To enjoy the full Mail & Guardian online experience: please upgrade your browser
20 Jan 2017 00:00
Style matters: Former president Barack Obama used his gift as an orator to keep people’s attention, in contrast to the strident tone of his brash successor, Donald Trump. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)
From the role of the First Lady to presidential getaways, Donald Trump’s White House is going to look very different to that of his predecessors, even without a bling ballroom makeover.
Franklin Roosevelt had his “fireside chats” broadcast over the wireless, John F Kennedy deployed his dashing good looks to black-and-white television and the grand orator Barack Obama saw few problems that could not be solved by a speech.
Trump likes to tweet. A lot.
Even his top aides admit they don’t always know in advance when the boss is going to send a 140-character missive.
So from now on expect some early-morning scrambling as aides around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue play catch up and patch up.
White House south
“I don’t know whether it’s the finest public housing in America or the crown jewel of the prison system,” Bill Clinton once joked about life inside the White House bubble.
For sure, the presidency has up-sides but for modern presidents even a walk outside the gates is a military operation requiring a phalanx of agents, hazmat (hazardous materials) teams, doctors and snipers.
Trump, by upbringing and lifestyle, may be better prepared for the closeted nature of the office than many of his predecessors but he’s still going to want to get away from it all.
Many presidents have trekked west to the California desert and Sunnylands, many more have made the short hop north of Washington to the presidential retreat at Camp David.
Trump may choose to use his own pad on New York’s Fifth Avenue but with planes constantly passing nearby and no secure perimeter it is likely to give the Secret Service the jitters.
A more likely getaway destination, aides say, is Mar-a-Lago, his luxurious club in Palm Beach, Florida.
The East Wing
President Jimmy Carter’s wife Rosalynn sat in on Cabinet meetings, Eleanor Roosevelt held press conferences, Hillary Clinton championed health care reform from her West Wing office and Michelle Obama proved a role-model-in-chief for a younger generation.
Melania Trump is unlikely to be quite as political a first lady, or even present in the White House. Trump has indicated that she and their 10-year-old son Barron will stay in New York at least for the foreseeable future.
But as first daughter, Ivanka Trump could be a different story. The 35-year-old businesswoman and her husband Jared Kushner are set to be a force inside both East and West wings.
Ivanka has been a near constant presence by her father’s side and Kushner has been formally appointed “senior adviser to the president” — working alongside chief of staff Reince Priebus and Trump’s close strategic adviser, Stephen Bannon.
There is very little precedent for presidential progeny to play such a formal White House role, in part because of nepotism laws.
You might have to go back to John Quincy Adams, who served as his father’s emissary to Prussia, before becoming the sixth US president.
President Barack Obama didn’t so much dislike the media as tolerate its flitting focus.
Trump has a love-hate relationship with the press, which he courts assiduously but also berates as biased against him.
That strident tone has gone down marvellously with Trump’s hardcore supporters, who view the mainstream media as little more than an activist wing of what they see as the liberal elite.
Trump’s team has signalled that his tone is unlikely to change in office and, whatever else changes in the White House, it will not be business as usual for the press.
The president-elect’s aides have suggested daily press briefings could become a thing of the past and that the press corps could be evicted from the West Wing of the White House. — AFP
Create Account | Lost Your Password?