While Trump has mastered the use of Twitter, he continues to struggle with fundamental communications.
He managed to coax Hope Hicks back to the White House. Of course. Ms. Hicks along with much of the West Wing caught Covid-19, sidelining them for the foreseeable future. This backdrop prompted me to dust off this from a couple years ago.
Communications debacle after debacle have riddled the Trump administration, the latest involving the firing of FBI Director James Comey. TIME Magazine called the Comey firing “a gross miscalculation, like reaching for the gasoline can in order to extinguish a grease fire.”
Naturally, Trump’s knee-jerk reaction was to throw press secretary Sean Spicer under the bus. It’s hard to feel empathy for Spicer who essentially has erected a barbed wire fence between the press corps and himself. Still, how the hell does Spicer sync up with a boss who views impulsive behavior as a badge of honor? You can’t guide Trump to stay on message because he’s inventing the message as he goes along.
Tapping my vast network of contacts in D.C., I’ve managed to piece together President Trump’s first draft of a job description (who needs WikiLeaks?):
Dear White House HR Director:
We need a new press secretary.
Poor Sean. The press has been absolutely ruthless in attacking him like a pack of jackals that haven’t eaten in days. Of course, it doesn’t help that he buys his suits off the rack.
As for the new person, these are the qualities that should be prioritized:
- Must be a wonderful human being: I mean it. This is not negotiable. Don’t just reference check with the mom. Check with the college roommate from freshman year in the dorm. Did the candidate share his or her Red Vines? Dig deep.
- Good at Twitter: But not too good. I’m running the show. Still I need a second opinion on things like how many exclamation points to use when I call out the dems as “phony hypocrites.”
- Fluent in Russian: Don’t read anything into this. Russia is the 12th largest economy in the world. For those who claim I don’t do my homework, shame on you. Shame on you.
- Says “GRRRREAT” like Tony the Tiger: Sean has been so moody and down lately. See what happens when you allow journalists to do as they please? It’s time to bring fresh energy to the office.
- Voted for me: The Feds should be able to double check this one. Do not use the NSA.
- Communicates with the nuance of language: The perfect test I like is to listen to how many times the candidate uses “totally” as in “totally fake news” and “totally wrong to buy the coke made in Mexico.”
- Relationship with Lorne Michaels: I try to be a good sport, I really do. But between you and me those parodies on Saturday Night Live are hurtful.
- Doesn’t shop at Nordstrom: This is another one that’s not negotiable. If you don’t like me, fine. Go after one of my kids, and we have a problem.
That should cover it.
With a new press secretary, we can make communications great again.
During an interview with Mumbrella Asia last March, the editor asked me about Trump’s communications expertise. I pointed out the onslaught of communication debacles. Basic stuff like making sure proof points support grandiose statements. Like conducting what-if scenario planning before rolling out new policies.
And these debacles continue.
Whoever takes on the role of press secretary will eventually end up a scapegoat (or a grease fire) just like Mr. Spicer.
That’s how Trump rolls.
Side note: For more on Mr. Trump, check out “Donald Trump and the One Quality That Unites All Brands.”