According to a Politico report on how President Donald Trump manipulates the press, a former White House press secretary under President George W. Bush worries that the president is too focused on appealing to his base — and that could hurt Republicans in the 2018 midterms.
The report begins by noting that Trump avoids interviews with all the news networks — except for Fox News, where he knows he will get kid-glove treatment.
“Trump has done just a single solo press event since taking office — an impromptu 80-minute appearance last February in the East Room days after firing his former national security adviser Michael Flynn,” writes Politico’s Jason Schwartz, who adds that Trump has engaged reporters in 115 short press availabilities where he spends a few minutes answering questions.
According to former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, “The informality of it helps the president, and the fact that it’s typically three, four, five questions at a time helps the president. It’s easier for the president to walk away when he wants to.”
Martha Joynt Kumar, a retired political science professor from Towson University who tracks presidential appearances, added, “Short Q&A’s are valuable because they get the president’s initial impressions of something that’s breaking. Solo press conferences are important because they represent a time when reporters can delve into events and issues in a deeper way.”
She added that those brief encounters allow Trump to avoid “complexities” that he may not be capable of dealing with.
What is problematic for the president is his avoidance of television interview appearances which are limited to Trump-friendly Fox News — meaning the president seldom speaks directly to voters who are not hardcore supporters and never reaches voters who may be on the fence.
That problem, according to Fleischer, means that GOP candidates seeking re-election or running for the first time get virtually no help from the president’s bully pulpit.
“I do worry that, for Trump’s sake and for the Republicans’ sake in the midterms, Donald Trump’s appeal remains largely limited to his base,” Fleischer lamented. “He must grow that, and the way to grow it is talk to other media outlets, talk to people who he otherwise won’t reach.”
You can read the whole report here.