Trump Can’t Win the Blame Game

Like any president, he’ll be judged by his results. So far, he’s failed to deliver much.

.. Mr. McConnell said the president had shown “excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”

This is accurate. Mr. Trump frequently says things like “We are moving very quickly” (referring to health care, on Feb. 27), “We are going to have tax reform at some point very soon” (April 12), and that his administration’s infrastructure plan will “take off like a rocket ship” (June 8).

.. Blaming others may be cathartic for Mr. Trump, but it weakens the presidency and inhibits his agenda.
.. So where are the administration’s focused efforts to use the presidential megaphone to explain the GOP agenda and persuade voters? An early-hours tweet may enthuse true believers, but 140 characters won’t sway most Americans and may even repel them.

Where are the speeches explaining the plan to replace ObamaCare and why it would be better? Where are the Oval Office addresses on why tax reform would produce better jobs and bigger paychecks? Where are the choruses echoing the president’s arguments for an infrastructure bill? They are nowhere to be found.

Missing also are the administration’s legislative proposals, such as an actual infrastructure bill. Although the White House website touts a trillion-dollar price tag for Mr. Trump’s program, it devotes just 314 words to outlining its provisions. As a reference point, that is fewer than half the words in this column—not enough for a major piece of legislation.

Trump Defends Confederate Statues in Wake of Charlottesville Violence

‘Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart,’ president says

While defenders laud the statues as testaments to Southern bravery and memorials to lost lives, detractors consider them inseparable from the violent movement to fracture the U.S. and keep African Americans in bondage.

.. The Charlottesville City Council voted in February to remove the statue. After the clashes in Virginia, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh ordered Confederate-linked monuments to be removed, dispatching contractors in the middle of the night, she said, to avoid protests. A plaque honoring a Confederate leader was removed from a park in San Diego Wednesday morning, and the mayor of Birmingham, Ala., ordered the covering up of a Confederate memorial to block it from view.
.. Mayor Levar Stoney formed an advisory group in June to redefine what he called the “false narrative” of the Confederate statues lining the city’s grand Monument Avenue.
..“Confederate monuments like the Jackson statue were never intended as benign symbols,” they wrote. “Rather, they were the clearly articulated artwork of white supremacy.”

Trump Announces He Dissolved Councils Whose Members had Dissolved the Groups

Business leaders disbanded two CEO councils created by the White House in protest at President Trump’s failure to adequately condemn racism. The actions mark a dramatic break between U.S. companies and a president who has sought close ties with them. ​We report that on a 45-minute conference call Wednesday, members of the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum decided to dissolve the group; around the same time, the manufacturing council also had a call and decided likewise. Mr. Trump then posted on Twitter that he had dissolved the councils.

Why is Donald Trump so bad at the bully pulpit?

Why is Trump so bad with words? Blame reality television, Twitter and political talk shows.

Trump “cannot give a speech without his hosts distancing themselves from his rhetoric.”
.. Consider Trump’s three biggest rhetorical own-goals over the past week.
  1. His “fire and fury” statement on North Korea forced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to try to talk the United States off a ledge.
  2. Trump’s belated response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ejection of U.S. diplomats was even worse:
  3.  Trump attempted to address the violence triggered by white nationalists in Charlottesville with a namby-pamby statement that blamed “many sides” for the violence.
    • It is odd that a president who claimed to despise political correctness with respect to Islamic terrorists suddenly chose to be circumspect in describing homegrown neo-Nazi terrorists.
    • Trump was more willing to call his country’s intelligence community Nazis than he was to call actual Nazis Nazis.

.. Running for office repeatedly tends to hone one’s rhetorical instincts. At a minimum, most professional politicians learn the do’s and don’ts of political rhetoric.

.. Trump’s political education has different roots. He has learned the art of political rhetoric from three sources:

  1. reality television,
  2. Twitter and
  3. “the shows.”

His miscues this past week can be traced to the pathologies inherent in each of these arenas.

..  I have seen just enough of the “Real Housewives” franchise to know that this genre thrives on next-level drama. No one wants to watch conflicts being resolved; they want to watch conflicts spiral out of control. So it is with Trump and North Korea. He never sees the value in de-escalating anything, and North Korea is no exception. Calm resolution is not in the grammar of reality television.

.. I am pretty familiar with Twitter, and the thing about that medium is that it is drenched in sarcasm. It is a necessary rhetorical tic to thrive in that place. The problem is that while sarcasm might work on political Twitter, it rarely works in politics off Twitter.

.. Finally, there are the political talk shows. If there is one thing Trump has learned from that genre, it is the “both sides” hot take. Pundits are so adept at blaming a political conflict on both sides that the #bothsides hashtag is omnipresent on political Twitter.

.. These people are bigots. They are hate-filled. This is not just a protest where things, unfortunately, got violent. Violence sits at the heart of their warped belief system.

.. substantive problems with Trump’s reaction to each of these three crises

  • .. He seems overly eager to escalate tensions with North Korea and
  • steadfastly does not want to call out Vladimir Putin or white nationalists by name.
.. his limited grasp of the bully pulpit. He ad-libbed all these rhetorical miscues. In doing so, he relied on tropes he had learned from reality television, social media and political talk shows.
Those tropes might work for a reality-show hack desperate to engage in self-promotion. They do not work for the president of the United States.