So much for the hysteria over Donald Trump’s mental health and KFC-in-the-bedroom detachment, eh? Put aside the policy considerations — or don’t, depending on where you land on the comprehensive-immigration continuum — and marvel at this instant reaction from the media platform Trump looooooves to hate. At just the moment when long-distance psychology had gripped the national media, Trump decided to keep the cameras rolling while negotiating with members of Congress from both parties — and dominated the discussion.
Wolf Blitzer started off by trying to discuss the substance of the meeting, but Gloria Borger shifted gears immediately to the process. Borger says she turned to Dana Bash and asked, “Is this real?”As Bash concurred, Borger pointedly notes that today’s televised negotiations provided a stark contrast to the picture painted by Michael Wolff’s gossipy book. “This is a president,” Borger continues, “who I think is pointedly behaving, not as Michael Wolff would have him portrayed in his book, but as someone who is sitting around with people and is in charge.”
Almost the full three minutes of this clip covers the surprise, if not shock, that Trump could pull off a business meeting in front of live media cameras. That might be understandable if the only frame of reference one had for Trump was Wolff’s book and a few of the stranger soundbites of Trump’s public appearances. For a network that used to carry Trump’s hour-long rally addresses in 2015-16 in full on a regular basis, the surprise is a little more difficult to credit. Trump certainly has an unusual public speaking persona, but he has succeeded in carrying events all on his own, mostly extemporaneously, for at least the last two years. And it goes without saying that Trump has probably held more than a few high-stakes business negotiations in building his multi-billion-dollar real estate empire, too.
Still, I’m guessing that this won’t make the Fakies that Trump will award tomorrow. Nor should it; the response on social media to Trump’s unprecedented public display and intense engagement has been almost entirely positive — at least when it comes to the optics. Our Salem Radio colleague Michael Medved, no fan of Trump, wrote that “the session today should end all talk (for now, at least) that he’s not ‘mentally fit’ for the job. Today,” Michael writes, “he looks unequivocally presidential.”
That’s not to say that everyone on the Right felt cheery about what they saw unfold:
Nothing Michael Wolff could say about @realDonaldTrump has hurt him as much as the DACA lovefest right now.
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) January 9, 2018
That may be true on policy, but even then, I’d bet that’s overstating the risk from Trump’s base. If he gets any significant funds for a border wall, they’ll see that as a win, even if he does sign a legislative version of DACA. The meeting itself did more damage to Wolff’s book and to Democrats’ attempts to invoke the 25th Amendment than the media’s fact-checking — some of which has been truly remarkable, including from CNN’s own Jake Tapper, who’s not buying the “truth is all about feelings” standard adopted by some of his competitors.
Putting this meeting has wrongfooted all of those critics. It’s a political triumph for Trump, so much so that CNN’s panel felt compelled to recognize it. Their viewers certainly did.
Addendum: And the RNC wants to make sure everyone got the point:
RNC emails this out in case anyone was wondering if beating back the Wolff narrative had anything to do with the televised negotiations — pic.twitter.com/1qcXqIrsCd
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 9, 2018