Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle met with President Trump for an immigration summit to iron out details of border security, visa policy and employment citizenship verification.
The optics for the president could not have been better – an hour of thoughtful discussion with him flanked by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, and Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House. And the meeting appeared to have been productive, with proposals already coming out of the Senate to address the major issues.
But the media made it about the president’s mental health – their latest focus since they have realized they probably won’t get enough evidence of wrongdoing from the Mueller investigation to remove him from office.
“President Donald Trump appeared to contradict himself multiple times in a meeting on immigration with a bipartisan group of lawmakers Tuesday – a reflection of growing frustration from Capitol Hill about the lack of direction from the White House on the issue,” wrote CNN.
“Trump’s image rehabilitation show,” CNN headlined another piece on the meeting. But that piece at least admitted the president had been on his game before the two dozen or so members of Congress.
“For the last week, America has been told that its president is a ‘dope’ and a ‘child,’ an ‘idiot’ and a man whose decaying mental faculties and refusal to read makes him dangerously unfit for the Oval Office,” wrote Stephen Collinson in the CNN analysis.
“The uproar sowed by Michael Wolff’s bestseller ‘Fire and Fury’ left Donald Trump needing a counter-narrative and to project an image of control, authority and an even temperament.
“On Tuesday, he largely pulled it off in a freewheeling meeting on immigration with Republican and Democratic leaders that he conducted for 55 minutes before the cameras.”
The New York Times reported that the president “appeared intent on demonstrated that he could handle the job during a meeting on Tuesday with Democratic and Republican members of Congress.”
The Post’s erstwhile conservative columnist, Jen Rubin, wrote, “After the sit-down session with the president, Democrats and Republicans alike may be understandably confused – Trump sure is! – about where the president stands.”
ABC News led with Sen. Thom Tillis (R.-N.C.) praising Trump’s leadership during the meeting, his willingness to be flexible on key issues and his allowing the press to record the proceedings for nearly an hour.
“There was genius displayed yesterday in the meeting,” Tillis told ABC. “It’s a sort of a rare genius up here – it was actually listening and being flexible.”
But the most talked-about piece was the one from Charles Blow, a columnist for the New York Times.
“I guess Donald Trump was eager to counter the impression … that he is irascible, mentally small and possibly insane,” Blow wrote. “On Tuesday, he allowed a bipartisan session in the White House about immigration to be televised for nearly an hour.
“Surely, he thought that he would be able to demonstrate to the world his lucidity and acumen, his grasp of the issues and his relish for rapprochement with his political adversaries. But instead what came through was the image of a man who had absolutely no idea what he was talking about; a man who says things that are 180 degrees from the things he has said before; a man who has no clear line of reasoning; a man who is clearly out of his depth and willing to do and say anything to please the people in front of him.”
Blow fed all the liberal caricatures of Trump. The president is “completely malleable on actual immigration policy” because “he doesn’t have the stamina for that much reading. Learning about immigration would require more words than would fit on a television news chyron.”
If Trump follows through with what he said during that meeting, Blow said his base will once again be betrayed.
“He will have proved once again that he was saying anything to keep them angry, even telling lies. He will have demonstrated once again his incompetence and unfitness.”
“And once again, they won’t care.”