Donald Trump

Maybe Donald Trump Isn't Actually a Master Media Manipulator

When the president reprised his you're-fired shtick last night, this wasn't the outcome he expected.

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Wow Toys

If there's one trope of the Trump years that we can definitively retire now, it's the idea that the president is constantly winning some 13-dimensional chess game devoted to distracting us from unflattering stories. Where a more adept politician would be trying to change the subject from the Russia probe, Donald Trump just can't help drawing attention to the very subject he wants people to ignore.

When Sally Yates and James Clapper testified to the Senate subcommittee investigating Russia's alleged interference in last year's election, another president might have chosen that moment to unveil a major policy initiative—or, if he didn't have any initiatives handy, to hold a photo op with some girl scouts. At the very least, he would have tried not to talk about the story. Instead Trump ran to Twitter to insinuate that Yates had leaked classified information, a tweet that amplified rather than disrupted the day's event. Then he plastered a message onto his Twitter banner declaring that Clapper had "reiterated what everybody, including the fake media already knows- there is 'no evidence' of collusion w/ Russia and Trump." This was widely derided for misrepresenting what Clapper had said, but from a PR perspective it did something even more unforgivable than lying: It ensured that the first thing anyone visiting Trump's Twitter page would see would be a reference to the Russia accusations.

That was Monday. Tuesday he fired his FBI chief—that is, he fired the head of the bureau investigating his campaign's alleged links to Moscow—while clumsily shoehorning a hey-you-know-I'm-innocent remark into his letter dismissing the director.

Naturally, this prompted speculations that Trump is trying to cover up something serious. And that may well be true. (You needn't believe the more far-out Trump/Russia conspiracy theories to think a probe into the president's business dealings in Russia—or anywhere else, from China to New Jersey—could turn up something unethical and/or illegal.) But it's also entirely possible that we're watching a dumb guy with a big ego throwing a tantrum because he can't control the media agenda. Politico's piece on the lead-up to the firing claims that Trump "had grown enraged by the Russia investigation" and was "frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn't disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe…" And so he made a move that guaranteed his TV today would be talking about virtually nothing else.

According to the Politico report, "the fallout seemed to take the White House by surprise." Funny how that works out. If you could stuff the Streisand effect into a suit, it would look like Donald Trump. This isn't 13-dimensional chess; it's 13-dimensional 52 card pick-up.

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  1. or, if he didn’t have any initiatives handy, to hold a photo op with some girl scouts.

    He’d just grab them by the cookie. Bad!

    1. Thin Mint was your nickname in prison.

      1. It’s time to retire that meme.

        1. What meme? All i see is a soothing blank white space wot some pointless troll fell into and vanished.

          1. This is why you’re a better man than I.

            1. It takes all types to make a world, Crustle. Some folk’ll share a real house with a spouse and child, others’ll share a dusty cage with between 6 and 15 chinchillas.

          2. It goes without saying that “Soothing Blank White Space” was my nickname in college.

            1. “Soothing Blank White Space” was the most common answer on my engineering tests.

          3. All i see is a soothing blank white space

            That’s why you keep responding to me the soothing blank white space.
            See also having your cake and eating it too.

    2. Or send a cruise missile at al-Qaeda.

      1. -1 Sudanese aspirin factory

  2. Partisans from all sides including whatever side the libertarians are on (which isn’t the left or the right somehow) were for Comey before they were against him before they were for him but way before they were against him. Trump knows this. Trump is very smart, maybe the smartest man in history.

    1. You should just go to DC and mouth kiss the president already. This sexual tension is at 90’s sitcom level. Be true to your heart Dan (and I’m talking 1998 Mulan style).

      1. What other kind of kiss is there?

        1. ))((

        2. O the wonders you have yet to experience my friend.

          1. Please explain. Because unless you are talking about mating birds, I am pretty sure at least one mouth is involved if we are talking about a kiss.

            1. Apparently someone hasn’t heard of an eskimo kiss or a butterfly kiss.

              Prude.

              1. ))-((

                1. Citizen X gets it.

              2. Touche about butterflies, but I am pretty sure Eskimos have mouths.

  3. I don’t think some people appreciate how genuinely unimportant Trump’s mishandling of the media is to average people.

    I don’t think some people appreciate how genuinely unimportant Obama’s masterful handling of the media was either.

    A president isn’t bad because of his tweets.

    A president isn’t good because of his excellent press conferences.

    I guess that’s the way journalists think, but there isn’t anything I would have thought differently about Obama’s policies or Trump’s policies if only they’d handled the PR differently.

    1. Do you think firing Comey is just a public relations issue?

      1. Pretty much. If he uncovered any sort of “smoking gun” as some of President Trump’s critics are claiming then there is nothing to stop Comey from coming forward with what he learned after he’s already been fired. Although it may be politically difficult for the people who claimed he misled the public about Hillary Clinton’s alleged wrong doings to now say that he’s to be trusted when the talks about President Trump’s alleged wrong doings.

        1. Setting all Russian theorizing aside, the manner in which Comey was fired was poorly planned and poorly executed, like seemingly everything else this administration has done since taking office, making it seem further like Trump flies by the large seat of his strange-looking pants.

          Now, the left’s reaction is going to be so over-the-top it will drown out some of his buffoonery, but since this act will inspire congressional investigations, it was more than a simple public relations disaster.

          1. Agreed. The timing of the firing was definitely unseemly. It highlights, once again, that the president is truly thin-skinned and erratic.

            It would have made sense to fire Comey shortly after inauguration if he was going to fire him

          2. You’re saying there was a good way and a bad way to fire Comey?

            That the media wouldn’t be coming after Trump if only he’d handled the announcement differently?

            This is absurd.

          3. The left is freaking out because Trump will nominate a new FBI Director that WILL go after Hillary not because of how, when or why Comey was fired.

            The fact that Comey was not expecting to be fired is more troubling than any manner in how he was fired.

            Trump will not go by the rules of the swamp nor cares what the media says. He is clearly working through his campaign promises in the best way he can and without much help from RINOs in Congress.

          4. So you’re saying Trump should have fired the director before he hired a new Deputy Director last week? Sounds legit.

        2. I don’t think you have to believe Comey discovered a smoking gun to think this could be more than just bad PR. If we assume the collusion theory is right, they had motive to remove him and get a loyalist in before any smoking gun was found. And assuming it isn’t, they could still want their own guy in their to try to make the story go away or keep it as quiet as possible.

          A scenario inbetween these would be one where Russia decided to help Trump win, and sought to establish contacts with his people to curry favor, but didn’t actively bring the Trump campaign into their operation or inform them of their intentions. If that’s what happened, it could still make Trump and his people look bad if it came out.

          Regardless, the optics of it, and tissue-thin rationalization (are we seriously supposed to believe Trump fired Comey because he thought he was unfair to Clinton last year?) are logically going to result in people being skeptical and speculating about unsavory motives. It baffles me how he and his team didn’t think this would happen.

          1. If I had any doubts at all about Comey’s loyalty, that he might undermine my administration simply because he doesn’t like me, I’d fire his ass just for that.

            You don’t have to be guilty of anything to fire someone you suspect might be disgruntled and undermine your ability to run the FBI.

            1. When I say “loyalty” I’m talking about loyalty to Trump personally and not to the job and its duties. I agree the FBI director shouldn’t undermine the president out of personal or political enmity, but that also doesn’t mean they should protect the president from revelations or investigations of potential wrongdoing, or that they should value loyalty to him above loyalty to the job.

              I’m not sure how you read my comment in a way that you thought I was saying what you thought I said.

              1. “That . . . doesn’t mean they should protect the president from revelations or investigations of potential wrongdoing, or that they should value loyalty to him above loyalty to the job.”

                The primary responsibility of the Attorney General since Watergate has been to protect the President from scandal. The primary qualification for Attorney General has been personal loyalty to the President for that reason.

                There have been very few Presidents who haven’t needed to avail themselves of the Attorney General’s loyalty in their defense against scandal investigations–and the FBI Director serves under the Attorney General.

                When Comey announced that he wasn’t seeking charges against Hillary for her email server, he didn’t even have the authority to make that determination. It would necessarily have been made by Obama’s AG. Comey was acting as a mouthpiece for Obama’s AG. Obama’s AG saw that Obama had purposely sent Hillary classified emails under an alias, and that meant that if Hillary were guilty of a crime, then so was Barack Obama. She wasn’t going to let the FBI investigate Hillary under any circumstances for that reason.

                Ford and Carter didn’t need to avail themselves of a loyal AG like that. All the rest of them have. Every single one. You can’t function as POTUS without an Attorney General who will crush investigations against you. That’s why Sessions is the AG. He was loyal to Trump back when Trump wasn’t cool.


                1. “When Comey announced that he wasn’t seeking charges against Hillary for her email server, he didn’t even have the authority to make that determination. It would necessarily have been made by Obama’s AG. Comey was acting as a mouthpiece for Obama’s AG”

                  An Attorney General who also was forced to recuse herself for unseemly meetings with Hillary Clinton’s husband on the tarmac in a private jet that didn’t actually go anywhere perhaps a week before said events.

                  But lets talk about Russia some more!

    2. I guess that’s the way journalists think, but there isn’t anything I would have thought differently about Obama’s policies or Trump’s policies if only they’d handled the PR differently.

      If Obama had said, “We deliberately did what we set out to do and what we felt was necessary and the right thing to do; we’ll release the evidence of OBL’s death at a later, more reflective and calm, date.” Instead of “Justice was done. We’re not gonna spike the football.” I’d have definitely felt better/thought differently about that. Hell, taking down one ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner would’ve made a world of difference in thought with regard to at least one President’s policy/policies.

      I think the distinction that you’re missing is that individual journalists and news organizations feel like their brand of media coverage is exceedingly important when, in reality, for probably the better part of 30 yrs. 90+% of people couldn’t name who broke what story or what news outfit they worked for (whistleblowers aside).

      1. I wouldn’t have felt differently about killing OBL.

        These people need to be judged by their actions. Not by what they say and how they say it.

        This is like judging a baseball player by his locker room interviews.

        His batting average would be the same either way.

        And we’re not talking about Trump actually doing anything differently.

        We’re not talking about Obama having behaved any differently in regards to OBL?

  4. Trump is such an idiot.

    It’s a miracle he beat Hillary.

    1. Yeah, keep telling yourself that.

    2. Kasich could have beat Hillary Clinton. Too far?

      1. Not according to the guy in my neighborhood who still had a Kasich sign in his yard the week before Election Day.

      2. Not really. Clinton was far from the juggernaut the liberal media made her out to be, I think most of the candidates in the GOP field last year would have beaten her.

      3. Any Republican would have beaten Hillary. I’ve been saying this for almost 20 years, and I am as sure as ever. Hillary CAN NOT win the Presidency. She’s incapable. She has neither the personality nor the record to allow for it

        There was a while there, once Trump was the nominee, and Comey let her slide on her illegal server, that I thought “Holy shit – every single aspect in the universe necessary for her to eek out a win, came through.” And she STILL fucking lost.

        Hillary Clinton was such a bad candidate that a belligerent half-wit narcissist trust fund baby reality tv show host was able to topple the legacy media, both major parties, and entire power structure. Just because Hillary was such a corrupt piece of easily-hatable shit.

  5. Jesse obviously missed the chapter in Trump’s book titled, “How to deflect attention toward an issue by placing a spotlight on that issue.” It’s a simple concept, but I’m not surprised you losers don’t win enough to understand how it plays out.

    1. It’s sort of like the old Clinton tactic of distracting from a scandal by having another, different scandal, except Trump doesn’t use a second scandal.

      1. Or the Bernie tactic of distracting from a yelling outburst by animated arm-waving, which overwhelm the visual senses with the rapid movement, and the olfactory senses by the efficient dispersal of that old man smell from Bernie’s armpits to the nostrils of his audience.

  6. Whoa! Trump is a narcissist? Stop the presses! Run with this headline,”Politician has UUuuuge ego” We’ll scoop everyone…yawn.

  7. I’m a little tickled by the idea of Trump screaming impotently at his TV for the bad people to stop saying such mean things about him. What a buffoon.

    1. Only a little?

      I’m more tickled by his tweeting habits, which clue you in to what and when he’s yelling at shows. (and, as Tom Nichols pointed out, provides foreign intelligence officials an up-to-date indication of Trump’s thoughts and mental state)

      1. Exactly. This man does not have the temperament to be President. He has no ‘poker face’.

        1. He has no ‘poker face’.

          I think a poker face is overrated when you have enough ICBMs in any one leg of your nuclear triad to provide sufficient deterrence to any really reckless act. His poker strategy is pure, unadulterated erratic behavior.

          1. “Oh Jesus, he just went all in on a pair of twos. Jesus Christ.”

  8. I know one thing, even NPR was making fun of the Democrats’ mock indignation over the firing of James Comey.

    1. Hearing an NPR correspondent interview a Democratic congresscritter and say that her claims were pure speculation and that she wouldn’t be believed without evidence almost made me want to donate. Almost.

    2. Yeah – one thing you can say for NPR is that they at least sometimes choose credibility over partisanship.

  9. This blog has gone full retard. Jesus fucking Christ.

    1. You mean with people making retarded non sequitur comments?

    2. Kinda like your mom after the high school football game?

  10. Another possibility (mind you, I think it’s much more likely he’s a narcissistic buffoon): Keeping the media talking about Trump/Russia ties, especially if it’s all smoke and no fire, feeds the base the narrative that his team wants and keeps them energized.

    It’s kind of like Obama’s 8 years of campaigning, but without having to travel all over the country to do it.

  11. Articles like this explains a lot why Reason sucks. Jesse Walker has no clue what’s going on. Read Scott Adam’s blog instead to actually understand Trump.

    Trump cleverly addressed the FBI’s Russian collusion investigation by putting the following line in the Comey firing letter: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

    That one odd sentence caused every media outlet to display the quote and talk about it, over and over. And when you focus on something, no matter the reason, it rises in importance in your mind. President Trump, the Master Persuader, made all of us think about the “not under investigation” part over, and over, and over.

    http://blog.dilbert.com/post/1…..mey-firing

    1. Scott Adams’ “I, the trained hypnotist, will now explain Trump’s master persuasion techniques to you” schtick has always been idiotic, but this is pretty dumb even by his standards.

      1. The Trump Whisperer strikes again!

      2. How dare you attack Scott Adams’ credibility? Who else to explain Trump’s master persuasion techniques than the guy who persuaded a whole generation into believing Dilbert is funny?

      3. Trump supporters watch “The Man Who Knew Too Little” and see “Wag the Dog”.

      4. Damn. Walker’s coming out swinging. Adams did predict that Trump would win, though. You have to give him that.

        1. He also thought Trump would win in a landslide. Which didn’t exactly pan out. It’s like predicting an underdog in football would beat the favorite by 4 TDs and then they actually win by 1 point. You can’t really claim too much credit for accuracy on that prediction.

          1. You can claim more credit than the people who were predicting a 4 TD win by the favorite.

      5. He was accidentally right once, which gives him a 100% better record than yours.

      6. Sure it is. Do you have an argument why this statement is dumb or are you going to stick with bare assertion as proof?

        1. Do you have an argument why this statement is dumb or are you going to stick with bare assertion as proof?

          I didn’t claim to offer proof. His statement is akin to arguing that the most significant effect of Nixon’s “I am not a crook” statement was to have people hear the phrase “not a crook” over and over, and that this would rebound to Nixon’s benefit. Is it really worth the time to unpack what’s wrong with that?

    2. President Trump, the Master Persuader, made all of us think about the “not under investigation” part over, and over, and over.

      LOLOLOLOL

      The Master Persuader deployed yet another of his many top-level business tactics, which you journalist scum don’t understand because you don’t know business.

    3. Bill Murray is spinning in his grave.

      1. Fuck that. Bill Murray will outlive us all.

        1. And he’ll do it over and over.

        2. But no one will believe him.

    4. Read Scott Adam’s blog instead to actually understand Trump.

      Now, when I say “Who’s the masta?” you say “Don Trump.”

      Who’s the masta?

    5. I don’t know about other people, but I’ve thought the Russia investigation seemed to be a whole lot of nothing. Firing Comey, and including this strange line in the letter along with the transparent Hillary rationale, is making me think that maybe there’s something there after all. So I’m not thinking about the “not under investigation” part; I’m now thinking “what does he have to hide?”

  12. Or we have just entered the 65th dimension of a 64 dimensional chess match.

    1. Time For Some Game Theory

  13. it’s the idea that the president is constantly winning some 13-dimensional chess game

    No, he’s playing Calvinball. And right now he’s doing pretty good with a score of Jerry.

  14. Has anyone considered that Trump just loves saying “you’re fired!” and that is the only reason he fired Comey?

    1. I’m just enthralled by the fact that a few remaining Hit & Run parrots are still employing the woodchipper meme.

  15. As if the media was ever going to drop this Russia conspiracy theory thing. It’s the perfect cudgel to beat the administration with… completely amorphous and not likely to accidentally involve any Dems.

    (You needn’t believe the more far-out Trump/Russia conspiracy theories to think a probe into the president’s business dealings in Russia?or anywhere else, from China to New Jersey?could turn up something unethical and/or illegal.)

    So you want a fishing expedition? Not surprising coming from Reason, but surprising that it’s stated so clearly.

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