Once again, Trump has outsmarted his media foes
Forget about the defiant posturing – Trump has the networks right where he wants them.
When the White House announced an Oval Office address tonight with President Trump speaking about the border crisis, there was a lot of initial defiance. The basic premise at the Trump-hating media is, "If Trump's for it, we are against it." This segment from CNN yesterday shows the live, on-air response when the news came in of the speech to the country.
Transcript via Grabien:
KEILLAR: "This is just in to CNN. We've learned the President wants a prime time address tomorrow amid this shutdown as he's planning a trip to the border on Thursday. David, what do you think this could be about? Is he going to get this?"
GREGORY: "I don't know that he will. I don't know the basis will be to do that other than to raise awareness that he has already raised a lot of around his view of border security, what he calls a national emergency, without any real basis. If he wants to make a push toward fulfilling a campaign promise, it's certainly valid for him to do that as president when he campaigned hard on this, but in the middle of a shutdown to insert this as the idea it's a national emergency that requires asking for time, you know, it's not unprecedented. Gloria and I were talking about this. During the height of the Iraq war, President Bush started to ask for time to offer an update on the progress of the war. There was a lot of pushback from the networks. We talked about broadcast networks, now we talk about cable networks being the center of the action in terms of the news world".
KEILLAR: "We just spelled out how what he's saying actually does not hold water. His push for the wall — that's what the networks are going to be looking at. Okay, are we giving him time to say something that, you know, if this is what he's going to say, is untrue?"
BORGER: "Or is he going to call for a national emergency which, and you were just talking to Susan Hennessey about this, is it a national emergency? And of course, if the networks were to give him time, and that's by no means a guarantee, what do you do about Nancy Pelosi. I mean, she's got to be able to talk as well. So it's curious to me because he's going to the border on Thursday. He does want to make his case. Does he want to call for a national emergency? What will the Democrats say about that? And will networks say this is legitimate or not legitimate?"
GREGORY: "And you have to prove your basis for what is a national emergency. He's not announcing sending troops to war. He's not announcing that kind of action. I don't know that Nancy Pelosi would have to be given time, but I also think — it's such an old notion, the idea that you're going to ask the broadcast networks for time. You know, in the news world, it's the cable networks that matter most. The broadcast networks are disinclined to give that kind of time unless it's a very big deal because they're in the middle of their prime time entertainment program."
Breitbart says all the networks will televise the address, but this claim is not appearing elsewhere at this hour. If it is not true yet, it probably will be true by broadcast time, even though, as Keith Edwards points out, they know that it will help Trump. They realize that not broadcasting it would be worse for them than running it. By creating a controversy over possibly declaring a national emergency and using Defense Department funds to build the wall, Trump has created suspense: will he or won't he defy Congress and act unilaterally? That is the biggest controversy of the day. If CNN, MSNBC, or the broadcast networks didn't televise the address, they would lose out on ratings, and lose the opportunity to rebut the address directly afterward. They can't possibly sacrifice that chance. The last thing they want is for political junkies to be watching Fox in order to find out the answer to the big question.
I don't know what Trump will announce, but even if he says he will pursue a deal and not declare a national emergency, he will get the distribution he wanted for the address. He probably would not have gotten that network airtime – or gigantic ratings – had he not raised the possibility of the national emergency declaration.