Re­al­ity TV, live from White House

Trump pre­empts hur­ri­cane cov­er­age for ‘Fox & Friends’ and chat with Kanye West.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Noah Bier­man noah.bier­man @la­times.com

WASHINGTON — Pres­i­dent Trump re­peat­edly had been asked whether it was ap­pro­pri­ate to hold a cam­paign rally in Penn­syl­va­nia on Wed­nes­day night as Hur­ri­cane Michael turned large swaths of the Florida Pan­han­dle into rub­ble. The tim­ing was un­for­tu­nate, he said, but thou­sands of sup­port­ers were count­ing on him.

On Thurs­day, Trump took his “the show must go on” credo a step fur­ther, un­der­scor­ing as few days have just what a re­al­ity-TV pres­i­dency he’s di­rect­ing.

As the South­east be­gan pick­ing through the destruction, Trump sought to keep him­self at the cen­ter of the con­ver­sa­tion — first di­al­ing into “Fox & Friends” and then host­ing a bizarre pub­lic visit in the Oval Of­fice with mu­sic mogul Kanye West.

He led off the day with the morn­ing call to his fa­vorite television show, hold­ing forth for a full 47 min­utes and sur­pris­ing even the show’s hosts with his re­luc­tance to end the call. Just as Fox News, like other ca­ble net­works, was re­turn­ing to the storm cov­er­age, the Trump show cut in again — for his lunch meeting with Jim Brown, the leg­endary NFL star, and West, who de­liv­ered one of the most er­ratic mono­logues from the White House since an em­bat­tled Richard Nixon talked to the por­traits.

The pres­i­dent’s at­ten­tion-grab­bing per­for­mances came as Fox has cut back its non­stop cov­er­age of his prime-time po­lit­i­cal ral­lies, deny­ing the pres­i­dent one of his most re­li­able plat­forms. It was West, how­ever, who stole this show.

Don­ning one of Trump’s red “Make Amer­ica Great Again” hats that he said made him feel “like Su­per­man,” West de­liv­ered a lengthy stream-of-con­scious­ness rant that in­cluded pro­fan­ity, a provocative dis­cus­sion of race, ful­some praise for the pres­i­dent, whom he called “bro,” and an as­ser­tion that time it­self does not ex­ist.

“I don’t an­swer ques­tions that are sim­ple sound­bites. You are tast­ing a fine wine that has mul­ti­ple notes to it,” West said to a re­porter’s ques­tion. “You bet­ter play 4-D chess with me like it’s ‘Mi­nor­ity Re­port,’ be­cause it ain’t that sim­ple. It’s com­plex.”

Even Trump, ac­cus­tomed to be­ing the un­pre­dictable one, seemed baf­fled. “That was quite some­thing,” he said.

By early af­ter­noon, Trump had made four ap­pear­ances that were car­ried, at least in part, on one of the ca­ble net­works. How­ever, the hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple in Hur­ri­cane Michael’s path were with­out power and prob­a­bly un­able to watch his per­for­mances.

Af­ter promis­ing on Fox that the hur­ri­cane re­cov­ery would “go fast,” Trump talked about ally Saudi Ara­bia and re­ports that it may have killed a dis­si­dent jour­nal­ist (“I don’t like it,” he re­it­er­ated with lit­tle elab­o­ra­tion), the midterm election, Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren’s un­doc­u­mented claims of Na­tive Amer­i­can her­itage, West’s im­mi­nent visit, prison re­form, the Fed­eral Re­serve, new Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh and more.

Trump even found time to heap some over-the-top praise on con­gres­sional al­lies who are work­ing to pro­tect him from the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“If this turns out as everyone thinks it will, Devin Nunes should get the Medal of Honor,” Trump said of the Repub­li­can rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Tu­lare, who has been among his fore­most ad­vo­cates against the in­ves­ti­ga­tion headed by spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III.

The morn­ing af­ter a steep slide in the stock mar­kets, Trump again crit­i­cized the Fed, blam­ing ris­ing in­ter­est rates and thereby con­tin­u­ing to break with pres­i­dents’ long-stand­ing prac­tice of re­spect­ing the in­de­pen­dence of the cen­tral bank.

When a Fox hosted noted that Atty. Gen. Jeff Ses­sions op­posed as­pects of the prison changes that the pres­i­dent, along with West and Brown, were es­pous­ing, Trump took yet an­other of his fre­quent jabs at his at­tor­ney gen­eral. If Ses­sions tries to stand in his way, the pres­i­dent said, “he gets over­ruled by me, be­cause I make the de­ci­sion, he doesn’t.”

Asked if he would fire Ses­sions and Rod Rosen­stein, the deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral over­see­ing the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, im­me­di­ately af­ter the midterm election, Trump replied, “Well, I ac­tu­ally get along well with Rod.”

He pre­dicted par­ti­san dis­cord if Democrats won con­trol of the House, say­ing the sides would have to “fight it out,” and noted that some Democrats have al­ready threat­ened to im­peach Ka­vanaugh, just days af­ter he was sworn in.

The one glim­mer of op­por­tu­nity for bi­par­ti­san action he noted was in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing, an is­sue that both sides have long talked about though con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans re­main mostly un­en­thu­si­as­tic.

Trump made sim­i­lar com­ments af­ter his election but has not made sus­tained ef­forts to court Democrats on the is­sue. Now, ha­tred for the pres­i­dent among liberals has made many Demo­cratic law­mak­ers re­luc­tant to work with him.

“Can we get along? Maybe,” Trump said. “There’s some­thing that can bring us to­gether.”

Trump also re­peated that he would con­front Democrats af­ter the election over the con­tentious is­sue of a south­ern bor­der wall.

When “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy fi­nally found an open­ing to end the marathon, he did so with some ad­vice for the pres­i­dent: “Go run the coun­try.”

Michael Reynolds EPA/Shut­ter­stock

PRES­I­DENT TRUMP meets with Kanye West, right, and oth­ers in the Oval Of­fice. West de­liv­ered a lengthy stream-of-con­scious­ness rant. Even the pres­i­dent, ac­cus­tomed to be­ing the un­pre­dictable one, seemed baff led. “That was quite some­thing,” Trump said.

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