A story in Friday’s New York Times affirms something that has been well known to observant White House watchers. Donald Trump relies on a frighteningly narrow range of media outlets to provide him with critical information. He dwells in a bubble of exclusively right-wing propaganda that is nothing more than a shill factory for fact-challenged “news.” And when he isn’t fed the pablum he craves, he becomes inconsolably livid.
The Times interviewed numerous insiders about Trump and his relationship with newly installed chief-of-staff, John Kelly. The former general has been trying to impose some order amid the chaos of Trump’s Oval Office party. By all accounts, that has been a difficult job. Trump is described as resistant to any attempt to “manage” him. The Times writes that:
“While Mr. Kelly has quickly brought some order to a disorganized and demoralized staff, he is fully aware of the president’s volcanic resentment about being managed, according to a dozen people close to Mr. Trump, and has treaded gingerly through the minefield of Mr. Trump’s psyche. But the president has still bridled at what he perceives as being told what to do.”
The notion of a president who is so unstable that aides need to tiptoe through his fragile psyche is disturbing. And it isn’t just Kelly who is troubled by this. Sixty percent of the American people regard Trump as “unstable” to various degrees. That’s according to a poll by Fox News.
And speaking of Fox News – – That’s the media outlet that Trump’s aides have described as his “primary source of information.” Kelly has reportedly had some success at curbing Trump’s exposure to the panoply of wingnut rags. But there are limits to how much Trump can be restrained. The Times reports that:
“Mr. Kelly cannot stop Mr. Trump from binge-watching Fox News, which aides describe as the president’s primary source of information gathering.
There is abundant evidence that Trump watches Fox News for hours on end. Many of his his tweets are obviously reactions to something he just saw on Fox. He refers to Fox News more often, and with more confidence, than he does his own intelligence agencies. And most of the time he cites his favorite program, Fox and Friends. This can explain in part why so much of what Trump says is so embarrassingly wrong. Garbage in, Garbage out (GIGO).
In addition to Trump’s addiction to Fox News, he has recently been suffering through a propaganda withdrawal of sorts. Kelly’s management of the White House has resulted in some of Trump’s closest aides being kept at arms length. The people who provided him with his daily dose of conspiracy theories and rabidly partisan screeds are being shut out. A friend of Trump told the Times that he “plaintively asked” where his fix of stories from The Daily Caller and Breitbart News were. And an article in the Daily Beast more specifically noted that:
“Kelly has taken steps to prevent [Omarosa Manigault] and other senior staffers from getting unvetted news articles on the president’s Resolute desk.” […Articles that…] “would often enrage the president, and resulted in him spending at least the rest of the day fuming about it.” “
Unfortunately, Kelly cannot prevent Trump from diving into the right-wing media swamp. While the door to the Oval Office is more closely watched, Trump still has his phone. And he uses it to contact those whose White House privileges have been curtailed. So the President is still being influenced by the same cadre of nutcases and sleazeballs as before Kelly. And the results will be the same as Trump gorges himself on Fox News lies and curses at the rest of the press corps. It’s a presidency that is seriously off track and driven by biased pundits and fake news. How long will Kelly tolerate this circus atmosphere that is harming the country?
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.