Category Archives: Republican Messaging

Donald Trump’s war with the press

White House protest the day after FBI Director James Comey was fired

White House protest the day after FBI Director James Comey was fired

After a disastrous week for Donald Trump and his White House, with ever-changing stories about Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, Trump tweeted on Friday that he may discontinue White House daily press briefings. This follows a series of disturbing incidents exhibiting shabby Trump administration treatment of the national news media, including:

  • Banning The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, Politico, BuzzFeed, the BBC and the Guardian from press briefings.
  • Ejecting Andrea Mitchell of NBC News from State Department events where she tried to ask questions.
  • Repeatedly referring to the mainstream news media as “fake news” whenever they report on real stories that are unflattering to the Trump administration, especially the investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.
  • Having a reporter arrested after he asked questions at Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price at the West Virginia state Capitol.
  • Cutting off veteran reporter April Ryan, who is a black woman, and telling her, “stop shaking your head” while she was asking a question in the White House Press Room.

Republicans shockingly partisan at Sally Yates Russia hearing

Sally Yates, then Deputy Attorney General, in 2016

Sally Yates, then Deputy Attorney General, in 2016

Republicans in Congress perhaps exceeded even their own partisan reputation at yesterday’s hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism entitled “Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election.” The hearing featured Sally Yates, who was Acting Attorney General in the Trump administration until she was fired on January 30 of this year. Also appearing at the hearing was former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Each of these witnesses has decades of experience serving in the government under presidents of both parties, and both have knowledge about Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections. For example, both witnesses know about Michael Flynn, a campaign advisor and then National Security Advisor under Donald Trump for just a few weeks, until February 13. Flynn, a principal subject of the hearing, was fired after the Washington Post reported that he lied about his telephone calls with Russian officials, including Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, where the two discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia for interfering in the U.S. election that had just taken place. Yates testified at yesterday’s hearing that, in January of this year, she had urgent meetings and calls with Trump White House attorneys about Flynn, and that she recommended that action be taken regarding Flynn, because he was causing Vice President Mike Pence to lie to the American people about Flynn’s discussions with the Russians, and because Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail from Russia over his lies.

However, many of the Republican Senators on the panel did not seem to want to know about Russian involvement in our election. Instead, they criticized the “leaks” that led to the disclosure of Flynn’s activities, as well as the “unmasking” of Flynn. Part of what is shocking about the Republicans’ behavior at the hearing is that, had Flynn not been identified, he might still be National Security Advisor and would still be, as Yates explained, compromised by Russia.

Democrats bust Trump on first 100 days of failure

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer flanked by fellow Democratic Senators

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer flanked by fellow Democratic Senators

Congressional Democrats, led by U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, held a press conference Friday morning to highlight Donald Trump‘s first 100 days of failure and broken promises. The Democrats, who have held similar events during the past week on different subjects, focused on Friday on Trump’s preliminary federal budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018, which his White House released in March, and for which negotiations are now heating up. Of particular note by the Democrats is Trump’s failure to deliver on his biggest campaign promises, including the border wall and repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

United Airlines violence toward passenger: how should we respond?

United Airlines' not-so-friendly skies

United Airlines’ not-so-friendly skies

One of the most talked-about news stories this week is how United Airlines “bumped” a passenger from its Chicago to Louisville flight on Sunday, and then literally bumped him off the plane when he refused to leave. As at least one writer explained clearly, the United episode is a result of the oligopoly that airlines have, with government approval of laws, rules and mergers that give airlines economic, and even physical, power over passengers. Given this airline power, the question becomes, how should consumers and voters respond? Here are a few ideas:

Senate Intelligence Committee hearing: Russia waging cyber war against United States

Trump/Russia Inauguration Day protest

Trump/Russia Inauguration Day protest

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee held an open hearing designed to lay out Russia‘s intentions and techniques (“active measures)” to influence the U.S. 2016 elections, and to propose actions and solutions to address them going forward. According to Independent Senator Angus King, from what he heard during the hearing, “we’re engaged in a new form of aggression, if not war,” from Russia. King’s statement echoed former Vice President Dick Cheney, who said a few days earlier that, “in some quarters,” Russia’s interference in the U.S. election “could be considered an act of war.” Witnesses at the hearing agreed that Russia is engaged in cyber “warfare” against the U.S. This is a crucial first step in investigating whether Donald Trump‘s campaign colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election.

Democratic and Republican healthcare plans reflect very different values

Maternity and newborn healthcare, on the Republican chopping block.

Maternity and newborn healthcare, on the Republican chopping block.

Republicans yesterday were forced to pull their American Health Care Act (AHCA) for lack of Republican support. House Speaker Paul Ryan and his GOP colleagues made more changes to the bill, were subjected to more arm-twisting, and are reportedly voting on it today. While it’s conceivable that House Republicans can ultimately agree on a bill that has enough giveaways for recalcitrant members, the so-called “healthcare” bill is as good an example as any of the vast difference in values between the Democratic and Republican Parties.

The allure of the phony Republican anecdote

Surf and Turf, a staple of food stamp recipients' diets according to GOP.

Surf and Turf, a staple of food stamp recipients’ diets according to GOP.

Humans are a storytelling species. Thus, it’s no surprise that narratives — essentially, ongoing story lines — are an important part of successful political communication. In Messaging Maxim #4: Feed the Narrative, we mentioned that it is valuable to:

craft a true but negative story about your opponents’ ideas, actions or positions, and then look for statements or actions by them that you can point to as furthering that narrative.

Republicans are very good at constructing narratives (for example, “Scary Brown People”); however, many Republican narratives are false. That’s why you will see the GOP using anecdotes, i.e., possibly false or possibly true stories involving as few as one person, to further their phony narratives, rather than citing any meaningful facts, evidence or accurate math.

Trump’s troubling ties to Russia

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chairs Cabinet meeting in Moscow, Feb. 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Alexei Druzhinin, Pool)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chairs Cabinet meeting in Moscow, Feb. 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Alexei Druzhinin, Pool)

Several weeks ago, Donald Trump kicked off a constitutional crisis by firing the Acting U.S. Attorney General, Sally Yates, after Yates opposed Trump’s Muslim Ban. Since then, after rulings by numerous federal courts, Yates’ view has been validated. Now it turns out that another correct decision by Yates, regarding Russia, was ignored by Trump and his White House staff, with dire consequences.

Republicans obsessed with fighting Culture War

Budweiser beer, latest target of Republican Culture War

Budweiser beer, latest target of Republican Culture War

Like a dog with a bone, many Republicans just won’t let go of their battles over culture in America, from LGBT rights to guns to infusing government with their religion — often referred to by the phrase “God, Guns and Gays” — to the media we consume. Led by Donald Trump himself, these conservatives seem to be spending an awful lot of time fretting over Super Bowl commercials and other corporate policies. The results vary from ill-fated boycotts to a further tearing of the fabric of America.

Donald Trump’s Constitutional crisis

Richard Nixon leaving White House grounds by helicopter after resignation.

Richard Nixon leaving White House grounds by helicopter after resignation.

In October 1973, President Richard Nixon committed the “Saturday Night Massacre,” in which he fired the Watergate Special Prosecutor who had been appointed at the behest of Congress, which caused the U.S. Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General to resign. Nixon also abolished the office of the special prosecutor. This Constitutional crisis, which occurred nearly five years into Nixon’s presidency, ultimately led to Nixon’s impeachment and his resignation.

Last night, after just 10 days in the White House, Donald Trump had a Saturday Night Massacre of his own. Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after Yates wrote a letter to top Justice Department lawyers, directing them not to defend Trump’s Muslim immigration ban in federal court. Trump also fired Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Daniel Ragsdale, for reasons thus far unspecified. Several days earlier, Trump fired top career officers in the State Department.