Opinion

Wineke: For a TV man, President Trump doesn't understand TV

The most common reaction I’ve heard to the spectacle of President Trump throwing rolls of paper towels to victims of the Puerto Rico hurricane has been, “What’s wrong with that guy?

That was my reaction, too, but I’m beginning to think one problem the president has is that he doesn’t understand television.

The reason I think that is that, in watching the video of the president throwing towels, I see the people in the room seem happy and delighted to be part of the action. They are laughing and grabbing the rolls of towels. It appears Trump is just taking a spontaneous action.

The problem is that the towel toss was also viewed by millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of people, who weren’t in the room.

What they saw was interspersed with other images of people who have no electricity, who are finding drinking water in streams and who wait for hours just to buy gasoline so they can drive to their jobs.  What they saw was a president making a festive moment of a tragedy.

I doubt the president was trying to make a festive moment of a tragedy.  I think he just reacted spontaneously to the situation at hand, forgetting how it might appear to those not there.

What’s surprising is that Trump is a creature of television. Without “The Apprentice,” he would be mostly unknown and would most certainly not be president. He knows television. He knows camera angles. He knows dramatic touches.

What he doesn’t seem to know or remember is that television is not a place for spontaneity. Television is a medium in which directors, producers and editors work together to determine just what images will actually be sent out over the airwaves and cable connections.

Even talk shows and live productions are preceded by detailed rehearsals.  Trump’s own shows were taped and edited.  He didn’t really fire people.

Trump, like those presidents before him, has teams of media people on his staff whose job it is to project the image he wants to project.  I am assuming the image he wants to project is that of a caring, compassionate human being who traveled to Puerto Rico to comfort his fellow citizens and assure them that their nation has not forgotten them. 

That may not be what he actually is or actually feels, but that’s the image I’d want to project if I were president.  It’s what a “normal” human being would want to project.

Instead, he projected the image of a clueless tycoon, tossing roles of paper towels to people who had no water and, for that matter, no homes.

My guess is that when the president was in television, he did what his directors told him to do. He might want to go back to that.


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