The Counterpuncher-He always fights back.

The Counterpuncher-He always fights back.–58gh.,b58

Reporters, columnists, talk radio blabbers, and even the elite media in Washington and New York think Trump is obligated to deal with them pretty much on their terms. Trump doesn’t agree. The notion of catering to them has never crossed his mind. And probably never will.

Instead we get wild events like Trump’s first press conference since winning the presidency. It was on his home turf at Trump Tower. He was in charge. The reporters were an unruly mob. As they tried to attract Trump’s attention, he coolly surveyed them before deciding who should ask him a question. He was dominant, the press pitiful.

With Trump, rules have changed. CNN was oblivious to this. It had played up the dubious “dossier” story about Trump. Yet, after Trump denounced the story, CNN correspondent Jim Acosta thought he was entitled to ask a question. Trump refused. “You are fake news,” he said, looking at Acosta.

Which leads us to the first change. And by the way, it applies across the board, not just to the media. The new rule is simple: When you attack Trump, he will hit back harder than you could have imagined. “He learned this in the New York media when he was a businessman,” Newt Gingrich said in a speech in December.

This is “Trump’s core model,” says Gingrich, who understands how Trump operates better than anyone else. There’s a reason for Trump’s counter-punching. He always wants to be on offense. “He’s on permanent offense,” Gingrich says. This, too, is a change. “He gets up in the morning, figuring out, how am I going to stay on offense?”

That he punches back was lost on Hollywood’s Meryl Streep. After she vilified him at the Golden Globe awards banquet, he unloaded on her with bruising force. He tweeted that she’s an “overrated actress” and a “Hillary flunkie.” I suspect more people read his tweets than watched her speech on TV. More are also likely to remember what he said.

Offense is so precious to Trump that he goes to great lengths to stay there. In the third debate with Hillary Clinton, he refused to say whether he would accept the outcome of the election. The media went crazy. They ignored everything else that had happened in the 90-minute debate. The New York Times said Trump “seemed to cast doubt on American democracy.” At the time—mid-October—he was “under enormous pressure to halt Mrs. Clinton’s steady rise in opinion polls,” the Times explained.

Trump knew what he was doing. He kept alive the question of whether he’d go along with the election’s verdict. It dominated national news for a week, then lingered for a second week. It dwarfed what Clinton was up to. That she had won the debate was overlooked. And two weeks later, Trump was on a glide path to winning the election.

Trump reached peak offense with what the media saw as a losing strategy. On an average day, Trump woke up and tweeted, called morning TV shows, made a brief press appearance, spoke at a rally, and did a Fox News show in the evening—$30 million of free media. This allowed Trump to “dominate by saturation,” according to Gingrich.

“Your opponents are being drowned and don’t even know it,” Gingrich said. “The political press reports you aren’t raising enough money to be competitive.” Meanwhile, Trump was chuckling.

Another rule—or precedent—Trump has set is that it’s easy to send the media off on wild goose chases. Whatever he tweets, the press chases. Gingrich calls these “rabbits.” During the transition Trump met twice with Mitt Romney, creating two weeks of press speculation about whether he’d be secretary of state. Romney turned out to be a rabbit.

It’s indisputable that Trump is canny. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, credits him with a degree of cleverness that had escaped me. “His opponents did a great job of framing him as some kind of Hitler,” Adams noted in his blog. This notion “still hangs over the country like a chorus of stale farts.” And extinguishing it is tricky.

Wrong. “A Master Persuader” like Trump “neither ignores nor denies. He plays offense and scrambles their frame.” Trump had to wait for “the right time and the right opportunity,” which arrived with “an intelligence meeting leak and some fake news.”

The Master Persuader must enter the third dimension “where persuasion matters and facts do not,” Adams said. Trump dispatched a tweet: “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” This, Adams wrote, “was the only play that can work. It won’t solve the Hitler branding the other side put on him. But it’s a start.”

source-Fred Barnes, scott adams, times, cnn

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