Trump's potential ally in the D.C. jungle

Blitzer rebukes Trump for breach in press protocol
Blitzer rebukes Trump for breach in press protocol

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Blitzer rebukes Trump for breach in press protocol 00:56

Story highlights

  • Errol Louis: Trump's problem with the press is nothing new, but he would do well to tread carefully on Twitter
  • Trump can make a few strategic alliances in the jungle warfare of Washington D.C. politics if he treats the press fairly

Errol Louis is the host of "Inside City Hall," a nightly political show on NY1, a New York all-news channel. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)As President-elect Donald Trump savors his unlikely victory and barrels toward inauguration, he will find that the mainstream news media, which he vilified daily on the campaign trail, is more useful as an ally than as a target.

For all his differences with prior presidents, Trump faces the same hard truth as any commander in chief: castigate and condemn the media from the Oval Office, and you antagonize a horde of skilled men and women who collectively reach tens of millions of citizens daily, and can make any president's job a miserable slog.
    But treat the press corps fairly and make a few strategic alliances, and it's possible to gain valuable allies in the jungle warfare of Washington D.C., where Congress, lobbyists, union leaders, think tanks, party leaders, wealthy donors and opinion makers are in a never-ending competition for power.
    A Race Like No Other: Chapter 4
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    Last week, faced with the spectacle of crowds protesting Trump's election in cities from coast to coast, the president-elect resorted to his campaign-trail instincts, using Twitter to complain that "professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!"
    Hours later, Trump reversed course, offering a second take on the demonstrations by tweeting: "Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!"
    Importantly, Trump dropped the false and foolish suggestion that media organizations were inciting the protests. That could be a step toward a new recognition that picking needless fights with the press works better on the campaign trail than in the Oval Office.
    Which is not to say Trump will have a smooth and easy relationship with the media. Throughout his two terms, President Barack Obama was frequently criticized as unapproachable and often ignored major media outlets. For Trump's part, on his very first trip to the White House as president-elect, he ditched his traveling press pool, drawing complaints from stranded reporters who fear that a new era of inaccessibility is at hand.
    My guess is that Trump, a combative ex-television star proud of the tens of millions of followers he can connect with directly via Twitter and Facebook, will relish the prospect of frequently jousting with individual reporters, editors and anchors -- while also seeking out friendly, high-prestige outlets to send out helpful, controlled messages.
    That's just what we've seen in the first post-election week, as Trump taunted the New York Times with a claim on Twitter Sunday -- inaccurate, it turns out -- that the paper is losing thousands of subscribers because of its coverage of the campaign. At more or less the same time, Trump gave an interview to "60 Minutes" in which he walked back or grew vague about many of his most controversial campaign promises.
    As Trump's critics often point out, he has a high level of self-regard (what his enemies call narcissism) and loves to be at the center of any conversation. That alone practically guarantees that the Trump White House, whatever else it does, will be a constant presence in the newspaper and on the airwaves for the next four years.