During the first year of the Trump administration, the James Brady Briefing Room turned into an arena for excitement unseen since at least the days of Ron Ziegler. Yet Tuesday was still an especially surprising day—in large part because a White House official stepped to the lectern and proceeded to calmly, extensively, and openly answer questions at length from reporters.
That official was not Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, nor was it one of her deputies. It was the presidential physician, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, and his subject was President Trump’s Friday physical exam. The news was good for the president: Though Jackson said the president should lose some weight, he gave him a resounding bill of good health, as my colleague Julie Beck reports. He also announced that Trump had aced the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, a common test for mental impairment; my colleague James Hamblin explains that. Best of all, Jackson even praised Trump’s good genes, matching something Trump has been saying for years.
It was just the sort of performance that Trump has reportedly long desired from his aides. Jackson was charismatic and chummy, persuasive and detailed with reporters, and perhaps most importantly, he defended Trump to the hilt. Yet it was also just what reporters wanted: An interlocutor who would patiently and forthrightly answer question after question, for nearly an hour, without recourse to transparent lies or browbeating or insistence that he could not speak for the president, the trademarks of Trump’s spokespeople.