After US President Donald Trump’s first solo news conference, the US news media were left wondering where to start their summation of the 77-minute Q&A. While picking up the pieces from the tongue-lashing they received, some asked whether it was the new normal
Gretel Johnston –
US President Donald Trump held a news conference at the White House on Thursday in what the press corps had believed would be a routine announcement of his new choice to be labour secretary.
Instead, it turned into a tour-de-force of his combative style, with the former reality television star hammering the media and championing his accomplishments as if he were still stumping on the campaign trail.
After nearly four weeks in office Trump delivered an overwhelmingly positive self-critique of his presidency thus far, in sharp contrast to criticism from all political camps except the Republican base and his ardent supporters.
To hear him tell it, he has only been keeping promises he made to the American people.
“There has never been a presidency that’s done so much in such a short period of time,” he crowed. “And we have not even started the big work yet.”
Among the highlights he touted were announcements about jobs returning to the country, record highs on Wall Street and a tremendous surge of optimism in the business world.
He cited a poll by Rasmussen putting his approval rating at 55 per cent — selecting the highest of three prominent polls, with the other two, Gallup and Pew Research, placing his approval rating at 40 per cent and 39 per cent.
At the same time he claimed he “inherited a mess” and ticked off a litany of problems both domestic and international.
While reporters questioned the resignation of his national security adviser over his dealings with Russia and contacts his aides had with Russians during the campaign, Trump denied any involvement with Russia.
His energy would go into fixing things, including relations with Russia: “We’re going to take care of it all,” he said.
Above all else in Trump’s almost stream-of-consciousness pronouncements were his complaints about the “dishonest” and “out of control” media.
He griped about the “tone” some television reporters used, a “nasty” story on the front page of the New York Times and the “hatred and venom” that he said flowed from a CNN broadcast in particular.
“I sort of enjoy this back and forth — I guess I have all my life — but I’ve never seen more dishonest media than frankly, the political media,” Trump said.
His election victory, he said, was thanks to his news conferences and speeches, not because voters listened to “you people,” he said, adding, “that’s for sure.”
It was surprising that Trump for the first time as president opened the floor for what turned into a rollicking session, with reporters hands flying into the air, hoping to be called on, as they realised the president was ready to spar.
Surprising because the day before during a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he ignored reporters from major newspapers and television networks, calling only on those who have been friendly to him.
While much of what he said was familiar or taken straight out of his campaign handbook, he did give reporters something they hope for the most in such a setting: news.
He said he would issue a new “executive action” next week, implying that it would be more narrowly tailored than the controversial January 27 executive order on immigration that has been halted by a court.
Trump also said that an immigration programme to stop the deportation of people who arrived in the US as children, but never became legal immigrants, had been difficult for him, saying “we’re gonna show great heart.”
The president who is so fond of using Twitter to bypass the media, told reporters he would let them ask him questions about his proposals because he liked to take his message “straight to the people.”
And even with all the bashing, in his inimitable way, he said some reporters were “fantastic,” adding that he would make a good reporter himself. — dpa