Analysis: Trump Clearly Planned and Enjoyed Hitting Press at Today's Combative News Conference

Posted: Feb 16, 2017 4:25 PM

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. This was his opportunity to shape an alternative narrative and to assail journalists' job performances right back at them. The Q&A portion of the presser was strikingly hostile at times, as Trump repeatedly slammed questions, reporters, and even entire news networks. After the very lengthy exchange (it went on for well over an hour), wrapped, I joined Fox News to react to what viewers had just seen -- via Right Sightings:

After reflecting on the dynamics mentioned above, I mentioned two pieces of news that emerged from the maelstrom: First, Trump said that an 'initial' Obamacare replacement plan will be unveiled early next month. That's significant, and it's something that many of us have been wondering about. Second, in response to a good question from PBS News about executive orders on immigration, Trump really sounded like he was laying the rhetorical foundation for not canceling all or most of President Obama's 'DACA' amnesty for so-called DREAMers (which should not be confused with Obama's 'DAPA' overreach halted by the courts). Watch:

The liberal on our panel, Democratic strategist Bernard Whitman, declared the presser a "hot mess" and "bonkers" -- and I'm sure many people on the Left and in the media would agree whole heartedly. He called out three misstatements from Trump, including his totally false brag about his electoral college margin, his detached-from-reality assessment that the 'travel ban' executive order was rolled out "very smoothly," and his version of events that led to the effective firing of Michael Flynn. Whitman had a point on the first two, but I think Trump definitely made the point about Flynn that Whitman claimed he'd omitted. In any case, my strong suspicion is that reaction to the press conference will be quite polarized, just like the country. Trump's opponents will freak out, declare the performance to be dangerous, and maintain their endless spray of outrage and panic. Trump's loyalists will cheer his pounding of the media, for whom they share Trump's scorn.  People in between will hold mixed views, with many appreciating Trump's unusual style and brashness, while also harboring concerns over some of his excesses. And many millions of people will see or hear very little about it at all. I'll leave you with this spot-on observation from Amy Walter: