Yesterday, 23 November 2016, Trump sat down to chat with reporters, editors, and pundits from The New York Times. After a bit of chit-chat about a somewhat smaller off-the-record meeting they had prior to this one. And then we have the first serious question:
SULZBERGER: I thought maybe I’d start this off by asking if you have anything you would like to start this off with before we move to the easiest questions you’re going to get this administration.[laughter]TRUMP: O.K. Well, I just appreciate the meeting and I have great respect for The New York Times. Tremendous respect. It’s very special. Always has been very special. I think I’ve been treated very rough. It’s well out there that I’ve been treated extremely unfairly in a sense, in a true sense. I wouldn’t only complain about The Times. I would say The Times was about the roughest of all. You could make the case The Washington Post was bad, but every once in a while I’d actually get a good article. Not often, Dean, but every once in awhile.Look, I have great respect for The Times, and I’d like to turn it around. I think it would make the job I am doing much easier. We’re working very hard. We have great people coming in. I think you’ll be very impressed with the names. We’ll be announcing some very shortly.Everybody wanted to do this. People are giving up tremendous careers in order to be subject to you folks and subject to a lot of other folks. But they’re giving up a lot. I mean some are giving up tremendous businesses in order to sit for four or maybe eight or whatever the period of time is. But I think we’re going to see some tremendous talent, tremendous talent coming in. We have many people for every job. I mean no matter what the job is, we have many incredible people. I think, Reince, you can sort of just confirm that. The quality of the people is very good.
What can one make of the highlighted passages? The first one implies that, as far as Trump is concerned, the job of The New York Times, and presumably the press in general, is to serve him. Does he really believe that? If you asked him straight out, What’s the job of the press?, what would he say in reply?
And then there’s that second passage. Are people entering the Trump administration in hopes of (good) press coverage, which is what he’s saying, or are they interested in actually doing a job? Does he really think it’s all about press coverage?
A bit later, after he’s run through a recap of the election:
I mean, I’m somebody that really has gotten along with people over the years. It was interesting, my wife, I went to a big event about two years ago. Just after I started thinking about politics.And we’re walking in and some people were cheering and some people were booing, and she said, you know, ‘People have never booed for you.’I’ve never had a person boo me, and all of a sudden people are booing me. She said, that’s never happened before. And, it’s politics. You know, all of a sudden they think I’m going to be running for office, and I’m a Republican, let’s say. So it’s something that I had never experienced before and I said, ‘Those people are booing,’ and she said, ‘Yup.’ They’d never booed before. But now they boo. You know, it was a group and another group was going the opposite.No, I want to bring the country together. It’s very important to me. We’re in a very divided country. In many ways divided.
Hmmm. Just how much does that bother him, that he was booed? As the Beatles sang, All You Need is Love. See, for example, this paragraph of Frank Bruni’s op-ed about the meeting, Donald Trump’s Demand for Love:
That was perhaps the most interesting part of the meeting, the one that makes his presidency such a question mark. Will he tilt in whatever direction, and toward whichever constituency, is the surest source of applause? Is our best hope for the best Trump to be so fantastically adulatory when he’s reasonable that he’s motivated to stay on that course, lest the adulation wane?
DOUTHAT: I guess that’s my question is, how much do you expect to be able to both run an administration and negotiate with a Republican-led Congress as a different kind of Republican. And do you worry that you’ll wake up three years from now and go back to campaigning in the Rust Belt and people will say, well, he governed more like Paul Ryan than like Donald Trump.TRUMP: No, I don’t worry about that. ’Cause I didn’t need to do this. I was telling Arthur before: ‘Arthur I didn’t need to do this. I’m doing this to do a good job.’ That’s what I want to do, and I think that what happened in the Rust Belt, they call it the Rust Belt for a reason. If you go through it, you look back 20 years, they didn’t used to call it the Rust Belt. You pass factory after factory after factory that’s empty and rusting. Rust is the good part, ’cause they’re worse than rusting, they’re falling down. No, I wouldn’t sacrifice that. To me more important is taking care of the people that really have proven to be, to love Donald Trump, as opposed to the political people. And frankly if the political people don’t take care of these people, they’re not going to win and you’re going to end up with maybe a total different kind of government than what you’re looking at right now.
Now he’s in it to do the job, not to get the press. That’s what I’d expect him to say. As for getting press, that was a slip, but what was once called a Freudian-slip, meaning that it’s revealing.
Overwhelmed? Not me!
FRIEDMAN: I came here thinking you’d be awed and overwhelmed by this job, but I feel like you are getting very comfortable with it.TRUMP: I feel comfortable. I feel comfortable. I am awed by the job, as anybody would be, but I honestly, Tom, I feel so comfortable and you know it would be, to me, a great achievement if I could come back here in a year or two years and say — and have a lot of the folks here say, ‘You’ve done a great job.’ And I don’t mean just a conservative job, ’cause I’m not talking conservative. I mean just, we’ve done a good job.SHEAR: To follow up on Matt, after you met with President Obama, he described you to folks as — that you seemed overwhelmed by what he told you. So I wonder if you are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the job that you’re about to inherit and if you can tell us anything more about that conversation with the president and the apparently subsequent conversations that you’ve had on the phone since then. […]TRUMP: Sure. I had a great meeting with President Obama. I never met him before. I really liked him a lot. The meeting was supposed to be 10 minutes, 15 minutes max, because there were a lot of people waiting outside, for both of us. And it ended up being — you were there — I guess an hour-and-a-half meeting, close. And it was a great chemistry. I think if he said overwhelmed, I don’t think he meant that in a bad way. I think he meant that it is a very overwhelming job. But I’m not overwhelmed by it. You can do things and fix it, I think he meant it that way.