Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen in a television cameras view finder during a press conference at the Trump National Golf Club Jupiter on March 8, 2016 in Jupiter, Fla.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty

The unbreakable bond between Trump and his television remote

As he settles into the presidency, Donald Trump spoke with the New York Times yesterday about his transition into public service. He noted, among other things, that his pre-White House routine hasn’t changed that much: Trump likes to get up early and watch television news.
But his meetings now begin at 9 a.m., earlier than they used to, which significantly curtails his television time. Still, Mr. Trump, who does not read books, is able to end his evenings with plenty of television.
That’s one of the more striking paragraphs I’ve seen written about an American president in a while.

Nevertheless, it’s not at all surprising. One of the common threads tying together many of the recent profiles on Trump’s nascent presidency is his love of television news. Politico spoke this week to someone close to Trump who said the president “gets bored and likes to watch TV.” A day later, an Axios report added, “[T]he notion he will surrender the remote … is pure fantasy. Aides talk of giving him ‘better choices’ or jamming his schedule with meetings to keep him away from reading about or watching himself on TV.”

This isn’t intended as criticism, necessarily. I happen to love television. I work for a television show and get paid by a television network.

That said, there are a couple of things notable about the president’s viewing habits. First, it’d odd that he finds the time. Obama and Clinton used to talk frequently about briefing papers and reports they’d read after leaving the Oval Office at night. Why isn’t Trump, who has little familiarity with government and public policy, doing the same?

Second, as an interesting Washington Post report added this morning, the president seems to make reflexive policy pronouncements in response to whatever crosses his screen.
Over the past 12 or so hours, President Trump has made two major policy pronouncements via Twitter. On Tuesday night, he said he may “send the Feds!” to combat the “carnage” in Chicago, and on Wednesday morning, he said he planned to launch a “major investigation” of voter fraud.

Both of these things can pretty easily be traced back to one source: Trump’s television.
On Tuesday night, after Fox News ran a segment on violent crime in Chicago, complete with specific statistics, Trump tweeted those identical numbers and threatened to send federal officials into the city.

Yesterday morning, MSNBC’s Ari Melber appeared on NBC’s “Today” show and noted that Trump’s ridiculous voter-fraud claims are hard to take seriously given the fact that the White House hasn’t called for any kind of investigation. Three minutes later, the president tweeted his support for an investigation into the problem that doesn’t actually exist.

This morning, Fox News ran a segment labeling Chelsea Manning an “ungrateful traitor.” Fourteen minutes later, Trump published a tweet labeling Chelsea Manning an “ungrateful traitor.”

We can go even further down this road. In late November, Rachel had a segment about all of the people Trump had hired for his administration who crossed his radar – you guessed it – by appearing on his TV. After the segment aired, the dynamic grew.

During the Republican presidential primaries, NBC News’ Chuck Todd asked Trump whom he turns to for guidance on matters of national security. “Well,” the Republican replied, “I watch the shows.”

By the fall, Kellyanne Conway said if she wanted to deliver a message to Trump, she wouldn’t just tell him what’s on her mind. “A way you can communicate with him is you go on TV to communicate,” she explained.

None of this seems healthy.


Donald Trump

The unbreakable bond between Trump and his television remote