge swaths of the Washington press corps, Donald Trump is the most accessible president of the modern era. But you hear just the opposite from the media, even from the outlets that are not part of the “Resistance.” The Washington Examiner published a recent article lamenting the loss of the ritual of self-flagellation formerly known as the daily White House press briefing.
According to its author, Rob Crilly, this week “will mark six months since the last White House ‘daily’ briefing, another erosion of transparency and democracy under Trump or a sad indictment of the ‘fake news’ media’s incivility, depending on your view.”
It’s certainly not an erosion of transparency. With our panoply of laws regarding Freedom of Information, the news media and the general public have access to far more information about government operations today than at any time in U.S. history. Nor does the press briefing have anything to do with someone’s vapor dream of democracy.
Let’s face it. The daily press briefing has devolved in the last 25 years into a reality TV show somewhere between “Survivor” and “The Osbournes.” If you tuned in at all, it was mainly to see just how dysfunctional the White House press corps was, or to daydream about whether George Clooney is too old to play Jim Acosta in the film version of “The Enemy of the People.”
As I have written before, the daily press briefing “is one of the worst ideas in history. To expect one person at a podium to be able to speak authoritatively not just for the president but for an executive branch encompassing hundreds of thousands of people is not only unfair, it is stupid. The answer to every question asked at the press briefing should be the same: ‘I’ll get back to you on that.’”
The president realized that and took pity on future press secretaries by deciding not to put anyone else through the indignities that had been visited upon Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders for the past three years. Hogan Gidley, next in line for the Ordeal by Press Conference, may not yet know how lucky he was to escape being named White House press secretary. Stephanie Grisham, the woman who took the job, may well have done so only on condition that she be spared the White House torture chamber known as the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.
In an August interview, Grisham was asked whether daily press briefings would return in the future.
“We’re going to talk about it,” she told Eric Bolling. “That will be ultimately up to the president.”
Bolling complained, “But we want to hear from you.”
“You’re hearing from me right now,” Grisham said. “But the president also — he’s so accessible. Right now, I think that’s good enough.”
I think so, too, and I’m convinced that most Americans will give the president credit for facing reporters himself instead of hiding behind official statements and politically correct predictable sound bites from the press sec.
Is there anything that better encapsulates the insular worldview of the White House press corps than the idea that hearing from the press secretary is more important than hearing from the president himself? Sad.
Grisham told Bolling, “In my three and a half weeks on the job, I’ve seen him [Trump] gaggle for 45 minutes at Marine One. Have them into the Cabinet Room for over an hour, have them into the Oval Office constantly. He gaggled under the wing at Bedminster, [N.J.]. He is the most accessible president in modern history, so I don’t know what any of the press could complain about.”
But complain they will, and you know it will only get worse for the next 14 months as we get closer and closer to the 2020 election. The “opposition party,” as Steve Bannon famously dubbed the national media, will pull out all the stops to prevent the re-election of Donald Trump. Everything he says will be parsed six ways from Sunday, and the Washington Post’s fake list of Trump lies will grow even longer than Pinocchio’s nose.
It’s gonna get ugly, and there’s no reason why Grisham or anyone else at the White House should be taking flak for the president. When he goes to war against the hostile media, he’s going to be at the front of the line, giving as good as he gets. That’s the way he likes it, and that’s the way it should be. It’s also much more entertaining.
One last point: The press secretary, as a federal government employee, is constrained under the Hatch Act from engaging in political speech. This is an unfair disadvantage when fighting with the highly politicized left-wing press. CNN can claim Alabama is Mississippi on a hurricane map – and then troll Grisham on Twitter when she tweaks them – and The New York Times and Washington Post can hype any Russia collusion story they want, constructed with anonymous sources and malice aforethought, but the press secretary is supposed to play by the Marquess of Queensberry rules and politely refer reporters to a campaign spokesperson whenever a low blow is struck at the president.
That ultimately is why the president is his own best spokesman -- he does not have to play footsie with the swaggering, boastful buffoons of the White House press corps. He can just leave them limbless and confused in his wake like King Arthur dispatching the “invincible” Black Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” They may think they are still walking around on their own two feet, but the evidence proves otherwise.
Frank Miele, the retired editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell Mont., is a columnist for RealClearPolitics. His new book — “The Media Matrix: What If Everything You Know Is Fake” — is available at Amazon. Visit him at HeartlandDiaryUSA.com to read his daily commentary or follow him on Facebook @HeartlandDiaryUSA or on Twitter @HeartlandDiary.