In an interview in Sunday’s edition of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” host Brian Stelter asked counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway whether President Trump would hire a new communications director, a White House post that has sat vacant since the departure of Hope Hicks earlier this year.
Conway’s response: “The president is a great communications director and he’s got wonderful people supporting him.”
Regardless of how you feel about the people “supporting” Trump, the first part of Conway’s reply to Stelter received something of a factual boost on Tuesday night. The president was giving remarks at the Susan B. Anthony List’s 11th annual Campaign for Life Gala, at which Conway herself received the 2018 Distinguished Leader Award.
Riffing on his loyal aide, Trump told the audience, “She is some fighter. She’ll do the shows that nobody else dares go near,” said Trump. “She’ll just — I’ll say, ‘Do this one or that one.’ ‘No problem, sir.’ Others say, ‘Sir, do you think I could take a pass, please? I beg you, please.’ Great going, Kellyanne. Thank you. What a help. What a help.”
Evidence for Trump’s claim spills from CNN’s programming every week. Whether the interviewer is Chris Cuomo, Jake Tapper, Stelter or some other host, Conway seems to enjoy mixing it up with adversarial reporters. Her doggedness on turning the interviews into referenda on the bona fides of CNN itself has to please the president.
But who cares about all that? We already knew as much.
What Trump’s comments reveal is the degree to which he obsesses over bookings and talking points. He’s the commander in chief/communications director in chief, a guy who ascended to the top office in the land to interact more fully with the cable-news industry. To take his utterances at face value is to conclude that some indeterminate part of the president’s day is spent negotiating with aides about whether they appear on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN or whatever.
Is that normal? Nah. An official who worked for Trump’s predecessor emailed the Erik Wemple Blog: “Obama used to have a general sense when our folks would be out if it was part of a broader push (ie State of the Union) but I never once heard of him spending time watching or observing.”
Come to think of it, this may well be a stroke of managerial brilliance. Who, after all, is more steeped in cable news than Trump? To quote a December 2017 report from the New York Times: “People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back.” In his only solo news conference as president, Trump exhibited a mastery of panel composition on Don Lemon’s CNN program. A reporter once walked in on him watching a recording of “Fox & Friends.”
So, by all means, President Trump: Coordinate with your aides on Fox News v. CNN v. MSNBC. Strategize over how to handle Tapper. These are pressing issues, so perhaps you’ll need to delegate national security, the economy, politics, climate . . .