Here, from a piece yesterday in Washington Post by Marc Fisher, is a description of the type of printed word you can expect to see Donald Trump surrounding himself with:
Trump’s desk is piled high with magazines, nearly all of them with himself on their covers, and each morning, he reviews a pile of printouts of news articles about himself that his secretary delivers to his desk. But there are no shelves of books in his office, no computer on his desk.
He’s just too busy to read, he explains to Fisher: “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.”
Fisher acknowledges that not everyone, not even leaders, necessarily need to gorge on tomes to govern effectively.
Trump’s approach to understanding complex issues and reaching decisions is not unique in the annals of the presidency. Historians who have studied presidential styles depict a divide between men such as President Obama or presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon, who were given to reading extensively ahead of important decisions, and presidents Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who preferred to have issues presented to them in short memos or orally.
But the acknowledgement goeth before a recognition that it is unusual still, even for presidents who aren’t huge fans of knowing deeply.
Trump’s approach goes beyond the chief executive manner of Reagan or the younger Bush. “We’ve had presidents who have reveled in their lack of erudition,” said Allan Lichtman, a political historian at American University, citing Warren Harding and Lyndon Johnson as leaders who scoffed at academics and other experts. “But Trump is really something of an outlier with this idea that knowing things is almost a distraction. He doesn’t have a historical anchor, so you see his gut changing on issues from moment to moment.”
When we read this last night, it caught our attention as a self-contained piece that looked at the idea of whether Trump reads. We were reminded of it again today, in a different context, as an illustration of Trump’s fascination with self.
That description of the stacks of magazines in Trump’s office with Trump on the cover? Not the first time a journalist used it in a description of their own in situ interviews with the candidate.
And the articles made a contextually different appearance again today, in a Pew report. In an analysis of candidate campaign websites and use of social media, the study found that web imitates life.
Clinton’s website offers two main sections for campaign news updates, both of which mimic the look and feel of a digital news publisher, but oriented around original content produced in-house. Trump, on the other hand, mostly posts stories from outside news media on his website. This pattern is also evident on social media, where 78% of Trump’s links in Facebook posts send readers to news media stories while 80% of Clinton’s direct followers to campaign pages. On Twitter, a similar tendency emerges in what each links to. Sanders, for the most part, falls in between the two.
Trump: press obsessed. Clinton: press avoidant. It’s like an extra piece to a long-completed puzzle.