Sunday, February 18, 2018
Opinion

Column: The Trump presidency is not crippled

Let's talk about the overblown reporting on how the Trump administration is already crippled.

In Wednesday's Washington Post, Canadian political commentator J.J. McCullough offered some perspective on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's meeting with President Donald Trump on Monday. McCullough's piece, "U.S. media saw the Trump-Trudeau summit as a bust. The Canadian press loved it," perfectly illustrates the consequences of the media frenzy taking place right now in Washington.

Leave it to a Canadian to be the adult in the room. McCullough writes that the American media deemed the news conference a disaster "because it was so calm and on-topic. Big-shot Washington journalists wanted to get their president to talk about (Michael) Flynn." And, as he points out, the journalists who asked questions about Canada at that news conference were "condemned for wasting everyone's time."

The media only wants to generate bombastic, histrionic stories about the demise of the Trump administration and the general destruction of the United States. The media is getting a little ahead of itself. These stories are a tad early.

Even the Post has fed into the narrative that the Trump administration is off the rails, from headlines including "Flynn departure erupts into a full-blown crisis for the Trump White House" and "Flynn episode 'darkens the cloud' of Russia that hangs over the Trump administration" to "The president lays the groundwork for a nationwide voter intimidation program" and "Donald Trump is suddenly looking like a very weak autocrat." Can we pause for a moment?

Trump has been president for less than a month, and Democrats and their allies in the media are already howling that he is an abject failure. I'm no Trump toady, but so far, Trump has had one poorly drafted executive order and one or two personnel misfires and has fed the flames with some clumsy media performances, but this isn't that unusual. Does anybody remember Zoe Baird?

And let's not get too spun up about the allegations that Republicans in Congress are already throwing in the towel on everything from tax reform to repealing and replacing Obamacare. Again, this is just the start. Obamacare wasn't signed into law until more than a year after Barack Obama took office. Not having repealed Obamacare yet does not constitute a failure.

Trump held a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was civil and serious, made some news and even had a measure of graciousness about it when Trump introduced Netanyahu's wife, Sara, and Netanyahu referenced his long-standing relationship with Jared Kushner. There were no eruptions, nobody got hurt and everything seemed downright presidential.

Of course, that means members of the media are already throwing a fit about the fact that the news conference mostly stuck to the topics at hand, and they didn't have an opportunity to harp at Trump about what they want to talk about — namely Russia, Flynn, etc. So Trump didn't take endless questions about the Flynn resignation. Well, maybe that's because he's not ready, because he knows it's going to be unflattering and at this point would only inflame the story, and so he wants to talk about that issue at a time and place of his choosing. Maybe a little media strategy is beginning to emerge from the Trump White House. Maybe that's another reason for the media to panic.

Anyway, all that being said, I do wish Trump and his team would learn from touching the hot stove. Pain is a helpful mechanism, in that it lets you know you are engaged in behavior that's harmful to you. They shouldn't let things like Saturday Night Live hurt their feelings, and they shouldn't completely ignore the media. They should take some criticism to heart. But I do know a lot of good people going into this administration, and I have a lot of faith that they are self-aware and will, in fact, make some obviously needed adjustments going forward.

When you look at the blaring headlines I've already mentioned and then add in the protests, the Meryl Streep speeches, the SNL skits and all the other exclamation marks from liberals, it's easy to get the sense that things are going off the rails. But if you take a minute to think about how long the president has been in office, the fact that Trump and his team have had to deal with some obstacles is not necessarily a bad thing. It's better that they deal with problems now rather than later.

Everybody should take the long weekend, breathe into a brown paper bag and regain some perspective on where we are under President Trump.

Ed Rogers is a political consultant and a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush White Houses and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour in 1991. © 2017 Washington Post

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