Trump Told Aides To Think Of Each Presidential Day As ‘An Episode Of a TV Show In Which He Defeats Rivals’
In a recent New York Times’ exposé on Donald Trump in the White House, one line stood out as absolutely critical to understanding how the scandal-prone president approaches his job.
“Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals,” according to the Times.
Now let that thought sink in for a moment. There’s so much to unpack in that sentence.
TV seems to be the frame through which Trump sees not only his presidency but his broader life. For Trump, the equation is that simple: If something or someone is on TV, it matters. If not, then it doesn’t matter.
That obsession has manifested in all sorts of ways during Trump’s first near-year in office.
He has a habit of praising members of Congress for how he or she did on television. Example: “I saw Congressman Gaetz on TV the other day. He did a great job. Really great.”
He is obsessed with how cable covers his events and pronouncements.
“In the wake of almost every event he holds, whether it be a rally, a bilateral press conference or a White House ceremony, Trump is presented with a packet of screen-shots showing how the television networks covered the event,” says CNN’s Dylan Byers.
He makes constant reference — in virtually every speech —to the number of cameras covering the event. One example: “Look at all those red lights,” Trump said when he was in Alabama earlier this year to campaign for appointed Sen. Luther Strange. “It’s always fun to see a red light.”
But it gets even more disturbing:
Trump not only judges success or failure via TV. He views his entire presidency as one big reality TV show in which the goals are only: 1) to be perceived as “winning” in the eyes of the audience and 2) to keep people watching.
The key for Trump is not only to win the day in the eyes of the people watching on TV. But, it’s more than that. It’s also to vanquish his political enemies. To be seen as the winner. It’s like he sees the presidency as a daily singing competition where he always wants to win the people’s vote.
Sadly, this is not a winning strategy for the United States. Trump has bragged that he has a secret plan to solve pretty much every problem the country faces, from defeating ISIS to reining down North Korea. There really isn’t one. The secret plan is that there is no secret plan. Trump acts and reacts in real time with a very short-term goal: Win the moment.
Being talked about is enough. As long as he is a subject of the national conversation, Trump is relevant. And for him, that’s “winning” even if America loses.