It was February 16–and Trump’s first press conference as President.
Like the climatic showdown in The Caine Mutiny, it offered an unhinged rant, full of anger, personal attacks, self-pity and self-glorification.
But the man doing the ranting was not Captain Philip Francis Queeg. It was President Donald J. Trump, speaking from the East Room of the White House.
He opened casually: “Thank you very much. I just wanted to begin by mentioning that the nominee for Secretary of the Department of Labor will be Mr. Alex Acosta….”
For the next hour and 15 minutes, Trump let raw emotion do his talking.
Among the highlights:
His hates the press: “….The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it to find out what is going on, because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”
He won “bigly” in the Electoral College: “I put it out before the American people, got 306 electoral college votes. They said there’s no way to get 222. 230 is impossible. 270 which you need, that was laughable. We got 306, because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before. So that’s the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.”
[Actually, it wasn’t. He got a smaller share of the Electoral College votes–56.88% than former presidents George H. W. Bush–79.18%; Bill Clinton–68.77% in 1992; and 70.45% in 1996; and Barack Obama–67.84% in 2008; and 61.71% in 2012.
[No other President had ever felt it necessary to brag about his Electoral College victory. And Trump didn’t mention that he lost the popular vote–with Hillary Clinton getting almost 2.9 million more votes than he did.]
He ignored the turmoil in his month-old administration: “I turn on the TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos. Chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can’t get my Cabinet approved, and they’re outstanding people.”
[His National Security Adviser, Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was forced to resign after 24 days.
[The reason: The media reported that Flynn had misled the vice president and other White House colleagues about a conversation with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
[In addition, Trump:
- Had his executive order banning travel by Muslims to the United States halted by Federal courts;
- Fired his acting attorney general for refusing to defend the ban;
- Angered the president of Mexico into cancelling a summit meeting;
- Bragged about the size of his electoral win to Australia’s prime minister, then hung up on him;
- Authorized a commando raid that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL;
- Lied that he had been prevented from winning the popular vote by millions of illegal aliens; and
- Attacked Nordstrom’s department store for dropping the clothing and accessories lines of his daughter, Ivanka.
[In fact, Trump’s Cabinet–with the exception of his pick for Secretary of Labor–had been steamrollered through the Senate by Republicans.]
The press persecutes him: “I watch CNN. It’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred. I don’t watch it anymore, because it’s very good….
“You look at your show [CNN Tonight] that goes on at 10 in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit. The panel is almost always exclusive anti-Trump. The good news is he doesn’t have good ratings, but the panel is almost exclusive anti-Trump. And the hatred and venom coming from his mouth. The hatred coming from other people on your network.”
He’s really a good, misunderstood person: “….I can handle a bad story better than anybody, as long as it is true. Over a course of time, I will make mistakes and you will write badly, and I am OK with that. But I am not OK when it is fake….
“I know when you’re telling the truth or when you’re not. I just see many, many untruthful things. And I’ll tell you what else I see, I see tone….The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such–I do get good ratings. You have to admit that.”
His campaign never colluded with Russian Intelligence: “Well, the failing New York Times wrote a big, long front-page story yesterday. And it was very much discredited, as you know. It [was] — it’s a joke. … Russia is fake news. This is fake news put out by the media.”
[Several of Trump’s high-level advisers were in constant communication during the campaign with Russian Intelligence agents. These contacts are now being investigated by the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency.]
* * * * *
By the end of The Caine Mutiny, Stephen Maryk is acquitted of mutiny. Captain Queeg is presumably relieved of future commands.
By the end of President Trump’s bizarre and frightening press conference, there is no telling what lies ahead for the United States–or the world.