Trump Values Being Unpredictable With Adversaries, But Apparently Not With Hostile Media

Donald Trump - Caricature by DonkeyHotey, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Original

President Trump says that he likes to be unpredictable when dealing with an adversary, but he doesn’t practice what he preaches in every arena.

… we must as a nation be more unpredictable. We are totally predictable. We tell everything. We’re sending troops. We tell them. We’re sending something else. We have a news conference. We have to be unpredictable. And we have to be unpredictable starting now..

That’s frightening for people who think Trump is a loose cannon, but objectively it does make a lot of sense. You don’t telegraph your punches if you want them to land effectively, but Trump’s reaction to the press is as predictable as my cat’s reaction to a can of tuna being opened.

Trump describes himself as a “counter puncher” which is an ok thing to be, but he can’t punch back at every criticism or slight and still be unpredictable. The media knows how he is going to react to anything they put out there. They know he’s easily lured into the weeds by insignificant things. When they get him to waste time arguing over things like how big his inauguration crowd size was or over a fact check of some statement he may not have meant to be taken literally, they have already won that skirmish, even if he is in the right.

There is much truth in the old adage about not picking fights with someone who buys ink by the barrel. Tweetstorms at 3 AM aren’t going to be enough to counter the left wing media monolith, especially when every tweet is potentially another opportunity for the media to call him out for being wrong about something.

Patterico explained what was wrong with Sean Spicer’s execution of Trump’s media strategy.

Butthurt over the fact that Obama’s (Inauguration crowd) was way bigger than his, Trump dispatched Spicer to tell a pack of lies. After all, angry and oft-repeated lies worked for Trump in the campaign. Why not as President?

Here’s the problem: by sending out Spicer to scream about the press about a trivial issue while getting all the facts wrong, Trump has undermined years’ worth of legitimate criticism of the media by conservatives. Now, when we talk about Big Media bias, and try to make the case to undecided voters that they should reject slanted stories from the giant newspapers and networks, Big Media can simply point to Spicer’s press conference as an object example of how all of our complaints are (supposedly) bogus.

A President, who—to be very charitable—has poor judgement when it comes to using hyperbole, can’t treat every disagreement with the media as if it were a fight worth having. They will seize upon every flippant remark as if it were meant literally and the news cycle will be dominated by stories that make the president look self absorbed and petty. The public’s perception will be based on what they see the President say and do while the media remains largely faceless. No amount of @POTUS tweeting is going to turn the media into the story for anyone but his ardent supporters or occasional guests on The O’Reilly Factor.

The other day I heard someone say that you have to pick your battles and Trump’s problem is that he picks every battle. When it comes to overcoming media bias, that strategy is bound to fail. Brute force is not the answer when you’re outnumbered. There is truth to Trump’s thoughts about unpredictability and he and his team should work on ways to inject that into their approach to the media.

Counterpunches aren’t effective when they are simply reflex responses.