New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik revealed in an excerpt from his forthcoming book that Donald Trump seems to run his life and our country based on his eight-hour-a-day television-watching habit.
Poniewozik’s book is due out September 10 and is called “Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America.” An excerpt was published yesterday by Vanity Fair. Although many of the individual anecdotes about Fox News’ sway over Trump were previously known, Poniewozik puts together the big, chilling picture: "Media critics took to calling this obsequious iteration of Fox 'state TV,' but that term implied that the state was controlling the media. More often in this case, the media was controlling the state."
While Fox News seems to direct Trump policies the most, the network is not the only source of his TV guidance. In addition to the eight hours Poniewozik says Trump watches TV daily, he reportedly has his staff do even more watching for him:
He would replay slights to him on his DVR, fuming, his mood worsening, like Nixon with upgraded technology. He would refuse to watch MSNBC’s Morning Joe out of pique, then have his 28-year-old assistant Hope Hicks—formerly a PR aide to Ivanka Trump—tremulously recap the show for him every morning. (Wolff got White House access in the first place because Trump had seen him say nice things about him on CNN’s Reliable Sources.)
Poniewozik also noted an instance in which Trump tried to direct his television coverage by asking an associate to go on TV and tell Trump to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. It makes you wonder how many other times Trump has tried to script news programming and how many times he has succeeded at it.
An anecdote of Rep. Elijah Cummings getting a call from Trump after announcing a desire for a meeting on Morning Joe (presumably before Trump’s Twitter tirade against Cummings and his Baltimore district) seems innocuous enough. But Poniewozik places it in a vicious cycle of reality bending to conform to Trump’s TV habit.
It was real that political reporters would get thousands of dollars’ worth of dental work, to look more telegenic when the president saw them on his programs, the better to get their calls returned from the White House.
It was real that critics, lobbyists, and corporations trying to persuade or curry favor with the administration started reaching out to the president, not by booking meetings, but by buying commercial time on the TV-news shows he binge-watched.
It was real that Trump’s own staff created TV events to placate, control, and persuade him. Things were more real to Trump if he saw them on TV. People were more real if he saw them on TV—even people he saw, in person, every day. White House officials would go on TV “to emphasize points to their boss, who was likely to be watching just steps away in his residence.” When that didn’t work, they booked outside experts onto his shows. When Trump took a shine to Fox’s Pirro, a former prosecutor who offered him on-air advice on his legal troubles, someone from the White House had to go on her show every week to get the staff’s voice into his head.
There’s a lot more in the excerpt about how Trump’s whole persona has merged with his television identity and an implicit warning about how the U.S. has started to follow his lead. I recommend reading the whole piece. I have no doubt the book will be even more enlightening and probably more disturbing, too.
(H/T Eyes on Fox)
This box is disturbing on two levels.
Clearly it’s a measure of Trump’s clinical narcissism. On an Air Force One trip overseas Trump was observed obsessing over these clippings for nearly 8 hours. This from a pr*sident who is so disinterested in briefing documents staff has to limit them to 3 pages or less and include plenty of pictures. Even then he’s unlikely to read them in their entirety.
More disturbing is the fact his staff uses these clippings to manipulate Trump. They sneak in articles and sneak out articles to influence him.
Donald Trump is functioning only as a spokesman – a dangerously childish one at that. The Right Wing dislikes him personally, but they love that the media jumps on his every comment, as it’s a huge distraction from the actual work going on. And while they don’t approve of Trump as a person, they love the bigoted dog whistles and open slurs he regularly emits.
And while most people are distracted by the nonsense from the spokesman, Pence has quietly and viciously moved ahead every week with steps to systematically erase every single thing done by the Obama White House and to make the nation and the world a nastier, dirtier, angrier place. That’s not to mention the systematic understaffing and paralyzing of most of the Cabinet Departments. And not to even get into the extremist partisan court appointments, including two absolute gargoyles onto the Supreme Court.
Donald Trump is an unimportant child, and it’s a waste of time to humor his desperate need for attention. I agree that his emboldening of the deplorables across this country has been despicable, but that doesn’t mean we need to glorify the Tweets themselves with any attention. We can deal with the deplorables by standing up to them and by shunning them completely. The much larger concern is the damage that Mike Pence is doing to the very fabric of government. If he is allowed another four years, we could wind up with something unrecognizable to any sane person.