I don’t have the answer, but I have received dozens of tweets and messages from people applauding Trump’s performance. Bret Baier may have said it best: “This is Trump being Trump. … For his supporters, it is ultimately refreshing and 100 percent they’re behind him. For his opponents, they think it’s frightening and unhinged.”
Regardless of what you thought, I think the one word we can use to describe the news conference is “riveting.” And it effectively cauterized the hemorrhaging press coverage of Michael Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser, what Trump knew and when he knew it and the withdrawal of Andrew Puzder as Trump’s labor secretary nominee. The conversation has now dramatically shifted. In that sense, it was an extremely successful move for Trump. But this was only a battle. The war with the press continues, and in my view, the media will never be defeated. They are here to stay.
Anyway, it seems like a lot of what Trump says is a bluff. Maybe he believes the best defense is a good offense. But he may not be able to overwhelm coverage of his mistakes with volume and bluster forever. It remains to be seen if Trump fatigue will set in, even among his supporters, especially once his performance can be critiqued by results on the economy and jobs.
I think it’s accurate to think of Washington as the bulls-eye. As you move farther and farther out along the concentric rings, fewer and fewer people parse and analyze exactly what is said and instead pay more attention to the overall attitude and tone they sense coming from inside the Beltway. And frankly, a lot of people out in middle America think it’s great that Trump is taking it to the media. They’re not fixated on this or that specific statement; they’re just appreciative that someone is stirring the pot, and when they see the usual suspects coming apart at the seams, they think Trump must be doing something right.
I am reminded again of what Salena Zito wrote during the campaign about Donald Trump, that “the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” While the media and many in Washington are dumbfounded by some of Trump’s claims — like his statement Thursday that he had the “biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan” when in fact he did not — outside the swamp, that is viewed as incidental and is greeted with a collective “so what?” Trump wants to develop a different standard for how what happens in Washington is evaluated. The pattern and rituals of news coverage will be unlike that of any other administration.
The commonly held belief was that Trump had to conform to conventional standards to win the primary, then to win the general and then to be a good president. Well, so far all of us who held those beliefs are 0-for-16 in the primaries and 0-for-1 in the general. Trump said Thursday that he won the election “with news conferences and probably speeches. I certainly didn’t win by people listening to [the media], that’s for sure.” Maybe he has a point.