Trump’s news conference: Rating the president-elect on substance and style

Trump’s news conference: Rating the president-elect on substance and style
Image: New York Times video screen grab

Today, Donald Trump held his first news conferences since being elected president. In some respects, it was reminiscent of pressers given by Barack Obama — which should not be construed as praise. Trump had to be asked by three different reporters if he believed Russia was behind the hacking of the DNC emails before giving this answer:

As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people. And I — I can say that you know when — when we lost 22 million names and everything else that was hacked recently, they didn’t make a big deal out of that. That was something that was extraordinary. That was probably China.

He was similarly elusive on the question of his tax returns, avoiding the topic the first time it was broached, ultimately engaging in this back-and-forth with a reporter:

Trump: You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK? They’re the only who ask.

Reporter: You don’t think the American public is concerned about it?

Trump: No I don’t think so. I won, when I became president. No, I don’t think they care at all. I don’t think they care at all.

This was greeted by applause from the gallery.

When it comes to style, one paragraph will suffice to give an impression of Trump speaking off-the-cuff. The topic was the “dossier” released by BuzzFeed:

I saw the information; I read the information outside of that meeting. It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen. And it was gotten by opponents of ours, as you know, because you reported it and so did many of the other people. It was a group of opponents that got together — sick people — and they put that crap together. [Emphasis added]

The highlighted terms (and especially the last) will strike some as refreshingly candid for a leader of the free world, others as a tad coarse. In making an informed decision on this subject, readers are referred to an article from Time magazine dated June 9, 2010.

Until recently, vulgar outbursts [by political leaders] were often cleaned up before they were reported to the public. Jack Garner, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Vice President from 1933 to 1941, once said the job of VP was “not worth a pitcher of warm piss.” In news reports, however, his last word was often changed to spit. After the recording of interviews and speeches became an everyday occurrence, word substitution largely vanished and political discourse was never the same. In 1973, journalist Merle Miller published a collection of taped conversations and interviews with Harry S. Truman, in which the deceased former President was quoted calling General MacArthur a “dumb son of a bitch.” (John F. Kennedy used the same term to refer to Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.)

Lyndon B. Johnson had a famously dirty mouth. He chided Canada’s Lester Pearson for his anti-Vietnam stance by saying, “You pissed on my rug,” and once likened the difference between a Senator and a Representative to “the difference between chicken salad and chicken s___.” He even considered removing J. Edgar Hoover as FBI chief but changed his mind, reasoning that “it’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in.”

The only borderline profanity that Trump has used so far was during the primary, when he said of Hillary Clinton’s loss of the 2008 Democratic nomination to Barack Obama that “she got schlonged.”

As I noted at the time, schlong is Yiddish slang for “penis.” In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t hold a pitcher of warm piss against Joe Biden’s telling his boss that the passage of Obamacare was a “big f*cking deal,” but time will tell if The Donald intends to extend the bounds of his self-expression even further.


Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.

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