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Thursday, July 18, 2019

In Trump’s world apologies are for losers 

by Spocko

Charles M. Blow wrote a column about Labor Secretary Acosta's press conference on Wednesday July 10th. Trump Detests Apologetic Men On Friday, July 12th Acosta resigned.

A lot of people who wrote about the press conference said the same thing, "Acosta was doing it for an audience of one." meaning Donald Trump.
Blow correctly pointed out how Trump likes his underlings to respond to attacks.
In Trump’s orbit you must ape the behavior of the boss: strongly deny and strenuously deflect. And, if possible, personally attack the person making the accusation. That is the Trump way. That is what he has always done.
This is not just Blow's analysis, it's based on quotes from others who talked to Trump about it.
According to Bob Woodward last year, Trump talked about a “friend who had acknowledged some bad behavior toward women.” When counseling that friend on how to respond, Trump said, “You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women.” Trump continued: “If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead. That was a big mistake you made.”
In Trump’s world, apologies and punishments are for the weak. They are for losers.
People in the media know that Trump coaches people who are caught in a bad situation to deny, deny, deny.  The reporters and producers see it happen again and again when someone is pushed out.  It doesn't take a time traveler like me to figure out that Trump is going to demand it for the next official under fire.

The next person to be pushed out might be Wilbur Ross. "Trump weighs ousting Commerce chief Wilbur Ross after census defeat"
Watch your back Wilbur! (Getty Images)
The media are so busy covering new atrocities they don't have time to see the patterns and use them to expose the White House's tricks. So here is some analysis from Ol' blogger Spocko.

Dear media: Prepare for Trump's denial method. 

I watched the entire Acosta press conference. He used multiple methods to stop or curtail certain lines of questioning. For example:

 1) He attacked one small mistake in reporting to cast doubt on all reporting.

2) He talked about conversations that others could not challenge because they weren't public and couldn't be verified.

3) He offered excuses that were laughable and referenced actions taken by people who weren't there to challenge his characterizations of their actions.

Obvious advice for the media confronting non-apologetic men

1) Read the documents that are public. Court douments about Wilber Ross's census case do exist.

2) Talk to the experts BEFORE the PRESS CONFERENCE and prep them with the likely answers that the ousted cabinet member will give.

3) Prepare for their 2nd and 3rd level excuses with your follow up questions that show the world just how ridiculous they are.

4) Bust Trump underlings in REAL TIME. This is a skill we mostly see from foreign press these days, but it is possible. Here is how to make it happen.
   a)  Work with OTHER reporters to ask follow ups that you can't that
   b)  Use Google during the press conference to find answers and pull up documents that dispute comments made by the ousted cabinet member.

   c) When the ousted cabinet member says, "I don't have the documents in front of me, I can't comment." say, 'Okay, I'll email them to you and we can talk about them tomorrow."

Watch me put a rabbit out of my hat, nothing up my sleeve! Presto! AlexWong / GETTY IMAGES
These all seem obvious, but people who don't know how press conferences work might not appreciate how stacked the format can be against the media, especially facing a well trained politician and their staff.

The press conference format isn't great for the media for a couple of reasons. The presenter is prepared for combat vs actually sharing information. They have their guard up and canned answers ready for tough and "gotchca" questions.  The media need to go to plan B:

Plan B: Set up one-on-one interviews with ousted cabinet members

Remember Trump's terrible Stephanopoulos interview? During one-on-one interviews Trump ignores the carefully crafted answers made for him.

Trump was supposed to tell Lester Holt he fired Comey, because "Comey did a bad job on the Clinton investigation." Instead he blurted out he did it because of the Russia investigation. This comment helped solidify his true intent.   Let's make more of these blurts happen!

Some cabinet members are better at one-on-one's than Trump. But even successful one-on-one interviews can piss off Trump if he doesn't like the way the cabinet member handled it. And then Trump will want to correct the record. That involves him revealing his true answer or intent either in a tweet or softball interview with Fox and Friends where he complains about his underling's answer.

Hot Tip: Set up situations where Trump is compelled to replace well crafted answers with whatever he thinks the answer should be

Now let's say the media follow my advice and get one-on-one interviews with Wilbur Ross. Let's say their research opens up new lines of questions. Now Ross is testifying before congress, UNDER OATH.Whoo. Hooo!

Like the media, the Democrats in congress are busy holding hearings over new atrocities every day. They also don't have time to see the patterns and use them to expose the White House's tricks. So here is some analysis of congressional hearings from Ol' Spocko.

Dear Congress: Prepare for hostile witness testimony

I remember watching the Kavanaugh hearings. He came out of the gate filled with anger and belligerence. He denied and attacked. He was coached to do that.

This worked for "the audience of one"  And it worked on some of the people questioning him. They weren't prepared for his ridiculous answers and lame excuses. "I like beer!"

So if we know Trump's people are told to go into denial mode with ridiculous answers and easily disproved reasons, what should we do with that information?

Prepare for crazy denial testimony

People testifying under oath before congress always prepare for lawyerly questions. They can't lie to them like the press, so they are more careful. We saw the hair splitting word choices during Harris's questioning of Barr. Everyone on the left liked that because Harris anticipated Barr's response and shut down his nonsense.

But I also suggest Congress think like a casting director. What questions will lead an actor to fail their audition for an audience of one? 

Help Trump appointees fail in front of the President. 
Trump threatened to eat Acosta unless he resigned. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Congress staffers need to ask open ended softball question that normal humans would answer rationally. Then prepare for the crazy responses Trump expects to hear.

Wilbur Ross will be coached to deny, deny deny on the census citizenship questions. Let a lawyer ask legal process questions. I suggest we find a story from Ross's past where he acted like a human, maybe even a human Democrat!   Bring up a time he showed integrity, empathy or compassion toward people of color or immigrants.  (It could have happened!)

Ross might think he is getting a life-line from the congressperson. But as Admiral Akbar says, "It's a trap!"

Democrats want to believe people are good and can be rehabilitated, even at this late date, even with all the evidence. That's one of the things that makes us better than them. However, when Ross is offered redemption and acknowledgement of his humanity in the past, and doesn't take it, we have no compunction when crushing him.

"We gave him a chance. He blew it. Now he goes to jail."

Democratic Congresspeople need to understand the theater of the hearings.

Ask questions that will elicit answers that will enrage the audience of one.  

Ask questions that will piss off Trump's base, not just questions that will piss off normal humans. 

What if Ross apologizes for his actions?  That would be interesting. The media might be quick to rehabilitate him, since they are hungering for any Republican to repudiate the President. Even the losers get lucky sometimes. But it would kill him on most of the voting right AND the left. Sorry Wilbur.