Posts Tagged ‘bully pulpit’

Failure to Communicate — Trump has a solid record, but he’s too busy making noise to tout it

August 3, 2018

“On balance, Trump’s Tweets do more damage than good.”

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If a tree falls in a noisy circus, does it make a sound? If the Trump administration announces its largest deregulatory effort to date while the president is in the throes of a Twitter rampage, will anybody pay attention?

No, and thereon may hang the balance of Republican congressional control. It’s never clear where Donald Trump gets political advice, if he does at all. What is clear is that this White House is doing an able job of whiffing one of the best political messages in decades, a reality that is demoralizing administration insiders and GOP candidates alike.

The following are just a few pieces of news out of Washington, all of which hold enormous promise for Americans. The Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department released a plan—announced on the website of these pages—to ax the Obama administration’s car-emissions standards, saving consumers $500 billion. Dollarwise, it may be the biggest deregulation ever.

The Treasury has recommended rescinding the “payday lending” rule, which threatened to cut off the poorest Americans from viable credit. The Interior Department proposed the first real reforms to the Endangered Species Act in decades, offering hope to tens of thousands of landowners. The National Labor Relations Board is revisiting a 2014 decision that allowed unions to poach employer email systems, part of the board’s plan to review any case that overruled precedent in the name of Obama union backers. The Internal Revenue Service lifted a political threat to nonprofits by allowing them to shield the names of their donors.

The Department of Health and Human Services finalized its rule allowing more non-ObamaCare insurance options to millions of Americans. The Senate sent a $717 billion defense authorization bill to the White House, increasing active-duty strength and providing troops their largest pay raise in nine years. The Senate also confirmed the 24th Trump circuit-court judge.

The Labor Department released new numbers showing worker compensation increased 2.8% year over year, the fastest pace in a decade. Average home values are rising at twice that pace. Unemployment hit record lows. Second-quarter economic growth came in at 4.1%.

If all this sounds wonderful, it is, though many Americans have heard little about it. The headlines? Mr. Trump publicly lecturing his attorney general. Mr. Trump hashing Charles Koch. More about Russian collusion, provoked by the president’s call for the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller. China tariffs. Border strife. Michael Cohen. Paul Manafort.

Yes, the mainstream media relentlessly drives anti-Trump stories. But what’s new? Republicans have long known they don’t get a fair hearing from the press, which is why they shifted to talk radio and other alternative media. Mr. Trump understands that better than most—thus his heavy use of Twitter, live rallies and press conferences.

It’s the content that is mystifying. To hold the House and increase their Senate majority, Republicans must do two things: get out their base and bring along the center. The president, with an unrivaled bully pulpit, has instituted policies that provide him a near-perfect message for those tasks. He can rally supporters by banging home his promises kept and warning that only their vote this fall will allow him to continue his mission. And he can court the undecided with constant reminders of their new prosperity and freedom, and a vow that this is only the beginning.

The president is certainly focused on his base, though with an eye to whipping them up with rallies focused primarily on the polarizing issues of trade and immigration. His tweets revolve around the same issues—those and Mr. Mueller—and are often defensive or whiny.

This House midterm will hinge on marginal districts—suburban or exurban areas where Hillary Clinton outpolled Mr. Trump or came close. Those races in turn will hinge on centrist voters. If Mr. Trump makes those centrists believe this election is about family separation, Republicans lose. If he refocuses it on voters’ newly thriving prospects, Republicans have a shot.

That aforementioned list of accomplishments is only from the past few weeks. One remarkable aspect of the Trump administration is its productivity. The cabinet set a pace of reform in its openings weeks that has never lagged. If Mr. Trump isn’t going to spend every day embracing, elevating and making this product of his own presidency the dominant discussion, then no one will. The press isn’t going to do it. Democrats sure aren’t. And no other Republican has that megaphone.

Some will doubt whether Mr. Trump’s unconventional style even allows him to deliver such a message. But meditating in his farewell address on his nickname, the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan said: “I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: It was the content.”

The content—the results—of this administration is right there, waiting for the president to communicate.

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The quote at the top “On balance, Trump’s Tweets do more damage than good,” was not a part of the Wall Street Journal article but was contributed by a Peace and Freedom reader…



President Obama Has Adopted The “Hidden Hand” Approach of President Eisenhower

July 16, 2013

President Obama arriving at a news conference in 2012. His approach to some major issues has been called nuanced by admirers and passive by detractors.
Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — In the nearly two weeks since Egypt’s military seized power, President Obama has promoted a better federal bureaucracy, given a medal to George Lucas of “Star Wars” fame and had former President George Bush to the White House for lunch. What he has not done is publicly address the violent upheaval in Cairo.

By Peter Baker
The New York Times

That is not to say Mr. Obama is uninvolved. In the privacy of the West Wing, away from the cameras, he has made calls to leading figures in the Arab world and has met with advisers trying to influence the crisis. But his low public profile on issues like immigration, Syria and health care underscores a calculated presidential approach that admirers consider nuanced and detractors call passive.

While other presidents have put the bully in the bully pulpit, Mr. Obama uses his megaphone, and the power that comes with it, sparingly, speaking out when he decides his voice can shape the trajectory of an issue and staying silent when he thinks it might be counterproductive. In his first year, the president seemed to be everywhere, talking about everything. In his fifth year, he is choosing his opportunities — even if it appears he is not always in command of events.

Some compare Mr. Obama’s approach to the “hidden hand” style of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who often steered events behind the scenes without being public about his role. Jim Newton, the author of “Eisenhower: The White House Years,” a book with back-cover blurbs from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry, said Mr. Obama was like the former president in avoiding major international conflict, relying more on covert action and letting Congress take the lead in legislation.

“In those senses, Obama does appear to me to be taking a page from Eisenhower’s playbook,” Mr. Newton said. “What I don’t know, however, is how aggressively Obama is working out of view on these matters. The essence of Eisenhower’s hidden hand, of course, is that there was real work going on that people didn’t know at the time. If that’s true now, then Obama really is emulating Ike. If, on the other hand, he’s simply doing nothing or very little, that would be passivity, not hidden-hand leadership.”

Susan Eisenhower, a granddaughter of the late president, said it might be too soon to tell. “Eisenhower’s hidden-hand means of meeting his objectives was not really evident until his papers were opened, many decades after he left office,” Ms. Eisenhower said.       

But she added that Mr. Obama should emulate her grandfather by engaging in a deep review of Middle East policy, much as Eisenhower’s Solarium project developed a grand strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union.

“Ultimately, Obama will be judged for his strategic goals and his capacity to execute on them,” Ms. Eisenhower said. “Finding something that works is nearly impossible to do in a rapidly changing security environment unless there is an overarching way of thinking about U.S. interests.”

Just as Eisenhower, the 34th president, pulled troops out of Korea and avoided other military adventures, Mr. Obama has pulled out of Iraq, is leaving Afghanistan, has limited intervention in Libya largely to airstrikes and has resisted being drawn directly into the civil war in Syria.

Mr. Obama’s inner circle includes some Eisenhower admirers. Mr. Hagel bought 30 copies of a recent book on the former president’s handling of the 1956 Suez crisis to distribute to fellow administration officials. Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, cites Eisenhower’s emphasis on planning. 

Eisenhower kept his hand hidden while still speaking regularly with reporters. He held news conferences an average of every two weeks. Mr. Obama, by contrast, gives interviews to select organizations, but has far fewer day-in, day-out interactions with journalists than his recent predecessors, and therefore avoids being asked about many issues of the moment.

“You have to pick your moments to weigh in where the president weighing in will do the most good,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to the president. “That’s how we look at it. The thing we’ve accepted over the course of time is every decision like this, either way, is going to engender criticism: Why did he talk about this? Why didn’t he talk about that? Why did he weigh in now?”

Mr. Obama has learned through hard experience that responding to news media pressure for his views on the latest news can be hazardous. He discovered that months after taking office, when his reaction to the arrest of an black Harvard professor in his own home stirred controversy. The perils came home again more recently, when sharp comments he made about court-martialing members of the military accused of sexual assault provided ammunition to defense lawyers, who called that improper interference.

“It’s not his job to narrate current events for the public,” Mr. Pfeiffer said. “It can complicate an already complicated situation.”

Mr. Pfeiffer said an exercise in lessons learned, conducted when he became communications director early in the first term, showed that Mr. Obama was talking in public too much. “What we saw from that is if you’re talking about everything all the time, it’s harder for the public to distinguish the things that are most important,” he said.

Mr. Obama sometimes leaves it to others to discuss controversial decisions. When he decided to arm Syrian rebels, he had his deputy national security adviser announce it. When the president decided to postpone a significant element of his health care program for a year, he had the Treasury Department post the news on its Web site.

On immigration, probably the most ambitious legislative initiative of his second term, Mr. Obama has kept his public involvement to a minimum to avoid alienating Republicans. But he did tape an Internet radio address on the topic on Saturday and plans to talk with Spanish-language television networks on Tuesday.

On Egypt, the White House has detected no advantage in Mr. Obama’s addressing the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, just as the administration has delayed taking action like cutting off aid, as required by law in the case of a military coup. The president’s public reticence reflects a judgment that speaking out could do more harm than good.

“The president has to be very careful what he says, how he says it,” said Dennis Ross, a former Middle East adviser to Mr. Obama. “I think part of the reason to be adopting the kind of posture we have takes account of what’s happening in Egypt and the fluidity of it on the one hand, but also the public reaction to us. Whatever we do and say now is going to be seized on by one side or the other.”


<img src=””/>           A version of this article appeared in print on July 16, 2013, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: In Second Term, Obama Is Seen as Using ‘Hidden Hand’.

For an Incumbent Democrat President: Even In The Polls in August Means Trouble Ahead

August 9, 2012

Wednesday’s Gallup poll had President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney essentially tied, with Mr. Obama at 47% and Mr. Romney at 46%. That’s good news for the challenger: Mr. Romney has absorbed a punishing three-month Obama television barrage that drained the incumbent’s war chest. Historically, undecided voters tend to break late for the challenger.

Mr. Romney and his campaign have also raised their game. After Mr. Obama declared on July 13 that “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that,” Mr. Romney went on offense, saying the following Tuesday in Pennsylvania that the notion entrepreneurs didn’t build their businesses was “insulting.” Wednesday in Ohio, Mr. Romney attacked Mr. Obama for not having met with his Jobs Council for six months. Thursday in Massachusetts, Mr. Romney belittled the White House’s explanation that the president had failed to do so because he “has a lot on his plate.” The following Tuesday in Nevada before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Mr. Romney criticized Mr. Obama over cuts in defense and veterans care.

By Karl Rove, The Wall Street Journal

Each time, Mr. Romney’s message was delivered in the morning and dominated the day’s coverage. That change appears now to be standard procedure for Team Romney.

Last week Mr. Romney began laying out a crisper, shorter economic agenda. His “Plan for a Stronger Middle Class” is built around five priorities: promoting more domestic energy, cultivating skills for economic success, making trade work for America, cutting the deficit, and championing small business (including tax and regulatory reform and the repeal of ObamaCare). It also compares the candidates’ records in office. Jobs, home values, and family income rose—while budget deficits and unemployment declined—in Massachusetts under Mr. Romney, whereas all these measures are in the wrong direction under Mr. Obama.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesRepublican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Though it will require more detail, persistent explanation and defense, this is a better foundation on which to fight the election than last year’s unwieldy 59-point plan for economic jobs and growth.

Mr. Romney is also tougher. When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid alleged that Mr. Romney went years without paying taxes, Mr. Romney didn’t ask for an apology. He responded to this smear by challenging Mr. Reid “to put up or shut up.”

Mr. Romney also began running more positive ads. The election will not be won just by highlighting Mr. Obama’s failures, a job better left (mostly) to outside groups. Because it can put the candidate on camera, the Romney campaign is better positioned to reassure voters that he has a plan to create jobs, reduce spending, and make America more prosperous. This is vital, since both sides have pushed up their opponent’s negative ratings to the high-40s.

Mr. Obama’s numbers are driven by the bad economy, so there’s little he can do. And those who strongly disapprove of his handling of the economy vastly outnumber those who strongly approve. Mr. Romney’s task is less difficult: Voters are asking if he is too rich to care about ordinary people, has a real economic plan that makes sense, and is both strong and presidential enough.

That’s why Team Romney appears focused on making certain his first presidential decision—picking a running mate—is done right and rolled out properly.

And then there is Mr. Romney’s convention speech, which needs to be powerful. More Americans will watch it than any other election event except the debates. (In 2008, more than 38 million Americans watched the two candidates’ acceptance addresses.) This will be Mr. Romney’s best moment to provide insights into his character, share the values that guide him, and lay out a growth agenda.

Among other things, Mr. Romney should talk about his father’s modest upbringing, his wife’s illness, and his wealth. Americans know nothing about the first, little about the second, and (courtesy of Team Obama) much about the third. Mr. Romney can show more of his personal side, which would reveal a man of enormous decency and good character.

Mr. Romney will be on strong ground defending free enterprise as a system that rewards initiative, hard work and sacrifice—and in doing so creates widespread prosperity that he will seek to extend to every corner of the nation.

There’s likely to be a modest, short-lived bump in Mr. Romney’s polls after his convention speech. Ignore that. In this close election, the real benefit will be in the impression, information and values that remain with swing voters who’ll make up their minds late and decide the election.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

About Karl Rove

Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy-making process.

Before Karl became known as “The Architect” of President Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.

Karl writes a weekly op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, is a Fox News Contributor and is the author of the book “Courage and Consequence” (Threshold Editions).

Email the author at Karl@Rove.comor visit him on the web at Or, you can send a Tweet to @karlrove.

Click here to order his new book, Courage and Consequence.