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Inside the Beltway: Trump, ‘master of the medium of his time’

By Jennifer Harper | December 1, 2018

Major Garrett, chief White House correspondent for CBS, has a new book out, and the title tells all: “Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency.”

Indeed, Donald Trump’s actual presidency has been a boneshaker for journalists who were unprepared for a billionaire commander-in-chief who is a canny denizen of the media and entertainment realm, and unafraid to push back.

Mr. Garrett — who has covered the executive branch for 17 years — noticed.

“His goal was to sift through the mountains of distracting tweets and shrieking headlines in order to focus on the most significant moments of Trump’s young presidency, the ones that Garrett believes will have a lasting impact,” explains St. Martin’s Press, the publisher.

The Washington Post calls Mr. Garrett’s book “an early draft of our current history,” while Kirkus Reviews cited the author’s analysis of Mr. Trump’s own “coarsening effect on political dialogue.”

Mr. Garrett also notes the president’s place in it all.

“Whatever you think of Trump as a person or president, he is the most media-savvy president since Ronald Reagan,” the author wrote.

“The media savvy reference was to Trump’s social media skills — the point being Reagan was a master of the medium of his time, network television, and Trump is a master of the medium of his age — Twitter, Facebook and the like,” Mr. Garrett tells Inside the Beltway.

Trump’s Twitter habits have evolved slightly and remain a dominant voice in his presidency — driving news coverage and revealing his state of mind. That remains catchy and compelling. The news media sifts all tweets and treats them as the news events they are but continues to struggle in weighting its coverage of tweets against other long-lasting changes Trump is bringing about, specifically in deregulation, nominations/confirmations to federal courts and administrative changes to Obamacare and immigration,” he says.

“In future years, I predict the news media will conclude it was preoccupied with tweets and less focused on structural Trump-generated changes. That is likely to reinforce my point that Trump was a master of the medium of his time,” the author says.

REMARKABLE PARTNERSHIP’ OF REAGAN/BUSH

Fred Ryan, chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute offered thoughts on the death of George H.W. Bush — deeming him a “true gentleman who embodied the nobility of public service.”

The productive team of Reagan and then-Vice President Bush were in office together eight years.

“They forged a remarkable partnership. As they reignited the U.S. economy, battled tyranny across the globe, and restored America’s pride and purpose, President Reagan relied on his vice president’s calm, strength, loyalty, and wisdom. In all that the administration achieved, President Reagan once remarked, “no one has been closer to my side and has contributed more to our success than George Bush,’” says Mr. Ryan.

“As president, George Bush built on this legacy, steering America through challenging times at home and abroad. Respectful of others, thoroughly devoted to service, and gracious even in defeat, he also solidified his reputation for integrity and decency,” he notes.

Presidential historian and Reagan biographer Craig Shirley also recalls the legacy of George H.W. Bush.

“When I think of him, I am reminded of Jimmy Stewart’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Every step of his life was well-lived, was a new adventure, was a new challenge. He never shirked or turned down a difficult assignment but met them all, faced them all and made the most of them, always with grace and courage. George Herbert Walker Bush was a hero for our time and for all time,” said Mr. Shirley.

SNL HEADLINES OF NOTE

Rows of numbers reflecting TV ratings can get tedious. Sometimes, headlines are more revealing. Consider just a few for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”:

“‘Saturday Night Live’ Ratings Slip With Host Claire Foy” (Deadline Hollywood, Dec. 2)

“Weekend Update: Why ‘Saturday Night Live’ has lost its Trump-bump glory” (USA Today, Nov. 30)

“‘Saturday Night Live’ ticks down” (TV By the Numbers, Oct. 14)

“How ‘Saturday Night Live’ Became a Grim Joke” (New York Magazine, Oct. 1)

“‘SNL’ Struggles to Find Its Identity in the Era of Trump Fatigue” (Vanity Fair, May 17)

Rob Schneider Says Alec Baldwin’s Trump is Hurting ‘SNL’” (Hollywood Reporter, April 27)

THE PRESIDENT ON HANUKKAH

“For eight nights, Jewish families and friends will come together to engage in the lighting of the menorah. This special tradition started more than 2,000 years ago during the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which followed a trying period when Jews were persecuted for practicing their faith,” President Trump says in his message for Hanukkah, which began Sunday.

“Unfortunately, Jews today continue to face many different forms of violence, hatred, and bigotry around the globe. We remember all those from the Tree of Life — or L’Simcha Congregation — whose lives were tragically taken in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this past October. As one Nation, we pledge our continued love and support for the victims, their families, and the community, and we pray that the victims’ families find some measure of peace and comfort during this holiday season. Over the coming days, may the warming glow of each candle on the menorah help fill homes and hearts with love and happiness. Together, we reaffirm the truth that light will always break through the darkness. We send our very best wishes for a blessed and happy Hanukkah,” Mr. Trump says.

POLL DU JOUR

56 percent of U.S. voters say building a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border should be a priority for Congress; 77 percent of Republicans, 55 percent of independents and 35 percent of Democrats agree.

55 percent say building a border wall is not an important enough issue to prompt a government shutdown; 34 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of independents and 74 percent of Democrats agree.

31 percent say building a wall is an important enough issue to prompt a government shutdown; 49 percent of Republicans, 24 percent of independents and 14 percent of Democrats agree.

15 percent are undecided about a shutdown; 17 percent of Republicans, 15 percent of independents and 12 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Politico/Morning Consult poll of 1,957 registered U.S. voters conducted Nov. 15-18.

• Follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin