Despite an encounter with the president that the New York Times called “ebullient,” the paper still reported that President Trump was engaging in mean-spirited policies goaded by the “nationalist” ideology of adviser Steve Bannon to appease his populist supporters.
In a July 14 article, the Times reported that President Trump engaged with reporters on a very personal basis as they all flew back from Europe on Air Force One.
“The Donald J. Trump who turned up in the press cabin of Air Force One on Wednesday evening,” the paper wrote, “was starkly different from the one who publicly pillories the news media but surprisingly familiar to reporters who know him well.”
The paper noted that President Trump entered the area where the press sat and began to engage with reporters in an “expansive, engaging, even at times ebullient” way.
But despite the president’s good will, the Times went on to slam Trump anyway.
“It was a loose, good-humored side of Mr. Trump that the public rarely sees amid the fusillade of angry speeches and venomous tweets that have characterized the president’s first six months in the White House,” the paper said darkly. “And it came to light only because he retroactively put the session on the record, asking a reporter the next morning why she had not quoted his remarks.”
The “paper of record” goes on to charge the president with its ever-ready list of accusations. Trump is “populist,” he is grasping for press coverage, he is a “nationalist,” and he is “boastful.”
The Times ends its piece noting that Trump’s advisers are pulling him in different directions.
“Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers — including his daughter Ivanka; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and Gary D. Cohn, his chief economic adviser — want to draw him toward the political mainstream, keeping the United States in the Paris climate accord, for example, or avoiding a trade war,” the paper said matter-of-factly.
But then it reveals what it seems to characterize as the “damaging,” darker forces inside the White House:
Others, led by his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, and his senior adviser, Stephen Miller, want to pull him in a staunchly nationalist direction on issues like trade and immigration. Mr. Bannon and Mr. Miller had a hand in the inauguration address and the angry jeremiad he delivered in Harrisburg, Pa., to celebrate his first 100 days. They argue that Mr. Trump’s brawling approach is what got him elected, and what will secure his base.
The Times also adds that Mr. Bannon “favors tough measures against big exporters like Japan and South Korea.”
In contrast, the paper adds, “Mr. Cohn and the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, worry about picking a damaging fight with allies.”
So Bannon’s ideas are “damaging,” but Cohn, Ivanka, and Jared Kushner’s ideas are “mainstream.”
In closing, the paper does note that Trump has been quite consistent on the “bad deals” the U.S. has been stuck with on trade. So, in the end, Trump leans toward Bannon’s thoughts on trade and has all along.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.