Bill Press: Mulvaney proves need for daily briefings

Bill Press: Mulvaney proves need for daily briefings
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Today marks a milestone. It’s now been 209 days since the last White House daily briefing, held by Sarah SandersSarah Elizabeth SandersMcEnany stamps her brand on White House press operation Sanders mocks NY Times urging DNC to investigate Biden allegations: 'I thought it was an Onion headline' Donald Trump: The Boomer TV president MORE on March 11. Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamMelania Trump's spokeswoman slams 'inappropriate and insensitive comments' about Barron Trump Melania Trump is 'behind-the-scenes' but 'unbelievably influential': book East Wing rips book saying Melania Trump renegotiated prenup before moving to White House MORE became White House press secretary on July 1. She has not held one daily briefing and says she has no plans to.

Of course, there’s nothing in the Constitution that says the White House has to hold daily press briefings. In fact, they’ve only been around since 1995, inaugurated by former President Clinton’s press secretary Mike McCurry. They were continued under former Presidents George W. Bush and Obama. Why? Because they proved so valuable — to the public and to the president.

Contrary to what Trump supporters want us to believe, the people hurt most by the lack of daily briefings are not White House reporters, who don’t get their chance to preen on camera every day. The real losers are, first of all, the American people, who don’t get their daily look behind the curtain to know what the government’s up to, or how their tax dollars are being spent.

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But the other big loser, even if they don’t realize it, is the Trump administration itself, which loses the daily opportunity to get its message out, set its own priorities, explain and defend its programs, and rebut any criticism, all from the power of the White House podium — in the voice of a seasoned professional press spokesperson.

And never was the damage done by canceling the daily briefings more apparent than last Thursday’s briefing room appearance by acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneySupreme Court ruling could unleash new legal challenges to consumer bureau Bottom line White House goes through dizzying change in staff MORE. It was amateur hour at the worst. Mulvaney was out of his element, unprepared and woefully incapable of parrying even the most obvious reporters’ question.

White House reporters were quickly summoned to the briefing room so Mulvaney could announce the location of next year’s Group of Seven (G-7) summit. After considering every other possible venue, he reported with a straight face, the White House had decided that the best and only place in the entire 50 states to hold the summit was the President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Trump to hold outdoor rally in New Hampshire on Saturday Eighty-eight years of debt pieties MORE-owned National Doral golf course. But there was no conflict of interest, he insisted, because the event would be held “at cost.” An argument so patently unbelievable and outrageous that Trump himself pulled the plug on it two days later — leaving Mulvaney with egg on his face.

But things only went downhill from there. Next, Mulvaney, totally clueless, waded into Trump’s phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, telling ABC’s Jonathan Karl that, of course, there was a “quid pro quo” involved: aid for dirt. We do it all the time, he insisted. “Get over it!” Later, of course, he tried to deny admitting a quid pro quo. Only one problem: He’d done so live, on national television. Play the tape.

For Trump, it was a public relations disaster, with grave consequences. Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellSwalwell: Trump 'makes us look like geniuses every day for impeaching him' Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Democrats face tough questions with Bolton MORE (D-Calif.) called it a full “confession.” Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyRepublicans boot Francis Rooney from GOP Steering Committee Pelosi extends proxy voting into mid-August What to do about our culture of division and partisanship? MORE (R-Fla.) said it amounted to “game, set, match.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats hit Trump for handling of Russian bounty allegations after White House briefing Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Democrats face tough questions with Bolton MORE (D-Calif.) observed that, for Trump, things suddenly went from “very, very bad to much, much worse.”

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But here’s the point. It could have all been avoided if Trump had a professional press team, skilled in dealing with reporters, holding daily briefings. Instead, he occasionally sends out amateur players like Mulvaney or worse yet, holds court with reporters himself before walking to his helicopter.

For his own sake, three things Trump should do: Shut up. Bring back the daily briefings. And fire Mulvaney.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”