Don’t rely on condensed and cleaned-up news reports of Donald Trump’s Jan. 11, 2017 press conference to give the full picture of his incoherent thought process and speaking “style.” You have to read the complete transcript—or at least extended sections of it—to completely comprehend Trump’s inarticulateness and the erratic flow of words that constitute a Trump “thought.” So, I urge everyone who didn’t see the press conference debacle live, or who tuned it out after a few minutes, or who didn’t see the whose catastrophe on-line, to find a way to get the full experience. NPR has an excellent verbatim transcript, with annotations and fact-checking.
Unlike Trump’s Nov. 2016 behind-the-scenes interview at the New York Times, the press conference offered a full public display of Trump’s wandering, unfocused, sometimes crude and often antagonistic way of interacting with the press and the public. His performance did nothing to instill confidence that he will be more thoughtful or informed when he takes office.
He began the press conference by adopting what I’m sure he thought was a serious, more presidential-sounding tone. But his words belied his demeanor, as his opening remarks wandered into typically Trumpian narcissistic territory. And as the press conference wore on, he became more unglued.
Here’s an excerpt from his opening remarks:
Thank you very much, this is very familiar territory — news conferences — because we used to give them on an almost daily basis. I think we probably maybe won the nomination because of news conferences. And it’s good to be with you.
We stopped giving them because we were getting quite a bit of inaccurate news. But I do have to say that — and I must say that – I want to thank a lot of the news organizations here today because they looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies — who knows but maybe the intelligence agencies, which would be at tremendous blot on their record if they in fact did that, a tremendous blot. Because a thing like that should have never been written — it should never have been had, it should certainly have never been released. But I want to thank a lot of the news organizations for — some of whom have not treated me very well over the years.
A couple in particular — and they came out so strongly against that fake news and the fact that it was written about by primarily one group and one television station. So I just want to complement many of the people in the room, I have great respect for the news and great respect for freedom of the press and all of that.
But I will tell you, there were some news organizations with all that was just said that were so professional, so incredibly professional. That — I’ve just gone up a notch as to what I think of you. OK? All right.
Later, in his opening remarks, before having been asked a single question, he flatly stated,
I will be the best job producer God ever created.
Also from his opening remarks—at his first press conference in six months, when he has an opportunity to show us his presidential-ness and his seriousness– we get a rundown on the great bands that will be playing at his inauguration, along with a lot of self-congratulation:
I look very much forward to the inauguration. It’s going to be a beautiful event. We have great talent, tremendous talent. And we have all of the bands — or most of the bands from the different segments of the military. And I’ve heard some of these bands over the years — they’re incredible. We’re going to have a very, very elegant day. The 20th is going to be something that will be very, very special, very beautiful. And I think we’re going to have massive crowds because we have a movement. It’s a movement like the world has never seen before. It’s a movement that a lot of people didn’t expect. And even the polls, although some of them did get it right, but many of them didn’t. And that was a beautiful scene on November 8th as those states started to pour in. And we focused very hard on those states, and they really reciprocated. And those states are going to have a lot of jobs, and they’re going to have a lot of security. They are going to have a lot of good news for their veterans.
Later, asked about recent news reports about possibly embarrassing information for Trump gleaned through Russian eavesdropping, Trump said.
.. Well, let me tell you. Yeah. Let me just tell you what I do. When I leave our country, I’m a very high profile person, would you say? I am extremely careful. I’m surrounded by bodyguards. I’m surrounded by people. And I always tell them, anywhere, but I always tell them, if I’m leaving this country, “Be very careful. Because in your hotel rooms — and no matter where you go, you’re gonna probably have cameras. I’m not referring just to Russia, but I would certainly put them in that category — and number one I hope you’re going to be good anyway. But in those rooms you have cameras in the strangest places. Cameras that are so small with modern technology, you can’t see them and you won’t know. You better be careful or you’ll be watching yourself on nightly television.” I tell this to people all the time. I was in Russia, years ago, with the Miss Universe contest, which did very well. Moscow, the Moscow area. Did very, very well. And I told many people, “Be careful. Because you don’t wanna see yourself on television.” Cameras all over the place. And again, not just Russia. All over. Does anyone really believe that story? I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way. Believe me.
On the border wall between the U.S and Mexico. [If you understand this, please explain it to the rest of us.]
On the fence, it’s not a fence it’s the wall. You just misreported it. We’re going to build a wall. I could wait about a year and a half until we finish our negotiations with Mexico, which will start immediately after we get to office. But I don’t want to wait. Mike Pence is leading an effort to get final approvals through various agencies and through Congress for the wall to begin. I don’t feel like waiting a year or year and a half. We’re going to start building.
Mexico, in some form, and there many different forms, will reimburse us and they will reimburse us for the cost of the wall.
That will happen. Whether it’s a tax or whether it’s a payment — probably less likely that it’s a payment — but it will happen. So remember this, OK? I would say we are going to build a wall, and people would go crazy.
I would then say — who’s going to pay for the wall? And people would all scream out — twenty five, thirty thousand people, because no one’s ever had crowds like Trump has had. You know that. You don’t like to report that, but that’s OK. OK, now he agrees. Finally, he agrees. But, I say, who’s going to pay for the wall? And they will scream out — Mexico. Now, reports went out last week — oh, Mexico’s not going to pay for the wall because of a reimbursement.
What’s the difference? I want to get the wall started. I don’t want to wait a year and a half until I make my deal with Mexico. And we probably will have a deal sooner than that. And by the way, Mexico has been so nice. So nice.
I respect the government of Mexico. I respect the people of Mexico. I love the people of Mexico. I have many people from Mexico working for me. They are phenomenal people. The government of Mexico is terrific. I don’t blame them for what’s happened. I don’t blame them for taking advantage of the United States. I wish our politicians were so smart. Mexico has taken advantage of the United States. I don’t blame the representatives and various presidents, etc. of Mexico. What I say is we shouldn’t have allowed that to happen.
And if leaving one’s audience with a good impression is a smart tactic, Trump failed there, too: He used his final remarks before leaving the stage as a vehicle to sneak in his signature, reality-tv line:
I want to thank everybody. So this is all — just so you understand, these papers — because I’m not sure that was explained properly. But these papers are all just a piece of the many, many companies that are being put into trust to be run by my two sons that I hope at the end of eight years, I’ll come back and say, oh, you did a good job. Otherwise, if they do a bad job, I’ll say, “You’re fired.”
Good-bye, everybody. Good-bye.
There’s so much more. As we have seen before, Trump rambles, brags about his great company, congratulates himself, name drops, exaggerates and flat-out lies, re-litigates his election victory, takes gratuitous swipes at Hillary Clinton, cites unsubstantiated statistics and shambles from one unrelated thought to another. The only thing that keeps his answers anywhere near on track is the fact that reporters’ questions bring him back to the topic.
There is nothing presidential about this man—and it is clear from his performance at one of his first official appearances–this press debacle–that he is not about to grow up or change.