Against all odds, the unhinged, angry, dubiously-punctuated tweets of Donald Trump have become deeply embedded in the fabric of American political discourse, but according to a legitimately batshit new report from Politico, this grim dystopian reality cannot be blamed on his aides’ lack of effort. Here is what former staffers shared about their tireless efforts to put out the perpetually-combusting candidate’s social media fires:
The key to keeping Trump’s Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise. And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up—and make sure it made its way to Trump’s desk.
Read that again slowly: Donald Trump’s team tried to mitigate his tantrums by spoon-feeding him compliments, carefully curating his sources, and maintaining a roster of friendly writers who they could count on to stroke his tremendous ego at a moment’s notice. This appease-and-distract strategy bears a remarkable resemblance to that employed by exhausted parents desperately trying to cajole a shrieking toddler into staying quiet on a cross-country flight.
The staff had one advantage as they aimed to manage candidate Trump’s media diet: He rarely reads anything online, instead preferring print newspapers—especially his go-to, The New York Times—and reading material his staff brought to his desk. Indeed, his media consumption habits were on full display during his roller-coaster news conference this past Thursday, when he continually remarked on what the media would write “tomorrow,” even as print outlets’ websites already had posted stories about his remarks.
Imagine being the poor bastard campaign interns who, upon the publishing of another horrifying news story about their candidate, were responsible for ginning up something positive-sounding to head off his impending meltdown, and had only until the Times went to press that night to complete their mission. Kellyanne Conway can’t write those dudes—I assume they are all dudes—glowing-enough letters of recommendations for their troubles.
The report goes on to include a damning blow-by-blow of how the Trump brain trust executed these “damage-control” missions:
[W]hen former Miss Universe Alicia Machado took to the airwaves to call out Trump for calling her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping,” the communications team scrambled to place a story in conservative friendly outlets like Fox News, the Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller and Breitbart.
A former senior campaign official said [Sam] Nunberg and his successor, former communications director Jason Miller, were particularly skilled at using alternative media like Breitbart, Washington Examiner, Fox News, Infowars and the Daily Caller to show Trump positive coverage.
And once they got the stories published, campaign officials with large numbers of Twitter followers would tweet them out.
They would also go to media amplifiers like Fox News hosts and conservative columnists to encourage them to tweet out the story so that they could print out and show a two-page list of tweets that show that they were steering the message.
Since the term has been mangled and misappropriated so often that it bears almost no resemblance to its original meaning, it’s important to note that the hastily-created friendly fodder, at least as described in the Politico report, wasn’t “fake news”—rather, these stories were put together for the purpose of placating Trump. This is smarmy and dishonest and undermines what little journalistic integrity those propagandist media outlets might still have, but they weren’t lies.
Nonetheless, as embarrassing as it is to learn that Trump’s team managed his temper by dangling strategically-tweeted baubles in front of him, this report’s more damning takeaway is that the president is—surprise—a remarkably uncritical thinker. Somehow, he never noticed or felt the need to question the fact that the “praise” his staffers shared with him always came from a suspiciously narrow set of sources—including, apparently, the staffers themselves! President Trump doesn’t care about who is praising him, or how many people are praising him. So long as someone tells him what he wants to hear, the pacifier goes in, and—if only for a moment—the screaming stops.
What did the President have to say about this revelation, you ask?
The White House did not respond to repeated requests for comment.