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Issues & Insights

Trump Breaks the News Cycle — and Politics as Usual — With His Own Created Crisis

President Donald Trump’s latest win — using threats of escalating tariffs to stop the nation of Mexico from doubling as an express lane for illegal immigrants — takes me back to a political coup I participated in as a PR consultant in Austria.

My client was the Alpine Republic’s environment minister, an up-and-coming member of the People’s (Conservative) Party, then junior partner to the Social Democrats in a grand coalition. The minister was in full-blown crisis when her implementation of a recycling mandate — requiring the separation of a stunning range of waste categories — produced overflowing bins in major cities. Images of which then overflowed the nationwide state-controlled TV news, as well as front pages.

It turned out there was a simple explanation: Socialist mayors had deliberately withheld containers to sabotage their coalition “partner” and her future prospects. And clued in their media friends to blast out the resulting chaos.

So our team prepared an ambush of the popular Socialist Chancellor at the cozy “press foyer” he hosted at the end of each cabinet meeting — with his talking points for the week dutifully parroted by a compliant media.

In the meeting, our client daringly confronted the dissembling boss man with his party colleagues’ dastardly deeds — while our team distributed her statement to the media assembled outside. Which displaced the customary media tête-à-tête with hostile questioning about her charges. Meanwhile, she scooted to a prearranged interview on the noon news to further set the agenda for evening coverage.

The next day, the Chancellor promised the needed bins. Crisis over.

Our client had broken the news cycle — and the cuddly politics-as-usual relationships among the parties and the media — by creating a crisis of her own for her saboteurs.

Which takes us to our border. Everyone knows what must be done to fix it. Tighten asylum rules to end the “all-ee all-ee in free” calls that have recently decamped fully one percent of Guatemala’s population northward and are now attracting migrants from Africa.

Rush new resources to the scene so Border Patrol agents are no longer serving as nannies and bus drivers. And reduce the hearing backlog that is mandating “catch and release,” with the emphasis on the latter.

The problem: Democrats — and all too many Republicans — have absolutely no incentive to make any of that happen. They, their allies in the media — and increasingly, headline-seeking Federal district court judges with nationwide injunctions at the ready — know that every migrant is a potential beneficiary of government largesse and Democrat voter.

But more important, that their studied inaction and roadblocks undercut Trump’s headline campaign pledge: bring order to the border.

So what’s a harried and hogtied Jacksonian Chief Executive to do? You got it: break the news cycle and ride roughshod over political convention — once again.

His tariff two-by-four got Washington’s attention — and elicited predictable howls of protest from all quarters.

Madame Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “(T)he president had this notion that he was going to treat Mexico as an enemy.”

Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee: “A misuse of presidential tariff authority.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky): “There is not much support in my conference for tariffs, that’s for sure.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “We are exploring all options, including legal action.”

Inspiring Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to opine: “I believe (the President) will back off when faced with the opposition among business, among his own Republicans, and when he sees what a dumb move he has made in terms of dealing with both the border, the American economy and with any kind of trade agreement he might try to get.”

But that’s just it. Although Trump might hit back — as he did with Schumer — he’s never really cared what he or Nancy Pelosi thinks about how things are supposed to work. Or Senate Republicans (ask Bob Corker, Jeff Flake and the family of the late John McCain). Or the U.S. Chamber. And for sure not the Mexicans.

He doesn’t care how convention says you are supposed to negotiate. Or use tariffs — as he has already proved with the Europeans and Chinese.

Unlike conventional politicians, Trump only cares about one thing: “winning” on behalf of the American people. And he wins by creating the conditions where he, not politicians or trade partners, are most comfortable: chaos.

Like my client, to end a crisis created by his opponents’ sabotage, the President busted news-as-usual, politics-as-usual and diplomacy-as-usual to create a crisis for them — and for the Mexicans.

Trump’s tactics worked with the Europeans. The Chinese appear plenty uncomfortable. And Mexico came rushing with proposals to forestall the tariffs.

As his comeback to “Cryin’ Chuck” Schumer indicated, Trump isn’t worried about whether his opponents think his actions are “dumb” — because he’s laser-focused on keeping his promises to “forgotten Americans.”

It’s a refreshing notion. And has once again led to an equally refreshing result.

Bob Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at bob@rpmexecutive.com.


Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. We’re just getting started, and we’ll be adding new features as time permits. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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Madame Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “(T)he president had this notion that he was going to treat Mexico as an enemy.”

My erstwhile boss Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee: “A misuse of presidential tariff authority.”

Senate Majority (and Republican) Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky): “There is not much support in my conference for tariffs, that’s for sure.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (also a former employer): “We are exploring all options, including legal action.”

Inspiring Senate Minority (and Democratic) Leader Chuck Schumer to opine: “I believe (the President) will back off when faced with the opposition among business, among his own Republicans, and when he sees what a dumb move he has made in terms of dealing with both the border, the American economy and with any kind of trade agreement he might try to get.”

But that’s just it. Although Trump might hit back (as he did with Schumer) doesn’t really care what he or Nancy Pelosi thinks about how things are supposed to work. Or Senate Republicans (ask Bob Corker, Jeff Flake and the family of the late John McCain). Or the U.S. Chamber. And for sure not the Mexicans.

He doesn’t care how convention says you are supposed to negotiate. Or use tariffs — as he has already proved with the Europeans and Chinese.

Trump only cares about one thing: “winning” on behalf of the American people. And he wins by creating the conditions where he, not politicians or trade partners, are most comfortable: chaos.

Like my client, to end a crisis created by his opponents’ sabotage (both domestic politicians’ and, to be honest, the Mexicans’), the President has busted the news, politics, and diplomacy as usual, to create a crisis for them.

I’m not sure how this will all turn out. I only know Trump’s tactics worked with the Europeans. The Chinese appear plenty uncomfortable. And the Mexicans came rushing with proposals to forestall the tariffs, which tells you whom they believe the measures will really hurt.

No, as his comeback too “Cryin’ Chuck” Schumer indicates, Trump isn’t worried about whether his opponents thinks his actions are “dumb” — because he’s laser-focused on keeping his promises to “forgotten Americans.”

It’s a refreshing notion.

Bob Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at bob@rpmexecutive.com.


Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. We’re just getting started, and we’ll be adding new features as time permits. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

Be sure to tell all your friends! And if you’d like to make a contribution to support our effort, feel free to click the Tip Jar over on the right.

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