ABC: Trump Looked ‘Smaller’ & ‘More Insecure’ at ‘Bizarre’ Presser

During ABC News special report coverage following President Trump’s press conference on Thursday, anchor George Stephanopoulos seemed to be in a state of shock over the commander-in-chief’s hostility to the liberal media: “What a remarkable window into the state of mind of the President of the United States right there....lashed out at the press, made it very clear he thinks the press is dishonest....never seen anything like that.”

Special correspondent Matthew Dowd agreed: “No, that was the most amazing press conference by a president I have ever seen and I've been watching it since the mid-70s. And I don't mean amazing in great, I mean amazing in spectacular insight into Donald Trump and his state of mind today.” The political analyst noted how presidents usually “are empowered and get bigger” after they take office, but argued that Trump “looked smaller and actually more insecure in his position...”

Dowd then compared the President to a paranoid and delusional movie character: “...it was reminiscent of Captain Queeg in a Caine Mutiny and somebody saying, ‘I’m going to search for their strawberries.’ He's in full-on conflict with the intelligence community and he’s in full-on conflict with the media.”

IMDB describes the plot of the 1954 film that Dowd referenced: “When a U.S. Naval captain shows signs of mental instability that jeopardizes the ship, the first officer relieves him of command and faces court martial for mutiny.”

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White House correspondent Cecilia Vega chimed in:

I mean, just a couple of the words that I jotted down over the course of the last hour and a half, “bizarre,” “contentious,” if we’re looking – we’re getting insight into the mind of our president, that he is just obsessed with coverage. He's clearly watching television at all hours, talking about late-night programming on cable. He shouted down reporters, he told people to sit down. It seemed as if this is something he had been wanting to do, to get off of his chest for the last few weeks...

Later in coverage, Stephanopoulos wondered: “...it's clearly clear that the President likes having the press as a foil, we see that right there. It worked for him in the campaign, does it work as president?” Dowd replied: “...he walked in there with a hornet's nest of the press. What he did coming out of there was poke it even more. And so, I don’t think he calmed that media down...He actually stirred it up more. So there's going to be a hundred more stories that are going to come out of this.”

Here are excerpts of the February 16 special coverage:

2:13 PM ET

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What a remarkable window into the state of mind of the President of the United States right there. About an hour and 15 minutes, an hour and 20 minutes, the President, after an opening statement, telling the country where he thinks his presidency is going, right now what he thinks they've accomplished. The President taking a lot of questions from the press, give him credit for that. [Coughs] Excuse me. He took questions from the front line, he took tough questions.

He took questions about his relationship with Russia. He said Russia is fake news. And after several questions trying to clarify this blockbuster report over the last couple of days, he said he knew of no contacts between his campaign and Russians during the campaign.

Also lashed out at the press, made it very clear he thinks the press is dishonest. Lashed out at the situation he inherited, saying he inherited a mess when he came to this office less than a month ago. Remember that, it's not even four weeks that the President has been in office. And takes issue with those who say right now the White House is in chaos. He says it is a finely tuned machine.

Matthew Dowd, we say this a lot, never seen anything like that.

DOWD: No, that was the most amazing press conference by a president I have ever seen and I've been watching it since the mid-70s. And I don't mean amazing in great, I mean amazing in spectacular insight into Donald Trump and his state of mind today. To me, when you have presidents take office, many of them are empowered and get bigger. I think you have a president in that press conference that looked smaller and actually more insecure in his position, as opposed to secure in his position.

And on one specific, George, on one fact he said – when he said, “Jobs were pouring out of the country when I came into office.” Well, there were 75 straight months of job growth and 11.3 million jobs created in the previous presidency.

And the other thing, I’ll just make a slight comment on it – it was reminiscent of Captain Queeg in a Caine Mutiny and somebody saying, “I’m going to search for their strawberries.” He's in full-on conflict with the intelligence community and he’s in full-on conflict with the media.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He still seemed to be running against Hillary Clinton as well.

CECILIA VEGA: It was a campaign greatest hits list, that’s how he started, going over his victories. Let's talk about the Electoral College comment that he made, that he had more Electoral College votes than anyone in history, which is blatantly –

STEPHANOPOULOS: Since Reagan, yeah.

VEGA: Since Reagan, which is blatantly not true. I mean, just a couple of the words that I jotted down over the course of the last hour and a half, “bizarre,” “contentious,” if we’re looking – we’re getting insight into the mind of our president, that he is just obsessed with coverage. He's clearly watching television at all hours, talking about late-night programming on cable. He shouted down reporters, he told people to sit down. It seemed as if this is something he had been wanting to do, to get off of his chest for the last few weeks, George.

(...)

2:18 PM ET

STEPHANOPOULOS: Matthew Dowd, it's clearly clear that the President likes having the press as a foil, we see that right there. It worked for him in the campaign, does it work as president?

DOWD: I think he’s in a much more difficult spot. And again, let's give him credit, for all of the criticism that we’ve given him over last few days about only taking friendly questions, he stood there for a long period of time and took it all, he took all the most – the hardest questions. He has a – he walked in there with a hornet's nest of the press. What he did coming out of there was poke it even more. And so, I don’t think he calmed that media down in saying, “I’m giving you the answers, you don’t need to focus on this.” He actually stirred it up more. So there's going to be a hundred more stories that are going to come out of this.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC