Time to Reset the White House-Media Relationship
As if President Trump doesn't have enough problems with the Democrats, the never-Trumpers, the status-quo slugs of the GOP establishment and the reflexively hostile White House press corps -- so fully representative of the Compromised Media (™) -- he's also been signally let down by his administration's communication corps, known as the comms shop. This ongoing disaster is the subject of my column in today's New York Post:
Call it the Battle of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
On one side: the perpetually aggrieved White House press corps, whose members sit atop journalism’s pinnacle and yet are herded like cattle, made to stand behind rope lines and are generally treated with disdain by those they report on. Like fantasy-league baseball players, they’re convinced they can run the country better than the officials they so resentfully cover.
On the other: a beleaguered, media-conscious president who still harbors the notion that he can get dedicated ideological enemies to like him if he can just charm them enough and is prepared to go around them on Twitter if he can’t.
As the Trump administration revamps its communications operation yet again in the wake of the short-lived Anthony Scaramucci era, it’s time to face the fact that this is no longer an exercise in public relations, or even messaging strategy.
This is war.
I don't know how to put it any more bluntly than that. It's clear that, at some level, the administration does not understand the mortal peril of a Democrat press corps allowed to wager unrestricted, anonymously "sourced" warfare against it; even worse, it walks right in the front door and insults the host to his face.
No longer content to be merely adversarial when necessary in its pursuit of information, the media’s now almost wholly partisan — the propaganda wing of the Democratic National Committee, which takes literally the fictional admonition “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” not realizing it was meant as both a joke and a caution by a Chicago newspaperman more than a century ago.
Meanwhile, liberal newspapers like The Washington Post (owned by Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man) openly troll for “leaked” documents via secure Internet drop boxes in order to derail the Trump train. The Post’s Thursday publication of leaked transcripts of the president’s private conversations with the Australian and Mexican leaders can have no other outcome except damaging Trump’s conduct of foreign policy.
No wonder chief adviser Steve Bannon refers to the media as “the opposition party.”
And yet, so far, the White House has yet to find the right combination of personnel and message to combat them. Its first mistake was treating communications policy as a public-relations exercise, handled almost exclusively by the Reince Priebus/RNC faction in the White House. That didn’t work, which is why both Priebus and former press secretary Sean Spicer are now gone.