Donald Trump's stupefying public performances last Wednesday as the widening collusion scandal continued to gain momentum were stunning, even by his erratic standards. Trump uncorked rambling, incoherent, angry, whiny monologues that were filled with lies and rattled conspiracy theories. That's when he wasn't yelling at a Reuters reporter and threatening to sue members of Congress. Incredibly, both disturbing Alex Jones-style performances were delivered inside the White House by a sitting American president.
The two sessions with reporters advertised an unstable man who clearly is not attached to reality and has no interest trying to be. They featured a president who had trouble articulating coherent thoughts and who lied at an astonishing rate. They really did perfectly capture the lunacy that has become the Trump presidency. But how did the Beltway press cover the mighty Trump meltdown, and specifically his joint press conference with the president of Finland?
Much of the Beltway press whitewashed the event, watering it down to seem as if Trump had merely been contentious and aggressive. Trump was in a “stormy” mood, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, The Washington Post depicted the entire debacle as merely a “fiery,” “combative” event (a “roller coaster”), and the Wall Street Journal stressed Trump's “free wheeling style.” For news consumers, “stormy,” “fiery” and “free wheeling” don't sound like there's reason for alarm, right? Those descriptors seem almost normal. They represent acceptable behavior by mainstream politicians, and don't even hint that Trump might be some kind of sociopath who uncorked epic, shocking meltdowns in plain view last week.
But so it goes at the Trump White House, as American reporters have become accustomed to turning Trump's erratic, unstable performances into something that appears to be not so unusual. In contrast though, foreign journalists, and particularly foreign journalists who travel to the U.S. and watch Trump's bizarre actions in person, don't have the same interest in normalizing him. Stunned visitors covering the same president, and who are likely less concerned about maintaining White House access, often present a much more accurate, and far less filtered look at Trump's disturbing conduct.
In Finland, Trump's deranged press conference last week was dubbed a “Trump circus” by one leading newspaper, while a headline in the UK's Independent accurately called Trump's presser “rambling” and “furious.” It seems journalists who view the Trump insanity from a different perspective aren't so circumspect about accurately describing the insanity that's unfolding in front of them.