Guest Opinion: If you expect a mellower Trump, forget it
He was combative, angry, hostile toward his perceived enemies, defiant, evasive, and not the least bit humbled about the office he is about to enter.
In other words, President-elect Donald Trump was unchanged from the volatile man we saw on the campaign trail as he held his first news conference in six months on Wednesday, a little over a week before he is inaugurated.
Wednesday’s hour-long Trump show was in stark contrast to what the nation saw Tuesday night when President Obama gave his farewell address. Obama was dignified and emotional as he gave a defense of his vision for America and tried to inspire optimism in a nation that is clearly feeling anxiety about the upcoming change in leadership.
We shouldn’t have expected anything different from Trump on Wednesday. He didn’t get elected by acting presidential. He got elected, well, by being Trump.
He went after the media, as usual, calling media outlet BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage” after it posted a 35-page document containing explosive — and unverified — allegations about ties between the Russian government and Trump.
Trump then got into a shouting match with CNN reporter Jim Acosta after that network carried a report about the unverified Russian dossier. Trump and Acosta shouted at each other as the reporter tried to ask a question. Trump just hollered that CNN is “fake news.”
It made for great TV, but was hardly the temperament you’d expect from a man about to be president. And the fact he felt he could berate and almost bully a reporter on national television and refuse to take a question, as some of Trump’s guests clapped, is chilling.
Of course, Trump isn’t used to answering any questions at all, preferring to present his voice on Twitter without being challenged. “Fake news,” by the way, has become a favorite Trump expression whenever he is criticized in the least. That’s an interesting charge coming from a man who virtually invented fake news when he pushed the birther movement theory against Obama the last five years.
Trump’s treatment of the press, however, was tame compared to how he, in a tweet Wednesday morning, compared the leak of the allegations by U.S. intelligence officials as a tactic reminiscent of “Nazi Germany.” He doubled down after being questioned about the comparison at the news conference, calling the release of false information about him a “disgrace.” “That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do,” Trump said.
It was like that for most of the news conference. Trump did concede it probably was Russia that hacked the Democratic National Committee — but then got in a cheap shot at his former opponent, saying that the hacking did something good because the public learned Hillary Clinton got debate questions ahead of time.
As for his vast business dealings, Trump said he plans to put his assets in a trust and give control of his company to his two sons to avoid a conflict of interest. But ethics experts are already criticizing the fact Trump isn’t divesting himself.
When it came to evasiveness, Trump was at the top of his game. He said he wouldn’t release his tax returns because of the ongoing audit — how long has this audit been going on? — and besides, he said, the public doesn’t care. Only the press cares.
Interesting. Recent polls show a vast majority of the public — including Republicans — want Trump to release his tax returns.
He said Mexico would repay the United States for the “wall,” without specifics. He said Obamacare would be replaced, without specifics. He didn’t even bother to answer a question about whether anybody from his camp had discussions with the Russians prior to the election.
And when it was all done, Trump said if his sons don’t do a good job running his company, he’ll tell them “You’re fired.”
It all left you wondering if Trump thinks the presidency is a big reality show. And you had to wonder when he’ll master the art of being presidential.