In the course of writing this article, its thesis spun entirely around, because now Donald Trump is apparently going forward with a briefing tonight—after the White House initially scrapped the briefing. We had started to believe that one of our many long national nightmares might be on pause, at least for today. Alas, no such luck. Notably, they’re calling it a “news conference” now, and it’s not yet clear what that means in terms of whether the format has shifted.
For most of today, it seemed as though Trump had canceled his daily appearance amid a host of controversies and blunders. As you may, sadly, remember last week, the President used a daily briefing to muse on whether injecting disinfectant into human bodies was a way to kick the coronavirus. And I can’t believe we need to write this but it’s really really not. The fall-out from those comments has been considerable, and it appeared the President wasn’t going to be making his regular appearances thereafter.
These daily briefings are little more than propaganda much of the time, so the early news that today’s was canceled was welcome to many of us who value the few functioning brain cells we have left.
Wow, disinfectant really does get rid of things! https://t.co/UE6TaAJxOV
— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) April 27, 2020
Now this is being walked back, which isn’t terribly surprising when we stop to consider this administration’s chaos and inconsistency. In the absence of Trump’s regular rallies and the ability to stand on a stage surrounded by adoring crowds and riff on whatever inane, offensive, or terrible thing crosses his mind, the briefings have often taken on their form, and Trump may feel that he needs them.
Trump rallies are like bad stand up with no punchline; a stream of consciousness tirade from a man without conscience or a shred of self-awareness. The daily briefings are of course somewhat different as Trump has to face criticism and questions from the press, and share the spotlight with people who actually know what they are talking about.
But that doesn’t mean he has to stop behaving badly. In fact, the briefings have become a regular site for Trump directly attacking and vilifying the press to their faces when they attempt to hold him accountable. Despite the bad press from those attacks, Trump kept going, maybe because the briefing still give him attention and obsequious questions from OAN.
It was the latest—and massive—misstep that almost caused him to skip today, and at least someone got him to shut things down for the weekend. After the bleach disaster last Thursday, followed by Trump hilariously claiming on Friday that the remarks were “sarcasm,” there was no briefing on Saturday … or Sunday … and today’s briefing had been mercifully canceled until news broke at 2pm that Trump will indeed be holding a “news conference” at 5pm EST. According to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Twitter, Trump will be discussing “additional testing guidance and other announcements about safely opening up America again.” We were so close to getting a weekday’s respite.
So … why was the appearance seemingly canceled at first? He was certainly busy fuming over the weekend.
Well, social media had some ideas.
Is this…a snit? During a pandemic? Not that we’re missing any actual news, but for a President to have a tantrum about being asked questions at a press conference, hoist his petticoats, and stomp off in a huff for three days FEELS like a snit. https://t.co/NNb3fhzmnl
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) April 27, 2020
I’m guessing they canceled the White House briefing because this is probably gonna be the day that the two month death toll from the virus on Trump’s watch exceeds the total number of American combat deaths throughout the entirety of the Vietnam war. https://t.co/QElNtvo6Bq
— MZS (@mattzollerseitz) April 27, 2020
Many have made the point that these briefings on their own, in terms of updates from doctors and officials, are very important, and Trump was canceling them at the height of a pandemic because he didn’t want to face questions, criticism, or consequences. He seemed to be throwing a fit and throwing the country under the bus because of it. Now that some form of briefing is back on, we have to wonder if they were scrapped under advisement from others to staunch the terrible press the President kept bringing on himself. Perhaps Trump pushed back, or changed his mind, because he’s Trump and demands a constant spotlight—and refuses to be reined in or follow practical advice.
Before the news broke about the new briefing, I had written that “Trump will probably start hankering for more attention soon, even if it’s bad for him in the long run.” Well, I was right, and he didn’t even make it a day. I can only take heart in that these briefings have not, as of late, been kind to Trump or the public’s opinion of him, but it’s frightening to think where he might take them next. Could the new wording of a “news conference” mean he won’t be taking any questions? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
(via: James Poniewozik on Twitter, image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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