According to three senior officials on the transition team, a plan to evict the press corps from the White House is under serious consideration by the incoming Trump Administration. If the plan goes through, one of the officials said, the media will be removed from the cozy confines of the White House press room, where it has worked for several decades. Members of the press will be relocated to the White House Conference Center—near Lafayette Square—or to a space in the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House.
“There has been no decision,” Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, said about the plan today. But Spicer acknowledged that “there has been some discussion about how to do it.”
Spicer spins this move as a favor: “There’s been so much interest in covering a President Donald Trump,” he said. “A question is: Is a room that has forty-nine seats adequate? When we had that press conference the other day, we had thousands of requests, and we capped it at four hundred. Is there an opportunity to potentially allow more members of the media to be part of this? That’s something we’re discussing.”
There are two things happening here. First is the classic Trump bullying. He’s throwing his weight around – because he can – and showing how he can (literally) marginalize reporters. Second, his narcissism is showing. He want’s his press conferences to look like his rallies – so turnout matters. This will also allow him to fill those seats with people who will clap, cheer and laugh at his jokes on demand.
Questions on policy, ethics, Russia, etc. will be measured by a laugh track – “Look at the crowds at my press conference! The real reporters booed at CNN’s question about Putin – FAKE NEWS!” Trump is setting the stage, and what better way to do that then by diluting serious voices by putting them in a Breitbart swamp.
But the reasons above aren’t what’s really going on. Look past the spin and you’ll find this:
“They are the opposition party,” a senior official says. “I want ’em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.”
Opposition party? We are watching the writing of a narrative. This will join with “fake news” and “hostile press” and label the press as a partisan party. This choice of words is no accident. It’s deliberate… and extremely dangerous.
There are many ways to look at this–all of them are sinister in terms of motivation, some of them–ironically–may be beneficial in outcome. If the press conducted a self-examination that led to considerably more investigative reporting in the absence of easy access, I’m not sure that would be a completely bad thing.
That said, however, the question that we always need to ask is what place this move holds in the strategy of Steve Bannon, who has far more to do with what Trump is doing that people believe. Analyze it: Trump tweets crazy shit, but always at exactly the correct moment. That’s not something Trump is doing on instinct–that’s planning. For what Bannon and Trump have in mind, they will eventually need the press back, but on their terms. It will be expanded at its arm’s length to include Breitbart, the New Federalist, Conservative Times, Alternet, even possibly Oathkeepers and Russia Today. The deal will be that the press gets back about 40% of its previous access in exchange for officially recognizing the whacko press as part of the ensemble.
And they’ll take it–that’s the bad part, the truly bad part. They’ll take it because they don’t really understand what it means. (Yes, I realize that few of you will credit this, but simply wait …)
Here’s your conundrum–why does Trump first double down on John Lewis, and then triple down (by elevating Steve Harvey from court jester to player), and then quadruple down (by canceling his visit to the African-American History museum)? He did so because John Lewis gave Steve Bannon a gift–a target. Each time Trump escalates, Bannon is watching to see who they lose, who stays silent, who silently supports them, and who actively supports him. This is the initiation period.
People should really be going back to read William Shirer.
I agree with everything you said except Trump’s tweeting. Bannon may use them to his advantage, but the tweets (as Trump’s Twitter history shows) are all Trump.
The press has to be very careful in how they maneuver through Trump land. I watched a clip of Anderson Cooper saying that he doesn’t attend things like politicians cocktail parties and White House Correspondence Dinner. That’s probably the way to go – and it was something that has needed to happen for a very long time.
I didn’t mean to imply that Bannon controls the tweets, but I think he advises very clearly in the timing of the tweets.
Even Jennifer Rubin is offering sharp advice to reporters covering Trump.
The opportunity is, of course, for the media to get its mojo back and do more work to hold power accountable and to provide transparency. Which is not what happens by reporting on tweets and in doing both sides do it journalism. If Democrats were smart, they’d work out a way to be a silent partner in this enterprise.
Probably old news by now, but recall that I predicted above–For what Bannon and Trump have in mind, they will eventually need the press back, but on their terms. It will be expanded at its arm’s length to include Breitbart, the New Federalist, Conservative Times, Alternet, even possibly Oathkeepers and Russia Today.