Team Trump to surrogates: Operation Urgent Pivot has begun

And it’s about four days too late. After having the campaign message buried for five days while Donald Trump exchanged punches with a Gold Star family — and having its allies balk at following along — Team Trump sent out a message to their surrogates in the media titled “URGENT PIVOT.” A new set of talking points attempts to de-escalate the feud between Trump and the Khans, and to get the campaign back on its own messaging instead:


Donald Trump’s campaign sent out an email to surrogates this week titled “URGENT PIVOT” as the campaign seeks to control the damage from Trump’s war of words with the parents of a Muslim U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq.

The memo, obtained by The Hill, asks surrogates on Capitol Hill to coordinate messaging and push back on attacks on Trump. …

In the attached talking points, the Trump campaign provided transcripts of interviews Trump had given about the Khans and argued that the businessman’s comments had been misconstrued by the media. The talking points stated:

“Mr. Trump was asked about Mr. Khan’s comments during the DNC, and he replied that he wished him well.

“Many in the media reported falsely that Trump had compared his sacrifices to Mr. Khan’s son which is completely false and the transcripts show that to be true.

“Mr. Trump wants to end radical Islamic terror, so that our soldiers like Mr. Khan’s son will be safe.”

Eric Trump was the first out of the gate with the new marching orders, appearing on CBS This Morning yesterday to hit the reset button. He claimed that his father had already apologized to the Khans by acknowledging that the son was a hero in a statement released Saturday, and that the whole mess was “blown hugely out of proportion“:


“Would your father be willing to apologize and move on?” co-host Norah O’Donnell asked.

“I think that’s a great question for him, and he has by calling them a hero,” Trump responded. “In terms of the one question — whether you’ve made a sacrifice — I think my father has. Now, that’s certainly not the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice is a soldier dying for this nation, dying to protect the three of us, no doubt about it[.]” …

King tried again to push Trump on the Khans: “Do you think he’s wrong on this?”

“I think this is something that’s honestly blown hugely out of proportion,” Trump countered, proceeding to argue that Donald Trump had praised the family as “amazing people” and that his focus was ultimately on security issues and dealing with illegal immigration and Syrian refugees.

That’s a nifty bit of revisionism. The person who most blew this out of proportion was Trump père himself by continuing to hammer at the Khans, excusing it by claiming — as Eric did yesterday — that they attacked him “viciously.” Five days of attacks later, the attacks have become all that anyone’s discussing precisely because it demonstrates a lack of proportionality and temperament in a candidate who wants the nation to trust him with its security and prosperity. It also wasted five days in a general-election race that now has less than 100 days to go.


That’s why this pivot was marked “URGENT,” as well as the implicit recognition that Team Trump had buried itself in a non-story largely of its own making. Why did it take this long for a major-party nominee in a general-election campaign this long to figure that out? The Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn resorts to a football analogy to explain that Trump is always on offense:

Think of him as the Kevin Kelley of politics. Mr. Kelley coaches football for Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Ark. He’s gained national fame as the coach who almost never punts. Coach Kelley believes that remaining on offense (keeping possession of the ball) is more important than defense (trying to deny an opponent field position).

So he goes for it on fourth down even in his own territory. As a result, Mr. Kelley gives his offense four plays to gain 10 yards instead of three. Just as important, his all-offense approach gives his Bruins a psychological edge.

The strategy is not without its risks. Though Mr. Kelley says the math bears him out, his approach means opponents will sometimes score or intercept when they might not have otherwise. Backfires can be messy.

Mr. Trump is playing the same game. Not only is he always on the attack, he hardly ever backs down—even when he’s demonstrably wrong.


Well, maybe. But I’d bet that Coach Kelley doesn’t allow his offense line to run over to the sidelines and start blocking the waterboys while his quarterback chucks footballs at the opposing cheerleaders for being mean to him. Kelley may not believe in punting, but I bet he believes in discipline, from the quarterback on down — and a lack of discipline from the quarterback is what this Khan episode has exposed. Again.

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