…is the wrong question to be asking, I think.
But Ashe Schow was asking it (or at least, whoever wrote the headline was asking it), shortly before the news that Trump had decided to go through with his threat to boycott the debate on Thursday:
Republican front-runner and businessman Donald Trump is now threatening to boycott the upcoming GOP debate if host Fox News doesn’t remove Megyn Kelly as a moderator….
…his ongoing comments and actions toward Kelly are troubling.
How will Trump handle a hostile press if he is president?…[W]ill he just shut them out?…
As I wrote yesterday, I think Trump’s move makes him look weak, but I am well aware that his supporters think it makes him look strong. I wonder how many of the former there are and how many of the latter—and whether, even if more numerous, the votes of the former will remain split in the primaries among the many candidates.
However, those are separate issues. The question here is how Trump would handle a hostile press if president.
The answer to Schow’s question is actually rather obvious, I think. Although there are a lot of unknowns about what Trump would do (and/or be able to do) as president, as well as how he would go about trying—on the issue of Trump’s handling of adversity and criticism there is an embarrassment of riches in terms of evidence from the past. And unless Trump had some sort of personality transplant after an election, we could predict his reaction based on past experience, which is that he would insult whoever criticizes him, and he would do it without shame or apology, and he would do it in the most personal terms he believed he could get away with. And he knows from past experience that he can get away with a great deal of it, so the more pointed, personal, and below-the-belt the better.
Even as president, I don’t see him as dependent on the press. He would go directly to the people—via Twitter or other social platforms—and he would ridicule and/or try to hurt the reputation and career of anyone whose comments about him he didn’t like. I don’t see this as any sort of mystery. Obama has done something like this, but Trump would make Obama look like Emily Post.
I don’t see it as strength, but it is about power (they are not synonymous), and certainly it is for Trump. And Trump—who is almost entirely about power (money and success just being a way to get it)—plays the game Trump’s way:
For many years I’ve said that if someone screws you, screw them back. When somebody hurts you, just go after them as viciously and as violently as you can.”
There is a decades-long history of Trump acting out this credo. I’m not going to waste a lot of time listing the number of people he’s insulted and the ways in which he’s done it. It’s all out there. There’s a certain repetitiousness to it: his favorite words, historically speaking (for both men and women, by the way), have been “dummy,” “moron,” and “loser.”
But sometimes he’s a lot more creative, as with this charmer about Ariana Huffington:
Ariana Huffington is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision.
Trump doesn’t just shoot from the hip, either. He has purposefully adopted the insult as a way to intimidate people who question or criticize him, and he knows it unnerves them. He counts on their own more polite values to protect him from their returning the insult in kind, but he is also confident that they will never win that game against him, because he will hit them back twice as hard, and his insults have no bottom—he will go as low as he needs to.
This: “When somebody hurts you, just go after them as viciously and as violently as you can” is a clue to which we need to pay attention, and not just in terms of insults. So far in his life, Trump has had power, but it’s been the power of the purse and of celebrity in addition to his brash mouth. If he were to become president, though—now, that would be power. He would not hesitate to use it—to insult anyone he wishes, or to shut out the press if he deems that best in a particular circumstance, or to otherwise destroy anyone who gets in his way. I don’t know what limits he would place on that; whether it would be agencies like the NSA or the IRS he would use against enemies, or whether it would be more. I’ve not heard much from him about protecting liberty or the importance of the rule of law, with the exception of Second Amendment rights. If his attitude towards Kelo is any indication, he’s all for using the government to muscle people into doing what he wants.
And if you think he’ll only use his power to do what you’d like him to do, so that makes it okay, then I think you’re very dangerously naive.