Welcome to Day 100 or Day 1,000 or Day whatever-it-is — anyway a really great Day with a number that keeps changing — of America’s Adventure in Trumpland, where factual reality is a distant echo of a planet that has not yet been sighted but is rumored to exist.
Our president gave a hastily arranged but 77-minute-long press conference that kicked off with Trump’s announcement of a new candidate for Labor secretary. But whatever that guy’s name was (Alexander Acosta), he was not present, and his nomination was immediately lost in the whirligig of weirdness that followed, which had less than a soupçon to do with Acosta.
The norms of journalism are not sufficient to the task of wrangling this event into even a false appearance of coherence. You owe it to yourself to watch the whole thing, a video of which the New York Times embedded into this excellent link, which also has a transcript, although the transcript ends before Trump is done. Because why? Because the transcriptioner had a breakdown or the internet ran out of space or (your guess here)?
A lot of the reviewers are claiming that Trump’s overall performance was angry. Bordering on deranged. And maybe he looks that way on the transcript because he certainly berates the world, or at least the media, for not giving him the admiration he deserves. (The Trump egotism and egocentrism were on full display, as he modestly asserted of his first month in office that “we have made incredible progress. I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done.”)
But if you watch the video you might agree with me that this was actually Trump at his calmest and, dare one say it, his sweetest. To me, he didn’t seem angry and was seemed to be attempting a charm offensive. When an African-American reporter asked him whether he planned to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, Trump said he would and then, rather strangely — but with apparent sincerity — asked the reporter if she would help set up such a meeting. Crazy maybe, and suggesting that he is stopping any person of color he runs into to ask for help in reaching out. But not angry.
He showed a strange playful quality as he urged the reporters, before they could question him, to ask something “nice,” and then worked his review of their niceness quotient into his answer, even as he insulted them, the questioners and the assembled media, for their mendacity or hostility or stupidity or other virtues. I swear, you have to watch it because while he comes across as a deranged egotist in the transcript, he comes across in a much nicer way — though still a little deranged — when you can see his face and hear his voice as he turns up the charm.
I seem to be the only who saw it this way.
Although Trump almost begged the audience not to interpret what he said as ranting and raving. He actually said: “Tomorrow, they will say, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.’ I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it. But tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves.’ I’m not ranting and raving.”
It’s true that former President Obama, who stayed cool under all kinds of pressure, might take up ranting and raving when he reads Trump’s comments. Because Trump went to great lengths to imply (much more than imply) that Obama’s successor had inherited a steaming poopload of problems in the economy, the world situation, etc.
It went (as the old bandleaders used to say) something like this:
Trump: “As you know, our administration inherited many problems across the government and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess. It’s a mess. At home and abroad. A mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country; you see what’s going on with all of the companies leaving our country, going to Mexico and other places, low pay, low wages, mass instability overseas, no matter where you look. The Middle East is a disaster. North Korea — we’ll take care of it folks; we’re going to take care of it all. I just want to let you know, I inherited a mess.”
Several of the disasters he inherited, Mr. Trump modestly acknowledged, are already well on their way to being cleaned up, but others will take a while, although he is off to a fast start because of conversations has already had with the leaders of long-time allies and major rivals, discussion that he described as “really, really productive conversations. I would say far more productive than you would understand.”
Again, it sounds insulting to tell those in the room that they are incapable of grasping just how productive these talks have been, but it came across to me as a man who’s less on the attack than he is desperate to impress.
Of course, if it’s facts you care about, it was Obama who took office amid an economic calamity that started under his predecessor. It was Obama who inherited a GDP suffering its worst collapse since the Great Depression. While there are lots of ways measure the economy — and not all of the numbers during the Obama years were stellar — Trump inherited a country at what economists call “full employment,” that had racked up pretty steady growth for seven consecutive years. The stock market had a great eight-year run under Obama and the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. fell.
The Obama growth rate was not spectacular by historical standards, but it was among the best in the developed world in the period coming out of the Great Recession. Mr. Trump got away with exaggerating the problems he inherited and is clearly prepared to exaggerate whatever improvements occur during his tenure. I hope he will be able to develop the kind of growth he claims he will. Time and events will tell.
Given the recent events that led to the resignation of Trump’s national security advisor, and the now widely-accepted (perhaps not by Trump) finding that Russia conspired to help Trump win the election, some of the questions naturally went to suspicions about an unholy alliance. But Trump explained that “Russia is fake news. Russia — this is fake news put out by the media.”
Here’s a fuller summary of what Trump said is going on between Russia and himself:
“I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia. President Putin called me up very nicely to congratulate me on the win of the election. He then, called me up extremely nicely to congratulate me on the inauguration, which was terrific. But so did many other leaders, almost all other leaders from almost all of the country. So that’s the extent. Russia is fake news. Russia — this is fake news put out by the media.”
So that should settle that. Oh, and Trump stated just the simple fact that (notwithstanding the firing of Gen. Michael Flynn, and the fact that Trump’s first choice to replace Flynn turned down the offer, and a few other hiccups) that: “This administration is running like a fine- tuned machine.”