Why Did the Media Behave at Tuesday’s White House Briefing?
Apr 1, 2020
RUSH: Ladies and gentlemen, let’s start with the briefing yesterday. And I’ll get to the expansion of — I was really dancing around something. I was dancing around the economics message and I’ve had a lot of people tell me, “Rush, yeoman job yesterday, but you gotta understand something. That team at the White House is not going to talk about the economics, the economics message, the economics future until the health aspect of this has some positive certainty and is nailed down. You can do all you want, you can try to goad them into it, but they’re gonna ignore it.”
And that’s my problem. We’re trying to establish a one-size-fits-all policy for this massive country. You know the new governor of Iowa is not gonna shut down the state. A new Republican female governor. Not gonna shut down the state. She said, “I can’t. I have no reason to right now.” And Arizona was a holdout. The governor out there, Doug Ducey, they finally forced him into shutting down the state. Shutting down, I mean, putting the social distancing rules into place and so forth.
The economics of this is a primary concern. I mean, so are the health aspects. Now, here’s the thing that happened. There are two competing thoughts. First of all, how many of you watched the briefing yesterday? I think the ratings for the White House briefing every day are pretty much through the roof. CNN backed out of it. That briefing yesterday was chock-full, whatever you thought of it, it was chock-full of more information and data, which is what everybody wants, than you can get anywhere else in this country and none of the networks covered it — Fox was the only one that covered it — because they’re living in this illusion that they are Trump rallies.
Let me ask a question. How many press people get to ask Trump questions at Trump rallies? Zero. He doesn’t face any media grilling or any questioning during rallies. These are the furthest thing from rallies. How many times has Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx show up and start talking about their models at Trump rallies? Doesn’t happen. How often does Pence show up to do anything other than introduce Trump? How many times has FEMA — do you have an endless parade of corporate CEOs who are showing their determination to work together to keep the American supply chain up and running? Do these things happen at Trump rallies? It’s absurd that these things are continuations or extensions of Trump rallies. They just don’t like that Trump is Trump and what Trump is doing. But it was a major change yesterday.
Now, I got an email note from a friend. “Hey, Rush, why aren’t reporters at the White House briefings wearing masks?” These briefings demonstrate remarkable transparency. Trump’s team’s doing a phenomenal job, and here’s the observation from a friend of mine. “Trump has slowly worn reporters down to doing their freaking jobs. Tonight has reporters asking mostly legitimate questions.” It’s true yesterday. It’s why I’m asking if you saw it. Even what’s his name, Acosta, even Jim Acosta at CNN was asking respectful, decent questions.
Now, my friend’s theory here is that Trump has worn them down. Trump has slowly warned them down. He has shamed them and he has forced them into actually doing their jobs. And when they did their jobs and when they were asking responsible, decent questions rather than gotcha things, Trump responded in kind. He responded with right answers, correct answers, respectful answers. He didn’t rip ’em so shreds, didn’t call ’em fake news, didn’t do any of that. And so my friend here is crediting Trump for wearing reporters down, because they were asking mostly legitimate questions. Americans want relevant information. They’re getting it in these briefings. And, by the way, these briefings don’t have any sugarcoating. These briefings are worst-case scenario, folks.
And I know why that’s happening. I’m not into the doomsayers. Like I say: The doomsayers win every time they try. The doomsayers cannot lose, and so now we got this 2.2 million-deaths figure that is irrelevant, and yet still being used. Now the 100,000 to 200,000 deaths has been upped to 240,000 deaths.
Now we’re told, “The next two weeks are gonna be the worst two weeks. Oh, you better batten down! You had better buckle up. You had better get ready. The next two weeks will be unlike anything we’ve been through yet.” So the doomsayers are alive and well, and they are painting the biggest picture of doom they can — and we know why.
There are multiple reasons why. A, to prep people. (I mean, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.) The second reason is when the numbers come in not nearly as bad, they can say, “See! See! Our early warning and our advice made the difference.” So that 2.2 million figure is not gonna go away, and the 240,000 death number is not gonna go away.
And if the numbers come in at anything less (like 84,000, which some of the models are saying), then you can bank on the fact that the government’s gonna be praising itself out the wazoo. I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about. I went to the dedication of a federal building one day. I happened to have reason to be there. It was a gigantic ceremony. The building was named after somebody I knew.
Do you know what the ceremony was about? The ceremony was the General Services Administration praising itself for getting the building built, in what was supposed to be a dedication to the guy whose name was going on the building. And it was the GSA and the people up there praising themselves and how they came in under budget, how they came in early; they got it all done.
I said, “What am I watching here?” It’s the same thing being set up here. When this is all done, we’re gonna get, “Oh, our models were wonderful, and the American people behaved according to the way we told them to behave. And because of our advice and because of our models and because of this or that, instead 2.2 million people dead, only 80,000 people are dead.”
Or “instead of 240,000, only 85,000,” whatever it is. This is how bureaucrats operate, and I… Don’t construe this to be criticism, folks. I’m just telling you how the game is played and how these things are done. So back to the briefing. Americans want relevant information; they’re getting it. There’s no sugarcoating. I wouldn’t say there’s any panic, either.
Trump has put some really brutal numbers and fatalities out there. He hasn’t minimized anything, and he’s now personalizing it. He’s saying that he knows a couple people who have it. Healthy people. Never had a thing in the world wrong with ’em, and they’re in a coma. They’re in a coma, he said. His friends are in a coma.
Now, hold on to that because that’s relevant to what’s coming next. My friend writes in the note, “Trump has not surrendered to the health experts. He has not surrendered to the media. Trump is determined to get ahead through hard work, creative problem solving, leadership, and action — and tonight, we’re hearing a little bit more about the problem model.”
Okay. So that’s my friend’s take. Mr. Snerdley, did you watch the briefing yesterday? (interruption) You didn’t! Aw jeez. Brian, did you watch…? (interruption) You didn’t watch it. Ah. Dawn, did you watch it? Did you…? (interruption) Is this your take that Trump is wearing down the reporters, that finally the reporters are treating him with respect and asking decent questions?
(interruption) Well, that’s not how the media sees this at all. Grab audio sound bite 8. Listen to this. This is Jim Acosta. This is Trump’s number one, not enemy but foil in the White House press corps. This guy is disrespectful. This guy has done nothing but disrespect Trump for three years.
Trump lets him in now and then just to be able to criticize CNN and call ’em fake news. So last night — this is after the briefing — Jim Acosta is on Anderson Cooper 29 on CNN and had this to say about Trump at the briefing yesterday.
ACOSTA: People might say, “Well, uh, you know, I can’t… I can’t ever trust him. He’s a phony,” and so on. People may say that. But Anderson, I have to tell you. Sitting in that room that close to him, I’ve never seen President Trump like this, and I think to some extent he is — he is scared right now, Anderson. And we could all feel that in the room. People may not believe the president when he says any of this, and I’ve been — you and I have been — you know, pretty critical of him from time to time. This was a different Donald Trump tonight. I think he gets it, Anderson.
RUSH: So Trump is scared, folks. Trump is scared — and that’s good! Oh, yeah, that’s good. You know why that’s good? Because now Trump is not acting invincible. Trump is acting vulnerable. Trump is acting like he might be ready to admit that he’s made a mistake here or there. Trump is scared, and that means we can get Trump!
And that means we can portray Trump as somebody who’s not invincible and all powerful and all confident in dealing with this. John Harwood — the New York Times, PMSNBC, CNBC, everywhere — he’s been everywhere. I don’t know why he doesn’t stay anyplace, but he goes everywhere.
He tweeted about Trump’s presser from last night. “This is the most effective job of communicating President Trump has done during the crisis.” The most effective job was that briefing last night. Because Trump was scared. Because Trump finally gets it. Because Trump finally realizes he can’t do anything about this. Because Trump finally realizes that he is vulnerable.
Trump realizes he can’t be Trump and fix this. The question, though, is why did the media behave better? They did. The media last night — at least the usual provocateurs — were respectful. I couldn’t believe it. I was watching. I said, “That can’t be Jim Acosta.” Jim Acosta was asking respectful, actual reasonable and responsible questions.
And he was not snarky and disagreeable (I mean, for the most part) when Trump would answer. And Trump was not calling him fake news. And I said, “What the hell is going on there?” Just curious. I didn’t have any… I wasn’t alarmed by it. I was just curious. “What’s going on here?” I find out these guys today think that it’s ’cause Trump is scared.
“Trump finally realizes he’s powerless! Trump realizes that there’s nothing he can do. Trump realizes that all the bluster and all the pseudo-confidence isn’t gonna matter a hill of beans. Trump doesn’t know what’s coming next,” and that makes Trump real, and now Trump’s a real guy. Now Trump’s vulnerable. Trump’s gettable.
They think Trump is scared. That means they think this has defeated Trump. They think Trump has succumbed to the overall whatever this is, that he no longer feels larger than coronavirus or the issue or the effort to get the country past it. And this excites them. This makes them feel equal. This makes them feel like they can get Trump.
But did Trump behave the way he did because the media behaved better? I mean, it’s a chicken-or-egg question. And do you think Trump is scared? Did you watch…? Those of you watched briefing, do you think Trump is scared in that? The last thing I thought was Trump was scared. Did you…? (interruption)
Well, maybe exhausted. I think Dr. Birx looks exhausted. You know, Dr. Birx (about whom we will be chatting later) doesn’t get her data updates ’til 2 a.m. every day. That’s when the latest modeling data and analysis is sent to her. So she has to be up every morning at 2 a.m. I don’t know whether she stays up until then and goes to bed or whether she gets up at midnight to get ready for the data.
But she gets the data at 2 a.m. on most days. This is not 9-to-5 stuff, and she does look tired. Trump has always been indefatigable to me, always doesn’t seem to me ever tired. He seems to be always energetic and upbeat, and just because he may be serious does not, to me, convey that he’s tired.
Although it would stand to reason everybody in that task force and everybody in that administration right now would be exhausted. But did Trump appear to be scared? And what they mean by “scared” is not scared of them. Scared of the circumstance, scared of the coronavirus, scared of the… “Is there a realization that is settling in?”
This is what they want you to believe, that Trump has realized that we’re powerless, that all we can do is sit here and be affected by it. “There’s nothing we can do. We can’t stop what’s happening. We can’t do a damn thing about it, and that has Trump scared. Trump’s never been in this position. Trump could always stop and fix everything, but he can’t this.” This is the point they’re trying to convey.
Listen to this. “China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House.” Breaking, breaking news. I don’t know, this business about Trump being scared. He kept asking the media for more questions yesterday. “I can’t believe you people still have any.” But he kept asking ’em for questions.
I did not get the impression Trump is scared. It was the last thought that occurred to me. In fact, I’ll tell you what’s occurring to me more and more, is how spot-on expert informed Donald Trump has become about all this. I mean, his answers are almost identical to when the doctors get up there. And he defers to them, and they are deferring to him. It’s a joint effort up there now.
But it’s obvious that there is a focus on the medical side of this, the health aspect of this, and that the economics are gonna be playing a secondary role for much longer than I’m gonna be comfortable.
RUSH: We’re gonna start on the phones with Francesca in Philadelphia. I’m glad you called. It’s great to have you here. Hi.
CALLER: Welcome back, Rush.
RUSH: Thank you.
CALLER: I want to give my opinion on this, and tell me what you think. I watched that yesterday. I do not think he was scared at all. I think he ceded to the experts. He knew that dire news would come out. I think he went with it. And I think Trump is going to trump Nancy Pelosi and the rest with this infrastructure bill. He knows a bill’s gonna come forward, but this time I believe it’s gonna be his bill. And let them try to not pass it.
RUSH: Can I ask you…?
RUSH: I’m gonna react. I’m gonna answer. And I agree with you Trump is not scared. I’m gonna tell you why in a minute. But you bring up this infrastructure bill. Can I ask you? You’re a consumer out there. You’re an American citizen, you’re in the middle of all this, you’re watching. You just cited it; you’re praising it. Would you explain to me, when the U.S. economy is shut down, how the hell we’re gonna do anything on the infrastructure? Could you explain this to me?
CALLER: I agree with you, Rush. First of all, I’m not for any bill that just passes with what’s in it, to tell you the truth. I think he’s using infrastructure bill. Will it go forward? He knows it’s not gonna go forward. It’s a play. “I’m gonna put it out there; they’re not gonna want it.” They’re not gonna want it, Rush. He knows that. I —
RUSH: No, I think it is gonna go forward, and I think it is gonna happen.
CALLER: Okay. Okay.
RUSH: I can’t tell you… Trump has wanted to do this since day one.
RUSH: He’s embarrassed of the state of the bridges and the tunnels in New York where he used to live, and they are in bad shape. I have no doubt. I’m just asking. The perception is, here we are. We’re in an economic shutdown. We’re in the process of shouting a $22 trillion-economy and here comes the president talking about an infrastructure bill.
Uh, when? How? Restaurants aren’t even open. What do you mean, infrastructure bill? I know it’s a long-term project, and I know he’s putting Democrats on the spot with it, and he’s daring them to say, “No way” on it. We’re not even gonna talk about whether we have the money for it or not.
That doesn’t seem to be a factor in anything anymore. But I can understand if the economy were back up and running and, “Okay, we’re gonna start now rebuilding infrastructure.” But we’re purposely telling people to not work. We’re purposely telling people to stay away from the job, don’t do anything.
There’s no economic activity going, a bare minimum: Food chain, supply chain. Now here comes a…? On the surface of it, the face of it, it’s just a gigantic disconnect, and yet you didn’t see it that way. You think you’re looking at it politically. No wrong answer here. Don’t misunderstand.
CALLER: No, no. I get it. I get it. I just think that… I trust his instincts for some reason, and I trust his play, so to speak. And I’m not disagree with you at all. You gotta go to work to have an infrastructure bill, and I believe he’s putting us back to work no matter after the 30th. I believe that.
RUSH: Do you know that construction projects are considered essential and they’re still happening out there?
CALLER: Mmm-hmm. I think so.
RUSH: They’re still building the stadium, SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. They’re still building it. When I come to work every morning, there’s all kinds of construction projects going on here, and guess who it is driving in to work? The vendors.
CALLER: Mmm-hmm. Yes.
RUSH: You know what essential work is where I live?
RUSH: Landscaping! (laughing)
CALLER: Yeah, well… (laughing) Yeah.
RUSH: Fashion that! (laughing)
CALLER: (laughing) True.
RUSH: Construction work is going on. The point is, he could do an infrastructure bill right now under the current restrictions.
CALLER: But I think he wants them to deny something. See, I just think… Maybe I’m wrong, Rush. I think he wants to put something there, it’s like Pelosi did this —
RUSH: Yeah, but… That may be true. But let me tell you something. Donald Trump wants the infrastructure bill more than he wants them saying “no” to it. I know he’s becoming a better and better politician. He knows the Democrats are gonna demand more trillion dollars and government spending, and he’s trying to get ahead of it by making it his trillion dollars and his infrastructure spending, but he wants it. It’s not just a political gambit.
RUSH: I want to answer the question of whether I think Trump is scared. We had the caller Francesca from Philadelphia. I don’t think Trump is scared. The Drive-Bys are saying, “Trump was different in the press conference ’cause he’s scared. Now he realizes he can’t do anything about this. Trump is smaller than the coronavirus, not bigger. Trump is vulnerable,” and they think Trump can be had now.
So for some reason a weak president makes ’em happy — a perceived weak president. Trump is the exact opposite of that. He’s not scared. Folks, I don’t think there’s… Look, we’re all scared about the uncertainty. This is what’s getting us (and more on that in just a moment.) The uncertainty of when this is gonna end is the big plague right now outside of the virus.
But Donald Trump is not scared. He’s invited the entire country to be involved in this, and he’s telling the entire country that we can do this. He has bypassed the Drive-By Media — he talks to us directly every day — and this is what upsets them. It upsets them that they can’t mediate him. It upsets them that they can’t recast what he says because he has direct access.
The public-private partnerships that have developed here, I think, are a combination of optimism and patriotism, but it’s also determination. You know, Andrew Cuomo occasionally does some things that are well done, and he just put up a slide during his briefing of Winston Churchill, and Winston Churchill — and I’m gonna paraphrase the quote.
Winston Churchill said, “Doing your best doesn’t matter. Doing your best is not what’s gonna get it done. Doing your best is irrelevant. Doing what’s necessary is the key,” and I don’t think that is a distinction without a difference. I think it’s a profound difference. (whining) “I’m doing the best I can.” “Aw. Let’s give you an A for effort. (clapping) A little hand applause here. He’s trying his best!”
It doesn’t matter. What if your best isn’t good enough? Everybody has to do what’s necessary. Doing your best doesn’t guarantee anything. It’s good for plaudits. It’s good for participation trophies, but it doesn’t accomplish as much as doing what is necessary — and in Trump’s world, you do what is necessary.
Carnival cruise line told Trump, “We can match those big Navy hospital ships with some fully staffed cruise ships. We’ll be happy to.” General Motors and Ford said, “You know what? Hold our cars. We can make some ventilators. We’ll be making cars by next week again.” Construction companies: “Here’s some masks for the medical staff and doctors.”
In fact, construction work is some of the work that is not shut down. I don’t care where you are… Well, here where we live, there’s more road construction going on than I can ever remember, and they’re taking advantage of the fact that there’s no traffic to do it. Now, they may be creating new potholes, but they’re still out there doing road construction work, and home building is still going on.
And commercial real estate, commercial building is still going on. There are different definitions in different places of what “essential work” is. Restaurants and schools are saying, “We’ve got kitchens and staff. We can come together to feed the kids.” These are things that are not happening out of the president being scared. These things are happening because the president is motivating and bringing people in and making them part of the effort.
Everybody wants to matter. Everybody wants their life to have meaning. It’s, I believe, part of human creation. It’s certainly part of human existence. Everybody wants to matter. Everybody wants… That’s why some people drive electric cars. They think they’re saving the planet. It’s why some people eat vegan. They think they’re saving cows.
It’s why some people go out there and do what do they do because they think they are saving something. After they’ve been told they’re destroying the planet by driving SUVs and whatever, and go out and buy a bunch of junk clunkers and think that they’re saving the world. Their lives matter. Everybody wants to matter. Trump is harnessing that desire, that everybody wants their life to have meaning and everybody wants to matter.
And I don’t think that it’s the result of Trump being frightened or being afraid. How many of you are in depression because the baseball season hasn’t started? How many of you are in depression ’cause there wasn’t any March Madness basketball tournament? A lot of people thought they couldn’t get along without those things but guess what? Apparently, people are getting along without those things.
I just… Folks, stop listening to the media. The media… Whether you want to believe me or not, the media is — by definition and the way they are educated — focused on crisis and disaster and the worst. You add the political component of their hatred for Trump to that everyday way they go about doing their jobs, and you’ve got constant negativity.
As to Trump’s infrastructure bill, one little addendum. He spoke about this yesterday. And it is an interesting thing. I mean, in the midst of this economy, the $22 trillion American economy in shutdown, the president is talking about an infrastructure bill to rebuild roads and bridges and lagging airports and this kind of thing. And he’s right. I mean, we need tons of infrastructure upgrade and repair.
But the president yesterday talked about funding it by borrowing money because interest rates are essentially zero at the moment. So the money is free. You borrow the money for the infrastructure bill. You wouldn’t have to necessarily appropriate it. He’s always had an idea of public-private partnerships to redo the infrastructure anyway. From the very first moment that he proposed massive infrastructure repairs he’s always talked about public-private partnership.
And a lot of people ask, “What do you mean? How does this work? Private…?” He said, “Well, you let some company come in and name a stretch of highway after itself for building it.” It could be done. We’re seeing, I think — with the work being done now with all these companies, the CEOs each day meeting with the president’s briefings — the foundation, the formation of what would be a public-private partnership in infrastructure repair right before our very eyes.
Now… (interruption) Where does he borrow the money from? You borrow the money from the Fed. You borrow the money from other lending institutions. (sigh) That brings up the whole concept of liquidity. Who has the money, who has the cash — and right now, that would be the Fed.