The "Late Show," for what it's worth, has existed since 1993. So Trump is the first guest in 23 years and more than 4,300 shows (according to IMDb) to be allowed this arrangement.
But why would he want to call in and not show his face? Because he can. And — just as important — because everyone else cannot.
There are some practical reasons why Trump likes to do phone interviews on television — a preference we at The Fix have noted before. CNN’s Chris Cuomo told the Erik Wemple Blog in September that dialing in is a “tactic” and laid out the advantages for Trump:
- “He doesn’t have to pick up on any visual cues; he doesn’t have to worry about the body language that is coming from somewhere else.”
- “It’s easy for him to over-talk the questioner.”
- “It’s tricky for interviewers because they’re not looking at their interviewee; they’re looking into a camera.”
These all make perfect sense. But the most important thing Trump accomplishes when he dials in — particularly to a program like the “Late Show” that has never let anyone do so before — is prove his influence and status. Host Stephen Colbert got in some shots, rolling out the "Trump Phone" (complete with hair swoop) and telling the audience that Trump is "running for president on the platform of opening his mouth and saying things." But the billionaire business mogul was the clear winner.
Throughout the campaign, Trump has not only shredded the media but also tried to exercise as much control over the press as possible. Of course, it hasn’t always worked out in his favor.
In the fall, he bragged about not needing to buy advertising time because he was getting so much free coverage. He remains a one-man news cycle who spends far less on promotion than his opponents. But he also suggested on more than one occasion that he ought to receive appearance fees for debates because he is so good for ratings. He got none.
And his standoff with Fox News Channel last month over the return of Megyn Kelly as a debate moderator ended with the cable giant holding firm. Trump thought he could pressure Fox into replacing Kelly but was wrong, so he boycotted the event. Kelly will again moderate next month, and Trump will participate this time. Point, Fox.
If Trump’s ego was bruised by that defeat, Tuesday’s victory on CBS should soothe the pain. And it will allow him to continue making the case to voters that he is an unparalleled negotiator who (usually) gets what he wants.
Which is just what America needs in the White House, right?