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Outsiders vs. Insiders: No one but Trump controls his image and media liberals hate it

It’s a complaint often heard about President Donald Trump these days, something akin to “I like what he’s doing but he tweets too much,” or, “He’s doing a good job but he shoots himself in the foot with some of his statements.”

These aren’t just grumbles stemming from the biased anti-Trump media, either. I’ve personally heard similar gripes from earnest Trump supporters who have grown discouraged with the president over his unorthodox demeanor. It seems while many of us see Trump’s departure from accepted presidential deportment as Trump tweetrefreshing and symbolic of a greater movement to combat the swampy status quo, it’s also becoming increasingly clear that there are respectable people who don’t view his conduct the same way.

It’s been easy to dismiss such worries in the past since Trump was always battling against some kind of elite political enemy – the Republican establishment, #NeverTrumpers, Obama, Crooked Hillary, Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, etc. – but now that he’s been in office for nine full months it’s perhaps time to reflect and see whether the president can improve his “act” to be more successful in the governing realm.

Is Trump’s behavior having a deleterious influence on his effectiveness?

Longtime Trump critic Jonah Goldberg wrote at National Review, “Much has already been said about how our ratings-obsessed president is a product of reality television. When he picked his cabinet, he reportedly saw it as both a staffing and a casting challenge. ‘That’s the language he speaks,’ an inside source told the Washington Post. ‘He’s very aesthetic. You can come with somebody who is very much qualified for the job, but if they don’t look the part, they’re not going anywhere.’

“Trump’s well-documented tendency to dislike it when members of his administration get more attention — i.e., get more screen time or appear on the cover of Time magazine — is classic talent behavior, as is his need to have more ice cream than his guests.

“Trump, who likes a good entourage, even in the Oval Office, is by many accounts consumed by his reviews in the press.”

We’ve heard it all before – Trump’s a narcissist, an egomaniac, a compulsive attention-seeker – and that he’s only doing all of this (running for president and now serving) to satisfy his own selfish craving to be the most famous person who ever walked the earth…at least in the last 2000 years.

Everyone knows Goldberg is no Trump fan but there’s little doubt the current Oval Office occupant sees playing the “role” of president differently than conventional politicians. The old saying “politics is just show business for ugly people” may have contained shades of truth for the Obama administration but it wouldn’t fly in the Trump White House. Everyone looks like they belong there now and I’m guessing it’s because Trump insists on it.

Image and brand are vitally important and Trump wants to show the world that America is as aesthetically put together as it is a shining city on a hill for other countries to marvel at.

If you look closely you should notice little things that separate Trump’s image “production” from his predecessors. For example, recently when Trump’s delivered a message to the nation, instead of sitting behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office and speaking directly into the camera as many a president has done, Trump positioned himself standing in front of a fireplace flanked by two flags and a portrait of George Washington up above the mantel.

There has also been a noticeable decline in photos of Trump behind the big desk on his Facebook page and I don’t think it’s by accident. Whereas in the early days of his presidency Trump liked to be shown sitting behind the desk in pictures, he now apparently prefers to be depicted in commanding poses with crowds instead – or in front of Air Force One. Big things, right?

Or on particularly nice and sunny days Trump is fond of addressing reporters outside in the White House rose garden. Other presidents have done many such events in similar settings yet with Trump you just get the idea that he’s seeing the production value increase with better backgrounds. Trump even made bespectacled and nerdy Mitch McConnell look distinguished the other day by taking him outside instead of addressing the media under controlled indoor lighting.

All of it brings to mind a story about Trump from a reporter covering last year’s campaign where the candidate took time to helpfully advise the production team on where to position the equipment so as to get the best quality video for the interview. Trump is always thinking, assessing, sizing up.

Though it’s readily apparent Trump isn’t running his administration as a casting director rather than the leader of the free world there’s little doubt the outsider former reality TV star president gives a great deal of thought into controlling how he and his “characters” are portrayed to the public. Trump frequently tweets his disdain for the media, of course, but when it comes to the electronic transmissions that he can influence, he’s all over it.

The same could be said for Trump’s management of the message. Though I would suggest he’s been less controversial of late with his tweets, there’s never too long of a period where he doesn’t do or say something to get the media stirred up again. If history is a guide, it’s likely by design.

For example, Trump assailed hapless dolt Senator Bob Corker last week partially due to the consummate establishmentarian’s openly critical comments of the president but also partly because the news cycle had slowed down and the silt needed to be stirred up again on the bottom of the swamp.

Despite all the extraneous noise it could also be said good things are happening and people are starting to take notice.

In a post titled “President Trump has done some real good lately,” Erick Erickson wrote the other day at The Resurgent, “I know how this works. Say something unfavorable to the President and you’ve never gotten over being Never Trump. Say something kind and you’ve sold out. Trump Derangement Syndrome works both ways. There are those who can never, ever commend the actions of the President and there are those who can never, ever find fault. Both are apologists to a particularly partisan madness. Many times this President does dumb things, mean things, and wrong things. But sometimes he gets things right. Rarely does this President get so much right over a couple of weeks. This is one of those times…

“Most notable, I think, is what Stephen Miller (not the President’s advisor) noted on Twitter. Much of the criticism of President Trump over the Obamacare subsidies has everything to do with preserving Obama’s legacy and nothing to do with the substance of what President Trump did or why. I would say this extends to the other issues as well. President Obama’s legacy can be so easily undone because he did it all without congressional legislation. President Trump should pay attention to that.”

Yes indeed, Trump should take account of how easily it’s been to erase Barack Obama from the annals of relevance in American government. Trump is undoing Obama’s legacy of executive orders largely through unilateral presidential actions of his own. If Congress doesn’t act Trump’s moves could be summarily reversed by his successor should he lose in 2020.

Erickson was complimentary of Trump’s recent actions on immigration, undoing Obamacare’s birth control mandate and ending the unconstitutional insurance company subsidies instituted under the former president. It should be pointed out that all the while Trump continued to make statements and send out tweets, not all of which have been ignored by the ever hostile media.

Just the other day a Democrat congresswoman accused Trump of being insensitive to a grieving military widow, which produced a sharp rebuke from the president. Diana Stancy Correll of the Washington Examiner reported, “President Trump told the widow of one of the four soldiers killed in Niger this month that her husband ‘knew what he signed up for ... but when it happens it hurts anyway,’ says Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla.

“’Yes, he said it,’ Wilson said, according to ABC affiliate Local 10 News. ‘It's so insensitive. He should have not have said that. He shouldn't have said it,’ she added. Wilson said she bore witness to the call, which took place for about five minutes.”

Trump himself denied Wilson’s account of the phone exchange and claimed via Twitter that he had “proof” she fabricated the conversation. Wilson is no Trump fan and hasn’t been from the beginning, being one of over five dozen Democrat House members to boycott the January 20 inauguration ceremonies.

This looks to be the latest incidence of “he said/she said” and no one will ever see any “proof” of anything from either side. But it’s another supposedly damaging media story about a Trump statement that may or may not be true – and Trump’s tweet reaction to it is engendering more coverage than the original comment created.

(Note: General John Kelly refuted Wilson’s claim in a must-see press briefing. Wilson is an absolute disgrace. She should resign for spuriously stirring up this controversy.)

Whether Trump is choreographing all of this to keep his name in the news is open to debate.

There’s no concrete explanation for the mystery of why Trump tweets or says what he does and whether it’s on purpose or accident will likely remain unresolved for the balance of his days in office. The only thing that can be argued with any certainty is Trump knows what he’s doing and the image he’s fostered is one that meets his approval. Why else would he fight back so fiercely against the media’s “fake news” reporting of his presidency?

Trump’s supporters seem to appreciate his talent for molding an image. The good people of America didn’t want a president who would lie about everything, including her health. Hillary Clinton allegedly fell again this week and the details – including what injuries she sustained – are less than clear.

We all wish Clinton well in her recovery, for the more she speaks, the better Trump looks. It’s an image boost only an out-of-touch elitist like Crooked Hillary could provide.

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