Donald Trump

Donald Trump's Experiment in Radical Press Transparency Is Ugly and Praiseworthy

The president's daily press briefings are disturbing because of what they reveal, not what they obscure.

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By now you've heard that this is a time for "bold, persistent experimentation," just like during the Great Depression. Let's leave aside the fact that President Franklin Roosevelt's constant tinkering and overhauling of the economy didn't work anything like intended (as UCLA economic historian Lee Ohanian and others such as Amity Shlaes have argued, FDR's policies prolonged the Depression by years).

President Donald Trump is in fact conducting a bold, persistent, real-time experiment in radical transparency by holding multi-hour-long press conferences every single day. During these things, which are being carried by various broadcast TV and radio stations and cable news channels, Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and key members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, such as National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci and Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx, answer all questions. The exchanges are often heated and ugly, and the many moods of Donald Trump—most of them unattractive—are on full display.

But the response from the press itself is instructive. As Politico's Jack Shafer has written recently, for much of Trump's tenure, the media complained that the president didn't make himself or his surrogates available enough to the press. Indeed, when Trump's press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, stepped down two days ago, The Washington Post led its announcement with the comment that she "is leaving the job after eight months during which she held no regular press briefings of the sort that once defined the position." As if the public didn't have a good read on what the president was thinking or doing, right?

And what was the response when Trump started showing up for his closeup every day? Elite press critics denounced Trump and especially the cable networks for actually carrying the press conferences. From Shafer:

Leading the pack of objectors are journalist James Fallows and J-school prof Jay Rosen, who would have the cable networks stop airing Trump's briefings live because they're unfiltered propaganda. Fallows has even circulated a Twitter petition backing their proposal. Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, and others concur. Meanwhile, journalist Jonathan Alter and broadcaster Soledad O'Brien want the political press corps, which ordinarily dominate the briefings, to step aside and let science and health reporters take the lead in questioning the president at these briefings.

A progressive press watchdog group even unsuccessfully petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which has jurisdiction to regulate content on over-the-air radio and TV programs, to force "broadcasters either stop airing them or 'put those lies in context with disclaimers noting that they may be untrue and are unverified.'"

It's worth pointing out, as my colleague Elizabeth Nolan Brown did earlier today, that the briefings don't seem to be helping Trump with the electorate. Recent polls "found overall disapproval for Trump's pandemic performance stands at 52 percent, up from 48 percent in early March, and 55 percent of Americans polled said Trump 'could be doing more to fight the outbreak.'"

The White House is publishing a daily transcript of the press briefings, creating a public record of everything Trump and his top advisers say (go here for the archive). If you scroll through them, you'll find the president doesn't shy away from discussing the number of expected deaths, the disparate impact of coronavirus on blacks, what might or might not come next, and many other issues. It isn't his fault that the press keeps asking stupid questions, such as yesterday's moronic-yet-widely-discussed query about a pardon for Joe Exotic, the main figure in the Netflix series Tiger King.

If Trump's daily press briefings are disturbing, it's because of what they reveal, not what they obscure. We are in a moment when government at virtually every level—but certainly at the federal level—first failed to protect public health and then exacerbated problems with subsequent policies that banned non-state responses to the pandemic. Beyond issues of health, the federal government has, with near-unanimity, signed off on an intervention into the economy that is unprecedented in peacetime. Trust and confidence in the government were at historic lows when Trump took office—I'd argue that his election was partly an effect of such attitudes—and that's unlikely to change anytime soon.

To his credit, Trump isn't hiding in the shadows. If Trump's answers are unsatisfying, perhaps it's because nobody in Washington has good answers right now.

NEXT: "Disease Surveillance and the Fourth Amendment"

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  1. “President Donald Trump is in fact conducting a bold, persistent, real-time experiment in radical transparency”

    Bullshit superficial “transparency” and a distraction from the epic looting this mfer is planning for this stimulus money.

    1. You probably thought Obama had the most transparent administration in history.

      You’re just jealous.

      1. They were quite transparent in their efforts to obscure.

      2. Obama was so transparent I could see right through him.

      3. Well President Obama’s administration did response to Congress’s request for information. Yes not all request, but certainly more than the current administration. And Obama did not fired IG’s that might file critical reports. So I do consider the Obama Administration more transparent.

        1. Ya, exerting Executive Privilege to protect his lying AG was done for “transparency.” Claiming that “all the hard drives at the IRS just…broke” was done for “transparency.” Telling everyone they could keep their doctor was “transparent.”

          Mhmm, Obama was WAY more transparent…

          1. Yes he was. You will note in my comment that I did not suggest President Obama honored all Congressional requests, I am suggesting he was much more open to Congressional requests. You have given some cases where this was not the case. I would counter with the openness on the Benghazi hearings where Sec. Clinton testified for over 11 hours. Did Sec. Pompeo testify at all in the Ukrainian hearing, no. How about John Bolton again, no. I stand by the statement that President Obama was more transparent.

            1. As transparent as a 3 foot thick brick wall maybe?

            2. No he wasn’t.

        2. 6/12/2009
          Obama fires AmeriCorps’ inspector general
          Official had investigated a nonprofit led by an Obama supporter
          Nothing to see here, it’s all transparent.

        3. Remember that time when Trump had a journalist and his parents spied on? Or when he prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other president?

          Fuck your stupid.

          1. You’re.

            1. It works both ways.

      4. Initially, Trump the chump dismissed the whole thing as a Chinese disease, not taking it seriously at all. If it wasn’t for Dr, Fauci who unlike Trump’s entourage who were blowing feathers up his arse, he stood his ground and told it like it is. It took Trump a while for the seriousness of this pandemic to sink into his brain. But then he is not as bright as he pretends to be. He promised ventilators by the end of March or at least by the end of April. What this silver spoon fed, p*ssy grabbing draft dodger doesn’t realize is that his greedy wall street buddies gutted all of US manufacturing and sent it all off to a foreign country, a communist one no less. Just recently, Ford announced it would no be able to deliver ventilators until the end of August. What Trump does not realize, it takes tooling, assembly lines and training of a work force to make them. Since there’s hardly any tool and die shops left, who is going to make the tooling for the assembly lines?
        He wants to bail out the cruise line industry. Their ships are registered in foreign countries so as not to pay US taxes and he wants to give them free tax payer money. What a moron. Isn’t socialism great when you have to bail out huge corporations who shelter their profits in offshore accounts so as not to contribute their fair share of US taxes?
        I am sad to say I voted for this idiot, he turned out to be nothing but a big fat empty suit who looks like he spends more time in a tanning booth than he does in the oval office. He is nothing more than a court jester in the palace of the wall street oligarchs. I prefer to watch the briefing by Cuomo. That guy has got the bull by the horn, whereas Trump just dishes out the bull.

        1. Lmao you think dr. Fauci didn’t say “it’s a very low risk to the united states” in an interview with John Catsimadis on January 25th?

          Or that he downplayed it in an AMA podcast 2 days earlier?

          Or that on jan 21st he emphasized there was no credible evidence of human to human transmission?

          The fact you ignored, or don’t even know, how fauci was responding to this in January shows you’re either a retard, a liar, or both.

          So please go drive your car off a bridge with any offspring you may have so future Americans can avoid your retarded gene pool

          1. So you’re blaming Trump and Fauci for believing the Chinese and WHO lies until cases began to be seen outside of China.

    2. Not at all. The looting was quite open and transparent. Two trillion for the buddies of the President and Congress, and now he wants two trillion more.

      1. “Two trillion for the buddies of the President and Congress, and now he wants two trillion more.”

        Lies, unsupported claims; typical lefty pile of shit.

        1. So you don’t know your right from you left, obviously. You want it all kinds of ways it looks like.

      2. Last I checked, bills like this have to originate in the House of Representatives. I wasn’t aware that the President or even his political party had control of the House.

        Yes, this economic looting is an atrocity. But put the blame for it where it belongs – Congress.

        1. Bills generating revenue must originate in the House ( Article I, Section 7, Clause 1). The stimulus bill doesn’t say much at all about where its money will be coming from. It’s not a revenue bill, it’s a spending bill.

          1. And even that doesn’t mean anything when its been interpreted to me that nothing more than the bill number originate in the House

          2. I stand corrected. Shows what happens when I post while my caffeine levels are too low.

            But whether this particular bill originated in the House or the Senate, it’s still Congress’ fiasco.

      3. Trump should not have signed that bill. That being said, it was Pelosi that loaded it full of porkshit, and McConnell that went along with it. Trump’s back was against a wall on this, as intended.

        So really, fuck your and your democrat friends. Every one of you is guilty of treason.

        1. Just look at what happened when McConnell tried to put together a bill for $250B for small businesses, and Chucky Schumer and the other Senate Democrats blocked it because they wanted $500B, fuck the small businesses.

    3. “Bullshit superficial “transparency” and a distraction from the epic looting this mfer is planning for this stimulus money.”

      Lies, unsupported claims; typical lefty pile of shit.

    4. Amen. Trump is a disgrace and this article touting him as someone with a thought resembling strategy is preposterous.

      1. I bet you would prefer Joe “Where am I today?” Biden.

    5. Thank you dancing monkey.

  2. trust and confidence in government should be at historic lows every day.

    1. The trust and confidence aren’t the problems. It’s the reliance on government being at historic highs that is the problem.

      1. yes definitely. please protect us in our cages we pay for.

    2. Depends on which side youre on. The left thought everything was great when obama was doing it, and pretty much vice versa with Trump and the right. Most of these people are hypocrites when you get down to their basic beliefs.

      1. If Trump cured cancer the progs would take up for the rights of malignant tumors.

        1. Well, that IS their voter base, after all . . .

          1. I think you win today.

  3. Wait, is this the ‘most transparent administration ever’?

    Because I think it really might be.

    1. Probably the most transparent. Most definitely the least sea-worthy.

      And I said before the last few elections, if you really want an administration held to account for actions (particularly by the press), vote Republican, because, well see the last 3.5 years…

      1. Wait are you saying that the last 3.5 years of lies, attacks and utter disdain for Trump is what’s holding him accountable. Makes sense why Obama was so trustworthy.

        1. The purpose of journalism is to protect members of the Democratic Party. The more strenuously you defend them, the better you are at journalism and the more awards you get.
          Only a Republican administration will be actually held accountable by the press. They’ll be hostile to them and their motives won’t be pure, but at least they’ll be reporting and not obscuring.

          1. This.

            But you forgot about the “fact checkers.”

          2. Except now they (including this publication) blatantly lie, and there are a lot of people that don’t realize it and believe their lies.

            1. That’s been one of my biggest disappointments. Back in 2016 a lot of anarchists, even from the left, were arguing that Trump was the better choice than Clinton simply because Trump would face a hostile media and Clinton wouldn’t.

              While that’s true, I’m not sure the media’s “scrutiny” of Trump has been all that meaningful, since they simply stay in attack mode at all times with no regard for maintaining even the appearance of honesty or consistency. They make up lies about the man instead of questioning the powers of the office, which is what any rational person who really thought Trump was Evil Incarnate would be doing.

              1. ^ This.

                ‘Held to account’ and ‘make up obvious bullshit about them’ are not, as it turns out, the same thing.

              2. It frustrates me to see people inventing bullshit about Trump out of whole cloth when there are plenty of actual things that Trump does that they should be complaining about.

                1. We need an upvote button.

              3. The Atlantic published an article yesterday titled “what if trump is right about china?”

                And the author nailed it.

                That tells you all you need to know about the left backing themselves into a corner and pigeonholing all their responses.

                Trump has put the left and their media dickwads squarely in the position of being anti-covid19 treatment because trump is for it. its already going to end up terrible for the liberal media and trump hasn’t even startrd laying deaths at their feet yet lol.

                Also, it’s ironic Gillespie had to use one of those twisted-word polls to show trumps approval rating on “could he do more” is low… Meanwhile every poll that simply asks “do you approve if trumps handling of coronavirus?” Has his support between 55-60% and his overall approval rating is now at 50%. And higher among independents.

                https://news.gallup.com/poll/298313/president-trump-job-approval-rating.aspx

                1. Trump has put the left and their media dickwads squarely in the position of being anti-covid19 treatment because trump is for it.

                  Also because they have to shill for the people who *really* pay their salaries…and those people aren’t American.

        2. At the very least, Trump can’t lie to save his life, and the number of leaks mean that he can’t do anything secret. The press won’t cover or excuse him. Once you cut through the filth and exaggerations, you have a president that can’t get away with nothing.

          That in itself it a good thing.

          Compare that to how the press has handled Biden, deliberately ignoring accusations of corruption and sexual assault that actually have backing. Trying to pretend that he is just bad at speaking instead of visibly degrading mentally. It’s embarrassing.

          1. Spot on.

          2. This comment highlights one of the most overlooked factors with Trump. He can’t be corrupt, no one will help him. That’s actually been a bright spot to him being president.

  4. While are the usual suspects in the media so upset with these daily Trump conferences if we are also being told by polling that Trump’s handling of the crisis is starting to erode his political support? Why aren’t they urging Trump to appear more often and keep killing himself with gaffes, insults, etc.?
    Something, as usual, doesn’t add up.

    1. I think they are trying for the “self-fulfilling prophesy” approach.

      Declare Trump wrong, and people will think he’s wrong.
      This isn’t working because so many people are out of work and have nothing but time to listen to the conferences. People have time to listen, then see the commentaries and say “wait a second, that’s not what happened”.

      To quote a classic: “Let him speak, so the world may know him mad”. If these briefings really were hurting Trump, they would be putting them front and center while mocking them. Instead, people are even trying to use the law to shut them down.

      1. I made the comment a couple days ago that I wonder how often Reason had lied in the past that I never realized, because there wasn’t a daily press conference that I watched and then read their coverage of the next day.

        1. A lot more often than you ever suspected, probably. Although their coverage has definitely skewed left since 2016.

          The question I started asking myself the last few years was whether the leftists who were rabidly anti-Koch were maybe right about how the Kochs have been lying through their media outlets to pad their own interests. I’ve started wondering if Reason was ever really libertarian, or just a proxy for a couple of billionaires looking to increase their portfolio by cynically pushing policy they knew to be harmful to the U.S. that they could link to libertarianism.

      2. https://news.gallup.com/poll/298313/president-trump-job-approval-rating.aspx

        It’s helping him lol. No matter how many twisted Word polls Gillespie has to comb through to cherry pick one fitting his narrative

  5. This is the same technique he always uses but with a different delivery method. Put out so much content with such a varying degree of accuracy that the public can’t possibly keep up, thereby obscuring the overall incompetence of the administration.

    1. incompetence of the administrationfederal government

      Thought you could use the help.

    2. “He’s hiding everything, no accountability!”
      “He’s saying too much, the little people can’t absorb it all! (unlike a genius like me)”

      Okay.

    3. Most of the problems predate Trump by decades. The FDA is core to a lot of both good and bad elements of America’s healthcare. They are primarily responsible for why the quality is great, but the quantity lacking and the cost outrageous. These are the same policies that are causing trouble now.

      The problem is that the critics seem to be using rainbow predictions so that no matter what Trump says, they have a cause to say that he is wrong.

  6. If Trump’s answers are unsatisfying, perhaps it’s because nobody in Washington has good answers right now.

    Someone had to say it.

  7. “didnt make himself or his surrogates available enough to the press” Well we see now why would Trump want to. Jesus, if people pulled the same bullshit with me that Trumps dealt with i wouldnt want anything to do with them either.

    1. Yeah, but you probably have teh good sense not to run for president.

    2. Tump has probably had more open press confrences than any president even before the Kungflu

  8. What I find good is that reporters asking him tough questions. Yes, he usually snaps back at them for asking the question, but it is good the press core is finally showing some backbone. Frankly this will be good for the President if he finally learns some message discipline.

    1. Fuck you’re stupid.

    2. They don’t ask good questions. They ask ‘gotcha’ questions, and lie. That isn’t good.

      1. They don’t ask good question, and isn’t that really “those people” who ask the gotcha questions. You know what Trump means by “those people” wink wink.

        1. Yeah, the democrat propagandists that pretend to be journalists.

          Fuck you’re stupid.

        2. Do you realize that everything you believe requires a massive jump in logic from reality?

          The only question i care about, that no mainstream media journalist is smart enough to ask is “you started clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine in 1200 patients in new York city 2 Tuesdays ago. Knowing the course is only 5-10 days and its been 2 wweks, when can we expect the results from the fda?”

          But your heros in the liberal media have to maintain the narrative that hydroxychloroquine is the same thing as chloroquine sulfate, aka fish tank cleaner. And asking a serious question about the medication, instead of a fish chemical, would be a tacit admission the 2 things are different, and might lend legitimacy to trumps claims on hydroxychloroquine.

          But they can’t have that. The liberal media knows their viewers are ignorant enough to believe hydroxychloroquine is fish tank cleaner, and theyd rather have them believe that to hurt trump, than actually disseminate the truth that could save lives.

  9. The president’s daily press briefings are disturbing because of what they reveal, not what they obscure.

    That Trump is Trump, the media is the media, and that there really is no wizard behind the curtain? I guess that would be kinda disturbing if I still believed in Santa Claus, Lamp Genies, Fairy Godmothers and other sorts of all-seeing, all-knowing Top Men you could trust to always know and always do what’s best in the magical wand-waving department. But since I’m cynical enough to believe that nobody can possibly know enough to be qualified to run other people’s lives and the very worst sort of people are the ones stupid/insane/evil enough to believe that they are qualified, I prefer laughably retarded chimpanzees pretending to run things to the seriously retarded chimpanzees.

      1. That quote is from On War by Clausewitz. (For readers who are curious.)

  10. ” It is common sense to take a method and try it…. But above all, try something.”

    Sheesh, no wonder the progs like FDR.

  11. Even for Gillespie, who frequently massively overextends his apparent emotional need for “both sides do it” parity, this is moronic. “You wanted more Trump, you got more Trump” doesn’t even work as a pull-my-finger hot take.

    What people want is a functional government. Now I realize G is required by his ideology (and future comfortable employment) to believing such a thing doesn’t exist, but the rest of us thankfully don’t need to wear the same blinders.

  12. Given the choice, I would much rather transparency. Screw how ugly it looks. I’ll take transparency over obfuscation every time.

  13. “If Trump’s answers are unsatisfying, perhaps it’s because nobody in Washington has good answers right now.”

    Nobody sees it that way.

    Trump’s fans love his performance.

    Everyone else is dissatisfied consequent to a limited appetite for self-serving bluster, science-disdaining nonsense, unreliable predications, counterproductive statements, obvious sycophancy, and general failure.

    1. Trump has been right about this thing all along. You and your friends are just morons and liars.

      1. His lies and mistaken assertions are documented, you slack-jawed, bigoted culture war casualty.

        His lawyers are trying to have a compilation of recordings of his lies and foolish assertions, in a political advertisement, censored by broadcasters.

        1. What are the odds that Kirkland is actually Rush Limbaugh astroturfing?

          1. Keith Olbermann staying busy and politically involved.

          2. Rush Limbaugh wouldn’t want to put his brain in the kind of cramp it takes to write the kind of verbal diarrhea that Kirkland spews. It’s the same reason that CS Lewis didn’t make The Screwtape Letters any longer than it was, even though he said it was the kind of story that would run on to 1000 pages if you let it.

        2. https://news.gallup.com/poll/298313/president-trump-job-approval-rating.aspx

          Open wide and put on some chapstick. My dickzzle has a 1 way ticket to your mouth!

  14. > If Trump’s daily press briefings are disturbing, it’s because of what they reveal, not what they obscure.

    If Trump’s daily press briefings are disturbing, it’s because Trump is a disturbed guy.

    1. “cause orangemanbad!”

      Wow, what a riposte. You must have spent the entire morning coming up with that.

      1. >You must have spent the entire morning coming up with that.

        It actually was just a minute. I was originally going to say “because Trump is a disturbing guy”, but switched it to “disturbed” because that seemed like a better word.

  15. ‘Nationalist’ Is How a Republican Spells ‘Progressive.’
    ~ David French

    Trading DC swamp rats for NYC sewer rats has gotten us only even more septic rats.

  16. Is it time to realize that there is no “the government?” Oh, sure: There’re still Cabinet depts. & fed. agencies, fed. employees, but there’s no more “government” under a Trump admin. than there were “businesses” under Trump Org. by, say, the early 1990s.

    The so-called mainstream media smoke’n mirrored this guy to the W.H. during the course of 30+ years w/ the endless worshipful interviews & his own show even, but now we’re disappointed & hurt by his lack of that media talisman, “transparency?”

  17. The press asks loaded questions. All they’re interested in is getting a ‘gotcha’ moment. Just look at the exchange with NBC’s Pete Alexander. The media only showed a clip they wanted to show but when you view the entire exchange, you see Trump was actually pretty patient and answered his questions until Pete tried to be a smart-alec and trip him up with that insipid question.

    The problem with ‘what do you say to people who are scared?’ questions is they’re sophist in nature. They’re not asked to seek truth or relevant information the public need. They serve the narrative.

    My respect for media is just about gone. Bunch of twats people like Acosta are. And I do have sympathy with the notion they’re enemies of the people.

    All this finger pointing is distracting and lame. Focus on the issue a hand.

    I’m getting reamed with my business and if I’m going to fall the ONE thing I want is to see anti-China sentiment rise. I want that country to pay for what they’ve done.

    Grow a pair and treat the Chicoms like we did the Soviet Union.

    And there’s ONE guy willing to do it and he’s the subject of this article.

    .

    1. I think you’ll get your wish. CCP is going to take a HEAVY hit from this within the PRC, and the PRC is going to take a heavy hit from the rest of the world. If you look at the news coverage over the last several months, you see a definite swing away from the usual pro-Beijing reporting and phraseology.

      The world press says pretty much nothing about the oppression inside the PRC, and have been neutral to pro-government in reporting about the unrest in Hong Kong, but you’re actually hearing about such things as the suppression of early reports of the virus and its severity. And CCP hasn’t helped themselves any by offering to SELL BACK supplies which were donated by Italy.

      You can be sure that the PRC economy will take a long time pulling out of the dive, and a lot of countries are questioning the single-sourcing of medicine, vital supplies, etc. Just In Time Shipping is also pretty much a thing of the past, you will see a lot more on-hand warehousing of important things.

      The big winner will be the Republic of China. Taiwan is coming out of this looking fresh and new, especially with the open (and disastrous) snubbing of ROC by the pro-CCP World Health Organization.

      1. Hope you’re right.

  18. We?

    Educate me on the history of Canada in the Cold War.

    The USSR collapsed because they could not produce anything anyone else wanted to buy.

    Yeah ONE guy can figure all that out. The one thing ONE guy needs to understand is he cannot.

    1. Canada in the Cold War was a speed bump, just like the forces at the Fulda Gap. Each was little more than a canary in a coal mine — when they stopped singing, you would know there’s a problem.

    2. Canada fell under the the Western alliance led by the USA. They played their part. For example, 27 000 soldiers were sent to Korea and coming out of WWII we had the third or fourth largest army in the world and allowed to play a key role in setting up NATO while NORAD set up during this period.

      Canadian scientists and spies were also used on various projects. While the Diefenbaker years were marked by tension with the Kennedy administration, the two countries were obviously politically and ideologically aligned.

      Maybe we were a ‘speed bump’ but we were active in combatting the Soviets.

  19. Perhaps it would be helpful if the author of this article explains why he hates Mr. Trump so much, while Mr. Trump is pulling off more good things that any other person you could imagine in his position could.

  20. If Trump came up with a cure and vaccine for Covid-19 tomorrow, and distributed it free to the entire world, Progressives would complain that it had to be injected with pointy, ouchy, needles instead of being a tasty chewy in an assortment of yummy flavors.

    1. I’ve always liked LBJ’s comment about the press. He said; I could walk across the Potomac and tomorrow’s headlines would read
      “PRESIDENT CAN’T SWIM!!”
      It’s also important to note LBJ was the last President the press was critical of.

      1. “Last Democrat President”

  21. For anyone bitching about Trump, I ask you, “how do you think briefings with Hillary would go?”

    Finest minds my ass.

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