This incident in the recent News Conference with President Trump has gotten a lot of comment in the media, and for good reason. A reporter, new to the White House Press Corps, from an Orthodox Jewish magazine tried to ask the President what he planned to do about increasing threats and attacks on Jews and Synagogs, after making clear that he was a supporter and did not think Trump was antisemitic. Trump attacked, calling the question a trick and unfair.
Some have put this down to narcissism, or simply seizing an opportunity to slam the media and later, when another reporter brought the question up again, to question the accuracy of the reports and claim his unscrupulous opponents were doing what are often called “false flag operations” to smear his supporters. I see it a bit differently.
The reporter’s reaction clearly showed he did think he was giving a softball question with an obvious answer. He wasn’t. He was putting Mr. Trump in a Double Bind, a Catch-22, setting a trap for him, even if unknowingly.
If Trump had answered that the antisemitic activity was wrong and he would do everything he could to stop it, the expected or hoped for answer, he would have been going directly against a part of his base, and one represented by his Chief Strategist, Mr. Bannon. On the other hand, at least for reasons of domestic and international politics, and even family issues, he could not afford to appear insensitive to the problem of antisemitic activity, or, worse, to seem to endorse it. He really was in a terrible spot, a very uncomfortable spot.
He had only one way out of the trap consistent with his temperament and customary tactics, attack, shoot the messenger (disqualify the questioner and the question), and change the subject to a favorite topic, “the unfairness of the lying media.”
This was a question he simply could not, dared not, answer, an impossible question.