Did you enjoy “Made In America Week”? Did you even know it was “Made In America Week”? Well, it was. But thanks to President Donald Trump’s inability to get out of his own way and maintain any semblance of message discipline, the week-long celebration of American manufacturing went about as successfully as “Infrastructure Week.” Don’t remember that either? That’s the problem.
Members of his inner circle say the president is frustrated, both with the media and with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And who can blame him?
Reports indicate Mueller is expanding his investigation to involve anything anyone named Trump ever has done with a person who has eaten borscht or drank vodka, and the media is out for blood. Knowing this, why does the president keep chumming the waters?
I get the attitude of “to hell with the media,” but they can be a useful tool if handled properly. This administration, and the president in particular, does not handle them properly. Maybe Anthony Scaramucci, the new communications director, will be able to change that, but the announcement of him getting the job was bungled too, so he’s not exactly off to a great start.
It’s one thing to criticize the press for its biases; the criticism certainly is deserving. It’s something else to stomp all over your own message because, well, who knows why Trump does it.
Wednesday, for reasons known only to the president, he granted an interview to the New York Times where, rather than speak about the meeting he’d had with Republican Senators on health care, he stuck a shiv in the side of his oldest ally.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was Trump’s first and most vocal elected supporter. Then-Sen. Sessions embraced Trump, became his top advisor and served as his defender on television. That reality, coupled with the president’s repeated professions of loyalty for his friends, made his all-but-declaration of no faith in Sessions all the more destructive.
It’s understandable Trump is angry about Mueller’s investigation, but he’d be better served to direct that animus toward those whose actions created the problem, and whose lies and omissions worsened it, not the man following ethics rules.
This coming after Sessions already had offered his resignation and Trump already had rejected it – which makes it even more bizarre.
Stranger still, the aforementioned curious decision to grant an interview to the New York Times. Why open yourself up to those you’ve painted as your enemy?
There are countless conservative outlets that’d love to have the opportunity to interview the president, yet Trump gives his limited available time to one of the main repositories of administration leaks.
I suspect this stems from the fact that Donald Trump is a creature of New York City; it’s all he knows. Manhattan has been his life, and the Times is the Bible of that borough.
Trump always has been able to command attention from the New York tabloids. The Post and Daily News have a long history of Trump covers and stories. But the Times is where the serious people get their serious news. And he wants to be taken seriously, especially by the people who used to mock him. That’s the only explanation that makes any sense, even though it makes very little.
That brings us to the bungling of the resignation of Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
Whatever the real reason for Spicer’s departure, there was a window of a couple of hours where there was no official story from the White House, which left a huge opening for rumors and speculation. From a strategic communications point of view, that was a mistake.
It allowed the stories to fly of West Wing discord, that Spicer was passed over for the top job and quit in anger, giving the impression Spicer resigned effective immediately. Eventually it was announced he would work into August, but that should have been the story from the start.
When visible staff leave the administration for any reason, the communications shop must get out in front of the story to avoid exactly what happened Friday. It may not seem important, but the events of Friday show just how important it is.
President Trump’s frustration with the media covering stories designed to make his administration appear chaotic is completely justified, but much of it is his own doing. Talk of firing Mueller or pardons might feel good and appeal to hard core supporters, but they’d be the end of any chance of accomplishment.
Maybe he doesn’t trust his staff. Maybe he’s a micromanager. Or maybe he’s just bored and likes to stir the pot. Whatever the reason, even with 99 percent of the media against him (and I take no pleasure in saying this), President Trump is shaping up to be the biggest obstacle to his own agenda. If he really wants to get any of it done, a little discipline will go a long way.