During a brief Q&A with reporters yesterday, Donald Trump conceded he’s looking “very strongly” at CNBC’s Larry Kudlow to lead the White House’s National Economic Council. As of today, he’s apparently done looking.
President Donald Trump plans to name longtime supporter Larry Kudlow as his top economic adviser, sources told CNBC Wednesday.
Kudlow would replace National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, who resigned earlier this month after clashing with the president over controversial steel and aluminum tariffs. Kudlow also was not a fan of the policy, although Trump said Tuesday that “he has now come around to believing in tariffs as a negotiating point.”
There’s every reason to believe the CNBC anchor will fit in just fine on Team Trump. As a Washington Post analysis noted yesterday, Kudlow is “as standard a Wall Street Republican as you’ll find. He believes in the Reaganite Holy Trinity of low taxes, low inflation and free trade. He believes in them so much that he’s spent the better part of the last 20 years proclaiming them on TV and radio.”
That, alas, hasn’t always worked out for him. By some measures, Kudlow has been consistently mistaken about many of the major economic debates of the last several years.
But what I think is the most important takeaway of today’s news is that there are few tools in the United States more important than Donald Trump’s television remote control.
One of the staples of this presidency is that he’s moved by what he sees on his TV screen. This obviously shapes his tweets – Trump has live-tweeted various Fox News programs more than once – but it also shapes his personnel decisions.
Fox News’ Heather Nauert is now a key official at the State Department (who was recently promoted). Fox News’ K.T. McFarland was Trump’s deputy national security advisor. Fox News’ Monica Crowley was chosen to work at the National Security Council before a controversy forced her departure. Fox News’ Jonathan Wachtel was named the spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations. Fox News contributors such as Ben Carson and Elaine Chao are already in the president’s cabinet, and now CNBC’s Larry Kudlow will be the top economic voice in the White House.
Even Jay Sekulow, a top member of Trump’s legal defense team, has no relevant experience working on the issues he’s tackling now, but he has maintained a very high profile in recent years on conservative media, which very likely helped get him his current gig.
The list may yet grow: Fox News’ John Bolton is rumored to be in contention to be the next White House national security advisor.
The Washington Post joked last year, “The Trump revolution won’t just be televised. It will be led by television talking heads.” It’s even truer now than it was then.
What’s more, it’s not just personnel. The president met with Veterans Affairs Sec. David Shulkin recently, and when their conversation turned to pending V.A. health care legislation, Trump reportedly called a Fox News personality, Pete Hegseth, “to get his opinion” of the bill.
When proponents of steel tariffs launched a lobbying campaign, they ran TV ads where they thought Trump might see them. When Kristian Saucier wanted a presidential pardon, he went on Fox News to ask for one – and received one soon after. When White House aides wanted to convey to Trump that the indictments of 13 Russian operatives was not good news, they went to cable news in order to shape the president’s understanding of the developments.
Foreign diplomats have urged their governments’ leaders to appear on American television “as a means of making their case to Trump.”
Following up on an item from last year, I should emphasize that as a rule, I’m not at all inclined to criticize those who watch a lot of cable news. It just so happens that I work for a cable-news television show and get paid by a cable-news network.
That said, it’s also fair to say that while we’ve had media-conscious presidents in American history, we’re never seen someone with the kind of obsession Trump has. To get a job on Team Trump, go on TV. To get a message to the president, go on TV. To influence the direction of the White House, go on TV.
This isn’t how the executive branch of a global superpower is supposed to work.