Republican leadership and political figures everywhere need to accept the reality that President Donald Trump, as a communicator, cannot be disciplined. So, here is the deal: Sometimes Trump will help the cause, and sometimes he will hurt the cause. Everybody wishes things were different, but here we are.
Republicans must try to create a communications strategy that keeps everyone informed and on the same page. Replacing staff and reorganizing planning groups will not fix the problem, but establishing a unified front on messaging and media management could help this administration and its allies nationwide advance Republican priorities.
By now, Republicans should realize that White House staff and connected GOP operatives are doing the best they can with the cards they have been dealt. But, because of the president’s seemingly insatiable need to tweet, they are spending too much time reacting to unforced errors. The media managers need to rethink their strategy and the value of a rapid response. These are not normal episodes, so the usual tactics won’t work.
Trump’s tweets seem to set off a panicked rush for surrogates to get on camera. And that is exactly what the media want the White House to do: get onto their turf so they can elevate and expand the story. Perhaps a “less is more” strategy will serve the president better than the hasty, convoluted defenses his surrogates offer up. Everyone can brace for disruptive tweets, but there is no reason the entire Republican agenda should be sidetracked because of them.
Since Trump’s inauguration, time has been the Republicans’ enemy, and now, every day matters. Looking at the calendar ahead, Republicans only have about 83 days until the Thanksgiving recess—and before that, we will break for the Fourth of July and August recesses—to push priority legislation through Congress.
So, as Republicans continue to work on everything from health care and infrastructure to tax reform and trade, we will have to try something different to avoid days such as yesterday when the entire Republican apparatus was derailed following a few of Trump’s inexplicable, out-of-the-blue, non sequitur tweets.
By any measure, Monday’s infrastructure announcement was noteworthy and deserved serious media coverage. The president’s announcement received some attention, but not what it would have if there had been a broader, more coordinated plan without the figurative hand grenades tossed from the Oval Office. What dominated the headlines were stories such as “Trump’s Off-the-Cuff Tweets Strain Foreign Ties” and “Trump tweets create new outrage.”
And, when the people who know Trump best are asked if he will stop tweeting, they say it will never happen. Sigh.
Clearly, the media are not interested in doing Trump any favors. They are beyond desperate to portray him as a loose cannon and they are eager to seize and pounce on any distraction the president will give them. Their unabashed disdain for all things Trump could not be more pronounced. MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts even went so far as to suggest twice on air that Trump’s tweets following the recent tragedy in London were meant “to provoke a domestic terrorist attack.”
This reality requires Republicans to maintain course and not overreact when the president is off in his own universe, railing away on Twitter. We need to stop hoping that the president will have a sudden epiphany and renounce Twitter, and instead we need to learn to live in a world where a Twitter lighting strike could happen at any moment.
The White House’s most valuable commodities are the president’s time and his words. But the president’s reckless expenditure of one consumes the other. Still, White House staff and Republican operatives aligned with the administration can try to craft a strategy to keep everyone in Washington on the same page regardless of the outbursts from the Oval Office. This probably means the White House should have fewer daily briefings. And fewer North Lawn television segments on any network except Fox are probably in order.
If nothing changes and Republicans fail to advance the GOP agenda, we risk ushering in a Democratic Congress in 2018. But human history is rife with examples of humans overcoming any number of afflictions. And in the age of Trump, Republicans will have to learn to deal with the president’s corrosive tweets, making them sting more like BBs than kill like bullets.