Being a spokesman for President Trump is a pretty thankless job. When he feuds with everyone, makes up facts or espouses conspiracy theories, you're the one who has to clean it up and try to put a good face on it.
Sometimes, there's just no good way to spin it.
Such is the case with The Washington Post's report Thursday evening that Trump reached out directly to the National Park Service's director the morning after his inaugural speech in search of proof that his crowd was actually more impressive than the media suggested — and to lodge a complaint about a retweet from the agency's Twitter account of an unfavorable comparison to Barack Obama's 2009 crowd.
Here's the meat:
In a Saturday phone call, Trump personally ordered [Michael T.] Reynolds to produce additional photographs of the previous day’s crowds on the Mall, according to three individuals who have knowledge of the conversation. The president believed that the photos might prove that the media had lied in reporting that attendance had been no better than average.
So here we have the president of the United States, on his first morning as president, reaching out directly to the head of an agency — in hopes of bolstering perceptions of his crowd size.
Luckily for Trump, his spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had an explanation for it: It's evidence that Trump is a hands-on guy, and it demonstrates why he won in 2016. Here's Huckabee Sanders's quote from Karen Tumulty's and Juliet Eilperin's piece:
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the call simply demonstrated that Trump’s management style is to be “so accessible, and constantly in touch.”
“He’s not somebody who sits around and waits. He takes action and gets things done,” Sanders said. “That’s one of the reasons that he is president today, and Hillary Clinton isn’t.”
First, being "accessible" is calling someone back when they call you — not you reaching out to have them do your bidding. We can debate the merits of micromanaging as POTUS, but the president calling the head of the Park Service about such a matter certainly qualifies as that. And it's not like Trump was trying to help Reynolds; he was seeking something to help his own public relations campaign. We're really redefining "takes action and gets things done" here. In this case, getting things done apparently means producing photographs that make you look good.
Second is the Trump team's continued fascination with mentioning its defeat of Clinton. At this point, it still seems to be a talking point they bring up whenever they can. Whenever Trump does something objectionable, the defense is basically, "Well, we won, so apparently this is what the American people wanted." (Philip Bump dismantles that argument here.)
At best, this was Trump being petty and trying to fight back against what he views as an unfair media narrative. At worst, this was Trump exploiting official resources for political purposes by using his authority as president.
But either way, it's just not a good look.