Monday, January 23, 2017

Trump's first Monday in the White House: incredibly substantive

President Trump had an incredibly busy first Monday in the White House. Byron York writes at the Washington Examiner,
The Trump White House pushed out word that the president would meet with business leaders in the morning, and with labor leaders in the afternoon, with a heavy focus on jobs. On trade, Trump signed an executive order pulling the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He issued a freeze on the hiring of new federal workers. He re-instated the Mexico City policy. Then he met with a bi-partisan group of congressional leaders. Then a meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan. And then, when White House press secretary Sean Spicer held his first briefing, he restructured the session to direct attention away from some big news organizations — the ones most likely to fixate on crowd size — and toward back-row reporters who asked question after question on solid, substantive issues.

Trump's first day combined real substance with the imagery of Trump meeting with people in the Oval Office, in the Roosevelt Room, signing measures, discussing policy — in other words, the basic images of the presidency. Each act was covered breathlessly on television — We have new video just in from the White House! — reinforcing Trump's role.

The bottom line was that in the course of a few hours, Trump moved the political conversation far beyond the events of the weekend — so much so that critics who insisted on re-litigating the events of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday seemed behind the curve.

The questions of the weekend did not disappear altogether. At the briefing, Spicer backed away from incorrect numbers he had put out over the weekend concerning Metro ridership to the inauguration. But he insisted that the Trump inaugural had more total viewers — streaming, social media, broadcast and cable TV — than any other inauguration. A final verdict awaits more sophisticated data on viewing, but Spicer might well be right. In any event, he changed the subject from the crowd on the mall, which was indisputably smaller than either Obama inaugural, to the so-far unanswered question of total viewers.

And while it will be interesting to know the true total viewership, the fact is that Trump used the power of the White House to swiftly change the subject. And he did not do it by shiny-object gimmickry but by replacing the tired and losing argument over crowd size with real, substantive, presidential action. Look for the White House to try to keep that up.
Read more here.

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