Las Vegas Sun

December 16, 2018

Currently: 64° — Complete forecast

Sun editorial:

Is Trump a genius? Let’s find out by holding a solo news conference


Andrew Harnik / AP

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, to travel to Nashville, Tenn., to speak at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Convention.

It would be simple for Donald Trump to prove that he is a “very stable genius” and refute the idea presented in the best-seller “Fire and Fury” that he’s an idiot with no grasp of issues.

All he needs to do is walk out and present himself to the Washington media corps for an extensive, no-holds-barred news conference in which reporters can probe him on the details of his policies and view of the world.

He says he knows taxes “better than the greatest CPA” and knows health care well, after all, so this would be a great chance for him to show he knows his stuff and doesn’t need his handlers to speak for him.

Easy enough, isn’t it? All he needs to do is speak.

Oops, wait.

That wouldn’t work, would it?

Of course not, and everybody knows it — including, by all appearances, the people around Trump.

Isn’t it peculiar that Trump has had only one solo news conference since he took office, and it was in February? Doesn’t it seem odd that the media corps’ access to Trump has generally become limited to situations when they can only ask a handful of questions, like when he’s about to hop aboard Marine One? Isn’t it weird that with the exception of an impromptu 30-minute chat with a New York Times reporter late last year during one of his numerous golf trips, his interviews are largely conducted by the Trump TV Channel — or, as it’s sometimes known, Fox News?

Actually, it’s not.

After a year of the Trump era, it’s become increasingly evident that Trump’s aides are savvy enough to be terrified of the prospect of standing him in front of the media.

It’s not because they’re afraid of the media.

It’s because they know their boss is a fool, and a news conference would remove all doubt of that.

Unscripted and under duress, Trump has proven to be liable to say practically anything.

Witness his combative exchange with reporters in August while appearing with several aides to discuss infrastructure. During that fiasco, which came one day after Trump issued a statement aimed at tamping down backlash over his statements on white nationalists who protested in Charlottesville, Va., he doubled down on his original claims by saying there were “some very fine people” among the protesters.

And that’s just one example. A meeting between Trump and reporters often results in days of damage control for his staff.

And considering that they already have plenty of that work on their hands due to his unhinged tweeting, it’s no wonder they seem to be limiting his exposure to reporters who aren’t Fox lapdogs.

Certainly, it was no mere oversight that Trump became the first president in 15 years not to conduct a solo news conference before leaving the White House for the holidays in December.

But actually, the scaleback in Trump’s availability might go beyond the media. A report out last week indicated that Trump’s office schedule had been significantly cut down, with his office meeting schedule often not starting until 11 a.m. Before then, his schedule calls for what has laughably been termed “executive time” in his White House residence, when he can watch TV, tweet, make phone calls, gorge on McDonald’s food, etc.

A logical conclusion: The staff has determined that the more time the president spends away from people, the less damage there will be.

They’re terrified that the more access that outsiders have to the president, the greater the opportunity he’ll have to show that he remains no more presidential a year into his term than he was when he started out.