A media appearance by White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller is a bit like a solar eclipse: rare but blindingly intense, if you look straight at it.
On President Trump's deep roster of media combatants, no one brings it quite like “the great Stephen Miller,” as Ann Coulter called him after his searing performance in a Sunday morning interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.
“I wonder if it would help if all Trump spokesmen were as smart as Stephen Miller,” Coulter tweeted in August, after Miller's first, and so far only, showing at a White House press briefing.
I don't have the power to imbue anyone else with the Duke-educated Miller's smarts, but I can offer this handy guide to attacking the media like he does. It's easy! Just follow these three simple steps.
Use really strong adjectives. Repeat them.
Pay attention to Miller's word choice in this excerpt from his response to Tapper's first question, about remarks made by Breitbart News Chairman Stephen K. Bannon in “Fire and Fury,” a new book by journalist Michael Wolff:
. . . it's tragic and unfortunate that Steve would make these grotesque comments, so out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive. And the whole White House staff is deeply disappointed in his comments, which were grotesque.
And with respect to the Trump Tower meeting that he's talking about, he wasn't even there when any of this went down. So, he's not really a remotely credible source on any of it. It reads like an angry, vindictive person spouting off to a highly discredible author. The book is best understood as a work of very poorly written fiction.
And I also will say that the author is a garbage author of a garbage book.
Bannon's comments aren't merely uninformed, according to Miller; they are “grotesque.” Miller doesn't apply some tired phrase such as “sour grapes” to Bannon, a former White House chief strategist; he uses “vindictive.”
He repeats both adjectives to make sure they sink in.
Miller's other descriptors in this passage include “tragic,” “discredible” and “garbage.” “Discredible” isn't even a word (Miller probably meant “discreditable”), but the goal — which he accomplished — is to deliver criticism in forceful language.
Be offended. Be very offended.
You might think that a Trump surrogate should strive to be the antithesis of a snowflake. You would be wrong.
Take offense. Take offense on behalf of others, as Miller did at that August briefing, when CNN's Jim Acosta asked about Trump's plan to emphasize English-language skills in immigration decisions and quipped, “Are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?”
“That you think only people from Great Britain or Australia would speak English is so insulting to millions of hard-working immigrants who do speak English from all over the world,” Miller shot back.
Speaking with Tapper on Sunday, Miller defended “the kinds of people whose life concerns don't get a lot of attention on CNN.”
“Not a lot of hours of coverage on this TV talking about the working-class construction workers who have lost their jobs to foreign labor,” he said.
The idea is to rebut the notion that Trump's behavior is offensive by righteously suggesting that it is actually the press that is offensive.
Don't answer the question. Then act like the interviewer won't let you answer the question.
Tapper cited Trump's statement that “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency” and asked Miller, “Is the president really arguing that Steve Bannon had nothing to do with him or his presidency?”
Miller began his response with a dodge. “I can only tell you my experience, which is that I joined the campaign in January of '16,” he said, prompting Tapper to ask about Bannon's role in Miller's hiring.
When Tapper tried to steer the conversation back to Bannon's significance in the Trump White House — “There is no presidency that is one person,” he said — Miller answered with a non-sequitur about the campaign.
“A phenomenon was happening that you didn't see,” Miller said.
Then came this exchange:
TAPPER: If you would let me — if you would let me ask — if you would let me ask this question.
MILLER: No, because you have . . .
TAPPER: The president . . .
MILLER: You get 24 hours of negative, anti-Trump, hysterical coverage on this network . . .
MILLER: . . . that led in recent weeks to some spectacularly embarrassing false reporting from your network.
TAPPER: I think — I think the viewers right now can ascertain who is being hysterical.
MILLER: No, the viewers are entitled . . .
TAPPER: My — my . . .
MILLER: . . . to have three months [sic] of the truth. Why don't you just give me three minutes to tell you the truth of the Donald Trump that I know and that all of our campaign knows?
See what Miller did there? Here's how to replicate it: Try to change the subject. When the interviewer interrupts, in an effort to get back on topic, angrily allege that you are being stopped from speaking “truth.”
Soon after, Tapper cut off the interview, saying, “I think I've wasted enough of my viewers' time. Thank you, Stephen.”