As a TV event, the first press conference by President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday was a continuation of the method Trump established during his campaign. He talked and talked, repeating points America has heard a hundred times now, closing off direct answers to specific questions. Despite a peppery introduction by incoming press secretary Sean “Feisty” Spicer that lambasted the press in front of a room filled with members of the press, it was an intentionally tedious affair occasionally interrupted by hostility toward some of the people who’d been invited to question him.
Trump’s opening statement was the usual stream-of-consciousness blather about his November victory, how “beautiful” his inauguration is going to be, “We don’t make good deals anymore, I say it all the time in speeches,” and more random word-spray. Once he began calling on reporters, the salient headline answer would seem to be an admission that “I think it was Russia” that was behind the election-period hacks. Later, on the same subject, Trump gave a slightly incoherent answer about Russian president Vladimir Putin; its meaning slid through his syntax: “He shouldn’t have done it, I don’t believe he’ll be doing it more, now.” And, never one to leave a grudge untended, Trump freshened his oldie about Hillary Clinton: “Does anyone in this room think Hillary would be tougher on Russia than me? Gimme a break.”
Give us a break indeed: Trump attorney Sheri Dillon was brought out mid-conference to read a statement about how Trump had devised a plan that would “completely isolate him from the management of the [Trump] company.” While I’m sure there are significant details for news reporters to isolate and analyze, Dillon’s news conference interruption was as long and tedious as you’d imagine from any lawyer reading a lot of legal jargon and redundancy (e.g., “he will hire an expert in the field of recognized experts”). It served another purpose: It ate up time, limiting the number of questions Trump would answer.
In the conference’s most hostile exchange, Trump refused to take a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta, dismissing him as “fake news.” When the press conference was over, it was left to Jake Tapper to explain the context of Trump’s animosity, and to note that this was nothing less than “an attempt to discredit [a] legitimate news organization.”
Asked what the impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act would be replaced with, Trump gave the standard Trump-and-Republican Party line of gassy vagueness: “You’re gonna be very, very proud of what we put forth. Obamacare is a complete and total disaster. … it’ll be repealed and replaced … it’ll be almost simultaneous. … It’s very complicated stuff. … We’re gonna take care of health in this country. … We’re going to have a plan that is far less expensive and far better.”
In other words, no specific answer.
From today’s press conference, it looks as though the Trump Show that debuted during the campaign will continue, with minimal tweaks, into a new season. Same format, same content.