John Dickerson, host of CBS News’ Face The Nation, joined me for a short but interesting review of yesterday’s press conference by President Trump, with a particular focus on what the president had to say about the media:
HH: California is going to be washed out to sea if you believe local news today, and I simply do not believe that from the West Coast. I’m joined by John Dickerson, CBS News host of Face the Nation. John, if we’re not here on Sunday, I’m sorry I didn’t warn you, but the local news is a little alarmist about a storm headed our way.
JD: Well, you know, I guess they pay only a smaller penalty for being alarmist than if they say it’s going to be bright and sunny and everybody then gets caught in the…
JD: So they’re playing the odds, Hugh.
HH: They’re playing, no one ever remembers the storm watch you didn’t have. John Dickerson, Mike Dubke of Crossroads Media named White House Communications Director overnight. If you say Crossroads, that means Crossroads PAC, which means Karl Rove, which means Mike Dubke is of the old GOP establishment. And a lot of Trump originals are upset with this. I think it’s a good move showing a maturing White House. What do you think?
JD: I think it could very well be a maturing White House. It could also be, one of the things I hear again and again, I mean, they’ve got a lot of slots to fill, and they are not filling, this position was hard to fill. And I heard the pitch they were making for it, and it was not always on the merits of serving the country. And it’s hard to fill these slots. We’re seeing it’s hard to fill the National Security Advisor slot, and so which is not to take anything away from Mike Dubke. I’m just saying that you can’t be a purist if you’re a Trump loyalist. You’re going to have to bring in people from the wider circle.
HH: That’s exactly it, and that’s why I’m hoping he calls up Ambassador Bolton today and asks him to run the NSC. It will take John Bolton, who mastered bureaucratic infighting at State and the UN and earlier at Defense about two days to reorganize and get that place working. But I don’t know that the President’s going to do that. He’s going to Boeing today visiting a plant in South Carolina that President Obama assiduously avoided for eight years because it’s not a union plant.
HH: Sending a message, and I keep trying to focus on the signal, not the noise of the press conference – the Gorsuch nomination, the Mattis comments in NATO. I actually think, and I wrote this in the Washington Post today, the media handwringing is getting to me, John. I think it’s just too much alarmism.
JD: (laughing) I’m thinking that was a short trip for you, Hugh.
JD: I agree with you to a point. You’re absolutely right. Focus on the big things. And then when I talk to Republicans on the Hill, that’s what they do, right? They love a good rallying moment, but then I would include the Netanyahu press conference.
HH: Yes, yes.
JD: But, but, so that’s all, I think that’s exactly right, and I think you know, a White House that spends every day talking about jobs and Boeing and Carrier and any of those other plants is doing just exactly what the President should do. I think that the problem is the Flynn matter, and you know, when you have a press conference like yesterday, you would have like to have heard somebody and somewhere in the Flynn saga say you know, he had to resign because we don’t lie to the American people, and just make it, and that’s never been said. It’s never been said in this whole thing about you know, this is about giving misinformation to the American people about a not unimportant thing. And the culture of truth telling that should be a part of a White House is not, you don’t get that. You know, the President was loose about the Electoral College thing. He said that for months. Nobody stepped in to say Mr. President, that’s not right. Or they did, and it’s just no big deal. So that’s, and why does that matter? You know why it matters, because little shadings end up to be a big shading at the end. So I don’t think…
HH: But my frustration, John, is that for eight years, I wanted the press to press President Obama on things like the jayvees, the red line, leading from behind, Aleppo, and they didn’t. And in the first month, they’re pressing Trump, and they’re upset that he’s not saying, you just said, I wish he would say this. He doesn’t say things that Manhattan-Beltway media elites want him to say. Instead, he says this. Let me play for you, I think, the key line in the 77 minute press conference yesterday, is this one, cut number four:
DT: Look, I want to see an honest press. When I started off today by saying that it’s so important to the public to get an honest press, the public doesn’t believe you people anymore.
HH: John Dickerson, that’s the key. The public doesn’t believe you people anymore.
JD: Well, here’s the thing. So I don’t, it’s not my wish. I don’t have any wishes. My point is if you’re going to make a case on honesty grounds and truthfulness grounds, if that’s the turf on which you’re going to hold your press conference and open your press conference, so we’re talking about veracity here, and the importance and necessity of that, then when it comes to veracity in your own backyard, to elide it completely seems inconsistent with the argument that you’re making in the 77 minute press conference.
HH: Well, he did. He made some incredible misstatements yesterday about, for example, the largest victory. And I just played Jake Tapper running through them, and it upsets people like you and me who are used to being held accountable for every word we say on the air, on this show, on your show. We’re always, you know, if we get something wrong, we have to correct it. He never corrects anything that he says, and he says lots of wrong things. But that one comment, they don’t trust you anymore, is a summation of where we are in America, because I really do think Manhattan-Beltway elites have lost the country. They’ve lost it. There’s just no confidence in, I’m not going to say us, because I am neither in nor of the Beltway-Manhattan media elite. I live in California still. But what do you think of that? Is it true?
JD: Well, yes. I mean, yes, it’s true, and it’s not because of anything obviously Donald Trump did. The press did all that good work ruining its reputation on its own, and we can have a long conversation about what created that. Part of it, though, is what you mentioned about the local weather report, which is to say a lot of hysterical coverage about every little last thing that doesn’t warrant it. Having said that, it doesn’t mean, and in fact, it most explicitly does not mean that the press just throws out the standards.
JD: And one of the roles of the press is to make sure that the President in the voice of the people is telling the truth.
HH: Agree. Who’s on this weekend? Who’s on Face the Nation?
JD: We’ve got Devin Nunes, so obviously at the center, as the House Intel Chairman, center of these investigations into leaks, but also into the Russia matter, and then Mike Morell and Tom Donilon to just talk about leaks and Russia and national security.
HH: Oh, I’m getting a Bingo card with deep state on it.
HH: I’m hoping somebody (laughing), that’s a great show. I love Mike Morell. Tell him hello for me, please.
JD: I will.
HH: And Devin Nunes is wondering where the leaks are coming from. Great show lined up, John Dickerson, I’ll watch it on replay on Face the Nation later in the day. Thank you for joining us. John Dickerson is always very candid with me. And so is Jake, so is Chuck. They are always very candid with me, and I always appreciate that.
End of interview.