No one came away from the World Economic Forum in Davos more disappointed than the mainstream media.
The media aimed to report the frosty or even dismissive reception Donald Trump would receive from the world leaders and economic titans.
“The phenomenon of Trump is no longer interesting to people,” Timothy Snyder, a Yale historian, told Time. “A year ago, everyone thought Trump was just fascinating. I spend a lot of my life in Europe, and what I see is that the Europeans have moved on. America no longer matters.”
But once Trump arrived, it became obvious the world remains interested in him and the country he leads. He received what many described as a “rock star” reception, with leaders and CEOs elbowing each other out of the way to get selfies taken with him and otherwise exchange views.
A trumpet presentation preceded his keynote speech. A dinner he held for executives the evening of his speech was the hottest ticket at the conference.
Richard Quest of CNN was positively giddy at what he had seen. “Trump World rolled into the World Economic Forum, and the presidential delegation steamrolled its way through the conference hall,” Quest gushed. “From his arrival by helicopter to his dinner tonight with European conference executives, Davos has rarely seen anything the like before.”
In the runup to the event, U.S. media could not figure out why Trump would want to mingle with the 70 heads of state, 1,900 business leaders and 45 heads of international organizations in attendance. After all, those CEOs depended on free trade, and his America First policies seemed at odds with this.
“Why is Trump even choosing to go to a forum that at best is going to give him a frosty reception could even be openly hostile?” said Davos veteran Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at HIS Markit consultants in London. “The hope is that if he gives a full-bodied defense of ‘America First’ he will be conciliatory. If not, it could get confrontational.”
Why, asked a leader of a European union, would Trump attend a conference whose theme is global cooperation – “creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World” – runs counter to his views?
The Daily Mail criticized the decision to treat Trump as the star of the show. “Davis forum strokes Trump’s ego by hosting a reception to ‘honor the president’ and names him keynote speaker (with a late slot that won’t let other leaders rebut him).”
But as Laura Ingraham pointed out, leaders have begun to adapt his language. Angela Merkel, the leader of Germany, sounded positively Trumpian in her speech the day before, calling for her country to take control of its own destiny.
And Klaus Schwab, founder of the event, took Trump’s side in his ongoing battles with the press, much to the chagrin of CNN’s Acosta.
“I will say it was rather remarkable to hear the founder of World Economic Forum also take jabs at the press and say the president is the victim of biased interpretations and misconceptions,” Acosta said. “All in all, that was a fairly pitiful display … I think to have some many business and global leaders here to have those statements made with the president by his side. And then nobody really takes exception to that. But that is the sort of … the environment we live in.”
Stephen Moore, the Heritage Foundation economist who advised the Trump administration during the campaign, said Trump’s friendly reception caused problems for the American left because American progressives are counting on Europeans remaining hostile to the president.
“The difference between last year and this year with regard to Trump could not have been more stark, Moore said. “Literally, they believed that this new president, Donald Trump, was going to be another Adolf Hitler. He was going to destroy the world economy. He was the most dangerous man on the planet. But he went over there. He charmed them. Of course, nothing succeeds like success. I mean, he just talked about his record, what he’s done.”