When he wasn’t being summoned by Donald Trump to swat flies in the Oval Office, Reince Priebus was competing with Sean Spicer for the privilege of bringing the President packets of positive press. The former chief of staff and the former White House press secretary were tasked with twice-daily deliveries of everything from pro-Trump tweets to flattering photos to nice things pundits had to say about the president.
The practice of collecting news clippings and other responses to how the commander-in-chief is operating predates President Trump, but the Republican National Convention has apparently taken it to new, and more insistently cheerful heights. Rather than being used as a way to get a snapshot of the administration’s success and how it’s perceived, the packets are used to butter Trump up and help him stay confident in the job he’s doing.
“If we had prepared such a digest for Obama, he would have roared with laughter,” said David Axelrod, who served as senior adviser to Barack Obama for two years. “His was a reality-based presidency.”
These collected tidbits have also been used by past administrations to identify which headlines they’d like to emphasize, and they give the White House communications team a workable outline of what messages they’d like to push and which they’d prefer stay understated. But given President Trump’s contentious relationship with journalists, the relentless positivity of the RNC’s dossiers comes across very differently. Vice reports that “some in the White House ruefully refer to the packet as ‘the propaganda document.'”
The GOP is defensive of the job it’s doing on these packets. Spokeswoman Lindsay Janceck told Vice, “The RNC is always going to work to defend the White House, the administration, and its members of Congress, and our war room’s efforts help capture and drive how our team can echo that defense.”
But what does Trump think of his party’s efforts to sooth, flatter, and inform? “It needs to be more f*g positive” is one critique the White House communications team gave the RNC about some morning or evening’s collection. It’s hard to say if, for President Trump, the press could ever be positive enough.