Why can't Trump just say whether he has a secret recording system in the White House?
Posted June 12
Asked Friday whether or not he had a secret recording system in the White House, President Donald Trump said this: "I am not hinting at anything. I will tell you about it over a very short period of time."
That purposely(?) vague statement came nearly a month, to the day, from when Trump stoked speculation about the existence of a secret taping system by tweeting this on May 12: "James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday was repeatedly questioned about Trump's tweet, the President's statement on Friday and what reason(s) Trump had for not simply saying "yes" or "no" to questions about the existence of a taping system.
"The President made clear in the Rose Garden last week he'll have an announcement shortly," Spicer replied, saying exactly -- and absolutely -- nothing. To a follow-up on the timing of the taping announcement, Spicer offered this: "When the President's ready to make it."
Here's what I don't get: Why does there have to be an "announcement" of whether or not the President of the United States is secretly taping meetings or phone calls -- including potentially those with fired FBI Director James Comey? Why does the President need to build suspense -- at a joint press briefing with the Romanian president no less! -- for that big announcement? Why does this have to be the political version of "The Decision?" (Sidebar" That didn't work out so well for LeBron.)
There is a very simple answer to the taping question. It's "yes" or "no" followed by an explanation. And at least one person -- Donald John Trump -- knows the answer to whether he's been recording conversations or not.
And yet, we get "stay tuned!"
Why? Simple. Because everything Trump does is viewed as a performance. It's always about leaving the audience wanting more, making sure they tune into the next episode.
None of that should be surprising. Remember that Trump's most recent professional experience prior to running for office was as a reality TV star. His entire goal in that role was to get big ratings -- The best ratings! Bigly! -- each and every week. And the best way to ensure as many eyeballs as possible was to always have a cliffhanger (or three) at the end of each episode. Mr. Trump wouldn't really fire Dennis Rodman, would he???
Trump has, like all of us, been shaped by his own life experience. And so he brings that showman's sensibility to any and all moments in the White House. (Witness his incredibly odd Cabinet meeting today.)
Which is his right. He did run for and win the White House. But, the "stay tuned for more developments...!!!" approach is decidedly jarring when it comes to something as serious as whether or not the President of the United States has a secret taping system in the White House.
That questions feels like the sort of thing the White House should be working to clarify immediately. Not string people along until the next episode.