Con Man Hell – The End of Press Conferences

Day 17   1,445 more days of this to go. Unbelievable.

A few weeks before the inauguration I told Sandy that I thought by summer Trump would have completely stopped giving press conferences. His lack of knowledge about policy and how the government actually worked, and his lack of interest in the truth (which, yes, still exists) and obvious comfort with lying would lead to such uncomfortable questions and such ludicrous answers, I thought, that he would simply stop taking questions from reporters because his answers would reflect so badly on him.

There is a history to presidents who either don’t know much about what is happening or lie far more than the norm deciding to severely limit their time in front of reporters who get to ask questions. According to the American Presidency Project at UCSB, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson all averaged about two press conferences a month throughout their time in the White House (down from much higher numbers from Coolidge to FDR, and somewhat higher numbers under Truman, probably due to changes in technology and the rise of TV news). More recently, Clinton, W. Bush, and Obama also all averaged about two press conferences a month, Obama being somewhat under two. But in between, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan only averaged about 0.5 press conferences a month – meaning six or seven a year, compared to twenty or more for Clinton/Bush/Obama as well as earlier presidents in the 1950s and 1960s. Nixon knew details but lied from the start, and Reagan had little interest in details and then was being, let’s be generous, vague about Iran Contra.

But I was wrong about what would happen this year. Not that Trump won’t give real news conferences, he won’t, but that they won’t even try. I thought he would look bad and then stop, but even that was more than he can manage. Every time he gets in front of someone he talks about how huge his victory was, how he really won the popular vote, how huge his crowd was – even when talking with foreign leaders! Trump and Spicer and co. are simply going to get up and say whatever they want to say, spin now having become the only thing they plan on doing. Trump will get his message out through tweets and friendly interviews, and Spicer will have the joy of being the first press secretary whose job description does not center around talking to the press in a meaningful and informative way, with the occasional dodgy moments where they are spinning blatantly or issuing denials that aren’t convincing. Instead, Spicer’s only job is to spin, just as Trump’s only interest is in selling his twisted view of the world: fear, hate, and Trump as savior. This is a culmination of years of Fox News following talking points instead of reality; it is a Rush Limbaugh White House.

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