In the eye of the storm: Philip Crowther in Washington

Donald Trump

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (Flickr)

Philip Crowther (Hispanic Studies, 2006) is a multilingual TV and radio journalist based in Washington DC. He is the White House correspondent for France 24 and Washington correspondent for RFI – Radio France Internationale.  Here he gives us his take on what it’s like to be on the front line of a presidential campaign and what we can expect from President Trump.


So here it is – the year ‘President Donald Trump’ becomes a reality. What seemed like a mere fantasy for the New York billionaire and an improbable nightmare for Democrats somehow got missed by (almost) every single pundit, expert, and indeed journalist – myself included.

We all got it wrong. But on that morning after the election, I found myself looking into the camera perched atop a building overlooking the White House, saying the words for the first time: President-elect Donald Trump. It had been a long night. So long in fact that the presenter on France 24 thanked “Philip Trump” at the end of our live cross at 7 AM. She quickly apologized, and we moved on.

Soon, the Oval Office will be his. Donald Trump will be welcoming world leaders to the White House, much like Barack Obama opened the doors of his new home to Donald Trump on that surreal day in November, two days after the biggest ever shock to the US political system.

I was in the Oval Office that day, the only foreign journalist to witness history as Trump and Obama shook hands and came to terms with a new reality neither of them was expecting.

 

A pat on the back from the President-elect for the President in the Oval Office.

A photo posted by Philip Crowther (@philipindc) on

 

Donald Trump will surprise, shock, and amaze as US President. He will do things his own way. Unpresidential, they call it.

Maybe he will change. Maybe the sheer weightiness of the job will make him into just another politician. But that’s wishful thinking on the part of the establishment. President Trump will upend bilateral relationships, and he may well create others out of nowhere. A phone call with the Taiwanese President, for example, broke with precedent and angered China. His call for Nigel Farage to become UK Ambassador to Washington was unprecedented and got the special relationship with Britain off to a rocky start.

Expect more of the same starting on 20th January, the day Barack Obama hands over the keys to the most powerful office in the world to a man with no prior political experience and with no experience of holding elected office.

Crowther Facebook

After reporting on the Obama White House for almost six years, I expect President Obama and the First Family to make a dignified exit. Though he always kept the press at arm’s length, we, the media, enjoyed covering this historic presidency. There is the obvious fact that we witnessed the first African-American President, but we also got to observe many a historic moment. I travelled to Cuba to see Obama set foot in Havana, and I saw how both the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement were announced in the White House.

One of my most vivid memories was when Obama announced the death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The Libyan revolution was my last reporting assignment for France 24 before leaving for Washington. Both events truly felt like being there when history was made.

President Trump, both in style and substance, will also make plenty of history. I for one will be covering a US President who attacked me on Twitter. A personal milestone, I suppose.

I had decided to unfollow Trump on Twitter after one statement too many on his false theory that President Obama was not a US citizen, the ‘birther’ issue. Trump jumped on the chance to brand me a loser and predicted that I would be back. He was right. My phone now lights up every time Trump takes to Twitter. After all, he is no longer just a commentator; this is the President tweeting these days.


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