White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stands beside monitors showing US President Donald J. Trump delivering a statement on the economy, at the beginning of a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, January 4, 2018.
Michael Reynolds/EPA

Pay some attention to that man behind the curtain

Updated

Towards the end of “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy and her friends finally made their way to the Wizard, whose projected image appeared menacing, and who made odd and self-aggrandizing boasts, but who was actually just a weak man hiding behind a curtain, reluctant to confront people in person.

The famous scene came to mind towards the beginning of yesterday’s White House press briefing, when Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders introduced a special guest – from down the hall via video.

“The president’s economic agenda of lower taxes, less regulation, and more opportunity for all is already paying off, and American families and workers are the big winners.

“With that in mind, we have a message from a special guest that I’d like to share with you. With that, I’ll ask you to tune into the screens, and then I’ll continue from there.”

The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/3/18, 9:39 PM ET

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At that point, Sanders played a video of Donald Trump talking about how much he likes his tax plan.

For those unfamiliar with the layout of the White House, the president’s Oval Office is in the West Wing, down a fairly short hallway from the press briefing room. I mention this because Trump could’ve simply taken a short stroll down the hall and told the reporters about his affection for the regressive Republican tax policy, but he preferred to remain behind the curtain.

As NBC News’ Ali Vitali put it, “More than a few D.C. residents opted to work remotely Thursday, looking to dodge potential commuting headaches as one of the strongest winter storms in recent history hit the East Coast. The president of the United States did the same – even though his commute would have been just a few dozen feet. And completely indoors.”

At different points over the last year, Trump’s press secretaries have used the screens in the briefing room to field questions via Skype from people in media outside D.C., but this was the first time the screens have been used to show comments from the president.

Trump took no questions, of course, since he wasn’t actually in the room – which I suspect was the point of having the president make the statement via video in the first place.

As for the larger context, Simon Maloy’s take rang true: “People for whom the word ‘teleprompter’ is a hilarious joke don’t have much to say about a president pre-recording a statement for a White House press briefing.”