The White House Needs a Comms Director

Rich Galen
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Posted: Aug 07, 2017 11:15 AM
The White House Needs a Comms Director

On Friday morning the government released the job report for July. The Wall Street Journal bulletin read: "U.S. employers added a better-than-expected 209,000 jobs in July. The unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent, tying the lowest level of unemployment in 16 years."

CNN added: "The United States has added 1.07 million jobs during Trump's six months in office."

President Trump tweeted: "Excellent Jobs Numbers just released - and I have only just begun. Many job stifling regulations continue to fall. Movement back to USA!"

After which the LA Times took pains to point out, "Trump's tweet came 15 minutes after the release of the jobs report, which appeared to violate a federal rule prohibiting executive branch officials from commenting publicly on such data within an hour of its release."

I looked up that federal rule. It dates back to 1985 which, for those of us old enough to remember, was pre-Internet (as we know it today), pre-cell phones, pre-cable TV (as we know it today), pre-Trump and pre-Twitter.

These announcements typically come at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. Jobs, Housing, GDP, etc. The markets officially open at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time.

It may be that the rule was instituted so that federal officials (who may have had advance notice of whatever the announcement was going to be) wouldn't affect stock prices at the opening.

Think about having insider knowledge of the orange crop as the major plot line in "Trading Places."

For those of you who will point out that the REAL unemployment situation is determined by those who are have stopped looking, are in a part-time job but want full-time employment (known as Table A-16), this is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) release: In July, 1.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down by 321,000 from a year earlier.

So, the news is good there, too.

Here's what everyone was talking about on Friday: Special Counsel Robert Mueller had empaneled a grand jury in Washington, DC. And the leak of Trump's phoners with the President of Mexico and the Prime Minister of Australia. And Trump's trip to West Virginia.

All day. Every cable channel. Every program. Every panel. All day.

To be fair, there were some asides about the good job numbers, but they were carefully balanced against panelists who made it clear that GDP growth is slow (2.6 percent in the 2nd quarter, and that real wages were flat (+0.5 percent).

So, what's the point of all this?

The point is that a fully-functioning White House would have had a fully-developed plan that would have been put into action at 9:30 Friday morning to crow about the job numbers forcing the cable nets to cover them.

Every person in the executive branch, from the Secretary of the Treasury on down, would have been booked onto every TV and radio program available.

Friendly economists would have been pushing out blogs and tweets. Every outlet from Facebook to Snapchat would have been switched on.

Friendly CEOs would have been booked on CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg and anything else with a cable channel number crowing about their part in the million new jobs.

There would have been op-eds prepared and pitched to the major daily papers for Sunday's editions. Other essays would have been pitched to business-oriented websites. Still others, focusing on the politics, to the Conservative sites giving their readers talking points for the weekend.

An agreed set of talking points would have been distributed on the Hill - for transmission to the House and Senate members who are back in their home states and their home districts - complete with state-by-state numbers of jobs in July 2017 compared with July 2016 or previous.

In that way the message gets to actual voters from the men and women they have voted for.

But.

None of that - or little of that - happened.

So, the jobs report got buried beneath the wave of discussion of Mueller's grand jury, the backwash from Trump's rally in West Virginia, and his phone calls.

Why? Because there is no communications operation at the White House. This is not Sarah Huckabee Sanders' job. She is the day-to-day tactical person. Anthony Scarmucci, were he still the Communications Director, would never have had been able to organize this operation because he has no experience in doing it.

The job of Director of Communications is exactly this. It is not to go on Morning Joe, Fox & Friends or CNN's New Day and defend the latest Trumpian Tweet.

This one is not on Donald Trump. This one is not on John Kelly (who had been on post for five days). This one is on Bannon, and Conway, and Kushner, and Ivanka Trump, and all the other big-timers who have been more than willing to sow bedlam in the West Wing the better to protect their standing with the boss.

The White House needs a professional Communications person to take that position and it needs to happen very soon.