It was childish and validated lingering questions about his temperament, but President Trump's abrupt walkout from an interview with CBS's John Dickerson should not add to concerns about press access.
During a conversation in the Oval Office that was taped Saturday and aired Monday on “CBS This Morning,” Trump described to Dickerson the weight of the “unbelievable” life-or-death decisions a president has to make. That led to this exchange:
DICKERSON: How do you learn that skill? Who do you call to say, “What's it like to —
TRUMP: There's nobody you can call.
DICKERSON: Did President Obama give you any advice that was helpful? That you think, wow, he really was —
TRUMP: Well, he was very nice to me. But after that, we've had some difficulties. So it doesn't matter. You know, words are less important to me than deeds. And you — you saw what happened with surveillance. And everybody saw what happened with surveillance —
DICKERSON: Difficulties how?
TRUMP: And I thought that — well, you saw what happened with surveillance. And I think that was inappropriate, but that's the way —
DICKERSON: What does that mean, sir?
TRUMP: You can figure that out yourself.
Dickerson and Trump went back and forth eight more times, until the president waved his hand, walked away and said: “Okay, it's enough. Thank you. Thank you very much.”
Recounting the episode on live TV Monday, Dickerson said, “It was pretty clear that I was to escort myself out or I would be escorted out. I would be moved along. It was time for our conversation to be over.”
Trump's unwillingness to answer questions about his surveillance claim is particularly maddening because he is the one who raised the subject, unprompted. If you are going to bring it up, you better be game to talk about it. And if you are going to remark on the “bigness of the office,” as Trump did earlier in the interview, you ought to show some poise.
However, it must be noted that Trump already had sat down for a lengthy interview with Dickerson in the Roosevelt Room, which aired Sunday on “Face the Nation.” After cutting off the conversation in the Oval Office, Trump still allowed Dickerson to fly with him on Air Force One to a rally in Harrisburg, Pa. Once there, he granted another interview to Dickerson.
And on Monday, Trump permitted “CBS This Morning,” with Dickerson, to broadcast from the East Room of the White House.
So sure, Trump once again displayed an inability to keep cool under tough questioning. He has walked out of interviews before, and he probably will do so in the future.
But he also granted Dickerson and CBS ample access, and he didn't hold a grudge.