The presidential press conference as we know it is just about doomed, at least for this administration. What a disservice to the American people — and to the president.
President Trump and the most prominent news organizations have had a rocky first year together, and that must surely account for the fact that only once in his 14-plus months in office has he held an actual news conference, where all reporters are invited to ask him questions on any topic.
On a personal level, that’s understandable for the president. After all, he sees the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, NBC, CBS, ABC and other primary news organizations as entirely antagonistic toward him, and many of his supporters, as well as some others, would agree.
To make matters worse, Trump is not an eloquent spokesman for his own agenda. If you removed the word “great” from the English language, he would seemingly be challenged to express a compliment to anyone or anything.
But on the presidential level, his abandonment of the news conference is anything but understandable.
That format would afford him an opportunity to present his side of all issues, instead of handing the responsibility over to others, such as his combative press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Perhaps the person with the most difficult job in Washington, she has alienated too many of the reporters with whom she has to spar almost daily.
And, of course, Trump has turned to the electronic tweet as his main path toward communicating with the American people. Sometimes, those tweets are helpful in building understanding, but far too often they are simply unproductive outbursts consisting of insults and self-centered defenses.
As the leader of our nation, Trump should look for ways to heal the divisions he and Hillary Clinton have deepened, and the news conference could be one of them.
If he highly regards his own ability to convince and persuade, what better way than to go face to face with the people who will be reporting on his thoughts and actions and explain to them his own rationales and motivations?
This is especially so if he has unshakable confidence in his strategies and programs and wants constituents from both sides of the political spectrum to embrace them. He should be his own best salesman, something he purports to excel at.
Indeed, he is not sophisticated in his discourse. But neither was George W. Bush, nor Ronald Reagan. Trump doesn’t need poetry, though; he needs only firm evidence or reason.
The random question answered on the fly during an event or at the end of a dual presentation with a foreign leader — often from a reporter chosen because of his affiliation with a friendly news organization — is not an adequate substitute for an open news conference.
Trump would be better served by the traditional news conference. More important, so would the American people.