Adolf Hitler’s closest aide and Reich minister of propaganda once rightly remarked, “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.” That’s exactly what US president Donald Trump did when he blustered about having no qualms in not informing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) if a foreign power offers damaging information — despite a hailstorm of allegations about his campaign lapping up ‘dirt’ on his 2016 Democratic adversary Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election — against his opponents in the race for the Oval Office in 2020 (even though he later walked back his comments after criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike).
In a no-holds-barred exclusive interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday, the US president came out all guns blazing saying, “It's not an interference; they have information. I think I’d take it.” Rubbishing the idea that such an assistance would be considered interference in the American election process, Trump said that that “if somebody called from a country, Norway … We have information on your opponent, I think I’d want to hear it.”
Trump’s braggadocio came on a day on which his eldest son Donald Trump Jr was grilled by the Senate Intelligence Committee, probably about his role in fixing a meeting between Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya — who offered dirt on Hillary — the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, his jailed ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, publicist Rob Goldstone, Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov and Baku-born singer Emin Agalarov at Trump Tower, New York, in June 2016.
Why did the enfant terrible of American politics blatantly announced that he would flout the Federal Election Campaign Act and Federal Election Commission rules, which clearly prohibit foreign nationals from “making any contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or making any expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement in connection with any federal, state or local election in the United States?”
Well, Trump knows that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” especially when he can leverage the fourth pillar of democracy. Trump has vociferously used the press and the social media to his advantage even it meant bad publicity. He believes in the ‘instigate, charge and reap’ tactic: he launches a blitzkrieg on a controversial issue knowing well it would explode in the face of his adversaries, who will react in a fixed pattern and in the end up assisting him.
Much before Trump entered the West Wing, he had become the ‘Don of bad publicity’ by using the press to his advantage. When the Marla Maples scandal rocked his marriage with Ivana in February 1990, it was the most delicious fodder for the tabloids. But in the end, it was Trump, who had another feather in his celeb cap.
During his virulent PR war with Ivana, an incensed Trump called up New York Post’s then-editor Jerry Nachman demanding front-page coverage, according to the Post’s former journalist Jill Brooke. “Murder, money or sex,” said Nachman. “Marla says with me it’s the best sex she’s ever had,” quipped Trump after “shouting to his lover and future wife — who was near him — recalled Brooke. “Yes, Donald,” she reportedly said. And, the next day, the Post splashed: ‘Marla boasts to her pals about Donald: BEST SEX I’VE EVER HAD’
After assuming the presidency, Trump fired the first shot when Melania Trump was accused of plagiarising parts of Michelle Obama’s speech on the first night of Republican National Convention. “Good news is Melania’s speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!” he tweeted.
The Wednesday shocker was meant to use the press — for example, CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Post — to be in the limelight and reap benefits of the not quite exoneration by former special counsel Robert S Mueller III in the Russia election meddling investigation. Buoyed by Mueller not charging him, Trump has again gone on the offensive by using the media.
Knowing well that his statement would trigger a tsunami of criticism, the president is aiming to polarise the US even further before 2020. The media already exploded after Trump’s ABC interview. The tycoon has a big, solid base of Republican base that stands by him even in the most adverse circumstances: the allegations of Russia collusion, and his affairs with porn actress Stormy Daniels and former playmate Karen McDougal.
The president is increasingly making such statements to stay in the limelight even to the extent of openly inviting foreign spies to infiltrate the Democrat base. Despite negative publicity — whether on immigration, tax returns, the proposed wall on the Mexico border, attacks on serving and former intelligence chiefs, trade war, Trans-Pacific Partnership, Paris Agreement, NATO, Israel-Palestine, Daniels and McDougal— Trump has been vociferous, boisterous and virulent with the media by assaulting it on one hand and reaping benefits by using it on the other.
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Updated Date: Jun 15, 2019 16:32:57 IST