Three weeks ago, the United States of America held a general election and selected Donald J. Trump to be the next President of the globe’s one remaining superpower. It was a result that stunned the world and rocked the very foundations that compose our understanding of how American politics work. Almost nobody saw it coming. His initial campaign was seen as nothing more than an attention grabbing lark. His rise to the GOP nomination over the summer was looked upon as a symptom of the fractured and dysfunctional republican party rather than affirmation and approval of his beliefs and ideals. When he, a man who had never held public office, went up against former Secretary of State and former Senator Hillary Clinton, the eventual result seemed undeniable. It stood to be the most one sided victory since Georgia Tech beat Cumberland 220-01.
Yet here we are. Donald Trump is the President-elect of the United States. Yes, here we are, but where is he? Mr. Trump has been conspicuous by his absence before cameras, microphones, and reporters. In the days immediately following his election, he granted a single interview to CBS and 60 Minutes. That interview aired four days after the results were in. He later granted a behind closed doors interview to the New York Times, an interview which took much finagling and negotiation to set up. Since then, nothing. No interviews, no press conferences, no scenarios where he would be confronted by questions and obligated to answer them. Even simple photo ops have been rare.
There are, indeed, questions galore for Mr. Trump. They would include everything from the unreleased tax returns he has promised to eventually make available, to a slew of controversial appointments involving cabinet positions and other high ranking offices. Hardball stuff, not under hand slow pitch softballs. We’re talking serious chin music here. Instead, Mr. Trump has chosen to stay in the dugout, safely ensconced in the fortress that is Trump Tower New York. He hasn’t so much as grabbed a bat and taken his place in the on-deck circle, let alone step into the batter’s box and face some high heat.
Instead, President-elect Trump has chosen to communicate via Twitter and a lone You Tube video, conveniently allowing him to make statements without the hassle of having to answer questions about them. The Twitter angle is particularly interesting. On November 18, a 25 million dollar settlement was reached to end the Trump University fraud cases2. That’s a lot of dough, especially considering it comes from a man who brags about never settling. It invites questions. Instead of addressing the issue, Mr. trump took to Twitter the next day and criticized the cast of a Broadway play for their treatment of Vice-President-elect Michael Pence. Deflection from a potential hard news story to a trivial matter of little consequence? If so, it worked. Media was a buzz over the tweet, and the settlement took a back seat in the headlines.
On November 26, the New York Times ran a front page story on potential conflicts of interest facing the President-elect3. It was a big story that raised many serious questions. How did Mr. Trump respond? He again took to Twitter and responded with a statement that had absolutely nothing to do with the Times story. Instead he tweeted that he not only won the electoral vote, but would have won the popular vote if not for the millions of people who voted illegally. Say what? He offered no evidence to support the claim, and was of course in a position where he would not have to answer questions about it. He followed up the next day via Twitter by claiming serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire, and California. Ummm… okay. Again, no supporting evidence, and no questions. Naturally, the outrageous statements dominated the press and a front page New York Times piece fell to the wayside.
On the morning of November 29, the nation awoke to yet another gem from the President-elect’s Twitter account. In it, he suggested jail and/or loss of citizenship for anybody who burns the American flag4. Now, we here at Hunting For Thompson do not condone the burning of flags, any flags. We think it’s right up there with burning books. There are, however, serious First Amendment issues to be considered. The Supreme Court definitely thought so5. Yet here he is, President-elect Trump, ignoring that and nailing what amounts to a decree from the king to a tree in the middle of the village square. True to form, he is unavailable to take questions. Even former VP Dick Cheney was more forthcoming from his “undisclosed location.”
So we return to our original question, where’s Donald? Is this behavior a precursor to what we may expect from the next Presidential administration? What access to the President will the press, and more specifically the White House press corps have? The President of the United States is, in the end, a servant to the people. He is accountable to them, and the citizenry has not only the need but the right to know where he is, what he’s doing, and why he’s doing it. Show your face, Mr. Trump. Show your face, tell us your plans, and answer our questions. We’re not trying to build a golf course or a skyscraper, we’re trying to build a nation.
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