Let’s be honest as Americans and as conservatives: it’s been a rough couple of weeks for President Donald Trump. Instead of building on the House’s passage of the AHCA, the president has been locked in a never-ending battle for his credibility over his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
Trump is losing the war, and he needs to get his act together. Quickly.
I write this as someone who voted for Trump and wants our president to succeed. On my radio show, I’ve complimented many of his Cabinet appointments and lavished praise on him for appointing now-Justice Neil Gorsuch. I’ve criticized the moderate Republicans in the Tuesday Group for failing their campaign promises to “repeal and replace” Obamacare by voting against the AHCA (and will continue to do so). I’ve even agreed with Trump die-hards and criticized the media’s frenetic smear campaign when they run highly misleading articles.
Is the media hypocritical in their attacks? Absolutely. Did they fail to “do their job” and criticize equally President Obama’s leaks against Israel or Attorney General Lynch’s sketchy meeting with Bill Clinton on the tarmac? Yup. Is that a double-standard of “yuge” proportions? You bet.
But if it was a mistake for President Obama to hire bad people or to leak classified information, conservatives should consider it a mistake for President Trump to do the same. It was a mistake for Trump to hire Flynn if he knew about his connections to foreign governments. It was a mistake for the president to then ask for leniency from FBI Director Comey for the Flynn investigation. It was a mistake for Trump to contradict and undercut his own press team on the justification for firing James Comey soon after.
That being said, these mistakes don’t have to be repeated. How can President Trump turn this ship around and save his presidency?
Embrace the Special Counsel
President Trump should stop criticizing the appointment of Robert Mueller and take a page from the Philadelphia 76ers and “Trust the Process”. If anyone is able to avoid the pitfalls of previous Special Counsels, it’s Mueller, a career law enforcement officer who has demonstrated a willingness to stand for his principles. After nominating a career law enforcement officer with bipartisan support (NOT Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman or any other politician) to head the FBI, Trump should refrain from any comment about the investigation that is not a variation of “My administration is cooperating fully with the investigation and I look forward to being proven correct.”
Next, President Trump should go “Yuge” on transparency. Give Mueller anything he asks for, be that documents or information. In short, be above reproach and let the process work. If he really does have nothing to hide, it’s time to prove it: bigly.
Cater to Your Strengths
President Trump needs to double-down on what got him elected in the first place: connecting his message to the people directly. Forget early-morning Twitter rants and embrace the traditional bully pulpit! Let Vice President Pence handle the negotiations with Congress on legislation while the president does “Trump Tour” rallies in states like Ohio, Maine, and Alaska. These events will place immense pressure on squishy Senate moderates like Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and Rob Portman to vote to advance the AHCA and other agenda items. The American people elected Trump to fight, and this is the most productive way to allow that; let him fight to force the support of those wayward moderates who would stymie his agenda by reading their campaign statements and demanding they follow-through.
Protect Against Your Weaknesses
Any good political staffer will tell you that unforced errors are thorns in the side of any officeholder, for they destroy legislative momentum. Trump should take a page from Mike Pence and protect himself from lapses in judgement. He should check all tweets with Establishment-friendly Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, trust the statements of his communications team, and refuse to comment on any past actions unless talking about the successes of his administration. These reasonable protections are essential because the Trump agenda is too important to be derailed by an unforced error.
Promote Real Conservative Fighters
It is no secret that President Trump values loyalty and values fighters. It’s time for Trump to embrace the proven, loyal fighters of the conservative movement: the House Freedom Caucus. It was the Freedom Caucus that fought hardest against President Obama’s progressive agenda. It was the Freedom Caucus that stuck with candidate Trump after the Access Hollywood tapes. It was the Freedom Caucus that found a way to get to “Yes” on the AHCA despite its flaws. Trump should link arms with Rep. Jim Jordan and demand support in Congress for his bold conservative agenda. Trump should promote Paul Teller, former Chief of Staff to Senator Ted Cruz and current Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, to Deputy Chief of Staff and give him much of Jared Kushner’s portfolio. Given that Teller oversaw Senator Cruz’s office through a fighting filibuster of Obamacare, Teller’s commitment to principle would be a welcome addition to a White House inner circle that seems to be dominated by other voices.
Go Big on the Budget
Finally, Trump should demand funding for his priorities in the next budget. As the first 100 days have shown, President Trump will win only if he fights for the bold conservative policies he ran on: border security, tax reform, and an infrastructure plan that prioritizes roads, bridges, and cyber-security. Rinse and repeat the same Trump Tour formula to get the Tuesday Group on board. By committing to real conservative alternatives instead of progressive-lite platitudes, Trump can start winning again and winning “bigly”.
Failure is not an option: the Republicans will get shellacked in the 2018 election if Trump does not learn from his mistakes. If he does learn, he can turn this ship around and save us from President Elizabeth Warren in 2020.