Can this White House stay on message long enough to sustain “theme weeks”? Today they will launch a “Made in America” campaign as an effort to wrest control over the national dialogue that has focused obsessively on Russia. The Wall Street Journal reports that it’s taken this long for the Trump administration to come to grips with the necessity of coordinated public relations to advance Donald Trump’s agenda:
The White House on Monday will embark on a three-week messaging campaign aimed at refocusing attention on President Donald Trump’s agenda and framing a debate later this summer over rewriting the U.S. tax code.
The “Made In America” campaign, which starts with the president highlighting locally made products from around the country, is the latest attempt by Mr. Trump’s communications team to control a narrative that has consistently spun out of their grasp during the six months since the inauguration.
The challenge controlling the message is partly due to turmoil within the West Wing over strategy and tactics. Disagreements continue over how the communications shop should be organized and on what policies the team should concentrate, White House officials said. These conflicts have impaired the president’s ability to hire experienced Republican communicators, with even some of Mr. Trump’s supporters declining White House posts.
The situation has grown frustrating enough to prompt criticism from one of Trump’s stalwart surrogates, Newt Gingrich. He told the WSJ that the key to successful brand management isn’t exactly a secret:
“Coke believes that after 130 years, consumers still need to hear about Coke seven days a week to be reminded to buy it,” Mr. Gingrich said. “Brute repetition is the only way to break through, and it’s hard to know right now what [the White House is] supposed to be selling.”
One large obstacle in the White House’s efforts for focus and coordination is the president himself. Trump has a habit of extemporaneously changing the subject and shifting away from coordinated messaging strategies — especially on Twitter. Can they keep Trump from distracting from the sales pitch during “Made in America” week? So far so good:
Heading back to Washington, D.C. Much will be accomplished this week on trade, the military and security!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2017
Or … maybe not:
Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That's politics!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2017
Allahpundit will have more on that in an upcoming post, so stay tuned. The Washington Post previews both the White House campaign this week and the inevitable pushback on it:
In keeping with the “America First” theme of Trump’s inauguration, the administration will highlight U.S. manufacturing in the coming week, the latest of its theme weeks orchestrated by aides to bring discipline to the White House and focus Trump’s schedule and message on a set of policies.
The week will begin Monday with a “Made in America product showcase” featuring crafts and other items created in each of the 50 states. The president plans to issue a declaration Wednesday and deliver remarks on the importance of making things in the United States. And Saturday, Trump will travel to Norfolk to attend the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford, the first in the Navy’s new class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
For years, the Trump Organization has outsourced much of its product manufacturing, relying on a global network of factories in a dozen countries — including Bangladesh, China and Mexico — to make its clothing, home decor pieces and other items.
Similarly, the clothing line of Ivanka Trump, the president’s older daughter and a senior White House adviser, relies exclusively on foreign factories employing low-wage workers in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and China, according to a recent Washington Post investigation.
This challenge also came up repeatedly during the presidential campaign, which Trump largely ignored. When reporters asked about it yesterday, the White House also shrugged it off, according to the pool report:
Spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferre was asked whether the president would use “Made in America” week to push Ivanka Trump’s clothing line to produce products in America, rather than overseas. “We’ll get back to you on that,” she said.
Don’t call us, we’ll call you. It’s a fair question, but don’t expect much of an answer, because there really isn’t one to offer. The contradiction is pretty clear and well-known, but what’s Trump going to do — hold an “Outsourced from America” week?
Trump should be on more solid ground the next two weeks. Next up is “American Heroes” week, followed by “American Dream” week, where Trump will get down to serious policy promotion. That should coincide with tax-reform proposals coming to the top of the action item list on Capitol Hill, which will provide Trump his first real opportunity to get his economic policies in place. That raises the question about why they launched “Made in America” this week, though, since the health-care reform bill is still the top agenda item at the moment. The White House has only intermittently focused its communications team on pushing for passage of the BCRA, and that debate will be a natural distraction this week even if no one mentions Russia at all. Why not wait for the BCRA effort to conclude before launching other themes, especially if “brute repetition is the only way to break through” and the White House has no associated legislation pending on the Made in America theme?