OPINION: A presidential press conference circus


Ricky Barker, Columnist

In a move that should surprise no one, President Donald Trump took what could have been a respectful and patriotic victory for his presidency and turned it into a circus.

On Oct. 26, CNN reported that after a long search in coordination with the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, eight helicopters carrying teams of United States Delta Force troops flew into ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s secret compound. After breaching one  wall to enter, a gunfight began, killing several ISIS soldiers. After the two-hour assault, U.S. special forces cornered Al-Baghdadi in one of the underground tunnels surrounding the compound. Backed into a corner, he exploded a suicide vest he was wearing, killing himself and three of his children. 

The operation was called Kayla Mueller in memory of an American woman who was repeatedly raped and then killed by ISIS soldiers. It was a historic, yet somber victory against terrorism. After an event such as this, it’s the president’s duty to announce what has happened, in a respectful and graceful manner.

However, during the Oct. 27 press conference, viewers could have thought Trump was reciting the plot of his favorite action movie. Sporting his usual dramatic flair, Trump managed to somehow undermine what would otherwise be a great achievement for his presidency.

Trump excitedly told his audience how the U.S. forces eliminated the terrorist leader, saying: “He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming.”

 He consistently barraged Al-Baghdadi, calling him a dog, thug, loser, and a fearful coward. The president left out no gory detail, including how “his body was mutilated by the blast.” 

Trump  went on to exclaim how Al-Baghdadi inevitably fell to the almighty power of the U.S., when he said,“Terrorists who oppress and murder innocent people should never sleep soundly, knowing that we will completely destroy them. These savage monsters will not escape their fate – and they will not escape the final judgement of God.”

If you think all of this seems incredibly dramatic, the deliver was even more so. Trump was overacting to the extreme. The whole scenario seemed so theatrical and staged, and ironically, some aspects probably were staged.

For one, Trump had no way of hearing what was happening during the operation or seeing it in great detail. Several defense officials told The New York Times there would have been no way for Trump to have known exactly what Al-Baghdadi was doing, and he certainly couldn’t hear him. The drone footage Trump watched had no audio. So, it seems the story of the terrorist leader whimpering and begging for mercy was another alternative fact from the president.

In the photos taken in the situation room during the operation, Trump sits stoically, surrounded by the vice president and multiple officials. It’s suspiciously similar to the famous photo of Barack Obama and officials during the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. But, unlike that photo, Trump is front and center in his photoshoot.

 Pete Souza, former White House photographer, pointed out that the International Press Telecommunications Council data shows that the picture was taken at 5 p.m., when the raid reportedly happened at 3:30 p.m. It could be that the picture was simply taken late into the operation; however, it seems plausible that it was faked, considering the perfect placement of everyone, the fact that Trump is looking directly at the camera and that many of cords on the table are unplugged.

This seems to be another case of the president creating a false narrative for himself to benefit his image. Trump is trying to create an image of himself as a great and heroic commander defeating the forces of evil, but all he’s managing to do is make himself look like a fool.