Yesterday, Esquire posted an exclusive that The Trump Administration may evict the press from the White House.” Specifically, there is “serious consideration” to move the press corp from the White House press room to the White House Conference Center or to the Old Executive Office Building. Sound familiar?
Yeah, it’s because this exact thing was on The West Wing (Season 2’s “The Leadership Breakfast”). Sam wanted to move the press corp to the OEOB because (in addition to giving the White House a swimming pool) it would “put a little physical distance between the press and the President.” C.J. makes it clear why this is a terrible idea:
C.J. The press doesn’t want physical distance from the President, and the American people would prefer it the President didn’t have physical distance from the press! … We can’t exile the press! … It sends a signal we’re trying to hide things from them.
Sam has a phone poll done on the issue anyway, it blows up in his face, and the terrible idea dies as well it should.
“We can’t exile the press!”
Yet this is exactly what Trump and his cronies want to do and as Esquire reports, which you already know:
Another senior official, however, suggested a more pointed motivation for the move. According to the official, the potential relocation reflected a view within the transition team that coverage of Trump has been so hostile as to indicate that the press has abandoned its role as neutral observer.
“They are the opposition party,” a senior official says. “I want ‘em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.”
Trump’s team sees the press as “the opposition party.”
…excuse me a minute.
On yesterday’s Meet the Press, Reince Priebus said they were considering this purely for “access” reasons for press conferences, because so many reporters want to hear Trump’s bullshit. When pushed repeatedly by Chuck Todd after several dodges, he claimed that this was only about press briefings and not about actually kicking the press corp out of the White House altogether, but Priebus is a lying sack of potatoes. The Vice President Elect spewed the same party line on yesterday’s Meet the Press but, again, credibility isn’t really a thing he has earned.
And here’s the really terrifying thought. On one level, this may just petty vindictiveness. “I don’t like the press and they don’t treat me well so throw them out.” Or it may be a deeper, “I don’t want them to know things, so let’s limit their access so they don’t see as much, can’t build relationships with my staff, etc.” But there’s a third, even scarier thing that could be at play here. We constantly underestimate this team and they’ve shown some pretty subtle yet strong media manipulation tactics. What if this just isn’t about being petty or limiting access? What if Dumpster Tomato and his team are trying to set up a regime where only the press that he finds “good,” who provide him the kind of coverage he likes, only they get access? Special access, dog treats, etc. Many would never fall down that rabbit hole. But some will. And honestly, who knows how that all plays out. But it’s a smart, subtle step in a long-play of media manipulation and as our dear Bekka put it, “some grade-A North Korea dear leader bullshit.” We cannot underestimate this regime and we must be eternally vigilant.
Remember at that “farce” of a press conference, when President Elect Dumpster Tomato scolded the press at length, eventually screaming at CNN’s Jim Acosta and taking a question instead from Breitbart? Yeah. We may look back at that as the high point of the Administration’s relationship with the press. The press is going to have to work so hard to keep this Administration in check and I have been feeling an increasing depression at my belief that the press will be wholly incapable of living up to this monumental task.
To at least end on a slightly positive note, the reason this news rung with familiarity for me was because I had only recently re-watched this episode in connection with my weekly listen of The West Wing Weekly podcast. You should check it out if you haven’t. It’s fantastic, and a good reason to re-watch The West Wing, a process which I am finding increasingly hopeful and personally calming in this bigly period of political terribleness.