S1E110: Looking back at 'pageantry' of Trump Presidency: A ringside view

  • 28 Jun 2024

Our guest expert offers a striking insider look at what it was like to cover Donald Trump’s presidency, and lessons learnt from it.   

Synopsis: Every fourth Friday of the month, The Straits Times' global contributor Nirmal Ghosh shines a light on Asian perspectives of global and Asian issues with expert guests.

Notwithstanding a conviction, and other cases against him, Donald Trump remains the frontrunner for the Republican nomination - and has a realistic chance of being elected President again in November 2024. A look back at his tumultuous four years in office (2017 through 2020) holds clues as to what to expect, if he returns to power. 

Some world leaders - Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe for instance - quickly learnt that the then-President Trump enjoyed being feted, says Steven Herman, former Voice of America (VOA) White House Bureau Chief. He notes that Modi and Trump in particular, held unprecedented massive joint rallies, in the US and in India.

Herman, now chief national correspondent for the state-funded but non-partisan VOA, looks back at Trump’s summitry around the world including with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore and Hanoi, and his combative relationship with the media, in his book - Behind The White House Curtain: A Senior Journalist’s Story Of Covering the President ― And Why It Matters.

Speaking with host Nirmal Ghosh, Herman says that for most US Presidents, the priority is substance over style, but in the case of Trump, leaders took pains to roll out the red carpet knowing that his mood greatly depended on how he was greeted, and whether his ego was massaged. 

Highlights (click/tap above): 

2:33 On travelling the world with Donald Trump: How he very much enjoyed the pageantry

5:14 Why Trump was essentially franchising his name, but "when you're President of The United States, there tends to be a higher level of scrutiny..."

7:00 How the phrase “enemy of the people” that he used, really took a lot of journalists aback

9:45 How the media reacted to this phenomenon

13:07 Herman on the run-up now: "A lot of focus especially by the conservative media not on what Joe Biden is saying but how he’s saying it...they’ll chop up video to make it appear he is stumbling"

14:15 Herman has deep experience working in Asia too: How the Voice Of America has been received or perceived by governments of the countries here

Produced by: Nirmal Ghosh (nirmal@sph.com.sg) and Fa’izah Sani

Edited by: Fa’izah Sani

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