Trump Is Doing More Or Less What We Thought He'd Be Doing If He Lost

Trump Is Doing More Or Less What We Thought He'd Be Doing If He Lost

Here's a personnel rumor from The New York Times:

Bill Shine, a former co-president of Fox News and top lieutenant to the network’s founder, Roger Ailes, has spoken with White House officials about taking a position on President Trump’s communications team, according to several people briefed on the discussions.

Mr. Shine has no political experience outside of producing cable news, and he was forced out of Fox News in May after his name surfaced in lawsuits that accused him of abetting Mr. Ailes’s harassing behavior toward women....

But Mr. Shine has an influential ally in the Fox News host Sean Hannity, an informal adviser to Mr. Trump — and one of his most loyal on-air supporters — who dined with Mr. Shine, the president and the first lady at the White House last week.

Has there ever been a president more obsessed with the makeup of his communications team? As The Washington Post's Callum Borchers has noted, Trump has already had four communications directors serving five separate stints -- Jason Miller, Sean Spicer, Mike Dubke, Spicer again, and then Anthony Scaramucci -- over a period of less than half a year.

Meanwhile, the president can't get legislation passed -- congressional Republicans are now ignoring his demand that they take another shot at repealing Obamacare -- and, as Jack Goldsmith has noted at Lawfare, even his subordinates in the Executive Branch don't seem to treat him as president:

What is most remarkable is the extent to which his senior officials act as if Trump were not the chief executive. Never has a president been so regularly ignored or contradicted by his own officials. I’m not talking about so-called “deep state” bureaucrats. I’m talking about senior officials in the Justice Department and the military and intelligence and foreign affairs agencies. And they are not just ignoring or contradicting him in private. They are doing so in public for all the world to see.

Examples?


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* Trump’s senior intelligence appointees openly disagree with him on Russia hack....

* Secretary of Defense James Mattis seems to be running the Pentagon entirely on his own. He also contradicted the president both on several matters related to NATO and when he said the United States was “not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil.” The Defense Department has also thus far ignored Trump’s transgender tweet.

Soon after Trump dismissed the possibiilty of a future Palestinian State, U.N. representative Nikki Haley said the administration “absolutely” supports a two-state solution. Haley also crossed Trump on the Russia hack, disagreed with him on some U.N. programs and on Russia sanctions, has taken a different tack on human rights, and even endorsed Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.

Trump isn't interested in doing the job of president -- but he's intensely interested in generating spin. It's not just the regular morning tweetstorms, which seem to be the moments in the day when he's most engaged. It's not just that he still holds campaign rallies (and revels in the adulation). Today's two biggest stories involve Trump trying to fend off reality with messaging: The Washington Post says he personally dictated a false statement describing a meeting his son, son-in-law, and campaign head had with various unsavory Russians in 2016, and NPR reports on allegations that the White House -- allegedly including Trump himself -- colluded with Fox News and a right-wing money guy to spread a now-withdrawn story claiming that murdered Democratic aide Seth Rich was in touch with Wikileaks shortly before his death.

In both cases, Trump seems to have acted as if messaging could fend off reality -- or maybe he thought objective reality didn't matter as long as his fan base believed his version of each story.

Remember when we thought Trump was going to lose the election, and we all assumed that this Vanity Fair report might really be true?

Trump is indeed considering creating his own media business, built on the audience that has supported him thus far in his bid to become the next president of the United States. According to several people briefed on the discussions, the presumptive Republican nominee is examining the opportunity presented by the “audience” currently supporting him. He has also discussed the possibility of launching a “mini-media conglomerate” outside of his existing TV-production business, Trump Productions LLC. He has, according to one of these people, enlisted the consultation of his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who owns the The New York Observer. Trump’s rationale, according to this person, is that, “win or lose, we are onto something here. We’ve triggered a base of the population that hasn’t had a voice in a long time.”

Well, there's no media company, but the Trump presidency is really just a propaganda machine for itself, one that doesn't broadcast so much as narrowcast -- the target market is the same one that would have watched Trump TV if it had actually gone on the air. Trump's fan base is still with him not because he's managed to do very much of what he promised to do, but because he talks about doing it, and he talks about how unfair everyone is to him. Isn't that the point of right-wing media -- to reflect the audience own sense of permanent grievance? In that way, the Trump presidency is the most important right-wing media outlet right now. What the Trump presidency isn't is a presidency. And Trump doesn't care, because messaging is what seems to matter most to him.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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