Within President Trump’s stream-of-consciousness tweetage this morning was a pair of tweets with a strange admission and a stranger solution.
In just two tweets, President Trump acknowledged that the information offered by his press representatives wasn’t always correct (something which could also be gleaned from observation and comparison), justified it as a function of being busy, and suggested he might do away with the press briefing, or “press briefings” as the president put it with scare quotes.
The brief era of seriously-but-not-literally being over (we hope), this is a thing that could happen, and White House Correspondents’ Association president Jeff Mason offered a response:
White House briefings and press conferences provide substantive and symbolic opportunities for journalists to pose questions to officials at the highest levels of the U.S. government. That exercise, conducted in full view of our republic’s citizens, is clearly in line with the spirit of the First Amendment. Doing away with briefings would reduce accountability, transparency, and the opportunity for Americans to see that, in the U.S. system, no political figure is above being questioned. The White House Correspondents’ Association would object to any move that would threaten those constitutionally-protected principles.
The utility of the briefings has leaned more symbolic than substantive, but that is still a very important quality. As Erik Wemple phrased it so succinctly and perfectly: “The point is that the press briefings are on the record. Their value derives from that fact, period.”