This is an awfully chaotic end to year two of the as-seen-on-TV presidency.
Yes, the as-seen-on-TV presidency. President Donald Trump used to like what he saw when he tuned in. The medium advertised him as a billionaire on “The Apprentice” and helped him connect with the millions of Americans now known as his “base.”
But nowadays, when he watches from the White House, he gets angry. He vents on Twitter and sometimes takes specific actions as a result.
On Sunday Trump moved up Defense Secretary James Mattis’ departure by two months because he was mad about the news coverage of Mattis’s resignation, according to reporting by CNN’s Barbara Starr and others.
Earlier, CNN’s Jim Acosta reported that Trump “hates” Mattis’s blistering resignation letter, but “hates the coverage more.”
“The thing that makes Trump angry is the conventional wisdom – repeated in coverage of the secretary’s departure – that Mattis was one of the ‘adults in the room’ in place to serve as a check on the president’s impulses,” Acosta said.
Trump has also been watching coverage of the partial government shutdown and his decision to withdraw troops from Syria – and using Twitter to respond.
“News reports concerning the Shutdown and Syria are mostly FAKE,” he claimed on Saturday.
Watch television, read stories, react on Twitter – that’s been a well-established pattern of the Trump presidency. He hires people from television and fires people based on what he hears on TV.
It’s been apparent in recent days that criticism from right-wing media outlets contributed to Trump’s decision to demand border wall funding and force a partial shutdown.
“He initially seemed to be moving toward compromise, and was then pulled back to the right by conservative media,” Vox’s Dara Lind, whose beat is immigration, said on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources.”
The opinions of hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity weigh heavily on the president’s mind. The Washington Post reported earlier this year that some aides referred to Hannity as the “shadow” chief of staff.
And these personalities – many of whom were at White House holiday parties earlier this month – know they have the president’s ear. Jeanine Pirro used her Fox show on Saturday night to speak directly to the president.
“I would like to direct my open to the President of the United States,” she said. “Mr. President, I understand the pressure that you are under from every side, but the wall at our southern border is a promise that you made, ran on, got elected on and must keep.”
She concluded the monologue by “pleading” (her word) to “get it done,” meaning, get the wall funding.
“This is your moment, just do it,” she said.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that Trump is spending “ever more time in front of a television, often retreating to his residence out of concern that he is being watched too closely.”
The story depicted Trump as paranoid and isolated, and his cable TV consumption “has actually increased in recent months.”
His tweets about TV shows have become more specific, with fawning quotes from his supporters. He sometimes includes the Twitter handles of Fox fans like Hannity and Pete Hegseth. At the same time, he trashes Fox’s rivals, including CNN.
The as-seen-on-TV presidency includes close aides that came from the TV universe.
Just this year, former Fox News co-president Bill Shine joined the White House as deputy chief of staff for communications. Fox commentator John Bolton became Trump’s national security adviser. CNBC’s Larry Kudlow became director of the National Economic Council.
Toward the end of the year, Trump nominated former Fox host Heather Nauert to be US ambassador to the United Nations. Nauert has been the State Department spokeswoman for the past year and a half.
Several others, like Hegseth and Pirro, have been in the mix for other administration jobs in the past, according to news reports.
Trump introduced Pirro at a pre-midterms rally by saying “She’s my friend and she’s your friend, Justice Jeanine.”