US President Donald J. Trump participates in a press conference in the East Room in of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 16 February 2017.
SHAWN THEW/EPA

Team Trump shares tips on keeping their boss distracted, placated

Updated
A month into his term, Donald Trump’s aides have been eager to dish behind-the-scenes tidbits about the oddities of the nation’s new president. There is, however, a common thread tying together many of these reports.

Politico, for example, recently ran a piece quoting people close to him saying he “gets bored” easily and “likes to watch TV.” Soon after, an Axios report quoted presidential aides “jamming his schedule with meetings” in order to keep him distracted and out of trouble. A New York Times report, based on interviews with people close to Trump, soon after highlighted the president’s limitless ability to feel sorry for himself. A Washington Post report quoted sources who characterized him as lazy and petty.

In other words, people close to Trump tend to characterize him as a powerful, petulant child.

A new Politico report, quoting sources from Trump’s 2016 campaign team, only helps reinforce the thesis.
President Donald Trump’s former campaign staffers claim they cracked the code for tamping down his most inflammatory tweets, and they say the current West Wing staff would do well to take note.

The key to keeping Trump’s Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise. And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up – and make sure it made its way to Trump’s desk.
It’s a fascinating dynamic: while placating and distracting Trump sounds exhausting, it also sounds incredibly easy. According to these campaign staffers, the Republican’s ego was routinely bruised by coverage that hurt his feelings, but aides discovered they could quickly make him feel better by planting favorable stories in conservative outlets and then showing him the reports they helped create.

Politico presented this as effectively a how-to guide for White House staffers – who weren’t part of the campaign team – many of whom are likely now frustrated with their boss.

“If candidate Trump was upset about unfair coverage, it was productive to show him that he was getting fair coverage from outlets that were persuadable,” former communications director Sam Nunberg said. “The same media that our base digests and prefers is going to be the base for his support. I would assume the president would like see positive and preferential treatment from those outlets and that would help the operation overall.”

Why do reports like these matter? A few reasons. First, it’s striking to hear from people who’ve worked with Trump describe him in terms that would seem quite insulting when applied to any other adult. “Leaving him alone for several hours can prove damaging, because he consumes too much television and gripes to people outside the White House,” the article noted, for example.

Second, Trump aides have apparently learned the tricks to exploiting his immaturity and more easily manipulating him. The piece added, “One Trump associate said it’s important to show Trump deference and offer him praise and respect, as that will lead him to more often listen.”

And third, all of this offers an informative peek into how Team Trump has interacted with conservative media.
A former senior campaign official said Nunberg and his successor, former communications director Jason Miller, were particularly skilled at using alternative media like Breitbart, Washington Examiner, Fox News, Infowars and the Daily Caller to show Trump positive coverage.

And once they got the stories published, campaign officials with large numbers of Twitter followers would tweet them out.

They would also go to media amplifiers like Fox News hosts and conservative columnists to encourage them to tweet out the story so that they could print out and show a two-page list of tweets that show that they were steering the message.
Raise your hand if any of this offers reassurances about the president’s temperament.