Tag Archives: White House press corps

No ‘guarantee’? So, what is the problem?

I feel the need to give White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders the benefit of the doubt on her latest skirmish with the press corps/”enemy of the people.”

She was pressed this week about whether she could “guarantee” that there would be no tape recordings of Donald J. Trump using the n-word in conversation.

Sanders said she couldn’t “guarantee” such a thing. Some in the media have gone a bit catatonic in their response to what I thought was a realistic answer. They have wondered how or why she couldn’t — or wouldn’t — offer a direct answer to a direct question.

Consider a couple of factors here.

First, as press secretary, Sanders very well might not know every tiny detail of every little occurrence within the West Wing.

Second, she serves in a presidential administration led by a pathological liar. Donald Trump cannot tell the truth to anyone, or so it appears, at least to chumps like me. I am quite certain Sanders didn’t intend to question the president’s veracity by making her “no guarantee” declaration.

Sure, Trump denies ever using the n-word. He says it’s not in his vocabulary. Do you believe him? I … do … not!

However, her answer sounded to my ears to be about the most honest response she has offered while speaking for the president.

Wolf controversy overshadows media’s good work

It’s a shame that a foul-mouthed comedian’s performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner has overshadowed much of what the crowd was there to do.

They came to honor those who work in the media, who cover the news and report to the public the happenings of the federal government, its elected officials and appointed staff.

The media are not, in the words of Donald J. Trump — who skipped the dinner for the second consecutive year — the “enemy of the American people.” Far from it. They are the protectors of transparency, accountability and government integrity.

Many media outlets were honored. CNN, for example, received a high honor for its work reporting on the dossier that emerged revealing potential connections between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian government operatives seeking to meddle in our 2016 presidential election.

The correspondents dinner focus should be on those individuals and organizations. Instead, we’re arguing from coast to coast over whether comedian Michelle Wolf crossed the line of decency in her scathing criticism of the president and his senior staff members.

For the record … she did.

The media, though, are doing the job the U.S. Constitution empowers them to do — without government interference, bullying, intimidation or threats.

I hope to be done with the Michelle Wolf travesty.

The media that are reporting on the presidency and the rest of the government will continue to earn my undying pride and praise when they do well.

Press flack keeps insulting the public’s intelligence

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders fielded a direct question today from a member of the White House press corps: Is Russia a friend or foe of the United States?

Her answer defies all logic and it insults the intelligence of Americans across the board.

Sanders said “it is up to the Russians to decide” if they are going to be friendly or unfriendly toward the United States. Such a goofy response causes many of us out here to say: What the … is she talking about?

I need to remind Sanders what her boss, Donald John Trump, used to say about “identifying our enemies.” While running for president, Trump excoriated President Barack Obama for refusing to identify “Muslim terrorists” by name. Obama’s response was that we are not at war with Islam, but we are at war with those who are mass murderers of Muslims.

Why, then, does the current president identify Russia as a supreme foe of this country? Why does his press flack sing from the White House song book that refuses to identify our adversary — by name!

The Russians have all but declared war on our electoral system. They have sown discord, dismay and discontent among Americans, many of whom have lost total and unvarnished faith in our nation’s election system.

The Russians and their president, Vladimir Putin, are not our friends. Putin is a trained spook. He once ran the Soviet Union’s spy agency. He is, in the words of former Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly, “a killer.” Putin has sanctioned the murder of journalists and anyone who dissents from his public policy.

This man is a friend? It is up to the Russians to “decide” if they are our friend?

Listen up, young lady: You insult our intelligence constantly by spouting such idiocy.

Yes, the White House is at ‘war’ with the media

White House press secretaries have a singular mission, which is to convey the message of the president to the American public.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now performing that task to mixed reviews. Those who support Donald Trump’s agenda applaud her; those (of us) who don’t, well, we jeer her.

I’ll offer this jeer, therefore, to Sanders for saying that the White House is not “at war” with the media. Sure thing, Mme. Press Secretary.

Then, why does the president declare that the media are “the enemy of the American people”? Why does he keep insisting that media reports he finds objectionable come from what he refers to as “fake media”? Why does he disparage reporters individually, by name, along with their organizations?

Good grief, Sarah! The president declared war on the media long ago. The first press flack, Sean Spicer, fired the first barrage on Day One of the Trump administration when he challenged the media reporting of the size of the Trump inaugural crowd!

I am pretty certain the media believe they are in a state of “war” with the administration. Whether the White House’s “fine-tuned machine” believes it ignores what many of the rest of us realized long ago.

Sanders took part in a discussion of White House media relations with Mike McCurry, press secretary for the Clinton administration. McCurry, not surprisingly, took issue with Sanders’s assertion that there is no warfare taking place. He said the White House criticizes media reporting “every day,” which he considers to be a form of media war.

Read The Hill’s story here.

I am one of those former media guys who knows White House combat with the press when he sees it.

Thus, I believe Sarah Sanders is, um, quite wrong while she parrots the White House line on its relationship with the media.

Trump declines to mingle with ‘the enemy’

We might have seen this one coming.

Donald J. Trump announced today he won’t attend the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, an event that attracts noted journalists, assorted celebrities and politicians — and usually features a blistering bit of self-deprecation and jabs at others from the president of the United States.

It’s a whole lot of fun for those who attend. At least it’s supposed to be fun.

Trump, though, will forgo the event. “I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Is anyone surprised? Really? I didn’t think so. Trump, after all, has labeled the media the “enemy of the people.” Why would he want to mingle with such “dishonest” individuals and organizations?

The president has gone on the warpath against the mainstream media, going so far as to ban certain media organizations from attending routine White House press briefings. He has called them “fake news” outlets. He has accused the media of making stories up, of hiding their sources and attribution.

It is all — if I may borrow a term — “unpresidented” of the president to say these things about the media.

However, the White House Correspondents Dinner has been notable at many levels for many years. Perhaps the most notable event occurred in 2011, when then-President Obama joked about Trump — who was in the audience — concocting all sorts of conspiracy theories, starting with whether the president was born in the U.S. of A. Trump, at the time a mere real estate mogul and reality TV celebrity, took the ribbing stone-faced

What we didn’t know at the time, of course, was that earlier that day Obama had approved the commando mission to kill Osama bin Laden, who was holed up in a Pakistan compound. The president  carried on as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

The dinner, which occurs on April 29, will no doubt include plenty of barbs tossed at the president from the podium.

I’m willing to consider taking bets on whether Trump unloads via Twitter in response when they start flying at him. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, either.

Do as Trump says, not as he does

Donald J. Trump cracks me up.

Except that I’m not laughing with the president, but rather I’m laughing at him for the preposterous declarations he makes about the media — and what he does before and after he makes them.

Trump stood before the Conservative Political Action Conference audience this week and excoriated the media — the “enemy of the people,” remember — for using anonymous sources.

What, then, occurred that makes this attack so laughable?

His White House staff talked to a select group of media on the grounds that they be allowed to speak anonymously.

D’oh! Huh? Eh? What the … ?

Trump’s CPAC rant was the latest ramping up of his war against the media, the folks whose task is to report to their own constituents what is going on with the White House, the president’s staff and, by golly, the president himself.

This ridiculous and nonsensical rant in which he blasts the media for granting anonymity to sources only demonstrates the president’s utter ignorance of the traditional role between the media and the White House.

It’s supposed to be adversarial. Every single president — regardless of party or ideology — has bitched about his treatment by the media. Some have taken that complaint to more intense levels than others; President Nixon’s troubles come to mind.

However, every single one of them has said essentially the same thing: The media treat me unfairly; they’re too harsh; they’re too probing; they pry too much and too deeply.

The treatment Trump is getting is really no different than what has occurred since the founding of the Republic.

Now, for him to blast the media for granting anonymity — while allowing his staff to request it of the media — simply makes me shake my head in sheer amazement at this president’s ignorance.

It’s the temperament, man … the temperamant

I’ve been trying to determine when I’ve ever seen a president of the United States treat the media in the manner being displayed by the current one.

I cannot remember a single time. Not even during President Richard Nixon’s time in the White House.

Donald Trump has shown utter contempt and disrespect for the men and women assigned to cover the White House for their various news organizations.

It manifests itself when he gets a question he dislikes. He tells reporters to “sit down, that’s enough” when they seek to elaborate on their question, to fill in a blank or two. No, the president will have none of it.

Forget for a moment that he calls them “dishonest” out loud, in public, to their face … and then expects these fellow human beings to treat him with kid gloves.

The disrespect — as I’ve witnessed it — is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed, even from afar.

If we march back through time — starting from Barack Obama and going backward — I cannot remember a president acting the way this one does in front of the media.

There was one memorable, testy exchange in the 1970s between then-CBS News correspondent Dan Rather and President Nixon. The president was getting entangled in the Watergate scandal and Rather asked him a pointed question. Some members of the press gallery chuckled, some even clapped. Nixon asked Rather, “Are you running for something?” Rather responded, “No, Mr. President, are you?”

Presidents usually have strained relations with the media. They dislike negative coverage, as does any politician — no matter what they might say. As I’ve watched presidential/media relationships from a distance over the years, I have noticed a sometimes cool cordiality between the Big Man and the media that cover him.

What we’re getting now is open hostility and an exhibition of extremely bad manners from the guy who needs the media as least as much as they need him.

I’m trying to imagine what will occur if and/or when the crap really hits the fan at the White House. I fear the president will go berserk.

Didn’t someone mention temperament as a quality we look for in a president of the United States of America?

‘Leaks are real, news is fake’ Huh? What?

I’m trying to digest the contents of Donald J. Trump’s press conference today.

It’s upsetting my stomach.

The president has declared all-out war on the media, which he calls “dishonest” and “fake.” The very men and women who cover the president’s statements and actions are told to their face that they are out to get the president, that they have an anti-Trump agenda.

One of them asked Trump today about the leaks that have allowed information to pour out into the public. Trump’s response is utterly mind-boggling on its face: “The leaks are real. The news is fake.”

I don’t even know what that means.

My media activity these days is confined exclusively to this blog. I did spend nearly four decades covering and commenting on local and state governments in two states — first in Oregon and then in Texas. I didn’t have the honor of covering the White House or politics at the highest level imaginable.

However, I do share a bit of empathy with the reporters who are doing their job in the face of withering attacks from the president of the United States.

He should seek to use the media to his own advantage. The president has a message to deliver, or so I am presuming. He must rely on the media to deliver it to the public. Why, for heaven’s sake, does he insist on the ad hominem attacks on the media? Why does he insult the men and women sitting in front of him with labels such as “dishonest” and “fake”?

This guy — the president — cannot remove himself from flat-out campaign mode. He used that tactic against his Republican Party primary opponents and then against the Democratic Party nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The media now have taken over the role political opponent.

I think I am picking up the scent of Steve Bannon, the White House senior strategist, who has called the media the “opposition party” and suggested that the media should keep quiet.

The media are nothing of the kind. Nor should they keep quiet; the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the media’s right to pose probing questions of those in power.

If only the president of the United States could demonstrate an inkling of knowledge of the media’s role in a modern society.

Trump continues to play the media perfectly

Donald J. Trump has the media right where he wants them.

In his crosshairs. At the center of public policy debates.

Make no mistake, the president of the United States is demonstrating his amazing skill at playing the media like a cheap fiddle.

What has been fascinating to watch is the discussion over this weekend about the media reporting of inaugural crowd size and the attack-dog performance of press secretary Sean Spicer. He went right after the media in the White House press room. The media took the bait and have launched into an amazing discussion of what many reporters call “small things.”

Yes, the media keep insisting that Trump has lowered the level of discussion to issues that don’t matter — such as inaugural crowd size estimates. The media keep talking about it, however, as if it does matter.

How does the president benefit from all of this?

The Republican Party base that held Trump up while he insulted his way to the GOP nomination and then to the election hates the media’s guts. The base is Trump’s essential audience. He seems to not give a damn — no matter what he says — about representing the entire country. He’s still in campaign mode and he’s going to play to his base as long as is humanly possible.

The media are going to allow it as long as they keep tussling with the president over “small things.”

Meanwhile, many of the rest of out here in the vast stretches of this still-great nation are hoping Team Trump will develop some kind of working relationship with the media that cover it.

These first couple of days seem to portend a rocky ride.

Which might be just to Donald J. Trump’s liking.

Sean Spicer: media puncher in chief

Sean Spicer sauntered into the White House press briefing room today and did something quite extraordinary.

The White House press secretary looked the media in the eye and echoed what the new president of the United States has said repeatedly: He called them dishonest.

Think about that. The fellow who will be the president’s spokesman, his point of contact with the White House press corps, took off his proverbial glove and slapped the media square in the face.

And over what? This is the best part.

He challenged the media’s reporting of the size of the crowd at Donald J. Trump’s inauguration. The crowd, he said, was bigger than the media reported. It rivaled the size of the crowd that gathered for Barack Obama’s first inaugural and was larger than President Obama’s second inaugural.

Spicer bitched about pictures he said misrepresented the size of the crowd.

Here we go, ladies and gentlemen. The president of the United States is continuing his campaign to discredit the media. He trotted out his spokesman to lash out at the press corps while he — Trump, that is — was accusing the media of being full of “dishonest people.”

It’s been said that people in power shouldn’t “punch down.” If you’re the president of the United States, you pick fights, say, with members of Congress over policy matters or you argue with heads of state of adversarial nations.

Arguing over crowd size? To be candid, a lot of Trump’s supporters think he’s right, that the media deserve to be taken down, that they are too big, too powerful, too smug, too elitist and, oh yes, too liberal.

Let’s all get ready, folks. There’s much more of this to come. Of that I am quite certain.