From the Clinton campaign to the Trump White House

One year after the US presidential election, White House correspondent Kimberly Halkett reflects on covering the presidency many didn’t expect.

2016 election Trump
Supporters cheer as they wait for Trump to give his acceptance speech during his 2016 election night rally [Mary Altaffer/AP Photo]

I remember the moment the 2016 presidential results started coming in.

I was standing outside Hillary Clinton‘s election night victory party headquarters. It was chilly out.

Still, hundreds of people were gathering outside the Javits Center in New York City. There were food trucks and entertainment, and a carnival-like atmosphere.

People were celebrating what they believed would be Clinton’s imminent win.

As I stood amid the merriment, I remember vividly, my producer’s voice in my earpiece.

He was in our main newsroom in Doha, reading the first election return results.

“Trump’s in the lead,” he told me, “significantly”.

I snapped back: “Uh, I think you mixed the results up.” 

Clinton supporters were shocked the night of the election[Matt Rourke/AP Photo] 
Clinton supporters were shocked the night of the election[Matt Rourke/AP Photo] 

He answered firmly, his British accent sounding even more pronounced than usual, “Kimberly, I did not. Trump’s in the lead.”

From that moment, the story of covering next US president shifted – in ways I could have never imagined.

It’s still an historic presidency, just not the one I expected.

Trump’s mood affects everyone – even reporters

In contrast to Hillary Clinton’s carefully scripted and distant interactions with the media on the campaign trail, covering Donald Trump‘s White House is edgy and unpredictable.

Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer, has been replaced by Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Her southern sensibilities are a contrast to Spicer’s heated temper that dominated the early media briefings.

But, so far, no one has been able to tone down the similar brashness from the president.

Trump’s mood affects everyone at the White House – even reporters.

It makes for an unpredictable work environment.

On some days, he seems to enjoy the press, sparring openly, engaging in lengthy impromptu on-camera discussions before boarding Marine One to a scheduled event. 

President Donald Trump waits outside the West Wing of the White House [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo]
President Donald Trump waits outside the West Wing of the White House [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo]

But, on other days, Trump openly spars with the media, unable to hide his disdain for our craft – often evidenced by his angry “tweets” on social media.

Sanders says Trump tweets are considered presidential policy. So, while Trump may be tweeting cosily late at night from inside the White House’s private residence, reporters outside are often clocking hours of overtime.

Trump will tweet on multiple topics in a single day, or even hour. It can be a challenge to react, report and make sense of 140, often nearly indecipherable, characters.

Still, policy positions aside, for all of Trump’s brashness and fiery rhetoric, I believe the president means well.

But, he often makes mistakes, in his language, his approach, and his actions.

Trump’s brought a New Yorker’s scrappiness to Washington. That means, even if he makes an error, he won’t back down.

That’s what enrages so many. 

One year on from his election night victory, when it comes to one’s opinion of the president – there’s no middle ground. Trump is either loved … or loathed.

Maybe that’s exactly what’s needed from an insurgent candidate turned president, intent on breaking Washington’s stodgy establishment class.

We need more distance to truly judge.

And, right now, distance isn’t a luxury many reporters have in the middle of this unpredictable and fast-moving story of the Trump White House.

Source: Al Jazeera