Ronald Reagan was the last president who came from the entertainment world, the movies, and then the governor’s mansion in California. We are witnessing a new phenomenon, a president-elect who was a TV star on “The Apprentice” for over a decade, and last year, told NBC’s Chuck Todd that he gets his military advice by watching “the shows”. Tweets sent out on Twitter are The Donald’s chosen method of direct communication to the American public and the world. They often are sent in the early a.m. hours since he seldom sleeps. Trump scorns the traditional media of newspapers and TV cable news; reporters for both are suspect, ignored or derided.
James Poniewozik, who writes “Critic’s Notebook” for the New York Times, captured this entire scenario on Monday December 12 with a brilliant analysis. “Mr. Trump and cable news have the same metabolism. Cable news demands a steady stream of excitations and ‘breaking updates’ , a constant instablility that keeps you tuning in. Mr. Trump is glad to supply that and cable news is glad to respond. This creates a perpetual-motion machine. He sees something in the news. He gets mad; he tweets; that becomes the news; repeat. He’s the Hate-Watcher in Chief.”
He continues, “Mr. Trump, on the other hand, is all stream of consciousness, improv, roll the cameras, and we’ll clean it up on postproduction. It’s unsteadying and disorienting. The national narrative becomes a reel of explosions and contradictions with no thread. Controversies follow one another too fast to remember any of them. …This chaos may benefit only the president elect, because when there is no certainty, no logic, there remains only the leader –only Mr. Trump.”
As I read this very accurate and perception piece, I thought of last week when Trump accepted the arranged call from the President of Taiwan and shook our 40 year “One China” policy and relations with China. This was followed by his Victory Tour visit to Carrier in Indiana and his Twitter personal attacks on Chuck Jones, the head of the steel union there. In between, he continued his Twitter blasts at Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him on SNL. He also sharply criticized Boeing’s plans to build the next refitted Air Force One plane by 2024. “Cancel the order!” he tweeted. Trump ended the week by a complete rejection of the C.I.A. analysis that Russia interfered in Trump’s favor with the 2016 election. “I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it,” Mr. Trump said on Sunday in a rare interview with Fox News. He also said in the interview, “ I don’t need the Daily Intelligence Briefings. I’m like a very smart person.” Final note on last week’s tweets. Trump continues to claim that he won the popular vote, while Secretary Clinton’s winning margin is now nearing three million votes.
After Trump’s chat with the president of Taiwan, an editorial ran in The Global Times, the Chinese state-run tabloid that said Mr. Trump “was like a child in his ignorance of foreign policy. The One China policy cannot be bought and sold. Trump, it seems, only understands business and everything has a price.” Trump did not appear worried about this response from China. He replied in the Fox interview, emphasizing that China appeared unwilling to help curb the nuclear ambitions of its neighbor North Korea. Then, a front page editorial appeared last week in the overseas edition of People’s Daily, “creating troubles for the China-U.S. relationship is creating troubles for the U.S. itself.” In a sharp rejoinder to Mr. Trump , the editorial said, pushing China on Taiwan “would greatly reduce the chance to achieve the goal of making America great again.”
This week, Trump had said he would hold a rare press conference on December 15 to discuss his extensive real estate and financial holdings. He had already said he would turn his business operations over to his two older sons and retain ownership. On Monday evening, December 12, Trump cancelled the December 15 press conference, postponing it until January. No further information was given on the important conflict of interests subject. Earlier that Monday, Trump had already tweeted that the cost of the new F-35 fighter jet was too expensive, causing Lockheed stock to plummet four points on the Dow.
That evening, the CNN and MSNBC talk shows were focused on the C.I.A. revelations about Russia interfering with the presidential election in favor of Trump. Republicans in Congress backed formal inquiries in a break with Trump. Majority leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan supported investigations.
Democratic Congressional leaders and the Clinton campaign added their voices since Russian hacking had led to the steady release by WikiLeaks of John Podesta’s emails over months. President Obama had already called for a thorough review of the Russian hacking. The Electoral College became involved, when ten electors formally called for all electors receiving full information on Russian hacking before they voted next week. If 38 Trump electors were to switch to Clinton on the basis of the investigations’ findings, Hillary Clinton would have over 270 votes and the presidency.
Finally, speculation continues in New York City that Trump may be a “commuter President” the first six months when his wife Melania will live in Trump tower with their youngest son who is enrolled at Columbia Prep. The city has asked the federal government to reimburse the projected costs of $35 million to protect him in residence at Trump Tower. It still rankles Trump that he lost New York State by 20 points and only carried Staten Island of the five city boroughs. John La Valle, chairman of the Republican party in Suffolk county says, “He’s going to be a pretty strong presence in New York as well as Washington D.C. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe there’ll be a White House North.”