Watching the evening press conferences that President Trump and his team are holding nightly during this crisis, I am seeing something I was not expecting — and now understand why some Democrats and many media members are pushing networks to cut the live coverage and make sure they get to” filter” everything.
The media calls to cut the mic made no sense after they had fits when Trump had stopped the daily press availabilities (because some media members had turned it into opportunities to grandstand.) Now I get it. It’s not hypocrisy. It’s because it works. And it works in a way that the intransigent never Trumpers could not have imagined possible.
These nightly press conferences are not only very effective, they are revealing how Trump has changed to deal with this crisis — something that many did not think possible. Trump looks downright presidential in the way all his critics claim he should be, but don’t really want him to be because they fear that would be good for his presidency.
He has an almost charming relationship with Dr. Deborah Birx and has her or Dr. Anthony Fauci handle most of the medical questions. He has a Navy Admiral explaining the efforts in the supply chain; Attorney General William Barr explaining the law for new rules; Vice President Mike Pence heading the federal task force to explain overall steps; and different specialists each night to answer questions.
Trump speaks, rarely invoking politics, then steps aside and has experts in each area explain from their respective areas of expertise.
Despite the socially distanced media clearly pushing him to make political statements in search of tomorrow’s headline, my goodness that is glaringly obvious, he stays very non-political for about two hours. That is a new Trump.
And the best Trump for this moment. Most great presidents, great leaders, are made during a crisis and their handling of it. Washington, Lincoln, Churchill, FDR (a very strong leader, just too often in the wrong direction) Reagan, even George W. Bush in his initial response to 9/11. Yes, there is some rarified company in that list. But we may be seeing that happening right now. After a slow start (minus blocking the flights from China in late January, which obviously bought us some time) and some missteps over seriousness, Trump has allowed his strengths to overcome his weaknesses.
This crisis has revealed his organizational abilities, intelligence, imagination, personal charisma and, very importantly, his boundless optimism for America. It also showed he does not have to be the center of attention. He spends a lot of time standing off to the side. But he directs the entire press conference like a maestro, from beginning to end.
He’s become what Dr. Sheldon Roth calls a “leader-follower” — which is just what the country needs at this critical moment.
The media is too far gone to allow that to come through directly to American people. They want to be the censors of Presidential speech, so they can cherry-pick and twist for their own, partisan agenda. That has not changed in this crisis. Neither apparently have many Democrats with their willingness to lard up the coronavirus bill with add-ons for pay equity, voting, private board representation, green initiatives, permanent paid leave, student loan bailouts and so much more. The crisis is an opportunity for them to get some goodies. (Notably, Democrats outside D.C., such as California Gov. Newsome and New York Gov. Coumo, have praised Trump’s responses.)
The media and the Democratic leadership seem not to have changed during this. Trump has, at least for the moment. And the American people are liking what they are seeing. The approval polls are showing it, with Trump soaring up to 54 percent on his handling of this, which is pretty phenomenal. And for the media and Democrats, that’s why the mic must be cut.
We may be seeing the emergence of a great U.S. President during a time of crisis. I honestly never thought Trump would be “great.” But what I see at these evening press conferences is something altogether unexpected — a Trump version of Roosevelt’s popular fireside chats.
Rod Thomson is an author, past Salem radio host, ABC TV commentator, former journalist and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act.
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