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

Trump has no problem judging a book by its cover

After a typical “Meet the Press” appearance, I imagine many guests watch their appearances afterwards to see how they did. Were their answers strong? Did their arguments make sense? What did they say on the air that they should try to say differently during the next interview?

When Donald Trump appears on “Meet the Press,” it’s a little different. Chuck Todd recently told Politico that the president-elect has a peculiar request after his on-air interviews.
After several of his Sunday appearances as a candidate, Trump would lean back in his chair and request that the control room replay his appearance on a monitor – sans sound.

“Then there’s the amount of time he spends after the interview is over, with the sound off. He wants to see what it all looked like. He will watch the whole thing on mute,” Todd told me…. “He’s a very visual guy,” says Todd. “He thinks this way, and look, it’s an important insight in just understanding him. The visual stuff is very real beyond just himself.”
Watching the interview on mute says a great deal about Trump’s priorities: he doesn’t much care about what he said or how he said it, choosing instead to prioritize how he looked while the camera was on.

All of this came to mind yesterday when Trump complained about a new book, put together by CNN, about the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump didn’t talk about the content of the book, choosing instead to focus on the photo CNN chose for the cover.

You’ve heard the adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? The president-elect seems to disagree.

This followed a meeting Trump hosted with representatives of the broadcast media shortly before Thanksgiving, where the president-elect reportedly condemned networks, including NBC, for airing photographs of him that Trump found unflattering.

His preoccupation with appearances isn’t limited to himself: the Washington Post reported two weeks ago that when Trump meets with prospective members of his cabinet and White House team, the Republican’s principal focus is on how they look, not their qualifications.

Chris Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media and a longtime friend of Trump, told the Post the president-elect is “a showbiz guy,” who cares about “the look and the demeanor and the swagger.”

Taken together, a picture emerges of a president who isn’t preparing an administration, so much as he’s putting together a television production. Every modern White House has taken an interest in media and public perceptions, but for Trump, “the look” appears to be at the top of his list of priorities – with everything else, including substantive policy, a distant second.

There’s been ample discussion in recent months about electing an inexperienced businessman to the presidency, but that may not be the part of Trump’s background that ends up mattering most after Jan. 20. Americans, or at least 46% of them, have also elected the executive producer of a reality show to the world’s most powerful office.

We’ll soon go from a president who won a Nobel Peace Prize to a president who remains outraged that he never won an Emmy.