In the wake of the incessant “crowd size” stories and handwringing last weekend, President Trump’s media strategy has never been clearer. As Glenn Reynolds opined in USA Today, he’s gaslighting them.
Many of my fellow RedState writers will roll their eyes at this opinion, but I’m going with it anyway. Trump’s not a dummy. He rode this strategy all the way to the White House, so why should he stop now? It allows him to keep on doing whatever he wants while the press – and some conservatives – twist into pretzels with every new controversial quote or tweet.
Trump’s “outrageous” statements and tweets aren’t the product of impulsiveness, but part of a carefully maintained strategy that the press is too impulsive to resist.
In fact, Trump’s basically gaslighting them. Knowing how much they hate him, he’s constantly provoking them to go over the top. Sean Spicer’s crowd-size remarks on Saturday were all about making them seem petty and negative. (And, possibly, teeing up crowd size comparisons at this Friday’s March For Life, which the press normally ignores but which Trump will probably force them to cover).
President Trump also visited the CIA last Saturday, and what was the mainstream press takeaway from that speech? “ZOMG! He went to Langley and talked about how great his inauguration was and crowd size! What an egomaniacal idiot!” They were smart enough to realize it was significant that he went to the CIA first after the issues with outgoing chief John Brennan. But they missed that Trump’s point with the crowd size comments was that the press had it out for him and they couldn’t be trusted. Do you think that rank-and-file CIA employees, the non-political ones, trust the press? (Hint: no.) Did the press ever consider that perhaps this was a way of bonding with these employees? (Another hint: no.)
The press think Trump couldn’t possibly have a strategy for dealing with them, because they think he’s dumb.
As Richard Fernandez writes on Facebook, they think he’s dumb because they think he has lousy taste, but there are a lot of scarily competent guys out there in the world who like white and gold furniture. And, I should note, Trump has more media experience than probably 99% of the people covering him. (As Obama operative Ben Rhodes gloated with regard to selling a dishonest story on the Iran deal, the average reporter the Obama White House dealt with “is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns.” In Rhodes’ words, “they literally know nothing.”)
And they show no signs of being capable of the analysis and self-control necessary to recognize, let alone correct, their behavior. So we should all buckle up and get ready for four years of media meltdown.