January 11th, 2017

President-elect Trump speaks; reporters fall short

A shot from today's press conference

Here’s my take on Donald Trump’s press conference today. It’s not as well written or comprehensive as I would like it to be, which reflects how news is reported today: as quickly as possible, regardless of depth, context or polished prose. This took 31 minutes, which would not pass muster these days. I ran spell-check and then took just a quick read through it to look for typos and grammatical errors.

I just finished watching President-elect Trump’s first press conference, and my foremost impression is what a poor job the reporters did with their questioning. They often asked two or three questions at a time. The best (worst?) example of this was a series of questions by Major Garrett of CBS news, who asked about Trump’s tweet about Nazi Germany, his plan to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and Trump’s plan for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. I have to admit I chuckled at Trump’s response: “Do you have any more?”

The problem with the bam-bam-bam question strategy is that it allows the interview subject to answer the easier (or easiest) questions and then pivot away from the other two.

The TV is still on in the other room, and Garrett is complaining that Trump didn’t address his question about Trump’s Nazi Germany tweet. Well, duh.

The reporters also were unwilling to depart from their own lists of questions. Trump said several things that he should have been pressed on—how Congress will be able to replace the Affordable Care Act and replace it, in Trump’s words, “essentially simultaneously.” He called this “very complicated stuff,” and in my opinion, that’s a vast understatement, especially given that if the Republicans have a replacement plan ready to go, no one knows any details about it. Trump said the new plan will be “far less expensive and better.” I hope so, but I’m skeptical to the point of cynicism.

For what it’s worth, the press conference took an hour between Trump’s opening remarks and the end of the press conference. He spoke for 10 minutes before taking questions. The first round of questions lasted 10 minutes, and then a lawyer from a legal firm Trump had hired spent 15 minutes explaining what Trump planned to do to remove himself as far from his business dealings as possible and to demonstrate he has no plans to benefit from the office of president. I couldn’t help but think that had he done this, say, a month ago, he could have gotten in front of the stories about conflict of interest, emollients, etc.

A few more thoughts:

■ gave him a grade of C-minus on his tie knot. Very sad!

■ at his praise for media outlets like the New York Times, which he thought showed good judgment in the way they handled yesterday’s story about Trump’s alleged Russia connections. I read the Times story and, to be honest, I thought he’d criticize it. He clearly wasn’t happy with CNN, though, and seemed to be getting nasty with them toward the end of the press conference. (I don’t know, though, because I was on the phone with my wife, who had one of our dogs at a veterinarian’s office.)

■ Trump said, “I have no dealings with Russia.” Seems to me I heard one of his sons say something to the contrary several weeks ago.

■ Most-interesting quotation: “If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That’s an asset, not a liability.” Putin is a dangerous man whose sole interest is creating discord in America to erode our political process. Trump needs to handle him the same way he’d handle a puff adder.

■ Trump said “the only ones who care about my tax returns” are reporters. I don’t think so. I’d like to see if he has financial ties with Russian companies.

■ Trump quotation that ranked a 10 out of 10 on the no-kidding scale: “Intelligence agencies are necessary and very, very important.” That didn’t stop him from suggesting earlier that those agencies were leaking to the media material that made him look bad.

That’s all I’ve got. Other media outlets no doubt have different and more substantial reactions.