I have a fantasy about Donald Trump.
No, not a sexual one, gross. Nor is it about blowing up the White House, punching him in the face, or even impeaching him. (All that may and could come later.)
It’s something much simpler: I want to talk to him.
Here’s my fantasy. Due to Trump’s notoriously antagonistic and delusional notion of his relationship with the media (here is one of several excellent explanations of this), the new president will never reveal his true self to an official member of the press. So I would pose as a regular person, perhaps even a supporter, and arrange a one-on-one conversation with him. No media or advisors would be present.
I would assure him that nothing we talk about will be recorded, printed, or broadcast, or even used as blackmail (we know how he feels about blackmail). And then I would ask him some questions:
- Do you really believe everything you said on the campaign trail, and continue to shout from the pulpit now that you’re in office?
- Do you have any doubts or worries about the decisions you’ve made so far, from the executive orders you’ve signed to your cabinet picks to aligning yourself with Mike Pence or Steve Bannon?
- Any other insecurities you’d like to talk about?
- What’s the real deal with your hair?
Then I would, of course, publish everything. Maybe I’d write a book. Maybe it would be a bestseller.
Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Now, obviously this is all completely unethical and would be met with scorn by all corners of the world of journalism. But I have this fantasy for two main reasons. The first is that none of the people throughout the world of journalism will ever be able to get the kinds of answers I’m looking for. The CNNs and New York Times of the world will be met with derision by Trump, who will call them fake news and bemoan their unfair coverage of him. The people of Fox News and Breitbart and other such outlets will shower the president with so much praise and softball questions that Trump will only be encouraged to continue polishing the turd, and still no real revelations would come forth.
The second reason is much simpler: I want to know the truth about Trump. We all do, really. The fact that we don’t really know what Trump is like behind closed doors, or about what really goes on in his head, is what makes him so frightening as a president. The public has become so used to being allowed to peek behind the curtain from time to time during the years of Obama, Bush Jr., Clinton, and beyond that only getting these egregiously stage-managed views of Trump is baffling and scary in comparison.
Of course, to complain that a press conference or a news release from the White House — or any government, for that matter — is stage-managed is like complaining about cream cheese icing on a carrot cake: one simply can’t exist without the other. Public relations, particularly for an organization as massive as a federal government, has always had to massage the truth a bit, with a white lie here or an exaggeration there. (Sorry Dad.) Nothing that any president or world leader has done has been nearly as altruistic as their press secretaries may claim, no matter how much for the greater good that action was.
The problem that Trump continues to run into is the insistence to put a smiling face and a (small) thumbs-up on policies and actions that are troubling at best, and life-threatening at pretty much the rest of the time. No real emotion, or even a semblance of understanding about how his actions may be impacting real people, is allowed to bleed through the screaming headlines of “PRAISE FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP’S BOLD ACTION,” or from behind his stone-faced insistence that the Muslim travel ban is “working out very nicely.”
Without any sense of humanity to hold on to in the current moment, the media’s only avenue to try and paint a rounded, fleshed-out portrait of the man with the nuclear codes is to look backwards, which only brings further problems. Breathless headlines spouting the latest mini-scandal, like the fact that Trump may have hired actors to fill out the crowd at his candidacy launch event in June 2015 (remember those days?) serve as only a distraction from what’s really going on, and serve no real purpose beyond riling up the people who hated Trump already. None of this unsavoury history will change the minds of Trump’s army; it will only cause America to move further towards an irreparable divide. It also won’t sway Trump’s opinion of the majority of journalists as his real opposition party, a position that creates an untold number of problems for the administration, the media, and the public’s view of both institutions going forward.
Fortunately, those stories uncovering the last scraps of Trump’s dirty laundry seem to be evaporating now that the president is actually in office. The media can now look at the present and beyond, to try and showcase how Trump’s impulsive policymaking is affecting real people, and hopefully continue to try and wiggle its way inside the home and mind of the man in charge. And maybe, possibly, someone will be able to crack Trump’s thick resolve and get some real answers, and a semblance of a mind at work, at a soul. It may just be my little fantasy. But I really hope that we get to see the real Trump sooner than later.
Until then, look out for my book.