WASHINGTON -- The media versus the Trump White House. The Trump White House versus the media. Can we get an amen?
Top White House aides Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Betsy DeVos got more than one Thursday afternoon when addressing the pumped-up crowd at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference.
Time and again, they came back to that theme: The media was wrong about President Donald Trump during the election campaign, it is wrong now and the Trump White House plans to call it out over and over.
See the spectacle of CPAC
Here are five takeaways from their speeches:
(And here are the highlights from Kellyanne Conway's speech, too)
"Everything you are reading" about the Trump White House has been wrong:
That's what Priebus, the White House chief of staff, said. Contrary to news reports, he said, he and Bannon, chief strategist to the president, work closely and well together from early morning to late at night.
"The opposition party" is how both Bannon and Priebus described the press, although Bannon also referred to the "corporatist, globalist media" that is "adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has."
And "it's going to get worse every day," Bannon predicted.
"Just like they were dead wrong on the chaos of the campaign and just like they were dead wrong in the chaos of the transition, they are absolutely dead wrong about what's going on today because we have a team that's just grinding it through on President Donald Trump's promises the American people," Bannon said. "And the mainstream media better understand something, all of those promises are going to be implemented."
Trump is doing exactly what he said he would:
The new president, barely a month in office, is deregulating the federal government and returning power to states. He is going to modernize the military. He is getting rid of two rules for every new one enacted. He is trading multinational trade deals for bilateral ones.
Trump, according to Bannon, is focused manically on doing precisely what he promised. He is working on "deconstruction of the administrative state."
And now, with Trump's nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, "we're not talking about a change over a four-year period," Priebus said. "We're talking about a change of potentially 40 years of law, number one."
Trump is the new Reagan, so conservatives hope:
Bannon, former executive editor of Breitbart News, once viewed as representing the alt-right fringe, was not always popular here. He even joked about it Thursday, saying he has come back from the "uninvited."
And Priebus, representing the establishment wing -- he was the most recent Republican Party chairman -- didn't always have warm relations with that alt-right wing.
The men have different styles, starting with the pin-striped suit Priebus wore and the beige pants and casual shirt on Bannon. But both men made a show of unity, starting with a big handshake, and they credited Trump with bringing conservatives together. Together, the party can't be stopped, Priebus said.
More charter schools and choice lie ahead:
DeVos, Trump's education secretary, addressed the crowd just before the Bannon-Priebus session. She said she holds public school teachers in the highest esteem, but the "education establishment has been blocking the doorway to reforms, fixes and improvements for a generation."
A longtime, wealthy benefactor of the charter school movement, DeVos painted the quality-versus-poor school challenge as a needless debate. Give families a choice -- and the public dollars with which to make it -- and they'll make it wisely, she said.
Education, she said, "is the great equalizer and it's the real moment of opportunity for every student. And so the notion that I can choose where my children go to school because I can afford to pay for it, but my fellow Americans can't, because they don't have the same economic means is just -- it's not right, it's unjust."
Mainstream media to the back of the bus:
The moderators interviewing Trump White House officials on stage Thursday were conservative commentators or represented conservative groups. That affected the questions asked.
There were news reports, for example, that DeVos did not want the White House on Wednesday to reverse President Barack Obama's order to let transgender children use bathrooms of the sex with which they identify. But asked about it, DeVos said a statement she issued spoke for itself. The statement spoke of her department's commitment to deal with bullying, discrimination and harassment "of those who are most vulnerable in our schools.
Yet she then said the bathroom rule was a "very huge example" of the previous administration's "top-down approach to issues that are best dealt with and solved at a personal level and local level."
That left her exact position unclear -- especially since she subsequently told the CPAC audience that the Department of Education should focus on such things as special education and civil rights.
Report: Sessions and Trump forced DeVos to rescind trans school protections. https://t.co/5MRkcJJegX pic.twitter.com/aXYzh34cxL-- Slate (@Slate) February 23, 2017
No one asked Priebus or Bannon about claims of Russian interference with the 2016 election or alleged Trump campaign contacts with Russians. No one asked about problems that are delaying the promised repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.
Bannon did say, however, that conservatives should hold Trump to his promises. And he and Priebus noted that mainstream media members were in the back of the room. The "corporatist, globalist media" just don't understand, Bannon said, that all of those promises "are going to be delivered."
#Bannon to #CPAC2017: "If you think THEY're going to give the country back without a fight, you're sadly mistaken." pic.twitter.com/c3Bh1KRUqK-- Scott Spencer (@bullriders1) February 23, 2017
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