Donald Trump’s First, Alarming Week as President-Elect
A week later, those words seem hollow. The first sign that our easily distracted President-elect remained unchanged from the campaign came on Thursday. For twenty-four hours, Trump had shown some restraint. His victory speech raised hopes that, despite the evidence of his behavior on the campaign trail, he might be capable of magnanimity. His appearance with President Obama the following day was similarly restrained, but it was marred by the fact that he refused to bring his press pool with him to Washington, and by a lie he told in his second sentence spoken in the Oval Office: “This was a meeting that was going to last for maybe ten or fifteen minutes.” It was actually scheduled for much longer. Just after 9 p.m., back in Trump Tower, the President-elect tweeted about his frustrations with protesters and the news media: “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!”
Some saw the tweet as self-pitying and pathetic. Others saw it as a frightening attack on the First Amendment by the man who will soon swear to defend the Constitution. Either way, as his first substantive public comment since his election, it was widely rebuked. At 6:14 a.m., clearly sensing the building outrage, he tweeted a reversal of opinion: “Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!” If there is a lesson here, it may be that Trump still cares about élite opinion. He is obsessed with cable news, especially CNN, and the major newspapers, especially the Times, and their coverage might be able to influence his antidemocratic behavior. For those covering Trump, the lesson is that adversarial journalism, not access journalism, will better serve the public interest.