Reagan Historian: Trump Should Turn Off the TV
Presidential biographer says Trump needs to forget the pundits, start driving the conversation
It’s no secret that President Donald Trump closely monitors how news outlets are reporting on his administration. And when he comes across something he doesn’t like or that he views as inaccurate, he often turns to Twitter to unleash his frustration.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough became one of Trump’s latest irritants when he wondered aloud Monday on “Morning Joe” about “who calls the shots” in Trump’s White House, saying, “It is astounding that this soon into a new administration, I don’t know, maybe [Steve] Bannon is calling all the shots, I still don’t think he is. I think Trump is the guy who calls the shots, but this is a thing that I guess needs to be investigated.”
“[Trump’s] not a pundit. He’s the president. And he doesn’t need to act like a pundit.”
And it took just mere moments before the president fired back at Scarborough in a scathing rebuke.
“I call my own shots, largely based on an accumulation of data, and everyone knows it,” Trump tweeted. “Some FAKE NEWS media, in order to marginalize, lies!”
The tone of Trump's defensive tweet prompted widespread ridicule in the media. "The Daily Show" host Trevor Noah even went so far as to proclaim Bannon president of the United States.
"Trump's defensiveness is telling. It shows that even he realizes he needs to prove he's in control, and maybe some day he will be. But for now, let's congratulate Steve Bannon," Noah said Monday evening. "As of this moment, you are the real president … The American people didn't elect you. But then again, they kind of didn't elect Trump either."
Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump railed against the "dishonest media" and lambasted them for their negative — and often inaccurate — coverage of his rallies, his policies, and the level of his national support. When Trump defeated media darling and former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in a stunning upset, the pundits stood by in shock before unleashing a torrent of caterwauling.
Using Twitter as his primary medium to push back, Trump left no room for any doubts concerning his opinion of the media.
"I am not only fighting Crooked Hillary, I am fighting the dishonest and corrupt media and her government protection process. People get it!" Trump tweeted in a media-directed tirade on Aug. 14.
"My rallies are not covered properly by the media. They never discuss the real message and never show crowd size or enthusiasm," Trump continued. "If the disgusting and corrupt media covered me honestly and didn't put false meaning into the words I say, I would be beating Hillary by 20%."
This blunt method of communication ultimately served candidate Trump's purposes effectively and brought his opinions directly to the people. But Trump is no longer a presidential candidate.
"I think also he's got to realize that … he's no longer running for office. He drives the news. They don't drive him. He drives them," Craig Shirley, a Ronald Reagan biographer and presidential historian, said Tuesday on "The Laura Ingraham Show." "So, sometimes it's better to say fewer things and tweet fewer things that to say something all the time and tweet all the time."
If Trump continues to flock to Twitter on every whim, his administration and presidency could suffer, Shirley warned.
"Trump needs to say 'No' to interview requests or to over-booking in his schedule. He needs time to stop and think — just think things through or talk things through with a few trusted confidential aides," Shirley said.
Shirley especially pointed back to Trump's interview with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly that aired Sunday, in which O'Reilly asked Trump if he respected Russian President Vladimir Putin. When Trump said he did, O'Reilly said that Putin was "a killer."
"We've got a lot of killers … You think our country's so innocent?" Trump responded. "Well — take a look at what we've done too. We've made a lot of mistakes … but a lot of people were killed. So a lot of killers around, believe me."
Of course, the mainstream media immediately pounced on Trump's words, suggesting the president was drawing a "moral equivalency" between Russia and the U.S.
"It was fine up until he made the moral equivalency argument between the United States and Russia," Shirley said. "I think he needs to go out and clean it up a little bit."
These mistakes can be costly and lead to the Trump administration's "currency" and leverage "being devolved and overexposed," Shirley said.
There is also no need for Trump's officials and advisers to make the Sunday morning show rounds tirelessly every week and agree to appear on every show every day all week, LifeZette Editor-in-Chief Laura Ingraham said. Noting that Vice President Mike Pence gave interviews on four Sunday morning shows this week, Ingraham said that "less is more sometimes."
"I agree with you. I think we're seeing all of them too much," Ingraham told Shirley.
Rather than allowing the media to twist their words and distract from the concrete actions the president and his administration are taking, Ingraham said that Trump and his team should concentrate on fulfilling his campaign promises.
"I'd turn off the TV. Turn it off. There's nothing to watch anyway. It's not going to make your life any better. It's not going to make your job any easier. Turn it off," Ingraham said. "Unless it's something where you're galvanizing the public to your point of view on something, I think Twitter can be fine."
"[Trump's] not a pundit. He's the president. And he doesn't need to act like a pundit," Ingraham said. "Every time someone says something or [criticizes] him, he doesn't need to respond via Twitter. It just — it's pointless. It's a pointless endeavor."