Feb 16, 2017 (WASHINGTON) It lasted for an hour and fifteen minutes. This was a press conference that covered much terrain, and most of it was a listing of grievances. Before we go into some of that, here are the legitimate news made:
- They will have an Affordable Care Act replacement by mid-March.
- We can expect the immigration executive order to be replaced by next week. Though they are still pursuing the case in the courts.
- They will ask the Department of Justice to investigate the leaks, not whether Russia had any role in the elections, but the leaks.
- He wants to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus. On edit, they sent a letter weeks ago to arrange such a meeting.
Now that we have dispensed with this. President Donald Trump was irritated, and there were two moments that were particularly surprising. The first was the question from Peter Alexander, from ABC News. He challenged the president on his claim that his electoral victory was the biggest ever. Alexander quoted actual numbers, ranging from Barack Obama’s to George Bush, to Reagan. To be factually correct, Trump’s electoral victory was just larger than John F. Kennedy.
The answer from the president was not that he was wrong. It was more to blame his own people, who gave him those numbers. This is part of a pattern. He will never admit anything wrong.
There was another point where he was asked about the intervention of the Russians in United States elections. He kept calling this, and the news organizations that asked this, fake news. His exchange with the BBC reporter was a classic example, where he kept calling the BBC another one of those fake news outfits. The reporter’s repartee was about how fair and balanced they were. The question of Russian intervention is one that the president continues to deny. He also continues to say that he knows no Russians, or has any contacts with them. Never mind that this is provable to be wrong. He has had contacts in the past and has traveled to Russia in the past. As the USA Today, among others, has reported the ties go back 30 years.
He also denied that his people did not have any contacts with Russian, never mind that no less than Roger Stone is asking for a full investigation into Russian intervention. Granted some of it is to clean his name.
He also refused to answer any questions on the Russian provocations, ranging from the Spy ship off the East Coast, to the deployment of missiles.
There was also a bizarre back and forth with Jim Acosta on this, from CNN. This was supposed to be about his new labor secretary designee, Alexander Acosta. The president even joked that he made sure they were not related but asked Acosta if they were? Perhaps it was an attempt to break the ice or a bad joke, We really do not know.
This was red meat for the base. These attacks on the media, which he called less popular than congress. We fact-checked this. Trust in the media is low, at 32 percent, according to Gallup.
I mean, you have a lower approval rate than Congress. I think that’s right. I don’t know, Peter (ph), is that one right? Because you know I think they have lower — I heard lower than Congress. But honestly, the public would appreciate it, I’d appreciate it — again, I don’t mind bad stories when it’s true but we have an administration where the Democrats are making it very difficult.
The trust in Congress, again per Gallup, is actually lower, at 19 percent.
This is nitpicking on us, we admit. But it is an easy to fact-check example. There were many of those during the press conference. Alexander’s question on the electoral college was fact checking on live tv.
There was a moment, however, that raised alarm in our minds. At one point he said that the people going to the town hall meetings were not Republicans, who were represented by the members of congress. He repeated the sound byte that members of congress are spreading. That the people at the Town Halls are not there because they belong there.
He also avoided the whole question that antisemitism is rising to historic levels in the United States. He is not denouncing this but continues to dodge the question.
This is a dangerous thing to say for a president. Is he saying that only republicans vote? Or that only republicans deserve representation? He also accused Democrats of not giving him his cabinet and that no other president has been hobbled this much. Again, this is another false narrative.
Kathleen Sebelius was the last of the Obama cabinet to be confirmed on April 28, 2009. This was hardly that unusual. Janet Reno, Bill Clinton’s Attorney General, was not confirmed until March 11, 1989. George H. W. did not have four of his cabinet members confirmed until March as well. So this slow confirmation is the norm, not the exception. Other presidents have had nominees withdraw their names as well.
Edited to add the actual quote